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Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 24; June 20, 2012


Friendless in America: Foreign students lament.


Rosy or Rough? Different outlooks on int’l student market.


Controversy over South African attempt to crack down on foreign white students.


Cashing in on coins.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Friendless in America: Foreign students lament.

While the number of international students attending American universities continues to soar, a new study has revealed a concerning trend – specifically, the fact that many foreign students fail to form close friendships with their American peers, despite their wishes to do so.

The study, conducted by associate communication professor Elizabeth Gareis, at Baruch College (City University of New York), includes responses from over 450 international students, attending public universities in the South (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi, the Northeast (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York state), as well as New York City. Of these students, nearly 40% reported having no close American friends.

While responses vary by region – with international students in the South appearing to have more American friends than those in other parts of the country, including New York City (where reported friendship levels were the lowest) – they also differ depending on the origin of the international students in question.

For example, students from English-speaking countries reported being more content with the state of their American relationships than those hailing from East Asia did – pointing to an obvious connection with communication. Nearly half of the foreign students, and 80% of East Asian students, cited some “internal factor” – included limited language proficiency or being shy – as a major reason why they find it difficult to make friends. At the same time, some students also cited contributing factors among the Americans, such as superficiality or a lack of interest in other cultures.

According to Gareis, these findings are concerning for both the international and American students. She urges universities to do more in order to address this problem.

“A central predictor of overall sojourn satisfaction is international students’ contact with the hosting country’s nationals, in particular, the meaningful contact found in friendships,” she says. “Through friendships, international students have stronger language skills, better academic performance, lower levels of stress and better overall adjustment to a new culture.”

Sources: “New study finds many foreign students lack American friends”. Inside Higher Ed, June 14, 2012.
& “Study Finds International Students are Friendless in U.S.” CTI Career Search, June 14, 2012.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Rosy or Rough? Different outlooks on int’l student market.

Universities should expect a global slowdown of incoming international students over the next decade. Or at least, so says the warning issued by this month’s British Council report, titled The Shape of Things to Come: Global Trends and Emerging Opportunities to 2022.

The study of economic and demographic trends predicts that the UK will attract an extra 30,000 overseas students over the next 10 years – a measly amount compared to the 180,000 student growth experienced between 2002-03 and 2010-11. And with the US’ growth prediction ranking even less than the UK’s, only Australia is expected to benefit from greater gains in its foreign-student intake by 2022.

As a result, the study urges universities to concentrate on setting up more overseas branch campuses, and promote research partnerships with foreign institutions. It warns that the global education market is shifting away from the previously-held “Western concept”, of recruiting students from countries with less-established higher education systems.

“The internationalisation of higher education appears to be moving to a new stage,” says co-author of the report, Janet Ilieva. “International students will continue to play an important role, but research and joint delivery of education independently or with overseas partners will have growing prominence.”

These predictions, meanwhile, contradict a number of previous studies – including a very optimistic forecast released by Universities UK just this January – which suggest that the number of international students coming to the UK is in fact set to soar. According to the Universities UK report, the national economy’s earnings from foreign students will as much as double by 2025, reaching almost £17 billion a year, thanks to a new global middle class keen to send their children to high-quality foreign institutions.

This newest report, on the other hand, is being seen by some as a warning to universities – to not become over-reliant on tuition fees from international students. Curiously enough, its release comes just one week ahead of a major speech by UK’s universities and science minister, David Willetts, scheduled to be given at Standford University on the future of UK universities abroad.

Source: “Overseas-student growth to tail off”. Times Higher Education, June 14, 2012.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Controversy over South African attempt to crack down on foreign white students.

At a Johannesburg meeting earlier this month, officials for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) made a controversial call. Specifically, they urged that “more acceptable ratios” be established at university campuses, in order to “ensure that spaces for deserving African students are not filled by foreign white students”.

This announcement – interpreted by some as a push for race-based quota controls on international student intakes – has received criticism from a number of sides. In a country still battling to overcome a difficult history, notorious for its decades of racial segregation, such a statement has raised serious concerns.

“It is unacceptable to suggest that international students should be barred on the basis of their race,” explains Jacques du Preez, of the FW de Klerk Foundation – an organization committed to promoting democracy and peace in ‘multi-community’ countries.

Besides accusing COSATU’s actions of trying to undermine the autonomy of the nation’s universities, du Preez says that such a decision would go directly against the nation’s Constitution, warning that “[a]ny move to exclude foreign students from our universities on the basis of their race would take us back to the unacceptable academic discrimination of the past.”

Apart from the issue of race, du Preez says it’s “difficult to understand why COSATU is calling for a further reduction in the number of students from the rest of the world” at all, stating instead that “[a]nyone interested in promoting the international reputation of our universities should enthusiastically welcome students from all over the world – not just from Africa.”

Meanwhile, other bodies are also describing the move as unnecessary, considering the amount of foreign students (of any race) actually attending the nation’s institutions. According to South Africa’s Higher Education Department spokeswoman, Vuyelwa Qinga, the number of foreign students currently studying at SA Universities at the undergraduate level is in fact very small.

“Under the [Southern African Development Community/SADC] Protocol, the SA government has agreed that 5% of enrolments should be for SADC students,” she explains, referring to students from the community’s 15 member states across Southern Africa, “and [our] universities implement this.”

“Statistics show that 94% of undergraduate enrolments in our universities are South Africans, with 5% from SADC countries and 1% from other African Countries. All students from overseas in SA universities are either enrolled as occasional students… or are in post graduate programs,” she added. And according to her department’s statistics for 2010, more than a third of these international students were not even attending classes in person, but through Unisa – the country’s premier distance-learning university.

Sources: “Too many foreign whites in universities”. Sunday Independent, June 16, 2012.
& “Why’s COSATU targeting foreign white students”. Politicsweb, June 6, 2012.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Cashing in on coins.

For anyone who’s ever returned home from a far-off land, only to find a handful of foreign coins weighing down their pocket, you know the choices are limited – exchange them for a measly amount at a bank, or throw them into a drawer until your (maybe never to happen) return. So rather than render those hard-earned coins basically worthless once home, here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of them.

- Play Brewster’s Millions at the airport. In homage to the 1980s Richard Pryor film, pretend your wealth depends on spending as much money as possible in a short amount of time. Though your in-pocket-coin budget is unlikely to equal anywhere near $30 million (the budget in the film), have some fun trying to purchasing things totalling up to the exact amount of change you have left – with your goal being to board the plane with no foreign currency left.

- Save it to teach kids a geography lesson. If you have any kids in your life, then currency, along with a passport and a map, can equate to a very fun game, i.e.: “Where did Auntie X go?” Kids love the different colours and shapes that foreign currencies come in, and it can be a great way to teach them about life in foreign lands.

- Say thank you at the airport. Though many cultures don’t tip, airport restaurants and coffee shops often have tip jars – many of which sadly remain empty. Make someone’s day by offering some of your extra currency in thanks.

- Plan ahead and spend it as you go. We’ve all returned from a trip only to hear the (sometimes dreaded) phrase, “What did you bring me?” Prevent any awkward excuses by using up spare change as you go – buying small items like pencils, stickers, or pins to empty from street vendors as you go. And hey, if no one asks, they could always make for great stocking stuffers come Christmas time!

- Create more change. Most airports and planes have special arrangements with local charities – through which your loose change can help create big change around the world. Keep an eye out for marked boxes at airports or envelopes in your seatback pocket, and contribute your coins to the cause.

- Keep it together. If you’re bound to head back to a destination at some point soon, try to keep all your foreign change together, in a place where you’ll remember it for your next trip. One idea: put it in a bag along with your passport, so you’ll be sure to find the two together.

Source: “How to Make the Most of Your Leftover Foreign Currency”. DailyFinance, June 2, 2012.


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