There Are More International Students in the US than Ever Before—How Many Get to See the Inside of an American Home?

November 21, 2018 § 2 Comments

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When I worked with students from other countries at the University of Missouri-Columbia back in the late 80s and early 90s, I heard this statistic: Eighty percent of international students don’t step foot inside an American home. I had no reason to argue with that statistic, but I’ve spent the years since then trying, in vain, to track down the source.

Seems that I’m not alone.

In a recent post at Christianity Today, Leiton Chinn, a long-time leader in ministry to international students, writes,

Ever since I began encouraging the church to welcome and host international students over four decades ago, I have heard the repetitive declaration that 80% of international students never enter an American home. Even though I have sought to find the research that reported such a claim without success, the reality is that the majority of students from other countries do not experience being hosted in an American home.

Was 80% ever an accurate figure? Who knows? Without a reliable source, it’s not much more than a convenient, easy-to-remember number that says “too many.” And even if it was true forty-ish years ago, chances are it wouldn’t be exactly the same now.

That being said, I would tend to agree with Chinn that “the majority of students from other countries do not experience being hosted in an American home,” but I can’t say that for sure. And I can’t guess at how much that “majority” would be. To muddy it up even more, I wonder how we should define a “home.” Would the apartment of an American friend count?

Regardless, when it comes to having international students in our homes, we could do better.

There are some numbers concerning international students (and study abroad) that we can be sure of—because they’re tracked carefully each year. They come from the Institute of International Education, which just released its newest figures at the Open Doors briefing on Tuesday. They include the following:

  • For the 2017-18 school year, the number of international students at universities and colleges in the US was at an all-time high of 1,094,792.
  • While this represents a 1.5% increase over the previous year, the number of new-student enrollments decreased by 6.6%.
  • The overall increase was fueled largely by a 15.8% growth in the number of students participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT), which lets students work in the US for up to 12 months during or following their academic studies (up to 36 months for those in the STEM fields).
  • While the number of undergraduate and OPT students grew over the previous year, there was a decline in graduate and non-degree students.
  • China leads the way in sending the most students to the US, making up 33.2% of the total. The rest of the top-five sending countries are India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.
  • In 2015-16, Saudi Arabia was ranked number three, but its numbers fell by 14.2% and 15.5% in the next two years.
  • The number of US students studying abroad grew by 2.3% in 2016-17, reaching 332,727, which means that about 1 in 10 American students study abroad as undergraduates.
  • US study-abroad students who identify as racial or ethnic minorities represented 29.2% of the total. This is a significant increase over the 17% of 2005-06.
  • The top five countries receiving US students are the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. China held the fifth spot in 2014-15, but dropped to sixth for the two years following.

For a good analysis of the reasons for the decline in new international students, read The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “Is the ‘Trump Effect’ Scaring Away Prospective International Students?” In short, citing the Institute of International Education and the U.S. State Department, the author says that the drop is due to more than presidential rhetoric and policies. Instead, he points to increasing higher-education costs in the US, diminished funding from government programs in other countries that help send students abroad, and increased competition from other countries attracting international students to their schools.

Hmmmmm. I wonder if those other countries are doing a better job of inviting international students into their homes.

(Leiton Chinn, “Making Room at Your Table for Interventional Students,” The Exchange, Christianity Today, November 9, 2018; Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2018; Vimal Patel, “Is the ‘Trump Effect’ Scaring Away Prospective International Students?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 13, 2018)

[photo: “International Student Festival 2012,” by Illinois Springfield, used under a Creative Commons license]

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15-Year Look Back Shows Big Changes in International Student Population in US

November 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

iew_2014_logos_0Over the past 15 years, substantial changes have occurred to the landscape of international students on US university campuses.

According to data released today by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, since 1999/2000, the number of international students in the US has increased by 72%, to an all-time high in 2013/14 of 886,052.

Since statistics have been collected by IIE, starting in 1948, the number of international students has increased each year, except for 1971/72 and from 2003 to 2006. The growth for the past school year of 8.1% is the largest percentage increase since 1980/81.

The top country for sending students to the US has been China over the past 15 years, with its share of total international students growing from 11% to 31%. But the rest of the top ten has seen significant shuffling.

In 1999/2000, the number-two country was Japan. Since then, their numbers have dropped by 59%, moving them down to 7th place. India, South Korea, and Canada have each moved up one spot, landing them at 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively.

The countries making the biggest jumps over the past 15 years, moving into the top ten, are Saudi Arabia (from 21st to 4th), Vietnam (43rd to 8th), and Brazil (13th to 10th).

Taiwan has dropped from 5th to 6th; Mexico has held steady at 9th; and Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey have fallen out of the top ten.

Other changes over the past 15 years are

  • The contribution of international students to the US economy has grown from $9 billion to $27 billion.
  • In 2000, schools hosting 1,000 or more internationals numbered 135. Now there are 231.
  • The majority (2/3) of international students are supported primarily by family or personal funds, but the proportion of those funded by their governments has tripled.

International education, says Evan M. Ryan, assistant secretary of state for Education and Cultural Affairs, is a key part of meeting today’s global challenges:

International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world. It is through these relationships that together we can solve global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic disease, and combatting violent extremism. We also need to expand access to international education for students from more diverse backgrounds, in more diverse locations of study, getting more diverse types of degrees. Only by engaging multiple perspectives within our societies can we all reap the numerous benefits of international education—increased global competence, self-awareness and resiliency, and the ability to compete in the 21st century economy.

The fifteen-year data was compiled in conjunction with this year’s 15th anniversary of International Education Week (November 17-21), a celebration initiative by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education.

(“Top 25 Places of Origin of International Students, 2012/13-2013/14,” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2014; “Top 25 Places of Origin of International Students, 1999/00-2000/01,” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2014)

Two Who Help International Students in Small Ways That Turn Out to Be Very Big

March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m going to brag on a couple friends of mine. Both of them are shining examples of devoted service to the international students who come to our communities. Both of them live in small cities in the Midwest: one in Pittsburg, Kansas, and the other in Joplin, Missouri. And while they are content to serve in quiet ways, each has recently been highlighted in local media.

Helping Students Get Around . . . on Two Wheels

1653027386_4dba5e754a_qFor over three decades, Don Smith—through Campus Christians—has been ministering to the students at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Throughout that time, more and more of those students have come from other countries.

In fact, today, a significant part of Don’s work is collecting, repairing, and distributing bicycles to the more than 450 international students at PSU. It was this bicycle ministry that caught the attention of The Joplin Globe, which ran a story about him.

Don told The Globe that he got the idea to loan bikes to international students 30 years ago, when he saw a similar program at the University of Missouri. That story means something to me, as I was a student at MU 30 years ago, living at the Christian Campus House, the place where Don got his inspiration. A few years later, I became the campus minister to inernationals at CCH and took over the bike ministry. But Don’s efforts go well beyond anything that I was able to do.

One of the first lessons he learned was how to keep bikes in the program. It was easy to give bicycles out. “But the first year,” Don told The Globe, “not one bike came back. Not one.”

The solution came in two parts: using stronger locks and charging a deposit of $35, which is refunded when the bike is returned. That’s increased the return rate to about 75%.

Since the beginning of July, Don has distributed 200 bikes. And as word has gotten around, American students are taking advantage of the ministry as well.

Word certainly has gotten around, not only about the bikes but about all the work that Don is doing. Two years ago, he received the Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award from PSU, and last month he and his wife were honored by Ozark Christian College, their alma mater, with the Seth Wilson Outstanding Alumnus Award.

(Andra Bryan Stefanoni, “Have Bike, Will Travel: Campus Minister Provides Wheels to Students,” The Joplin Globe, February 14, 2014)

A Mom to Many

2956042901_4e983192a0_q“Mom.” That’s what scores of international students at Joplin’s Missouri Southern State University call Linda Keifer. For nine years, she and her husband, Jerry, have invited guest from around the world into their home.

“It started with a few, and then they invited their friends,” Linda told The Chart, Missouri Southern’s student newspaper. “This is what God wanted us to do.”

Several students also shared in the article what they liked about being part of the Keifers’ extended “family”:

“It’s family Sunday: to eat, relax, listen to each other, to talk about worries, hopes, dreams and wishes,” said Stephanie Kiessling from Germany. “They are sharing the American tradition and the international students [are] sharing theirs as well.”

And Lei Lei, from China, said, “When I speak to them, I feel like I’m talking to a genuine mother and father. They make me feel appreciated, welcomed, and at home.”

Linda’s ministry came full circle last year when she and Jerry traveled to Asia, becoming the guests and receiving hospitality from the students and their families.

Being part of a family means sharing in the highs and lows. So when Linda was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, the students gathered around the Keifers and comforted them. That comfort has continued as Linda has gone through surgery and receives treatment.

Just a few weeks ago, Jerry told me how much the students’ kindness has meant to them. That’s often the way it is: When we reach out to help others, we often receive as much, if not more, than we give.

(Xiaoyu “Jamie” Wu, “Mom Opens Home to Students,” The Chart, October 31, 2013)

Don and Linda wouldn’t meet a strict definition of “globally famous,” but that doesn’t mean they haven’t gained international fame, at least among those who have been touched by their simple generosity, by those who call them friends . . . and sometimes “Mom” or “Dad.”

[photos: “Bicycle,” by JMC Photos, used under a Creative Commons license; “Door Knob,” by zizzybaloobah, used under a Creative Commons license]

International Students—They Come to Study but Do They Stay?

January 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Moscow State University’s main building

Russia wants its future scientists, teachers, engineers, and medical personnel to attend the world’s top graduate schools. In fact, reports the Russian-language Begin, they want it so much that the government is offering to subsidize the cost. The program, recently signed into effect by President Vladimir Putin, aims to send out about 1,000 students a year, each with an average yearly grant of 1.5 million rubles (about US$44,000).

But there’s a catch. The students must return and work in Russia for three years, or they will have to pay back the grant plus a 200% fine.

This is just one salvo in the battle for bright young minds that’s going on around the globe. Sending countries, like Russia, are worried about “brain drain,” so they want their citizens to come back with their new-found knowledge and training. And their worries aren’t unfounded, as host countries are striving to increase “stay rates,” wanting the visiting students to make themselves at home and stick around for good.

No Need to Rush Off

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), made up of 34 countries, the average stay rate for international students is 25%. Here, “staying” is defined as foreign nationals’ changing their visa status to something other than “student,” as opposed to not renewing their student permits and leaving.

Using data from 2008 and 2009, OECD further reports that in most member countries, over 20% of visiting students remain in their host countries. In Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, and France, the stay rate is over 30%.

In the US, an OECD-member country, the rates among those receiving doctorates in science and technology is much higher. Michael Finn, of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, writes that in 2007, the one-year stay rate (counting 2006 graduates) for those in this group was 73%. The two-year stay rate was 67%; the five-year rate was 62%; and the 10-year rate was 60%. Finn’s study shows that the five sending countries with the highest five-year stay rates were China, India, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Ukraine.

Why are countries striving to increase their stay rates? One reason is economics. The ICEF Monitor reports on a study from the Netherlands showing that if 20% of their international student population (more than 58,000, compared to 819,000 in the US) stays, it would help the economy by about €740 million (approximately US$1 billion). But the immigration of foreign graduates also helps in “the development of competitive knowledge economies.” This is especially important in developed countries, which have mismatches of jobs and skills and where low birth rates are producing aging populations.

Brain Drain vs Brain Gain

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Harvard’s Memorial Hall

As the competition to attract and keep the world’s scholars heats up, countries around the globe are loosening immigration restrictions to allow more international students to stay after graduation. This is especially true for graduates in the highly prized STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The US is no exception, with plans to attract foreign-born STEM graduates as a significant factor in several current immigration-reform proposals. For instance, President Barack Obama’s plan calls for giving a green card to PhD and master’s degree graduates in STEM fields who find work in the US. He calls it “stapling” green cards to their diplomas. In January of last year, the president described the goal this way:

If you’re a foreign student who wants to pursue a career in science or technology, or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a business with the backing of American investors, we should help you do that here. Because if you succeed, you’ll create American businesses and American jobs. You’ll help us grow our economy. You’ll help us strengthen our middle class.

Sounds like one more thing for Putin and Obama to spar over.

(Sergey Titov and Gregory Milov, [Google translation of Russian article] “The State Is Ready to Pay for Training Russians in Foreign Universities,” Begin, January 14, 2014; “How Is International Student Mobility Shaping Up,” Education Indicators in Focus, OECD, July, 2013; Michael G. Finn, “Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2007,” Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, January 2010; “Increasing the ‘Stay Rate’ of International Students,” ICEF Monitor, May 30, 2013; “Creating an Immigration System for the 21st Century,” The White House)

[photos: “Moscow State University,” by Steve Jurvetson, used under a Creative Commons license; “Harvard University – Memorial Hall,” by Chen Yen Lai, used under a Creative Commons license]

Studying Abroad: The Who, the Why, and the Why Not

December 31, 2013 § 5 Comments

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Click for the full infographic from Open Doors

When the  Institute of International Education (IIE) releases its yearly statistics on international education, those concerning international students in the US get the most buzz. But another set of numbers, those on American students studying abroad, should get our attention, as well.

In 2011/12, over 280,000 students from the US took classes overseas. While this is an all-time high, overall only 9% of US students study abroad during their time as undergraduates.

Who are these students, and why do they study abroad while most others do not? First, I’ll talk about the who, and then I’ll move on to the why.

Who Decides to Study Abroad?

A look at the groups that make up the biggest proportions of study-abroad students gives a snapshot of who they are. Here are some of the largest percentages, along with the group in second place:

  • Females – 65%
  • Whites – 76% (Asians, Native Hawaiians, or Other Pacific Islanders – 8%; Hispanics or Latinos – 8%)
  • Undergraduates – 86% (Graduate students—excluding doctoral students – 13%)
  • Juniors – 36% (Seniors – 24%)
  • Students in the social sciences – 22% (Business and management – 21%)

And here, for good measure, are some numbers on where and how long:

  • The United Kingdom as host country – 12% (Italy – 11%)
  • For the summer, or eight weeks or less – 59% (One quarter to one semester – 38%)

Why Do They Go, while Others Don’t?

Several factors affect students’ plans to study abroad and their follow through. As would be expected, several studies show that socio-economic status plays a large role. Mark Salisbury, et al., in his oft-referenced research, found that a student’s intention to study abroad is positively related to family income and parental education. Other qualities that have positive effects on a student’s study-abroad plans are a high interest in reading and writing, and an openness to diversity concerning ideas and people. He also found that Asian Pacific Islanders are less likely than other races to make plans to study abroad

In a doctoral dissertation at the University of Minnesota, Jinous Kasravi presents findings indicating that barriers to studying abroad include the cost of study-abroad programs and restrictions on the use of financial aid, family resistance and the restrictions of cultural norms, concerns about being able to transfer courses, and lack of parental experience traveling internationally. The main focus of Kasravi’s study was factors influencing students of color in study-abroad decisions. His findings indicate that, in spite of the obstacles, a key determining factor for non-white students is “personal internal drive and determination to have this type of overseas experience.”

A study by April Stroud further adds to the findings, showing that negative factors for studying abroad include having plans for a graduate degree, living with family while going to school, and having majors such as engineering, architecture, or medicine.” Positive factors include wanting to better understand other cultures and countries and attending a college or university over 100 miles from one’s home.

This last point, the distance school is away from home, is the topic of a recent New York Times article. It discusses whether students who attend college far away from their home are more likely to choose a more “challenging” country (say, Cambodia  vs England) as a study-abroad destination. Bruce Poch, former dean of admissions at California’s Pomona College, says that going to a challenging country requires a certain level of independence in a student, the same kind of independence that would cause a student to pick a college far from home. “And there’s still an adventuresomeness to students who choose that path,” he says, “There are just a lot of kids who don’t want to go to school with the same people they went to high school with, and they do that against a lot of pressure.”

Richard Bright is director of off-campus study at Grinnell, where most students come from out of state and 65% of juniors study abroad. “[W]e do know that most of our students are taking a flight here,” says Bright in the article. “So plenty of students are coming from distant parts of the country, and then they really go all over the world.”

Joseph Brockington is the director for the center for international programs at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He brings the whole discussion—about choosing a country or even to go abroad at all—back to the importance of parental influence. Parents, Brockington tells The New York Times, are concerned “about whether their kids will be taken care of. So we try hard to dispel the rumors, but if Mom’s against it, it’s not going to happen.”

(Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2013; Mark H. Salisbury, “Going Global: Understanding the Choice Process of the Intent to Study Abroad,” June 2008; Jinous Kasravi, “Factors Influencing the Decision to Study Abroad for Students of Color: Moving beyond the Barriers,” August 2009; April H. Stroud, abstract of “Who Plans (Not) to Study Abroad? An Examination of U.S. Student Intent,” Journal of Studies in International Education, November 2010; Michael A. Wilner, “Are Students Who Go Far Away to College More Likely to Study Abroad?The New York Times, June 10, 2013)

[Infographic courtesy of Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International education, 2013]

Another New Year, Another New Record for International Students in the US

December 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

4290551550_474fbb9086_nThe number of international students at US colleges and universities is at an all-time high. Again.

In fact, that statement has been true for the past six years.

According to data from Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchangereleased last month by the Institute of International Education (IIE)—819,644 students from other countries were enrolled in US institutions of higher learning in 2012/13. That represents a 7% increase over the previous academic year.

The top-five sending countries remain the same: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Students from China, making up 29% of international students in the US, grew their number by 21%, while those from Saudi Arabia increased by 31%. The number of students from India and South Korea fell by 4% and 2%, respectively, while Canada’s total rose by 2%.

Boost to the Economy

The influx of international students means an influx of dollars, as well. NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these students and their dependents added $24 billion to the US economy last year, and their spending supported or created.  313,000 jobs. That translates into 3 jobs for every 7 international students who come to the US. (A breakdown of the economic and job impact state by state can be found here.)

By far, the largest means of support for international students last year—constituting the primary source for 64% of students—was personal and family funds. This was followed by US colleges and universities (21%), foreign governments or universities (7%), and current employment (5%). Overall, more than 70% of funding came from outside the US.

US Is Top Destination

In 2011, there were 43 million international students worldwide—as reported by OECD, using data from the last available year. Based in part on OECD’s data, IIE determined that last year, 19% of all college and secondary students studying outside their country of origin were enrolled in the United States. The number-two country in this regard is the United Kingdom. Its 488,380 international students make up 11% of the global total. The next four host countries are China (8%), France (7%), Germany (6%), and Australia (6%).

While international students make up only 4% of the total enrollment in American colleges and universities, in Australia, more than one in four students (26%) come from outside the country. The UK (19%), France (12%), and Germany (11%) also have higher proportions of students from outside their borders. In China, the country sending the most students to the US, internationals make up only 1% of the total student population.

(“Fast Facts,” Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education; “The Economic Benefits of International Students to the U.S. Economy, 2013” NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2013; “Primary Source of Funding, 2011/12—2012/13,” Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education; Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD, 2013; Project Atlas: Trends and Global Data 2013, Institute of International Education, 2013)

[photo: “Encyclopedia Pages Showing World Flags,” by Horia Varlan, used under a Creative Commons license]

From Fukushima to Costa Rica: A Rocket Scientist’s Quest for World Peace

November 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Next month, my son Peter will graduate from Missouri Southern State University. As part of his education, this past summer he attended the Summer Peace Institute at the UN-mandated University for Peace in San José, Costa Rica. As a recipient of MSSU’s McCaleb Initiative for Peace, he reported on his experience for the university’s student-run newspaper, The Chart. Following is one of the eight articles he wrote for the paper. I will post another of his articles on Tuesday.

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Satoshi Miyatani, from Japan, takes a break from classes at this year’s UPEACE Summer Peace Institute in Costa Rica.

Most of the students at the UPEACE-Berkeley summer program came from backgrounds in subjects like peace and conflict studies, economics, politics, sociology, law and anthropology.

Satoshi Miyatani, a rocket scientist, was one of the exceptions.

A recent graduate of aerospace engineering at the University of Tokyo, Miyatani now hopes to attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But why did Miyatani choose to attend a program focused on peace?

Miyatani’s reasoning goes back two years to an event that was significant for him and for Japan.

On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima, Japan.

Miyatani was staying at a hotel in Fukushima at the time of the earthquake.

“I have never experienced such a big earthquake,” he says. “The ground was shaking. Everything was shaking.”

Tsunami waves caused by the earthquake battered Fukushima’s coast, even reaching Miyatani’s hotel. The hotel owner drove Miyatani to safety. Thirty minutes after they left the hotel, it was destroyed by the tsunami.

“I almost lost my life,” recalls Miyatani.

For the next week, he slept on a gymnasium floor made cold by the Japanese winter and ate only dry, tasteless cookies.

Before this near-death experience, Miyatani was only interested in developing machines, as most of his fellow engineering students still are. After this experience, he wanted to help victims of natural disasters such as he had endured. He resolved to study the environment and contribute to peace by applying his specialty in aerospace engineering.

Miyatani speaks humbly about his 100-page bachelor’s thesis, which addresses his change of thinking. He describes how satellites can be used to monitor the effects of natural disasters and inform disaster response.

His thesis focuses on the use of many satellites to maximize the information gathered and minimize the time of response.

For the first portion of the UPEACE-Berkeley program, Miyatani says, “Every day I can get a new idea from the lecture.”

His favorite lecture was given by Dr. Bryan Down-Uribe about the environment and climate change. Down-Uribe employed a more scientific approach than previous lecturers, using more statistics, graphs and charts. Miyatani says he was “used to this type of lecture.”

During the field work portion of the UPEACE-Berkeley program, Miyatani went with four other students to work with an indigenous Costa Rican family in Kéköldi.

After a long bus ride toward the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, he and his group hiked an hour into the jungle to reach the research center where they stayed during the field work.

Miyatani says the group worked hard every day— digging and building trails, counting frogs and repairing a bird observation tower.

They also had no electricity during the day time, but “we could survive,” Miyatani says, chuckling.

Drawing a larger lesson from his experience in Kéköldi, Miyatani says, “In the city, there are a lot of things such as supermarkets, Internet, electricity. Everything is useful, but, actually, I don’t think we need to use it.”

Miyatani feels the tension between what he is learning in Japan and what he has learned in Costa Rica: “My major is aerospace engineering, so every day I also study about technology, but there is no technology in Kéköldi.”

“I have no idea how to apply the idea to my life. I have to think more,” he says.

While he is thinking about how to apply his experience in Costa Rica to his life, Miyatani is also planning to commemorate the experience with his work.

As a rocket scientist, Miyatani has launched a satellite into a space and talks excitedly about launching more, proudly declaring what the name of the next satellite will be: Kéköldi.

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