It was Saturday, January 12, 1980.  As his Philippine Airlines flight PR-104 from tropical Manila landed in Honolulu, Hawaii,  the 24 year-old young man wondered what his new life would be like as an international graduate business student in the United States.  This would begin his American journey as he made his way to Pittsburgh.  Would the city, its world-recognized corporations, and three universities really appear as shown in the university recruitment materials he received a year earlier?  After further stopovers in San Francisco and New York, he finally arrived in Pittsburgh the following morning, Sunday, January 13, meeting his host family and seeing snow flurries for the first time.  He and his hosts accomplished many things that Sunday.  He found an apartment within walking distance to Pitt, bought household supplies, and settled in.  That Monday morning, he was at Pitt opening his bank account. Upon reporting to the Foreign Students Advisor, he was informed he had missed international student orientation and the first week of classes. Despite the mishap, he completed his registration and attended his first class in the MBA program—Financial Accounting—with about 100 other students.

WU International students

Woodbury University domestic and international students. The best of both worlds.

Each of the nearly 800,000 international students in the United States has a similar story.  What do international students have to do with excellence in higher education?

They bring global perspectives into U.S. classrooms and research labs.  They support U.S. innovation through science and engineering coursework making it possible for U.S. colleges and universities to offer these courses to U.S. students.  Finally, by paying out-of-state tuition funded largely by non-U.S. sources, they support campus programs and services that all students enjoy.  It is for these reasons and more that our country is celebrating  International Education Week during November 11 – 16.

“International outlook” is measured by the number of foreign-born students and faculty, as well as research programs with an internationalization component. These results impact rank and comprise 7.5 percent of the criteria of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  International students also contribute to the American economy.  Annually, the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) calculates the economic impact of international students and their dependents here in the U.S.  During the 2009-2010 academic year, NAFSA estimated that international students and their dependents contributed approximately $18.8 billion to the U.S. economy and $2.9 billion to California.  Woodbury University’s share was $7 million.


My university is proud to have attracted the highest percentage of enrolled international students (17% of the student population) among the master’s degree-granting universities in the Western region.  Our 291 international students—50 graduate and 241 undergraduate—come from 45 countries.  The top five places of origin are Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Taiwan, and Iran, accounting for two-thirds of our international student population.

These future leaders build bridges between the United States and other countries. International students add diversity which enriches the experience of other students on campus by providing them opportunities to learn about other cultures.  Schools with a strong global presence often have a wealth of cultural groups and events, thereby allowing international students an opportunity to share their food, music, and traditions with their U.S. peers.

1980-01-12(Passport) Calingo fix

International student, Luis Calingo, age 24.  Graduate business student at the University of Pittsburgh 1980. Passport photo.

By the way, the international student who shared his story at the beginning is yours truly.  America has been my adopted country, and I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to be of service to the American people through education.  What is your perspective on the role and impact of international students in U.S. higher education?

I am Woodbury University President, Dr. Luis Calingo. Thank you for letting me share Reflections on Excellence.

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Categories: News
  • Beverly Macy

    Dr. Calingo – Thank you for this excellent post on Celebrating International Education! As an educator myself at UCLA Extension, I am pleased to welcome International students into my marketing classes. The multifaceted perspective makes interaction so much more meaningful.

    • LuisCalingo

      Your comment is very much appreciated, especially from one educator to another. International students truly enrich all of us.

  • Elmasda Saputra

    My name is Elmasda Saputra and I’m an international student from Indonesia at Woodbury University. I really like this blog because I feel I can connect with the story very much. In my opinion, a lot of international students come to America to find a better and brighter opportunity in life. A lot of people choose this country because they know America has the best education compared to the education in their home countries. Studying abroad opens up doors to new experiences that most people will not be able to have if they choose to go to universities or colleges in their own countries. Also, it’s our role as international students to take everything in, educate ourselves to be the best we can possibly be, and help our home countries be better too. I have personally learned a great deal by studying here at Woodbury University. Even though it’s a small school, the quality of students and professors is really excellent. By having more international students at Woodbury, we can learn about the diversity of people and their cultures while sharing a common experience here in the United States.

    • LuisCalingo

      Elmasda, I am delighted that sharing my own personal story from years past has resonated with your own today. It sounds like you are filled with the same wonder and excitement I experienced at your age being the recipient of an American higher education. Please continue sharing your perspectives and activities as an international student with us in the future. Wishing you great success!

  • Jocelyn Blanco

    Dr. Calingo, Thank you for sharing your story, which perfectly reflects overcoming a huge life transition. We are all very excited to have your support for programs, activities, and resources for our international students at Woodbury.

    • LuisCalingo

      Jocelyn, It is my great honor and pleasure to serve our enormously diverse international students at Woodbury. Your own welcoming leadership with these students will always be remembered by them in years to come.