Friends Around the World

The UI welcomed its largest and most diverse class ever to campus this fall. More than 10 percent of these freshmen are international students, who will likely experience culture shock as they adjust to studying in a non-native language miles away from familiarity.

Fortunately, the Iowa City community has an incredible opportunity to make the UI’s approximately 2,200 international students feel at home. The UI Office of International Students and Scholars matches up foreign students with friendly local volunteers through the Friends of International Students program. Volunteers help students adjust to American culture and university life, while internationals invite volunteers to learn more about their countries’ customs. With international enrollment at the UI higher than ever, the demand has never been greater for local hosts.

I’ve been privileged to make friends with international students over the past few years. It’s been rewarding to get to know these bright and courageous students and to see American life from a fresh, outside perspective. My newfound friends have been very gracious, and simple gestures such as giving them a ride to the grocery store or inviting them over for Thanksgiving go a long way. These friendships also can last beyond their time at Iowa, as I learned recently when a UI graduate from Taiwan sent me souvenirs and postcards from her European vacation.

To learn more about Friends of International Students, visit Or, if you’re looking for Hawkeye hospitality in another part of the world, join an international IOWA Club at

Shelbi Thomas
Associate Editor

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