By Mark Carlson, KCRG-TV9
Leaders in Iowa City are working to better welcome members of the Chinese community with the hopes it will result in more international students eventually taking up permanent residency in the area.
“They’ve become a community within the community, so our goal is to really connect that community with the community at large,” said Kate Moreland, director of collaboration and community relations at the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD).
In recent months ICAD has worked with Hills Bank to offer Chinese as a language option on a downtown ATM machine, a service Wells Fargo Bank has offered since 2005. Moreland said she hopes more banks will soon also offer Chinese on ATMs. ICAD has also worked with the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to translate the area visitors guide into four new languages, including Chinese.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do, we want to be not only accessible and provide information to international students, but international visitors,” said Josh Schamberger, president of the CVB.
Currently there are more than 4,300 international students studying at the University of Iowa, most from China.
“Many of them will want to stay in the United States, start businesses, work for existing businesses, and we want them to feel connected to our community,” said Moreland. “We need more people in our area, our workforce needs to be increasing.”
Adjusting to the area isn’t easy for many international students, according to Xingyu Shen, a second year psychology and communications major.
“Language barriers will always be a problem for international students,” he said.
The weather, driving and navigating the area can also present challenges, Shen said.
“Iowa City is kind of a mirror, or a kind of gate, for students to know about the whole United States,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities here to help students achieve their dreams.”
Moreland said Iowa City has looked to other places, like Dayton, Ohio and Austin, Texas, for guidance in the process. Both towns have also recently worked to become more internationally friendly, she said.
“Connection people I think is a big part of this, knowing each other’s stories, recognizing what people have to offer and learning from one another,” Moreland said.
“I have the kind of belief things will get better and better for international students to be here,” said Shen.