Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ich Bin Ein Berliner!

September 25th, 2015


In the words of JFK, soon I too will be commiserating alongside other acquainted European peers as I venture forth into the red taped lined world of international student admission in Deutschland.

It wasn’t long ago, that after dropping out of one of the world’s and certainly the United States’ most prestigious art school, that my 23 year old self decided to continue my education elsewhere; however, “Wo konnte ich gehen?” (where could I go ?)

As a privileged child, I’ve visited Europe with my family, more than once. Germany was the home country of my step father, so it was naturally the country we most frequented. As I grew older I began to take interest in modern German culture specifically in how they approached education. German men and women my age that I came across or got to know,  all seemed to display such remarkable intelligence and demonstrated  a natural sociable aptitude when it came to having a discussion (regardless of personal opinions). These interactions shocked me, for back home many of my peers, even those who were private schooled or cum-laude grads showed the complete opposite; or were completely inept to the art of discussion. Perhaps this could be blamed on the lack of interest on the subject that most of my peers in US seem to have when it comes to any subject not directly related to media supplied entertainment. Maybe this is not a disinterest but, just really an inability to combine or blend different ideas together during conversation. Usually when this problem arises, it prompts one word retorts, shrugging off a particular question or worse, the immediate loss of attention followed by a blank stare into the netherworld. This incapacity and lack of conversational skill may be due to another reason all together; being that the ability to converse is not one reinforced or mandated to any level or degree of significance throughout one’s education in the U.S, beyond basic collegiate graduate requirements per the major or avenue of study.  

It seems as though our German counter parts have been ingrained with this art of discussion. In Germany, the art of exchanging of ideas if you will has been preserved, supported and nurtured throughout the years of early childhood — university education. I became intrigued and concluded should I continue my schooling, that it take place in an environment founded on the basis of exchanging ideas, in all its forms. I mean, that is the basis of learning is it not?

After years of debating on which road to take and which study paths I should venture down, I settled on applying to a small university of fine arts in northern Germany. Now as many of you may know, that getting an education in Europe or acquiring healthcare is free right? Wrong. Educational institutions operated and overseen by the state or federal government in Germany, for the most part cost German nationals $0.00. However private schools, just as in the USA, have the right to charge students how they want to, so long as those prices fall under the strict regulations set in place by the German Federal Government. Luckily for me this fine art university, however miniscule its fame or how peacefully quiet the campus may be at any given time, is not a private but a public university (funded by the state). Check out this link for more information International Students in Germany (scroll down to #4).

During my initial research into the institution I was startled to discover that the price per semester for international students was under $200. I was astonished. Previously, here in the U.S. I started to pursue my education in the arts and not even 2 years into the university’s program I was already over $30,000 in debt. Seeing the cost of this tiny fine-arts school in Germany, you can imagine that I was quite cynical and I must have overlooked the fine print. To my amazement, there was no fine print! I was now entirely motivated to get the ball rolling and get a head start in the application process.

October 2014, I contacted the university and followed their online instructions for the application process. After a month and some weeks, post application submission and not hearing back from the school I sent an email to the head of international admissions office regarding confirmation of my application. Within a week I got a response and it was brought to my attention that the university did not offer application process so far in advanced. “What?” I exclaimed. I was amazed. For have you know, the higher-education system’s admission process in the United States is an arduous, pre-planned, year in advanced procedure filled with back and forth emails, letters and phone calls (often started during high school). I then entered into a more detailed dialogue with the international office and they further explained that they only accept applications and transcripts for admission two months prior to the beginning of the scheduled semester date. TWO MONTHS PRIOR! Are you joking!? When asked about my recent application submission, the university said that their online system did not have the 2015 school year application available as the Spring semester was too far off in the future.

Well now it’s September 2015, I sit here before you readers finishing this entry. I have my flight ticket to Germany, all of my educational documentation in order and quite the portfolio to boot, I can sincerely say I’m looking forward to applying this spring.

I will keep you posted as the process continues!


Clayton Johans – When Clayton is not at his desk drawing and painting, he assumes his alter ego as a Barbarian Philosopher who enjoys researching historical events, reading comic books, pumping iron and hiking the hills and valleys of southern California.

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5 Reasons Why International Credential Evaluation is Necessary

September 17th, 2015


Whether you represent a school, college, university, professional licensing board, employer, or any other entity engaged in the recruitment, placement, certification or the hiring of internationally-trained candidates, you know that educational systems and academic documents vary greatly by country. No two academic systems are alike and nothing can be taken on face value, even if an academic document “appears” to mirror a US college transcript. Academic institutions and professional groups that don’t have the expertise or knowledge-base to conduct foreign credential evaluations must not avoid this crucial step, no matter how qualified or appealing an international candidate’s portfolio may appear.
Here are 5 reasons why a foreign credential evaluation prepared by an independent credential evaluation service that is approved and endorsed by the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) will benefit you and your institution and the international candidate:

1. Authentication of Documents:

A credential evaluation will verify the authenticity of the academic documents with the issuing institution and compare it against archival documents. Such authentication will provide you with peace of mind that the academic documents are bona-fide and valid for processing.

2. Verification of English Translations:

Many times the academic documents are issued in a language other than English and are accompanied by English translations. A credential evaluation will verify the English translations to ensure for accuracy that dates, course titles, grades, names, and key words match those on the official academic document.

3. Biographical and Academic History Check:

The candidate’s academic history and biographical information will be compared with the academic documents presented. In addition to the applicant’s name, other biographical information like age will be checked to ensure that it corresponds reasonably to the education represented in the documents.

4. Foreign Academic Institution Status:

The credential evaluation determines the official status of the institution where the studies were completed by identifying how the institution is accredited and who recognizes its accreditation. If an institution is determined to not have the appropriate accreditation, the studies will not be evaluated in terms of those completed at regionally accredited U.S. institutions. If the institution is determined to be a Diploma Mill, then this information will be conveyed to the U.S. institutions for which the evaluation is intended.

5. Program Description:

a) Entrance Criteria – The credential evaluation determines the level of the academic or professional program represented by the documents submitted as either lower secondary, senior high school, post-secondary undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate. It will establish the minimum academic criteria for admission to the institution where the studies were completed before the U.S. educational equivalence is recommended. This is an important step in the evaluation process which will assist the U.S. institutions in their decision-making. For example, if it is determined that the international candidate’s academic achievements are comparable to US senior high school graduation, yet he/she has submitted an application for graduate (master’s degree) studies at the U.S. university, the admissions department will be able to properly advise the candidate of his/her eligibility for admission to another degree program at the undergraduate level instead.

b) Length of Study & Conversion of Instruction Hours to Credits – The credential evaluation will determine the required length of full-time study for the academic program evaluated in order to calculate the U.S. semester or quarter credits for post-secondary studies completed and if necessary, determine the level of post-secondary courses in terms of lower, upper division and graduate division.

c) Conversion of Grades into U.S. equivalent Grade – A document evaluation will calculate the grades or final examination results/marks reported on the academic documents into U.S. equivalent grades, and calculate the overall grade point average.

Due diligence in international admissions, professional certification, hiring and job placement of individuals educated and trained outside the U.S. is essential. Understanding international candidates’ capability and qualifications allows you to properly assess and integrate them into your scholastic, professional and work environment. By obtaining the expert assistance of an independent credential evaluation agency, U.S. academic institutions, professional licensing boards and public or private companies can protect themselves against fraud and misrepresentation in the international education arena.

(Note: Please refer to our previous blog “5 Things International Students Should Know About Credentials Evaluation”.)

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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5 Tips for Students Transferring between Colleges

September 11th, 2015


If you are considering to transfer from one U.S. college to another for reasons that may be due to a change in your academic major or financial situation, or that you prefer an institution that is a better fit for you, here a few tips to help you with your decision

1. Find out which schools have a transfer friendly policy:


Sometimes, transferring in mid-year can make you feel like an outsider. You need not feel so once you’ve done your research to find which schools have the most transfer students. U.S. News Education has a helpful list at this link: Most Transfer Students. You’ll see that transferring from one college to another is not so unique and many students do it along the course of their studies.

2. Have a plan and plan ahead


If you’re planning to transfer between colleges, especially if you’re transferring from a community college to a university, prepare yourself from the start. Meet with your academic advisers and professors and make sure that you are enrolling in courses that are transferrable to target four-year universities. You want to enroll in courses that are transferrable so you are not going to waste time and money.

3. Understanding Articulation Agreements


If for example you’re currently enrolled or planning to enroll in a community college, knowing what courses to take so they can be transferred to a four-year university is predicated on understanding articulation agreements between these institutions. In the U.S. some community college systems have articulation or prearranged admissions agreements with local four-year universities and identify which courses fall under this arrangement. It is important that you are aware of these articulation agreements and make sure that you have the approval of your community college advisors when selecting and enrolling in a course. You want your transition into the new college and the transfer of your hard-earned course credits to be as seamless as possible.

4. Living on Campus

Image: Brittany Hall, New York University

Once you’ve made the successful transfer and transitioned into the new college, it is a good idea to live on campus so you can become a part of the student community. It is best, if you can, to avoid being a commuter student and at least spend a semester or two living in a dorm on campus. This is one great way to avoid feeling like the outsider.

5. Become part of the new college campus community


If your new college to which you’ve transferred offers an orientation day or week, don’t miss it. This is a great opportunity for you to meet other new students and get to know the lay of the land. And, once you’ve settled into your new college campus life, get engaged and involved by selecting a few extra-curricular activities or joining student clubs. The benefits of this level of involvement not only enhance your experiences at the new college and look good on your resume when you graduate and looking to start a career.

By being prepared, you’ll prevent time consuming and costly surprises, and instead help make your transition as a transfer student less chaotic and more seamless.

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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What I Learned From Oliver Sacks (1933–2015)

September 3rd, 2015

Author and neurologist, Oliver Sacks. (Photo by Adam Scourfield/ABC News)

I was deeply saddened to learn that Oliver Sacks (b. 1933–2015) had succumbed to the cancer that he announced this past February. He was 82-years young.

The sheer number of obituaries penned over the past few days remembering this gifted author and neurologist for his immense contribution to the field made me recall how differently I learned to understand the situations of people suffering with neurological challenges.


I was a Los Angeles County Beach lifeguard from 1965–2000 and had many interesting experiences during that long period. I once suggested an apartment to a lifeguard colleague, who was looking for a place in Santa Monica. It was an upstairs unit of a four-plex that I had once lived in on Third Street, where a friend of mine, a law student, lived in the unit below. Unfortunately, the trouble began from the moment my lifeguard friend moved in. He’d scream out expletives at two, three or four o’clock in the morning, until finally my downstairs law student friend confronted him with a baseball bat, thinking these outbursts were willful. Unfortunately, most people back in the early 1970s didn’t know about Oliver Sacks’ writings on Tourette’s as a neurological syndrome. My lifeguard friend moved out shortly thereafter.

Much later, there was a sweet guy who attended the music salons in my former home in Venice. He always sat upstairs and would occasionally issue a loud salvo of profane words from his perch. After awhile, the class came to think nothing of it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that he had Tourettes as well—this was back in the early 1990s.

Oliver Sacks actually informed a good deal of what many of us know today about Tourette’s syndrome. Whereas people exhibiting symptoms are often regarded as pariahs, Sacks opened our eyes to the fact that such unbridled impulses of the afflicted can often be channeled into prized assets, in the form of preternatural bursts of creativity or heightened reflexes.

I appreciated Sacks’s love of music, which he expressed so movingly in his book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Like him, I am a musicophile or a mélomane, as it’s called in French. He loved the music of Mozart and was himself a superb pianist. Sacks wrote about other musicophiles as well as those on the other end of the spectrum, people with amusia, for whom the music of Mozart sounded cacophonous. He even went so far as to subject himself to a CAT scan, for the purpose of studying his own brain activity while listening to both classical music (he loved) and heavy metal (he hated). He was also intrigued by people–including accomplished musicians, classical players who, despite their grasp of music, could derive no emotion or pleasure from music.


Sacks showed us how music can reach the most severe dementia patients, and that music is hard-wired into the brain. And, like fellow author and researcher Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music) Sacks believed that music preceded speech in ancient man and helped create the brain development that made speech possible. In 2006, in a speech at Columbia University, Sacks stated “I think we are a an essentially, profoundly musical species”. Sacks’s studies on Alzheimer’s patients showed us the power that music can have. In the documentary film, Alive Inside, elderly patients frozen in a sort of catatonic state were suddenly awakened by the sound of musical memories.

Read more about Oliver Sacks in Michiko Kakutani’s eloquent New York Times tribute to him


Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons


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