The first time Jiahong “Ceci” Du found herself in Ames was just a couple of days before the start of her freshman year at Iowa State. Like many international students, Du had only seen pictures of Iowa State and Ames online before deciding to move half a world away, from Shenyang, China.
Though she spoke English and had done research, everything about Ames, Iowa, felt foreign.
“Without the help of your friends and family, you come here alone and you just feel isolated,” says Du. “Even though a lot of people kind of smile at you and want to help you, you feel like you never belong here.”
After a semester as a design student, Du realized that she had a passion for advertising and found a home in the Greenlee School. As life in Ames became more comfortable, she started working at the Iowa State Daily as a photographer and designer.
Getting involved outside of the classroom can be a hard sell for international students. “The idea of clubs isn’t something you run into, especially in Asia, because they’re so focused on their studies and grades,” says Jay Newell, associate professor and Du’s adviser.
For Du, extracurricular involvement helped her develop a deeper connection to Ames and find other professional interests, in photography and journalism.
Going into her final semesters at Iowa State, Du wanted to do something to help make other Chinese students’ transition to living in Ames easier.
With Chinese students making up just under half of the international student population at Iowa State, Du found an opportunity in the Iowa State Daily’s annual International Student Orientation Guide.
Du and Newell pitched the idea for a bilingual version of the guide to Laura Widmer, then CEO of the Daily, who was immediately on board.
> “From an educational standpoint, it’s really interesting what’s going on,” says Associate Professor Jay Newell. “These sorts of things make for a more welcoming environment for international students, but also help our U.S. students experience ways of understanding with diverse populations.”
With a green light, Du first approached the project like an advertising question—conducting market research through Chinese social media sites to find what information Chinese students planning to attend Iowa State wanted to know. The responses ran the gamut, from where to get a haircut or buy a car to how to get an internship or meet with an adviser.
Du worked to accommodate as many requests as possible, while drawing from her own experiences. “[The guide] is just the things you wish somebody could tell you when you go somewhere new,” says Du. “I wish I would have known all the things in my guide.”
Working throughout the summer, Du and other Daily staff members produced two publications in one. One half is written in English and features western-style layout and design. The other features the same content, which was translated into Mandarin Chinese by Greenlee graduate students, and an eastern-style design scheme.
“From an educational standpoint, it’s really interesting what’s going on,” Newell says. “These sorts of things make for a more welcoming environment for international students, but also help our U.S. students experience ways of understanding with diverse populations.”
The publication, a first of its kind from a college media outlet, is a great representation of Greenlee students’ service to the Iowa State and Ames community.