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Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 5; February 9, 2011

The Playing Field

Diversity and internationalization, inside and outside Canada’s classrooms.

Abroad Perspectives

Taxi !Taxi !! Tough times finding a cab and international students, Down Under.

Over The Counter

Indian ankles and angles. Scam and sham of foreign students, and this time in America.

Globe Tipping

Learning to Deal: Touts and Beggars

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Diversity and internationalization, inside and outside Canada’s classrooms.
According to a new report by the Toronto-based company, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Canadian students are far ahead of their American counterparts when it comes to overseas study.

Of the nearly 3,000 student respondents surveyed for the report, 9% have studied abroad during the past three years or so – a considerable portion, especially when compared to the US, where the percentage has hovered around only 1% for several years now.

Along with the realization that over a quarter of students say they would be keen on studying overseas in future, these are findings that some suggest should influence the way universities’ international offices work with students.

“[These] results have raised questions about how we promote study abroad on our campuses,” explains Higher Education Strategy Associates president, Alex Usher.

While many North American educators push study abroad as a way to experience foreign travel for the first time, Usher says this may be the wrong approach in Canada – considering that 78% of students said they have already traveled or lived in countries outside Canada or the U.S. Many students, he adds, are also likely to have family elsewhere in the world.

“If you look at Toronto-area high schools,” he explains, “more than half those kids either were born outside the country or have parents who were born outside the country, and it’s a good bet that most of them would have gone back at some point.”

But it’s not just overseas study that Canadian students are keen on – it seems they’re also just as enthusiastic when it comes to hosting other international students on their own campuses as well.

“By a margin of roughly 2.5 to 1,” the report reads, “students agree with the statement that international students enhance the in-class experience.” And the benefits are obvious – 93% of students believe that the ability to work in diverse cultural settings will be important in getting a job.

Sources: “Canadian students Say They’re Ready to Go Global”. The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 7, 2011.

& “CANADA: Students value internationalisation”. University World News, January 9, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Taxi ! Taxi !! Tough times finding a cab and international students, Down Under.
In Australia, falling international student numbers are already causing serious impacts throughout the country, both within and outside of the actual education sector. One industry in particular to feel the strain – the taxi business.

With a long history of employing international students, taxi operators are now desperate in the wake of their sharp decline – begging former drivers to consider getting back behind the wheel to make up for the loss.

In the city of Victoria, Taxi Association spokesman David Samuel says the situation is now urgent – with driver shortages already cutting into higher demand shifts, causing financial strain on operators and longer waits for customers.

“It’s getting progressively worse now,” he explains, “as those [student] drivers who left before Christmas have usually returned by now, but not this year. Without them there simply aren’t the drivers available to cover the shifts.”

With high employment in Australia and relatively low wages for taxi drivers, the profession is not particularly attractive to many local jobseekers – yet makes a reliable side job for international students wanting some extra income (it also makes for good under the table cash for non bona fide foreign students, and the reality of much of the foreign student movement to Australia). However, with the recent changes to student visa regulations and drop in Indian-specific student numbers (Indian students having previously made up a big part of the driving force), operators say they are now looking to engage other groups of international students to replace their lost staff.

‘‘We’re looking at attracting a new breed of international students,’’ Mr Samuel says. ‘‘We’ve had a long history of employing new Australians, and we’d like to continue to do that.’’

Source: “Staff shortage drives city taxi owners to desperate plea”. Banyule and Nillumbik Weekly, February 1, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Indian ankles and angles. Scam and sham of foreign students, and this time in America.
A scam involving 1,500 Indian students at a California university got almost as much media attention last week in India as violent protests in Egypt and the latest stories of the mega-corruption of India’s governments.

The sensationalized headlines which first splashed across Indian media were of Indian students in the U.S. forced to wear radio collars around their ankles to broadcast their whereabouts to American immigration enforcement agents. Indian’s external minister S. M. Krishna called for an immediate removal of the collars, calling the actions of the U.S. government, “inhuman”.

Of Tri Valley University’s (TVU) 1,555 students, almost 1,500 were Indian. TVU was ordered to close on the grounds it was a fraud, merely posing as an academic institution to facilitate and sell student visas. TVU’s Indian students claimed they were victims, but nonetheless many were faced with deportation and wearing the radio collars.

American officials responded saying the government actions were standard procedure and claimed that despite the cries of many Indian students, they are not all victims. The common reaction in India as witnessed by the Indian government’s statements, is rarely to make the students accountable themselves. But as more information came out, it became apparent that many (if not most) of the Indian students took part in the fraud. Students made a few thousand dollars to refer new individuals to the scheme, and education agents in India also made thousands of dollars facilitating applications and visas.

As the smoke clears it’s become clear that the responsibility for the scam lays with the students, Indian agents, and the cheats at TVU. What’s still murk, is just how U.S. immigration authorities in India granted so many student visas for what was not such a well-hidden fraud.

Sources: “US move of tagging Indian students unacceptable: Krishna”. The Times of India, January 30, 2011.
& “‘Sham’ US university blames Indian staffer for immigration fraud”. The Times of india, February 1, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Learning to Deal: Touts and Beggars
When travelling in many countries, particularly anywhere in the developing world, touts and beggars are an unavoidable, though often uncomfortable, fact of life. In many cases, their apparent (and sometimes very real) need causes a tug on Western heartstrings, particularly when dealing with beggars in the form of women and children, the elderly, the ill, landmine victims, polio survivors, lepers, war amputees, etc. But the problem with giving out money and/or gifts indiscriminately (besides being hard on your wallet), is that it often encourages more persistent beggars to continue – becoming more likely to target other ‘easy’ tourists in future – and discourages them from looking for more sustainable forms of work or training. Or, in the case of child beggars (many of whose parents or guardians are the ones that send them out on the street in the first place), from getting even a basic education.

So whether it’s a persistent beggar, a pushy tout, or an over-demanding taxi driver, here are a few tips to help keep the hassles – and frustrations over feeling like a walking bank – to a minimum on your next trip abroad:

Learn how to say “No” and “Go away” in the local language. If approached by a persistent tout or beggar that you are not interested in giving money to, then say the appropriate phrase – once, firmly – and then keep on walking. If the person (specifically common with children) physically tries to detain you, by grabbing your arm or leg, then firmly detach yourself, look them in the eye once, and repeat “No”, very firmly. It is typically those tourists who seem apologetic or who show any prolonged interest that the beggar or tout will continue to follow – your hesitation or continued dialogue signalling to them a potential opportunity (however slight the chance may be) to eventually wear you down.

Be aware of not only your belongings, but also your appearance. Anything that is particularly ‘rich-looking’ (jewellery, flashy electronics) – or anything that might specifically be “asked for” – should either be avoided, or kept well-hidden whenever possible. In most cases, tourists in developing countries are viewed as being far richer than they usually are, so there’s no reason to draw extra attention to yourself as an especially wealthy target.

In the case of tour operators or taxi drivers who try to charge you extra amounts or tips on top of what you’d initially agreed upon – be firm, and don’t allow yourself to get bullied into paying more. In order to avoid this scenario, make sure you always have a very clear agreement before you start out – and don’t give in to any “yes, yes” or “as you like it” vague acknowledgements. If the driver or operator actually refuses to accept the amount you’d agreed upon (in some countries, they’ll refuse to even take the money you try to hand them, demanding more instead), just leave it on the seat and walk away.

Finally – humour always goes a long way, and keeps everyone (including you!) in a good mood. This is particularly useful for unwanted street sellers, who often know – as much as you do – that you do not want their wares. For example, if a guy offers you a huge bar of laundry soap, just smile and say “No thanks – no water!” If a taxi driver tries to insist you visit a specific shop, tell him that you’re desperate for a toilet, and if you have to endure one more extra stop you’ll soil his vehicle! For drivers that repeatedly try to offer their services, sometimes following along beside you for blocks trying to wear you down, just tell them that you’re on a mission to walk across the country, so no wheels allowed! – or alternatively, that you’re taking exercise, because you need it!

Alternatively, if you would like to give some gifts or money to individuals in need, a piece of advice – try to give to those who are not hounding you, but to those who don’t ask you outright, or target only ‘wealthy-looking’ tourists. Even better – make a donation to a trustworthy NGO in the place where you’re visiting, that works in a sector close to your own heart. In either of these cases, you’ll still be providing support to someone in need, while avoiding encouraging “professional beggars”.

Sources: “Nine Travel Tips for Transport, Security and Bargaining in India”., January 9, 2011.
& “On the Road – Budget travel backpacking advice, guide and help”.


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