Category Archives: Travel

COVID-19 Survey Reports: Impact on International Students

A recent survey conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley,  the findings of which were published on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, “The coronavirus pandemic that shut down university campuses across the globe this spring has heightened concerns among many international students enrolled in United States institutions regarding their personal safety.”

Participants in the survey include 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students at five public research universities in the United States. Of those surveyed, 77% have remained in the U.S. during the COVID-19 global pandemic, while the others have returned to their home countries.

Here are key highlights from this survey:

  • Overall, international graduate and professional students were more likely than undergraduates to acknowledge worries.
  • Maintaining good health was cited as a top priority for two-thirds of graduate and professional students and more than half of international undergraduates
  • Managing immigration status and visas was another concern as cited by 55% of graduate students and 44% of undergraduates.
  • Having adequate financial support was a concern shared by almost half (49%) of graduate students and 36% of undergraduate
  • Understanding US medical insurance and obtaining health services was a concern shared by 53% of international graduate students and 35% of undergraduates.
  • Travel restrictions were of concern to 61% of graduate and professional students versus 45% of undergraduates.
  • More than half (55%) of international graduate students and 43% of undergraduates said instances of xenophobia had affected their mental health.
  • 30% of international undergraduates and 29$ of graduate students said they had experienced offensive behavior that affected their relationship with their US peers or friends
  • 17% of international undergraduates and 22% of graduate studies said they the offensive behavior they experienced affected their academic or professional performance
  • 13% of international undergraduate and 18% of graduates said these negative experiences were more likely to not complete their degree program.
  • 54% of international undergraduates and 56% of graduates expressed a lack of motivation as an obstacle to adjust to online instruction
  • 44% of international undergraduate and 55 % of graduates cited the absence of interacting with other students as a concern
  • Approximately four in ten international undergraduates who left the U.S. said they were unable to attend online classes mostly because of time zone differences.

As the policy brief of the survey said: “We must recognize the toll that instances of xenophobia, harassment and discrimination have on international students. The effects bleed over into international students’ feelings of safety, their mental health and their relationships with US peers or friends.”

Sources:

SERU COVID-19 Survey Policy Briefs

University World News

Inside Higher Education

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Dispatches from Arizona during the Time of COVID-19

Written by: Laura Sippel

As I write this in my home office in Arizona, there are news reports that Arizona is the second highest state to have the most spikes in COVID-19 cases in a single day. My husband and I have been self-quarantining ourselves since March. As my profession is marketing for expert organizations related to credential evaluation and applied comparative education research, these have been very trying times.

According to NBC News, “Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona have hit record numbers as cases continue to surge in states in the South and the West, overwhelming medical professionals.” Arizona reported a record high of 3,591 new cases Tuesday, June 23, 2020 – with nearly 60,000 known cases in the state overall.  Some of the people hit hard by the pandemic are in rural areas.

11% of the White Mountain Apache Tribe population in Pinetop, just north of downtown Phoenix, have tested positive for COVID-19. According to AZ Family News, the number of cases per capita is now outpacing the sprawling Navajo Nation, which has been a COVID-19 hot spot.

The Navajo Department of Health reports 7,045 cases out of a population of approximately 173,000, according to 2010 Census data. The White Mountain Apache tribal community will go on a 57-hour lockdown starting June 26, 2020, followed by a shelter-in-place order. Tribal leaders are also prepared to use the police and the courts to force people into quarantine. The council approved converting part of the Hon-Dah casino-hotel in Pinetop into a site for both voluntary and involuntary quarantine.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged people to continue to physically distance and wear masks when they could not stay home if they were sick. He acknowledged the rise in cases, but said there had also been an increase in testing. “We’ve increased testing in Arizona 600 percent since April 15, we’ve more than doubled testing since we lifted the stay-at-home order, so we’re going to continue the focus there,” he said. “But we’re also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”

It has certainly been some challenging times and I’ve been searching for a way to cope and have found it in my international higher education community.

Today I attended the fourth session of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) Mindful Minutes with ACEI – Safe Space, Virtual Place. ACEI President and CEO, Mrs. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert said, “ACEI’s Mindful Minutes provides a moment of rest and refueling in these times of upheaval. In today’s session, we utilized the mind-body connection to foster personal stability. Practicing mindfulness in community, we interact with care for connection. This session was geared toward helping us all meet this moment with inner courage.”

ACEI’s guest speaker is Abby Wills who is an educator with an MA in Human Development. Abby has over twenty years of experience in integrating mindful practices for social emotional health into a wide diversity of school settings through direct service to learners and educators throughout Los Angeles and internationally.

These sessions focus on our mental health during the challenges and uncertainties of these times which can be overwhelming. Jasmin continued, “self-care is crucial right now. To effectively navigate our way through the unknown, we need to first take care of our own well-being, before we can help our loved ones, co-workers, students, applicants.”

As a community, we are directly addressing the changes and gaining an understanding of how individuals and institutions are managing change in higher education. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have worked diligently and creatively to bring students back to the United States to complete their academic programs online. Professionals are banding together to provide roundtable discussions and sessions on international policy issues, international credential document fraud, updating online resources for admissions, how to think differently during a time of crisis, sustainable online databases available and how to use them, and much more.

We are also learning how to adapt to a virtual world. While virtual education abroad may not substitute a direct experience abroad, it may be increasingly relied upon to engage students for effective education abroad programming. Our professional organizations are providing excellent up-to-date travel information, while others have kept us informed of the endless changing immigration policies.

Our profession has addressed our need for a solid, steady and predictable world during these uncertain times. By collaborating closely with colleagues, education abroad program providers, and international university partners; organizations and institutions are adapting academic standards and set practices to accommodate changes.

According to Inside Higher Education, members of the higher education community are supporting front-line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. “Whether it’s repurposing university-owned equipment to decontaminate N95 masks, mixing hand sanitizer in chemistry labs for use by hospitals, collecting supplies of personal protective equipment — of which there is a critical national shortage — or babysitting health-care workers’ children, professionals in higher education and the students they serve have found all kinds of ways to help.”

Everyone goes into this field wanting to help others.

Abby said today’s Mindful Minutes with ACEI, “being mindful is simple, but it’s not easy. None of us are alone in this experience. Keep each other in mind and heart.”

I am so very grateful for our community. Be safe and be well.

P.S. If interested, you can listen to the recordings of ACEI’s Mindful Minutes Sessions by clicking here and scrolling down to “Presentations.” You won’t be disappointed!

Laura Sippel is President of Laura Sippel Dynamic Consulting. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing in higher education. She is the Director of Marketing and Communication for The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) and is a member of ACEI’s Global Consulting Group www.acei-global-consulting.org.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Sino-U.S. Relations and its Impact on Chinese Students

About 400,000 Chinese students were studying in the U.S. as of April 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the country and the globe to a halt.  With the closing of schools and universities, Chinese students began making plans to return home during the coronavirus pandemic. The virus alone cannot be blamed as the only source for the exodus of the Chinese students from the US. There’s also a concerted effort by the U.S. government to deter Chinese students from coming to America to study. Every day we receive news of yet another obstacle.

No need to elaborate. The links shown below will direct you to articles discussing the latest actions taken against students from China.

1. Suspension of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States. To read more, click here

2. Proposed legislation that would bar Chinese students from pursuing graduate studies in STEM. To read more, click here

3. U.S. cancels visas to students with ties to universities connected to Chinese military, To read more, click here

4. The writing was on the wall. Refer to the talk given by Assistant Secretary of State, Mary Royce at the 2019 Education USA Forum in Washington, DC. Ms.   Royce painted a disturbing picture of Chinese students studying at U.S. institutions. Her message was less of a message of welcome but a warning. To read more, click here

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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8 Benefits to Virtual Fairs

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

 

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International Students and COVID-19

Written by: Fazela Haniff

In August 2006, I was elected the first woman president of the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA). It was the beginning of a love affair with the internationalization of higher education that would never leave me. Even today, I am not even working in the sector; I am always drawn to the work that is done to keep minds open with a diversity and inclusion lens.

I recently reconnected with a colleague who I met during my presidency at a NAFSA conference, Laura Sippel, amid the COVID-19 posts on LinkedIn. It took only a few chat exchanges to spark all the things on my mind, especially about international students at risk, as I had been posting several issues under the hashtag #HumanityAtRisk. Humanity at risk is what I am concerned about, and for international students, those from financially and politically challenging environments are at higher risks.

Concurrent to my presidency at IEASA, I was also the director of the Wits International Office at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The international student population at Wits was around 3,000 students. A small percentage was from North America and Europe, but it was significant to foster deep collaboration and partnerships. One, in particular, was the development of a multidisciplinary, international human rights undergraduate credit-bearing program. The more substantial percentage was from other African countries, only a small portion are supported by their governments or sponsorships, which were often the bare essentials. The remainder were students who had gotten there on their dime or by family support.

Most of these students survived by pooling their resources to live together, sometimes up to 4-6 people are sharing a small living space. These are the students I am thinking about in this COVID-19 environment. I am sure that the situation at Wits (2006-2011) is no different from campuses around the world. Also, in the North American and European institutions, these students are people of colour. Not too long ago, the targets were Arab Americans, and Arab/Muslim students were on the attack. Now it is Chinese/Asian students. There is a cocktail of brewing discriminatory issues that go along with them, international students and us, local students, politics and the financial situation. Putting this all together in the COVID-19 position is more frightening for the international student population. How can they get the right help for any particular problem, financial, discrimination, health, abuse and stress? Most offices are working off-site remotely. While all institutions are trying to respond to the service needs of their general student population, COVID-19 is adding more barriers to international students.

In South Africa, international students face significant challenges. The housing situation in 2020 is unlikely any different from that that McGregor mentioned in 2014, “Many landlords require them to pay the entire year’s worth of rent in advance. There are medical insurance costs. This is an enormous burden for international students financially, particularly those from less developed countries. International students in universities are still fairly new, and the demand is outpacing the resources that are being allocated. Lack of accommodation is by far the greatest challenge.” It is however a common issue for all students in Sub-Sahara Africa. While data is scarce, according to Samia Chasi of IEASA, “Three days earlier, a local newspaper reported that an estimated 5,382 international students were stranded in university accommodation across the country. Regardless of where they are stranded, these students have required dedicated assistance from often overworked and under-resourced internationalisation professionals at host and home institutions, in collaboration with relevant ministries and diplomatic missions.” She further indicated that COVID-19 is not an equalizing force, as, “Its impact is felt differently in different contexts, with underprivileged individuals and institutions finding themselves on the receiving end of the digital divide.

In Canada, there are different support in different provinces and universities; however, there is a sense of no coordinated effort from a federal level. According to Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed, international students commissioner at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), “There is no clear direction of health institutions that are protecting international students.” The organization (Students International) is also asking for post-secondary students, including international students, to be included in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which allows people economically impacted by the pandemic to claim $2,000 for four months for emergency support. International students contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2018, according to the federal government. “So that’s why we feel that it’s truly essential to include them in the emergency program,” Mohamed said.”

[1] Karen MacGregor, 06 September 2014,https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20140905134914811

[2] Samia Chasi, https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200408093750683

[3] Sherina Harris, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/author/sharris01

In the current situation, some good practices and solutions can come from different parts of society. In Australia, last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international students and other visa holders were “not held here compulsorily. If they’re not in a position to be able to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries,”. The Melbourne City Council has become the first government at any level in Australia to pledge financial support for international students amid fears they are falling through the cracks because they are not eligible for government welfare. Later, the government of Australia make a shift, in the same light, to now offer financial support to international students.

According to Viggo Stacey, New Zealand has introduced a wage subsidy for international students; however, it is for students who cannot do their jobs during the lockdown period.

Callan Quinn stated that last week, Canada announced that international students will be included in measures to help those who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Like citizens of the country, they will be able to apply for temporary income support of up to CAN$500 a week for up to sixteen weeks provided they meet certain criteria. This is the most comprehensive support, so far, by a federal government.

According to a report by Dr Rahul Choudaha, International Students contribute over US$300 Billion to economies across the globe. “Together, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands enrolled half the world’s international post-secondary students in 2016. That year, considering direct, indirect, and induced impacts, international students contributed:
US$57.3 billion to the US;
US$25.5 billion to the UK;
US$19.8 billion to Australia;
US$14.5 billion to France, and France charges no to low tuition fees for international students;
US$14.4 billion to Germany, and international students do not pay tuition fees in Germany;
US$11.1 billion to Canada;
US$5.3 billion to the Netherlands, a country that charges differential tuition fee for EU and non-EU international students.”

From a diversity and inclusion lens, let us see how universities and countries, that benefit from this injection of wealth from international students, will treat them during this pandemic. I am sure their respective reactions will impact what happens to their institutions, cities and country and the flow of international student’s income after COVID-19.

[4] https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/melbourne-city-council-pledges-financial-support-for-foreign-students-20200408-p54i63.html

[5] https://studytravel.network/magazine/news/0/27376

[6] Viggo Stacey,  https://thepienews.com/news/nz-wage-subsidy-scheme-open-for-intl-students/

[7] https://thepienews.com/analysis/top-study-coronavirus-intl-students/

[8] https://monitor.icef.com/2019/08/international-students-generate-global-economic-impact-of-us300-billion/

Fazela HANIFF immigrated to Canada in 1974 from Guyana, lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for plus 2 years, then to South Africa from 1994 to 2012 and returned to Canada in 2012. Through a Diversity and Inclusion Lens, Ms. Haniff is an HR, OD and HE internationalisation specialist. Ms Haniff completed her Human Resources Management studies at Ryerson University, Higher Education Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and Bachelor of Business Administration from Yorkville University. She is the Past President of the International Education Association of South Africa and first woman president. In 2010 she received an award in recognition of “Exemplary Leadership as IEASA President”. She has contributed widely to the internationalization dialogue via presentations and workshops to IIE, NIEA, NAFSA, EAIE, EAIE, IEASA, APAIE, and contributed to numerous publications related to international higher education. Fazela currently lives in Toronto, Canada.


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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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COVID-19/Coronavirus: Quick Facts

March 12th, 2020

20200312

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The viral disease has already swept into at least 114 countries and killed more than 4,000 people.

Many national and international conferences have been cancelled. Concerts and other events that draw large number of people have been cancelled and/or postponed. Schools and colleges are cancelling in-person classes and switching to on-line instruction. Here at ACEI, we are monitoring the developments very closely and cancelled our attendance at upcoming professional education conferences. We have a robust system in place to accommodate our team to work remotely and receive applications for credential evaluation online and via digital portals.

While we are in a wait and see state, we would like to share the link to Worldometer, an online site that provides live, up-to-date information. Worldometer, for those who may not be familiar, is run by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format to a wide audience around the world. Worldometer is owned by Dadax, an independent company. They have no political, governmental, or corporate affiliation. Worldometer was voted as one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world. They have licensed their counters at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to BBC News, among others. Worldometer is cited as a source in over 10,000 published books, in more than 6,000 professional journal articles, and in over 1000 Wikipedia pages.

For real time updated, please visit Worldometer by clicking here and World Health Organization by clicking here.

The following is copied from Worldometer’s site:

Typical Symptoms

COVID-19 typically causes flu-like symptoms including a fever and cough.
In some patients – particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions – these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients requiring hospital treatment.

Notably, the COVID-19 infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose, sneezing, or sore throat (these symptoms have been observed in only about 5% of patients). Sore throat, sneezing, and stuffy nose are most often signs of a cold.

80% of cases are mild

Based on all 72,314 cases of COVID-19 confirmed, suspected, and asymptomatic cases in China as of February 11, a paper by the Chinese CCDC released on February 17 and published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology has found that:

  • 80.9% of infections are mild (with flu-like symptoms) and can recover at home.
  • 13.8% are severe, developing severe diseases including pneumonia and shortness of breath.
  • 4.7% as critical and can include: respiratory failure, septic shock, and multi-organ failure.
  • In about 2% of reported cases the virus is fatal.
  • Risk of death increases the older you are.
  • Relatively few cases are seen among children.

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing illnesses that put patients at higher risk:

  1. cardiovascular disease
  2. diabetes
  3. chronic respiratory disease
  4. hypertension

That said, some otherwise healthy people do seem to develop a severe form of pneumonia after being infected by the virus. The reason for this is being investigated as we try to learn more about this new virus.

How long do symptoms last?

Using available preliminary data, the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission published on Feb. 28 by WHO, [5] which is based on 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases, observed the following median time from symptoms onset to clinical recovery:

  • mild cases: approximately 2 weeks
  • severe or critical disease: 3 – 6 weeks
  • time from onset to the development of severe disease (including hypoxia): 1 week

Among patients who have died, the time from symptom onset to outcome ranges from 2 – 8 weeks.

How to protect yourself?

World Health Organization offers advice on how we can protect ourselves. To learn more, click here.

Sources

Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) [Pdf] – World Health Organization, Feb. 28, 2020
https://www.cdc.gov/– Center for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.who.int/ – World Health Organization
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ – WorldoMeter Coronavirus

Be safe and be well.


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 www.acei-global.org.

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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

finland_10112.png
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.”

finland_10113
The top 20 happiest countries 2019 Image: World Happiness Report 2019

2. Minimum Wage and Average Salary

finland_10114

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

finland_10115
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”

finland_10116
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!

finland_10117.png
Image: stock photo Google images

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

finland_10118
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

finland_flag.png
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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18 Facts On Higher Education In Armenia

August 30th, 2019

armenia

Armenia regained its independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and set out to reclaim autonomy of its higher education system. State universities redesigned the system from one-cycle programs to two-cycle bachelor and master level programs to be in line with other major systems in the world.

The Republic of Armenia is one of the 48 countries that joined the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the Bologna Process by signing the Bergen Communiqué in 2005. Armenia has since implemented most of the initiatives agreed on by the ministers of education of the member states.

Armenia hosted the Secretariat of the Bologna Follow-up Group from 2012 to 2015 followed by the Ministerial Conference and the Fourth Bologna Policy Forum in 2015.

1. Higher education in Armenia is provided by public and private institutions of higher education.

2. State higher education institutions function under the purview of several ministries but most are under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES).

3. Higher education is provided by:

  • Institutes
  • Universities
  • Academies
  • Conservatories

4. The following institutions function in Armenia:

  • 26 State Universities (are autonomous, not-for-profit state entities)
  • 40 Private Universities, among them
  • 31 Accredited Universities
  • 83% of state universities and
  • 76% of non-state universities are located in Yerevan,
  • others in 8 provinces (Marzes) of Armenia

5. Other Ministries and Bodies:

  • Ministry of Defense (oversees 2 HEIs)
  • Ministry of Policy (oversees 1 HEI)
  • Ministry of Emergency Situations (oversees 1 HEI)
  • Mother See of Holy Etchimiadzin (oversees 1 HEI)

6. Universities provide undergraduate, postgraduate and supplementary education in various branches of humanities, natural sciences, science and technology, as well as scientific research.

10. Institutes provide specialized and postgraduate academic programs and scientific research in a number of scientific, economic and cultural branches.

7. Academies are responsible for the development of education, science, technology and culture in an individual sphere and offer programs preparing and re-training highly qualified specialists in an individual field, as well as postgraduate academic programs.

8. Conservatories prepare specialists in the field of music, providing qualification development and postgraduate academic programs.

9. Unified Secondary School Final Examination: In accordance with the Law on Education and the Law on Higher and Postgraduate Education, the centralized admission examinations to HEI has been replaced by the unified secondary school final examinations which are held at “knowledge assessment centers” and the basis for admission and selection.

10. Academic Year: The academic year is typically comprised of two semesters, beginning in September which is comprised of 2 semesters and ending in May with 20 and 22 weeks of duration respectively. Mid-term exams are held in October and March of the respective semesters and final exams are held at the end of each semester.

11. Contact hours: Though the formal weekly workload that students are expected to cover differ by the type of program and institutions, Bachelor degree programs require between 28 to 32 hours per week (sometimes up to 36), Master degree programs require between 16 to 18 hours and postgraduate (Doctorate) programs between 4 to 8 hours per week.

12. Credit System: Armenia adopted the European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS) in 2011.

13. Assessment: Examinations and tests are used to assess students’ learning outcomes. Grading systems vary among institutions with some using the 5, 10 or 20 -point marking scales, or 4 scale A-F letter grading.

14. Assessment in State HEIs: Final evaluation of graduates is conducted by state examination committees which includes the comprehensive examination on specialty as well as defense of graduation work (diploma project, thesis or dissertation) or schemes.

15. Bachelor’s degree programs in preparing specialists requires 4 years, while for medical specializations it is 5 years. The 4-year Bachelor’s degree program ends with a final overall assessment and defense of final paper. The Bachelor’s qualification allows the graduate the right to practice the specialization (except medicine) and access to the next cycle-the Master’s degree.

16. Specialist Diploma programs are in the general humanities and social sciences, mathematics, natural sciences and special professional disciplines, and provide graduates with the professional skills for employment purposes. The Specialist Diploma programs are 5 years in duration, while in the arts and physical education they are 4 years in length. The Specialist Diploma is awarded on successful completion of the coursework with a final overall assessment, including the defense of a diploma thesis. (The 5-year Specialist Diploma programs are being phased out.)

17. Master’s degree programs require the Bachelor’s or Specialist Diploma degree for admission and awarded on completion of a minimum one year of education. The Master’s degree provides access to Doctoral studies.

18. The Doctor of Philosophy degree program requires the Master’s degree or the 5-year Specialist Diploma and entrance examination for admission. The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires a minimum of three years of study and successful defense of a thesis based on original research.

Sources & Helpful Links:

http://studyinarmenia.org/hea

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/armenian-higher-education-european-higher-education-area

http://www.mfa.am/en/study/

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/where-to-study/study-in-armenia

http://www.osf.am/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/OSF_HE_report.pdf

Originally posted on March 9th, 2018


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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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14 Quick Facts on UK as a Higher Education Destination for International Students

August 8th, 2019

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The UK continues to be a popular destination for international students pursuing their higher education.

Here are a few facts on the UK and its role in international education:

  1. Number of international students studying in the UK higher education in 2017-2018: 458,490
  2. Percentage of international students that account for the UKs total student population: 19.6%
  3. Percentage of international undergraduate students: 14%
  4. Percentage international graduate students: 35.8%
  5. The top 5 sending countries for international students to the UK in 2017-2018: China, India, USA, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
  6. Percentage of Chinese students at UK higher education institution that make up all international students: 23.2%
  7. Top sending countries within the EU to the UK for higher education: Italy, France and German.
  8. UK’s growth rate dropped from 0.5% in 2015 to 0.3% in 2016.
  9. Destination countries posing as competitors to UK for international students: Australia, Canada, USA, and Germany.
  10. Percentage of international students satisfied with their experience studying at UK universities: 90% (per UUKi research)
  11. Percentage of international students satisfied or very satisfied with the support they received while studying in the UK: 80%
  12. Percentage of international student who considered their UK degree a valuable investment: 82%
  13. Popular fields of study at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in 2017-2018: Biological Sciences, Business and Administrative Studies, Creative Arts and Design, Engineering and Technology, Social Studies.
  14. Percentage of international staff from the EU at UK institutions of higher education: 60%

For additional 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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