University of Iowa China-U.S. student workshop aims to ID, address tensions

By Vanessa Miller, The Gazette

It was in fall 2011, as an exchange student at the University of Central Arkansas, that Lu Shen decided she wanted the full American college experience.

Interested in journalism and art, Shen transferred to the University of Iowa in January 2012 – a decision she recalled as “scary.”

“But I didn’t want to go back to China,” said the now 23-year-old UI junior who grew up in Hangzhou, on the mainland’s southeast coast.

Today, Shen is on track to graduate in December and said she’s gotten much out of her Iowa education – beyond classroom material and academic work. She has stretched herself socially and grown culturally.

By learning in a foreign environment and interacting with domestic students, Shen said, she has become more engaged and gained a more global perspective.

“It’s better to know what people from another culture like to do and what values they have,” Shen said. “It makes you more open-minded.”

But not all UI international students have had the same experience. As their numbers have continued to swell on campus – especially those coming from China – it’s become easier and more tempting for international students to limit interactions to like-minded and like-cultured peers, Shen said.

“There tends to be cultural segregation between Chinese and domestic students,” she said. “It’s comfortable to stay with people of similar backgrounds.”

Those divisions are among the emerging issues and tensions that both international students and their domestic counterparts are facing on an increasingly diverse UI campus.

In hopes of addressing those issues and identifying others, the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies next week will lead a first-ever U.S.-China student workshop on the undergraduate experience at Iowa.

The pilot program will involve 50 undergraduate students – both international and domestic – who have been invited to discuss with faculty, staff and graduate students the issues they face and thoughts on how to address them.

“The workshop aims to foster conversation, connection, collaboration, constructive comment and creative action,” according to event organizers.

Read the full article on The Gazette website

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