The University of Iowa

More international students studying abroad at the UI

February 18th, 2015

By Carly Matthew, The Daily Iowan

UI senior Xin Xu on her study abroad trip to India with the India Winterim program in 2013

International students at the University of Iowa are increasingly choosing yet another place to study abroad. From summer 2014 to the spring semester of 2015, 55 UI international students went abroad, either to study or to participate in work, internships, or volunteering. This number is up 22 students from the prior year.

“I think many international students like to experience a study-abroad experience because they are interested in comparing or incorporating a third culture into their academic experience,” wrote UI Study Abroad adviser Aubree Compton in an email. She said she believes this is a trend across the nation, noting the seminars she’s attended on the topic.

Open Doors, a survey of American students studying abroad published by the Institute of International Education, does not keep a record of when non-American students study abroad, said Liz Wildenberg de Hernandez, the UI Study Abroad associate. She said it makes for comparing national numbers difficult.

Wildenberg de Hernandez said — though the popularity of the UI Study Abroad has increased in general — there has been an even more dramatic increase among the international-student population for a variety of reasons. Studying abroad can be a simpler way for international students to travel while on a student visa as opposed to obtaining a tourist visa, she said.

“It’s difficult when you’re not an American student and trying to travel,” she said.

Compton said more international students might choose to study abroad because such opportunities have become more accessible, there are a wider number of options, and “more international students have the financial means to do so.”

Xin Xu, a UI senior from China, participated in a Study Abroad program during winter break of her junior year. As a biochemistry major interested in pharmacy, she was intrigued by a Trivandrum, India, winter palliative care and hospice program. Xu said she felt her experiences abroad, both in India and at the UI, helped her learn to adapt quickly to new situations and become accustomed to interacting with a wide range of people.

“When I was a freshman here, my English wasn’t very good,” she said. “Being in India, it’s different, because we’re all speaking English all the time to the locals and not in their local language.”

She said, at the UI, other students sometimes assume, as an Asian student on campus, she is Chinese and that they already understand her background. She felt very welcome in India because the locals were more inquisitive toward her.

“When I was in India, people were very curious about me, and they asked a lot of questions because I was a Chinese student in an American program,” she said.

Xin Xu was a 2013 recipient of the study abroad Diversity Ambassador Scholarship. You can read more about her trip to India in her Ambassador letter.