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Volume 42, Number 3


At Iowa, Those Who CAN Teach

Four Year Grad Plan

Half the World Away from Home

In This Office, Students Come First

Pass the Plastic

Tax Deductions

Summer School?

Creating the Level Playing Field

Expanding E-Mail Network

Parent Times Briefs



Less than a quarter of the 1,600 international students who enrolled last fall are undergraduates. While departments in the Graduate College and professional colleges have recruited students from other countries, undergraduates have not been recruited actively-until now.

Karen Hartwig, assistant director of admissions, is directing an aggressive undergraduate recruitment campaign. While the campaign will be directed at international students, its success will help your student learn, too.

Although Naa Louisa Nelson, a freshman from Ghana, had never set foot in the United States before coming to the University last fall, she quickly felt at ease on campus.
"The people here are so friendly-they're always smiling," she says. "They will come over and help you if you look lost."

Nelson, whose father is an architect and whose mother runs a catering business, spent several years in boarding schools in Ghana prior to her enrollment in the University, but had never been so far away from home that her parents couldn't visit each weekend. When she told them she wanted to go to the United States to see what she could do on her own, her father insisted she consider The University of Iowa, where a family friend is an administrator in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business. He wanted her to be in a place where she would not be without family or friends.

"My other option was going to school in Europe-specifically London, where I have lots of relatives," she explains, "but I thought life in the U.S. suited me better, with all the technology and fun as well."

Nelson is not alone in her desire to seek an undergraduate education in the United States. She is one of about 400 such students at the University. Though she preferred to go to a larger city, Nelson was pleased to hear from the family friend that the University offers a solid education in pharmacy, which was an area of interest. That sealed the deal.

"I always wanted to live in a quiet place. Iowa City is 'city-ish' but quiet, so it suits me perfectly," says Nelson, who currently lives in Hillcrest Residence Hall.

With an education system in Ghana that is at times unstable coupled with a yearning to leave her familiar home in western Africa, Nelson knew an American education could provide good scientific study as well as the knowledge she could make it on her own. She has not been disappointed and has enjoyed her classes here.

"I loved Rhetoric I and am taking Rhetoric II now. At home I always liked to write and take part in debates. My teacher here even encouraged me to take a writing course, but unfortunately it is going to be too hard to fit in with my pharmacy requirements," she says regretfully. "Oh well, some other time!"

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable discoveries for Nelson was her taste for waffles, which she had never eaten before and which she now could eat three times a day. Food was an otherwise difficult transition.

"At home we eat a lot of rice, with almost every meal," she says, "but here when it's eaten, it's only a little part of the meal."

Nelson plans to return to Ghana after graduation, but not before ingesting more of the United States.

"I'd like to travel a lot. I want to be able to say I am familiar with people in different areas of the country," says Nelson, who spent winter break with family friends on the East Coast. "People are different in every state."

After less than a year here, Nelson decides that Iowa City earns an "A-plus."

"I like Iowa-it's beautiful," she says. "Iowa City is a nice combination of city and country."

Though she was skeptical, even a bit upset, upon learning of her family's decision a few years back to move to Iowa City so her parents could study at the University, Ariadne Gerling ultimately decided the school was a good choice for her undergraduate education.

Not your average international student on the University campus, the sophomore from Brazil actually has dual citizenship in Brazil and Germany and already has spent several years in the United States. Though she is engaged to a German man and will likely return to Germany, where she spent one year at a school for the performing arts, she says she appreciates the opportunities she's had at the University.

"The educational system is very good here," she says. "In Germany, all of my classes were dance-oriented. I missed academic courses. Here I'm getting a well-rounded education. For example, I have the opportunity to take literature classes, which in Germany I didn't have the time to do."

Gerling has spent about seven years in the Boston area, once during her toddler years when her parents-both music scholars-were students and once when she attended an arts school in her early teens. A back injury has prevented her from pursuing professionally her love of dance; however, she is optimistic about the future. Her original hesitance to relocate has faded.

"Iowa City is varied. There are plenty of cultural events and plenty of things to do. The Pedestrian Mall has a European style I enjoy, and Hancher is amazing. It's great to have so many opportunities here. And," she adds, referring to the busy, often hectic, life her family had in Brazil, "it has given me and my younger sisters a calmer life. It's less stressful-a good change."

When Noraihan "Nora" Fong saw that The University of Iowa was accessible to the disabled, she knew she had made a good choice.

"I knew it was a concerned university-one that meets the needs of its special students," says the sophomore education student from Malaysia. She, too, spent a short time in the United States as a child when her parents studied on the East Coast. Her father is the executive chairman of MESDAQ (Malaysian Exchange of Securities) and her mother stays at home raising Fong's three younger siblings.

Fong visited the University campus in 1996 as well as the University of Northern Iowa and several schools in Boston. She chose the Iowa City campus for various reasons.

"First of all, my parents have friends here, so it's nice to be able to call them if I have a problem or just to talk. Second, I took a look at the campus and thought it was pretty, and I was impressed with Mayflower Residence Hall. Also, I wanted to feel snow," she laughs, referring to a fascination that stemmed from observing photos of herself in snow as a toddler in Boston. "Now, after two years, I've had enough of the cold temperatures!"

The presence of Muslim and Malaysian communities on campus also helped steer her in the University's direction, and she has become involved in a Malaysian student organization. While she was "excited and thrilled" to come to the United States, Fong had reservations about campus life, especially in light of her Muslim upbringing.

"In the movies, you see Westerners sleeping together all of the time, so when I found out Mayflower was co-ed, I was scared," says Fong, who was petrified that her roommate might have her boyfriend stay overnight. "As a Muslim, I have to wear a scarf-I can't show my hair."

As it turns out, Fong and her roommate, with whom she's lived for two years, have gotten along extremely well and the relationship has provided both with a learning experience. Fong realized that not all Caucasians have the same religion-her roommate is Jewish-and her roommate realized that even though Fong is from a foreign country she speaks English, eliminating a perceived need for hand signals while trying to communicate.

"Even though we have different religions, we have clicked together. It's kind of cool, actually," she says.

Fong is unsure about her future, but will likely continue her education in the United States. She has encountered stereotypes-her own and her classmates'-she is trying to embrace her Asian heritage.

"It can be an advantage," she says, noting a presentation she made last year to students at an Iowa City junior high school. "There's something about me that's unique. I want to show students my culture and help correct stereotypes."

-By Sara Epstein


Top: Nelson takes advantage of a kitchen in her dorm to cook "homestyle" food.

Bottom: Fong (left) says she is thankful to have a great roommate (right).


Having students on campus from around the globe broadens horizons. That's the idea behind a new University initiative that aims to attract more international students to its undergraduate colleges.

The University historically has recruited graduate students from other countries but no undergraduates. Karen Hartwig, assistant director of admissions, explains that the University's new initiative stems from an ad hoc committee in 1994 and then a task force in 1996 to assess the University's need for, and the potential effects of, an aggressive undergraduate recruitment effort.

Last fall the University earmarked $20,000 in seed money for the Office of Admissions. The money will be used to subsidize travel expenses and to publish print materials to be given to students and academic advisors in other countries.

Hartwig, who spent two weeks in March recruiting in six Latin American countries, identifies several reasons for the new initiative.

"The world is becoming more interdependent, and part of the learning experience here is enhanced by having international students on campus, especially undergraduates, many of whom take the same core courses," she says. "Any exposure to students different from you is a good experience."

Unfortunately, with several economic crises around the world and stiffer competition from institutions both domestic and foreign, international student enrollment at the University has been down in recent years. Economic factors, though not the main motivator, cannot be ignored, Hartwig says.

"The market is definitely changing. Many institutions have been actively recruiting these students for several years," she says. "Numbers are down and they need to find more markets."

More important, however, is a nationwide trend among institutes of higher learning to commit to international education. While there has always been a respectable number of international students in the Graduate College, undergraduates account for only a quarter of the 1,600 international students enrolled here last fall. Hartwig points out that UI President Mary Sue Coleman has pledged to increase the University's global focus, which has helped pave the way to active undergraduate recruitment. Bringing international students to campus, said Coleman in her convocation address last fall, "brings the world to Iowa."

-By Sara Epstein


Karen Hartwig, assistant director of admissions

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