Abe Schafermeyer caught the bug for international travel early. The New Hampshire native spent his junior year of college in Chile and later taught ESL in Columbia. “Travel abroad was both an immersive experience, diving into another culture, and an isolating one. Each aspect was beneficial in my understanding of myself and others.” Abe decided to focus his career on study abroad. He joined International Student and Scholar Services thirteen years ago, and became Director in 2011.
International students are an increasingly important financial component of American universities since they typically pay full tuition. However having international students on campus also contributes to a broader experience for everyone. University of Oregon’s international efforts fall into three distinct categories: UO runs three academic centers overseas, in Sydney, London, and Vienna; a staff of 25 runs programs for domestic students to study abroad; and Abe oversees twelve people dedicated to the needs of international students studying in Eugene. International students pay an additional $700 per year fee to cover the educational and cultural support services Abe’s office provides.
“9-11 changed International student offices; it added a security component. Many people left the field and there were many jobs for people willing deal with the more complex requirements. That’s when I got into this work.”
The demographics of international students vary from year to year, often due to factors beyond the university’s control. “We had 250 students from Singapore. Singapore invested heavily in higher education at home; now we have four. We had 250 students from Saudi Arabia through programs initiated by President Bush. They usually brought their families and added significantly to the local economy. Now we have none.” Sixty-two percent of UO’s current international students are from the People’s Republic of China. “The issue is, will China continue to have strong economic growth? Will the government continue to devalue the Quan, which makes education here even more expensive? Will they start to limit access? Chinese students are often attracted to the American lifestyle. The government does not want to lose smart kids, nor do they want US-savvy kids returning to China with ideas that don’t fit the government’s ideology.”
What will UO do is China pulls the reigns on foreign study? “The United States is still the Number One market in the world for higher education. People want to go where English is the main language. The UK is innovative and Australia is gaining ground, but we are still the preferred choice. I see more students coming from emerging nations like India and Brazil.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I hope we will continue to recognize that diverse global perspectives enrich our lives in so many ways. International exchange creates richer experiences for everyone.”