Category Archives: Human Interest

Fulbright: A Two Year Photographic Journey

May 26th, 2017

During my two years in the Fulbright Program, I have taken thousands of photographs. I seem to have just as many stories about my students, the community I live in, and the nation I call home. In writing this, I wanted to give a diverse glimpse into the life of a Fulbrighter in South Korea and the development of my relationship with my students over the past two years. Living abroad is full of many complicated feelings: joy, depression, homesickness, excitement – there is no short story that can encapsulate the experience, but I hope through this photographic essay I can share life in the Land of the Morning Calm.

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First, Let Me Take A Selfie, 2015
After three months, my first selfie with my students.
Until this moment, we had not reached the friendship point of pictures. I entered my school with a strong dedication to teach the English language as a professional. And part of this came with me creating distance between the students and I, not fully comprehending the culture of touch (hand holding is appropriate with teachers) or engaging with students outside of the classroom. In short, I had a lot to learn about being a good teacher. After a month, I began to change my approach and opened myself up to the students, which in turn lead to this moment on October 2, 2015 when I asked a few girls for a picture.

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An Artist At Work, Work Being My Classroom, 2015
I caught a student drawing in class. Usually, I would take away the drawings and talk with the student after about paying attention. When I walked up to this particular student she was so engrossed in her work she didn’t see me. Instead of taking the papers I stood and watched. After all, who am I to disturb an artist in the midst of a masterpiece?

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Special Snowflakes, 2016
The project was supposed to be simple. We had ended class early and I wanted to decorate the classroom with snowflakes. Some of my students listened to the directions. Others decided they knew how to make a snowflake.
Most of these students were wrong:

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The Battle of Sungsim, 2016
The first snowfall of the year brought with it the usual festivities. My students have a tradition of using dustpans as shovels and tossing the snow at each other. Just a word of advice to anyone reading this – if a group of teenagers have dustpans and you have a lone snowball, always remember you are older and will be the automatic enemy if you engage them in battle.

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Hanji, 2016
Hanji is Korean paper and has a long history on the peninsula. It can be used to make art and clothing. During my first year in Korea, I began taking lessons from a woman who has been making hanji art for 20 years! My teacher is an amazing woman who speaks 5 languages and is one of the happiest people I have met. Pictured is one of my projects, but don’t be fooled! My teacher saved it multiple times from my butterfingers!

 

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Closet, 2017
This past week we did a lesson on secrets, many of which broke my heart. In Korea, same-sex marriage is not legal, although being with someone of the same gender is not criminalized (military code exempt). You can be fired for your sexuality and support groups for LGBT rights are still growing. It has been painful watching students who have come out to me struggle with their identity, unable to share it with their peers. I have no clear answers – many expats simply say “its another culture” and brush aside the issue. But working with students who are in the closet changes the entire experience. And the worst part is not having answers or a fix for the situation.

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Do You Hear The People Sing?, 2017
Earlier this year President Guen-Hye Park was ousted after a money scandal. Millions filled the streets of Seoul demanding she be impeached. When the court ruling came down impeaching Park, the country erupted into celebration. On May 9, 2017, Jae-In Moon was elected president. Watching the whole process was intense. In my city there were nightly protests and my students covered their classrooms in signs demanding Park resign. The whole nation was against her and there was no way to stop the people. As one of my students said after the election, “Korea is a democracy, today shows our power.”

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Good-byes, 2017
I had to rent a hanbok before I left, pictured here in front of my school. It has been an amazing journey and one I will not forget. Leaving Korea—there are no words to describe how I feel and perhaps that is the best. My students have transformed my life for the better. I am more compassionate, I am more patient, I laugh everyday, and I have found my calling in education. I just don’t know how I will live without them… or the kimchi.
안녕히 계세요.

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Nikki R. Brueggeman

Biography
Nikki Brueggeman is a graduate of the University of Washington s where she earned a master’s degree in 2015. She is originally from the town of Walla Walla, Washington where she was raised around sweet onions and wine barrels. Nikki currently teaches at Jeonju Sungsim Girls High School where she works with the most beautiful, vivacious, and hilarious girls on the Korean peninsula.

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Tree Trees

May 5th, 2017

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When I was in college, just by chance I ended up at a party for the international students, (free beer) and there, to my surprise, I made some of my best friends to this day. You know when you instantly connect with someone? Romantic or not, it’s rare and there is something special about the sheer dumb luck it would take for a kid from the Netherlands and a kid born an hour and half outside of Los Angeles should meet and become (dare I say it?) best friends.

Not my first friend from out of the country, Ralf and I (pronounced Rolf in Dutch but forced to take Ralph as his American name by sheer repetition) have become close like only a few friends I’ve had in my 26 years. We talk about anything and everything but I would be lying if I said we didn’t discuss the norm for two people from different countries quite frequently, i.e. cultural differences between the US and The Netherlands, the EU, The World at large, long political talks about what’s wrong with America, what’s great about America, what’s wrong with Europe, what’s great about Europe, Life, Humanity. No doubt, it is a big part of our relationship and I enjoy it fully, as I suspect he does.

That being said, I think some of the greatest joys comes from the subtle teasing that comes from a close friendship. Little jabs about “fat Americans” a few remarks about outdated Christmas traditions (see Zwarte Piet) here and there help us recognize the differences between ourselves and our cultures in a way that transcends either, humor.

An example, my best friend Ralf speaks perfect English, it’s just, his accent has him say “tree” instead of three. It makes really no difference with context and so is generally a non-issue. So, one time, near Christmas, we’re at a bar just chatting when Ralf notices funny albeit bawdy ornaments on some trees.

“Look at that tree” he pointed.

With a sly grin I asked him, “How many trees are there?”

Ignoring the odd question, Ralf responded earnestly, “tree”

“Yes Ralf, I know they’re trees, but how many of them are there?”

“Tree”

“So just one?”

“No tree!”

I think my smile gave away the joke and Ralf, realizing my mischief, and being a genuinely great person, tilted his head back in guffaws, causing groups of patrons to stare.

Although small, I think this is one of the better moments of my life, not because of some great accomplishment but the realization that we are heading into a globalist world, and how great it is that our conversations, our relationships, our lives can be enriched and diversified by this. Increasingly in America you hear the term Globalism used as a slur. Those who use “globalist” as a derogatory term could not be more wrong.  The world has always been heading toward globalism and there are so many benefits worthy of discussion: Economic stability, increased understanding and decreased xenophobia, trade. You can expect all this from Globalism…. or maybe you’ll just share a laugh with a new best friend.

Alex Brenner

Alex is a graduate of UCLA’s creative writing program and helps ACEI’s international applicants in his role as Client Relations Officer.

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Why is Central European University under attack by the Hungarian government?

April 14th, 2017

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Demonstrators at the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest protesting legislation that would force the closure of Central European University, April 9, 2017. (Photo Credit: The Nation – MTI via AP/Jano Marja)

If you haven’t heard already, on Tuesday, April 4 2017, the Hungarian National Assembly fast-tracked and passed an amendment to a higher education bill that threatens the closing of the Central European University (CEU), a leading university in Europe. According to a report in The New York Times: “The new law requires, among other things, that foreign-accredited universities provide higher education services in their own countries — meaning the United States in the case of Central European University.” CEU has until January 1, 2018 to comply with these new requirements.

CEU, located in Budapest, is accredited in the United States and Hungary and offers degrees in the social sciences, humanities, law, public policy, business management, environmental sciences, and mathematics. CEU attracts students from over 100 countries from around the globe and is revered for its programs in social sciences and humanities.  According to The Times Higher Education, CEU was founded in 1991 as an English-language university by “a group of visionary intellectuals – most of them prominent members of the anti-totalitarian democratic opposition.”

Members of the European Commission of EU’s executive body are investigating this new law imposed by the Hungarian government and questioning is legality. There have also been massive student protests in Hungary who see the government’s heavy handedness as a clampdown on free expression and in retaliation against Mr. George Soros, a financier who sits on CEU’s board. Mr. Soros, according to some observers is seen as an influential global threat by Hungary’s conservative nationalist government.  Even the U.S. has expressed concern and criticized the Hungarian government’s higher education bill and its impact on CEU.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is unmoved by the criticism and the protests. Mr. Orban’s party is convinced that George Soros is behind the shaping of CEU’s institutional philosophy of inclusion which encourages migration while the Hungarian government opposes it vehemently. Mr. Orban wants to stop migration while he sees Mr. Soros as an advocate of migration who will use money and his political capital to weaken and destabilize governments, such as Hungary, who oppose his philosophy. Mr. Orban has coined the term “Illiberal democracy” by turning liberals into the enemy and arguing that majority rule is more important than minority rights.

With such deeply rooted dislike for liberalism, George Soros, and migration which translates into international students, the future of the Central European University in Hungary looks rather bleak.

Sources:

https://www.oneyoungworld.com/blog/trouble-hungary-central-european-university

https://www.google.com/?trackid=sp-006#q=Central+European+University

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/central-european-university#ranking-dataset/1089

https://www.thenation.com/article/central-european-university-under/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Diversity and Inclusion is The New Initiative for 2017

March 24th, 2017

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Advocacy for our profession of applied comparative education is needed more than ever in 2017. In light of forming new partnerships and celebrating our differences, diversity and inclusion will be the top initiative for 2017.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is any aspect that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another, but it also means appreciation of and respect for differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion. But let’s look deeper into this thought. We all bring with us diverse views, work experiences, life styles, perspectives, and cultures. How does your institution or organization foster diversity and inclusion? How do you individually?

Some may define inclusion is a state of being valued, respected, endorsed, and supported. It’s also about focusing on the needs of everyone and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their greatest potential. Inclusion should always be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce.

To look at this big picture, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

For institutions to succeed in the global marketplace, there must be a variety of perspectives. If organizations want to attract and retain the right skills, the best minds, all the aspects needed for success – and that means diversity.

At ACEI, we respect and welcome diversity in our clients, colleagues, friends, and our staff, and it is part of our mission. We strongly advocate for diversity and inclusion. We state as part of our mission, “ACEI is dedicated to the advancement of international academic exchange and understanding through the dissemination of information on world educational systems and evaluation of international educational documents.”

With our new administration, changes in the global landscape, more advances in technology and communications, diversity and inclusion are quickly becoming critical initiatives around the world.

Laura Sippel

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Laura Sippel
Marketing Consultant
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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Kedi: A Sweet Film and Soundtrack for Istanbul’s Constant Companions

March 16th, 2017

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A scene from Kedi. Photo courtesy of Ceyda Torun

Istanbul is a city at the center of the old world, for millenia a crossroads of civilization, trade, and cultural exchange. On the many sailing ships entering the Bosporus over the centuries came the stray cats that kept mice and other vermin under control, who then left the boats and became landlubbers. Kedi is a wonderful new film about the street cats of Istanbul. We usually adopt cats into our homes, but in Istanbul the street cats choose to adopt certain lucky residents, who then take care of them. According to Oscilloscope Films, the film’s distributor, “claiming no owners, these animals live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame—and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt.”

KEDi-22-800x450Aslan Parçasi—the hunter. Photo courtesy of Ceyda Torun

Istanbul native Ceyda Torun, who now lives in Los Angeles, directed this utterly delightful film, with cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann giving us great kitty-eye’s view of the feline characters, following them around in their haunts and daily travels. Thirty-five cats initially showed up for the “casting call,” but many were unreliable, so the cast was pared down to seven:

Sari—the hustler; Bengü—the lover; Aslan Parçasi—the hunter; Psikopat—the psychopath; Deniz—the social butterfly; Duman—the gentleman; and Gamsiz—the player.

The charming soundtrack features Turkish pop songs as such as “Arkadasim Esek” by Baris Manço, “Bak Yesil Yesil” by Emel Sayin, “Deli Kadin” by the Turkish psychedelic band Erkin Koray, as well as Eartha Kitt singing a Turkish classic, “Usku Dara,” plus “Amber Eyes” by an American musician named Lloyd Miller who plays over 100 instruments and is known for his expertise in world music and jazz. What makes the soundtrack music even more fun is that each cat character has his or her own theme song, kind of like friends who have specific ring tones on your phone.

2927116167_837950fd13_oA cat hanging out in a record store in Istanbul. Can you imagine fighting with a cat for elbow room in the bins at Amoeba Records? Photo by Amanda (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0) via Flickr

The cool score is by Kira Fontana, a classically-trained (Eastman School of Music, Yale University) pianist-composer. Her mentors include Steve Reich, John Adams, and David Lang. The playful and percussive music score—in which you clearly hear the Steve Reich influence—is performed by percussionist Sidney Hopson, a three-time alum of USC’s Thornton School of Music, and features marimbas, glockenspiels, vibraphones, and strings. The music was recorded at Cal Arts in Valencia, California.  The Arabic darbuka drum is used to highlight the hunt and fight scenes. As Kira described to me, they aimed for “an ethereal, magical sound-world to reflect the spiritual role Istanbul’s cats play in the daily lives of the city’s residents.” I think that together, the Turkish songs and score perfectly complement the feline stars as they pursue their daily adventures.

This is a movie not only about a great city and its colorful felines, but a tribute to the kind citizens of Istanbul who love and care for them. It’s a feel-good movie if there ever was one, whether you like cats or not. If you haven’t seen the documentary yet, the trailer below provides a taste, but you can also find screening information here.

And here is Eartha Kitt’s “Usku Dara” (theme song for Aslan Parçasi—the hunter):

And this is American Lloyd Miller’s “Amber Eyes” (theme song for Gamsiz—the player):

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Above, Sari—the hustler. This and banner photo at top courtesy of Ceyda Torun.

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Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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US-Iran History of Research and Collaboration

March 3rd, 2017

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Iran is included on list of the travel ban on entry for nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations in President Donald Trump’s recent Executive Order. One thing many may not know is the collaborative relationship in research and researcher mobility that exists between the US and Iran. The US and Iran have been benefiting from this collaborative relationship which has been the strongest of all the 6 countries according to the Elsevier’s. However, with Iran selected as one of the countries targeted by the travel ban this relationship is expected to be damaged effecting universities around the world.

Data from Elsevier’s SciVal and Scopus databases show how strong the research ties are between the US and Iran. The following is the Elsevier data as reported in The Times Higher Education:

  • US academic relationships with Iran are by far the strongest of the seven nations targeted by the order. In fact, the US and Iran have had a long history of maintaining close academic relations and collaborating in research endeavors as far back as the 1960’s.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, US researchers co-authored 8,821 papers with Iranian scientists. (Note: This makes Iran the US’s 36th closest collaborator in research, close behind the Republic of Ireland.)
  • US-Iran co-authored papers had a field-weighted citation impact (widely regarded as an indicator of the quality of research) of 1.84. This compares with a citation impact of 1.46 for US-only authored papers and 0.84 for Iran-only authored papers. The world average is about 1.0.
  • Medicine, engineering and physics and astronomy are the main fields in which US and Iranian researchers collaborate.
  • 1,500 Iranian researchers active in publications have moved to the US long term since 1996.
  • The average field-weighted citation impact of these Iranian researchers who moved to the US is 1.93, well above the average for researchers who remain in Iran (0.88) and marginally above the average for researchers who do not leave the US (1.92).
  • Another 2,900 Iranian researchers were classed as “transitory” and spending most of their time in the US in that period, with an even higher average field-weighted citation impact of 2.21.
  • According to the Institute of International Education, Iran was the 11th largest country of origin for international students enrolling at US universities and colleges in 2015-16. Iranian student enrolment increased by 8.2 per cent to 12,269, “the highest US enrollment by Iranians in 29 years”, the IIE said in its 2016 Open Doors

If the US limits entry to Iranian national, the number of internationally co-authored papers will decline and in turn effect the quality of its research.

Links:

List of Iranian-Americans in Silicon Valley and Beyond: https://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethmacbride/2015/12/20/100-influential-iranian-americans-in-silicon-valley-and-beyond/#7f97aeb37c2f

List of Prominent Iranian-Americans:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iranian_Americans

https://ir.usembassy.gov/education-culture/prominent-iranian-americans/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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30 Facts on the Education System of Iran

February 16th, 2017

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After intense negotiations, on July 14, 2015, the U.S. and five other world powers have reached a deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief that rolls out as Iran complies with a multi-step process. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  And now, in 2017, with the recent travel ban imposed by the Trump Administration against Iran and six other countries, we thought it would be helpful to revisit the blog we had written on Iran in July 2015.

Given these recent developments, we would like to spotlight Iran and share with you the following facts on the country and its education system:

1. Iran is one of the oldest nations in the world, with a history dating back tens of thousands of years. The country’s first great city, Susa, was built on the central plateau around 3200 B.C.

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2. Iran (pronounced ee-RAHN), formerly known as Persia, is situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Arab states of the Middle East. The name “Iran” means “land of the Aryans.”

3. Iran is a republic in Central Asia, sharing a border with seven countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

4. It has been officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

5.Iran is a Shiite Muslim country, but the majority of its people are Persian, not Arab.

6. Iran’s capital is Tehran.

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Tehran: Azadi Monument (formerly Shahyad Monument)

7. Iran has a population of 80,840,713 (median age 28) and covers an area that is 636,372 square miles (1,648,195 square kilometers), slightly smaller than Alaksa.

8. Official language of instruction in Iran is Farsi/Persian. English and/or French are taught in most private schools.

9. According to 2015 estimates, the literacy rates of total population age 15 and over is 86.8% of which 92.1% are male and 82.5% are female.

10. According to 2013 reports, Iran spends 3.7 of GDP on education.

11. Starting with 7th grade, English is taught as a second language in all public schools and is compulsory through the secondary level years.

12. Primary school is called “Dabestan” and includes grades 1 to 5 (ages 6 to 11). At the end of the 5th year, students take a nation-wide exam which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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13. Middle school is called Rahnamaei also known as Lower Secondary School (Guidance) and includes grades 6 to 8 (ages 11 to 14). At the end of the 3rd year of middle school, students take a region-wide exam administered by the local provisional board of education which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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14. Secondary school is called Dabirestan and includes grades 9 to 12 (ages 14 to 17). The 4th year of grade 12 includes a college-preparatory year known as Pish-daneshgahi. In dabirestan, students choose subjects from either one of two tracks: 1) academic/general track that includes a] physics-mathematics, b] socio-economics, c] literature and culture, and d] experimental sciences; or 2) technical/vocational track in such areas as business and agriculture. On completion of 3 years of study (Grade 11), students receive their diploma before they are determined eligible to continue onto the 12th year (Grade 12) pish-daneshgahi studies.

15. Pre-university or Pish-Daneshgahi is the 4th year extension (Grade 12) to secondary school and last one year. It is an intensive year of study intended to prepare students for the national university entrance examination known as the Concour.

16. The Concour determines students’ chances to enter public and some private universities in Iran. It is a very challenging examination and only a minority of students who take it are successful in passing.

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Photo Credit:PressTV – University Entrance Exam (Concours) in Tehran

17. At the higher education level, Iran has private, public and state affiliated universities.

18. Universities, institutes of technology, medical schools, and community colleges make up the higher education sector.

19. Except for medical schools, all state-run universities are under the direct supervision of the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Medical schools are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education.

20. Currently, there are over 50 public universities and over 40 public institutions specializing in medical study and 200 private postsecondary institutions in Iran.

21. Tuition at public universities is free.

22. Private institutions charge fees.

23. The largest private institution in Iran is Islamic Azad University.

24. Women make up more than 60 percent of the college population in Iran but less than 20 percent of the working population.

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25. Out of 1.176 million people registered for higher education in the Iranian academic year of 2012-2013, women accounted for 522,248 (44.38 percent) while men’s share stood at 654,593 (55.62 percent).

26.The number of female university students also increased by almost twofold from 1,231,035 in the Iranian academic year of 2005-2006 to 2,106,639 in 2012-2013.

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Photo Credit: Ebrahim Norrozi/AP – Iranian women, shown here in downtown Tehran, are among groups in the country pushing for social and economic change.

27. Distance learning degree programs are provided mainly by the University of Payam-e-Hour.

28. University degrees in Iran include:
• Kardani (formerly Fogh-Diplom) – 2-year program equivalent to the Associate degree;
• Karshenasi (formerly Licence) – 4-year program equivalent to the Bachelor’s degree;
• Karshenasi Arshad (formerly Fogh-Licence) – 2-year program beyond the Karshenasi equivalent to the Master’s degree;
• Doctora (Doctorate) degree – 3-year program; requires a master’s (Karshenasi) degree for admission and is awarded on completion of 60 semester units and passing a comprehensive exam before entering the research phase of the program, during which they prepare and defend their dissertation.
• Specialized Doctorates – Degrees in dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine are awarded after 6 years of study and a thesis and require completion of the pre-university year for admission.

29. Grading system at primary through university is based on a 0-20 scale. At the primary, secondary level, and undergraduate levels, an average grade of 10 is required for promotion to the next academic grade. At the graduate level the minimum average grade is 12 and in doctoral programs the minimum average is 14.

30. Every year about 150,000 highly talented Iranians emigrate in what the International Monetary Fund calls the highest brain drain in the world.

Bonus Fact:
31. Since we love cats here at ACEI, here’s a bonus fact on the Persian cat; one of the world’s oldest breeds. They originated in the high plateaus of Iran where their long silky fur protected them from the cold. Italian traders brought the breed to Europe in the 17th century, where they became an exotic status symbol. (source: Rajendra, Vijeya, Gisela Kaplan, and Rudi Rajendra. 2004. Iran (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.)

Helpful links & Sources:
https://www.educationusairan.com/edu-professionals/education-systems
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iran_statistics.html
http://www.snipview.com/q/Schools_in_Iran
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14541327

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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