The Government of Alberta's website on education defines international education as “all educational initiatives that aim to build intercultural competency, knowledge of the international community and a sense of global citizenship amongst students and education professionals.” These educational initiatives include programs such as student and teacher exchanges, second-language learning and educational cooperation between schools in different countries. International education provides personal benefits for students and teachers as well as benefits for host and provider countries.

Personal

An international education can enhance a student's resume, especially if he is seeking employment internationally or with multinational organizations. Companies may perceive a student with overseas experience as being more flexible, mature and knowledgeable than other students. In a global world, the ability to speak more than one language is a valuable asset. An international student develops an understanding of other cultures that can bring new insight into understanding his own culture as well. The new networks that he develops while studying overseas can be important when seeking employment.

Academic

Educational systems in countries involved in international education develop by hosting international students. Foreign language programs improve by necessity, and national school systems evolve as they receive input from students and teachers who have direct experience with other forms of curricula and methods of organizing school systems. The internationalization of the curriculum leads to broader understandings of the global community.

International Relations

Commenting on the importance of international education, Karen Hughes, former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said, “Education is essential to fostering understanding and respect for those who have different backgrounds, faiths, ideas and views. Education is still the best escape route from poverty. Education is vital to constructive, informed decision making among citizens and between countries.” Students who return from studying overseas serve as goodwill ambassadors and public opinion makers. They are informal diplomats because of their experiences in international education. Nations around the world need citizens who have experience engaging with different worldviews, different cultures, different rules and different aspirations.

Economic

International education programs contribute to the economic development of host and provider nations. Host nations receive economic benefits from money received for tuition, housing, entertainment, living expenses and other expenditures. For example, Canada received $8 billion from international students in 2001. Provider nations receive economic benefits from the development of an internationally trained workforce, especially in the areas of science and technology. Students return home with new skills and ideas that they can use to contribute to the development of their country. Additionally, networking can lay the foundation for future cooperation in the economic sphere.