'Speed friending' connects students


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Sweaty palms and butterflies, two symptoms that are essentially unavoidable when dealing with the sometimes nerve-racking experience of meeting new people. However, the ultimate reward of these new interactions can be gratifying, leading to new knowledge and understanding of a culture other than your own.

Such an opportunity will arise at the upcoming event Speed Friending Around the World, hosted by the University of Iowa Campus Activities Board. Coordinator of the event and UI student Laura Wang created the program to fill a need she saw on campus.

“Over my time at the University of Iowa, I’ve noticed a divide between domestic and international students,” Wang said. “I’ve been told time and time again by my international friends that they came to study in America to meet Americans, but almost all of their friends come from the country that they themselves are from. Speed Friending Around the World seeks to change that.”

The program — inspired by “speed dating” — will occur at 10 p.m. today at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., with no charge for admission. Free food will also be offered.

“When people come into Old Brick, we’ll sort them into categories based on where they’re from and seat them at various tables. Then, they can start talking and get to know each other. We’ll have questions that each table can choose to ask each other,” Wang said. “After a few minutes, we’ll have people move to a new table or stay based on their category, and the process will start again.”

The culture of the UI is continually evolving. According to the 2013 Iowa International Student Census, the number of international students over the last six years has nearly doubled. Yet some students, both domestic and international, still do not take advantage of the opportunity for new relationships.

“It can be challenging to meet and talk to people who look, talk, and think differently from what you do,” Wang said. “Campus Activities Board wants to break down those barriers by creating a welcoming environment in which people from different countries can get to know each other on a casual level.”

The board is not the only program on campus that views this lack of communication among cultures. Wang said various other organizations support the event such as Life in Iowa, Global@Iowa, International Buddies, Friends Without Borders, International Student and Scholar Services, the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, and Herky C.A.R.E.S.

Michael Neese, a peer educator for Herky C.A.R.E.S, believes in the importance of events such as this.

“Connecting with someone from another culture doesn’t just help them learn about your culture, to fit in,” he said. “It teaches you about their culture, beliefs, and heritage and gives you a better perspective on life.”

Several students have expressed interest in participating in this program, including UI junior and student government Vice President Jeffrey Ding.

“In some way, I think we are all searching for the exponential, whether that’s in the experience of joy, pleasure, and purpose,” he said. “And I think there is a lot of exponential potential in this particular event of meeting people from around the globe.”

Speed Friending Around the World intends to aid students in overcoming a common barrier that incurs between domestic and international students.

“Whether it’s here at the university or in the workplace, being able to interact with people from different cultures will always be a crucial skill to have,” Wang said. “It will help you professionally, but it can also help you personally. The world is such a big place with so many different people. Having the respect and appreciation for those different from yourself can help you grow as a person and introduce you to a lot of amazing things.”

What: Speed Friending Around the World
When: 10 p.m. today
Where: Old Brick, 26 E. Market
Admission: Free

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