US varsities winning foreign students with the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign; Indian students still skeptical

The #YouAreWelcomeHere has been trending on Twitter long enough to drive up conversations about the intention and motivation behind the campaign. US universities urge that this campaign will help international students and aspirants feel more welcomed and safe on campus.  However, Indian students aspiring to study in the States have expressed opinions otherwise. The agenda of debate is no longer the availability of US education, but the prospects of a progressive career thereafter. Amidst all the ruckus of a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to US education, PaGaLGuY spoke to some current as well as aspiring students to the States to understand the real impact of this campaign on their apprehensions. 

Students currently studying in various US universities have publicly applauded the initiative promoting it on their own social media handles. Harshit Kumar, student at Temple University, Philadelphia, says, “The campaign gives a sense of inclusiveness and care to foreign students on campus. Speaking about the national elections, I know it is overwhelming what we see on television, the protests and people rallying, but as a student who lived through the election, I would say that prospective international students to the US should not feel scared.  #YouAreWelcomeHere is nothing but a characteristic of what Temple is as a community.” 

Students from US universities have been posting pictures of their Christmas dinners and gifting ceremonies with foreign students on Twitter. The #YouAreWelcomeHere has now been converted into a Twitter page with follower count increasing by the hour. Josh Monagahn has tweeted, “The internet isn’t split into countries. We are all one.” pointing towards the spirit of unity amongst all students brought together by the internet campaign. Some other tweeters have told international students “We love you, we care about you, we don’t live in hate, racism or prejudice. We promise to be there for YOU!” Jacqueline Christian has further urged US universities and colleges to join the online campaign. The poster below was put outside Campbell Bakery as a sign of support to international students. 

While there is a unanimous cry amongst US citizens to support the international student community in their country, the latter has shown some skepticism over the campaign. James D’souza, an MS in US aspirant says, “Undoubtedly, US universities welcome all. Indian students dominate the application pool every year. There is no problem in going to US on an F1 visa as you’re funding the universities, but the main concern is H1B, especially for Asian and Indian workers. Tightened immigration policies will make it almost impossible for non-immigrants to get US Green Card under Trump’s presidency.”

Statistical data released by Open Doors this month further support James’s point. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contributed more than 30.5 billion dollars to the US economy in 2015. Since F1 visas have strict guidelines about not working while in the US, most of the money students spend comes from sources outside the US. According to NAFSA, there are currently 974,926 international students studying in the US. Those 974,926 students support more than 373,000 jobs in the US.

Yugali Gullapalli, another MS in US aspirant, says, “Indian parents should understand this side of the education story before pushing their kids to apply to US universities. Students on the other hand need to question their possibilities of getting a job in the States after their degree.” While Indian students too have appreciated the efforts of US universities, their concern for study in the States lies somewhere else. Students are persistent that with the new government in power, working in the US post education will be restricted. Saed Razdan, an MS alumnus from US, says, “Does the campaign suggest that universities will support international students against discrimination by employers during campus placements? Since the campaign has been started by universities, its strength is restricted only within the campus, not in the job market beyond.”

Students in India have appreciated the campaign and have been retweeting the hashtag to inform as many as possible. However, they feel it is too soon for them to be sure about the benefit of the campaign post education.