This is a piece in an occasional series of articles about the BRIC nations. If you are looking for international students, these rising powers provide an important opportunity, but you have to know about the country and its people to effectively recruit. We previously discussed Brazil. In this series, we’ll be discussing India- it’s rise, obstacles it faces, how recruiters can appeal to potential Indian students, and how to make sure students are adjusting well to life in America, as well as further resources for reading. Recruiting international students raises a series of questions on the technical, pragmatic side. How do we allocate resources between countries? Should we use agents, or is that too impersonal? Do we offer scholarships or other financial aid, and if so, how do we decide who receives it? These questions are just skimming the surface on the deep lake of issues facing international departments. Sometimes, though, caught up in the practical side of things, it is easy to forget why the students themselves want to come to the United States. The obvious and immediate answers are “a good education,” “an adventure,” or “to set themselves up for the future.” These are all true, but in a way they are the proximate, not the ultimate answer (though, of course, this varies for everyone, but we are speaking generally). In many ways, these students want to become citizens of the globe, comfortable in the new economic and (less deterministically) social environment, where borders don’t matter as much as they once did. This is especially true in India.
Why does the economy matter? There is a huge cover story in Barrons this week about India, and why smart investors should buy into it. It presupposes (most likely correctly) that Narendra Modi is going to win the elections and become the next Prime Minister. Modi has had his share of troubles, and accusations of participating in sectarian violence, particularly the hideous spate of killings in Gujurat last decade, the state in which he is now governor. But nothing has stuck, and he seems likely to win. Barrons posits this as a good thing, as he is in favor of less regulation and more business. The cover even goes so far as to ask if he could be “India’s Reagan”. Now, your mileage on that analogy (and on Reagan himself) may vary, but it seems to indicate that the forecast for India is looking up, as we’ve discussed, after some lean years (which, contra the article, had more to do with the global recession than with any specific policy). So with the economy going up, it seems likely that more students will be traveling abroad, as more can afford it without relying on financial aid. We talked about what both the contraction meant for recruiting, and now this expansion can offer its own opportunities. But for what, exactly? It’s not (just) the economy An article like the one in Barrons is geared toward a specific audience- the investor class. And that’s fine. The economy is obviously an enormous, and maybe the most vital, in the way it affects peoples’ daily lives, aspect of any country. And the allure of making more money is obviously a driving force in the desire to study abroad, particularly in America. But it isn’t just that, and if you are trying to help a student adjust, such an approach to studies could eventually seem grim and mechanistic. “This is how you’ll make money in the future.” But studying abroad is about more than that. It is about providing for yourself down the road, but it is also about making friendships, building connections, seeing things you never dreamed possible, and doing things you never imagined you would. And that’s sort of the point. Becoming a citizen of the globe is about all of those things- adjusting yourself somewhere else and feeling up to that challenge, and all the other challenges, that life is going to throw at you. India can’t be read as a stock ticker, though it is easy and tempting to do so. It’s such a vital nation, and its citizens have a long history of dispersing throughout the globe, building their cultures in strange places throughout the Indian diaspora, and both adjusting to the place and having it adjust around them. It’s important to remember that, practical considerations aside, that first step into the classroom is both a continuation of a long national journey, and an altogether new one.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.