International spouses discover Ames: City, ISU groups help new Ames residents adapt


Kyle Schlichting/Iowa State Daily

Barbara Gwiasda, far left, stretches with other women in the Engaging International Students meeting Sept. 16. The meeting, which took place in the Cardinal Room of the Memorial Union, focused on introducing international spouses to Recreational Services, CyRide and other services that are provided in the Ames community.

Molly Willson

Spouses of international students at Iowa State face the challenges of a new country and new culture. Engaging International Spouses, a campus program, helps those spouses learn about Ames.

On Sept. 16, the program hosted a welcome event to usher new spouses of students into Ames. The event took place in the Cardinal Room of the Memorial Union. Fifteen new spouses and five returning spouses were in attendance. The event had a number of groups from the community and campus that came and talked about the services they can offer these spouses.

“This program is basically for the international spouses of students at the university who are new to Ames this fall,” said Manasi Ambulkar, executive global outreach coordidinator. “We make sure they get assimilated with the life of Ames and in order to make their lives easier, we conduct a welcome event for them and we introduce … different communities of Ames.”

Seventeen different organizations presented at the event, including the Ames Public Library, CyRide, the Story County transportation department, Recreation Services and the English Orientation Program.

These programs have focused on making these international spouses a part of the community since 2006. They learn many day-to-day activities through the program. This includes learning the bus system, getting a drivers’ licenses, opening library accounts, joining the gym and learning English.

Many of the international students’ spouses become ISU students themselves because they become more comfortable with Ames and want to learn more, said Meher Vani Bojja, co-board president.

“Seventy-five percent of spouses become students,” Bojja said. “I’ve seen many spouses who are potential students. And they become students, they get their degree, they go to jobs. It’s very nice to see that.”

The program helped more than 20 spouses last year alone, Ambulkar said.

“We help them to develop professionally as well as personally,” Ambulkar said. “They also make a lot of friends here.”

Theses international students and spouses come from countries such as Bangladesh, India, China, Iran and Uzbekistan.

“I have busy life in Ames, because I know many interesting things to do from this program,” said Gulnora Tanata of Uzbekistan, who has been in Ames for two and a half years. “I attend meetings of this program and international women’s club, and yoga class and dancing class. I am very happy in Ames.”

As international spouses learn more, they can begin to become part of the Ames community. Other members of the program play a large part in making these new members welcome.

“The best part of this program is, as spouses, we get … the same thing you have gathered: the experience,” Bojja said. “You give it to the new spouses so they don’t feel foreign here.”

Engaging International Students has begun the year with many new members of Ames that for whom it hopes to create a community and support system.

“We try to show how similar we are, not different,” Bojja said.