Despite Wartburg being a private college in a town of 10,000 residents, it manages to attract students from all over the world.
This year, Wartburg recruited 120 international students which represent over 50 African, Asian and European countries. This level of diversity is overall above average and is something the college strives to maintain each year.
“We value diversity because these international students bring a little bit of their culture and heritage and therefore enrich our community,” Zafrul Amin, the director of international student services, said.
In order to maintain this diversity, Wartburg representatives from Admissions visit various United World Colleges (UWC) located throughout the world, Amin said. UWC is a London-based, international organization that has nearly 17 schools worldwide which offer two years of pre-university education and scholarships for international education such as the Davis Scholarship.
As a result, students from countries such as Zimbabwe, Japan, Thailand or the Netherlands bring their cultures to Wartburg, as well as gain an experience in the American culture.
For Ben Underwood, a Wartburg student from England, the initial culture shock was most apparent in the introduction of America’s education system, Iowa’s weather and the different style of English.
Though he still experiences this culture shock today, Underwood advises other international students to be involved on campus to “make the most of being in a new country.” He said being involved helps in finding a second family like what Underwood found within Wartburg’s football team and his American teammates.
Other students, like Yvonne Wamala from Swaziland, value relationships with other international students because they share similar experiences and emotions and help ease her homesickness. She said this, along with support from Wartburg faculty, provides comfort during times when she feels alone.
“They understand that we’ve come from completely different educational backgrounds and are amazingly aware of how to navigate classroom and social spaces,” Wamala said. “It makes it a lot easier because we don’t have to go that extra mile to be heard and understood.”
Throughout the long process to become a student in the United States, Amin said Wartburg’s faculty provides constant assistance to ensure all the requirements are being fulfilled and that the student never feels alone.
This support system is important to Amin as he himself experienced this process, and the culture shock that comes with it, when he came to the United States from Bangladesh to attend the University of Dubuque.
“I try to connect with the international students because once I start talking to them, they realize that I have gone through the same struggle as they’re doing right now,” Amin said. “I can tell them it’s hard, but in the end, it’s going to be worth it.”