The University of Iowa

UI International Students kick off 'welcome' activities with hoedown

August 16th, 2011

Goal is to encourage students to interact, overcome shyness

By Erica Pennington, The Gazette
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International students learn to square dance at the University of Iowa’s annual fall semester hoedown on Sunday, August 14. Over 600 students participated in the event as a way to mingle and learn more about traditional American Culture. (Erica Pennington/SourceMedia Group News)

Though it took some gentle coaxing, persistence and patience, over 600 undergraduate students made their way to the University of Iowa Memorial Union Sunday night to strut their stuff and learn to “do-si-do” as a part of an international students’ orientation and mixer.

Huddled into groups of eight and taught how to square dance step by step, the goal of the international students’ welcome hoedown, which has been held annually for more than 15 years, is to encourage students to interact while having fun and learning more about traditional American culture.

“A lot of the students start off shy, but we have great leaders that help them get excited,” University of Iowa Assistant Dean of International Programs Scott E. King said. “Ninety percent of these kids don’t know a soul here, so it’s a great way to get them to get over their nervousness.”

According to King, approximately 650 undergraduate students are attending the University of Iowa this fall from 40 countries.

Many students come from China, South Korea, India, or Japan, with very small numbers coming from Burma, Belize, Iceland, and Uganda, King said.

Although a great number of students appeared to be tired from their travels, long day of meetings, tours and filling out paperwork, a majority hit the floor with enthusiasm.

“Square dancing is pretty good and it’s a new experience for sure,” 17-year-old freshman Yuhao Chen of China said as she laughed, recounting her steps and becoming tangled with her partner. “It’s a lot of fun.”