The University of Iowa

UI international students celebrate Halloween

November 1st, 2013

By Gabriella Dunn, The Daily Iowan

Students carving pumpkins
Pumpkin carving is an annual event that allows international students to experience an American Halloween tradition.

Halloween’s novel activities of pumpkin carving, dressing in costume, and eating candy corn are tradition to most students at the University of Iowa. These traditions are now also being shared with international students at the university in attempt to better incorporate them into Iowa culture. Life in Iowa, an ongoing orientation program sponsored by the UI International Student and Scholar Services, put on a pumpkin carving event Thursday night for International students.

“I think people really enjoy [the event] and you’ll probably see students in costumes,” said Leanne Seedorff, the senior associate director of International Student and Scholar Services. “It’s their chance to go out and wear costumes and do pumpkin carving, which they may not have done before.” Seedorff said this year marks the highest enrollment term for international students at the UI. The increased popularity of the pumpkin-carving event compared with previous years is a sign of growing pains from more international students.

“We’ve got 100 pumpkins for the event tonight but we had so many requests we could have had 200 pumpkins, but we’re limited by space,” she said. “You can only fit so many people in the room.” Finalized enrollment numbers for this semester have not been submitted yet, but Seedorff said international enrollment for this semester is 4,049, with about three-fourths of those students being from China.

In fall 2012, the latest enrollment statistics available, there were 3,876 international students at the UI. The UI started its international program in 1950 with 179 students; it has been largely expanded since and has been continually increasing since 2007. Because Halloween is unique to Western culture, Shuhui Lin, the coordinator of Life in Iowa, said this event is a great opportunity for students to be able to take part as well. Many people in the program have families who have come to Iowa City with them, so Lin said the event is a great way to involve international children in American holidays.

One visiting scholar from China, Liyan Sun, who was in attendance with her family at the event, said she was excited for the opportunity to interact with other international students. “I think it’s a good opportunity to understand the American culture [and] it gives me a chance to meet people from other countries,” Sun said.

Another student, Nicholas Tan, a junior from Malaysia, said there are pumpkins in Malaysia as well, but they are far different in appearance from here in the States. “It exposes us to different forms of activities since we don’t carve pumpkins, and our pumpkins don’t look like these ones — they’re brown [in Malaysia],” Tan said.

Aishwarya Murali, a master’s student from India, said she enjoys celebrating such holidays as Halloween and looks forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas in the coming weeks. The next holiday event by Life in Iowa will be gingerbread decorating. Lin said the event will be held between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“I think decorating gingerbread men is not something that is done in a lot of other countries,” Lin said. “During the first week of December, it’s not finals yet so people can come for the event on Dec. 5.”

Visit The Daily Iowan to see a photo slideshow from this event.