By Rayann Ibasco
Since the Immigration Act of 1924 took effect, almost a century ago, the United States of America has been a beacon of hope to international students and their families, bringing the promise of better education, career opportunities and the fulfillment of the American dream.
Part of the country’s success as a destination is the staunch protection of its sovereignty. The United States has a reputation for standing up against threats both inside and outside its republic. Sometimes, though, this approach leads others to see enemies where there are none. The last four years have shown that, leaving many international students and immigrants questioning their desire to study and live within the US. But our education partners have remained welcoming to all students and our EduCo staff did not lose hope. We all kept our faith that someday, things will get better.
This past week, the 46th President of the United States of America, Joseph R. Biden, was inaugurated and sworn into office. In the months leading up to this, numerous articles featuring his positive views on international student education in the US and immigration policy were being published. Insights were consistent—a Biden administration would favour international student education and better support immigrants.
Today, educators and college administrators are excited and hopeful for this new chapter in education, one that encourages international students to look towards the US for higher education and learning, and one that creates a more welcoming environment for students than in the past four years.
As an education administrator myself, I am excited by the fact that Dr Jill Biden, the First Lady, is an educator from Northern Virginia. She brings experience to Washington that focuses on equity within the classroom. She told USA Today that she vows to make this her mission while serving as First Lady.
Focusing on diversity and equality is not only discussed and promoted by our new President in his speeches, but shown in his choice of administration. Vice President Kamala Harris is our nation’s first-ever woman Vice President and the first black, Asian American in our history to hold that office. Her parents came to America in the ’60s as international students. Her father is from Jamaica and her mother, from India. She stands as proof to all the little girls in every part of the world that they can be who and what they want to be.
I moved to the US from the Philippines with my parents in 2017. I left 27 years of my life, including dear friends and family members. I had to start all over again, afraid that I would need to throw away the degree I have earned and find a job that did not stoke my passions. I was lucky that I worked for EduCo and that the organisation saw my potential, believed in me and found opportunities to keep me as part of the team.
Although my situation differs from the typical experiences of international students, I realise that our drive and dreams are alike. We are both seeking the opportunity to obtain world-class education, find a good job, earn enough money and support our families. We are all seeking to live out some version of the American dream.
This week, as I watched the new administration take office, I thought to myself, “This has been my home for the last three years. I am proud to be a part of this nation.” I hope that our international students will share the same feeling in the years to come.
Rayann Ibasco is EduCo’s Partnership Director, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.