International Student and Scholar Services has been very fortunate to work with some wonderful students over the years who devote much of their time outside the classroom to building a strong community for international students. Dr. Evans Ochola is one of those students who remains a friend to ISSS long after finishing his degree programs at the University of Iowa. He is this week's International Spotlight.
Dr. Ochola, originally from Kenya, received his doctoral degree in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies from the University of Iowa in 2008, and went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science in 2010.
He chose the University of Iowa because of the quality of the education here, as well as the environment of Iowa City.
“I believe that a degree from UI is a respectable one to have. UI has many of the best programs in the U.S., especially within the College of Education, and School of Library and Information Science. I'm confident that when you graduate you are prepared for a career. In addition, it has the perfect small town feel. Iowa City has an adorable, charming downtown area and I always feel safe. The campus is so alive."
During his graduate years, he worked for ISSS helping new international students manage the cultural adjustment process and engage with a new campus and community.
“In this capacity, I organized activities for international students to attend events together. I met with international students weekly and shared our experiences about how nervous we were to leave our family homes and move halfway across the world. It offered us a chance to make new friends and have new experiences, yet we were scared, homesick and lonely. Leaving the familiar behind was tough for all of us, yet I am amazed how we adapted to Iowa City and the University of Iowa.”
He experienced his own adjustment process soon after arriving as a new student himself, which helped give him the background and skills to lend his own support to newly arrived students.
“I learned immediately after a semester that I need to slightly alter my mindset, not exactly to change who I am but to be more open minded and accepting of a culture and society that is different and unique in itself. It is still surreptitious to me that most American students think that international students keep to themselves and make it hard to reach out. International students seem much more aware of the barriers created by cultural differences than their counterparts.”
Dr. Ochola was very active with student organizations during his studies here, and has fond memories of the many programs and events that were held.
“My favorite memories are when International Programs, in conjunction with student organizations, showcased many activity groups and events with a culmination of the week’s activities, in the International Center Lounge, which include music, food and dance.”
The University of Iowa is fortunate to still have Dr. Ochola with us, this time as a staff member. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and also an Instructional Designer for the College of Education.