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Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Volume 9, Issue 28; August 18, 2010

Let’s Go Canada

In the wake of the quake – only a handful of Haitians.

Abroad Perspective

Study abroad programs. Fail and Pass.

Over The Counter

Off Campus living. Small difference. Big savings!

Globe Tipping

The Right way to do the Long way, around.


1) LET’S GO CANADA – In the wake of the quake – only a handful of Haitians.

As Haiti struggles to pick up the pieces after last year’s devastating earthquake, it appears the plans have been shaken up for those who wanted to study in Canada.

In a recent Toronto Star article, suggestions were made as to explain the dwindling numbers of Canadian study visas being issued to Haitian students for the upcoming academic year. As of July’s end, Citizenship and Immigration Canada had only registered 19 new permits since the quake occurred. This, compared to last year’s count of 149, and 139 in 2008.

It’s true that for many Haitian families, income levels have dropped considerably – or, in some cases, been wiped out completely – since the earthquake took place. With visa requirements still the same as they were before, many students are finding it harder to demonstrate the ability to cover tuition and living costs involved with a year of overseas studies. Even the amount of funds involved with applying for such visas has become more difficult to cover, as damages to Canada’s Port-au-Prince offices have led the country to recommend visa seekers to apply through the offices in neighbouring Dominican Republic instead – a venture alone that can allegedly cost up to $500 extra.

What this explanation does not account for, however, are those students who are able to cover such expenses, yet are still being refused study visas – such as happened in the following case, reported by the Toronto Star:

According to officials from Quebec’s Université de Sherbrooke, a Haitian student was recently denied a visa to take part in a two-week-long business course held at the school this summer. Even after university staff members sent a second letter to the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince, requesting that the student’s application please be re-considered, no response was offered – let alone any visa.

According to Quebec Association of Student Entrepreneur Clubs founder, Micheline Locas, it is an issue that comes at the most inopportune of times – when Haiti is in need of as much extra international education as it can get.
“There are universities that have completely collapsed in Port-au-Prince,” explains Locas. “So for young people to be able to study (here) to be able in the face of this earthquake is very important.”

“It’s not so clear cut,” says Higher-Edge Managing Director Mel Broitman. “We see this in many developing nations in times of upheaval, whether from natural causes or man-made. Simply put, there are a lot of people who want to get out, and the challenge for Visa Officers becomes even tougher to discern who is a legitimate student. Such programs as a two-week long business course are ideal targets for visa abuse, given its low up-front cost and short study commitment.”

Source: “Are student visas for Haitians declining?” thestar.com , August 5, 2010.


2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVE – Study abroad programs. Fail and Pass.

In today’s increasingly competitive – and increasingly ‘globalized’ – job market, those students with study abroad experience can expect to have a distinct advantage when applying for work after graduation. So then why with the demand for international experience continuing to soar, do as few as 1.5% of American college students choose to study overseas each year?
According to a 2008 report by the American Council on Education and the College Board, the biggest problem is the amount of obstacles preventing enthusiastic students from pursuing such opportunities: “[B]arriers to student participation are real, including security concerns, high cost, academic demands that accommodate neither study abroad nor other international-learning experiences, and lack of encouragement by faculty and advisers.” The findings from the report also laid some of the onus on particularly unhelpful and unaccommodating universities.
With demand for study abroad programs on the rise, the (few) institutions who actively encourage and support overseas learning experiences may quickly find they have a distinct advantage in recruiting undergraduate students.
Wondering how to gain that edge? Signs of successful study-abroad programs include:
Support from both administration and faculty. In order for students to be fully encouraged to take part in overseas study programs, they must be able to gain the help and support of both their professors (who believe in the programs’ worth and appreciate international experiences) as well as the school administration, which has financial and other resources to make things happen. 
Variety of program options. Students want to be able to choose (and have access to) exactly what they want, as well as what they need – financial aid options, discounts, course equivalencies, and especially, the two golden words: academic credit. The more options students are provided – ideally all with the support of their academic department(s) – the more attractive the programs (and therefore the university) become.
Fair value, fair price. Self-explanatory. Though one extra thing to note: students also like to be able to see exactly where their fees are going.  No one ever tends to take very warmly to ‘hidden costs’.
Preparation for risk. Successful study-abroad programs prepare for the inevitable, as well as the unexpected. Judicial affairs, health services, counseling services, travel insurance, crisis-management protocols, training, orientations – these are all elements which should be well thought out and incorporated into any program, in the best interest of the student participants as well as each of the institutions involved. And of course, this also ties in with the idea of getting “more bang for your buck” – ie fair value, fair price.
For more signs of successful study abroad programs, be sure to check out the source link included below:

Source: “7 Signs of Successful Study-Abroad Programs”. The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 25, 2010.


3) OVER THE COUNTER – Off Campus living. Small difference. Big savings!

Over the course of one academic year, university students in the UK could save up to £750 – or well over $1000 – just by opting out of university-based accommodation. According to research conducted by Easyroommate.co.uk, even this one decision – to share a flat instead of living in a hall – can actually cut overall student costs by up to 15%.

Although almost a quarter of the U.K.’s 2.4 million students still choose to live in campus halls – many of whom are first-year or international students – the difference in cost between staying in university-accommodation versus non-university accommodation is considerable. Even for second or third year students, many of whom are given the option of living in university-owned houses instead of residence halls, the different between the two can rack up to £23 each week!

Although there are admittedly various different advantages to each scenario, as far as cost-effectiveness is concerned, living off-campus in non-university housing is by far the cheaper decision.

Other ways to pinch those pennies? Self-catering (whether living on-campus or not), or sharing a flat with multiple roommates.

Source: “Students save £ 750 a year avoiding halls”. This is Money, July 27, 2010.
 

4) GLOBE TIPPING – The Right way to do the Long way, around.

For those dreaming of a long-term trip – perhaps it’s a prolonged vacation? A mix of work and travel? A career break?  For others yet, maybe the dream is best left for retirement. Whatever the reason behind it, six months or more for travel means the perfect opportunity … for a Round the World trip!
Ready to pack your bags? Then you might want to wait just a few more minutes, to consider the following tips for making the most of your upcoming adventure.
Spend more time in fewer places (unless of course you’re on The Amazing Race). Racing from country to country means more cost, more things that can wrong, more stress (!), and less quality time. Although the temptation may be there to “do it all!” it’s almost definitely going to be more enjoyable to do fewer places, but to “do them right” instead. And, on a similar note:
Slow down. Travelling fast is not only extremely exhausting, it’s also extremely expensive – with a train or plane or boat every three of four days costing an extra $50, or $200, or $1000 each go, fast can quickly mean broke. 
Remember to get money when you can. Small towns are notorious for their lack of ATM machines, travelers’ cheque changing facilities, and even ability to accept credit cards, make sure you take out the money you need while you know you’re still able to. Ideally enough to get you where you’re going, do your activities, and then get you back to wherever you want to go next.
Network now. Friends, friends of friends, family, fellow alumni, work colleagues, the dental hygienist who always sports that great true-Mediterranean tan – you never know who’s going to be able to give you that one piece of advice (or contact!) that really makes your trip extra special.  
Check the weather. Unless of course you fancy the idea of being caught out in surprise by (easily avoidable) Indian monsoons or scorching Spanish heat.
Buy the right footwear. As anyone who’s ever worn the wrong footwear knows, this point matters. A lot.
Pack light. For many, many reasons.
Make sure you sort out your visa situation – and know your vaccinations! As any traveler who has ever been turned around at a border, or forced to accept a fear-inducing “on-the-spot injection” by untrained immigration officials can attest, these are two of the things you do not want to leave to chance.
And finally, narrow down your destinations to meet your budget. No one wants to have to cut their trip short due to an ‘unforeseen’ lack of funds – or, alternatively, to spend half their time worrying about such a thing happening! Especially when there are destinations out there to meet (almost) any traveler’s budget! The trick is just knowing which places cost what. For example, a person can easily travel on $25-$35 a day in places like Thailand, Indonesia, or Vietnam, whereas, for destinations such as Australia, Japan, or Singapore, you can expect to pay at least three or four times that.

Want more “Round the World” tips? Be sure to check out the related discussion on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, which lists the things people wished they’d known before they took off on their own “RTW” journeys!

Source: “Before you go: Round the World travel tips”. Lonely Planet blog, July 5, 2010.
 

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