The University of Iowa

UI international students adjust to weather

February 6th, 2014

By Stacey Murray, The Daily Iowan

This fall, more than 4,000 international students from 112 countries set foot on the University of Iowa campus.

But as Artic winds buffet the Midwest, students who may be used to warm winters are faced with temperatures dropping below zero, with wind chills pushing them inside to adjust to the Iowa experience.

UI senior Yikun Chen hails from Beijing. While snow isn’t a new experience for the accounting major, Iowa weather’s deadly combination of snow and bitter cold has been less than inviting.

“It just feels like a thousand needles punching me in the face,” Chen said. “I enjoy the snow, but I don’t enjoy the cold.

“I feel like the snow is Beijing is romantic — not here.”

Dry skin, a side effect of the Iowa winter, has been among the most irritating features of the winter for Chen — aside from the extra layers she piles on each morning.

Beibei Zhang couldn’t agree more.

The UI sophomore said she detests Iowa winters.

“I feel like my face is always full of snow,” she said. “I hate having to wear so many layers.”

Zhang grew up in the Fujian Province in China, where temperatures “drop” to 57 degrees in the winter, and snow never falls in her hometown.

But Guanglin Xu, a student who also hails from Central China, said his adjustment was quite different from Zhang and Chen.

In fact, he didn’t notice a difference.

“Really, [Central China] is quite similar to Iowa’s,” he said. “It’s not a very big adjustment.”

But Keerthi Pulagam noticed a difference.

As a south India native and graduate student studying informatics at the UI, a winter coat was a foreign concept for her — she had never seen one sold in India.

But upon her arrival to the UI, it was a necessary purchase.

When speaking with her family about Iowa’s harsh winters, she attempts to explain weather patterns her family can’t fathom.

“If you want to see what it’s like [for the weather to be] minus-30,” she said, “that’s Iowa.”

But Pulagam’s first Iowa winter didn’t seem this cold, and this has been her coldest year at the UI.

“I just kind of feel like [the wind] bites the tip of my ear and my nose,” she said. “I almost fainted walking to CVS.”

She said while she lived in India, 50-degree weather sent the masses into a craze, seeking out blankets and warmer clothes.

But she said she’s adapted to the drastic change, laughing at the thought of a forecast so high in Iowa during January.

But all four international students trudge across campus, wrapping scarves around their faces while they wait for warmer seasons.

“It is just so cold,” Chen said.