While seen as uncertain, the future of international students remains bright under Trump presidency
November 30, 2016
Following the results of a United States presidential election filled with controversy and upset, many took to social media to voice their concerns about what a Donald Trump presidency could mean. For international students looking for a higher education and to work after graduation in the U.S., the future may now be uncertain.
When it comes to foreign policy, Trump’s plans include establishing new screening procedures, putting in extra efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws and temporarily suspending immigration from “some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” according to Trump’s website.
What has concerned many, however, is the culture of xenophobia that has seemed to come out during the election process. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were at least 867 separate incidents of reported harassment and intimidation in the ten days following the election, with about 32 percent of the incidents being anti-immigrant.
According to a study by Intead and FPP EDU Media, 60 percent of international prospective students would be less likely to go to the U.S. for higher education if Trump was elected.
According to Katrina Larsen, executive director for International Education, UWRF works with 23 different countries when it comes to international education. China has the largest presence of international students on campus, followed by India, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Among the international students that come to UWRF, Larsen said that a small percentage of them stay in the U.S. after graduation.
Conan Kmiecik, international student services coordinator for International Education, said that he saw a lot of international students who were shocked at the results following the election and showed deep concerns.
“Now that we’ve had a couple weeks to calm down from that, people are being a little more pragmatic and cautious about the future,” said Kmiecik.
However, Kmiecik said that the number of international students who come to UWRF has been going down for a while, but that is due to a number of different things, mainly the changing issues in the different countries. For example, he said, there was an influx of students from Brazil a few years ago when the government was strong, but now the number has gone down.
“I think there is a lot at play right now that we can’t blame on Trump, but there might be things once he is president that affects certain demographics,” said Kmiecik.
Jeremy Adam and Rashmi Magnani are graduate students majoring in business administration and are international students from India. Both started at UWRF in January 2016 and plan to stay in the U.S. to work after graduating this spring.
“I had a desire from the time I was a little boy to come to the U.S. to pursue my education,” said Adam. “So that dream has come true.”
Following the election closely, Magnani said that she didn’t really support any candidate. She said that she decided that she was OK with Clinton as president, but didn’t like how Trump’s words and actions represented the U.S. to other countries.
“I don’t think a U.S. president should present himself like this,” said Magnani.
Adam, on the other hand, supported Trump for a variety of reasons, mainly because he identifies more with the values of the Republican Party.
“I know that many international students dislike Trump because of immigration rules and regulations because they kind of feel that if Trump comes in, immigrants are going to go out,” said Adam. “I kind of believe he speaks about illegal immigrants, and not legal immigrants like me. I came in legally.”
Larsen said that UWRF does not have many international students who have come in illegally, if at all. This is because the university carefully follows federal, UW System and campus rules and regulations when it comes to making sure that international students fill out the right paperwork and come into the country legally.
“I do think the students that are in the United States legally are fine,” said Larsen. “We may find a little bit of a cooling depending on some of the laws or restrictions that may come up, but there’s still a lot of countries that would love to send their students to the United States for a degree because we still are a wonderful place.”
Kmiecik said that he believes that what international students bring to the U.S. economy will be an incentive for the government to continue to support universities with international student programs. According to the New York Times, international students bring in more than $32 billion a year to the U.S. economy.
“International students, while they’re a great resource when they come here in terms of culture diversity and different perspectives, they also bring a lot of financial gains as well. Not just to the campus but to the surrounding area as well,” said Kmiecik. “So by being too rigorous on who you allow in, that’s going to have an effect on the local economy.”
When it comes to the culture of xenophobia that has come into the light during the election, neither Magnani and Adam believe that this will affect students from other countries coming into the U.S. for an education.
“International students are looking to come to the U.S. because their prospects are high and opportunities are great,” said Adam. “If students are looking for opportunities, they will not hesitate to apply.”
Larsen said that the culture of xenophobia may cause a chilling effect on international students coming to the United States.
“I do worry about students feeling not as welcome because of what they’re hearing,” said Larsen.
However, she said, UWRF is still a welcoming environment and is still being sought out for partnerships with other countries.
Kmiecik said that the university has many programs to create such an environment, including International Education Week and the recent Thanksgiving dinner that was put on for international students.
“As long as the university continues to make efforts to be welcoming and support international students, I think that will alleviate some of the concerns that students had maybe initially after the election,” said Kmiecik.
At the end of the day, said Larsen, campaigning is different than governing, and Trump has already gone back on several promises that he made on the campaign trail.
“I think most of us didn’t expect Trump to win, so I think there was kind of a shock and a knee jerk reaction to that and now we’re kind of settling down to that, ‘We’ll have to wait and see.’ It’s true for every new president; we don’t exactly know what they’re going to end up doing,” said Larsen. “I think the university and the community is still open, welcoming, want international students because they just bring an interesting perspective.”