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STUDY ABROAD: Are foreign students in the US caught in the crossfire?

International students in the United States become entangled in a complex web of sociopolitical issues that often dominate the landscape during election seasons. As the country prepares for another round of crucial elections, issues such as immigration, inflation and rising crime rates are being discussed, shaping the discourse in presidential debates as well as in public debate. However, amid these overarching narratives, it is clear that international students, especially students of color, are not just bystanders, but active participants.

For many international students, the lure of the American dream serves as a beacon that draws them to the US in search of academic excellence and professional opportunities. Among these students, Indian nationals represent a significant cohort, with a significant number securing student visas each year to enroll in US universities. Statistics from the previous academic year underline this trend, showing that of the approximately 1 million international students studying in the United States, nearly 1,40,000 were of Indian origin, reflecting the enduring appeal of American educational institutions.

Despite the promise of opportunity, recent events have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the experiences of international students, especially those who come from marginalized communities. Cases of discrimination and xenophobia, fueled by divisive rhetoric and sporadic incidents, increasingly target specific groups of international students. Such events not only exacerbate feelings of vulnerability and insecurity, but also challenge the idea of ​​inclusivity and diversity within the higher education landscape.

The tightening of immigration laws and the imposition of restrictive measures not only hinders the mobility of international students, but also contributes to a climate of uncertainty, in which the prospect of deportation is high and casts a shadow over their academic pursuits and prospects. In this regard, the upcoming elections have profound implications for international students, as the outcomes could shape the trajectory of immigration policy and influence their experiences in the US.

Nevertheless, amid the cacophony of political discussions and policy debates, it is essential to recognize that international students are not passive observers, but active stakeholders with ambitions and aspirations that go beyond the realm of politics. Like their domestic counterparts, international students prioritize their academic and career goals, striving to excel in their chosen field and make meaningful contributions to society. While political developments can make headlines and shape public opinion, the daily concerns of international students often revolve around academic deadlines, career opportunities and personal growth.

In this context, the gap between the political rhetoric of elections and the lived reality of international students becomes glaringly obvious. While policymakers and politicians engage in heated debates over controversial issues, international students remain focused on navigating the complexities of student life, balancing academic obligations with personal ambitions. As the country grapples with pressing challenges and debates its future direction, it is imperative to recognize the integral role that international students play in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of American universities. Policymakers must recognize their critical contributions and address the complexities and challenges they face, and promote a more inclusive and diverse higher education landscape that values ​​the experiences and aspirations of international students.

(The author is the founder of the National Organization for Software and Technology Professionals, NOSTOPS)