Tag Archives: politics

Repair America. Go, vote. 

November 2nd, 2018

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In 2004-2005, I was working in a bookstore near my college in New Delhi. Every day after classes, I would ride my motorbike and take over the shift at the store until almost midnight. During those shifts, I sold a lot of books and I read a lot of books. I also met a lot of new people. One of them was an American professor, Marie from Dallas, who strolled into the bookstore with her walking cane and her two wonderful kids. All three of them got immersed in the books, flipping pages, chatting with each other, and making their reading selections.  I could tell they loved being in the bookstore. A few minutes passed by, and Marie and I also started talking about specific readings. I think we discussed Manju Kapur’s “Difficult Daughters” and that got us started. I don’t think I had such a long conversation with an American family before. We discussed many things: education, culture, readings, travels, and more. I had read that open, informed conversations build lifelong bonds. That’s what happened on that late evening in South Delhi’s New Friends Colony Community Center. Who could name it better! I have known Marie and her family since then. Through her, I met Sandy and her family. And then many more friends and families.

After college, I got a fellowship that allowed me to study anywhere in the world on a full ride. My choice to study in the US was strongly influenced by that curious, welcoming, and smiling American family who walked into the bookstore and spoke comfortably about the nuances of culture and social experiences. For a communication major, those things mattered a lot more. Three years later, I went to Appalachian Ohio to pursue a master’s degree in International Affairs. During college, I went to Dallas to celebrate Christmas with Marie. We bought the Christmas tree together, we went door-to-door singing Christmas carols with many friends in the neighborhood. Sandy lived almost next door. A few days later, Marie and her family had to travel while I still had a couple of days to stay in Dallas. So, I stayed with Sandy. That night of 2009 was the first night of Hanukkah. I devoured on latkes that Sandy made and served with sour cream. To have Sandy’s family around was deliciously amazing!

Fast forward three years: I picked up a career in public diplomacy. Fast forward five years: I founded a company on a simple idea of connecting people with people.

Spool back in Delhi in that bookstore: I got interested in another country whose people I had met, trusted, and enjoyed talking with.

That, to me, is the highest form of citizenship and patriotism: stuff you do and words you utter that gets people to look up to your country with a sense of positivity and trust. And you end up taking life decisions based on that positivity. No foreign policy can do it. No IMF can do it. It requires a human decency to appeal to another human decency. So, folks, go out and vote this November. Vote for someone who represents your decency, and who can walk into a bookstore in a foreign land and can make the bookseller fall in love with your nation. You deserve it. America needs it. More than ever.

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Syed K Jamal is the CEO and Founder of Branta. He first came to the US as an international student before moving back to India. Since 2015, he has been living in the Seattle area with his wife, a 5-year old son, Ibru, and three cats who also came with him from India. Syed loves chai and storytelling, would love to host you for both. Email him at syed@goBranta.com.

 

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China and Africa…Building Bridges, Not Walls

September 7th, 2018

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Hello friends,

It’s been a while since I posted a blog and it hasn’t been because of a lack of material. Au contraire. Blame it on ennui, lethargy, world-weariness. I’ve been feeling disenchanted with the state of the world, especially, how overnight the U.S. went from welcoming and embracing international students and scholars, to one that is imposing even stricter visa requirements, blacklisting some countries by placing them on a travel list, and spewing rhetoric that is seen as unfriendly and inhospitable by potential students around the globe who have looked at the U.S. as the beacon of higher education. Yes, long sentence, my apologies, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve a lot on my chest and all I can think is that while we see the numbers of international students dropping at our institutions, one country is forging right ahead with its agenda of winning the hearts and minds of students in African countries. You may already know the savvy country that is ahead of the economic and diplomatic game, but in case you don’t, here is it, drum roll please….it’s CHINA!

Just this week, China pledged 60 billions US dollars to Africa with no political strings attached. Yes, you read correctly. No strings attached. You don’t believe me? Click here.
While we were celebrating our three-day Labor Day weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on Monday, September 3rd, that his country would “give $60 billion in aid and loans to Africa over the next three years without asking for any political concessions in return.” Wow!

China’s pledge involves a combination of grants, low-interest loans, financial investment and trade finance. China’s state media added on Tuesday that these types of overseas commitments were presented as “aid” or “support”, which is their way of implying that the country would make no profit.

The bottom line is that this is part of China’s “soft power” drive to anchor its geo-political and economic influence throughout Africa. According to Chinese state media, in just the first half of 2018, China has spent more than Rmb270m ($40m) on “Silk Road scholarships” for students from developing countries, according to state media.

Here is a sample of some of the countries (there are plenty more, but need to keep this blog brief) that are enjoying the financial aid offered by China supplemented by opportunities in education:

Angola

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China is thinking of projects that could contribute to the development of Angola in the areas of industry, agriculture, health and education. China and Angola established diplomatic relations in 1983 and since 2002, China has become more proactive when it comes to helping Angola by financing projects to recover and build roads, railways, airports, strengthen health and education and other infrastructure that is a priority for the country’s development. In the first quarter of this year, trade between the two countries grew 22.4% to US$6.8 billion. To read more, click here.

Kenya

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China and Kenya have established many education schemes, and one is the China-Kenya Vocational Education program designed to help train students and teachers for mechanical engineering. To read more, click here.

Rwanda

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In Rwanda, Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Musanze (IPRC Musanze) is playing an important role in training technical persons in Rwanda. The college which was constructed by China Geo-Engineering Corporation based on funds received from the Chinese government, is the largest polytechnic in northern Rwanda and it is contributing to technical training in the country. To read more, click here.

Sierra Leone

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If you speak to Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, he will tell you that China has always been “a reliable friend and brother” that has stood by the country at all times. This says it all, but if you want to learn more, click here.

Tanzania

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The Ministry of Energy recently announced that it was inviting applications from candidates to qualify for Chinese scholarship opportunities for postgraduate studies in “one of China’s best Oil and Gas Universities – the China University of Geo-sciences (Wuhan).”

Uganda

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On the recent launching of a project sponsored by China that provides digital learning to rural regions in Uganda, the country’s Minster of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, said: “This is a project that has several benefits, it will support education and encourage digital learning in rural schools by providing learning aids in form of projectors and televisions. These will be utilized to implement lessons plans and demonstrative education through videos and pictures.” To read more, click here.

Zambia

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The appreciation for China’s supports is also shared by Zambia where the country’s Higher Education Minister, Nkandu Luo, has praised the Chinese Government for supplementing government’s efforts in the education sector. For more, click here.

Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe has been sending students to study in China because it is affordable and gives the graduating students the chance to develop business connections. It makes sense, since China is Zimbabwe’s largest overseas trading company. And, as China’s visa rules don’t allow international students to remain in the country after graduating from university, the students return to Zimbabwe which prevent brain-drain. To read more, click here.

China-Africa: Soft Power Diplomacy

These are just a handful of the countries in Africa, where China has established bi-lateral relations through its “soft power” approach. China continues to award education scholarships to various African countries allowing students to study at its institutions of higher education and to return to their native lands on graduation. It’s a win win situation for all sides.

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I recently saw the big box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, a film about a super wealthy Chinese family in Singapore whose son is returning home to attend a friend’s wedding. He brings with him his Chinese-American girlfriend, a college professor who has absolutely no idea of his extreme wealthy origins. The film is billed a rom-com, but for me, it was a reflection of where we are today and what the future holds. Today, the number of Chinese billionaires exceed those in the United States. This is a major turning point for China which now boasts 596 billionaires – 60 more than the U.S.-  after a staggering 242 Chinese people became billionaires for the first time in just one year, according to a new survey.  There may be more Chinese billionaires, but according to the survey, those in America are richer and dominate the list of wealthiest people on the planet with Americans making up seven of the top ten. Regardless of who is the richer billionaire, at the rate China is expanding its reach into Africa, through education, manufacturing and trade agreements, it will not be for long that it will truly be a super power with Africa by its side.

Frustrated
Frustrated Evaluator

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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.

Related Links:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnXLOm0Bdd8/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=e883epcfuvxk

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/may/13/china-educating-africa-what-means-west

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/what-chinese-investment-means-for-african-higher-education

https://www.news4jax.com/news/international/chinas-president-xi-pledges-another-60-billion-for-afri

https://www.newsweek.com/why-china-giving-africa-60-billion-no-political-strings-attached-investment-1104360

https://macauhub.com.mo/2018/08/24/pt-china-estuda-novas-formas-de-investimentos-e-financiamentos-a-angola/

https://www.newsghana.com.gh/china-africa-education-scheme-helps-train-students-teachers-for-mechanical-engineering/

https://www.lusakatimes.com/2018/08/21/nkandu-luo-commends-china-for-support-in-education/

http://nilepost.co.ug/2018/08/31/more-zimbabwean-students-seek-education-in-china/

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Canada and Saudi Arabia: The Tweet that Sparked a Diplomatic Feud

August 24th, 2018

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Image Credit: Alexander Glandien

We recently learned of news that Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador from the country and has decided to recall its students from Canada.

What caused this diplomatic spat between the two countries? The short answer is: a tweet. It started with a tweet sent by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticizing the Saudi government over the detention of human rights activists.

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In response, Saudi Arabia responded by taking the following retaliatory steps:

• expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced that it would pull out more than 15,000 Saudis studying in Canada on government-funded courses or grants at colleges and universities;

• ordered a suspension of patients being transferred to Canada for medical treatment;
announced that it is suspending Saudi state airline flights to Toronto;

• on Monday, August 6th, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, a division of the Ministry of Education, announced on its website that by the end of the Islamic calendar year in September it will suspend all training and scholarship programs Saudi students are enrolled in at Canadian institutions;

• any accompanying family members of the Saudi students are also expected to leave Canada which according to The Business Insider could bring the number of Saudi nationals departing up to 20,000.

The Saudi government intends to place the Saudi students and their tuition in programs in other countries with similar education systems, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

No sooner had the Saudi government announced its plans to withdraw its students from Canadian institutions that we hear of a US university announcing its plans to ease admissions process for the Saudi students. Regardless of this offer, relocating so many students to other countries so close to the start of a new academic year is going to be very problematic.

Academicians also see an agenda in this latest move by the Saudi government. According to an interview in Times Higher Education with Dr. Chris Davidson, professor in Middle East politics at Durham University, he sees the transfer of students from Canada to the UK or elsewhere as complicated and costly. Dr. Davidson adds: “I don’t believe that’s their [the Saudi government’s] intention. They want to trim their bloated higher education budget by reducing the amount of students they pay to send to the West.” The Saudi government’s actions are also seen as a warning to other countries to refrain from publicly criticizing Saudi Arabia as done by the Canadian minister.

Canadian universities, especially the smaller institutions, will feel the effects of the financial loss, but they will recover since they continue to be one of leading top countries in attracting and receiving international students. It’s the Saudi students that are going to be affected the most. In an age of political overreaction, we can see that higher education is affected as much as any other entity and blameless students used as pawns.

Source Links:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/saudi-removal-students-canada-warning-shot-us-and-uk

https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-canada-human-rights-students-2018-8

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-saudi-arabia-to-withdraw-all-saudi-students-studying-at-canadian/

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/us-university-welcomes-saudi-students-canada

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/saudi-arabia-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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Political Correctness: Beware…Be Aware

February 2nd, 2018

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The ultimate stigmatization. The curse thrown across both sides of the aisle. It seems that the phrase “politically correct” may need a defender in the current climate and I’m happy to fill that role. I say first, a magic phrase that, should you use P.C. as a slur, might clear things up for you straight away. Listen up. NO ONE IS TELLING YOU WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT SAY. Political correctness isn’t a form of censorship, it’s not snowflakes with hurt feelings, and its not a trend. Political Correctness is some one or some ones telling you “Hey, what you said impacts me, or people of my group, in a way that is hurtful.” That’s it. From then on, how you choose to interpret this, and how you choose to react is on you. And there’s not always a right answer. There are times when hurting someone’s feelings is fine, as long as you take responsibility. Just understand the context. Realize the situation is probably bigger than just you or that person. Say what you want, just make sure it is what you want to say.

Political correctness, is a misnomer, and maybe that’s where we get into trouble. Perhaps if it was more appropriately called a “suggesting social awareness” (catchy right?) people wouldn’t feel as though they could play the oppressed or tough-guy card as a reaction. If they knew that all anyone was saying was “hey, I don’t know if you know this, but that makes you sound like an a–hole in this day and age”, it would be hard to react with anything but embarrassment. Unfortunately Politically correct stuck, and a movement forward became a bad word.

So ok fine you got me, Politically Correct is a slur. Fine, we can lose the phrase, language evolves right? HA! Got you! Language EVOLVES. And as such it is good to know whether or not you’re resisting the natural progress of that evolution. Think of PC as not saying Beware! rather, Be Aware! Think of PC, as my generation calls it, woke. We’re awfully good at giving cute names, my generation. But don’t let that detract from how much better a phrase it is. You’re not “correct” your awoken! It’s like the Matrix!

There’s a lot you can say for just being aware of the society around you, but it speaks for itself. The more you know, the more informed your decisions will be.  You know this. I know you do. So just keep reminding yourself of two things. 1. No one is telling you what you can or cannot do. And 2. Don’t be an a—hole.

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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20 Facts on North Korea

August 10th, 2017

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North Korea is taking center stage in world news, again. 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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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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Importance of International Students and Immigration to US Higher Education

March 10th, 2017

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As someone who has been actively involved in international education, this article expresses why I’m so passionate about the importance of immigrants and international students. The contributions made by immigrants and international students in the sciences, humanities and arts, economics, medicine, their innovations and inventions are too numerous to list. Yet what the Trump administration has done in less than two months with the enactment of the travel ban, revoking visas of international students, detaining refugees, deporting undocumented immigrants has so negatively impacted our standing in the world and will so deeply hinder and stunt our growth that the effects are far reaching will be felt by all. Immigrants and international students who are considering to legally enter the U.S. are seriously reconsidering their options by turning to friendlier and more hospitable countries to migrate and/or pursue their higher education.

This article by Jonathan R. Cole that recently appeared in The Atlantic sums it up nicely; American universities need international students and immigrants:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/american-universities-need-immigrants/518814/

We all need to stand up and support academic and scholarly exchange rather than erect walls and hide behind them in fear. Aren’t we Americans made of stronger stuff? Where’s our courage? Where’s our foresight?

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

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