Did you know that Thailand’s population is nearly 22 times that of Iowa, but only about three and a half times larger in size? With 70% of international students coming from East and Southeast Asia, many have come to call this land of wide open spaces their home. Here are the thoughts and reflections of two Thai students on classes, food, and the benefits and challenges of life abroad at the University of Iowa.
"I think that the University of Iowa offers a very supportive learning environment- they always support students with useful academic activities such as writing workshops, academic talks, and many social activities. Iowa City is also a good town for student life. Most importantly, I feel very safe staying here. Even though it is a small and quiet town, it has everything I need to spend my life happily such as theaters, shopping malls, and Asian grocery stores so I can cook Thai food with my friends. Food is probably the biggest cultural difference between here and my hometown in Thailand so among the Thai students on campus, we usually have parties. This is a time for us to cook, share food and exchange our experiences being abroad. On the other hand, I also enjoy trying new things such as food from America and from other countries cooked by my international friends. In the past, I never would have thought that I would love living in a small town like Iowa City, but I am very happy here.
The greatest challenge is still communication. At first, I felt embarrassed about my poor English and my funny accent. I am not confident speaking in front of people in English, but in all my classes here students have to express ideas, talk, and discuss. This forced me to overcome my fear and now I feel like my classmates understand that English is not my first language and focus on my ideas more than my grammar. I still can’t say that my English is perfect, because I know that it’s not, but I feel more confident speaking out, defending my ideas, and communicating with people. I must thank the faculty of the Science Education department for pushing me to talk and my advisor for all the opportunities he has given me to work with, meet and communicate with people on campus."
-Nattida Promyod; Ph.D. student in Science Education, College of Education, University of Iowa
"I first heard about Iowa when a professor of mine in Thailand, who graduated from UI, told a story about the winters in Iowa. So, I remembered the place when I was applying to graduate school. I had a chance to visit Iowa City before I applied and loved the friendly and peaceful community. I have now been in Iowa for six years and though the winter in Iowa City is cold, it is warmed by Iowan people! I would say that the biggest difference between school here versus in Thailand is the nature of the classes. Here, classes have a lot of discussion sessions and are more interactive than in Thailand. There are many beautiful places but my favorite spot on campus is the Field House. Outside of my studies, I spend a lot of my time there working out and playing badminton with my husband and friends."
-Puttarin Kulchaitanaroaj; Graduate student in PSE program, College of Pharmacy, University of Iowa