Launch of International Education Week Opening Remarks

Launch of International Education Week

Opening Remarks

as prepared for delivery

November 16, 2020 


Jonathan Henick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia, Press, and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State 

As Salam Aleukum, and a special welcome to all the dedicated education professionals in Pakistan. It is my privilege to celebrate the 2020 International Education Week with you, and to recognize Pakistan’s special role in contributing to international education and exchanges worldwide.

International Education Week celebrates the dreams of tomorrow’s leaders. It is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote global understanding and ensure that future leaders from around the world are prepared to lead, work, and cooperate in an ever-more interconnected world. The benefits of learning about other cultures and languages can help ease differences and promote worldwide peace.

I would like to especially note the benefits for Pakistanis to study in the United States. We offer a top-notch education at literally thousands of institutions of higher education. The spirit of International Education Week lives throughout the year as students from around the world study together in the United States. I encourage your students and resource centers to reach out to the EducationUSA advisors in Pakistan, who are the official sources of information on how to navigate the process of applying to, and studying in, the United States.

Once again, it is my pleasure to wish you great success in your pursuit of global connections during this year’s International Education Week!

Angela Aggeler, Chargé d’affaires a.i., U.S. Embassy Pakistan 

Distinguished Vice Chancellors, university presidents, professors, career counselors, and all of you who have dedicated yourselves to shaping tomorrow’s leaders, good evening.  On behalf of the U.S. Mission to Pakistan, it is an honor to welcome you to the opening event for International Education Week.

International Education Week is a 21-year-old tradition of the U.S. Department of State to celebrate the benefits of global academic exchange.  We take this occasion to promote the programs that attract future leaders from Pakistan and around the world to study, learn, and share experiences with their counterparts in the United States.  In a world in which information instantly crosses borders, understanding other languages and cultures is critical for the success of young people today.

International education is not only about taking advantage of new opportunities.  It also allows people to cross over socio-economic, cultural, political, religious, and geographic borders to gain new perspectives.  As we have seen in recent months from global scientific collaboration on the search for a COVID-19 vaccine, for example, such crossing of borders brings citizens and scientists together to address some of the world’s most complex issues, from climate change and energy security to cybersecurity, food security, and much more.

For over 70 years, Pakistan has been an important partner of the United States in the field of education.  In fact, while we offer the Fulbright Program around the world as the U.S. government’s flagship academic opportunity, the largest U.S. government-funded Fulbright program is right here in Pakistan.  It allows Pakistanis to earn Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in the United States.  Fulbright is not the only avenue for international education, however.  Every year, the United States Government sends 800 Pakistanis to the United States on a range of programs, from YES, which gives Pakistani high school students the chance to spend a year at an American high school, to the Humphrey Program, which brings mid-career professionals to the United States for a year of non-degree graduate-level study.

Why does the U.S. Government dedicate so many resources to attracting Pakistani students to the United States, and to directly supporting them through such scholarships and opportunities?  Because we believe that exchanges such as these help connect the people of the United States with the people of Pakistan, and because our classrooms, campuses, and communities are enriched by the presence of international students in ways that endure long after those students return home.  At the same time, as you likely know from your own experience or that of your colleagues, studying in an American university allows for invaluable academic, professional, and personal growth, and often opens an infinite number of career opportunities.

I would also like to note that U.S. Government exchange programs are open to students from all walks of life.  The benefit of diversity in the American classroom extends to the range of Pakistanis accepted into our programs.  This includes talented male and female students from all corners of the country, and all economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

U.S. universities are likewise eager to welcome the full range of talented, qualified Pakistani students, and we believe that these well-educated young people represent Pakistan’s future as they work toward increased peace and prosperity.

Before I close, I would like to give a special mention to the career counselors in the audience today.  Good counselors inspire their students to chart a course for their career and life that maximizes the opportunities of their education.  I applaud your efforts and dedication and would also like to thank you for your role in increasing the educational ties between the United States and Pakistan.

Finally, a special thank you to Rita Akhtar and her dedicated team at the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan for all the fabulous initiatives that encourage Pakistani students to explore an American education.

Thank you for including me in tonight’s events, and I wish you all a very informative and useful International Education Week.

Ray Castillo, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs, U.S. Embassy Pakistan

Good evening and thank you for welcoming me to be a part of this distinguished panel.  Mashal, thank you for that kind introduction.  Thanks also to Deputy Assistant Secretary Henick and Chargé d’Affaires Aggeler, for joining us to kick off International Education Week, and I mostly want to thank all of the University Presidents, Vice Chancellors and other leaders, faculty, advisors, and staff for attending.  It shows the strength of our partnership that you are taking time from your busy schedules to discuss the many opportunities for Pakistanis to study in the United States.

As Charge’ Aggeler said, this partnership has grown and strengthened over the past 70 years.  The reason for this is simple. Cooperation through international education between Pakistan and the United States is the single best way for our students and professors to develop their careers; and it also the best way to promote mutual understanding and to strengthen the partnership between our peoples even further.

That is why the largest U.S. government-funded Fulbright program is right here in Pakistan, which brings about 100 master’s and 50 PhD candidates from Pakistan to U.S. universities every year.  As this panel will discuss, the Fulbright is not the only program we offer.  Every year, the United States Government sends 800 Pakistanis to the United States on a range of education programs, some of which I will outline in a minute.

We also support Pakistan’s key education goals, whether that be increasing the number of PhDs in higher education, or collaboration at the university level, which my colleague Dr. Banuri will talk about.

And finally, our dear friend Rita Akhtar will discuss several university scholarship programs that are funded by the U.S. government and administered by the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan.

I also need to mention that the United States remains the country of choice for Pakistani students, with around 800 attending university there every year.  So, all of us here must be doing something correctly.


One of my all-time favorite programs is the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program – better known as the YES program — for high school students to spend a year at an American high school.

The costs are fully covered by the U.S. government and the host family the YES students live with.  In addition to their high school studies, they participate in community service, youth leadership training, and other activities that help them learn more about American culture.  At the same time, YES students serve as “youth ambassadors,” sharing their rich culture and helping educate Americans about Pakistan.  We send about 77 Pakistanis to the U.S. through the YES program each year, and since it was established in 2002, over 1,274 Pakistani students have participated in the program.

I grew up near Albany, New York in small town and the first time I ever met a foreign student was through a program similar to YES.  These students had a big impact on me and the whole school.  We see that in Pakistani YES students when they return.

YES students are known for their leadership and the confidence they gained from living abroad.

To learn about who is eligible and how to apply, go to the Society for International Education’s website at


Another excellent program for university students is the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders, or SUSI.  The SUSI programs are intensive, short-term academic programs for undergraduate students during the summer.  The purpose is to provide undergraduate student leaders with a deeper understanding of the United States, while also building leadership skills.  In addition to classroom study, students participate in a wide range of educational and cultural activities outside of the classroom, take a study tour to a different region of the United States besides where their program is based, and interact with their American peers on a college campus.

We send 34 Pakistanis to SUSI institutes each year.  In 2021, the SUSI program will focus on topics such as Civic Engagement, Comparative Public Policymaking, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Journalism and Media, Public Policymaking, Religious Freedom and Pluralism, Social Entrepreneurship, and Women’s Leadership.

As an example, in the SUSI for Comparative Public Policymaking, Pakistani students join 15 U.S. students to examine questions such as how problems get on the public agenda and who has the power to define a problem.  The students will meet elected officials and community leaders in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Or take the SUSI on Women’s Leadership.  In this program, Pakistanis will develop leadership skills in critical thinking, communication, decision-making, and management while exploring women’s equality in the United States and the challenges facing women around the world.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, the SUSI program is on hold until we are able to resume travel.  We keep our website updated with current information on SUSI and other exchange programs, so I invite you to check and look at the “Education and Culture” tab for program details and updates as they become available.


For mid-career professionals, the U.S. Government sponsors the Professional Fellows Program.  This is a global exchange program designed to promote mutual understanding, enhance leadership and professional skills, as well as build lasting, sustainable partnerships between mid-level emerging leaders from foreign countries and the United States.  Professional Fellows are placed in intensive five, or six week fellowships in non-profit organizations, private sector businesses, and government offices across the United States for an individually tailored professional development experience.  They build a broad network with American and other program participant colleagues as they develop a deeper understanding of U.S. society.

Visit our website, and look at the “Education and Culture” tab for program details.


We have several programs to build the capacity of Pakistani English language teachers.  For example, we regularly bring American Specialists to Pakistan for face-to-face professional development workshops based on teacher needs, to develop modern teaching and learning materials, and to support the development of civic institutions such as professional teachers’ associations.

Through Massive Open Online Courses, webinars, and post-specific virtual programs, we have helped train thousands of Pakistani educators to transition their classrooms online.

Alumni of our English language programs have leveraged these skills to support colleagues across disciplines in the migration to online teaching during the global pandemic.

The popular Pakistan Teaching Excellence and Achievement program, better known as TEA, is another example of an education program to build the capacity of English language teachers in secondary schools from each region of Pakistan. Every year, about 40 TEA teachers participate in a six-week professional development program at a U.S. university.  Upon their return, these teachers develop projects to share what they learned through the program, reaching educators in every corner of the country.

For full details on this program, see


I want to close by highlighting a few programs for the fine arts.  The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program connects well-established writers from around the globe, bringing international literature into classrooms, introducing American writers to other cultures through reading tours, and serving as a clearinghouse for literary news and a wealth of archival and pedagogical materials.

For more information, visit

In addition, the University of Iowa has a program called “Between the Lines” for young writers, ages 16-19, to participate in a cultural exchange program that focuses on the art and craft of creative writing.  Young writers get to spend their days in creative writing workshops and global literature seminars.

For more information, visit

Another creative exchange is the One Beat program.  One Beat brings musicians aged 19-35 to the United States for one month to collaboratively write, produce, and perform original music, and develop strategies for arts-based social engagement.  Some well-known Pakistani musicians have joined One Beat, like Usman Riaz.

For more information, visit 


When Pakistanis return from these or any of our exchange programs, we want them to join the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network, or PUAN, to share their experiences and continue to interact with the Embassy, other Americans, and their peers.  PUAN is the largest network of U.S. exchange alumni in the world, with 32,000 eligible members.  The network allows alumni to build upon the connections made in the U.S. Alumni are actively involved in professional development and community service.

They are also eligible to apply for small grants to implement programs that benefit their communities. 


This is not an exhaustive list of the exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, but it should give you a sense of the range of opportunities available.  I look forward to your questions and thank you once again for inviting me to join you in celebrating the opportunities that come from global educational exchange.

Be sure to check out the websites I suggested and follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook.