International Student Ministry Opportunities Continue to Grow

For Immediate Release

(Madison, WI) --- The 1,095,299 international students studying in the US during the 2018-2019 academic year set a new record. Last year was the fourth consecutive year that this group of students surpassed one million, according to the 2019 Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education. 

“InterVarsity has been promoting friendships with international students as a part of our ministry since we began, 78 years ago,” said Marc Papai, Director of International Student Ministry (ISM). In the mid-1950s, staff were inviting international students to International Houseparties, a chance to get away from campus during holiday vacations. Houseparties were held at many different locations, particularly at InterVarsity camps, like Cedar Campus. And the tradition still continues.

In 1959, InterVarsity published a Guide to International Friendships by then ISM director Paul Little. It reported that the US international student population at the time was 90,000. Today’s Friendships with International Students booklet carries on this legacy of encouraging and equipping students and volunteers to connect across cultures.

“Today InterVarsity’s 2030 Calling is focused on calling ‘every corner of every campus to follow Jesus,’” Papai said. “That includes international students, who are now a part of the student body at the majority of US campuses.”

At some campuses, ISM is the only InterVarsity presence. “Part of our ministry is to help US students gain a deeper appreciation for God’s people of every international ethnicity and for God’s purposes in the world,” he said.

During the 2018-2019 school year, 3,846 international students were regularly involved in 499 InterVarsity undergraduate and graduate fellowships. Sixty of those fellowships were specifically for international students.

The IIE Open Doors report also announced that the number of US students studying abroad continues to increase. During the 2017-2018 academic year numbers were up 2.7 percent over the previous year.

InterVarsity’s Study Abroad ministry, now in its seventh year, helps students get involved with Christian community in other countries, connecting them to local campus ministry, discipling them through video conferencing, and challenging them through short pilgrimage experiences. Study Abroad also offers semester-long justice-focused programs in Rwanda and Ecuador. Last year 620 students participated in InterVarsity Study Abroad, and another 125 engaged with Study Abroad resources.

Another long-standing InterVarsity tradition encourages local community members to invite international students into their home for Thanksgiving Dinner. Students get to learn about and experience a traditional American holiday, making new family connections while they are a long way from home.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has 1,119 student and faculty chapters on 772 campuses across the US, from the Ivy League to community colleges. InterVarsity is a founding member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.