LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—The cultural diversity of the La Crosse area is enhanced by the growing number of international students here to study at one of the colleges and universities in the city; they bring not just diversity, but an economic boost as well.
The Association of International Educators Report said international students and their dependents contributed $256.4 million to Wisconsin's economy.
International students at UW-La Crosse alone added $9.2 million; that's the third largest contribution in the state, following UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.
One international student contributing to the La Crosse economy is Melody Xu. She is on her second year in La Crosse, and is studying business.
"I chose this school several reasons," Melody said. "It is very safe here and my mother will not worry about my safety and I love small cities but not large cities."
La Crosse reminds her of her hometown in Southeastern China near Chiang Kai.
"It's very famous for its seafood and for beautiful scenery," Melody said.
As the only child in her family, she took a chance to expand her horizons and learn a different way.
"Most Chinese students are under too much pressure, they follow the guide from teachers," Melody said. "But in America, not so much homework, but dependent on self and improve personal skills."
Jay Lokken, Director of International Education Office said having students like Melody in La Crosse adds a lot to the community.
"It's priceless because it's bringing in students from 33-35 different countries," Lokken said. "They come into the community and bring economic resources. But it also helps Wisconsin create a global environment that makes Wisconsin more successful economically."
During the 2006-2007 school year, international students contributed about $3.5 million dollars to the local economy.
Last school year, just five years later, they contributed three times as much.
"We have worked really hard to increase international student numbers," Lokken said. "Its word of mouth too, as more of our students go back abroad they say there is this beautiful city sitting on the Mississippi River with this high ranked university that's affordable."
Melody said she'd recommend other students study abroad too.
"If you come abroad you can see a lot of different things that are totally different than China, learn communicating with others, culture and language," Melody said.
Once she has her business degree, Melody wants to go back to China so her parents don't miss her too much.
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