The University of Iowa

Study abroad lures UI's international students

November 8th, 2016

Astrid Montuclard (center left) is a guest study abroad blogger studying Chinese and Pre-medicine at the University of Iowa. An international student born in France and raised in Tahiti, Astrid is spending the 2016-17 academic year studying in Hangzhou, China. 

By Jenna Larson, The Daily Iowan

The number of international students at the University of Iowa who study abroad has increased.

In the past year, approximately 140 international students studied abroad in another country, said Katie Ron, the UI International Programs senior adviser for health, safety, and security.

“We’ve got between 1,200 and 1,300 UI students who go abroad every year,” she said, noting that international students make up about 11 percent of that number.

This year, a lot of the international students studied in South Korea and Italy, but it varies every year, she said. The types of programs students go through while studying abroad depends on their major, she said.

“They either go [through] programs that we offer, [and] some are doing independent study or research abroad,” Ron said.

The majority of students who study abroad are Chinese because a large percentage of international students at the UI are Chinese, she said. And a lot of international students do not qualify for financial aid as frequently as other students do.

According to the fall 2015 data from the International Programs, 2,540 Chinese students attended the UI. 

“There is an international-student scholarship that [UI] Study Abroad gives out for the purpose of studying abroad,” she said. “That’s one thing that is specific to international students.”

Also, the process for international students to study abroad is similar to American students, with the only major difference being getting a visa and maintaining their student status.

“Some countries might not grant them visas to enter the country depending on what country they are coming from,” Ron said. “That is something that [international students] need to take into account.”

Students also need to make sure they communicate with International Student & Scholar Services throughout their Study Abroad program to ensure they don’t lose their student status at the UI, Ron said.

“I think that we have seen an uptick in student who are interested in a study-abroad option,” said Liz Wildenberg de Hernandez, the associate director of UI Study Abroad.

Trends show international students are more likely to go abroad, because it looks attractive on résumés, Wildenberg said.

“I get the impression that students are interested in résumé building opportunities like internships, which could be in a lot of different places,” she said.

Some students are also studying close to home in a neighboring country while studying general-education classes during the summer, she said.

Feigu Zhou, an international student from China, studied abroad in London during winter break of 2015 through the Tippie College of Business.

“I wanted to go to England to see the differences between the UK and America,” Zhou said.

The process to get a visa was complicated, he said; he had to take a biological test in Des Moines, mail his visa to the British Embassy in New York, and wait for it to be sent back before he was able to complete the process.

“I definitely feel like [studying abroad] is rewarding,” he said. “I got familiar with American culture and then had an opportunity to be in Europe.”

As an international student, being able to compare the two cultures and the diversity was really rewarding, he said, and he is grateful for the opportunity.

“I could apply my knowledge from the University of Iowa into study abroad while I was there, and I really am glad I did it,” Zhou said.