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Chiung Chih Chang, center, a University of Missouri-St. Louis student from Taiwan, laughs after being caught using her finger to spread icing on a cookie during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.
ST. LOUIS — About 20 college students from the Bahamas have experienced Midwestern culture from pumpkin picking to a winter snowstorm while taking classes this year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“UMSL Global is really good at helping you explore and keeping international students active,” said Celina Holmes, 22, a graduate student who is studying clinical mental health counseling.
The students are part of the Bahamian government’s Public School Scholars Programme, started in 2015 to boost college access by providing annual scholarships of $10,000 to $15,000 each year for up to four years.
Earlier this year, UMSL finalized an agreement with the country’s ministry of education to become one of 33 partner institutions in the U.S. and Canada that offer matching grants.
The agreement comes as international students are returning to U.S. colleges after a steep decline in recent years.
International student enrollment took a hit before the pandemic amid tightened immigration scrutiny under the Trump administration. Then COVID-19 caused the numbers of foreigners to plummet further under travel restrictions.
This fall, U.S. colleges and universities report a 7% increase in new international students, continuing an upward trend that started in the 2021-2022 school year, according to a recent report from the New York-based nonprofit Institute of International Education.
International students from the University of Missouri-St. Louis laugh while watching a video during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. From left are Vincente Moliner-Martinez, of Spain; Amelie Essrich, of Germany; Mikita Guiaugue, of France; Reichel Rodriguez, of Costa Rica; and Cristina Fernandez, of Spain.
The report’s findings “reflect the resilience of the U.S. higher education system” and its “commitment to international student mobility. … U.S. institutions also value the diverse perspectives and cultures international students bring to the classroom, enriching academic discussions and enhancing all students’ understanding of the world.”
The top three countries for students coming to Missouri to study this year are India, China and South Korea, mirroring national figures. There is at least one student from each of 177 countries among a total of 23,326 international students in the state, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Webster University, which has campuses in nine foreign countries, reports more than 350 new international students studying in Webster Groves this fall, doubling their pre-pandemic average. One in five undergraduates and graduate students at Washington University now come from outside the U.S.
Amelie Essrich, a University of Missouri-St. Louis student from Germany, decorates a cookie to look like an American flag during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by Jordan Opp, jopp@post-dispatch.com
Most international students in the U.S. come on an F-1 visa, which allows them to stay through graduation in an accredited program. The U.S. State Department issued nearly 358,000 student visas in 2021, more than tripling the amount issued in 2020 but still well below the high of 644,233 in 2015.
International students, who generally pay higher tuition and are less likely to need financial aid, contributed $32 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Admissions directors are continuing to recruit outside of Asia, which sends the majority of international students to the U.S. This year, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria had the largest increases in students coming to the U.S., according to the report.
The Caribbean islands are a new region for UMSL, which welcomed 360 international students this year from 61 countries, said Jessica Lynn Hylton, director of internationalization strategies and international student and scholar services.
“We’ve been working to grow our numbers and diversify,” Hylton said. “The international students are so valuable for the campus and the community, and in order for our domestic students to be good global citizens.”
At a recent party hosted by the university, students enjoyed the Bahamian pastry called guava duff and listened to Caribbean music. Kevvin Brown, who is studying for a master’s degree in finance at UMSL, said the Bahamian students fit right in on campus.
“The interesting part of this, a lot of people wouldn’t know we’re not from St. Louis,” said Brown, 22. “That’s what I like about UMSL.”
Daiki Goto, left, and Nao Oka, two University of Missouri-St. Louis students from Japan, laugh while arm wrestling each other during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by Jordan Opp, jopp@post-dispatch.com
A selection of photos from 2022 by Laurie Skrivan, who has covered St. Louis from nearly every angle as a Post-Dispatch staff photographer since 1998. She won the 2017 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award domestic photography and was a member of the 2015 Breaking News Photography Prize awarded to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch photography staff.
Top 10 countries among international students in Missouri, 2022-2023
India, 8,897 students
China, 5,035
South Korea, 636
Nepal, 584
Canada, 486
Nigeria, 441
Brazil, 437
Vietnam, 428
Spain, 371
Bangladesh, 289
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Stay up to date on life and culture in St. Louis.
Blythe Bernhard is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Chiung Chih Chang, center, a University of Missouri-St. Louis student from Taiwan, laughs after being caught using her finger to spread icing on a cookie during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.
International students from the University of Missouri-St. Louis laugh while watching a video during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. From left are Vincente Moliner-Martinez, of Spain; Amelie Essrich, of Germany; Mikita Guiaugue, of France; Reichel Rodriguez, of Costa Rica; and Cristina Fernandez, of Spain.
Amelie Essrich, a University of Missouri-St. Louis student from Germany, decorates a cookie to look like an American flag during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by Jordan Opp, jopp@post-dispatch.com
Daiki Goto, left, and Nao Oka, two University of Missouri-St. Louis students from Japan, laugh while arm wrestling each other during an end-of-year party for international students at UMSL on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by Jordan Opp, jopp@post-dispatch.com
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