Archive for December, 2008

Strapped for cash? You can still go abroad.

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about 2008 as a whole.  With the economy still a fearful unknown for 2009 it has made me all the more concerned about study abroad.  It would be a tragedy if students are deterred from going abroad due to financial constraints despite the wealth of resources out there.  To help out a bit, here’s a quick guide to study abroad financial assistance.

The good news first – if you are on financial aid and you are planning to go abroad for a semester, in many cases you can use your financial aid towards your program.  This varies by program and school so you should definitely consult your study abroad office for more specifics.  The bad news – financial doesn’t extend to summer programs, but often there are other avenues available to cover these expenses.  Many program providers do provide scholarships and aid to students enrolled in their programs (even summer programs) so definitely contact your provider to find out more.

Another great source of scholarship aid can be found domestically.  ISEP, a study abroad provider, has a list of excellent scholarship resources.  One of the groups on their list is the Rotary Club.  Rotary International sponsors the Ambassadorial Scholarship which pays for students to study language and academics abroad.

Parliament and Big BenForeign governments can be very generous when it comes to scholarships and students often forget that they can apply to governments directly.  China, which was covered in the last post, has an extensive scholarship program through their Ministry of Education.  If you are enrolling directly with a Chinese University as a visiting student you are eligible to apply.  Similarly, the British Council’s education arm has an extensive database of scholarships and funds available to study abroad students.  The US government also sponsors the Gilman Scholarship specifically for study abroad students.  International education is important to many governments and it’s vital to check out their resources.

The resources to go abroad are definitely available to students who are trying to finance their trip during this tough economic climate.  This post only covers a few of the many scholarships out there so you should by no means be discouraged.  If you do some early research, plan your application cycle, and apply to scholarships, going abroad can be within reach.

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The return of the “Grand Tour”: art students studying abroad

An issue we think about a lot here at Gulliver is increasing Study Abroad participation among students in majors/programs that traditionally make it hard for them to go abroad.  The most notable examples come from the sciences – engineering, physics, etc. – in which the coursework is so specific and extensive that credit-transfer is often complicated.  But another, less well-known, area of study for which this is often a problem is the fine arts.  BFA candidates also often struggle to find courses abroad that are comparable to those they get at their home institutions.  And that’s a problem particularly near and dear to my own heart – I’ve got a background in art history and many artist friends, and too many of them never studied abroad.

For that reason I was really pleased to see this Artdaily article this morning on the new Study Abroad program at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University.  

Grand Tour

Grand Tour

In a program reminiscent of the artistic and/or touristic “Grand Tours” of the 18th and 19th centuries, AAU students spent a semester in Corciono, Italy participating in an ” intense curriculum of on-site, plein-air painting.”  There’s now a show up in San Francisco of the work produced during the program.  AAU is taking the lead in making Study Abroad a priority among fine art undergraduates – I hope their model is quickly implemented elsewhere.

China: No Longer Just Up-and-Coming

I can’t even remember the first time I went to China.  I consciously remember a trip in the winter of 1996 when it was so cold, workers had to de-ice the wings of our airplane . . . with shovels.  But the country has come a long way since then.  The Friendship Store, the one department store, has given way to Prada, Gucci, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, and all the other luxuries of the western world.  When I was younger, passing through immigration was especially scary because the guards – all men – never smiled, ever.  Today, both male and female officers view your passport and you are able to comment on their geniality via an electronic pad with smiley faces.  Oh, how times have changed.

QianmenI’ve returned to China many times since then.  I studied abroad and interned in China for two consecutive summers in 2004 and 2005 and I’ve visited the country once more since then.  The first time I was there China, was an up-and-coming destination, but I feel like the relative lack of international students, especially the lack of Americans, is what made the experience especially meaningful.  Though I lived with fellow American students while studying and interning, it was through our friendships with locals that we really learned about the culture.

For the two summers I lived in Beijing, I derived the most pleasure for learning the language, traveling, and sightseeing.  I’ve always felt that language is the doorway to a culture and without it, you will always be a foreigner.  Traveling was fun, enlightening, and beautiful – we took the overnight train from Beijing to several destinations including Inner Mongolia and Shanghai.  Eating deserves special attention.  I’ve spent more time than you could imagine smelling and eating my way around various countries.  China is the perfect place for such a thing.  Cuisines vary from city to city and from province to province.  From the dim sum carts in Hong Kong to the homely, humble stews of Mongolia, I made sure to try everything Chinese cuisine had to offer.  But I digress . . .

CCTV Tower, BeijingThe main reason I’ve spent so much time talking about China is because of the 2008 IIE Open Doors Report.  For the 2006/07 academic year – the most recent year covered by the report – China hopped easily over Australia and Mexico to secure the number 5 seating in the list of popular destinations abroad.  Other countries experienced drops in participants; several hundred fewer students studied abroad in Mexico and Australia between 05/06 and 06/07.  Meanwhile, the number of students studying in China increased by 25%, or about 2,200 students.  Let’s put this into perspective.  In order to pinpoint a country that experienced a similar percentage growth in students, the eye has to wander down seven spots to number 12: Argentina.  This South American country saw a 26% increase in number of students.  And while 26% is good growth, in terms of sheer numbers it’s only about 800 students.  Compared to Argentina, China has made some serious strides in appealing to study abroad students.  In one academic year, China reinvented its own image by moving its way from up-and-comer to heavy hitter.

It seems that everyone has been to China these days, and the Open Doors Report is just one of the sources that confirms it.  During the 2002/03 academic year, only 2,493 American students studied in China.  Between 02/03 and the 2006/07 academic year, the number of students has increased to 11,074.  That’s a jump of 440%!  So, if you’re looking to study in the rising destination – the numbers will only increase when next year’s report is released – head to China.  While you’re there taste the food, meet the people, and learn the language.  Believe me, you won’t regret it.

Trying to Find a Tree Kangaroo: The Tree Kangaroo

I have a strange habit of trying to find rare mammals in the wild whenever I’m in a country that supports them. From the time I was a kid I’ve seen it as a bragging right and badge of honor. When I was eleven years old I was on a safari in Zambia with my mom and sister, and remember crying because with only one night left I still hadn’t seen an aardvark, which was listed as the rarest animal to see in the area. Luckily the next night we spotted one on a night drive. My high expectations were met, and it was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

(Photo Courtesy Peter Greenberg)

(Photo Courtesy Peter Greenberg)

Twelve years later my rare mammal fixation is as strong as ever. In Papua New Guinea, my focus was the tree kangaroo. I’m not sure how much I really need to write to convey how ridiculously awesome a tree kangaroo is. First off, it’s a kangaroo that lives in a tree. They are thought to have evolved from kangaroos and wallabies from the Australian continent, with their main physical differences being exceptionally long tails, stronger forelimbs, and longer claws – all developed for mobility while in trees. Tree kangaroos are very rare, and seven of the nine existing species are live only in Papua New Guinea. So, if you’re looking for tree kangaroos, Papua New Guinea happens to be the place to go.treekang33

There’s also some great mythology surrounding the tree kangaroo in Papua New Guinea. Hunters believe that you have to be extremely accurate when throwing a spear at a tree kangaroo for two reasons. First, if you hit it and don’t kill it, they say the tree kangaroo will grab the spear, pull it out of itself, and throw it back at you with more force and accuracy than your throw at it. Second, it is considered bad luck if you miss the tree kangaroo. Papua New Guineans take their bad luck very seriously, as bad luck is pretty synonymous with death.

If you take a look at the tree kangaroo, it’s pretty funny to imagine this donkey-faced monkey dog hurling a spear at you with deadly precision. Still, regardless of whether the little guy can actually mow people down, the tree kangaroo has to be one of the coolest mammals out there. The look, the rarity, the mythology – it’s really like the five-tool player of the animal world.

kang14

After completing the PANANGO program in the Lowlands, I went to the local university in Madang to meet up with some friends from the Highlands I had made while there. Telling them of my desire to see a tree kangaroo, they arranged for me to go up with one of their friends. There wasn’t too much planning involved. I was introduced to Danny, who was about about my age, from a village in the Western Highlands, and in true Highlands fashion, was about 5’7 and built like a heavyweight wrestler. Danny happily agreed to take me to his village and help me find a tree kangaroo. The trip was on.

The Cost of Attending College Here and Abroad

For years, amongst other strong traits, the United States has had a monopoly on higher education. Year after year, students from small towns in rural countries and students from rich suburbs worked tirelessly to pad resumes so that they can enter the top tier universities and colleges in the US. And for good reason – judging by the enormous number of Ivy League graduates in Government and on Wall Street, it would appear to be a one way ticket to success and fortune. Though it might seem like US higher education is hitting its golden age, there are two interesting new factors that throw the proverbial wrench in the works: college is increasingly expensive and more students are studying overseas.

Graduating Students (photo by KitAy)

Graduating Students (photo by KitAy)

According to a New York Times article printed last week, between 1982 and 2007 the cost of college tuition and fees increased vastly more than the increase in median family income. Any way you look at it, this is a disturbing number. Additionally, the net costs at a four-year private university, such as the aforementioned Ivies, comprised 76 percent of the median family income. This data begs a few more questions. The most basic is where will the less wealthy and privileged American students go? Federal and university financial aid will have to increase to meet the larger demand and even so, there will still be a significant number of students who will have a tough time paying for school. In a more general sense, other questions are brought to mind. Is the time of US educational hegemony over? Will we start to see higher concentrations of foreign students here? Where will the less wealthy and privileged American students go? For this last question, there may be a new answer.

St. Andrews University Classics Building (photo by Jjhake)

St. Andrews University Classics Building (photo by Jjhake)

A week before the article highlighting raising college costs was published, the New York Times printed another article titled “Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required).”  In it, they describe a trend of students finding more affordable education outside of the United States. With the rising costs of college at home, more students might turn to programs like the one at St. Andrews, in Scotland. The article highlights the fact that attending St. Andrews costs about the same as it would to attend an out-of-state public university. With a growing number of Americans (St. Andrews has 1,230 this year, up from 200 ten years ago), foreign universities may soon be a more common option for students, especially where price may be concerned.

While more US students are going abroad for their degrees, the number of foreign students studying in the US is also increasing. The newly released IIE Open Doors 2008 Report shows a continuous increase in foreign student enrollment at US Universities (over 600,000 students for 07/08). These bring me to the final question and the final point: how bad is this? It’s harder to say. For sure, expensive higher education will tragically deter many from going to college, but if high costs unexpectedly send more students to seek degrees abroad, isn’t it also contributing to the type of diversity that administrators and students are looking for? If the goal of international education is broader understanding, sending more students abroad for full degrees is a step in the right direction. Now we just have to figure out how to ensure it’s accessible to everyone.

Links to the NYTimes Articles
“College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.”
“Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)”

Trying To Find a Tree Kangaroo: Introduction to the New Guinea Highlands

I think a nice way to start off this adventure blog is to tell the the story of my journey to find a tree kangaroo in the Papua New Guinean highlands. Some background:

highlands12

I was in Papua New Guinea (PNG) helping launch Panango, a student-initiated organization promoting Education, Empowerment, and Exchange between American students and Papua New Guineans. While we lived in villages on the coast in the lowlands, which were awesome in their own right, I anxiously bided my time to get up to the Highlands.

All the stuff that one might associate with Papua New Guinea – cannibals, tribal warfare, fiercely face-painted warriors – originates from the Highlands. Those short, powerful guys with a boar tusk pierced through their septum – that’s a Highlander. Before I left for PNG, I remember Robert Siegel, an associate professor of immunology at Stanford who spent some time in the Highlands, telling me about men in his village casually explaining to him how they had just torched huts of another village because there was a tribal conflict and retribution was part of their way of life. I was definitely intrigued.

The Papua New Guinean Highlands’ history helps explain its wild reputation. Europeans first discovered the island of New Guinea in the early part of the 16th century, landing and staying in and around the lowland areas. They didn’t even bother venturing to the center of the island, assuming that only mountains and dense jungle existed. In the 1930s European explorers finally made the trek up there, only to discover about a million people living amid the rugged landscape. Think about that. A place that was “discovered” by Europeans only about 75 years ago.

highlands22

Tribal warfare was and is a very real thing up in the Highlands. While as recently as the 1970s, warriors used traditional bows and arrows, spears, and shields, at some point some guy brought a gun to the battlefield and ruined it for everyone. I heard a lot of men talk about that with regret, as warfare with spears and arrows, while still deadly, was more like a game to them. One of my friends from up there told me about how his dad got stabbed in the leg with a spear, and immediately upon release from the local clinic, went right back to the battlefield as though it were a playoff soccer game and he was their injured star forward.

From what I could gather, the introduction of guns to tribal warfare was like our introduction of the atom bomb to conventional warfare. It totally redefined the rules. So these days, tribal warfare seems more akin to gang warfare. Your tribe members are your people, and if one of them gets crossed, you’re obligated to back him up.

highlands31

Hence retribution as a culturally significant and necessary action. But now they use pistols and AK’s instead of arrows and spears. Interestingly, poverty usually prevents most disputes from becoming too drawn out. Once both sides agree they are spending too much of their respective resources on bullets (expensive to them), they agree to call it quits. Still, a good amount of people die.

And yes, cannibalism was indeed practiced among certain tribes, a few relatively recently. Apparently cannibalism still exists in isolated places, but for the most part, it’s a thing of the past. I guess it offended the missionaries.

highlands41

While the mystique of the Highlands certainly drew me, I did have an ulterior motive: finding the coolest little fuzzy wuzzy animal on the planet.

Two new blog “series” – we’re all Study Abroad, all the time!

JY EcuadorHey everyone! My name is James Yin and I’m a member of the Gulliver Team. Just as a quick introduction, I gradutated from Yale in 2007 and I studied abroad in China for 2 summers.  I learned a lot about Chinese culture and a lot about myself, and a had a blast – so much so, in fact, that after college I went to work for PAX (www.pax.org), a Study Abroad program provider.  Then I reunited with my college friend James to start Gulliver – best.job.ever!

Andy and I are going to be running the Gulliver blog day to day, and we’ve decided to kick things off by starting up two long-term themes: “Adventures Abroad” and “Passport Control.”  “Adventures Abroad” will share epic stories of student adventures abroad. Stories will come from all over the world – whether it’s surfing in Liberia, searching for tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, or sneaking into ancient ruins in Peru, we’ve got it. This is where you’ll find stories of what people usually tell us not to do. But, as we here believe, we’re all the better for it. Like extreme alpinist Mark Twight says: “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” Amen to that!

“Passport Control,” on the other hand, is our current events section.  Here we’ll highlight news and happenings in Study Abroad.  What are the hot new destinations?  Which colleges are making it easiest for their students to go abroad…and which hardest?  How can you take advantage of new scholarships to go abroad cheaply?  “Passport Control” is your resource for all the nuts and bolts of an international education.

At the moment we’re looking to post frequently for both themes and have the occasional guest writer as well. I think we’ve put together an exciting first group of posts and I can’t wait to share them with you. Stay tuned . . .


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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!