International Fellows discuss Sudan crisis, Iowa issues at Des Moines conference

by Shara Tibken

Five Simpson students recently attended the Iowa International Fellows Program with 50 other international students in the state.

The German-language teaching assistant Constanze Fischer, senior Inanc Karacaylak, juniors Nana Afriyie and Mihai Birsescu and freshman Elizabeth Caballero participated in this program that took place in Des Moines on Jan. 23-24.

“Basically, [the Iowa International Fellows Program] is to get international students to interact and learn more about Iowa,” Caballero said. “The Iowa Fellows Program is influential in letting all the international students know the importance that they have in influencing Iowa.”

The program is hosted by the Iowa Council for International Understanding, a “non-profit organization conducting programs and services that promote mutual respect and understanding between Iowans and people from all cultures and countries,” according to the official Web site of the organization.

“The Iowa Council for International Understanding hosts students in the state of Iowa from all around the world,” said Walter Lain, assistant dean for multicultural and international affairs. “It’s an opportunity for the people of Iowa to make an impression on the students, done in hopes that after they leave here they will remember Iowa.”

Students interested in participating in the program have to apply to be part of the group. Once accepted, they are required to attend each of the four meetings held during the year.

Fischer wanted to participate in the Iowa Fellows Program because he’d already heard good things about it.

“Last year’s teaching assistant said she was one of the Iowa Fellows, and she raved about it,” Fischer said.

The participants stay in hotels for the weekend and attend seminars with various state leaders.

The first two meetings of the group were held during the weekends of Oct. 15-16 and Nov. 19-20.

Participants are educated about important issues for Iowa such as health care.

“I really learned a lot of stuff about Iowa,” Fischer said. “It’s always really interesting to meet a lot of international students who are here in Iowa.”

A panel was held about the crisis in Sudan on Jan 23. The next day, students learned about Iowa politics and state government.

“On Monday we went to the state capitol and talked to senators,” Afriyie said. “The prime concern was about the workforce in Iowa.”

Caballero said this program was an experience she will always remember.

“I learned about different aspects of Iowa, but more than that it was an awesome opportunity to learn about other countries,” Caballero added. “It was really interesting to get to share my ideas and culture with people from almost 30 different parts of the world. I can’t even tell you how much I learned from all those students. Definitely it was an incredible experience.”

The next meeting of the Iowa International Fellows Program will be on Feb. 25-26 in Perry. The students will discuss the issue of diversity in Iowa.