The effect 9/11 had on society is profound, reaching even into the realm of higher education.
Maria Costa, director of international programs and services at East Tennessee State University, remembers well the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The roughly 100 or so foreign exchange students on campus at that time also watched the events as they unfolded, much like the rest of the nation.
“They were in a sense in the same situation we were, trying to figure out why this happened and who did it and where all this hate was coming from,” Costa said. “We were afraid that they would be involved in the blaming game.”
There were no Middle Eastern exchange students at ETSU at that time. Several students went back home to their countries at the request of their families, but most continued their studies at ETSU.
Today there are about 320 students from around the world currently attending ETSU.
“I mean, after Sept. 11 all the schools had a decrease in the number of international students,” Costa said. “We maintained our numbers, and our numbers are going up slowly but they are going up.”
After the attacks, the tracking of foreign exchange students became a priority for the federal government.
“We had to account for students before but now we have to do it on a semester-by-semester basis,” Costa said. “They are tracked quite closely now as a result of Sept. 11.”
Costa said there are currently about 650,000 foreign exchange students in the United States. All of those students are tracked through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System operated by the Department of Homeland Security.