UI International Enrollment and Study Abroad Stats Reflect A National Trend

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International student enrollment across the country has grown rapidly since 2006. The University of Iowa is no exception. The sudden growth of international students from East, Southeast and South Asia started the same year at the UI.

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As of fall 2013, more than half of the international students enrolled at the UI are from People’s Republic of China. Nationally, 40 percent of foreign students are from China, India and South Korea.

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In the meanwhile, Europe is the most popular destination for U.S. students to study abroad. 43 percent of UI study-abroad students went to Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and France during the academic year 2011-12. European countries hosted 44 percent of U.S. students last year. Not many U.S. students chose to study abroad in Asia.

More infographics on international student enrollment and study abroad statistics here.


PYRA – UI annual K-pop music fest to promote cultural diversity

K-pop is not just about “Gangnam Style.”

The University of Iowa Korean Undergraduates Student Association (KUSA) hosted the 2014 Korea Pop Music Festival, PYRA, at the IMU Main Lounge on March 30. Students, both Korean and non-Korean, showed an audience of 300 people Korean pop music and dances. They hoped the UI community to know more about Korean culture.

Racism Hurts

This past week was particularly hard for me — the theme of the whole week was racism.

Last Saturday night, I went to cover an event trying to raise the awareness of racism toward Asian students on campus. It was the day when the Kunming knife attack happened in China.

Last Thursday, I interviewed Sam Horne Van who works at the UI Assessment. He shared findings of the 2013 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey on the international student experiences. One of the key findings is that international students feel significantly less respected on campus and less belonging to campus than domestic students, which is similar at other universities. Discrimination against Asian students on campus is not just pieces of tweets against random people; it happens on a much larger scale.

Last night, a Chinese student told me that at a staff party, her drunk boss said, “I hate Asians” in front of her. He said he hated those Asians who drive luxury cars and those who laughed in the library. I asked her, “Did you feel angry?” She said she didn’t because he was drunk, and she knew that he was not talking about her. “He was talking about OTHER people,” she said. She left her work later because of all of the unhappy experiences  with people there and of the drunk statement that her boss made. I then asked, “Why didn’t you speak up?” She said that she didn’t think speaking up would make any difference because her boss wouldn’t change his mind anyway. Plus, she didn’t want to cause any trouble. I got really emotional, arguing with her that if none of us brought this issue up, nothing is going to be improved. It’s OTHERS today, but it could be YOU and ME tomorrow.

Chinese students didn’t growing up exposing to diverse races. Some wouldn’t realize when they are being discriminated against based on nationality or even look. Even if they do, they don’t know how to deal with it. The fact that we have been taught not to stand up and and speak out for whatever happens makes things worse — it seems no harm has been done on the surface. When hate speeches and racist tweets against Asian students are floating around and the university doesn’t take a firm stand, I as an international student feel unsupported.

By the way, scholars have defined discrimination based on culture and nationality as neo-racism:

“Neo-racism rationalises the subordination of people of colour on the basis of culture, which is of course acquired through acculturation within an ethnic group, while traditional racism rationalises it fundamentally in terms of biology. Neo-racism is still racism in that it functions to maintain racial hierarchies of oppression.” (JENNY J. LEE & CHARLES RICE, “Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination,” Higher Education (2007) 53: 381–409)

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.


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.


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.

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.