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20 Facts on North Korea

October 12th, 2018

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North Korea continues to take center stage in world news. By isolating and cutting itself off from the rest of the world, North Korea has been a land of mystery and curiosity to the outside world. Unfortunately, the country has also harbored and covered up unimaginable atrocities against its people and continues to terrorize its neighboring countries and the world with its terrifying weapons programs. As tensions escalate, here are a few facts on the hermit nation:

Country Facts

1. Official name: Democratic Republic of Korea

2. Population: 25,115,311 (estimated as of July 2016)

3. Geography: North Korea has an area of 46,000 similar in size to Pennsylvania is 46,054 square miles, or 119,279 square kilometers.

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4. Capital: Pyongyang.

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Pyongyang, North Korea

5. Quick History: Japan controlled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 till end of WWII. After WWII, the U.S. occupied the southern half of the peninsula and the Russians occupied the north half. In 1945, Kim Il-Sung became the country’s first leader and since then the country has been led by three generations of the same family. In 1948, unable to resolve regional differences, the country split into the north and the south each with its own government. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the United Nations intervened with troops. The war with North Korea continued until 1953 when a peace treaty was signed and the two regions officially broke apart to form two countries: North Korea (Democratic Republic of Korea) and South Korea (Republic of Korea).

6. Head of State: North Korea is led by Kim Jong-un since the death of his father in 2011.

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7. Calendar: North Korea uses an official Juche calendar based on Kim Il-Sung’s date of birth which is April 15, 1912. The year 2012 on the Gregorian calendar is considered Juche 101.

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Education Facts

8. Literacy: According to the CIA World Factbook, North Korea claims 100% literacy rate for both men and women.

9. Music: The accordion is considered the “people’s instrument” because its portable and can be taken when doing a day of labor in the fields. Every teacher in North Korea is required to play the accordion.

10. Type of Schools: There are three types of schools in North Korea which include the general school system, schools for continuing education, and schools for special purposes.

11. General School System: Covers kindergarten, elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher education. Kindergarten is two years, begins at age four and is free and compulsory. Elementary starts at age six and four years. Secondary schools is 6 years and divided into two levels: lower-level middle schools which is for ages 10-13 and is four years; followed by higher-level high school which is for ages 14-15 and is two years.

12. Continuing Education: North Korea puts a lot of emphasis on continuing or adult education which is attached to farms, factories, and fishery cooperatives.

13. Special Purpose Schools: These schools are exclusively for talented and gifted children and children of the elite. Students join these schools from the age of 5. The program is 10 years in length. There are other special purpose schools for the arts and sports which admit students between 6 to 18 years of age. The special purpose schools for foreign languages admits students between 10 to 18 years of age. The schools for science admit students between 10 to 21 years of age.

14. Universities: North Korea has three main universities that students attend. These are Koryo Sungkyunkwan University, Kin Ch’aek Technical University, and Kim II Sung University.

15. Other Institutions of Higher Education: The University of Natural Science and the Kin Chaek University of Technology. Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies trains trade officials and working level diplomats and Kim Hyong Jik trains teachers.

16. Access to Higher Education: Students who complete secondary schools must be recommended in order to continue their studies at the university level. Only students who are highly loyal to the party and are from a desirable social class are given a recommendation by their instructors to progress to higher education. Students who do not get any recommendation are relegated to work in the mines and farms, or to join the military.

17. Higher Education: The General School System of academic higher education is for universities where students can pursue degree programs of four to six years in duration. University graduates can continue their studies at the master and doctoral level. Primary school teachers receive their training at Teacher’s Colleges which takes three years and those attending junior colleges complete three years of study.

Strange Facts

18. Time Zone: On August 15, 2015, North Korea adopted its own time zone known as Pyongyang Time to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan. It’s about 30 minutes behind Japan and South Korea.

19. Haircuts: North Korea has 28-state-approved haircuts, 18 for women and 10 for men:

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20. Illegal & Legal: Blue jeans are illegal in North Korea as they are seen as symbols of American imperialism. But, cannabis/pot is legal in North Korea

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For further information on the world education systems and credential evaluations, visit our website at www.acei-global.org or contact ACEI at acei@acei-global.org.

Sources:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/surprising-facts-you-may-not-know-about-north-korea?utm_term=.ci944YGEYW#.nfEJJwMLwZ

http://www.ajc.com/news/national/north-korea-what-you-should-know-about-the-country-and-its-people/aheWKpsOdLHqLpPN6ssy6N/

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-turning-back-the-clock-north-korea-creates-pyongyang-standard-time-2015-8

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/04/2012410111258757121.html

https://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/surprising-facts-you-may-not-know-about-north-korea?utm_term=.ci944YGEYW#.nfEJJwMLwZ

http://www.studycountry.com/guide/KP-education.htm

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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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Which approach do you use when evaluating international credentials? Year-counting or Benchmarking?

October 5th, 2018

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At the recent TAICEP conference in Philadelphia, PA, ACEI President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert and Melanie Gottlieb, Deputy Director at AACRAO presented a session on Understanding the Different Credential Evaluation Philosophies. In this week’s blog, we will provide a recap of the key points addressed in the presentation.

Why are there different credential evaluation philosophies?

Absence of a governmental body that helps shape standards to guide and monitor international credential evaluation
U.S. institutions base their evaluation philosophies on their admissions models (open vs. threshold vs. holistic)
Credential evaluation service providers are autonomous and are trying to produce a universally acceptable product to both university and the client
State/Territorial Licensing Boards have unique academic requirements
US Customs & Immigration Service enforce unique criteria for the purposes of employment-based visas
Economics of higher education shape the way credentials are evaluated

What are the two credential evaluation approaches?

• Benchmarking
• Year-counting (Quantitative)

What is the Benchmarking approach?

Benchmarking is usually more readily accepted at the pre-university level. (11 years, even 10, is not usually rejected by most institutions and credential evaluation services).

What is the Year-Counting (Quantitative) approach?

Year-counting is much more rigidly followed at the post-secondary level where three year degrees/diplomas are not widely accepted for academic or professional purposes

Why Year-Counting?

• Used because an internal qualitative comparison is not always easy to do
• Quality is impossible to measure
• Quantitative comparisons, using the US model, are quick and easy
• It avoids the quality pronouncements that are just too subjective when comparing degrees

Why Benchmarking?

• The benchmarking method is where the significant achievements are compared throughout the education system
• Conclusion of primary, lower secondary, secondary, first post-secondary degree, terminal post-graduate degree

What is the best approach? Combination of Year-counting and Benchmarking?

• The best way to approach international credential evaluation is a judicious application of BOTH methodologies

What are the dilemmas of the dual philosophies?

• General Education courses (unique to US and US-patterned education systems
• Inequity (3-year Bologna-compliant Bachelor’s degrees treated differently than 3-year Indian Bachelor’s degree)
• Inconsistency in credential evaluation outcomes (e.g. evaluation prepared for a graduate admission differs than one for professional board)
• Stunted growth aka “Theory of Retarding Lead” (Has U.S., once leading in international ed, stopped innovating?)
• Global competition (more countries entering the field and vying for the international student market)

What are the practical concerns for credential evaluators?

• Credential Evaluation services prepare multi-purpose evaluations (for admission to HEIs, employment, professional licensing, immigration, each having unique requirements)
• Adopt one or continue with the dual philosophies (benchmarking for high school completion, year-counting for graduate degree comparability, or a combination)
• Remaining consistent
• U.S. HEI: autonomy does not allow for national evaluation standards and the staff at HEI’s who are most engaged with the topic may not have either the influence or the sophistication to make change
• The growing movement of the global recognition convention and its implications for the US

How do we resolve the concerns?

• Need for transparency from HEI’s on performance of those admitted to graduate studies based on 3-year degrees
• What are US HEIs doing to remain competitive globally?
• Some credential evaluation services have a mutual understanding of fundamental standards (e.g. AICE and its Endorsed Members adhere to the AICE Standards)
• Increased focus on training for HEIs to understand their role and increase their sophistication in the evaluation process
• Increased engagement with professional accreditors and state licensing boards

At ACEI, we apply both year-counting and benchmarking approaches when evaluating international credentials. Let us know which approach you use or prefer using and why. We look forward to hearing from you.

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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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Latest News on India’s Regulatory Bodies: UGC and AICTE

August 10th, 2018

ACEI_Blog_-_INDIA_News_of_Indias_Regulatory_Bodies__Compatibility_Mode_
If you hadn’t heard already, until recently, India’s government was considering an ambitious plan, proposed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education, to merge the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the two regulatory bodies, into a single higher education regulator. This single education regulator was tentatively named Higher Education Evaluation and Regulation Authority (HEERA). Given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is in its last year, and India is preparing itself for its next election, new legislation to form a single education regulator to be determined in such a short time does not appear to have been favored by legislators. Instead, the government has decided to wait and settled for a revamp of UGC, AICTE and the National Council of Technical Education.

The UGC is a statutory body established to confer degrees and grant funding and set up quality benchmarks for universities and institutions of higher education. AICTE, also a statutory body, was established to oversee technical institution and ensure they meet quality standards.

AICTE has questioned the need for and feasibility of a single education regulator by bringing to light the measures it has taken to reform much of its regulatory criteria. Altogether, focus appears to have been shifted from the push to merge UGC and AICTE toward an overhaul of each regulatory body. For example, one proposed measure would be to give UGC the authority to be able to shut down institutions that do not and continue to not meet standards but also consider taking away UGC’s powers over funding and handing it over to the ministry. This proposal is intended to allow the UGC to focus solely on monitoring and ensuring institutions of higher education are adhering to quality standards.

At the request of the ministry, both UGC and AICTE have been asked to prepare a list of changes they need in their respective Acts and regulations to become more effective regulators. Read more here.

In the meantime, the Indian government is considering the approval of a regulator for vocational training. The proposal, if approved, means successful ITI graduates will be awarded certificates at par with the ones given to Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) allowing them thereby to pursue their studies in other schools and colleges. Read more about this here.

Sources:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/education/government-may-soon-approve-regulator-for-vocational-training/printarticle/65278618.cms

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/64416946.cms

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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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5 Current Heads of State Who Studied in the USA

July 20th, 2018

Historically, the United States has been most welcoming to students from other countries and demonstrated a consistent record of being a favored destination for international students. According to a report by the Washington Times the “U.S. State Department lists nearly 300 world leaders, current and former, who chose U.S. institutions, a trend that analysts say reinforced the nation’s status as the global leader in higher education but also underscores the figures’ desire — or, in many cases, need — to familiarize themselves with the United States, its politics and its culture.”

In this week’s blog, we would like to spotlight 5 current world leaders in office who completed all or a portion of their education in the United States.

COLOMBIA

President: Juan Manuel Santos

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He has been in office since 2010 and sole recipient of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. He graduated from the University of Kansas and then attended the London School of Economics. In 1981, he received a master’s degree public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy’s School of Government and was a 1988 Nieman Fellow for his award-winning work as a columnist and reporter. Santos was a Fulbright visiting fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Economics at Tufts University in 1981. Santos served as a member and Vice Chair of the Washington-based think tank the Inter-American Dialogue and was president of the Freedom of Expression Commission for the Inter American Press Association. To learn more, click here

CROATIA

President: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović 

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Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has been in office since 2015.  At age 17, she moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico as an exchange student and later graduated from Los Alamos High School in 1986. She returned to Yugoslavia and enrolled at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, where in 1993 she graduated with a Degree in English and Spanish languages and literature.  She continued her studies in a Diploma Course from 1995 to 1996 at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna in Austria and In 2000 she received a master’s degree in international relations from the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb. She then attended George Washington University as a Fulbright scholar. She also received a Luksic Fellowship for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and was a visiting scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. To learn more, click here

JORDAN:

King: Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein

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Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has been King of Jordan since 1999.  Abdullah attended high school at Eaglebrook School and Deerfield Academy in the United States. He then attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1987, where he pursued advanced study and research in international affairs. To learn more, click here

KENYA

President: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta

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Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta has been in office since 2013. He studied economics, political science and government at Amherst College in the United States.  He is the son of Jomo KenyattaKenya’s first president, and his fourth wife Mama Ngina Kenyatta. In August 2017 general election, Uhuru was re-elected for a second term but the election was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court of Kenya by his main competitor, Raila Odinga. On September 1, 2017, the court declared the election invalid and ordered a new presidential election which was held on October 26. Uhuru won, with 39% participation. His presidency has not been without controversy, and to learn more, click here

SINGAPORE

Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong

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Lee has been in office since 2014.  He graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Trinity CollegeCambridge University, as Senior Wrangler in 1974 and later earned a Master of Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. To learn more about Prime Minister Lee, click here.

According to an interview with the Washington Times, Allan Goodman, President of the Institute of International Education explained why the U.S. has been an attractive destination for study: “We have been the most open to students from other countries. It’s our tradition of academic open doors and a very consistent record of having international students here. The best American universities have been open to international students for the longest period of time. The credentials [obtained from those schools] matter, and the byproduct is that they gain a better understanding of the United States.”

We hope that the tradition of academic open doors will continue and remain strong.

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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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The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative: Bilateral Seminar May 14-15, 2018 Embassy of France, Washington, D.C.

May 17th, 2018

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At the invitation of the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of attending The Bilateral Seminar on The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative, on May 14-15, 2018. I was joined by my AACRAO colleagues, Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki, and fellow AACRAO IESC (International Education Standards Council) member, Robert Watkins from the University of Texas, Austin.

The Seminar was appropriately timed with the 70th Anniversary of the Franco-American Fulbright Commission (officially, the Commission franco-américaine d’échanges universitaires et culturels), a bi-national commission established between the United States of American and the French Republic by the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-256) and the Franco-American Treaty of May 7, 1965.  The Commission administers the Fulbright Program in France and operates the US State Department’s EducationUSA advising center for France. Those in attendance included representatives from the various branches of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), officials from the French Embassy and French Consular Officers in the U.S., University Vice-Presidents from French institutions, representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

From the onset, we learned that France is investing heavily in upgrading its university system and is aiming to position itself on the cutting edge of research and innovation. In his opening remarks, Frédéric Forest, Ph.D., the Deputy Director, Directorate General for Higher Education and Professional Integration at the MESRI, spoke of the importance the French President, Emmanuel Macron is placing on science and technology.  He noted that France is investing massively in its higher education.  It’s worth noting that in 2018, the French government spent roughly 72 billion euros for education; the second highest ranking expenditure on the budget after tax repayment and abatement and before defense.

Reforms also include access to higher education and reinforcing student mobility. France is committed to double the number of U.S. students studying at its HEIs and the same to have its students attending U.S. HEIs.  Dr. Forest concluded that France and the U.S. Department of State signed a declaration supporting these bilateral initiatives that encourage student mobility between the two countries.

Goals of the Bilateral Seminar

The goals of the Bilateral Seminar were laid out by Minh-Ha Pham, Ph.D., Scientific Counselor at the Embassy of France in the U.S.  Echoing, Dr. Forest’s remarks, Dr. Pham noted that in 2014, U.S. and France signed a declaration to double the numbers by doing the following:

  • promoting and opening access to a diverse student population.
  • increase research collaboration in higher education
  • increase student and faculty mobility
  • open study abroad opportunities
  • reduce the cost of study abroad
  • offer English as a medium of instruction at public universities
  • improve career relevance for students returning from the student abroad experience
  • facilitate mutual credit and degree recognition

Action Items and Success Stories

Nadine Van der Tol, Ph.D., North America Program Manager for Higher Education and Research, and Student Mobility, MESRI, noted that the U.S. has been France’s leading scientific partner.  In 2017, 16% of French scientific publications involve U.S. partnerships, yet while French students rank 17th on the list of countries sending students to U.S. HEIs, the number of American students studying at French HEIs is very low.   Finding out how France and U.S. can cooperate to help increase the number of U.S. students studying in France was a goal Dr. Van der Tol hoped to see accomplished by the end of the seminar.

The French representatives agreed on the importance of U.S. community colleges and indicated that their primary focus is on attracting this population of students who may not be aware of study abroad opportunities, don’t have the financial means and deserve access.

Ms. Christel Outreman, Higher Education Attaché, Director of Campus France USA, at the Embassy of France in the U.S., mentioned two projects in place to welcome community colleges:

  • Boot camp – With the help of CCID, the French set up a two-week program for community college students to visit France. This was an all-expenses paid two-week stay in France and the only obligation to the students was applying for a passport to travel. At the end of their two-week visit, Ms. Outreman noted that half of the students were considering studying abroad and most importantly, they were interested in studying in France.  The results of this boot camp were seen as so successful that plans are underway to host another. 
  • Pilot program – Another program Campus France USA had introduced was to select one student from a community college who entered a classe préparatoire, a two-year program intended for admission to the first year of the master’s in engineering or master’s in business degree program at a Grande École in Engineering or Business, respectively. This pilot program demonstrated that an exchange between a U.S. community college and a French HEI such as a Grande École is possible and successful.

Speakers also cited variety of programs already in place that offer funding and grants supporting study abroad opportunities.  One example is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship,  a program of the U.S. Department of State that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad.

Another program was introduced by James Hicks, Ph.D., Program Director, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).  Dr. Hicks reported that since its inception, LSAMP has helped over 600,00 students.  LSAMP’s overall goal as cited on its website is to “assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented in these disciplines: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders.” LSAMP is a congressionally mandated national science foundation program and offers help to two-year and four-year institutions. Undergraduate research is a key component of LSAMP and to achieve this, LSAMP supports study abroad by offering $5000 for a summer study abroad program that includes a visit to a national laboratory.

There is also the Chateaubriand Fund which was created in 1981 to encourage young American scientists to perform research in France.  Fellows receive a monthly stipend of up to 1400 euros, paid round-trip ticket to France and support for health insurance.  Each year, the Chateaubriand program gives about 50 grants.

The Thomas Jefferson Fund is a newly formed fund set up to address the world’s most challenging problems.  Since President Trump’s announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, France is amplifying its STEM, Health and research programs at the graduate and doctoral levels by launching several funds and grants to attract qualified talent. This is demonstrated in President Emmanuel Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative and by the 12million euros committed to the MESRI and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in achieving this goal.  Representatives from MESRI noted that in just one month they have received over 600 applications from scientists and researchers from around the world.  Needless to say, they had not expected such an overwhelming response in such a short time.

Since mutual recognition of degrees between the French and American HEIs was part of the discussion, my AACRAO colleagues Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki presented an overview of the U.S. system of accreditation of HEIs and explained the credit system at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Summary

As the Seminar came to a close, it was clear that France is serious about meeting its goal of doubling international student numbers both as a host country and for study in the U.S. The French government has allocated funds to support international student and scholar exchange, through its “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative, partnerships with U.S. community colleges and launching innovative programs such as the two-week all expenses-paid boot-camp for community colleges students to visit France, refining the visa application for students, providing English as a language of instruction to attract students to public universities, and exploring ways to offer paid internships to students enrolled in the exchange programs.  The U.S. in turn has several programs already in place that support U.S. students with their study abroad goals. In closing, the shared sentiment amongst several delegates was that universities in France and the U.S. can achieve their bilateral goals in student mobility through partnerships that foster mutual recognition of their degrees, offering dual degrees, and incentives such as paid internships and experienced-based learning objectives.

jasmin_2015

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)

President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)

Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

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The Wealth of the Broke

September 21st, 2017

Wealth_-_Broke

I believe, that “I vacationed in”, “took a trip to”, or “summered abroad” really becomes “I lived in” the minute you need a job. It could be three years or three weeks, but at that point, as many young adventurers figure out, the vacation ends with the patronage or savings. A punch to the gut at first, realizing “oh, I have to eat next week” can wipe away the whimsy quickly. Many will never experience this. Short trips and healthy bank accounts are a shield against this kind of exposure to the daily life of a local.

While it is easy to envy those with the funds to jet set without care, they too have something to envy. There is no appreciate, no immersion quite like a job. It is where many of us learned to socialize with other adults, and the same goes for a different country. You may proudly renounce your status of “tourist” and make friends that have a chance of lasting beyond the week. You become a part of the economy and community and it is a feeling so unlike that of a visitor.

Beyond that, like any job, there’s the opportunity for memories and stories beyond what monuments you have seen.

In just such a case, I lucked out with a job teaching chess to kids after school in Dublin, since I had some teaching experience back in the US.  (A beauty pageant sentiment I know, but while I’m at it, I used to buy them rewards at my own expense like stickers or lollipops and if I had one wish it would be world peace.)

Anyway, one of my responsibilities was to collect payment from all the parents for the program, about 500 Euro each for 8 weeks of lessons.

At the end of that particularly exhausting class (40+ primary school aged children, enough said), after waiting an hour for this child’s parents who were running late, I left in a hurry to get home.

About halfway, feet away from my apartment, I realized I left my backpack at the school lunch tables right in the entrance of the school. About 15k Euro in checks and cash. Obviously doomed, I turned around and ran back not out of hope but rather, desperation and panic.

Fired for sure, maybe not responsible for the checks but for sure the third in paper money. You know, doomed.

I flashed through the entrance and saw my backpack on the table, wide open. Again, doomed.

I go over just to grab the bag. 

“At least they left that”

Inside I found every last check and dollar to the cent.

Missing, though, was every lollipop I had. Like 4 bags worth.

I have never been happier with this world than when those kids chose 2 Euros in lollipops over maybe 5k in cash alone.

Not dumb. Just, what do I want? Someone else’s money? or ROOT BEER LOLLIPOPS.

Perhaps this would have happened anywhere I had been in the world. Maybe it isn’t specific to my time in Ireland. But even then, how reassuring to know that kids are kids, wherever you go. Because of that, the experience, the thought, the memory, I am so thankful for being broke in a foreign land.

AlexB

Alex Brenner – When he is not helping international students as ACEI’s Communications Officer, Alex puts his writing chops to work as a script doctor for Hollywood screenwriters and guest blogs for ACEI-Global. Alex has a BA in English from UCLA and has been fortunate to have travelled to many corners of the world as a child and an adult.

For further information on the international credential evaluations, visit our website at www.acei-global.org or contact ACEI at acei@acei-global.org.

 

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Tree Trees

May 5th, 2017

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When I was in college, just by chance I ended up at a party for the international students, (free beer) and there, to my surprise, I made some of my best friends to this day. You know when you instantly connect with someone? Romantic or not, it’s rare and there is something special about the sheer dumb luck it would take for a kid from the Netherlands and a kid born an hour and half outside of Los Angeles should meet and become (dare I say it?) best friends.

Not my first friend from out of the country, Ralf and I (pronounced Rolf in Dutch but forced to take Ralph as his American name by sheer repetition) have become close like only a few friends I’ve had in my 26 years. We talk about anything and everything but I would be lying if I said we didn’t discuss the norm for two people from different countries quite frequently, i.e. cultural differences between the US and The Netherlands, the EU, The World at large, long political talks about what’s wrong with America, what’s great about America, what’s wrong with Europe, what’s great about Europe, Life, Humanity. No doubt, it is a big part of our relationship and I enjoy it fully, as I suspect he does.

That being said, I think some of the greatest joys comes from the subtle teasing that comes from a close friendship. Little jabs about “fat Americans” a few remarks about outdated Christmas traditions (see Zwarte Piet) here and there help us recognize the differences between ourselves and our cultures in a way that transcends either, humor.

An example, my best friend Ralf speaks perfect English, it’s just, his accent has him say “tree” instead of three. It makes really no difference with context and so is generally a non-issue. So, one time, near Christmas, we’re at a bar just chatting when Ralf notices funny albeit bawdy ornaments on some trees.

“Look at that tree” he pointed.

With a sly grin I asked him, “How many trees are there?”

Ignoring the odd question, Ralf responded earnestly, “tree”

“Yes Ralf, I know they’re trees, but how many of them are there?”

“Tree”

“So just one?”

“No tree!”

I think my smile gave away the joke and Ralf, realizing my mischief, and being a genuinely great person, tilted his head back in guffaws, causing groups of patrons to stare.

Although small, I think this is one of the better moments of my life, not because of some great accomplishment but the realization that we are heading into a globalist world, and how great it is that our conversations, our relationships, our lives can be enriched and diversified by this. Increasingly in America you hear the term Globalism used as a slur. Those who use “globalist” as a derogatory term could not be more wrong.  The world has always been heading toward globalism and there are so many benefits worthy of discussion: Economic stability, increased understanding and decreased xenophobia, trade. You can expect all this from Globalism…. or maybe you’ll just share a laugh with a new best friend.

Alex Brenner

Alex is a graduate of UCLA’s creative writing program and helps ACEI’s international applicants in his role as Client Relations Officer.

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