First International Parent Award given out


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After years of awarding domestic parents, the University of Iowa is recognizing the efforts of parents abroad.

Qian Chu and Shaoying Chu, the parents of Yiwen Chu, a sophomore art major from Jiaxing, China, are the first recipients of the International Parent Award.

International Student and Scholar Services presented the award to recognize the Chu family’s efforts to transition Yiwen Chu into a new school and a new country.

“All of us felt really honored when we won,” Chu said in an email. “And they felt great to share our experience with others.”

In the future, the award will be given out once every spring.  Nominations for the next award will be accepted this spring.

International students will nominate their parents in an essay-style format and submit it to International Student and Scholar Services.  The judgment criteria have not yet been set.

Lee Seedorff, senior associate director of International Student and Scholar Services, said international parents often reach out to the UI.

She said she created the award to recognize the efforts of those parents and to congratulate their contributions.

“It can be tough for any parent to send a son or daughter off to college, all the more so if they will be thousands of miles away or in an environment in which the parent may not speak the language or be entirely familiar with the educational system,” she said. “I think they appreciate knowing that our office can be a contact for them or a place to express any concerns they have.”

She said the UI has seen a “sharp spike” in the participation of international parents.

“Ten years ago, it was extremely rare to meet or hear from an international parent,” Seedorff said. “Now, largely because of changes to economic situations and in some case visa situations, we see parents visiting their students more often.”

The UI had 3,747 international students enrolled in the fall of 2013. Of those, 2,099 were from China.

Doug Lee, the assistant Provost for the International Programs, said it encourages online communication for families to keep in touch.

“One things we’re trying to do is utilize social media,” Lee said.  “In China, some of the traditional social media aren’t available, so we have a staff member whose responsibility is to post articles and communicate things about the UI through Weibo, Renren, and WeChat.”

The UI also hosts an orientation in August for new international students. Lee estimated that around three dozen parents came this year.

“We just to try to make sure that we serve international students as best we can,” he said. “We want them to succeed here, so if there are things we can do to point them in the right direction for resources, we want to do that.”

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