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Gingerbread provides opportunity to connect to UI

BY LILY ABROMEIT | DECEMBER 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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A long line snaked out the door of the University of Iowa International Students and Scholars Office Thursday as students from around the world eagerly awaited their turn to participate in a holiday tradition unique to most of them: decorating a gingerbread man.

“It just gives them an idea of how we celebrate the holidays and culture,” said Ann Drop, an International Student and Scholarly Services secretary. “[It’s] different from country to country, so this shows them how Americans celebrate the holidays.”

Sponsored by the International Students and Scholars and Life in Iowa, the event encouraged the participants to decorate gingerbread men with frosting, sprinkles, and gumdrops.

At the UI, the number of international students has increased over the years, reaching 4,049 this fall. This number has more than doubled from the 1,792 students in 2000, according to the UI International Students Fall 2013 Enrollment Statistics.

Shuhui Lin, the coordinator of the event, said the number of students and families who participate in events such as these has remained stable over the years. However, she said she has noticed steady turnout for all events this year.

Lin said for many of the students, learning about American society is one of the main reasons they come to the United States, and for some, it may be a first experience in American cultural events.

Ting Guo, a visiting scholar from China, said she had never participated in anything like decorating gingerbread men before.

“In my country, we seldom have the opportunity to do these things,” she said. “I came here because … I’m interested in American culture.”

Sanjoy Paul, an international postdoctoral scholar from India, said he notices cultural differences when he attends events through International Programs.

“It’s through events like this that we get a better [understanding] and firsthand experience of celebrations,” he said. “It also gives a good feeling coming from so far away.”

Drop also said these events introduce students to American culture while also allowing them to spend time with others in the international community.

“It gives them something in common that they can talk about it with other American students … [and] it opens up dialogue,” Drop said. “They build a community within the international community as well.”

This is one advantage senior Michel Gut of Switzerland said he found in programs such as this.

“It’s really awesome because I get to know other people, particularly people who are international and foreign-exchange students,” he said. “Most of the time, it is a really good foundation for relationships.”


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