The University of Iowa

Making the World a Little Smaller

February 24th, 2014

From CBS2/FOX28

Universities are some of the most diverse places in the United States. The fact that at the University of Iowa, there are more than 4,000 international students proves that point.

Tongxin Xian was born in China. College can be tough for most students, but she had some other basic hurdles to clear as an international student, like a language barrier.

"You feel embarrassment,” said Xain, an undergrad at Iowa. “People tell you, 'please get a mop to mop the floor," and you don't know what a mop is.' That's really embarrassing."

To get past it, and other subtle cultural differences, she joined student groups, made new friends, reached out to others who were born in the United States. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Some say stereotypes about a person’s ethnicity can get in the way of forming a relationship with entire groups of people.

"The communication between the groups when they first contact will become really awkward if you just go by the stereotypes,” said graduate student Xianwei Wu.

So the University of Iowa is helping its students take the lead in breaking those barriers. After a morning of presentations, students broke into discussions groups, face to face with people who don’t have their same cultural background.

"It's a really non-threatening, happy, positive way to exchange information,” said Associate Professor of Sociology Alison Bianchi.

The benefits extend much farther than to just the international population at Iowa.

"We tell our students this all the time that the workforce they're going to be entering is more and more diverse,” said Assistant Director for Global Community Engagement at the Tippie College of Business Jennifer Blair.

"It helps me learn and I can apply that when I have a career in the future, which will be in an international setting,” said Iowa Sophomore Eric Bundy. It makes the world a little bit smaller by doing the same on campus.