University of Iowa Career Center offers international students job hunt strategies

Job hunting is daunting for everyone, however, it can be more frustrating for international students — on top of a bleak job market, their foreign national status leave them fewer job opportunities in this country. University of Iowa Pomerantz Career Center provided internship and job search strategies for international students in a recent workshop.

Glossary:

Backstory of “Global Leadership Starts Here” and reflections from a Chinese participant

The most fascinating day of my life at Iowa was not when I received a scholarship from University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication; it was not when my stories were featured on the front page of The Daily Iowan three days in a row; it was not when I got the final internship confirmation from CNN’s Beijing Bureau — it was today — when the “Global Leadership Starts Here” workshop finally took place on the UI campus.

Returning home an hour ago from the day-long workshop, I was excited, exhausted and relieved. I am proud to be one of the 50 student participants, and I feel lucky that I have been able to work with truly amazing people on planning from the very beginning. We all knew the workshop was going to be wonderful, but still, I got emotional the whole time when it really happened — about the gathering of great minds and the day of inspiration.

I haven’t seen the passion, energy and enthusiasm in myself for a very long time. Here, I want to thank all the fabulous student participants, faculty and staff members for helping renew them in such a meaningful way.

The idea of the workshop was born after a poorly-attended film screening and discussion on Nov. 12, 2013. The film “The Dialogue” follows four Chinese and four U.S. students travels throughout south and southeast China, where tensions and conflicts flared during discussions. After the showing, the handful of audience — mostly Chinese students — expressed concerns about issues happening in our lives at Iowa.

My professor Judy Polumbaum, who facilitated the discussion, came up with the idea of bringing international and domestic students together, having them discuss issues arising on the Iowa campus the next day when she was on her way to meet me for a class project. Honestly, when she told me about this, I was not sure if she was being serious — clearly I didn’t know my professor well enough.

Judy set everything up in a magic way — a month later, we got a steering committee, a group of facilitators of faculty and staff, a group of faculty and graduate student speakers, and all the auspices lined up.

It’s been three months of numerous email exchanges and meetings with administrators, faculty, staff and students. Discussions involved every single detail of the workshop — from student recruitment, discussion setup, workshop publicity to food ordering, printing ordering, folder stuffing, table setting — some exciting, some funny, some daunting.

Finally today,  a group of wonderful student participants — half U.S. and half international — got together in the Adler journalism building, starting from talking to strangers at breakfast, listening to enlightening yet fun presentations from professors and graduate teaching assistants on Iowa and Chinese cultures and economies, U.S. academy, and stereotypes that Chinese and U.S. students hold onto each other…

We laughed hard when Prof. Frank Durham said, “Date an Asian girl; take her out to Frozen Yogurt.” — which later became the workshop theme — everyone decided to start international friendships at froyo. And oh, most Chinese students learned today that “rubber” does not mean “eraser” in the U.S.

The small group discussion and conclusion session in the afternoon were even more eye-opening to me. Truthfully speaking, it was the first time that I realized there are open-minded, profound and curious U.S. students who do care about international students. I also surprisingly found that many of my fellow Chinese students are dauntless and out-spoken, who expressed their colorful minds really well. 

See how ignorant I had been — I had carried all these assumptions and generalizations along the way that they had blocked chances I would have to meet and know more people.

At the end of the day, each of the eight student groups came up with 10 solutions to integrate international and domestic students at both individual and institutional levels. I guess one thing that struck most of today’s participants, including me, is that if none of us takes the initiative to know each other better, nothing is going to happen between us, no matter how large the international population is on campus.

Cultural integration is not as simple as grabbing lunch together. We came up with great ideas of bridging the gap between international and domestic students, yet what’s more important is that we consolidate them and lead the trend of the cultural assimilation on campus.

Dear workshoppers, I hope that we didn’t just walk away from Adler and thought it was a  great and fun experience; we are now shouldering the responsibility of being  global leaders to promote “values of diversity, tolerance and global understanding” — it’s on our certificate.

Global leadership starts here — see you at froyo.

Global Leadership Starts Here uiowa certificate

Study outside of comfort zone

One of my friends studied abroad in Florence, Italy last semester. She sent back pictures like those on postcards every now and then, leaving us struggling with projects, deadlines and exams in Iowa green-eyed.

That sounds like typical study-abroad experience—wandering the medieval towns, indulging yourself in Italy’s beautiful sunshine and wine — we rarely hear someone say, “I want to study abroad in Asia or Africa.”

The Daily Iowan reported most recently that the most popular destinations for University of Iowa undergraduates were Italy and Spain during 2011-2012. The number of students who went to these places jumped from 30 (2008-09) to 110 (2011-12). While programs based in Asia saw a drop of student participants.

Titled “Asia out of reach for many students studying abroad,” the story didn’t mention other continents of the world. I went to UI International Programs’ website and pulled up the latest UI study Abroad statistics, surprisingly found out that of 1,351 students who studied aboard during 2011-12, no one went to Africa.

I thought of Africa because I had happened to read a blog post by my art history professor, Christopher Roy, who is traveling through South Africa this spring. The art and culture are different yet so amusing, which brought me back to Roy’s Arts of Africa class I took two years ago.

Reilly’s Rock pront porch (Photo credit: Christopher Roy)

Reilly’s Rock pront porch (Photo credit: Christopher Roy)

Roy said in the last lecture that he did not expect us to remember anything about African ethnic groups or their works of art 20 years later. All he wanted us to take away from that class was to respect and to appreciate other cultures that are different from our own.

He finished his statement with a piece of advice, “You gotta travel all around the world and meet different people.”

It would be great to spend a semester in Italy, but I think I might learn a lot more in Ghana.

Documentary screening on Chinese citizen journalists on Feb. 20

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Poster for “High Tech, Low Life” (Source: IMDb)

Basically you would not be able to learn what real life is like in China from Chinese students at the University of Iowa — there are many extremely different Chinas.

On Thursday, Feb. 20, you will see one of the alternative portraits of China through a documentary screening held at the UI main library.

High Tech, Low Life” is directed by filmmaker Stephen Maing. It’s about journeys of two of China’s first citizen reporters. The film follows them as they travel the country, underreporting sensitive news and social issues, which could endanger their lives.

Media censorship in China is not a new topic. However, I found something interesting from the trailer — equipping themselves with cell phones, tablets and laptops, the two people reported sensitive issues throughout China with the risk of political persecution. Besides, the places documented in the movie is the part of China that I am not familiar with.

When I was exchange student at the University of Central Arkansas, my journalism professor stressed numerous times that there was no such thing called,”citizen journalists.” This statement has sticked in my head along with his think southern accent ever since.

No matter whether these two people are professional enough to be considered journalists, as a journalism student from China, I admire their courage a great deal.

I plan to go to the film screening, hoping to know better about a China remotely far from my own experience that I need to know.

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Film showing: “High Tech, Low Life”

Time: Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Location: Shambaugh Auditorium, the UI Main Library

Discussion with “High Tech, Low Life” director and showing of a UI student documentary on Chinese students’ experiences at the university

Time: Feb. 21 | 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Room 105, Adler Journalism Building

U.S.-China student workshop to address campus issues

Poster for the "Global Leadership Starts Here" Workshop. A U.S.-China student workshop on the undergraguate experience at the University of Iowa.

Poster for the “Global Leadership Starts Here” Workshop. (Courtesy of the UI international Programs)

When University of Iowa senior Can Zhang stepped into his dorm in Stanley Hall three years ago, he disappointedly found that his roommate was also Chinese — he had hoped to share a room with an American student.

Zhang, who is now vice president of the UI Chinese Students and Scholars Association, said he knows that many Chinese students were eager to make friends with American when they started school at the UI like himself. However, due to the language barrier and cultural hurdles, many found it hard to get involved with their American peers, which made their confidence fall.

Then they automatically stick together with Chinese, and that is how a circle of Chinese is formed, Zhang added.

Zhang said he had wanted to share his thoughts with domestic students, and to learn what Americans think of Chinese students. Soon he will get a chance to do so in a student workshop on the undergraduate experience at the UI – Global Leadership Starts Here (GLSH).

GLSH is a bottom-up initiative aiming to foster conversation and connection among domestic students and Chinese students on campus. On Feb.22, during this daylong workshop of presentations and discussions, 50 invited UI undergraduates — 25 international and 25 domestic — will collaborate with faculty, staff, graduate student speakers and facilitators, defining key issues and tensions arising on campus and coming up with constructive ideas.

The past few years have witnessed a dramatic growth of the undergraduate population from the People’s Republic of China on the UI campus. In Fall 2007, only 68 of the 2,153 international students were from Mainland China, however, six years later, the Chinese undergraduate population has grown into 1,673, according to the UI International Students and Scholars Statistics.

Chart of University of Iowa eight year year enrollment trends: chinese undergraduate students

While the diversity enriches the university, the sudden influx of Chinese undergraduates is not without problems.

Jeffrey Ding, a UI sophomore majoring in political science, said there is a significant disconnection between U.S. and Chinese students,  particularly in classes at the Tipple College of Business, where a large proportion of students are from China.

“It’s a subtle division — international students usually sit by each other, domestic students sit by each other,” Ding said. “It’s not like explicit, like racism, like segregation, but there is that separation.”

Ding said he had noticed racist tweets against Asian students on campus flare last fall, which he believes came from a minority of people. Meanwhile, he doesn’t think it is a one-way issue.

“Yes, there are gaps; yes, the university is not dealing with it perfectly; yes, students don’t act perfectly in every instance,” said Ding, who moved to Iowa City from Shanghai when he was three. “Like international students are sometimes racist; international students sometimes don’t take enough time to learn about American culture…”

However, Ding said he views the workshop as an opportunity for more interaction between American and Chinese students, which is eventually going to help shape an essential foreign relationship in the future world.

University of Iowa Center for Teaching Director Jean Florman, who is on the steering committee of the GLSH workshop, said that the university was not prepared for the sudden influx of Chines students, thus, problems have emerged at various levels.

Florman hopes sensitive issues would be brought up during the discussions.

“We’re an academic institution where hard issues should be examined in every class,” Florman said. “Not about this issue necessarily, but that’s why we’re here — is to look at difficult subjects — difficult in terms of intellectually difficult, but also wrestling with social implications of what we’re doing.”

Florman said she hopes the workshop to be a starting point of promoting diversity and global understanding on campus –she is expecting more tangible outcomes in the long run.

“We are hoping that [the student participants] plan something, they articulate something that will change their lives around these issues, perhaps change the life of the university,” Florman said.

Meanwhile, Florman noted it would be important to make sure that central administrators and faculty members know what is achieved on the workshop day and what students expect from the university to enhance the international atmosphere on campus.

The GLSH workshop is organized by the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. The UI Office of the Vice President for Student Life, Center for Teaching,  International ProgramsHonors at Iowa, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Tippie College of Business, School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Department of Communication Studies also get involved in planning.

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Global Leadership Starts Here: A U.S.- China Student Workshop on the Undergraduate Experience at Iowa

Time: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Adler Journalism Building, University of Iowa campus

This workshop is free and open to UI students, faculty and the general public. Contact Dongwang Liu at dongwang-liu@uiowa.edu if you wish to attend as an observer.

The myth of Iowa City’s luxury cars

Pictures of a Maserati car in town have been widely posted on social media platforms. People bet the owner is Asian, and that could be true.

In Iowa City, it has become a phenomenon, if not a fact, that the drivers of those Mercedes, BMW and Audi luxury cars are mostly international students from Asia — mainly from China — currently, more than half of the international students enrolled at the UI are from Mainland China, according to the latest University of Iowa International Students and Scholars Statistics.

Recently, Iowa City’s luxury car dealership Carousel Motors made itself the lead of a Bloomberg Businessweek article titled, “Chinese Students Major in Luxury Cars.” Carousel Motors has seen a rapidly growing demand for expensive automobiles in this small college town along with the influx of Chinese undergraduate students over the last few years.

Bloomberg reported that across the country, Chinese students had spent about $15.5 billion on new and used cars in the 22 months ended in October, 2013.

While car dealerships throughout the United States are stoked about serving their young Chinese customers, people are wondering: Where did these kids get the money? Why are they so obsessed with luxury cars?

The fact is, most Chinese undergraduates studying in the U.S. come from well-off families, if not super rich ones. Parents are willing to buy expensive cars for their children.

Plus, it is widely perceived that luxury cars are far cheaper in the U.S. than in China. With the same amount of money spent on a “luxury” car in the U.S., people can only get a “decent” one in China. Some Chinese students may not even consider an Audi car as luxurious.

Chinese people refer to the young who lead a luxurious life as “Fu erdai”– rich second generation — often times with sarcasm. And study-abroad students are always pictured as a spoiled group of “Fu erdai” living a decadent life with their newly affluent parents’ money in both China and America.

While there might be some truth in it, I would say it’s unfair. A lot of us don’t have cars, and many have to work part-time to feed ourselves. What people may not know is that some even send money back to their families in China.

UI mentoring program encourages student integration

My first and last impression of Iowa City would always be “too cold and too much snow.”

When I first came to Iowa in January, 2012, everybody told me it was a mild winter, still it was too cold and too rough for me — an international transfer from Hangzhou, a city located on Southeast coast of China.

Believe me, January is not a good time to restart your life in Iowa. Till today, I remember breaking down the third day after I came here, crying for at least 30 minutes in my apartment on Broadway Street. Without having any connections in Iowa, I found myself helpless and hopeless that spring.

I’m sure that I’m not the only international student who had a rough start in the United States, and I have always thought that the University of Iowa should offer international new comers more than a week-long orientation.

With the number of international students rising on campus, things are changing for them.

The Daily Iowan reported recently that starting this coming fall semester, the UI will offer incoming international students a mentorship program to help them integrate to Iowa and the United States comfortably. It’s called Global@Iowa.

Instead of taking a short orientation separately from domestic students, international students will take an online course the first half of the semester, and the second half of the semester, they will meet with mentors — mostly international studies majors — who will help them better integrate into the UI campus life and American culture, according to the DI.

Cultural integration can be a sociologist’s lifelong research subject. But here at Iowa, it starts from the collaboration between domestic and new international students.

Every single step counts.