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Tuition Aid Offered to Sporty Foreign Students

Megan Connolly, a junior from Cork, Ireland, said the scholarship she received played a big role in her decision to choose Florida State University.

College athletics are a big deal in the U.S.

And that gives talented international students an inroad to American universities.

Among the more than 460,000 student athletes in the U.S., just over 19,000 are international student athletes, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which oversees all things student athletics. That’s nearly 20 percent.

Coming to the U.S. gave her “the opportunity to grow as a soccer player and as a person,” said Gloriana Villalobos of Costa Rica, who plays for Florida State University’s women’s soccer team.

Villalobos is a freshman pursuing a degree in athletic training, but said she has high hopes for her soccer career. She was named to the Costa Rican roster for the 2015 Women’s World Cup that took place in Canada.

Soccer, the world’s most played and watched sport, offers a large number of internationals sports slots and scholarships on U.S. campuses. There are nearly 3,700 international soccer players competing at NCAA schools at all levels -- Division I, II and III, according to the NCAA.

Division I schools are typically the biggest and have the largest budget for athletics and scholarships. Division II schools typically balance studies and athletics, so are selective about their sports scholarships. Division III schools are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships, so academics are the primary focus for their student athletes.

Megan Connolly
Megan Connolly

​Megan Connolly, an FSU junior from Cork, Ireland, said the scholarship she received played a big role in her decision.

“It’s a lot more expensive in America than anywhere in Europe to go to college and play soccer,” Connolly said. The scholarship was a deciding factor.

Nearly 2,700 play on men’s soccer teams while nearly 1,000 play on women’s soccer teams. Only tennis has more international women than international men.

To obtain a visa for international collegiate athletes, they first must be accepted by a college or university. Many students say the process can be challenging. The biggest issue for Villalobos was waiting.

It can be nerve-wracking, she said, while you wait to hear back about the approval. Luckily for her, she was approved in time for her to get her season underway.

However,“I don’t think it’s as hard as other countries,” said Canadian international and FSU freshman Gabby Carle.

Geography can be a big part of the process. Carle said that as a Canadian, she did not need a visa.

Settling in a new country and on a new team can be tough for international athletes, especially coming from far away. FSU Junior Natalia Kuikka, from Kemi, Finland, said that playing with other foreign players made the transition much easier.

“I’m from Finland and [Megan Connolly] is from Ireland, so we have a European connection,” Kuikka said. “We have the same background, so it was really easy to get to know each other.”

Ismael Noumansana, a senior at Lenoir-Rhyne University who was born in Mali and spent his childhood in France, is trying to play soccer professionally. Noumansana learned about the opportunity to play collegiately in the United States from an agency in France.

“They told me I can come to the U.S. to play at a good level and get a degree at the same time,” said Noumansana. “Hopefully at the end of this year I can find a professional contract.”

Noumansana also played in the Premier Development League (PDL), an amateur soccer league that caters to collegiate athletes in the summer. It gives them a chance to play in a professional setting and maintain their NCAA eligibility. In summer 2017, he played the Ocean City Nor’easters in New Jersey.

“It is really good to play in the PDL if you want to play professionally,” Noumansana said. “People get to know you.”

Many of the international players cherish their sporting career as much or more than their academic careers. This is not say they do not understand the importance of a degree: Noumansana noted that the degree will help him much more when his playing career is over.

Shaan Stuart from New Zealand
Shaan Stuart from New Zealand

Shaan Stuart played for Wheeling Jesuit University after coming to the United States from his home country of New Zealand. He was also part of the Ocean City Nor’easters PDL team last season with Noumansana.

Stuart has graduated and moved to England to work in marketing and play soccer. He is playing for Brocton Football Club who competes in the Midland Football League, which is the ninth division in England’s soccer pyramid.

His story is one that shows that internationals can benefit both academically and athletically in the United States. This was Stuart’s plan all along, he said.

“I came to the United States to continue playing football [soccer], to learn in the classroom, and to experience a different culture,” he said. “I would undoubtedly recommend [going to the U.S.]. It’s such a fantastic experience.”

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What Are US Diplomats Doing to Further International Education?

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Denver, Colorado, April 28, 2023.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken touted his department’s achievements in a recent address to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The State Department has relaxed student visa and study abroad requirements. In fact, it issued over a half-million student visas last year – the highest number in five years. Blinken, who spent part of his childhood in France, thanked educators for “helping us to see the world through another’s eyes.”

Watch his remarks in this press release from the State Department. (May 2023)

Soon-to-Be Graduates Put COVID Behind Them

Soon-to-Be Graduates Put COVID Behind Them
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, learning lagged for students around the world, including the U.S., where many had access to online learning. Now these soon-to-be graduates say they are behind in certain subjects because of time missed at school. VOA’s Laurel Bowman sat down with high school seniors on the cusp of graduation. Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Saqib Ul Islam.

Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming, delivers the commencement address at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 28, 2023.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.

Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."

In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.

Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.

"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."

In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.

Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.

Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.

Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.

Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.

A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.

After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.

Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.

Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

How Are Girls in Afghanistan Continuing Their Education?

FILE - Afghan university students chant slogans and hold placards during a protest against the ban on university education for women, in Quetta, Pakistan, Dec. 24, 2022.

After the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in 2021, they severely limited access to education for girls. Yet a club founded in the U.S., Flowers for the Future, helps Afghan girls keep learning through Zoom meetings with U.S. students. Two students, one Afghan, one American, describe their journey with the program and what it's taught them about grit, resilience and the importance of learning. Read the essays by Mahsa Kosha and Emily Khossaravi in the Hechinger Report. (May 2023)

Could Your International Degree be Financed by Goldman Sachs?

FILE - The logo for Goldman Sachs is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, Nov. 17, 2021.

Quite possibly, since the elite U.S. investment bank has been investing millions in educational startups. Students from countries like India, Nigeria and Indonesia have long struggled to finance their U.S. degrees due to limited access to loans, but these new startups could disrupt that. For example, in just the first quarter of 2022, one startup, Prodigy Finance, reported a 98% increase in the number of Indian loan applicants. Nick Cuthbert of the PIE News breaks down the financial projections. (May 2023)

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