More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic froze international travel, administrators of global programs for international and U.S.-based students at Florida State University have a message: We’re back.
And then some.
As it observes International Education Month, FSU is seeing its number of international students and those applying to study-abroad programs exceed pre-pandemic levels. The university launched International Education Month Tuesday, Nov. 1, at The Globe Auditorium, with opening remarks from FSU President Richard McCullough followed by The Going Global Showcase.
“As a Top 20 public university, we believe that providing opportunities for global engagement and nurturing a rich multicultural environment are fundamental to student and faculty success,” McCullough said.
FSU boasts study centers in London; Florence, Italy; and Valencia, Spain; and a campus in Panama City, Panama. Last summer the university offered study abroad opportunities in Paris, France; Prague, Czech Republic; Dresden, Germany; Oxford, England; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Cetamura del Chianti, Italy.
McCullough has made FSU’s national reputation — with a Top 20 rank by U.S. News & World Report for four straight years — a top priority, and central to that is the university’s reputation abroad.
That includes the growing global reputation of its faculty members, many of whom collaborate internationally and publish research that boasts worldwide reach and recognition. It also includes the work of FSU-based entities such as the Center for Global Engagement and the Learning Systems Institute.
Administrators say two prime factors drive FSU’s international reputation: the programs and people the university sends abroad and, conversely, the experiences and impressions of visiting international students and researchers.
That dynamic occupies the fore of the university’s planning, McCullough said.
“Increasing international engagement and cultural competencies are key components of our strategic plan as we look ahead to the next five years,” he said. “Specifically, we are looking at enhancing international research collaborations, strengthening reciprocal academic exchanges and creating and implementing a communication strategy to highlight our internationalization efforts and increase the recognition of FSU nationally and internationally.”
Cindy Green, director of FSU’s Center for Global Engagement, or CGE, said 1,850 international students were registered for fall semester, marking a slight increase over pre-pandemic numbers.
And Jim Pitts, director of International Programs, said his office tracked the second-largest number of students ever in its study abroad programs last summer — despite a current pause to the China and Russia locations.
Green said CGE’s in-person events such as International Coffee Hour have seen a spike in attendance, too. That weekly event is getting as many as 500 participants, more than doubled the numbers from three years ago, Green said.
“It is as if people were so glad to have events to attend,” she said.
Green noted that participation in global exchanges — which involve students studying for at least a semester at one of FSU’s 45 international partner institutions — is also increasing. Thirty-three students participated in 2021-2022, with 48 scheduled to participate in 2022-2023.
A recent social mixer of FSU International Programs staff and current students helped underscore demand, Pitts said. The event featured 330 students, almost triple the number expected.
“Students are ready to go,” Pitts said. “They are excited and the appetite to study abroad, to learn new ways of thinking, new cultures and new languages is rejuvenated.”
FSU’s international work extends well beyond student programs.
For more than 50 years, FSU’s Learning Systems Institute has played a steady role in strengthening the university’s international standing and the impact it can have on the world.
LSI’s mission is to improve human life through education and its work has reached more than 40 countries on five continents. Its expertise in literacy, instructional design and curriculum development, teacher training, educational technology and higher-education-capacity building all are aimed at students from kindergarten and up.
The institute has played a key role in the development of national education programs around the world including in South Korea, universally recognized as having one of the world’s best education systems
“When we can make one small change, make a small impact, but that impact is on current and future students of an entire nation, that is very powerful and what makes us so passionate about what we do,” LSI Director Rabieh Razzouk said. “Wanting to help others and then being able to see that effect, not only now, but to know it will be here after we are gone, there is nothing more gratifying.”
LSI offers more than 1,000 online tutorials for students and teachers, including training and classroom lessons, and when the pandemic struck, the institute made all of them available for free online — ready to be used by educators and students around the world.
The tutorials served more than 25 million educators, parents and students and recorded more than 120 million resource views during the pandemic, Razzouk said.
“With this work and support,” he said, “FSU is like a beacon of light.”
For more information about International Education Month at FSU, visit https://global.fsu.edu/iem.