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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 30, 2005

UI International Students Win 'Coming To America' Essay Contest

Four University of Iowa International students were honored for their winning essays in the first "Coming to America" Essay Contest sponsored by the UI Office of International Students and Scholars. The winning essays were announced at a reception held earlier this month as part of International Education Week Nov. 14-18 organized by UI International Programs. The contest will become an annual event.

Some 17 students submitted essays discussing their experience of coming to the United States. Topics included cultural adjustment, expectations versus reality, lessons they have learned, similarities and differences, and more.

"These essays are wonderful reflections of how the U.S., and specifically Iowa City, is seen as a foreign culture by our international students," said Scott King, director of the UI Office of International Students and Scholars.

The following students won prizes in the contest:

Jay Vithalani, a graduate student in nonfiction writing from India, won first place and $300. In his winning essay, Vithalani writes about the difference between his first period of study in Boston in the '90s and studying at the UI now in the MFA program. He focuses on the little differences that are often the biggest challenges of the transition.

Ammar Khawam, a graduate student in pharmacy from Syria, won second place and $200. His essay touches on the challenges of being from the Middle East in the post-September 11 era in the U.S., and also acknowledges the value he has gained from being in the diverse society of the U.S.

Anne-Laure Soulie, an undergraduate student from France, won third place and $100. In her essay, she discusses relationships and their differences between France and the U.S. She also writes about how big everything seems to be in the U.S., compared with her more compact French life.

Alankar Kampoowale, a graduate student in computer science from India, received an honorable mention. His essay focuses on the conflict of "I and Me," the part of his personality that wanted to stay the same and the other part that wanted to explore and take risks in his new environment.

To read all of the essays submitted, visit the IP Web site at:

Judges for the essay contest included Christopher Merrill, Hugh Ferrer and Natasa Durovicova from the International Writing Program; Rebecca Hanson and Selene Erickson from International Admissions; and Kenneth Royar, Sandra Bolton and Caryl Lyons from Friends of International Students.

International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences in the United States.

For more information on the essay contest, contact Scott King,, 319-335-0335.

OISS is affiliated with UI International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean of International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and the community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Writer: JoAnn Seeman