Local university joins national campaign to combat decline of international exchange students

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Admissions Office says it's seen a huge drop in exchange student applications, receiving only about half as many this year as last fall.

But the university is trying to counteract the decline in applications by getting creative.

Like several universities around the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has seen a major drop of international students coming to Eau Claire to study abroad.

“I feel like our campus is pretty inclusive, so everyone should feel welcome and there’s no reason for any of them not to,” said UWEC senior, Jack Delahunt.

The reason? After surveying the university's partnering institutions overseas, they say it’s attributed to two things: a stronger U.S. dollar, making college more expensive and the political climate of our country, making students feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

“U.S. students and their parents get nervous when they see large protests in countries overseas or any kind of violent activity and in the U.S. we've had a lot of large political demonstrations recently, which is a good sign for us democracy, but it might make people nervous if they don't understand our system,” explained UWEC Center for International Education Director Colleen Marchwick.

However, the university is working to create a "You Are Welcome Here" video, as a part of a national campaign, to let international students know they are welcome, safe, and a valuable part of the community.

“It’s like a choir, the power of multiple voices, it rings it makes a beautiful sound,” said Marchwick. “I think that’s the goal of the “You Are Welcome Here,” to get multiple voices to reverberate around the world to make sure people remember you are welcome here, even though we are going through some ups and downs.”

Aside from the “You Are Welcome Here” video, the university is also hosting informational sessions, like Ask an Immigration Attorney, where students can get a few questions answered. That session will be held May 9th at 5 p.m. in Centennial 2927.

“I can understand why they would, that stuff is really scary, but they should also know that there are people that are welcoming here and would welcome them with open arms,” added UWEC senior Brianna Truitt.

Marchwick says they hope to have the “You Are Welcome Here” video released by this summer.

She says another concern with the decline in international study abroad students, is the university could in turn have less places to send UW-Eau Claire students to study overseas.

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