College students attend an international education fair in the quad
Story International

CSU Makes a Global Impact

Alisia Ruble

The CSU is celebrating more than 60 years of connecting with the world through vibrant international education programs.

College students attend an international education fair in the quad

Launched more than six decades ago, the CSU's international education program offers life-changing learning experiences through study abroad, international faculty and student research opportunities, and enrolling and educating international students at each of its 23 universities.

These connections prepare students to live and work in an increasingly multicultural society, and to become engaged global citizens.

“International education is widely recognized as a high-impact practice that builds self-confidence, improves cultural awareness, promotes career preparation and academic progression and truly transforms students' lives," says Jaishankar Raman, director of CSU International Programs (CSU IP). “We must continue to make every effort to create affordable study abroad programs, and to bring a global education to all CSU students through a diverse international student population and innovative pedagogy."

Take a look at just a few of the ways in which international education benefits the CSU community.

Students of the World

CSU study abroad programs offer students accessible, affordable opportunities to explore distant lands and to discover their own possibilities and passions. In 1963, CSU IP opened in five countries—Germany, Spain, France, Sweden and Taiwan—and now, sixty years later, offers study abroad opportunities with more than 60 university partners across 18 different countries and has more than 24,000 alumni.

During the 2022-23 academic year, 6,300 CSU students participated in some type of study abroad program including opportunities through CSU IP, campus bilateral exchanges, private providers and campus faculty-led programs. While the most popular destinations were Italy, Spain, Germany, France and Mexico, students studied in locations as far-flung as New Caledonia, North Macedonia, Nepal, Rwanda and Uruguay.

The CSU offers one of the most affordable study abroad programs in the nation and works to make these opportunities accessible to students from all backgrounds. Students pay low CSU ​tuition—roughly $6,000 per academic year for​ undergraduates beginning fall 2024—and campus-based fees.

While financial aid, scholarships, fee waivers and loans apply to study abroad programs, CSU IP provides additional scholarships to help students pay for travel expenses, housing, dining and extracurricular activities. This is especially important for first-generation, Pell-eligible students who are less likely to be able to afford the extra costs. Campus-based scholarships and fellowships are also available for study abroad.

Chico State alumnus Humberto Partida received a CSU IP scholarship in 2022 to study at the CSU Florence Center in Italy. ​Humberto partida Chico State master's student Humberto Partida standing along the Arno River in Italy. Being an immigrant to the U.S. and the first in his family to attend college, Partida says he never thought studying abroad would be a possibility for him, and that the experience has made an immense impact on his education and career goals.

"Studying abroad gave me the skills to pursue my master's degree in political science at Chico State and become more involved in my campus community. Now, more than ever, I see myself as a global citizen," he says. 

Partida graduated from Chico State in spring 2023 with two bachelor's degrees in political science/international relations and European and international studies. In addition to his master's degree coursework, he also works as a teaching associate for Chico State's Department of Political Science and as a student assistant in the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry.

Another CSU IP alumnus, James Simon, credits his decision to pursue higher levels of education to his experiences abroad. He participated in two different programs in Germany and France as an undergraduate student at CSUN, and says he learned to speak five languages while studying abroad. 

“Study abroad ignites a spark that turns into a fire that continues burning long after the program ends; few educational experiences can achieve this so quickly," Simon says. “I left as a student who wanted a diploma just to get a good job and returned as a global student who understood that education is more than a piece of paper."

After graduating from CSUN, Simon earned a master's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.​ Now an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Cal State LA, Simon has also served as a resident Director of the CSU IP Florence Center. 

Facilitating Faculty Collaborations

Students aren't the only ones participating in global experiences. CSU faculty are engaging in cutting-edge research, leading impactful service projects, connecting with international peers and elevating the university's reputation as a world-class institution.

CSU faculty have been successful in securing Fulbright Scholar Awards that allow them to conduct research and foster collaborations with international partners and, to date, have received more than 1,800 Fulbright Awards to conduct research in 134 different countries.

They also participate in a variety of international collaborations, including conducting joint virtual classes with faculty from international universities—a practice commonly referred to as Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). During the pandemic, when international travel was not an option, COIL classes helped fill the study abroad gap.

And CSU IP has initiated a series of international seminars for faculty to provide opportunities for faculty to deepen their understanding of the location, meet colleagues from partner universities, collaborate with experts and engage in scholarly discussion of key topics.

In June 2023, a delegation of 20 CSU faculty from 12 campuses participated in a seminar with faculty from Waseda University and Tsukuba University in Japan to share their research and seek collaborations. The theme of the seminar was “Challenges and Transitions: Japan, California and the World." Other locations for these unique faculty development opportunities include Ghana, France and Germany.

Golden (State) Hosts

Thanks to deep connections with peer institutions around the globe, the CSU hosts thousands of international students each year who enrich campus environments with their diverse cultures and perspectives. These students help enhance the vibrancy and diversity of campuses, foster a multicultural learning environment and promote a mutual appreciation of cultures that benefits all CSU students, faculty and staff.

At CSUN, for example, faculty can invite international students to their classroom through the Student Panels for International Curriculum and Education (SPICE). These students share information about their culture related to topics in the course material, and the program offers an invaluable opportunity to raise international awareness and expand cultural perspectives among students.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and travel restrictions have eased, the CSU has seen a slow but encouraging climb in the numbers of international students coming to the university. During the 2022-23 academic year, the university enrolled 14,882 international students across its 23 universities.

In addition to their social and intellectual contributions, international students play an important economic role—contributing nearly $760 million to CSU campuses and the surrounding communities in 2022-23.

These students also pay non-resident fees to cover the full cost of their education in addition to regular CSU tuition and campus fees. The additional funding allows campuses to add services and additional core sections that benefit all students and ensures that no California student is displaced.

Learn more about international education at the CSU.