UI Graduate Student Government starts international affairs committee

The new International Affairs Committee within the University of Iowa’s Graduate and Professional Student Government received its first Director. The committee was made to provide a platform for international students to voice their unique concerns.


Anthony Neri, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Graduate and Professional Student Government selected Juan Arendse as its first director of the new International Affairs Committee on Nov. 2.

Arendse, a UI College of Law student from South Africa, said GPSG realized they were not representing international students and recognizing hardships that those students face, which is what motivated them to create the committee.

“It’s to give them a voice and to carry forward issues that might be troubling to them in a very supportive environment,” he said.

Arendse said the committee hopes to establish listening sessions in the next year and create a tab on its website where international students can anonymously submit their concerns.

Among the difficulties these students face are linguistic and cultural differences, Arendse said.

Amber Crow, the GPSG cabinet director, said she learned from Russell Ganim, the dean of UI international programs, that international students often report feeling neglected. She said many international students are teacher’s assistants and face difficulties in that occupation.

“I know TA’s that have been told blatantly racist things this year, because of where they’re from and ones that are made fun of and are ripped apart on evaluations because of their accent,” she said.

As of 2019, international students made up 17.53 percent of the graduate and professional student constituency, according to the UI Graduate Admissions website.

“Right now, we are connected with representatives from the relevant schools to speak to them and hear what exactly is troubling and of concern to international students,” Arendse said.

Arendse added that the committee will address issues like exploitative lease agreements, which have proven predatory to international students, as well as the difficulty international students often have finding jobs in Iowa City.

“We’re looking at potentially introducing a program where businesses could get some form of a subsidy if they are to employ international students,” he said.

Since the committee only includes its director and one new recruit right now, Arendse said they are actively looking for more graduate and professional international students to join and align themselves with their goals, an invitation they have only recently extended.

“It’s very clear that he’s worked on huge global issues already and knows so much about what’s going on all over the world and he’s been educated in another country,” Crow said. “I think he’s so easy to work with. His personality is so infectious, and he’s so friendly, and he’s so intentional.”

Arendse said domestic students can benefit a lot from having international students around them, as many Iowa graduates end up in big cities like New York and Chicago, which are more internationally representative.

“I think it’s very important to have international students, because it brings a global perspective to the campus,” he said.

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