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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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Dispatches from Minneapolis, MN

April 7th, 2017

AICE

The Annual AACRAO Conference this year was held in Minneapolis, MN which marked the third and final stop on my Midwest tour of international education-related conferences. Representing both the Association of International Credential Evaluators and the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc., speaking at three sessions, hosting and moderating the 2017 AICE Symposium meant I had a full plate with little time to catch my breath or sightsee. Nicolette Mall, where the Convention Center and the Millennium Hotel I was staying at was under heavy construction leaving the Downtown deserted with little or no evidence of life other than the two thousand AACRAO attendees milling about the Skywalk. Apparently, the construction has been underway for four years and still in progress in preparation for the Super Bowl.

Joined by fellow AICE Endorsed Members Beth Cotter and Aleks Morawski and ACEI’s Marketing Director, Laura Sippel, the early days of the AACRAO Conference kept us occupied with booth duty at the Exhibit Hall and reception hopping in the evenings.

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L-R: Drew Carlisle (AACRAO), Melanie Gottlieb (AACRAO, Deputy Director),
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert (ACEI President & CEO and AICE President)

Attending the International Educators Luncheon stressed the gravity of the new administration’s anti-immigration policies in DC and its negative impact on the flow of students to U.S. institutions of higher education. At the International Educators Reception, an annual event sponsored by the Paver Family Foundation, it was an honor to be recognized by Dr. William Paver, as the incoming Chair of the AACRAO IESC (International Education Standards Council) for EDGE (Electronic Database on Global Education).

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L-R: Aleks Morawski (Director of Evaluations at FC, Endorsed AICE Member), Zepur Solakian (President of CGACC), Bill Paver (President of FCSA &Past AACRAO President), Beth Cotter (President of FCA, Endorsed AICE Member), Jim Bouse (AACRAO President), Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert (President & CEO of ACEI & President of AICE) at the AACRAO Board Reception

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Photo: AACRAO Staff, Board, Sponsors and Special Guests at the International Educators Dinner, Mercy Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN

Though I didn’t attend the Opening Plenary with Garrison Keillor as the featured speaker, I made sure not to miss the Closing Plenary with Danny Glover and Felix Justice as featured speakers, and was not disappointed. Mr. Glover and Mr. Justice spoke of their experiences during the Vietnam Era, the struggles of Civil Rights movement, and ultimately Mr. Glover’s advice that what truly matters, is the connections we make with others and the lives we impact.

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AACRAO Closing Plenary: Danny Glover and Felix Justice

The AICE Symposium “Setting the Standard for Graduate Admissions: Three-year Degrees and Other Admissions Challenges” was kicked off with a wonderful reception at the Mission American Kitchen Bar and Grill. Invited guests, including AACRAO President, Jim Bouse, AACRAO Deputy Director, Melanie Gottlieb and representatives from U.S. universities, AACRAO staff, and AICE Endorsed Members and Affiliates were all in attendance. To say the reception was a smashing success, is an understatement!

The AICE Symposium, a full-day event, was also a success with thirty-one attendees participating in a lively and collegial discussion on topics covering the Bologna three-year bachelor degrees, the three-year bachelor degrees from India, and the three-year bachelor degrees from Australia, South Africa and Israel. Panelists and attendees collaborated in defining guidelines that will help AICE continue refining the Standard document. A full report of the Symposium’s talking points will be available shortly and posted on the AICE website.

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This ends my Midwest tour! My next adventure takes me to the Southern Hemisphere, where I will be attending the Gronningen Declaration Network in Melbourne, Australia, to be one of its invited signatories. Stay tuned!

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

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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Dispatches from Association of International Recruitment Council (AIRC), Miami, FL

December 1st, 2016

I’m here in Miami, FL, at the annual AIRC Conference. International student recruiters, credential evaluators and admissions professionals are looking at the new President-Elect’s nationalist platform with caution wondering whether the new administration will have an adverse affect on the flow of international students to the U.S. Already we are hearing that the recent Brexit vote which led to the United Kingdom exiting the European Union has deterred international students from applying to universities in England. According to the annual Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education, “the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities grew by 7.1%, to top one million in the 2015-16 academic year.” The report records 10 straight years of growth in the number of international students studying at U.S. campuses, however with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, concern of the possible negative impact on future enrollments from abroad is on everyone’s mind.

We are already hearing the chatter that international students, fearing the new administration’s hard-right, nationalist, anti-globalist and xenophobic policies are looking to countries such as Australia and Canada to continue their studies. This collective cautiousness on the part of the international students and international education professionals is mainly because we know virtually nothing about the Trump Administration’s higher education policies as he has not articulated any specific initiatives or policies during his presidential campaign or even now in the days leading to his inauguration. The new administration will most likely be more friendly toward to the for-profit higher education industry and less interested in diversity and affirmative action. In fact, there is talk about monitoring university faculty whose teachings may have a “liberal” bias.  What is inevitable is that many of the initiatives of the Obama Administration will be scrapped.

Education on the international front will most likely take a hit. The image of the United States as a “welcoming country” for international students and scholars will be tarnished and it will take a long time to rebuild and restore it. Even though, Trump has singled out his ire toward Muslims and Mexicans, the sentiment is felt by all foreigners who see themselves as being targeted by this viewpoint.

The immediate future of U.S. higher education and international students may be bleak but one factor that will keep the American higher education system in the positive light is that it is still a strong and attractive option in the global perspective. Most of the top universities are located in blue states which embrace a friendlier and more hospitable outlook toward international students and scholars.

Here at AIRC and in meeting with international recruiters from the world and the U.S., it is evident that education agents are preparing themselves by ramping up their marketing efforts to keep the international students’ interest from waning and encouraging them to study in the U.S.  Attracting international students whose impression of the U.S. as an unwelcoming country under Donald Trump will be a challenging task for international recruiters. These are unchartered waters we are entering into as we see a wave of anti-globalism, nationalism and xenophobia appearing in not just the UK, US, but also in France, Spain, Austria, Germany, and Poland. The question is how we will navigate this unwelcoming and somewhat hostile environment in order to protect the integrity of U.S. higher education as the preferred destination for international students.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

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

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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ARGAV©: ACEI’s 5-Step Practical Guide in Helping Refugees and Displaced People without or limited Documentation

November 5th, 2016

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The displacement of people because of conflict/war and/or caused by environmental/political/economic crisis means that many may arrive at refugee camps or their adopted countries with little or no documents supporting their academic achievements.  At the recent NAFSA Region XII Conference in Palm Spring, CA, ACEI President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert presented a session on this topic with focus on “Syria: Education in Crisis and Providing Pathways for Refugees.” In her presentation, Jasmin introduced ACEI’s five-step process, known as ARGAV©, which serves as a practical guide when assisting refugees and displaced people.

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Let’s take a look at each of the five steps recommended in this model:

Step 1. Assess the overall situation

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Assess the overall situation to determine if the claim for lack of documentation is legitimate (that is, is the source country at war or devastated by natural/environmental crisis that prevents the individual in securing his/her academic documents?). You may look at a variety of sources to obtain confirmation, such as:

  • Check the US Department of State website
  • Search Internet on recent news from official news sources
  • Email the institution and/or Ministry of Education in the source country
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in the source country
  • Contact the Embassy or Consulate of the country
  • Telephone the institution (seek the help of a native speak or someone fluent in the language)

Step 2. Reconstruct the individual’s academic history

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One way to obtain an understanding of your applicant’s predicament and academic achievement is by reconstruct their academic history.

  • Follow your general procedures (as you would all prospective applicants)
  • Require completion of an application
  • Require submission of official academic documents
  • Conduct an interview

Step 3. Gather Documents

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In the absence of complete academic documents, there are other types of documentation an individual may have in his/her possession that may include any of the following:

  • Gather any available academic and/supporting documents
  • Student IDs
  • Registration cards/enrollment slips
  • Any transcripts, certificates/diplomas even if incomplete
  • Copies of licenses
  • Certificates of professional standing/membership
  • State examinations certification
  • Proof of tuition payments/receipts from institution’s bursary
  • Sworn statements/affidavits from exiled faculty/school administration
  • Newspaper clippings/articles/announcements or printed lists of graduated students

Step 4. Assess Course Competency

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Assessment of an individual’s competency in a course or series of courses may be achieved through the following methods:

  • Interview by member of faculty
  • Assignment of special project
  • Challenge/placement examination

Step 5. Verify

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Finally, we need to verify and check everything that has been presented and collected to prepare a portfolio/dossier on the individual.

  • Confirm again the crisis situation in the country and institution with official sources (e.g. U.S. Department of State, Embassy of the country from which the individual originates)
  • Ensure that you have in-house expertise on the country/region in question and its education system
  • Compare and verify any document gathered against samples from the same country and institutions in your archives
  • Use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for your applicant and LinkendIn and Academic.edu for scholars from the conflict area
  • When in doubt consult with and seek advice of colleagues in your profession and/or reach out to external sources such as independent evaluation services (members of AICE-Association of International Credential Evaluators)

ARGAV is a dynamic guide and we welcome your comments and suggestions. Please share with us your experiences and any tips you may have on this subject so that we consider adding them to the guide.

Thank you.

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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What’s Your Type? Making Online Education Work

May 26th, 2016

OnlineEducation

Originally posted at http://www.affordable-online-colleges.net/online-education/

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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Tijuana’s Youth Orchestra: Bach, Not Banda, Mahler, Not Mariachi

April, 7th 2016

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I know about El Sistema and the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, where Gustavo Dudamel got his training. I also know about his work with YOLA, the Youth Orchestra of LA, something Dudamel was behind creating. Both El Sistema and YOLA give inner city kids a way off the streets into the world of classical music.

With Venezuela in turmoil,  the future of El Sistema, funded by oil revenue, may be jeopardized. It seems, however, that like a lesser-known youth orchestra in Tijuana may have a bright future. You don’t typically associate classical music with Tijuana, but the Tijuana Youth Orchestra gives the lie to that assumption.

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The story begins in January 1991, when the Soviet Union was breaking up. Eduardo Garcia Barrios was studying conducting in Moscow at the time. Barrios and his musician colleagues wanted to start a youth orchestra somewhere; that somewhere turned out to be a world away, in sunny Baja, Mexico. Barrios, along with a Russian harpist, Elena Mashkovtseva, moved across the globe from icy Russia to Baja, and founded the Baja California Orchestra for adults. The enterprising Barrios also founded REDES 2025, a program to train at-risk young people to become classical performers. In a Independent Producer’s Project feature, he told journalist Sam Quinones, “Music has this power. To play music you need discipline, to understand your body. It’s 120 kids doing one thing at the same time…it would be cheaper to make football teams, but music provides something different, spiritual order.”

Those words could have come from the much more famous Gustavo Dudamel. Both men, however, are doing the same thing: transforming young lives with the power of music.

Listen here to the NPR / KCRW feature. And watch a clip of the Tijuana Youth Orchestra — it’s a big orchestra, not as big as the Simón Bolivar, but big nevertheless. Have a look:

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

toms

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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