International Parents' Blog: Welcome to Fall 2015!

Hello international parents, family members, and friends!

I'm Lee Seedorff, Senior Associate Director with International Student and Scholar Services, and I wanted to welcome you all to the start of the University of Iowa Fall 2015 semester.  Whether your student is new, or has been here for a few years, I hope that this blog helps you feel more connected to and informed about the University of Iowa and your student's experience.

Today marks the end of the second week of classes.  It is a busy and exciting time for your students. By this point they would have received a syllabus for each course outlining all the assignments, readings, and exams for the coming semester.  Many students are already working on papers or projects for some courses.  In smaller classes and discussion sections, they and the other students have probably learned each other's names.  They may even have been assigned to work on a small group project in some classes.  Some of your students may have shuffled classes a little, as the first two weeks are a common time to add and drop courses.

Your students are also receiving information on many activities to attend and organizations to join.  I can't stress the importance of this enough.  While the primary objective for everyone is to study and get the degree, participation in extra-curricular activities greatly benefits the educational process.  It helps students establish important social connections (as much or as little as they like - I'm an introvert myself, so I understand the limits some students may feel!), which is crucial for creating a support system.  Activities also help students feel a greater connection to the campus and foster a sense of belonging.  It also builds what are frequently referred to as "soft skills" such as communication skills, ability to work with others, improve organizational and time management skills - all things that complement the educational process and will contribute to later employment success.  A few examples of events and organizations that students can be involved with over the next few weeks:

International students visit a local farm during the fall.
  • A Career Series, sponsored by my office and the Pomerantz Career Center, where students can learn about career exploration, writing resumes, interviewing for jobs, how to network, or even whether to consider going on for a graduate or professional degree.
  • A student organization, OASIS: Organization for the Active Support of International Students, is currently recruiting members both international and domestic.  OASIS is a very active and fun organization that has been around for several years.  They host some of the most popular events on campus during the year, including the Cultural Ball and Bridging Fiesta, and have won several awards from the University of Iowa Student Government.  Many students like to be involved in clubs/organizations focusing on their home countries, which can provide wonderful support and a sense of "home," but OASIS welcomes everyone and can be a great opportunity to meet students from other places.  Students don't have to limit themselves to just one organization!
  • A fair focusing on organizations that enjoy the environment and being outside, Outside@Iowa Environmental Fair will introduce students to clubs interested in bird watching, biking, gardening, running, natural history, and sustainability/environmentalism.  These are also all great opportunities to better connect with domestic students.
  • Our own Life in Iowa series is already underway. We have already held workshops on academic survival skills, adjusting to American culture, and everything a student could want to know about American Football!  Other sessions this fall will focus on employment skills, a bus trip to a fun Iowa location, and our famous pumpkin carving during Halloween.

New students may also start to shown signs of "culture shock" as they adjust to being in a new place.  It doesn't matter if your student is from China, Canada, Brazil, Germany - culture shock happens to everyone and is a normal process.  We often hear about the "stages" of culture shock.  It may begin as a "honeymoon period," where everything is new and exciting.  But after a few days or weeks, students may begin to feel frustrated - suddenly they are noticing the differences.  Different food, how and where you buy clothes, the transportation system, language differences, how friendly or unfriendly other people seem.  This is when students begin to feel homesick and really miss YOU.  They may have difficulty sleeping, eating, or may feel sad.  Again, this is normal - but please know that ISSS is always here for your students to come in and speak with one of our advising staff so that we can help them through the process.  You can also help them just by listening to what they are experiencing and being supportive, and also encourage them to come talk to us.  If you are concerned about what you feel is unusual or alarming behavior, please contact me directly at lee-seedorff@uiowa.edu .

Friends Without Borders students attend a UI football game together.
 Usually students then move into a stage of adjustment, where they feel more competent at handling things, and may be getting to know other students so they feel less homesick.  Then soon after this, students become "pros" - they know their way around campus and community, where to find the food they like, how to get from one place to another.  Students WILL get to this point if they give themselves a chance!

I hope to write new entries at least weekly, if not more often, that you will find useful and informative.  And please never hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.  While federal law restricts information I am able to give anyone (including parents) about individual students, I still very much enjoy hearing from you and if there is anything I can do to help be assured that I will. Don't worry if you may not be able to email me in English; we can usually find someone to help translate. 

Best,
Lee

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