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International students find community at Stanford


Moving to a new environment can be difficult: deciding what to pack, leaving behind childhood friends, moving into a dorm room and hugging parents goodbye. However, international students have to acclimate to a new school, a new country and sometimes even a new language. The International Undergraduate Community (IUC) at Stanford aims to ensure that international students always have friends around who will understand what they’re going through.

International students make up about 8.7 percent of the undergraduate population, and the IUC’s biggest goal is to create a space where international students can mingle both among each other and also among other American students at social and cultural events.

“We want to create a support network to unite the diverse international undergrads at Stanford,” said Minna Liu ’17, the president of the IUC, who hails from Singapore.

Past events

So far, the IUC has already hosted a barbecue and a dinner featuring Thai and Caribbean food. The event in Old Union was very popular with students, and the line for food stretched all the way to the Axe and Palm. The event featured a map for students to mark their home countries, which ranged from Azerbaijan to Tanzania and Iceland, among others.

The dinner aimed to help welcome the freshman class, since there is a relatively high percentage — 12 percent — of international students and Americans who lived abroad in the Class of 2019. The IUC also had a Thanksgiving dinner and a trip to Six Flags for the students staying on campus.

“[The international students] meet each other at the International Student Orientation,” said Alex Akesson ’19, a freshman intern for the IUC from Sweden. “Throughout the year, we want to keep the bonds and build upon that community.”

During winter quarter, the IUC hopes to provide more faculty lunches and guest speaker panels, but their biggest annual event will occur in the spring when the IUC will be organizing a festival in White Plaza showcasing different foods from around the world. People at Stanford will be able to taste a variety of foods — Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican and more. The IUC aims to have at least one dish from each continent.

“[We] will be bridging different cultures and sharing cultures through food,” said Akesson.

Experiences with the IUC

Many students, including Jenny Kim ’19 and Carol Zhao ’17, are drawn to the IUC because it offers a place for students to meet each other. Students can drink boba or eat snacks and catch up with friends at IUC events.

“We just [talk] a lot,” said Kim, whose home is in South Korea. “We sometimes plan to go to [the] movies or restaurants together, or we just talk about our lives at Stanford.”

Zhao, from Toronto, was on the IUC board last year as a marketing chair, and she is still active, playing the guitar and singing with a friend at the IUC’s fall dinner in November.

“We [international students] connected with each other from the fact that we were all from different countries,” Zhao said. “That brought us together — whether it was complaining about visa problems and problems like that. That was the greatest sense of community for me — meeting all of these new friends.”

In fact, as a member of the board, Zhao attended all of the events last year — from the speaker series to the holiday events like the Thanksgiving dinner.

“We’re able to meet cool people, who will tell us where they’re from,” Zhao said. “We’ve met some cool people from Norway and Turkey, and they’ll tell us about their experiences. And that’s always nice to hear, since the majority of the Stanford population is domestic.”


Contact Anne-Marie Hwang at amhwang ‘at’

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