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Hughes Promotes US-Indian Educational Exchange Programs

Thousands of international students travel to the United States each year to attend college. But since the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, security concerns have made student visa applications more cumbersome. In an effort to attract more foreign students to the U.S., Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes has undertaken a series of trips to promote higher education and student exchange programs. This week she is in India discussing educational opportunities in both countries. VOA's Lisa Vohra recently traveled to one American university where Indian students are learning about more than just academics.

Here at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, students from India are an important part of the campus. Almost all of the Indian students here are in graduate school, and all have easily made the transition from India to America.

Nikhil Deshpande, from Pune, and Sibin Mohan, from Bangalore, say N.C. State, as it is known, was very welcoming to them both. Deshpande adds that the school made his dreams of research a reality. "It is the best place to come to study. We know all the top-ranked research, all the top-ranked technologies are developed in the U.S."

Besides fitting in as a student, Mohan says adapting to life in America was no big deal. "The Indian student community here is very strong. So we don't miss home or Indian food or any such thing. Along the way we got to learn American football, I go to all the games now and [I'm a] devoted fan."

The Chancellor of North Carolina State University, James Oblinger, will be accompanying the State Department's Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, and presidents from five other American universities.

The group will meet with their Indian counterparts to discuss cooperation on international education between the United States and India.

Chancellor Oblinger says international education, particularly with Indian students, is a very important component of the academic structure of North Carolina State University. "They enrich the community in a lot of different ways. The mixing of cultures, religions, traditions and those types of things, we think that is very important for our students to be exposed to that."

He notes that Indian students have made a very positive impact on North Carolina State University and that American education is expanding beyond its borders.

"They maintain their traditions, they celebrate the holidays, and the festivals. And that's very good for the Indian population, it's just as good for the American students to appreciate and participate in that form of culture too. We think that is very positive, essential as we live in a knowledge-based global economy," Oblinger told us.

Speaking in Washington, Under Secretary Karen Hughes said she is looking forward to the trip and making U.S.-Indian educational ties even stronger.

"We have a very broad dialogue with India, a very broad global, strategic partnership,” she said. β€œAnd when you think about the areas in which we are cooperating: Whether it be energy, or agriculture, or high-tech issues, education is foundational to all of them. And so we think we really have an opportunity on this trip to expand that partnership."

She added that not only will she discuss Indian students coming to the United States, but American students traveling to India. "America and India have many – as the world's two great democracies – have many, many interests in common and many values in common, and many interests around the world in common. And so I think it really helps broaden the mind and the life experience and the education of a student just to visit another country."

The U.S. wants more international students to attend school here and Hughes' trip to India will only reinforce the message for Indians that the doors to American schools, like North Carolina State University, are wide open.