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International students prepare for winter break

BY GRACE PATERAS | DECEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Jon Smith only has the opportunity to go home once per year because of the cost, so this winter break he’s excited to head back to England to see his family.

“I haven’t gone home yet because I’ve only been here for a few months, and it’s expensive to go home,” he said. “I can only afford to go home once [all year], so I decided to go during winter break.”

Smith is studying American studies and attending the UI as part of a track at his main school, the University of Hull in Kingston upon Hull, England.

He chose the UI because not many Europeans know much about the Midwest, he said.

“There’s not a whole lot of differences between my friends from home and here,” Smith said. “It’s not what I expected to be. People hang out and watch movies, like they did in college back in England.”

Similarly, UI junior Park Sung Cheol has participated in a lot of the same activities as his friends back home in South Korea.

“We take short trips and we eat food, delicious food,” he said. “It’s pretty much the same as what people do here: We drink, we play sports like basketball and soccer, and we work out.”

Park will stay in Iowa City for the first time this winter break while his sister will go home to their family after her first semester at the UI. He plans on traveling to Chicago with a friend for a short trip.

“We go there to eat Korean food that we can’t eat here and for shopping,” Park said. “Iowa City does have several options, but it’s not as good as the food in Chicago.”

Moving to a new country has been somewhat easy and difficult, he said. For example, colleges in America give students the opportunity to make friends on their own outside of class. In Korea, institutions encourage students to be friends with those in the same major, he said.

Park has made many of his friends his first year through dorm living, classes, and Facebook.

“[In America], if you put some effort, you can make foreign friends, but it’s hard to make American or foreigners friends because you’re away from your home and friends,” he said. “It’s instinct to stay with people from the same country.”

Freshman student-athlete Jahisha Thomas traveled overseas to Iowa on a track and field scholarship.

She will travel back home to London to see her family for the first time since August, when she moved to Iowa City.

The hurdler and jumper took a year off from school after she graduated from secondary school to work and train for recruitment. During her gap year, she kept herself busy earning money by tutoring math and English to kids ages 5 to 16.

Because of track and field obligations, the 20-year-old will only be home for 10 days. She will spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her parents and two brothers, while also continuing to tutor and complete track workouts.

Prior to committing to Iowa, Thomas said, she had never been on campus. She relied on speaking to coaches and looking into programs to make her decision.

She enjoys the friends she’s made at the UI, saying they are similar to her friends back home.

“I really settled in here,” she said. “I made really good friends through track and with people in rooms by my room. We normally hang out in my room, put on music, dance like weirdoes, and study together.”


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