Monthly Archives: December 2012

Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2012

holiday

To all our readers, 

Thank you for following our

blog and investing your time

and readership in us. We are

grateful to all of you who

make up the loyal community

of readers to whom we are

connected.

Thank you for joining the

discussion. We appreciate

your support and your

thoughtful comments.

We are so grateful for the

writers who have guest

blogged for us and their

interesting, educational and

thought provoking

contributions. 

We look forward to 2013 and

continuing the discussion and

exchange of ideas.

 

From all of us at ACEI ,

we wish you a Happy Holiday

and Successful New Year!

 

Academic Credentials Evaluation

Institute, Inc.

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Reflection, Renewal, and Red Underwear

December 20, 2012

2012 Calendar

At the close of this year—at least in the Gregorian calendar— which is celebrated in Europe and in the Americas, I find myself reflecting on what entering a New Year means to people around the world. As I am at the end of my first year living abroad, the differences and similarities are foremost on my mind. Of course moving from sunny Southern California to a rainy North Germany has its noticeable differences. And, as we all know, climate affects our general outlook on life as well as our daily routines, and life rituals. I can now personally attest to the fact that sunnier climes create sunnier dispositions, and a general sense of optimism, which is less understood, in colder more northern parts of the world.

But what really makes it all so interesting is the fact that both places have fairly large immigrant populations, which bring their own cultural ideals, ways of life, and ritual celebrations into daily life. Everyone finds the time, once a year to celebrate the coming new year, and ritualize the “out with the old in with the new” which is historically so important, vital in fact, to cultures all over the world.

New Year celebrations were originally based upon harvest celebrations, which were informed by cycles of the sun, the moon and the movement of stars. There is a difference though, between the “civil” calendars adopted by countries and the religious calendars, which are followed by people all over the world, though they often exist and are celebrated side by side.

The Julian Calendar (a reformation of the Roman Calendar by Julius Cesar in 46 BCE) was intended to approximate the Sun’s cycle as it returns to the same position each year, in other words from vernal equinox to vernal equinox. The Berber people of North Africa still use this calendar, as do most Eastern Orthodox Churches.

As the Julian calendar is slightly inaccurate (it gained about 3 days every four centuries,) it was later replaced by the Gregorian calendar, (The Christian Calendar) in 1582, in order to have a fixed date for the Spring Equinox, to which the celebration of Easter is attached. It is now the more internationally, widely accepted civil calendar. However, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia do not adopt the Gregorian calendar as their civil calendar. Many other countries use their own calendars alongside the Gregorian calendar, such as: Bangladesh, Burma, India, and Israel. Then there are those that use a modified version of the Gregorian calendar: Cambodia, Japan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Taiwan.

The date of the Islamic New Year is determined by the visibility of the hilal, or the waxing crescent moon following a new moon and may vary according to location. The day that marks the beginning of the New Year in the Islamic Calendar is called Hijra. While Muslims do not “celebrate” the beginning of the year, they do acknowledge the passing of time, by reflecting on how they have led their lives and on their own mortality. It is very similar to the Jewish ritual of their New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Nowruz (New Day), the Iranian and Zoroastrian New Year’s Day is celebrated on March 21stthe Spring Equinox. It is celebrated as a theme of renewal, personal renewal and that of the home and friendships. It is also celebrated as a secular cultural festival in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, as well as the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, Syria, and Georgia.

What do all of these human constructs of time; religious or civil have in common then? Plenty. People all over the world celebrate and ritualize the passage of time. Whether their New Year falls in February, March, April, September or November, or December, most cultures see this as a time of introspection and reflection, a time of rebirth— an illumination of the soul. It is a chance to be cleansed of the old sins of the previous year and celebrate the potential of hope for a healthier, happier, and prosperous coming year.

Saint Sylvester

It was not until I moved to Germany that I first heard New Years referred to as Sylvester. I felt silly asking but I did, and found out that it is celebrated as Saint Sylvester’s Eve after Pope Sylvester I, who died in 335 and was reported to have miraculously cured the Emperor Constantine of leprosy. Since that time of “miraculous healing” New Years was traditionally called St. Sylvester’s Eve in predominantly Catholic countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Poland. Even in Israel where so many European immigrants landed, Israelis celebrate the civic holiday of New Years as Sylvester Nacht—who knew?

Fire

Fire, fireworks, and light are ritually used for dispelling evil spirits and marking the time of transition from darkness to light as we move away from the Winter Solstice. Even countries whose religious beliefs are not connected to the Gregorian calendar, often celebrate the civil New Year with fireworks, such as: Morocco, China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Those that celebrate their new years at other times also use the element of fire as a cleansing, to mark this passage and burn away the previous years’ evils and sins and scare off any spirits that may wish to take up residence in the coming year.

In Iran and those following the Persian ritual passed down since ancient Zoroastrian times, the Persian New Year celebrations begins with the festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Souri, which literally means “Eve of Wednesday” because it is always held on the last Tuesday of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox or first moment of spring. The fire ceremony symbolizes the changing of seasons and rebirth. The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man. This literally translates to “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me.” The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or their spirit, in preparation for New Year.

Diwali, Festival of Lights, is a five day Hindu festival which falls between Mid-October and mid-November. Small clay lamps are filled with oil and lit to signify the triumph of good over evil, and firecrackers are ignited to drive away evil spirits.

In Mongolia, the Lunar New Year is known as Tsagaan Sar. It is celebrated in February, and candles are used on altars to symbolize enlightenment.

In Mexico the tradition of making lists of all the bad or unfortunate events of the past years are written down and thrown into a fire before midnight to remove any negative energy from carrying over into the New Year.

In Ecuador men dress up as women to represent the “widow” of the year that has passed and then create life-size dummies which are burnt at midnight to “burn away” the years past misfortunes.

Tibetans also celebrate Losar in February, and traditionally go out into nature to perform rituals of gratitude by making offerings to the water spirits and smoke offerings to local spirits of the natural world.

Water

The Chinese New Year is known s Spring Festival and marks the end of winter, as families gather for a reunion dinner or Chúxi, which translates into “Remove Evening” or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Every family thoroughly cleans the house, sweeping away ill-fortune, cleansing it of evil omens from the previous year and making room for a new year filled with good luck.

Laotian people celebrate their Pbeemai April 13-15 by cleansing their homes and villages with perfumed water and flowers. The Burmese celebrate Thingyan April 13-16 with water as a means of washing away the sins of the pervious year. Water throwing and public dousing is rampant on the streets for days. In Nepal Fagu is celebrated on the full moon day in February by spraying colored water, and throwing water balloons at each other.

In Thailand the Songkran festival is celebrated from 13-15 April, by the throwing of water. However they can— jars, pots, water guns, are used as a means of washing all of the bad away, even spraying total strangers on the street. Of course we have to remember that in April temperatures can get up to 40C. In traditional celebrations, it is believed that good luck and prosperity for the coming year may be obtained by pouring water filled with fragrant herbs over the Buddhas on household shrines as well as at monasteries. This water is considered blessed and is then used to give good fortune to elders and family members by pouring it on their shoulders.

Red Underwear, Grapes, and Lentils

Believe it or not, another common link in New Year’s celebrations is the wearing of red underwear. Italians, Spanish, and Venezuelans all wear red underwear on New Years for good luck and love, though only the women in Mexico wear red underwear for finding love.

The Spanish, Mexicans, Chileans, Costa Ricans, Brazilians and Guatemalans all eat 12 grapes for each chime of the clock at midnight, making a wish for the New Year with each one.

Lentils seem to represent money and prosperity because of their round “coin” shape and are traditionally eaten by Brazilians, Hungarians, Chileans, and Italians. The Italians who seem to go lentil crazy— have lentils at dinner before midnight then take one spoonful of lentil stew per bell as the bells toll midnight.

So as 2012 comes to a close here in Germany, I will be celebrating Sylvestre and honoring the spirit of the transition from darkness into light, and wishing for a global time of renewal, hope and joy.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jwndesign@me.com

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20 International Education Hubs: A Global Movement

December 13, 2012

Education Vector Word Cloud

It used to be that if, for example, a student from Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia wanted to earn a degree from a university in the United States or the United Kingdom he/she had to attend the university in the county where it was based. But that’s no longer the case. More and more countries are seizing on higher education as way of making it more international, affordable and accessible. Aspiring students seeking a degree from Yale University or MIT or University of Glasgow will no longer need to fly out to the U.S. or U.K., instead they can attend one of the global education hubs that are fast becoming a preferred international destination for students.

What is an “education hub?” According to Global Higher Education, an education hub is a “designated region intended to attract foreign investment, retain local students, build a regional reputation by providing access to high-quality education and training for both international and domestic student, and create a knowledge-based economy…include different combinations of domestic/international institutions, branch campuses, and forming partnerships, within the designated region.”

Competition amongst countries set on establishing global education hubs is fierce and Asia seems to be leading the movement. Some countries pushing forward with plans to be an education hub see it as a cost-effective way for students in the region to receive quality education while some higher education authorities question whether some hubs will be successful or may simply be a fad likely to fizzle and fade. It’s too early to tell. Several of the education hubs already in operation are in countries with proven experience in education-related projects but there are also some little-known aspiring hubs forming which are interesting to watch. There are probably some new hubs being launched as we speak.

Below is a list of 20 education hubs we’re aware of that include the already established, those which are concepts in the making and some up-and-coming ones (#s 15-20):

1. Abu Dhabi http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
2. Dubai Knowledge Village/Dubai International Academic City http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
3. Dubai International Financial Cityhttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
4. Dubai Healthy Care City http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
5. Dubai Silicon Oasishttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
6. Bahrain http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
7. Kuala Lumpur Education Cityhttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
8. Iskandar (Malaysia) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
9. Singapore’s Global Schoolhouse http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
10. Incehon Free Economic Zone (South Korea) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
11. Education City (Qatar) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
12. Republic of Panama – City of Knowledge http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
13. Jeju Global Education City (South Korea) http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
14. Songdo Global University Campus in the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) (South Korea) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
15. Doha (Qatar) http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
16. Manama, Bahrain http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
17. Fort Clayton, Panama http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
18. Colombo, Sri Lanka http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

19. Bangalore, India http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
20. Bhutan’s Education City http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

It’s too early to gage the effectiveness and success of these education hubs, but it goes without saying that Western countries, once the destination point of international higher education, are keeping an eye on this global phenomenon and most probably taking notes and learning new strategies. This new approach to bringing the best of the West to the East certainly takes the international mobility of students and the globalization of credentials to another level.

Website to check out for more information on each of the above countries:
http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
http://www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/ie_julaug12_asia.pdf
http://www.thebhutanese.bt/bhutan-education-city-board-in-place-a-step-closer-to-fruition/
http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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20 Fun Facts About Estonia

December 06, 2012

DSC01156, Song Fest Grounds, Tallinn, Estonia

You may be wondering why we chose Estonia for this blog. We don’t receive too many academic documents from Estonia for evaluation and have not had the opportunity to visit this country, at least not yet! But when we asked one of our staff to pick a country, he chose Estonia. So, here are some non-evaluation related facts you may enjoy about this country in northeastern Europe.

Let’s get started with “tere” which means Hello in Estonian!

Fact 1:
While the official capital of Estonia is Tallinn, the country is unique because it has more than one recognized capital. In fact, it has several capitals that change throughout the year. Tartu is established as the “cultural capital of Estonia”, while Parnu is known as the “summer capital”. 


Fact 2:

Estonia was the first country in the world to use online political voting.


Fact 3:
Estonia has two Independence Days. It first achieved independence from the Soviet Union on February 24, 1918 and again on August 20, 1991 after 51 years of occupation. The second date is known as the “Restoration of Independence Day.”

Fact 4:

Estonian is the official language. Russian is also widely spoken.



Fact 5:

The Estonian currency was the Kroon, but they have joined the Euro-zone and Euro is their official currency now.



Fact 6:

Even though Estonia is considered to be a part of the Baltic countries; Latvia and Lithuania, there is no real political alliance.



Fact 7:

Estonia is named after the “Ests” who inhabited the region in the first Century AD.



Fact 8:

Estonia is the least religious country in the world with only 14% of the population claiming any religious beliefs.


Fact 9:

Almost 50% of Estonia is covered by forest.

Fact 10:
Estonia has a population of 1.3 million and one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe.

Fact 11:
Estonia has the highest number of meteorite craters per land area in the world.

Fact 12:
Estonia is the homeland of Skype, Hotmail and KaZaA.

Fact 13:
All Estonian schools are connected to the Internet.

Fact 14:
Chess Grandmaster Paul Keres was born in Estonia. When he died in 1975, over 100,000 people attended his funeral (10% of the country’s entire population).

Fact 15:
Out of the nearly 200 countries in the world, Estonia ranks in the second place with a literacy rate of 99.8%.

Fact 16:
In 1994, Estonia became the first country to institute the flat income tax.

Fact 17:
They have the biggest collection of folk songs in the world with written records of 133,000 folk songs.

Fact 18:
The Estonians invented Kiiking, which is considered a sport. It involves fastening yourself to an enormous standing steal swing (kiik means swing in Estonian) which has a full 360 degrees of rotation to it. To swing a kiiker the contestant must pump by squatting and standing up on the swing. The swing gains momentum taking the person in full circle by his skillful pumping.

Fact 19:
Estonia produces quality vodka and boasts Viru Valge and Saaremaa as its most popular brands.

Fact 20:
And, in case you are thinking of relocating, Estonia doesn’t accept dual citizenship.

Hope you enjoyed this. Head aega! (That’s “goodbye” in Estonian.)

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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