By Rebecca Morin, The Daily Iowan
As the number of international students attending the University of Iowa continues to grow, officials are offering a new program to help students integrate to Iowa and the United States comfortably.
“Starting next fall, incoming international students will have not only a three-day orientation, but for the first half of the semester, they will take an online course, and the second half of the semester, they will meet with mentors to help get better integrated at the university,” said Ronald McMullen, a UI visiting associate professor of political science and former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea.
Global@Iowa is a mentorship program being tested this semester. The program will allow domestic students — mostly majoring in international studies — to guide international students and help them “achieve academic success, enhance the university experience, and help the students to contribute the most they can to the broader university.”
There are currently six peer mentors and 25 to 30 students participating in the pilot program. There is an estimated 100 peer mentors, and nearly 600 new international students who will participate in the program when it is officially launched fall 2014.
“We look for students who are experienced, and encourage those who have had a cross-cultural experience as one of the keys to be a successful mentor to help shepherd international students,” he said.
McMullen, who is also the instructor for Global@Iowa, said students enrolled in the course will receive one semester hour credit.
Global@Iowa is the second component of International@Iowa, which was launched in the fall of 2013. The course consists of eight units with links to different resources. International@Iowa was awarded a $160,000 student success grant in 2012.
“The idea behind it is to sort of give students information in text, quiz, and help them meet one-on-one,” said Lauren Katalinich, creative media specialist with International Programs and the instructor for International@Iowa.
Even with more students hailing from China than any other country, according to the 2013 International Programs report, the course does not single out specific countries.
“We try to keep all information applicable to all international students,” Katalinich said. “That was [mentioned] in the cultural adjustment portion. Part of the module is talking about the sort of cultural barriers students faced when first coming to Iowa.”
The program allows both domestic and international students to build a better understanding of each others’ cultures, she said.
“It’s a unique program, and a great step for the university for domestic and international student building and create an understanding between them,” Katalinich said.
Although the funding for the program will end June 30 of this year, officials hope to continue with both the online and face-to-face course.
“We are hoping it will be valuable enough to continue it,” said Douglas Lee, assistant provost for International Programs. “We hope it will be successful for student to adjust but also meet American students and further interaction with domestic and international students.”