College students

USA (MNN) – International students coming to study in the United States hit a record high during the 2016-2017 school year. At the time, 1.08 million international students were studying on US campuses. But this year, those numbers dropped by seven percent.

Why the Decline?

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship‘s Director of International Student Ministries Marc Papai shares, “I think the concern that many of us have is that our current climate around those from overseas seems to be changing some, and that there’s the concern that there’s been a kind of chilling effect on those from outside our country in terms of the welcome that they’ll be offered when they come to the United States.

(Photo and header photo courtesy of InterVarsity via Facebook)

“I don’t think it’s right to conclude that, but it can be seen as plausible that when, especially from certain countries, there’s been a kind of unwelcome sign put up almost on our shores.”

Papai says the number of international students in the US has increased yearly since these statistics started being tracked. According to the New York Times experts believe this decline could be because of the uncertainty in the US’s social and political climate. But, it’s hard to say for sure.

“I don’t think there’s one explanation alone that would explain that,” Papai explains. “The overall global economy can affect that number. Tuition continues to increase in the United States to go to school, it can become out of reach for some.”

And with the tax reform still in progress in the US, graduate students could face taxes on tuition waivers, making it harder to afford higher study in the US. According to Papai, international students make up a larger percentage of graduate students in the US.

International students might also be looking at others schools in different countries. For example, Canada, Britain, and Australia are being cited as competing countries for international students’ interest.

Do Life With Internationals

Either way, Christians can help the international students in their cities by being hospitable and by inviting these students into their lives.

“While it can seem intimidating to have an international student—what will we talk about, will I be able to converse with them—those are our fears I think we have, but they’re unnecessary,” Papai shares.

InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry seeks to make international students feel welcome. (Photo by InterVarsity)

“But if we’re simply ourselves, if we’re hospitable the way we know how to be, so many of our American families say that ‘we’ve received more from this relationship than what we’ve given.”

Inviting international students into your life is a way to share the Gospel, starting by living out Christ’s love. Plus, holidays can be very lonely for students who often cannot return to their home country during breaks.

But, Christians can invite them into their homes. So, with Christmas on the way, will you invite a student into your home? It’s a chance to help change the world and join the mission field from your own dining room tables.

How to Pray

Please pray for these students too. Pray fervently for the work among international students, for them to have open hearts to the Gospel, and for it to impact their lives.

Also, pray for the social and political climate in the US to be more welcoming to students and financially viable. Finally, pray for churches and ministries working with international students to continue to be generous and faithful as they share the Gospel with clarity.

Find out how to connect with international students here!

Just click Department/Ministry and choose International Student Ministry from the drop-down menu. Then finish filling in the rest of the information to contact InterVarsity about connecting with an International Student.

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