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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 29, 2007

'Coming to America' essay contest winners announced

The University of Iowa Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) honored the winners of the third annual "Coming to America" essay contest during a reception held at the Iowa Memorial Union Gallery during International Education Week, Nov. 12-16.

Prizes were awarded for first, second and third place. Three students were also chosen to receive honorable mentions. Essays from 26 students were entered in the contest.

"Again this year, we get to see the challenges of coming to the U.S. and Iowa City through the eyes of our international students," said Scott King, OISS director. "These first impressions of America, whether amusing, distressing or somewhere in between, help us gain a bit more intercultural understanding and appreciation for what it means to cross borders to begin a new life. The insights gained from these essays give all of us who work with international students, whether professionally or as a volunteer, information we need to do a better job of assisting in this important transition."

Chan Hyeok Lee of South Korea, a pre-business undergraduate student, received first place and a prize of $300 for his essay "Race and Identity." His essay compared issues of race and identity in three U.S. cities he has lived in -- Southaven, Miss., McBain, Mich. and Iowa City.

The second-place winner, Lini Ge of China received $150 for her essay, "Embracing my 'American Self.'" Ge is a graduate student in journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her essay focused on the differences between Chinese and American cultures and her ability to negotiate between both.

Katharina Mendoza of the Philippines, a graduate student in women's studies, received third place and a prize of $50 for her essay "Coming to America: A Pinay's Cartography." Her essay discussed the day-to-day negotiation of place and identity for an international student in the U.S.

Honorable mention was awarded to Soyang Kwon of South Korea, a graduate student in epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health; Vanessa Moodley of South Africa, an undergraduate exchange student; and Ling-Yan Yang of China, a graduate student in psychological and quantitative foundations of education in the UI College of Education.

Winners were selected by a committee including Caryl Lyons, president of Friends of International Students; Michel Pontarelli, assistant director for career services at the Tippie College of Business and former OISS adviser; and Kelli Andresen, International Programs communications coordinator.

All of the essays are available on the OISS Web site at For more information on the essay contest, contact Scott King at or 319-335-0335.

The reception also honored winners of the International Photo Contest and the Outstanding Achievement Award.

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.

OISS is part of the University of Iowa International Programs, which enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Scott King, OISS, 319-335-0335,; Kelli Andresen, UI International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Lois J. Gray, 384-0077,; Writer: Cassandra Lalan