Seattle -- Eighty U.S. Department of State-affiliated
advisers, part of a global network of more than 450 EducationUSA
information centers, are among the more than 6,600 educators,
administrators and government officials from 95 countries
gathered for a May 31-June 3 conference on international
The theme of the National Association for Foreign Student
Affairs (NAFSA) 2005 conference, "Opening Minds to
the Global Community," also goes to the heart of these
advisers’ work -- to engage prospective students in
170 countries and provide them with information on opportunities
for higher education in the United States.
Speaking at the conference's opening session May 31, NAFSA
Executive Director Marlene Johnson said those working to
ensure study-abroad opportunities are "at the forefront
of public diplomacy ensuring the world's capacity to wage
peace because our future leaders have studied and lived
outside the comfort of their own culture."
At the conference, the advisers not only are developing
contacts with higher education admissions officials to promote
more effectively the United States as a study-abroad destination,
but also are sharing their expertise by leading conference
sessions on topics ranging from credential evaluations in
the Middle East-North Africa region to addressing how to
turn the "brain drain" phenomenon to one of capacity
building for developing countries in Africa.
In an interview with the Washington File in Washington
the week before the conference, State Department Bureau
of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA), Education Information
and Resources Branch Chief Phillip Ives said, "We want
to reach out to help students in other countries understand
that the United States is a very welcoming nation and that
the welcome mat is out."
Navigating the diverse array of U.S. higher education opportunities
for prospective students overseas can be a "daunting
task," Ives said. But he added that EducationUSA advisers
are prepared to assist prospective students in making the
Ives cited obtaining a visa, the costs of higher education,
the extensive application process, and perceptions that
the United States no longer is welcoming students from other
countries as factors sometimes viewed as "barriers
or obstacles" for prospective applicants to U.S. colleges
In a separate interview in Seattle, Kristen Cammarata,
a Morocco-based regional education advising coordinator
with the State Department, said that those factors can be
"daunting" but prospective students can find support
and information at EducationUSA advising centers.
Advisers provide guidance on how students can put together
a "complete application" that maximizes chances
for admission, Cammarata said, and also assist students
in overcome "cultural differences.”
A prospective student considering study in the United States,
Cammarata said, should visit an EducationUSA.
The educational advising and information centers, which
represent all accredited U.S. higher education institutions,
offer information sessions on how to select a college, how
to prepare for standardized tests, how to write application
essays, and what to expect on U.S. campuses. The centers
are located in U.S. embassies, Fulbright Commissions, nonprofit
organizations, libraries and universities.
"Quality [of education] is the biggest attraction"
U.S. institutes of higher learning hold for prospective
students from the Czech Republic, Jakub Tesar, educational
adviser at the Fulbright Commission in Prague, Czech Republic,
told the Washington File in Seattle. He added that research
opportunities, especially at the graduate level, as well
as the global, multicultural skills that can be acquired,
are "selling points" for studying in the United
Tesar said his office provides guidance on selecting schools
and information on the application process.
"There is an ocean of information [on studying in
the United States] and one can easily get lost in the sea,"
he said. Tesar urged those interested in studying in the
United States to visit a State Department-affiliated advising
Tesar added that his office also conducts numerous public
outreach activities, including one-hour interactive seminars
on study opportunities in the United States and how the
higher-education application process there differs from
that in the Czech Republic.
Maria Paniakova, a program and student adviser at the Fulbright
Commission in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, said the commission's
advising centers provide accurate, comprehensive, current
and unbiased information.
"We [EducationUSA advisers] are there to be helpful,
and to do what we can to assist each and every student to
progress through the various stages that lead to admission
at a U.S. college or university," Ives said.
The State Department's Bureau of Education
and Cultural Affairs EducationUSA
Web site also provides useful information and services
for prospective students considering study in the United
States, according to ECA's Ives.
The site offers a menu of types of programs (undergraduate,
graduate, specialized professional study, opportunities
for scholars, short-term study) as well as links to predeparture
information, materials on living in the United States, and
tips on choosing an educational institution. The site also
includes a link to a find-a-school search engine developed
especially for EducationUSA.
EducationUSA also provides information on standardized
tests, the visa process, admissions, financial aid and links
both to other U.S. government Web sites and external resources.
The site also includes links to publications such as the
four-part If You Want to Study in the United States series
in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Washington File Staff Writer