The University of Iowa

International students face housing challenges

August 20th, 2010

By Alison Sullivan, The Daily Iowan

Before arriving in America, Guan Su Jie, a 21-year-old University of Iowa international student, expected to spend her first week meeting new friends and exploring campus.

But two days before arriving in Iowa City, she was told she would be unexpectedly moved to the Lodge, an apartment complex located nearly two miles away from campus. Now, Jie feels she is “missing out on the atmosphere.”

A member of the largest number of international students in University of Iowa history, her housing problems reflect only one of the many adjustments university officials made to accommodate the influx of students.

This year the UI welcomed at least 800 international students, compared with last year’s 661, said Scott King, the director of the UI International Students and Scholars.

These students, who began arriving on campus as early as Aug. 10, come from 21 different countries.

The top two countries include China with 345 students and South Korea with 45, said Michael Barron, the director of Admissions.

Though the increase in the number of international students has created a series of challenges for the university, King said, a committee has been preparing for the past several years because the numbers have risen steadily before this year’s spike.

Officials created a new adviser position this year and monitored courses such as English as a Second Language and math to ensure enough seats, King said.

And for the first time, international Orientation was split into graduate and undergraduate sessions, a change King said is more effective in focusing on students’ specific needs.

Another challenge has been the housing overflow caused by an increased number of early arrivals, King said.

Kia Wei, 18, a student from Chongqing, China, can certainly attest to the housing problems. After learning she would live in Daum’s temporary housing in early August, Wei instead decided to live in a house on Bloomington with five other women.

Despite the extra work of finding her own home, she said, she does not feel as though she is missing out on the full college experience.

One of Wei’s roommates, Hong Hong, discovered she had no housing assignment at Orientation. Luckily for the two, Hong met Wei at an Orientation breakfast and now splits the $2,500 a month rent with four other women.

While Jie said the Lodge has a nice atmosphere, the homesick international student noted that she had counted on dorm life.

“I wanted to live on campus because everything is so convenient,” she said.