study abroad

The View From Campus: How to Research U.S. Graduate Programs

  Image courtesy of EducationUSA Belarus, with permission

 

This month we hear from Dr. Viktar Khotsim, Educational Advising Center Director, EducationUSA Belarus. Dr. Khotsim has been advising prospective students from Belarus about student opportunities in the United States for over twenty years. He brings unique insight to this topic of researching U.S. graduate programs.

 

1. How does EducationUSA assist international students hoping to study in the United States?

By offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States through a network of EducationUSA centers located at U.S. embassies, consulates, Fulbright commissions, bi-national centers, universities, and non-profit organizations in almost 180 countries in the world.

 

2. Describe your role at EducationUSA Belarus?

 I provide regular advising on U.S. study for all interested students, as well as cohort advising for graduate’s students (Graduate Study Cohort) and administer Opportunity program, i.e. program for talented individuals with low income. I also assist U.S. institutions in verifying educational documents from Belarus, arrange joint webinars and provide virtual and physical outreach trips to Belarus. Finally, I work with alumni of our programs and support our social networks related to advising on U.S. study.

 

3. What are the top academic graduate programs that international students seek out in the United States?

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs

 

4. What is the most significant challenge most international students have when considering the U.S. for graduate/post-graduate education?

Of course, it is the total cost of studies.

5. How far ahead should students start the planning process if they are planning to come to the U.S. for study?

The majority of students start the application process one year in advance. But we observe a tendency (also due to our efforts) that students begin to start their research much earlier, i.e. typically between 2-3 and even 4 years in advance.

 

6.How can international students seeking graduate study (for master’s or doctoral programs) in the United States begin their search?

Of course, the internet is where most students will start their research. In Belarus we run a Graduate Study cohort advising program. This systematic approach has three main features:

  • The distance and off-site outreach training programs complement each other
  • The program is synchronized with the opportunity program and the U.S. admission cycles
  • The model’s operation is based on active involvement of the Opportunity alumni and representatives of the U.S. educational institutions.

7. What are the most important factors prospective international graduate students look at when reviewing U.S. graduate programs?

First, program attractiveness and relevance to a student’s career goals. Second, overall interest in selected institutions’ environment and campus. Third, options for financial aid. Finally, admission/financial aid requirements, acceptance rate and deadlines.

 

8. What role do English proficiency tests like IELTS play in the admissions process for international graduate applicants?

IELTS is very popular in Europe and in our country as well. Student like this test because it is applicable for educational institutions in both regions, i.e. Europe and America. Also, some students can demonstrate better results in IELTS, so they prefer to pass this exam.

 

9. When it comes to paying for graduate programs in the United States, what should international students know that can help off-set the significant costs of studying there?

First, financial aid is typically limited and is very competitive. To improve their chances of qualifying for merit aid, normally in the form of graduate assistantships, students should have a strong mix of academic and extracurricular activities. Second, that financial aid for international graduate students in the United States is not based on students’ financial need. It is an “exchange” of current and future student achievements for better financial conditions of getting high quality education.

 

10. What is “finding a good fit” when it comes to finding the right graduate program in the United States?

“Finding a good fit” for our students is when they consider a program of study in the U.S. as an “instrument” which will bring them new knowledge and skills. And they know what they would like to learn and how to use it in the future in their career. “Good fit” appears when they hunt for the “instrument” and take into consideration its quality (programs content) instead of seeking a famous named institution.

 

The View From Campus: Arriving in the United States as an International Student

 

 

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

This month we turn to the very timely topic for those students getting ready to make the journey to the United States for their higher education, preparing for arrival. Jim Crawley, Director of University Recruitment and Outreach, for ELS Language Centers, shares his best advice for international students coming to America.

 

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?

A: Many Centers offering intensive English.

 

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?

A: Offering intensive English to prepare international students for entrance into an academic program.

 

Q: What are your top programs for international students?

A: English for Academic Purposes; General English; Short-term Specialized English Programs; Vacation Programs

 

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your institutions?

A: China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Saudi Arabia

 

How does ELS prepare students for university study in the United States?

The ELS English for Academic Purposes program not only helps the international students increase their proficiency, while preparing them to move into their academic program; but through workshops and elective coursework, students also work on their study skills and academic and workload expectation of the U.S. university classroom.

 

Once students have gotten their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next?

It is important that students familiarize themselves with the local area, and that they feel comfortable with their arrival information. We provide them with web sites and information brochures related to arrival, airport pick-up, housing and the local area.

 

How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas?

Students can enter up to 30 days prior to the program start date on their I-20, however, we do not recommend that they arrive more than a week in advance.         

 

Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.?

 Many students work with counseling agencies. If they do have a counseling agency that they trust, this can be a good resource. Another reliable resource is EducationUSA. They have over 400 locations around the world, usually in major cities.They offer unbiased advice about studying in the USA, and many of the Centers offer pre-departure sessions.

 

How do U.S. schools assist international students prepare for their arrival on campus?

 It is important to communicate with the student and their family.  This is one of the most important decisions the family will have made regarding their son or daughter up until this point.  We have an obligation to make sure the student and family have as much information as possible about all relevant details including, but not limited to: the university, the location, the academic program, and their financial obligations.

Our ELS students are fortunate, as they are already in the U.S. We encourage our students to visit the school where they have been offered conditional admission. It allows them to become familiar with campus and meet some the faculty and staff who they will be working with when they ultimately transfer.

Most U.S. colleges and universities offer some form of orientation for new international students. Sometimes it is just for the international students, while other programs integrate the international students with the newly arrived U.S. students. Orientation is a great way to get to get familiarized with campus along with the other new students, while also having an opportunity to meet their new roommate(s).

 

What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the States to begin a degree program?

Take time to learn about the school, and the community. You are about ready to begin an adventure that will positively affect your future. Be ready to meet many new people, some of whom will be your friends for many years to come. Be open to new ideas. You have much to offer, and much to learn.  Above all else…be yourself.

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part II: After Studies

 

In a previous post we focused on opportunities for international students in F-1 visa status to work while in the United States while they’re studying. In this post we take you through the opportunities they have after they finish their studies.

For some people, knowing how a story ends before they begin reading a book can be an obsession. When it comes to learning what lies ahead for international students after graduation from university in the United States, students and parents are eager to know the ending as well.

By law, after completion of their studies, F-1 students have either 12 months (for non-STEM degrees) or up to 36 months for STEM degrees of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorisation possible per degree level for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level students. There are 240 different Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academic degree programs that can qualify international students for the 3 years of work. The challenge is finding the job that makes sense.

 

Where to start?

When starting out the job search Marcelo Barros, founder of The International Advantage, recommends that “savvy international students are not fixated on specific job titles or firms that they may want to work for. Instead, with time on their side, it is preferred that students focus on understanding the various professional fields their careers interests, skills and experiences might be a fit for, and that they may be aware of. It’s all about creating a bigger pool of employment possibilities.”

Also, students who go to sessions on putting together a resume and cover letter that gets sent to prospective employers, are off to a good start. As Nicolle Merrill, founder of GlobalMe School, remarked that cover letters and resumes are “the main tools students use to get an interview with a company. The challenge is that nobody is good at writing (them)…. Even Americans are bad at it.”

 

Making the most of opportunities

On many college campuses each year, there are job fairs and interview days held that can open the door to the right job. However, students should not go into those fairs without proper preparation. Research is a key first step. Knowing which companies are attending and whether they sponsor international students helps a job seeker focus his/her time on those potential employers that may be a good match.

How international students spend their time with company representatives is critical. Students should know how they want to introduce themselves in 30 seconds. Ms. Merrill recommends that international students “practice your professional story. Know what you’re going to tell recruiters when they ask you to tell them about yourself.”

Ms. Merrill has an important suggestion on how to take the next step: “Follow up by connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn and sending them a personal message. You never know where a connection might lead in the future.”

 

Searching for jobs as a non-STEM graduate 

While the majority of international students in the United States are studying in the STEM fields, and have additional time available to them to work, a sizeable number are not STEM students. Barros suggests that these students “should create a competitive profile by creatively strengthening their profile with an eye towards the skills that are in demand by U.S employers.”

Merrill goes further indicating “there will be much more networking and research involved. It also takes longer to find the right role, so students need to plan for a 6-9 month search to see results…. For non-STEM students, I recommend targeting nonprofits or universities.” In addition focusing on higher education institutions, Merrill suggests “students should also target roles in less competitive locations. This means targeting less popular cities and regions such as in the Mid-West and South of the United States.”

In the end, there are no guarantees of employment for international students after graduation, but with extensive planning and preparation, significant initiative and follow-up, and meeting the right company, the opportunities exist. Good luck!

 

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part I: During Studies

Image courtesy of AliveCampus.com

 

After students arrive on campus at a U.S. college or university, one of the questions they have about their privileges and benefits as an international student involves work. For many of their American classmates, working while at college is very much a part of the day-to-day experience. U.S. students can find employment wherever they want to and can be hired. That is not the case, legally, for international students on an F-1 visa.

 

On-Campus Work

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services F-1 students may accept on-campus employment during their first academic year. That on-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and up to full-time (40 hours/week) during school breaks or vacations.

Many international students, like ones we have profiled on this Opportunities Abroad blog, do take on-campus jobs for a variety of reasons. Madhav now works as a resident adviser, Swati serves as a Global Ambassador for her institution, and Rasana was a graduate assistant in an international office. Oftentimes the work is a good way to help pay for personal expenses students have above and beyond their tuition and fees.

 

Curricular Practical Training

What most students hope to do before they graduate is to get some experience in their intended career field. The regulations governing this type of work for international students, called curricular practical training (CPT), allow for the college’s Designated School Officials (DSOs) to approve either full-time or part-time work for international students off-campus with certain restrictions.

U.S. colleges and universities may have very different definitions of what a required internship or practicum is. Some departments, for example, in engineering, health fields or even education, may have courses that are designated as “coop” or practicum or student teaching programs that students must register for as part of their degree requirements. Others may have a special internship course. Other academic majors may not have any options for CPT for international students, so students should be sure to check with their advisers to see what is possible.These kinds of internships can be invaluable for international students during their time in the United States.

There is a restriction that does limit the amount of authorized CPT a student can work. Students cannot exceed 365 calendar days of CPT approval if the student wants to take advantage of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of their studies. We’ll discuss OPT and other work opportunities in the next The View From Campus post. Stay tuned!

From Delhi to Ohio: An Indian View on U.S. Higher Education

Madhav Madan

The View From Campus – From Delhi to Athens, Ohio, an Indian perspective on studying in the United States

Are you curious about what it will be like for you if you study in the U.S.?

Hear from Madhav Madan, a third-year undergraduate majoring in sports management at Ohio University. Madhav explains how different his life is now that he is studying in the United States. See how his passion and dreams sustain him….

 

Madhav: Leaving my home country – India – to attend college in a different country was scary and a big challenge but having a passion and a dream has made it a lot easier.

My brother taught me to follow my passion. He joined an engineering college in the United States but dropped out to pursue deep sea diving and become a professional diver in Tasmania, Australia.

Looking at his example, I left my family tradition by deciding not to study science in high school.

I was drawn towards business and management. Another thing that always fascinated me is the sports industry. So, I combined my interest in business and sports to study sports management. Sports management, in simple words, is business  in sports.

To follow my dream and passion, I joined Ohio University (OU) in 2015. Why did I join Ohio University? Well, I choose OU because its sports management program is one of the best in the world. Simple.

 

To hear more about Madhav’s adventures in the United States, and how you might follow him, keep tuned to this blog.

The View From Campus: Finals in the USA

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

 

In this month’s edition, Dr. Mandy Hansen, Director of Global Engagement, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, explains some of the more striking differences about academic life at U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Q. Describe your institution in 5 words?

A. Innovative, scenic, caring, safe, and inclusive.

 

Q. What is your institution best known for overseas?

A. We have strong innovation programs and community relationships that complement our academics. For example, UCCS collaborates with the government entities on the National Cyber Security Center and is involved in a unique project with the US Olympic Committee as Colorado Springs is the Olympic City.

 

Q. What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A. Business, Engineering, the Arts and Sports related program (like a sports management program for golf and soccer)

 

Q. What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

A. India, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Canada/Kuwait are tied for fifth

 

Q. How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

A. IELTS is used for admission into our undergraduate and graduate programs. We have a baseline score that is required for admission into our degree programs. We use the test as a predictor for academic success in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are skills that our students need for success and to feel comfortable with as many classes are focused on group work, note-taking, and interactions that require fluency on all levels.

 

Q. What is finals week at U.S. colleges and universities like?

A. It is a time that many offices on campus pull together to offer support to their students. Here at UCCS, we assist our students during this stressful time by having a free breakfast for students to make sure they are nourished and energized for their studies and keep the library open for longer. These are a pivotal effort to assist in the students’ success.

 

Q. How do finals exams differ from what most international students experience in their home countries?

A. Finals exams abroad are often the only contributing factor to a students’ grade. However, in the United States most classes give a final grade based upon a variety of activities ranging from group work, class attendance, presentations, exams, and papers.

The final exam, which may even be a final paper, lab report, or presentation, is one part of a student’s grade. Therefore, it is essential that international students attend each class and keep up with the assignments that are due throughout.

 

Q. Is it true that how well a student participates in classroom discussions is often a portion of a student’s final grade for a class?

A. The U.S. classroom often includes group work and interactions between the instructor and other students. This type of interaction is fostered when a student enters elementary or primary school as a child.

Collaborative activities and team projects are the norm and are often values that an employer will want from employees. Having confidence in speaking up, participating, and being involved is essential for success.

US Study: Get There with IELTS

Hear what IELTS means for international students in the U.S

 

The U.S. is a popular place for students from across the world.

Each year, thousands of U.S. colleges and universities accept hundreds of thousands of students from other countries.

If you’re thinking of joining them, then you’ll need IELTS.

IELTS is the most popular English test for people who want to live, study or work in another country. IELTS is also accepted by more than 3,300 institutions in the U.S, including all Ivy League colleges, so you have a huge choice of where to go.

An IELTS test score is proof of your English language proficiency and can help you achieve your goal of getting a place at a U.S. college or university.

Click on the video above to hear what some of the U.S. international students are saying about IELTS.

And to hear more from IELTS students who are already living their dream by studying in the U.S., be sure to check out our monthly View From Campus blog posts.

Get there with IELTS!

Why IELTS Is Your Ticket To The World

Image courtesy of i naina _94 via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

English is spoken at a useful level by a quarter of the world population. That’s over one and a half billion people.

It’s the world’s language of exchange, communication and business – to just a name a few areas. So, to speak English is to open yourself up to a world of opportunities.

If you’re planning to live, work or study using English you will often need to prove your ability to use it.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the world’s most popular English language test. More than 10,000 organisations in 140 countries accept IELTS, including schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies

More than 2.9 million IELTS tests around the world are taken each year.

Taking IELTS opens doors. It can help you live, study and work around the world, including USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

IELTS assesses all of your English skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play, in your new life abroad.

Employers and universities want you to be able to use English in the real world, so IELTS is what you will need to prove it.

IELTS is the most widely accepted English language test that uses a one-on-one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with a real person. This is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.

Whatever your plans in the world, IELTS will help you achieve them.

Apps That Make Uni Life Easier (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Ash Kyd via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

In the previous part, we looked at three applications that can help you find, organise, and store information ‒ Evernote, Google Drive, and Wikipedia. Here are some more.

 

  1. Bookmooch (http://bookmooch.com/)

Bookmooch is an international online community, where you can exchange books you no longer need for ones you would like to own. So, how do you do it? Register for free, give away unwanted books on your virtual shelf to others and earn points, and use those points to get books that are of interest to you.

Although you need to pay for postage when sending out books to others, the free books you get in exchange can save you a great deal of money over time.

 

  1. Delicious (https://del.icio.us/)

Have you ever lost all your bookmarks from your browser due to a virus attack? Well, here’s a simple solution – begin using a social bookmarking website such as Delicious. Apart from making bookmarking easy by allowing users to categorise links, it also lets the user access saved bookmarks from any device with an internet connection.

 

A word of caution – bookmarks on Delicious are generally visible to all users, so you don’t want to be saving pages you don’t want others to view.

 

  1. Viber (https://www.viber.com/en/)

As a foreign student, it’s quite natural to pine for friends and family once you’ve spent a few months away from home. Making international phone calls isn’t always an option, as they can cost a fortune. So, downloading Viber would be a cheaper option. In addition to making calls, you can also send text or picture messages, and all of this is absolutely free.

But what if the person you would like to talk to isn’t on Viber? Easy! Use Viber-out, a service that offers calls to any mobile or landline number at low rates.

 

So, if you are finding campus life stressful, maybe download a few applications that can help you cope.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

 

give away
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to give someone something you no longer need
Example : When Roger retired, he gave away all his tennis racquets to kids in the neighbourhood.

 

postage
Form : noun
Meaning : money paid to send letters / parcels through the post
Example : Does the price of the DVDs on your website include postage?

 

bookmark
Form : noun
Meaning : an electronic way of marking an internet page so that you can find it again quickly
Example : Our web address has changed, so please update you bookmark.

 

pine for (someone)
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to miss someone very much
Example : She still pines for her ex-boyfriend.

 

fortune
Form : noun
Meaning : a large amount of money
Example : She spends a small fortune on perfumes every month.

 

cope
Form : verb
Meaning : to manage something well
Example : Timothy finds it difficult to cope with extreme heat.

 

 

Deike’s Story: Globetrotting With IELTS

IELTS Award winner Deike (right) tells us about her work, experiences abroad and study goals.

Congratulations on winning your IELTS Award! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background? Where are you from and what are you studying or working on at the moment?

Deike: I’m from the northern part of Germany; I was born in East Friesland which is where the name Deike is from. It’s quite an unusual name that even most Germans have never heard of. I have a background in medicine, more specifically in paediatrics. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, so after completing my degree in Medicine at the Medical School Münster, I specialised in paediatrics, working with children with cancer. After a year, I was given the opportunity to go abroad to work in a hospital in Peru for four months which was a great and intense experience. As this project was developing so well, we decided to do another project to help children in Myanmar. We worked in a hospital there with local doctors to identify the most pressing needs. We found that the main problem was incorrect diagnoses, leading to wrong treatments. We tried to help by sending a specialist over to train the doctors in diagnostics which made a huge difference. I then went to Africa with the organisation German DoctorsOpens in a new tab or window. to work in the second biggest slum in Nairobi, treating babies and young children. This experience has had a tremendous impact on my life and my ambition to help more children through structural changes in the healthcare system.

How did you find out about IELTS and this Awards programme?

Deike: The study programme I wanted to apply for required proof of English language proficiency. I compared different language tests and decided on IELTS as it is globally recognised and had a test centre near my hometown of Oldenburg. I found out about the IELTS Award while checking the British Council Germany website for information about the IELTS test.

You’ve already told us a bit about your work with children in Germany and abroad. Will this be the focus of your studies?

Deike: I doing a Master in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineOpens in a new tab or window.. The reason for doing this is that after all my experience in working with children in Africa, Myanmar, Peru and at home, what I felt I really wanted to do was not only help single children with acute problems, such as malnutrition, but to get to the cause of the problems and help change these, in order to be able to help a lot of children, not only one single child at the time. This is what Public Health is about – improving and maintaining the health of a whole population through structural changes in the healthcare system.

What made you choose the institution and destination for your Master’s programme?

Deike: After deciding that I wanted to study Public Health I looked up which institutions offered this programme and compared their rankings. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and education in the health sector. They have excellent facilities and some of the best professors to learn from, which were the main reasons for my choice. That the school is located in London is the cherry on top!

Why do you think studying or working abroad is important to young people’s lives and development?   

Deike: As we live in a globalised world I think it gets more and more important to not only think of your own country or culture, but to get to know and engage with other people with different cultural backgrounds. Especially if you work in a field with a more global outlook, it’s important that you move around, travel and get involved with different cultures, which for me, always equals personal growth.

Finally, where did you take your IELTS test and how was the test experience for you? Would you recommend this test to others who are aiming to study abroad?

Deike: I took my IELTS test in Bremen which is very close to where I live. They offered different slots and I found one that suited me perfectly. On the test day, I felt that everything was really well organised and structured. I always knew what I had to do which helped me focus on the actual tasks. I enjoyed all four parts of the test, but must admit that I was a bit rusty with my writing, mainly as I hadn’t written a free text in a while. I would recommend IELTS to everyone and was pleased with the organisation and experience of the test.

Thank you for these great insights, Deike!

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