Our International Spotlight features focus not only on those who came here from abroad, but also on American students who devoted a significant part of their time to intercultural activities while enrolled here at the University of Iowa, as well as faculty and staff who support internationalization at Iowa.
UI student Lu Shen
Lu Shen was interested in journalism long before she enrolled at the University of Iowa as a double major in Journalism and Mass Communication and Art.
Shen, an undergraduate student from Hangzhou, China, studied for two years before making the decision to come to the U.S. She was encouraged by a favorite professor at home to take on the challenge of studying journalism in a U.S. university, and her parents also supported her decision.
She joined the University of Iowa in January 2012, a time of year when it is environmentally not the most welcoming season and a much smaller cohort of new international students are arriving.
Initially she was concerned about what she felt were two major obstacles facing an international student studying journalism in another country: language hurdles and cultural differences.
“I felt overwhelmingly intimidated when I started out, but somehow I’ve muddled through, not without supports and encouragements from professors and friends as well as my interviewees,” Shen said.
Shen has accumulated significant journalistic experience during her years here, with much of her work seeking to highlight the issues faced by international students on campus. She worked for The Daily Iowan, where she completed a three-part series on the Chinese student experience at the UI. She served as a summer intern at the CNN Beijing Bureau, and has worked as a graphic designer for International Programs and the Iowa Youth Writing Project.
Her honors project, “Tales from the Chinese Diaspora,” is a collection of the stories she produced on the experiences of Chinese and other international students while at the University of Iowa. The collection examines the struggle many Chinese students experience in adjusting to life in the U.S., the challenges for those who wish to interact more with American students, discrimination faced by Asian and other international students, and the isolation of international spouses.
Having so closely examined societal and cultural issues for international students, Lu does have some advice of her own that could arguably apply to Americans as well:
- Talk to strangers. Don’t stereotype.
- Challenge yourself.
- Be open-minded, curious, and proactive.
- Get around with enlightened people, who don’t have to be exclusively from your country.
- Learn to deal with yourself and enjoy the solitude.
- Don’t be afraid of being different, no matter the way you dress, the way you speak, or the way you think.
After some time spent gaining more practical experience in internships following graduation, Lu hopes to join a journalism graduate program in fall 2015.