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Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 12; March 28, 2012


Beirut gaining popularity for American study abroad.


Students angered by new Namibia campus.


Speaking out on shady agents in China.


Saving power during delays.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Beirut gaining popularity for American study abroad.

For years, Cairo and Damascus have served as top destinations for Western students interested to study in the Arab world. But after last year’s Egyptian uprising and Syrian unrest made the two locations less secure, students – particularly those from the United States – began looking for alternatives. As the Arab Spring uprisings overthrew governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, and led to crackdowns in Bahrain, Syria, and elsewhere – one capital remained relatively calm, Beirut in Lebanon.

Though Lebanon has long been associated with conflict, torn by a civil war that spanned parts of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and even today remains officially at war with Israel (with whom the country has had a series of conflicts stretching back to the 1950s), the city of Beirut has been experiencing a relative calm since its last conflict ended in 2006. And even though the U.S. State Department maintains an official travel warning, advising citizens to avoid the country because “the potential… for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains”, a growing number of American students are venturing into the country – and particularly to the American University of Beirut, or AUB.

Founded by Christian missionaries in 1866, the AUB has offered U.S.-style education, primarily to students from Lebanon, ever since. Still, many American universities will not support study abroad programs in countries with travel warnings, and sometimes refuse to accept transfer credits from institutions in those nations or withhold financial aid for students traveling there against the advice of the government. Many of these institutions have consequently moved some of their Egyptian and Syrian programs to the countries of Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, explains Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education. But while almost all colleges take the warnings seriously, she says some are known to be more “creative” if they trust the host university to evacuate their students quickly if trouble strikes.

As for the American University in Beirut, the college’s director of international programs, Katherine Nugent Yngve, believes that the benefits of studying in Lebanon far outweigh the risks.

“Many U.S. students tell us that they feel the State Department’s travel warning is an unfair impediment to studying abroad at AUB, as do their parents, and sometimes their study abroad advisers,” she recently explained to Inside Higher Ed, adding that although the U.S. government warns against travel, it still awards Tomorrow’s Leaders scholarships to Arab students pursuing degrees in Lebanon.

About 700 U.S. citizens and 2000 Westerners currently attend AUB, which has seen a roughly 50% increase in Western students every year since 2007. While many of these are seeking full degrees in Lebanon, others continue to attend as part of shorter-term study abroad trips.

Sources: “Arab uprisings push U.S. students from Egypt to Lebanon”., March 20, 2012.
& “Turmoil in Syria and Egypt driving western students to the American University of Beirut”. Ya Libnan, March 19, 2012.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Students angered by new Namibia campus.

Last year, the only private university in Namibia, the International University of Management (IUM), opened the doors of its new, “state-of-the-art” Dorado campus. Yet already, students are complaining about poor conditions.

Originally launched in 2002, IUM’s aim is “to train innovative specialists for the public and private sectors for Namibia and other countries in the world,” explains the school’s Vice-Chancellor, Virginia Namwandi. Focusing on management science in five different areas – including strategic management, information technology, tourism and hospitality, small business entrepreneurship, and HIV and AIDS management – the school currently operates its courses in five different Namibian locations, as well as in Malawi, through the ShareWorld Open University.

It all sounds great, in theory. But at the new Dorado campus, students are quick to point out the many flaws, angrily mentioning the school’s small, overcrowded lecture halls, final grades from last year that have yet to be received, and loan payments that have still not been refunded.

Speaking to the local Informanté newspaper, a number of students recently questioned how the institution could even be allowed to ‘call itself a university’, all things considered. “We cannot keep standing in classes while we are paying our money,” one student was quoted as saying.

At the satellite IUM campuses, students are equally upset with the levels of service they are receiving. One male IT student at the Ongwediva-based campus, for example, says that he still hasn’t received his May/June results from 2011 – even though he paid all his fees beforehand.

“These people are difficult to understand,” the man said, adding that he even “lost a bursary just because I couldn’t submit my results”.

When asked to comment by the Informanté paper, the campus head, Kandali Nangolo-Paulus, referred the reporter back to the university’s main Windhoek location. “All the money refunds and transcripts are prepared [there],” she said, and refused further comment.

Sources: “IUM targets 20000 students by 2012”. Prime Focus Magazine, June 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Speaking out on shady agents in China.

Last year, nearly 158,000 Chinese students attended U.S. universities, according to a report by the Institute of International Education. That makes up for 22% of all international students in the U.S. But even as their numbers continue to soar, admissions experts are beginning to voice concern over some of the students’ modes of application – specifically, their growing use of dishonest admissions agents.

According to Phillip Ballinger, chair of a committee formed by the National Association for College Admission Counselling, “many, if not the majority” of Chinese students now use agents to help navigate the complicated application process for American universities. The problem, he explains, is that many of these agents go beyond the traditional (and honest) role of admissions counsellors.

“Frequently,” he explains, “that means that they actually do their applications. They write their essays, they in some cases event create their transcripts and…the only exceptions are often the test scores we receive.”

In some cases, Ballinger says the students or families pay these agents steep fees for their services. For others, he says the U.S. universities themselves are actually encouraging the behaviour by paying the agents a commission for each student placed. Because these students pay full tuition, the cash-hungry universities are willing to look the other way.

But as assistant vice-president for enrolment at Seattle’s University of Washington, Ballinger is adamant that such behaviour – which he says is a growing trend not only in China, but also India and South Korea – ultimately lowers the quality of education for all those involved.

“It concerns us greatly, because that makes the student an ‘economic object,’ as opposed to a student you wished could be well-placed in a university or learn more about a university so that when he or she enrols at that university they’ll be successful and have a good experience.”

Source: “Shady Agents Help Chinese Students Enter US Universities”. Voice of America Breaking News, March 21, 2012.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Saving power during delays.

When you’re travelling, layovers and delays can really add up… and so, consequently, can the amount of time you rely on your smartphone to occupy yourself while waiting for your next connection. But do you have enough power ? Are you charged up ? Rather than having to search the terminal for a plug-in, here are a few easy tips to help you ensure your phone battery doesn’t run out of life while you still need it.

1. Disable the vibrate mode. For a ringtone to be audible, the only thing using energy is the speaker – whereas if it’s in vibrate mode, a lot more energy is required to make the whole device buzz.

2. Turn off GPS, location services, and Wi-Fi. Whenever these devices or apps are on, a battery-sucking signal is continuously running in order to keep them up to date. So as soon as you don’t need these services, be sure to switch them off.

3. Disable Bluetooth. Like GPS, having Bluetooth switched on means its using radio waves.

4. Kill any apps running in the background. Unless you purposely exit an app, it often keeps running, sucking more juice out of your battery. Be particularly careful of any that use location devices, and/or involve data being sent or received. Only keep the ones open that you’re using at the current time.

5. Dim the screen. The bigger and brighter your smartphone’s screen is, the more power it uses. By lowering the default brightness, you reduce the energy needed to keep things visible.

6. Keep it cool. Batteries are affected by heat, and allowing them to overheat can cause severe damage. As such, try to give your device a break every so often to keep it cool, and carry your phone in a bag rather than your pocket, to protect it from unnecessary body heat.

7. Reduce the auto lock time. Although it may not seem like a lot, keeping your screen off as much as possible can help to save up previous minutes of your energy.

8. Disable 3G mode. If possible. 2G mode connections are a lot slower, but as a result, use up a lot less energy.

9. Switch to airplane mode. The next best thing to turning your phone off is switching it to airplane mode – which kills all the transmitting and receiving signals, and consequently saves you considerable amounts of power. So if you just need to access things already stored on the phone (music, emails, etc), this is a great option.

Source: “Nine Steps for Saving Your Smartphone’s Battery”. Travel News from Fodor’s Travel Guides, June 2011. December 23, 2011.


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