“100,000 Strong in the Americas” was launched by U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2011 to increase international study in Latin America and the Caribbean. The program’s purpose is to foster region-wide prosperity through a greater international exchange of students in our hemisphere.
This increasing cross-cultural understanding in the Western Hemisphere will build closer people-to-people ties, thus helping the U.S. State Department and citizens address common challenges including citizen security, economic opportunity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.
Universidad Americana (UAM) in Managua has made it a strategic goal to increase its internationalization and student exchanges. Earlier this month, a UAM delegation participated in NAFSA: The Association of International Educators’ 64th Annual Conference & Expo in Houston, Texas. NAFSA is the world’s leading association in the field of international education and exchange. Nearly 9,000 international education professionals from around the world attended this annual event, which focused on Comprehensive Internationalization: Vision and Practices.
Dr. Ernesto Medina, rector of UAM, was one of a select 28 international invitees and participants in a Latin American Forum that discussed issues of increased awareness and support for the internationalization of higher education among education leaders, public policymakers, and the broader international community.
The plenary speaker, Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary for both Presidents Obama and Bush (2006-2011), told attendees that study abroad is not an “unaffordable luxury,” rather an important way to help develop future leaders with global experience and language skills. He also explained that international education is an essential part of the United States’ global engagement strategy, and that international experiences are important to the development of individuals as well as to the security and economic future of countries.
Recent trends show that while Europe still hosts the most U.S. students studying abroad, nontraditional destinations such as Nicaragua are quickly becoming more popular. Mexico and Costa Rica, the top two Latin American destinations for study abroad programs, both experienced drops in enrollments between 2009-2010. Nicaragua, despite not offering a student visa and not keeping track of official numbers for foreign students studying here, seems to be experiencing a growing interest from both North American and European students.
The enrollment of international students at UAM’s International Student Exchange Program grew by 263% during the past academic year alone.
Mrs. Giselle Poveda, the program’s coordinator, says “UAM and Nicaragua continue to be discovered as safe and viable places for foreigners to come to, whether it be to study, to vacation or to live.”
Stephanie Zambrana is Coordinator of UAM’s International Programs.