Iowa Wesleyan University’s 118 international students celebrated their national pride with an international festival on Wednesday, Nov. 14, as the university’s board of trustees’ decision about the future of the university looms on campus.
With the board of trustees making a decision Thursday, Nov. 15, about whether the institution can remain open, students carried on as usual during the annual event, offering visitors a taste of their traditional dishes and answering questions about what it was like growing up in their home country.
David Schmitz, director of English as a second language at IW, said the international festival was a positive outlet for students to direct their energy in this uncertain time.
“This is one of the greatest strengths of the university, so we definitely wanted to highlight that,” Schmitz said.
International students have the most at stake if the university were to close its doors, Schmitz said. Local students can transfer to another college in Iowa, but international students might not have that option, Schmitz said.
Even so, Schmitz was confident the international program would take care of their students if the university does close, saying they will “teach out” and find partner institutions in the U.S. where international students can continue their education.
Rupak Balami, from Nepal, is a senior from IW studying accounting. He is expected to graduate in May 2019 and came to IW because he was looking for a small school in the U.S. where he could continue his studies.
“I love it more than what I was expecting,” Balami said.
While Balami is hopeful IW will have a spring semester and he will graduate from here, his number one goal is to graduate college from a university in the U.S. He said he feels like the teach out program is a good option second to graduating from IW.
Balami was proud to be participating in the international festival Wednesday because he said he likes to make sure everyone knows about Nepal since it’s such a small country landlocked in South Asia between India and China.
Balami said Nepal is famous for its’ bungee jumping and para gliding locations, where the brave can get beautiful views of the mountains.
Breandan Kiiwan, from Australia, was serving Vegemite on toast, a thick, black spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with vegetable and spice additives.
“There’s a lot of national pride in this dish right here,” Kiiwan said, a sophomore studying biology with chemical sciences. “You need to have a sense of national pride to survive in another country.”
Kiiwan enjoys the international program at IW because of the opportunity he has to mix with people from around the world. His roommate is from Spain.
Like Balami, Kiiwan too plans on finishing his degree in the U.S., and he is optimistic about the board of trustees’ decision about the future of IW.
Aleksandra Popovic, from Serbia, wrote visitor’s names in Serbian script during the international festival. Popovic is expected to graduate from IW in May with a master’s degree in Strategic Leadership. She will be in the first class to graduate from the program.
To her, the international festival is important every year not only for the campus community but for the community as a whole, especially the children who come to learn about different countries.
“Always have an open mind. Start the conversation. We’re all different and bring a different perspective,” Popovic said as she handed out what she called a Serbian version of apple pie.
Roozutaben Chaudhari, from India, offered kheer, which she said is the most famous dish in India and is similar to rice pudding.
Chaudhari is a junior studying nursing. She came to IW because she wanted to continue her studies in another country, she said.
The international program connects students quickly and treats them like family, Chaudhari said. Although she sometimes gets homesick, the faculty, students and surrounding community greet her like she is from here, Chaudhari said.
Chaudhari feels connected at IW. It would be hard to transfer to another school, but she is confident the school will provide international students options that would enable them to continue studying in the U.S.
“I don’t know if I’ll feel the same way about other universities. We want this university to be open,” Chaudhari said.