Category Archives: Human Interest

10 Fun Facts about Finland

October 11th, 2019

finland_1011

Not only has Finland been in the news recently, with its President visiting the US but the 2019 meeting of EAIE (European Association of International Educators) was also held last month in Helsinki, the country’s capital. We’ve decided to put the spotlight on Finland in this week’s blog post and share some fun facts about this Nordic country. We’ve also invited ACEI’s President and CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, who was in Helsinki for the EAIE conference to share her perspective.

1. Happiest Country in the World

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Image: REUTERS/Petr Josek

The latest World Economic Forum report ranks Finland as the happiest country in the world. Finland has climbed from number 5 to number 1.
Jasmin: “I can vouch for this ranking. During my recent visit to Helsinki where I was attending the EAIE conference, not once did I experience an unpleasant encounter with a Finnish person. Every person I met, whether at the hotel, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, shop keepers, and even locals, greeted me with smiles and genuine hospitality. I always felt welcomed. On my first evening in Helsinki, my hotel recommended my husband and I who was also traveling with me, to check out a restaurant known for its authentic Finnish cuisine. It was clearly a popular venue as there were quite a few people lined up ahead of us waiting for a table. As we inched our way closer to the host, a young man approached us and invited us to join him and his party rather than stand in line. We gladly accepted his invitation and joined his party which included a number of Finns and Italians. They were in Helsinki to attend the “No Labels, No Walls” event that weekend. We spoke at length with our new Finnish friends about life in Finland and they had nothing but positive things to say. They all agreed that in order to coexist as they did, some compromises had to be made, but overall they followed the Finnish ethos where taking care of one another is embraced as an important aspect of their social construct.”

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The top 20 happiest countries 2019 Image: World Happiness Report 2019

2. Minimum Wage and Average Salary

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The minimum wages in most professions in Finland is among the highest in the Eurozone. The average salary in Helsinki is around net € 2,500 euros per month. Although Helsinki has the highest salaries in Finland it also has the highest cost of living when it comes to property and rent prices. But, compared to its Nordic neighbors such as Sweden and Norway, its cost of living is considerably lower.

Jasmin: “When I asked my taxi driver if Uber (the ride sharing service) is popular in Helsinki, he said “no.” When I asked him why, he said that people in Finland make a good living thanks to the living wage and don’t need to have a second job.”

3. The Sami (Lapp) People

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Image: stock photo Google images

The first inhabitants of Finland were the Sami (Lapp) people who were there when the first Finnish speakers migrated in during the first millennium B.C. The Lapps moved north into the section that is today known as Lapland.

Jasmin: “I took a taxi from my hotel in the City Center of Helsinki to the convention center or locally known as Messukeskus. When I asked the driver if she was from Helsinki, she told me she was from Lapland. How great is that?! It’s not every day one meets someone claiming to be from this enchanting place where, as children, we were told Santa Claus lived!”

Spanning 30% of Finland’s land area, Lapland is home to just 3% of its population. Lapland’s far north is known as Sápmi, home of the Sámi, whose main communities are around Inari, Utsjoki and Hetta. Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, is the most popular gateway to the north.

Jasmin continues: “In the 15-minute drive to the convention center, my driver took me on a virtual journey of her idyllic birthplace. She spoke of the midnight sun, the Sámi peoples, the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and roaming reindeer, the magical snowy winters, the sense of space, big skies and pure clean air.”

4. Saunas: “The poor man’s pharmacy”

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Image: stock photo Google images

Finns are fanatic about their saunas. With a population of 5.4 million, Finland has over 3 million saunas. It is said that there are more saunas than cars in Finland. Dubbed the “poor man’s pharmacy,” the sauna is not a luxury but a substantial part of Finnish culture and national identity. The only Finnish word to make it to the English language is ‘sauna.’
Jasmin: “Yes, I did enjoy a few minutes of heat and serenity at the hotel’s sauna. We heard that even a Burger King in Helsinki has a sauna which gives a burger, fries with a side of sauna, a whole new meaning!”

5. Free Education

Finland offers free education at the elementary, secondary and even university levels. This free access is also offered to students from the EU/EES. It is no wonder that Finland is ranked number one as the happiest country in the world.
And one more thing, non-EU students can also benefit from free education if they take classes that are taught in Finnish or Swedish or complete doctoral studies in any language. Oh, by the way, in Finland, when someone earns this PhD, they receive a top hat and a sword!

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Image: stock photo Google images

6. First European Country to Give Women the Right to Vote

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Thirteen of the 19 women elected to Parliament in 1907. Photo: Helsiniki City Museum

In 1906, Finland became the first country in Europe that gave women from all levels of society the right to vote and stand for parliament. Finland had its first female prime minister (Anneli Jäätteenmäki) in April 2003 which made it the only country in Europe with both a female president (Tarja Halonen) and prime minister.

7. Prohibition and Consumption of Alcohol

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Image credit: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

Just like the U.S., Finland had its own temperance movement that led to the prohibition of alcohol from 1919-1932. Of course, this didn’t stop the Finns from making their own brew and households were known to have perfected moonshining. Smuggling of alcohol into the country was also par for the course. Today, you can only purchase beer and cider in supermarkets throughout Finland. Wine and other spirits can be purchased at state-sanctioned stores. In restaurants, if you order anything but beer by the glass you need to specify the size in terms of liters. There are several speakeasies in Helsinki.

Jasmin: “On a boat ride around the islands near Helsinki, the Captain told us the story of one famous smuggler who during WWII had turned to smuggling about 150 Jewish people from Nazi Germany to safety.”

8. Finnish Language is Unique

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Source: Pixabay

The Finnish language is part of the Finno-Ugric language group and is said to be similar to Estonian than the Scandinavian languages such as Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. It is not even an Indo-European language but belongs to the Uralic language family. Finnish uses gender-neutral words in their language.

Jasmin: “I made it a point to learn the 3 basic words of saying hello, goodbye and thank you in Finnish. The word for hello is hei or moi, and goodbye is hei hei or moi moi, and thank you is kiitos, though everyone we met in Helsinki was fluent in English and would respond with a pleasant smile when I’d say any of these words in Finnish.”

The Finns love their language so much that they celebrate it each year on the 9th of April. To learn more about this special day, click here

9. The Land of the Midnight Sun and Aurora Borealis

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Image: Stock photo Google images

A quarter of the country is in the Arctic Circle which puts Finland’s Lapland and other northern sections in what is known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun”. The sun in this area doesn’t set for 73 consecutive summer days annually while it doesn’t rise at all for 51 days during the winter (known as polar night). Except for the summer, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are seen regularly in every season in Lapland and other parts of Finland

Jasmin: “My taxi driver who was from Lapland said that she loved the long nights and long days. She said that to her these were what made her region so special and unique.”

10. General Country Facts

  • Total Population: 5.4 million
  • Capital: Helsinki
  • Land area: 338,424 km2
  • Government: Republic, parliamentary democracy
  • President: Sauli Niinistö
  • Primary minister: Juha Sipilä
  • Currency: Euro
  • Official language: Official languages are Finnish (spoken by 88.9%) and Swedish
  • (5.3%). Sami is also recognized as a regional language.
  • Official Website: Finland.fi
  • Member of EU: Yes.
  • Member of NATO: No

Source: https://www.swedishnomad.com/facts-about-finland/

Bonus Fun fact:

11. Least Corrupt and Most Transparent

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When it comes to the reporting of the news, Finland is by far the most honest and transparent. This is mostly due to its commitment to equal rights and emphasis on transparency. Finland’s press has been rated the freest one in the world. Transparency International, based in Berlin, has rated Finland since 1998 as the world’s least corrupt country as is its reporting of domestic and international news. If you’re looking at alternative fact-based non-partisan reporting of international news, best you turn to the Finnish press, such as Helsinki Times.


jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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20 Fun Facts About Estonia

October 4th, 2019

DSC01156, Song Fest Grounds, Tallinn, Estonia

You may be wondering why we chose Estonia for this blog. We don’t receive too many academic documents from Estonia for evaluation and have not had the opportunity to visit this country, at least not yet! But when we asked one of our staff to pick a country, he chose Estonia. So, here are some non-evaluation related facts you may enjoy about this country in northeastern Europe.

Let’s get started with “tere” which means Hello in Estonian!

Fact 1:
While the official capital of Estonia is Tallinn, the country is unique because it has more than one recognized capital. In fact, it has several capitals that change throughout the year. Tartu is established as the “cultural capital of Estonia”, while Parnu is known as the “summer capital”.

Fact 2:

Estonia was the first country in the world to use online political voting.

Fact 3:
Estonia has two Independence Days. It first achieved independence from the Soviet Union on February 24, 1918 and again on August 20, 1991 after 51 years of occupation. The second date is known as the “Restoration of Independence Day.”

Fact 4:
Estonian is the official language. Russian is also widely spoken.



Fact 5:

The Estonian currency was the Kroon, but they have joined the Euro-zone and Euro is their official currency now.

Fact 6:
Even though Estonia is considered to be a part of the Baltic countries; Latvia and Lithuania, there is no real political alliance.



Fact 7:

Estonia is named after the “Ests” who inhabited the region in the first Century AD.

Fact 8:

Estonia is the least religious country in the world with only 14% of the population claiming any religious beliefs.

Fact 9:
Almost 50% of Estonia is covered by forest.

Fact 10:
Estonia has a population of 1.3 million and one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe.

Fact 11:
Estonia has the highest number of meteorite craters per land area in the world.

Fact 12:
Estonia is the homeland of Skype, Hotmail and KaZaA.

Fact 13:
All Estonian schools are connected to the Internet.

Fact 14:
Chess Grandmaster Paul Keres was born in Estonia. When he died in 1975, over 100,000 people attended his funeral (10% of the country’s entire population).

Fact 15:
Out of the nearly 200 countries in the world, Estonia ranks in the second place with a literacy rate of 99.8%.

Fact 16:
In 1994, Estonia became the first country to institute the flat income tax.

Fact 17:
They have the biggest collection of folk songs in the world with written records of 133,000 folk songs.

Fact 18:
The Estonians invented Kiiking, which is considered a sport. It involves fastening yourself to an enormous standing steal swing (kiik means swing in Estonian) which has a full 360 degrees of rotation to it. To swing a kiiker the contestant must pump by squatting and standing up on the swing. The swing gains momentum taking the person in full circle by his skillful pumping.

Fact 19:
Estonia produces quality vodka and boasts Viru Valge and Saaremaa as its most popular brands.

Fact 20:
And, in case you are thinking of relocating, Estonia doesn’t accept dual citizenship.

Hope you enjoyed this. Head aega! (That’s “goodbye” in Estonian.)


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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 www.acei-global.org.

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“In the war against fake news “white privilege” is losing.

September 20th, 2019

white_privelege

Some time ago, a friend replied to one of my Facebook posts where I had shared an article on the college admission scandal. My friend had simply written “white privilege.” In response, another friend wrote that she was “so sick of white privileged (sic) being thrown around.” I realized that she was correct in this case, in that the article didn’t really have much to do with white privilege. However, after a few more responses from her it quickly became clear to me that she didn’t understand what the term meant. She talked about how her father came as an immigrant and made his way to success. The fact that she wanted to make it clear that he had earned his money cemented in my mind, that she really didn’t understand what “white privilege” meant.

I decided to find the best definition I could, so I returned to McIntosh’s 1989 seminal article “White Privilege, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” then wrote my own Facebook-length precis. I was certain that once she understood the concept better, she would change her opinion. She did not. In fact, she insisted that that not all white people were rich, which made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t open to considering that this shameful sounding phrase could mean anything other than that white people were successful just because they were white. In fact, the concept of “white privilege” has little to do with money and success but more to do with the opportunities afforded white people just because they aren’t people of color (which can lead to money and success).

There’s a house in my neighborhood which I pass almost daily. Posted on the front is a hand-written sign that reads “All lives are equal therefore all lives matter.” Next to it a confederate flag with a middle finger sticking up in the center, proudly hangs. Each time I pass I am reminded of all the slogans various communities have come up with to try to gain acceptance and or understanding of their plight.

Black lives matter

Me too

Safe space signs

The rainbow pride flag

Diversity and Inclusion

And then I think of the backlash to all of these movements. I was recently staying at an Airbnb and was talking to the host, who wanted to joke about his “man boobs” but told me he felt he no longer could “because of that ridiculous Me Too movement.” Another example of a lack of understanding of the problem.

I recently saw another sign in a yard that read “we support our police. They work every day to save our lives.” I agree but I can’t help thinking this is the backlash against Black Lives Matter, which never meant to say that police lives didn’t

As a lifelong student of racism, homophobia, sexism, let’s just say all the isms; I am constantly in dialogue with people of all colors on issues of race and more so now that I work in diversity and inclusion. So, in an attempt to simplify the messages, I came up with the following:

White privilege ≠ White shame

Black Lives Matter ≠ White and Blue lives don’t matter

Safe space ≠ Coddling

Me too ≠ you can’t flirt with women or ask them out on a date anymore

Diversity and Inclusion ≠ you have to like all cultures

Though with the last one, I must add that I agree with Trevor Noah who, in his Netflix show, Son of Patricia said, “There should be a rule in America. You can hate immigrants all you want but if you do, you don’t get to eat their food.”

Helpful links:
https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf
https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/trevor-noah-netflix-special-son-of-patricia-best-jokes.html

Reading List:
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo

Informative Podcasts:
“1619” The New York Times
“Seeing White,” Scene on Radio


k_hylen
Kathleen Hylen, M.A. International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Graduated with honors from UC, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Community Studies, focus on anti-bias. Kathleen is also a member of ACEI’s Professional Consultancy Team. Her focus is on helping institutions and organizations develop and/or bolster their diversity and inclusion strategies. For more information, please contact ACEI at acei@acei-global.org.

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8 Reasons Why India Will Be The Next Economic Opportunity for the Education Industry

August 16th, 2019

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India is posed to be the next source for economic opportunity for the education industry.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. With a population of over 1.3 billion, about half are less than 20 years old.
  2. In 2018, India’s education sector generated US$ 91.7 billion in revenues (source: India Brand Equity Foundation)
  3. Projected revenues for 2019: US$ 101.1 billion (source: India Brand Equity Foundation)
  4. Percentage of India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education in 2016-17: 25.2% (source: All India Higher Education Survey, Union Human Resource Development)
  5. Technology, such as the rise of affordable internet access, smartphone penetration, the use of digital solutions for education, recorded classroom videos, live-streamed instructions, e-books, online tests, and distance learning providing access to millions, the entry of Internet of Things (IoT) are among the many technological solutions empowering the education space.
  6. Rising disposable income helping parents to invest in edtech solutions to enhance their children’s learning experience.
  7. The Indian government has been supporting start-ups and education sector in the past 5-6 years. Campaigns like UDAAN (by CBSE), PRAGATI (by AICTE) and Skill India (by the Ministry of Human Resource Development) are all addressing aspects of education, from the gender gap, promotion of vocational education, and expanding access to schools and college for millions of students.
  8. The government’s policies are helping industry-academic partnerships to make education more relevant to the employment market and economy.

For more information, click here


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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 www.acei-global.org.

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Our Planet: 911 Emergency

July 19th, 2019

On July 10, 2019, a network representing more than “7,000 higher and further education institutions from six continents have announced that they are declaring a ‘climate emergency’, and agreed to undertake a three-point plan to address the crisis through their work with students.”  As the letter from the representatives of the 7,000 plus institutions states: “The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change. We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.”

In this week’s blog, we share this insightful piece by our guest blogger, Tom Schnabel who writes about the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the music it inspired about our blue planet called Earth.  For, as Tom mentions in his piece, it was the “magnificent sight of our planet earth seen from the moon as a small blue ball (that) provided a spark in the environmental movement.” As those involved in international education, let’s work together to bring awareness to the plight of our planet, the well being of its inhabitants, and the future we would like to leave behind for generations to come.

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The Apollo 11 lunar lander Eagle returning to the Columbia command module for the journey back to Earth. Photo: NASA


The Apollo 11 moon landing that took place on July 20, 1969, represented a staggering achievement for the human race. The desire to explore outside the earth’s boundaries reached back to Mesopotamia, ancient Babylon and Persia, also with Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, and later with cosmologists Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, and Galileo’s observations. While Einsteinian physics had unlocked more information about the universe, nobody ever viewed the earth from the moon until 1969.

President Kennedy promised in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and he put forward the resources to make it happen. The Apollo space capsule and the computer systems of Mission Control in Houston are primitive by today’s standards, but the astronauts made the voyage there and back in eight days. Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun said of the moon landing, “What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down on the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man. For the first time, life will leave its planetary cradle, and the ultimate destiny of man will no longer be confined to these familiar continents that we have known so long.”

Over the past fifty years since the landing, many musicians have found inspiration in the historic moment and responded in song. Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso was in a sweltering Brazilian jail when his wife handed him a newspaper with a picture of a little blue planet as seen from the moon. He was so moved by it that he later wrote the song “Terra” (“Earth”). Read the English translation of the lyrics here.

Brian Eno composed an ethereal, floating suite called Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks for the documentary film For All Mankind, which celebrates the earth’s beauty and the Apollo space program. An expanded edition of the soundtrack with 11 new tracks will be released on July 19 in celebration of the 50thanniversary of the landing. You can listen to the original remarkable sonic journey in its entirety below:

The electronic artist Michael Adam Kandel, aka Tranquility Bass, took his stage name from the Tranquility Base landing site in the Sea of Tranquility, the area of the moon where the Apollo 11 crew touched down. I’ve always liked his catchy tune called “Cantamilla.”

I learned from this past Sunday’s New York Times Apollo 11 special section that Duke Ellington composed and performed the song “Moon Maiden” for the event.

There have been countless tributes to this historic achievement over the years, some listed here in this New York Times article. I highly recommend the 2019 documentary Apollo 11, which tells the story with previously unseen footage from the development to the actual landing. You might also check out an interesting show called Apollo 11: the Immersive Live Show, playing at the Rose Bowl through August 11.

Fifty years ago, the magnificent sight of our planet earth seen from the moon as a small blue ball provided a spark in the environmental movement. This anniversary seems all the more poignant today as governments and climate-change deniers roll back environmental protections and cut down huge swaths of rain forests to plant soybean and palm oil trees. It is a dire situation–global warming will increase to the point where life as we know could be seriously threatened by 2050. One can only hope that this anniversary will serve as a reminder of what’s at stake back home on earth, even as we seek to return to the moon and continue to explore beyond our solar system.

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toms

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
www.tomschnabel.com

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USA: A Potpourri of Accents, Cultures, Languages, and More

June 21st, 2019

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Image credit: Korean-Born Artist Sungho Choi explores the inherent cultural diversity of the United States in this cermaic on wood installation titled “My America.”

In this week’s blog we would like to share a few interactive maps produced by The Business Insider that show immigration patterns in the U.S. and a few others that show the diversity of cultures and different languages spoken, other than English and Spanish. You may be surprised to find for example that the most common language spoken in California besides English, is not Spanish, but Tagalog. A recent report in The Washington Post shows that 20% of adults living in our nation’s capital can’t read or write. We’re also sharing a link to an interactive map that shows the States in the U.S. with the least and most educated population.

We hope you’ll find these maps informative and mind-opening as we did:

History of Immigration to the U.S.
VIDEO https://www.businessinsider.com/animated-map-shows-history-immigration-us-america-2015-9

The Most and Least Educated States in the U.S.
VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npSGoesVK9E&fbclid=IwAR29KN-w1HtKw61ccNa4pjvd49I2sagKiNHgg73pY3mjwxYhlPgyhw530OA

The Most Commonly Spoken Languages in the U.S. besides English and Spanish
VIDEO https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-the-most-common-language-in-every-state-map-2019-6?fbclid=IwAR26oJOru4_WJM1wA1JDNTW5dKC0puzydOc6AI-B3MAvNpQQ0aCrPBEulIo

The Origin of American Accents Across the U.S.
VIDEO https://www.businessinsider.com/animated-map-where-american-accents-come-from-2018-5

Source credit: The Business Insider www.businessinsider.com


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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 www.acei-global.org.

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Albright & Powell: Two Former Secretaries of State in Conversation

International Students, Immigration, Diplomacy

May 31st, 2019

ap053119

This year’s NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo was held in Washington, DC and wrapped up on May 31st. The highlight of my 2 ½ day attendance besides the fruitful meetings with colleagues and strengthening partnerships with client institutions and organizations was the opening plenary that included two former U.S. Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright and General Colin Powell which was moderated by Dr. Esther Brimmer, Executive Director & CEO of NAFSA.

The following are excerpts of their discussion on international education, immigration policy, and diplomacy which I’ve paraphrased to the best of my ability based on notes I was able to take:

On International Students:

Secretary Albright stressed that we need to have an understanding of international education and the importance of students from U.S. going abroad and international students coming to study in the U.S.  As a professor at Georgetown University she knows how dire the situation is as the number of international students coming to study in the U.S. has been declining. She sees this as a great loss to U.S. higher education and U.S. diplomatic relations with allies and adversaries.

On the Iron Curtain and the Cold War:

General Powell said when he joined the military 60 years ago, the military had a clear understanding of its mission. His first assignment was to stand guard behind the Iron Curtain. He said the rules were clear. Stopping the Russians was the mission. Both the Soviet Union and the United States knew that they had the capacity to destroy each other, and knew each other’s capabilities. This knowledge had a stabilizing influence. Both countries looked to the Third World and competed for it.  But the Soviet Union started to show cracks. Then the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day 1991.  “The world as we had known it and the sense of anticipated destruction we’d been preparing for went away,” he said. The President at the time, George Herbert Bush, saw this as a brand new world, but one thing became clear was that throughout the Cold War years the U.S. knew its enemies and was prepared to take them down and defend those western European nations and any one who wished to join the American theory of democracy, equal rights and open economic policy. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union the lid on the proverbial boiling pot came off and what was inside was a scorching stew of sectarianism, different economic positions, and people who still wanted to be autocrats. And, these beliefs were spreading around the world. The U.S. and its allies may have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union but they had never anticipated the sectarian differences and rise of autocratic political systems in countries like Poland, Hungary, Turkey, and Egypt.

On Immigration and Diversity:

General Powell continued by saying that immigration, this wonderful national identity that America upheld for many years, is now becoming a problem in Europe because they did not prepare for it well and have not done a good job in managing it. And now it has hit the U.S. He urged that the U.S. must sort out what its policy should be with respect to immigration and international students. He warned that the U.S. is on the brink of turning into a country that has become more autocratic than any time in his life time. “We have a President who thinks he knows what he is doing,” he said. General Powell was chagrined by the lack of dialogue between the two political parties. He recalled that during his and Ms. Albright’s respective tenures as Secretary of State, they were able to resolve problems by having members of both political parties communicating with each other. “The Republican party is solidly behind the president no matter what he says or does and the Democrats are trying to figure out what they’re going to do,” he continued.  “Immigration has been the life and soul of America. It is who we are,” he added.  General Powell spoke of his parents who came from Jamaica to America on the banana board in 1920’s. His parents met in New York, married, and led a comfortable life. “I grew up in a diverse multi ethnic neighborhood. Born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx, called Fort Apache. It was called a bad neighborhood, but I loved it. I met every ethnicity of the world in that city block. I loved it.  I learned how to live with people who weren’t just like me, except they were just like me. We are human beings, we are Americans,” he continued.  He emphasized the importance of developing a solid immigration policy one that doesn’t make it difficult for young people to come here to study and doesn’t make it even more difficult for them to stay if they’ve succeeded in getting a solid education.  He feared that these young people’s opinion of the U.S., “once the crown jewel of the world,” will not be looked at the same way again. He said that “this image has been damaged but that America is still a country you can believe in, but that we need to sort ourselves out. It’s not about Make America Great Again, America never stopped being great.”

On Technology and Globalization:

Secretary Albright continued with General Powell’s sentiments and said that the world is counting on a U.S. that demonstrates “normal reactions to the problems going on,” but that is not what the U.S. is currently doing. She spoke about technology, both its positive influences as well as how disruptive it can be.  She said there are two megatrends that we are witnessing that have both positive and negative results. The first megatrend is ‘globalization’ and most of us have benefited from it in one form or another and most of it are the students who were able to travel from their country to another to study and saw themselves as a global citizen. “Being a global citizen is not an insult. But there is a downside to it. Globalization is faceless. People want an identity. We want to know who we are and where we come from.  But if my identity hates your identity, we end up with hyper-nationalism. Which is very dangerous and that is the downsize of globalization,” she said. Another megatrend is ‘technology’ which has great benefits, and she used the example of a Kenyan woman farmer who no longer needed to walk for miles to pay her bills and can do so now by using her mobile phone and even get an education online, or start her own business.  But the negative part of technology is that it “disarticulates voices.” She referred to the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 that was part of the Arab Spring movement, where people in Egypt in January 2011 were summoned to Tahrir Square by Social Media. But once the people gathered at the Square they had no sense of what their organizational system was going to be once they had overthrown President Hosni Mubarak. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood was organized and had been organized for many years. In her opinion, the November 2011 elections in Egypt following uprising were held too soon and this is why the Muslim Brotherhood was able to win the election which caused more disruptions since it wasn’t what the people who had gathered in Tahrir Square had wanted. But the continuous disorganization made it unbearable for the merchants and shopkeepers who

were trying to make a living in the marketplace in a city that was riddled with chaos and disorder. They wanted order which led to Egypt having a military government. She sees what happened in Egypt as an example of why people, during periods of rapid change and disorder, call on autocratic leaders.  She quoted a Silicon Valley individual whose name she had forgotten as having said the following appropriate statement: “People are talking to their governments on 21st century technology, the governments are listening to them on 20th century technology, and are providing 19th century responses.”

On World History, Geography and Culture

Secretary Albright then spoke of the importance of learning and understanding the geography, history and culture of countries in order to help share cultural policy. She said she is known as “multilateral Madeleine,” and that Americans don’t like the word multilateralism that it has “too many syllables and ends with an “ism.” She regards international education and cultural diplomacy and learning about the other as the ultimate aspect of partnership. “We need to understand where we come from and none of that will happen if we decide to see ourselves as victims,” she added.

On Post 9/11 Immigration Policies:

General Powell recalled that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. reacted by shutting down the flow of refugees and enforcing stricter visa regulations on international students. No sooner had these regulations been enforced that he began receiving angry calls from university presidents who implored the State Department to ease up on the student visas.  They argued that international students were financially beneficial to U.S. institutions of higher education and helped keep their institutions operational. He said today China has about 400,000 students studying in the U.S. and the current Administration is accusing Chinese students as spying for their government as an excuse to make visa requirements more difficult. General Powell quipped that the U.S. need not worry about Chinese students spying as “there are spies amongst us here.” He blamed TV news and social media as exaggerating events to scare the American people so much so that we cannot have rational intelligent conversations. “They (N. Korea, Iran, China, Russia) are not enemies, but our adversaries. If N. Korea has a nuclear weapon, it wouldn’t use it because it would be assisted suicide. If they were to drop a bomb on a U.S. city, the U.S. would in turn annihilate them,” he said. He found it odd that the current Administration is arguing that Iran is going to build nuclear weapons when this issue was taken care of in the Nuclear Agreement of 2015 which stopped them from further developing their centrifuges. He did not view Russia as a military threat because “it lacks the economic strength to back it up.” As for China, he found this Administration’s fear tactics concerning China baseless in that China is already defeating the U.S. economically and doing so very well. He asked: “Why would they (China) want to attack us, when they have us buying the stuff they make?”

 On Diplomacy:

Secretary Albright stressed the importance of diplomacy but said that “diplomacy means having people who are diplomats and allocating resources to fund the diplomats” and the need to have a State Department that is properly staffed with appointed Ambassadors at their posts in countries around the world. She also stated that the foreign students who come and study here build a network and when they graduate they return home and hold positions in the private or public sector. Some run for political office and some get appointed to be ambassadors of their own countries. She shared that the current Japanese Foreign Minister was her student at the Modern Foreign Government course she teaches. “This is how you build diplomatic relations. The people that you meet at school are people who are going to show up again. It’s an automatic network. Diplomacy works, if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be achieved more easily if there is a basis of understanding of each other’s cultures,” she said. “ One could prove the importance of international education by the mere fact that it works. It helps create friendships,” she emphasized.

General Powell recalled that at every post he had held, one thing he learned that has proven effective is the ability to listen to people and talk to people, and not shout at them.  He also mentioned that today, at City College of New York Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the institution he had attended as a young adult, 90% of the student body is a minority and 80% were born in another country. “They are going to be great Americans. This is who we are and this is what makes us great,” he said.

On Immigration (Reminder why America is the Land of Immigrants):

Secretary Albright said that she and her parents came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in 1948, Her father had been a Czechoslovak diplomat and she remembers him saying that during WII when they had sought refuge in other countries, people would say “we’re so sorry your country has been taken on by Hitler, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when are you going home?” When she and her family came to the U.S. after the communists took over Czechoslovakia, people would say, “we’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when will you become a citizen?”  That is what made America different from other countries and she felt that this has been forgotten by many Americans. She saw the anti-immigration sentiments of the past two years to America’s detriment. She said that one of her favorite things to do is give people their naturalization certificates. The first time she did it was on July 4, 2000 at Monticello. She overheard one person say: “Can you believe it…I just received my naturalization certificate from the Secretary of State and I’m a refugee!” She went up to him and said: “Can you believe the Secretary of State is a refugee?” She added, “We are great, we don’t need to be great again, we just need someone who understands this about America.”


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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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