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Left: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton interacts with students at the Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai in July. Secretary Clinton was in India for the second annual meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. Left: Leela Samson (center), director of the Kalakshetra Foundation, talks about traditional musical instruments with Secretary Clinton, as Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, A. Peter Burleigh (left), looks on. Below: Secretary Clinton addresses the audience at the Anna Centenary Library auditorium in Chennai.

Top: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Above: Secretary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna at a joint press conference in New Delhi.


September/October

A LETTER FROM THE

SPAN

PUBLISHER f all the investments you make in life, your education is probably the most important Education is an investment in yourself and your future. It is therefore necessary to put enough time and effort into research ing your options- and to consult with trusted sources- before taking any decision. The United States is well known for having some of the best colleges and universities in the world. What you may not know is that there are more than 4,000 accred ited colleges and universities throughout the country, which means there are scores of options to choose from in terms of what you are looking for in academic programs, size, diversity and location. It is a dream for many to study at a world-renowned institution, but I encourage you to explore all your options and make sure you find the right fit for yourself and your dreams. With all these options, it is essential to use trusted sources of information to help you make the right deci sions regarding your education. In India, the EducationUSA Advising Services at the United StatesIndia Educational Foundation (USIEF) and its affiliated satellite centers is the only official source for advice regarding U.S. colleges and its educational system EducationUSA advisers are committed to helping Indian students find accredited U.S. universities that are the best fit for their academic and professional needs. If you are looking for information regarding student visas, please get it directly from the U.S. Embassy or Consulates. I strongly urge you not to go to fake consultants as wrong advice can put at risk your ability to get a visa . Th is is SPAN 's annual education issue and we have a great line-up of articles that are sure to be useful for those who wish to pursue higher studies in the United States. Our student authors, who joined top U.S. universities this fall, tell us how they got there, provide insider tips on how to make the right decisions, and demonstrate the benefits of using USIEF's EducationUSA resources. The United States welcomes international students. Students like yourselves contribute to the rich diversity on campus and it is this diversity of cultures and ideas that help all students gain a global perspective Entering this exciting world is an attainable dream. Just remember to stick to the trustwo~~ ~

VOL UME L I I NUM BE R 5

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Publisher Michael P Pe lletier Editor in Chief Adele E. Ruppe Acting Editor Deepanjali Kakati Hindi Editor G,ri raj Agarwal Urdu Editor Mali k Rashi d Falsal Copy Editors Richa Varma, Shah Md. Tahsin Usmani Editorial Assistant Yugesh Mathur Art Director Hemant Bhatnagar Deputy Art Directors Khurshid Anwar Abbasi, Qasim Raza Web Manager Chetna Khera Production/Circulation Manager Alok Kau shik Printing Assistant Manish Gand hi Research Services Bureau of International Information Programs, The American Library

42 44 46

editorspan@state ,gov

* New Directions in Music Education By Michael Gallant

50

7

On the Lighter Side

* Giving Shape to Your College Application By Nikita Sachdeva

10

* Beating the Odds in College Admissions By Upasna Sharma

14

* Building Bonds on Campus By Dhruv Rawat

18

* Planning For Success By Vi shal Gupta

20 21 24 26 27

Teaching English Via Facebook * Off-Campus Housing * Visa Guidelines For Students * The Importance of Accreditation

* Realizing a Dream By Shweta Malik

32

* Should You 'Friend' Your Way to Grad School? By Candice Yacono

37

* Businesses Gain Power From

Social Media

By Michael Gallant w

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* Demystifying Social Media By Richa Varma

Contact us

* Achievers: Youth Make Headlines By Paromita Pain

Published by the Public Affairs Seclion, American Center, 24 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001 (ph one: 23472000), on behall of the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi . Printed aIThomson Press India Limited, 18/35, Delhi Malhura Road, Faridabad , Haryana 121007. Opinions expressed in this 50-page magazine do nol necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US Government. Articles wilh a star may bereprinted with permission. Those Without a star are copyrighted and may not be repri nted. Contact SPAN at 011-23472135 or editorspan@state.gov

* Visiting Apple's Company Store By Jane Varner Malhotra

Front cover: Harvard University School of Government graduates celebrate during the commencement ceremony In May 201 1. Photograph by Sleven Senne Š AP-WWP

*

2011

56

Letters to the Editor


MainStreet, the hub of campus life at the University of Cincinnati, encompasses McMicken Commons, UC Bookstores, Tangeman University Center and Steger Student Life Center. http://www.uc.edu/mainstreet.i1tml


Above: Established in 1819, the College of Medicine is considered the oldest medical college west of the Allegheny Mountains. Left: A student at a university laboratory. Below: Students gather on McMicken Commons for a class.

I

can't recall when the idea of studying in the United States first came to mind. Unlike most of my friends who were sure since childhood what they wanted to become, I wasn't even sure I wanted to study beyond the usual 10 + 2 + 3. It wasn ' t until my biology teacher in Class IX went beyond books to tell us about biotechnology and I began reading more about the subject that I understood the road map better. Somewhere along the way, my interest in molecular biology led me to find out about the latest developments. A considerable amount of the work in this field was being done in the United States.

This, that or the other:When I look back, I realize that the most important decision I took was to identify the subject where my interests lay. Unless one is passionate and confident about the choice of subject, it will not reflect in the statement of purpose or cv. It is important to choose the subject before choosing a university. It may be tempting to go by the advice of others but it is best to read up thoroughly on one's subject preferences and then make an informed decision. Since I am just joining my university, I honestly don't know exactly what universities look for in an application. But this is how I went about mine: no detail of one's work, whether professional or extracurricular, is unimpol1ant, so I updated my CV regularly over the years. I wrote each statement of purpose myself because no one can know me better than myself. I applied to universities that I wanted to study in because of the courses they offered. Rather than analyze


The

路Academic Adviser hen yo u enter a university or college, you will usually be assigned an academic adviser who will help you select your classes and plan your program . He or she may also monitor your progress. You are free to seek advice from oth er faculty members as we ll. Before you meet with yo ur academi c adviser, it may be helpful to design a tentative program plan. Know what the degree requirements are, or if you are not certain , prepare a list of question s. Study the university catalog, departmental course schedules, and the printed schedule, which li sts all the courses being offered during the term and the days and times the courses will meet. Note that not all courses must be taken in a particular order; there is usually some flexibility in design ing your program. At the first meeting with yo ur academic advi ser, yo u may wish to discuss what yo u hope to do both during your program and after you finish your academi c studies. You should discuss the tentative program plan that you have drawn up for the semester. You may also wish to discuss opportunities for field experience , study abroad , and other activities that might enrich your educational experience . Many international students are hesitant to express thei r opinions to their academic adviser, since this may be perceived as inappropriate behavior or a sign of disrespect in their own cultures. In U.S. cu lture, it is very appropriate to voice your opinion . The ro le of the adviser is to help you make your own decisions, not to make decisions for you. On most campuses, your academ ic adviser is respons ible for approvi ng your plan of study and the number of courses you will take each term. Rem ember that SEVIS requires international students to take a full course load (usually 12 to 15 credit hours for undergraduates an d ni ne to 12 cred it hours for graduates) fo r their visas to re main va lid . Your academi c adviser will help you dec ide on a study plan based upon your goals and the requirements for a degree. During the academic year, yo u should make appointments with your academic adviser at regular intervals (a good time is just pri or to th e next seme ster regi stration period) in ord er to review yo ur prog ress.

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Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the United States. " ':

Coming Soon USIEF's EducationUSA advising staff will be available at the tollfree phone number,

1-800-103-1231, Monday through Friday, from 2 to 5 p,m,

what they wanted, I laid my cards on the table. I believe you need to be honest: I didn 't make up anything that I wrote nor did I play down my sentiments. I believe your application has to balance the head and the heart.

MV application, mv thumbprint Each application is as unique as the applicant. It probably helped that I was active in workshops, seminars, poster presentations, cultural and literary activities and sports from my school days. Laboratory training sessions were opportunities to learn my subject rather than fini sh mandatory holiday homework. The other activities I have been busy with , like writing, were a genuine reflection of my interests and concerns. At no point have I done something because I wanted to garnish my Cv. It 's tempting to go by university rankings, but I would rather follow the heart in deciding on the subject of study. A university may have picked up its reputation fo r another field in which the applicant has less interest. So, it makes sense to find out the best universities for your interests. I' ve also heard that most students give more importance to bookish knowledge and grades and less to extended subject-related activities.

Get a good counselor It helps to have a proactive, informed and helpful counselor. I went with the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) because I believe they understand the U.S. educational system best. My counselors worked with me right from before I appeared for the GRE till the time I was packing my bags. They supported me with suggestions and encouragement whenever I needed them. http: //span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 I I 5


For more information: University of Cincinnati http://www.uc.edu/

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~

United States-India Educational Foundation http://www.usief.org .in/

Above left: A foo tball game at the university's Nippert Stadium. Above right: The University of Cincinnati Marching Band. Left: The Engineering Research Center, designed by Michael Graves, is one of several signature architecture buildings on the University of Cincinnati campus. Left center: An aerial view of McMicken Commons and Tangeman University Center. Left bottom: University of Cincinnati's Yontz Center for Molecular Studies is home to the cancer and cell biology department.

Read. Ask. Ferret. Read up on the university; the course and the specific subject interests of the faculty before applying. Ask around. People who have clambered up to the next rung would know better where the bolts on your rung are rusting. Find out all the information you can about facilities offered by the university. I chose the graduate program in molecular and developmental biology at the University of Cincinnati because I found it to be one of the most interesting programs. It has a great mix of research and hands-on work at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The structure of the department amazed me: it has more than 85 faculty members. The wide range of topics, and the depth to which each is researched, is remarkable. As I went through my interviews, I found the faculty encouraging, cheerful, helpful and flexible. The choice was clear. My father is in a transferable job so I've studied at several places across India. I am going to the United States for graduate studies after completing my B. Tech in biotechnology. As Albert Einstein said, "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." As of now, I see myself working in a laboratory for years so that some day, I can make a tiny contribution to making a positive difference. Moen Sen is a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati.

6 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11


Giving Shape to Your U,S, universities look for a mix of academ ic excellence, extracurricular achievements and impressive recommendations and essays,

uring my 12th grade at Delhi Public School R.K. Puram, a very interesting opportunity came my way. I was offered an internship in developmental economics with the World Health Organization (WHO). The opportunity was so enticing that I decided to take a gap year, during which I not only

worked as an intern, but I also took salsa lessons, played tennis and applied to colleges in the United States. The bridge year not only made my application strong but also gave me exposure to large scale research work, helping me evolve as a person. I kickstarted the application process by visiting counselors at my school and the

Above: The Quadrangle Club at The University of Chicago, where faculty and community members enjoy meals and activities. Right: Nikita Sachdeva,

http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

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'" Above left: Rockefeller Chapel at The University of Chicago. Above: The Main Quadrangles at the university. Left: Students at a graduation ceremony. Left below: Statues from Iraq dating from 2900 B.C. to 2300 B.C. on display at the Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago. Below: A panoramic view of the university.

8 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF). They informed me about the requirements for applying to U.S. universities. I began by appearing for the SAT exams and my scores came in 99th percentile, making my application academically strong. My next target was to finalize the list of institutions. The plethora of colleges and universities in the United States makes it taxing for a student to decide on a list of 10 to 15. I knew I wanted the size of the institution to be neither very small nor very large and I wanted it to be situated in a major, city. Reputation mattered because it is an indication of the quality of faculty, classes and students. I was also inclined toward the core curriculum. I shortlisted some 25 institutions and did extensive research on them. University Web sites were informative, but gigantic. I switched to the Fiske Guide to Colleges that gave me an overview of how my four years would be at each college. In addition, I received a list of 20 colleges from USIEF. After considering the inputs from all


sources, I decided to apply to 11 colleges. , Next in line was the task of making a resume. It helps in organizing all the grades and certificates, and facilitates the filling up of the common application. What I had in hand were excellent high school grades, satisfying SAT scores and decent extracurricular activities. These allowed me to devote my energies toward the essays, the crucial part of every college application. My counselor repeatedly said, "Your essays should sing, and that will happen only if you are passionate about the topics." The essays are the only way through which an applicant can express his personality, thoughts, experiences and future plans. An essay can be about varied topics. It provides a chance to applicants to take risks, to be innovative and appeal to the reader 's mind. Sufficient time should be given to all the essays because they require a lot of thinking and editing. While I was working on my essays and internship, I took out time to make trips to my school. I met my counselor and teachers in order to complete the remaining paperwork. The most importaflt segments of this were the recommendation letters. Admission officers use the letters of recommendation to see the applicant through the eyes of the teachers and the counselor. They like to read experiences that the teachers have had with the applicant in the form of short stories, and highly value their opinion. An applicant should choose teachers who highlight different aspects of his or her personality and caliber. Most applicants think that sending out

he basic unit of exchange in the United States is the dollar ($), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). One dollar is commonly written as $1 or $1.00. There are four denominations of commonly used coins: 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents. Americans usually refer to coins not by their value in cents, but by their names. A one-cent coin is a penny, a five-cent coin is a nickel, a ten-cent coin is a dime, and a 25-cent coin is a quarter. There are also one-dollar coins and half-dollar (50-cent) coins, but they are seldom found in circulation. U.S. paper money (often called bills: for example, a "one-dollar bill") comes in singlebill denominations of one dollar ($1.00), two dollars ($2.00, but these are rare), five dollars ($5.00), ten dollars ($10.00), twenty dollars ($20.00), fifty dollars ($50.00), and one hundred dollars ($100.00). U.S. bills are similar in appearance, but differentiated from each other by the number value and with the portrait of a different U.S. historical figure on each denomination. U.S. coins are also marked with the coin's value, and each denomination is a different size.

applications is the end of the process. But many universities want to know the applicant better and that happens through interviews. So, I would advise all applicants to request for interviews. They can be very enlightening not only for the admission officers but also for the applicants as they get a chance to ask questions about the universities. Finally, after my interviews and the long wait, the decisions were released. To my delight, I made it to my dream school. I realized that top universities in the United States look for a package in every applicant. The package should have all ingredients - academic excellence, impressive recommendations, extracurricular achievements, expressive essays and, most importantly, an honest student behind each application. There is no definite formula to get into any school. It's all about the "fit" at the end of the day. The university should fit the applicant and vice versa. Applicants should not get swayed by where their friends are going or what their relatives say. Instead, choose a college which leaves no scope for any regret. I am happy I decided to attend The University of Chicago for economics and math. It has the perfect class size, a world class faculty and a reputed economics program. The school inspires innovation and values ambition. As I embark on this new journey, I know that the university is another name for novelty and I am ready to think, transform and thrive in such a community.

T

Nikita Sachdeva is a student at The University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago

Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the United States."

http://www.uchicago.edu/ Fiske Guide to Colleges http://www.fiskeguide.com/

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 9


The admissions procedure is lengthy and it takes time and effort to create a stellar application.

Ith the 2011 -2012 Common Application released on August 1 and most college supplements being released soon after, the college admissions season is beginning to heat up. Applying to a college in America is no longer just about filling a few simple forms. It is a lengthy, elaborate and time-consuming process. I decided to apply to colleges in the United States because I wanted to study a variety of subjects while focusing on my major, and the U.S. liberal arts system of education fit my requirements. I chose Harvard University in Massachusetts because of its faculty strength across departments, the sheer amount of opportunities available, the diverse and ambitious student body, its financial resources and proximity to Boston. After completing my studies I wish to do something related to human rights. In order of importance, while applying for top schools, I would rank academic performance (rigor + class rank + percentage), SAT scores and essays as most important, extracurricular

10 http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20ll

Beating the adds activities a close second, followed by teacher recommendations and legacy status. Top schools not only look for a student with great credentials, they also want to see passion and dedication demonstrated through long-time commitment to extracurricular acti vities and an interesting personality that shines through memorable essays. Remember, the essay is the only part of your application that you actually control. If you are naturally funny, let that show. Dare to tryout unconventional topics. I wrote about Noddy and Harry Potter in one of my best essays. For top colleges, remember that it's very important to stand out. Spend time on your essays and write about something you are passionate about as opposed to what you think the admissions committee would like to read. In my opinion, the first good essay needs at least one month of work. And, of course, don't forget to proofread . Students who need financial aid should apply to several more schools than usual. To me, 12 seems like an ideal number. Make Above: Looking north at the Charles River, Harvard Square and Harvard University from One Western Avenue. Harvard University Business School is to the left in the foreground . Right: Harvard Kennedy School's Taubman Building. Far right: Upasna Sharma.


in

College Admissions By UPASNA SHARMA

http:// span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

11


For more information: Harvard Un iversity http://www.harvard.edu/

full use of the CollegeBoard.com Web site. It has great compa- l~~~.;..;:::~~~~路 rable information on merit aid, need-based aid, etc. While making your shortlist, please keep in mind that acceptance rates given on the Web site are only for domestic students and that acceptance rates for international students needing financial aid are much lower. If possible, apply early. It's easy to get confused between Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED). While Early Action is not binding (i.e., doesn't req ui re you to attend should you be accepted), Early Decision restricts you to applying to one school and is a binding contract. For students needing financial aid, I would suggest against applying under Early Decision as they wou ld want to compare fina ncial aid offers. Applying und er .~ Early Action to as many colleges as possible is a better option . .~ Early Action not only forces you to prepare a presentable appli- ~ cation by November, it gives you two more months to smoothen ~ out the rough edges and create an even better application for the Regul ar Decision round. Plus, if you get into some schools ~

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Protecting Your Baggage learly label every piece of luggage with your name, U.S address, and a telephone number (perhaps the International Student Office of the university or college you will attend). Disposable identification tags are available from the airline , but we recommend you use sturdier luggage tags or labels. You may also want to put a label or luggage tag inside your luggage for additional security. Consider purchasing baggage insurance to protect against loss, damage or theft of your baggage. Pack a few days' worth of clothing and personal items in your carry-on baggage in case your checked luggage is lost or sent to the wrong destination. Never leave your baggage unattended. You must always be alert to the possibility of theft. Shipping additional items While you may sometimes pay to take excess baggage on the plane with you , it is very expensive, so many students choose to ship additional items by mail or private carrier (land, air or sea) or to wait until they have arrived and have family members ship what they need. Regardless of how you ship your belongings, cl early mark al l baggage or packages with your name and your U.S. address. Write directly on the box or on an address label , then place wide, transparent tape over the writing. If you ship packages before you leave or know that someone will be shipping them soon , be sure to declare them at customs when you enter the United States. When you pick up the parcels in the United

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12 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBERJOCTOBER 20 II

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States, you might have to pay a "duty" (import tax). Ask about this when you make arrangements with your post office or shipping company. Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the United States."

.


Above left: Winter in the Harvard yard. Left: The MBTA station entrance in Harvard Square. Above: A tour group at the John Harvard Statue and University Hall. Above right: A football game between the Harvard Crimsons and Brown Bears. Below: A crew team rows past Harvard University down the Charles River which separates Cambridge and Boston.

through Early Action, it makes that awful wait till March-end so much easier. The admissions procedure is lengthy and you must spend time in order to create a stellar application. However, a common mistake amongst students is letting the application process take over regular studies, especially in the 12th standard. To manage both,

you must plan ahead and set your priorities. Time goes by very quickly in the senior year and one should start with essays and try to finish short listing schools during the summer break. Trawling through university Web sites and reading student blogs are the methods through which one can gauge whether the school is a good fit or not. There is no secret formula for success in college admissions . I am not going to mince words- the admissions process is long, frustrating and exhausting, but that blessed letter of acceptance in your hand, that tells you that it's finally over and that all your work wasn't for naught, is worth it. I wish you good luck. Upasna Sharma is a student of physics at Harvard University.


pplying to and getting accepted at an American school is no cakewalk, so those who have been accepted should be especially proud of what they have achieved. As you will soon realize, intermingling with people from varied backgrounds will be very important, both for your intellectual growth and for the expansion of your social sphere. By addressing selected concerns, this article aims to help you with your initial social interactions in America.

"I don't know anyone at my college, and I'm scared of not having any friends in the first few days." This is one of the biggest fears of students heading to the United States. Stepping into a new environment is never easy, especially when you are miles away from your comfort zone. There is , however, no need to fret, for American colleges have already figured out a way to help you-student orientation. This American

custom is an excellent way to meet people from around the world who attend your college. It is true that many people slip through orientation in a daze because they are still adjusting to the difference in culture. However, you must understand that the only way to fill the void of homesickness is to socialize and be occupied at all times. Everyone is in the same boat, and a simple introduction is all you need to get started. So, don 't be hesitant in approaching strangers and introducing yourself with a warm hello. Rest assured, you'll receive either an enthusiastic response or, at the very least, a smile.

Left: Freshman students during a walking orientation tour on the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus in Florida. Below left: Orientation leaders for the University of Southern Mississippi's Welcome Week activities work on a comical video skit to be viewed by incoming students. Below: Tyler Robinson (left) and Ben Weeks use the Challenge Course as an icebreaker during orientation at Garden City Community College in Kansas.

"What am I most likely to be asked by the people I meet?" Since student bodies at most American colleges and universities are constituted of people from different parts of the United States and the world, "Where are you from?" will inevitably be one of the fIrst questions asked by your classmates. Your answer to this will usually lead to a discussion on your

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 15


It would serve you really well to brush up on your knowledge of India before you leave for the United States.

motherland with your newfound friends. To this end, it would serve you really well to brush up on your knowledge of India. You shouldn 't aim to be a fact-machine spewing out statistics, but just try to acknowledge your background and talk about it enthusiastically whenever asked.

"Will I be nitpicked on for having a quirky accent?" Many Indians leaving for the United States feel they have an unusual accent, which happens to be another reason for their restrained social interactions. If you are concerned about rolling your tongue over the R's, here is something you should know about America: different people from different parts of the country speak differently. Once you live in the United 16 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1

Below: University of Virginia students are warned against the dangers of publishing personal information on the Internet during an orientation presentation. Below right: RandolphMacon Women 's College students arrive for orientation at its campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Be/ow right: A table settings guide during an etiquette luncheon for University of Iowa MBA students. The fourcourse luncheon, which capped orientation week, was part of an attempt by school administrators to groom the next generation of corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Below far right: Amanda Borman (left), a student at Mesa State College in Colorado, talks with Michael Bozeman, a professor at the college.

States long enough , you will start appreci- nated faculty hours. If you ever happen to ating the diversity of tongues. Just speak find yourself stuck in the intricacies of the clearly and remember that, at the end of new system, remember that your profesthe day, it's not the way you speak that sors are there to help you . Utilize your matters, but what you speak that makes all professors' office hours by getting your questions answered, by seeking pedagogithe difference. cal guidance, or by just building a strong "I am apprehensive of expressing relationship with them. If you ever find it myself in class; what will happen to my difficult to be a chirping bird in class, go meet your professor in person, and set intellectual growth?" Many international freshmen find it dif- afire your intellectual growth. ficult to ask questions in an American "Are there any other things I should classroom. This does not mean they are not curious; it just shows that they are still keep in mind as I head to the United adjusting to the new education system. States?" Yes , your toolbox should have two more Thankfully, the faculty at most American colleges is unbelievably accessible out- drivers as you pad up to leave for the side the classroom, with some schools United States. First, learn to not fit youreven going to the extent of having desig- self in a box. Don't say what others would


Use of Names irst names are more readily used in the United States than in other countries. It is almost always acceptable to use the first name of someone of approximately the same age or younger as soon as you meet. Use "Mr. " (for men) or "Ms. " (for women) and the person's last name when talking to people in positions of authority, your professors, or your elders, unless they ask you to call them by their fi rst name. Do not be shy to ask people what they would like you to cal l them and to tell them what you would like them to call you .

F

Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the United States. "

like to hear. Say what you believe in, what you can associate yourself with. For instance, if you do not wish to drink at a party, say it. People in America respect you ". for who you are. Second, learn to ask quesc:' . tions whenever you are in doubt. Doing so will not make people look down on you. In fact, it will show that you are making the effort to understand their country, even though you are an international student. These are just some of the many reservations that U.S. -bound students have. In my view, the key to a successful transition is to be open to the new culture and to be yourself. Dhruv Rawat is a sophomore studying computer science and astronomy at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

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very year thousands of students from India go to the United States for higher education. As is often the case in such a large group, the success rate of these students varies. In the 10 years that I have been in the United States, I have had the privilege to serve in teaching-related positions in four institutions- Pennsylvania State University; University of Missouri; University of Nebraska at Omaha; and Binghamton University, State University of New York. I have interacted with thousands of students, and observed hundreds of international students navigate their way through the U.S. academic system. My experien.ces- first as a student and a teaching assistant, and later ~s lecturer and professor- and interactions with a variety of students have led me to realize that success in the U.S. academic environment requires a system-

-

How to succeed in a U,S, university classroom and environment. tl-dents who have had

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~ success in the past may

offer free short-term classes to help you be a successful stu' " believe that it will come dent. Topics may include utilizjust as easily in another ing your school 's library country. However, different resources to write a research teaching methods, a different paper, navigating the Internet, language, different academic developing good study skills, background , and a different and practicing effective time campus culture can affect management. If English is not your ability to be successful. your first language , you might Most colleges and universities help your grades by visiting the university writing center, by taking an ESL course, or by joining an informal English conversation group. There are also excellent study-skills Web sites on the Internet. Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the United States."

18 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

atic approach that starts even' before the first day of class. Follow the 5 + 2 P framework to increase your chances of success. Plan: The first element refers to developing a coherent and consistent line of action with regard to the field of study. This phase starts early with thinking about how the academic major to be pursued in the United States fits into your academic and professional goals. It continues with thinking about how each course during the program will playa role in your academic life. Foreign students in the United States are allowed to enter the country for a limited time. For this reason, students from other countries, including India, do not have as much room as American students to experiment with the various options that exist in U.S. universities. In such a scenario, students who have thought deeply about their preferred academic field and understand how it will lead them to their goals have a significant edge over other students. Prepare: Syllabi for almost all courses in U.S. universities are available on the first day of the semester. In some cases, students can also request professors for the syllabus before the start of the semester. The syllabus provides information about what topics will be covered, required and optional books, and the assignments and tests students are expected to complete, often with due dates. This information is very useful in helping students prepare for the course in advance . Participate: This is an important aspect of the U.S. aca- ' demic environment. Although the rate and nature of participation varies across majors and colleges, almost all courses


Networking with professors (far left) and participating in class (left) are two aspects of achieving success in the U.S. academic environment.

require students to show some level of class participation. In addition, most professors expect students to make meaningful contributions that further class discussion. For participation to be constructive, students can share insights from their work experience or knowledge gained from

environment. The first of these is proud. This involves taking pride in one's country and culture. I have come across several Indian students who criticize their country and culture in international settings, oblivious to the fact that such criticism undermines their own image. Some Indian students leave their

By VISHAL GUPTA

extracurricular reading related to the course. As Indian students going abroad for higher education generally lack actual experience in the workplace, the reading approach-gaining relevant knowledge through extensive reading- is arguably more viable for them. Proact: Indian students tend to be reactive, waiting for things to happen when it comes to academic issues. This is the opposite of a proactive approach, which requires students to step out of their comfort zone and take charge of the situation. A very critical aspect of being proactive is networking with peers, professors, alumni and others on campus. Networking can be virtual , through Linkedln and Facebook, or face-to-face in campus socials and professional events ..,More opportunities for assistantships, internships and jobs a=re available to people who are good at networking. Project: These days, early to bed and early to rise is no longer enough. It's also important to work hard and advertise. I refer to the willingness to advertise about one's achievements as project. Just as it is useful to stand out by pursuing unique activities, it is also important to ensure that credit for those activities accrue where it is due. Students should make it a point to tactfully share information about out-of-class activities with their academic advisers and professors, projecting themselves in a positive light. They should also frequently update their resumes and use them as tools for self-assessment as well as to project their name in a positive manner. Two other Ps are important for success in an international

country with little intellectual understanding of the events that shaped their country and provide the underpinnings of their culture. I strongly encourage students to invest time and effort in learning about their country and culture, and take pride in its unique heritage. The second element for success internationally is perspective . We live in times of unprecedented globalization. To compete effectively in such an environment, Indians should develop a global perspective. This involves learning a foreign language, becoming aware of historical and social issues in other countries, and reading about developments around the world. Today, a person in Mumbai or New Delhi is !"lot just c0l!1peting with those around him, but with his peers in Shanghai, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and New York. Developing a global perspective helps one become a potential manager and leader for companies and organizations competing internationally. The 5 + 2 P framework presented here is neither comprehensive nor a conclusive guide. They simply reflect my understanding of some of the essential areas that young adults need to focus on as they embark on a new course in life. In addition, they are tools to enable students to think about what they can do to thrive in an unfamiliar system in which missteps can be costly in terms of time and money, while the right steps can take their career on an upward trajectory. ~ Vishal Gupta from New Delhi is an assistant professor of strategy at the School of Management at Binghamton University, State University of New York. http ://span.state.gOY SEPTEMB ER/OCTOBER 2011

19


he Voice of America (VOA) continues to reach out to new audiences in innovative ways. Now, VOA is using Facebook to teach English language lessons as part of its popular online learning program, The Classroom. Here 's how it works: Four times a day, the icon on VOA's Learning Engli sh Facebook page changes to indicate a live, online class is " in session." Students can submit questions and be part of a free, hour-long, interactive language learning experience that uses materials and lessons from The Classroom, which is now averaging more than 180,000 users a month. One of The Classroom's Facebook teachers calls herself "The English Doctor." When her class is "in session," users learn from Nina Weinstein, the author of dozens of books on teaching English as a foreign language. Another VOA Facebook teacher, "The English Traveler," also has classes twice a day. There are plans to add more instmctors to the line-up. Since The Classroom gave its first lesson on Facebook in February this year, the response has been positive, with about 16,000 views in the first 24-hour period. Thousands sign on for each lesson. Many ofVOA's Facebook friends have written in to say how much they like the new program. "We have the best teacher ever in grammar. You are so good!" said a fan. Voice of America Director Danforth W.

Teaching English Facebook 20 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

Austin says, "VOA's pioneering use of Facebook to teach language is yet another example of how social media can bring people together to share common interests, and VOA is leading the way in the use of these innovative new online platforms." You can get to the Facebook class directl y from www.voanews.comltheclassroom. VOA. editors came up with the idea to teach Engli sl{ on Facebook when they noticed they were getting hundreds of questions from VOA's more than 76,000 Learning English Facebook fans who often ask about grammar, pronunciation , capitalization and other English usage rules. In addition to Facebook lessons , The Classroom also has a new Business Wordbook with hundreds of business terms, pictures and sample dialogues to help users learn American business English. Under the activities tab of The Classroom, there are new " English survival" activities, including how to order breakfast and how to count money. Plans are also underway for a Interactive Health Wordbook , with pictures, definitions and sample dialogues relating to health , fitness and well being.

++

Text courtesy Voice of America.

For more information: VOA Learning English --------------------~ www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home ---'--'


an路Campus

Housing Above: Bayside Village, a student apartment complex in Portland, Maine. Right: Zachary Woods (left) studies for a presentation while Michael Pietras takes a break between classes at the apartment they share in Columbia, South Carolina.

For students heading to the United States, housing is one of their biggest expenses and can affect their personal and academic adjustment. http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11 21


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ne of the most important things you will have to take care of before you start your studies in the United States is finding a place to live. This is an important decision since it will be one of your biggest expenses and will affect your personal and academic adjustment. Everyone is happiest and most productive in surroundings that are comfortable to them. If you cannot find accommodation in university dormitories, you may have to look for housing off-campus. In particular, students with families may need to look off-campus. While university-subsidized housing is often less expensive than housing off-campus in large U.S. cities, that is not always the case in smaller cities and towns. Types of accommodation include furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses, privately operated dormitories, cooperative residence halls, and rented rooms in private homes. To find off-campus housing, ask the university's housing office or consult the classified advertising section (also called "want ads" or "classifieds") of the local newspaper. Many U.S. newspapers are now on the Web so you may be able to explore off-campus housing opportunities while you are still at home. Check campus bulletin boards for notices of students who are looking for roommates to share an apartment. Seek the help of someone who knows the community or ask the international student adviser for suggestions. In general, the amount you spend for housing should be limited to one-third or one-fourth of the total amount you have planned to spend on living expenses. If the cost is one-half of your budget, you may be spending too much. If the costs are unusually inexpensive, it is possible that your living quarters are substandard. U.S. cities have local housing rules, For more information: called "ordinances" or "housing codes," that specify cerEd ucati onUSA tain standards that must be http://www.educationusa.info met to ensure that houses and Off-Campus Housing 101 buildings are safe and sanitary. http://www.och101.com/ Making arrangements for

22 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBERJOCTOBER 2011

housing off-campus can be quite challenging. For example, if you do not have a car, location is important. If an apartment is farther than walking distance from the campus, it may prove to be inconvenient unless it is close to public transportation. Gas , electricity and telephone services, known as "utilities," usually are not included in the rent and must be paid by you, the tenant, each month. You must make payment arrangements directly with each of the utility companies. Get an estimate of monthly utility bills from the utility company or previous tenants before you sign a lease. Heating can be expensive in colder parts of the country, and gas and electric bills should be taken into account in determining monthly costs. Heating, electricity and telephone can add from $75 to $200 or more (much more if you make long-distance or international telephone calls) to the rent each month. Water and garbage collection costs are usually included in the rent. Sharing an apartment with a roommate can keep costs down. If you do not know anyone to room with, it is appropriate to ask another student who is also looking for a roommate to consider sharing an apartment with you. Often students advertise for roommates. If you respond to one of these ads, you will probably be asked to visit for a personal interview. These interviews are an excellent way to determine if it would be a mutually agreeable arrangement to room together. Never room with someone until you have discussed issues such as smoking, study habits, cleaning arrangements, parties, overnight guests, food, cost sharing, and so on. If you decide that you want to live alone or if you have a family, bring someone who is familiar with the local community and with rental procedures with you when you go apartment hunting. When you find an apartment you want to rent, you must enter into an agreement with the landlord. This is called a "rental agreement" or a "lease." Do not rent an apartment with a lease unless you plan to stay the entire time period stated on the lease. Many landlords require payment of the first and last months' rent before the tenants move in. This is known as "advance rent." Many landlords also require a security deposit (also called a "cleaning deposit"), which usually equals one month's rent. This


The amount you spend for housing should be limited to one-third or one-fourth of the total amount you have planned to spend on living expenses .

is the landlord's assurance that the renter will do no damage and that the apartment will be in good condition when the tenant leaves. If the tenant leaves the apartment in good condition, the landlord returns the security deposit. You should obtain a receipt for the security deposit as proof of payment. Before you sign the lease agreement, go through the apartment with the landlord or manager and make a list of imperfections that you should not be helt! responsib le for when you move out. Examples include nail holes where pictures were hung by a previous tenant, chipped tiles, damaged woodwork, or soiled spots on the carpet. It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and your landlord's obligations. Before you sign the rental agreement, ask about rules and restrictions. Your responsibilities include paying your rent on time, keeping the apartment clean, repairing damage you cause, and telling the landlord if something does not work. You must not disturb the peace, that is, you must not be excessively noisy, and you must comply with the terms of your rental agreement. The landlord's obligations include repair and maintenance of the apartment. The landlord must not interfere with your use of the apartment, nor enter the apartment ~ ithout your permission, nor remove any of your property; The landlord must notify you if the building where your apartment is located has been sold. Only accept rental agreements in writing, with all the terms and conditions set forth in detail. Before signing any kind of rental agreement, be sure that you understand it clearly and completely. It is quite acceptable to ask the landlord if you can take it away for a few minutes to examine it carefully. You do not have to sign it immediately. If you have any doubts, consult with the appropriate office at your college or university. Many schools offer advice to students planning to live offcampus. As a tenant (renter), you should be given a copy of the rental agreement. ~ Text courtesy EducationUSA


For

Students

ndians receive the second highest Apply early, volume of American student visas in the world. The number of Indian don't fall victim " students studying in the United to un scru pulous States has increased significantly in recent years, and is now over 100,000. touts, and get They study at some of the most prestigious in the world located in the information institutions United States. The quality of student appliis very high, and the U.S. Embassy 's directly from the cants Consular Section continues to reach out to U,S, Embassy assist those interested in pursuing higher education in the United States. or Consulate, The U.S. Mission to India has five Consular sections that offer the full range of services req uired by Indian customersput together, we call ourselves Consular Team India. The team is dedicated to increasing the number of legitimate Indian student travelers, and has put a lot of effort into outreach, especially in partnership with the Uni ted States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) to inform and educate

When you come for your interview,

bring:

• Your valid passport (must be valid for 6 months) and previously issued passports; • One recent (taken within the past six months) passport size photograph 50 mm x 50 mm (2" x 2") with a wh ite background; • The DS-160 confirmation page with bar code; • The HDFC visa appl ication fee receipt; • VFS appointment letter; • F, M category students must bring the SEVIS receipt and 1-120; • J exchange visitors must bring the SEVIS receipt and DS-2019; • Science and technology applicants may require additional processing Bring supporting documents to minimize the processing time, See the Embassy or Consulate Web sites for more information,

24 http:/


Get admitted to the college or university and receive your 1-20 or DS-2019.

potential appl icants about the benefits of U.S higher education and the visa application process. Staff members have participated in student fairs, presentations and social media events, such as Web chats , to inform students of the benefits of planning ahead. The basic message is simple: apply early, don't fall victim to unscrupulous touts, and get information directly from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You may apply for a U.S. student visa as early as 120 days before the start of your program. The official statt of your program is listed on your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)-generated document (either an 1-20 or DS-2019) i'S sued by a U.S. college or university or Department of State-designated sponsor organization. You will be required to submit this form when you apply for a visa. The U.S . academic institution or program sponsor will provide you with the appropriate SEVIS-generated form only when you have been academically admitted to the institution or accepted as a participant in an exchange program. The institution or program sponsor will also send you additional information about applying for the appropriate visa, as well as other guidance about beginning your academic program in the United States. We recommend you start the process,;'as early as possible to allow time for processing. Although you must wait for the 1-20 or DS-20 19 to fill out the visa application form , you may pay the visa fee at any time. HDFC receipts are good for one year. During the visa application process, many temporary visitors tum to visa consultants before scheduling their interviews. While some consultants provide helpful information, many do not. As part of their "services," consultants sometimes sell fake financial packages to students or encourage parents wishing to visit U.S.-based children to lie about the number or location of their other "

Scan and save a photo with the proper specifications. It needs to be uploaded to your visa application.

Go to the Embassy or Consulate Web site for a link to the visa application (DS-160) , or visit htlps://ceac .state.gov/genniv/. Fill out the application honestly and thoroughly Print the confirmation page with the bar code on a laser printer.

Pay your visa fee at HDFC Bank. Student visas are currently $140. You must save this receipt. If it is lost, you will need to pay again

Pay your SEVIS fee at htlps://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/. This costs $200. Bring the receipt with you to the interview.

Make your appointment on the VFS Global Web site, at htlps://www.vfs-usa.co .in.

children. In both of these scenarios, applicants have been found permanently ineligible for visas because they provided false information during interviews. Applicants who receive interview coaching by consultants should also be wary of such services because the end result is that all cl ients of a particular consultant sound exactly like one another. This diminishes credibility of those who memorize the "correct" answers and cannot hold free-flowing conversations with visa officers. We encourage student visa appl icants to work directly with the admissions and financial aid offices at their selected university. Most universi-

ties will have a specific office in place to provide accurate information to international students. It's another way to avoid having to use the so-called educational consultants. Information on the visa application process can be found on the Embassy or Consulate Web sites as well as on http://www.travel.state.gov/. This information is free and is the only accurate source on which you should rely. Answers to all visa questions can be found easily on these Web sites. ~ Text courtesy the Consular Section, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi.

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20ll 25

IIii


accreditation status of a college, university or program can give you an indication of its general quality and reputation. In the United States, authority over postsecondary education is decentralized: the U.S. federal government has no oversight though there is a U.S. Department of Education. Individual states have the authority to regulate educational institutions within their borders, and as a consequence, standards and quality vary considerably for state-approved schools. While many state-approved schools are not accredited, many are. So, in order to ensure a basic level of quality, the practice of accrediting institutions arose. These accrediting institutions are private, non-governmental educational agencies with a regional or national scope that have adopted standards to evaluate whether or not colleges and universities provide educational programs at basic levels of quality.

Institutional and specialized accreditation There are two types of accreditation: institutional and specialized. Institutional accreditation is awarded by one of six regional accrediting agencies. These regional agencies play the largest role in institutional accreditation. If a college or university is regionally accredited, it means that the institution as a whole has met the agency's standards. Within the institution, particular programs and departments contribute to the institution's objectives at varying levels of quality. However, specialized accreditation generally applies to a single department, program or school that is part of a larger institution. The accredited unit may be as large as a college within a university or as small as a curriculum within a field of study or discipline. Most specialized accrediting agencies review units within institutions that are regionall y accredited, although some also accredit freestanding institutions. There are specialized accrediting agencies in more than 50 fields.

Institutions that seek accreditation conduct an in-depth self-study to measure their pelfOlmance against the standards. The accrediting agency then conducts an on-site evaluation and either awards accreditation or pre-accreditation status-or denies accreditation. Periodically, the agency reevaluates each institution. To that end, accreditation is not a one-shot deal: an institution must maintain high standards or it runs the risk of jeopardizing its status. Seeking accreditation is entirely voluntary on the part of the institution. The initial process takes a long time - as much as five to 10 years - and it costs money. For that reason, a very new school will not have been in operation long enough to be accredited. Of course, being awarded candidacy status does not ensure that an institution will eventually be fully accredited.

What does accreditation mean to VOU=In some professional fields, you must have a degree or certificate from a program with specialized accreditation in order to take qualifying exams or practice. There are several benefits to enrolling in a program at a regionally accredited college or university: • You are assured of a basic level of quality in education and services. • Credits are more likely to be transferable to other regionally accredited institutions. • Your certificate or degree is more likely to be recognized by colleges and employers as legitimate.

The bonom line Your education is an investment-in yourself and in your future. It is important to find out what role accreditation plays in your field, since it may affect your professional future, as well as the quality of your education. Text courtesy EducationUSA.

26 http:((span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11


Below: Van Meter Residence Hall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Bottom left: Students on their way to class, with Arnold House in the background. Bottom right: Shweta Malik.

It is better to prepare seven to eight good applications rather than send ing 15 half-baked ones, t was my dream to pursue a master's degree in the United States and a lot of factors were instrumental in helping me realize this dream. During my undergraduate studies at PDM College of Engineering in Haryana, I noted the stress on theory, but the lack of lab work spull'ed me to pursue a master's degree in the United States. I believed that it would provide me with a global perspective, that I would get to participate in the exchange of ideas with students from various cultures. Following this dream wasn't an easy task and, in fact, in the beginning, seemed impossible. I started with the GRE preparation,

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1 27


which is easy on the quantitative section for engineers and tough on the verbal. The GRE is a test of nerves where one has to give one's best within a set timeframe . I failed at my first GRE attempt because I got a panic attack. I decided to give myself a year to prepare and take another shot at the test. A common misconception among students is that in case of repeated GRE attempts, the better scores are taken into account. This was clarified by counselors at the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), who told me that universities go by the latest scores. With

28 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

the revised GRE pattern, students will get respite from mugging up the 4,000 word list and GRE would be more on the lines of the GMAT, which tests analytical abilities. Having appeared for TOEFL, I began the application process that, at first glance, seemed quite cumbersome. One step at a time should be the motto. For a moment, I felt the top schools for my chosen program were out of bounds due to my average GRE score of 1220. After speaking to my seniors studying at American universities and checking edulix.com, I understood that GRE is just one part of the application

and not the only factor that decides whether the student will be selected for admission. It still remains a mystery what admissions committees might look for in an applicant, but we need to put our best efforts into preparing the application. The committees view the applications as a whole, so it might be possible that a person with a low GRE score gets into a particular university and someone with a high score might not make it. U.S. universities, to an extent, lay a lot of stress on undergraduate academics along with projects and research work at the graduate


Above left: Students plant their class tree outside Goessmann Hall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Top: Fall at the university. Above: Cherry blossoms in bloom on the university grounds. Left: Danielle Angus (left) and Mike Zani study at the university's Bluewall Cafe.

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

29


Travel and

Senling-In Costs

B

efore you leave, determine how much money you will need during the first few weeks of your stay in the United States. You will likely need funds to pay your first semester tuition fees, plus room and board if you plan to live in a dormitory. If you plan to live off-campus, you will need money for apartment and (possibly) utility deposits, living expenses while you look for housing, and for transportation. Your international student adviser can help you assess the costs of living offcampus. You will also have expenses for books, school supplies, and fees. You should have $100 to $200 in small cash denominations ($20, $10 , $5, $1) to use for things like taxis, meals, and telephone calls during your journey. You can change U.S. paper money into smaller denominations and coins at almost any store, but small stores and vendors may have difficulty changing bills larger than $20. Do not carry large amounts of cash, since it can be easily lost or stolen. Since it may take several weeks to open a bank account and transfer funds from your home country bank, you will need to plan ahead. If you ~ have a bankcard from your home country, find out if it is valid in the ~ ~'-'?'-!- -足 United States. If it is, you will not need to carry as much money with gj'.- -;,."-"",,,~ you when you travel. If you do not have a bankcard, or your card is not ~ valid in the United States, you will need to carry money with you. If you g must carry large sums of money, it is probably safest to purchase a pre- ~ paid debit card or use traveler's checks. i Prepaid debit cards are accepted instead of cash by most U.S. busi- 0 nesses. When you buy a prepaid debit card, you pay a specific amount of money, which is added to your account. You may then use the card them easily in most U.S. stores. You can purchase traveler's checks to make payments until your card balance is zero; if you wish to con- from travel agents and in most banks. At the time of purchase you will tinue to use the card , you must add more money to the balance or pur- be asked to sign your name on each traveler's check. Sign each chase a new card . If you cannot purchase a prepaid debit card in your check once, as directed. When you cash each check, sign it a second home country or online , you can find them in most U.S. airports. time to verify that you are the person to whom the check was issued. While less convenient than ATM or debit cards, traveler's checks are Sign your name as it appears on your passport, "in English. " also a safe way to carry money while traveling, since they are insured Source: EducationUSA booklet "If You Want to Study in the against theft, loss and damage. With proper identification, you can cash United States." (L

level. Another very important part of the application is the statement of purpose, which a lot of students postpone till the last moment. The first connection one makes with the admissions committee is the statement of purpose, which is a reflection of the applicant. Having a solid undergraduate academic record helped me get strong recommendations from my professors. Some professors might ask you to write the recommendation letter yourself due to their lack of time. In this case, avoid exaggerating your qualities and achievements. While shortlisting universities, I took a lot of factors into account, including the coursework, fee structure, enrollment and teacher to student ratio. Based on all these factors, 30 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 201 1

I divided the list into three categoriesambitious, moderate and safe. I did not really consider the rankings, though I still referred to the U.S. News and World Report, which gave a rough idea about the coursewise rankings of colleges. I was advised to prepare seven to eight good applications rather than sending 15 halfbaked ones. I prepared four good applications. To my surprise, I made it into the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It has a sprawling campus of 670 hectares in a completely rural setting, away from the bustle of the city, and is just a two-hour drive from Boston. My choice for this particular program was based on the coursework and professors who were working in my area of

interest. It is very important that you really like what you are studying. Ask yourself the question, "Why do I want to do an M.S.?" A lot of students end up in majors they are not interested in. It is important to check the authenticity of the school you are applying to. Do not go to the United States just for the sake of it as this involves a lot of money. The last and most important step of the application process is the visa, which was a crucial stage for me, but I cleared it with ease, thanks to a couple of sessions at USIEF with visa officers from the U.S. Embassy. Shweta Malik is a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Above: Students at the WE .B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Above left: A soccer match at the university. Far left: A street in Amherst tow n . Left: Samantha N unes (left) and her professor and adviser, Frank Mangan, record data in a greenhouse on the university campus. Left: Students participate in first week activities.

http://span.state.gOY SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

31


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"Social media." A simple twoword phrase has become the overarching story of our age and has turned the world upside down in less than 10 years. Along with changing critical elements of our everyday lives like personal relationships and marketing, Twitter, Facebook and the like have forever altered the road to graduate school. Would-be students used to borrow heavy college review compendia from the library or spend huge amounts of money to visit campuses thousands of kilometers away. Today's "always-on" applicants can access students, professors and admissions officials with the click of a mouse. For many applicants, particularly those in the "dark ages" before (or in the early days of) the Internet, each school or program was like a windowless ivory tower set high on a hill: desirable, yet intimidating and inscrutable. But now sites like collegeconfidential. com and various blogs- including those put up by the colleges' own admissions offices by and for students--offer a onceunimaginable degree of two-way accessibility.

Astrange new world "It's no surprise that social media has changed the landscape of college admissions," the University of Massachusetts found in a landmark longitudinal study. On collegeconfidential.com, students can compare their pre- and post-admissions experiences, as well as share which professors, course plans, etc. they would recommend. Blogs set up by various schools task student bloggers to write truthfully about their experiences. Both offer a degree of anonymity, with the former allowing bloggers to share candid stories and opinions in an open forum and the latter allowing

would-be students to "lurk" while learning more about their chosen schools or even to contact the bloggers directly with questions. In addition, YouTube's education project (www.youtube.com/education) has given colleges an unprecedented opportunity to post about their school-from recruitment videos to Q&A sessions, class lectures and special student projects. But perhaps more startlingly, would-be students have also used sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to keep tabs on deans, professors, admissions officials, current students and programs.


Establishing boundaries On sites like Facebook, it can be useful to "like" a school or program's fan page in order to get updates on recruiting events or important deadlines. Most people will draw the line at following a school's Facebook page or a dean 's Twitter feed to get news from the school, but some take this further by attempting to add officials and students as "friends" in order to gain a competitive edge. By following admissions officers ' Twitter feeds , one can learn about the personal preferences that some believe will lead to an inside edge for their applications and essays. An applicant might reference a specific breed of dog in a personal essay after learning that the admissions officer loves golden retrievers, or find out which pub a dean frequents in order to "randomly" meet them. One study found that 80 percent of college admissions staff has received friend requests from prospective students. However, admissions officials and students strongly warn against friending or "Facebook stalking" unless you already know the person in real life. While it can be tempting to use social media to further your own interests, basic common sense and

34 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

rules of etiquette also apply, admissions officers say. "Regarding [FacebookJ contact with admissions officers, I have always felt that this is a bad practice in any capacity," says Jay Conhaim, a second-year medical school student at the University of Washington (UW) who lectures incoming students and undergrads about professionalism and social media. Conhaim drew a parallel between "friending" admissions officers and other related tactics. "It has become commonplace in the med school interview circuit to send thank-you cards to admissions officers," he says. "Yes, it's good to remind them that you are thankful for the opportunity to visit their school, but what you say in the interview-not how thankful you are- will get you admitted. That and so many people send thank-you cards these days, I wonder how many interviewers actually take the time to read each thankyou. While this doesn't directly apply to social media sites, 'friending' admissions officers is the digital version of glittery pens and stationery." Fellow University of Washington medical school student Katherine Glass con-

curs. "I would highly advi se prospective students against contacting admi ss ion committee members or deans using Facebook," she says. "Facebook is excellent for staying in contact with your friend s, but using Facebook as a means for reaching people associated with admissions would most likely be considered unprofessional. "Furthermore, it's then an open invitation for scrutiny of your Facebook page. I also would recommend using an e-mail address that sounds neutral and professional, like your name. Admi ssions officers are likely to pass judgment, subconsciously or consciously, on a message from ladygagalover@yahoo.com or deltaphi69@ hotmail.com. Using a university or workplace based e-mail is generally the way to go."

Atwo-wav street At the other end of the spectrum, everyone interviewed for this article stressed the importance of cleaning up your own social media profiles before applying to colleges; your methods of researching a school or admissions officer also can be applied to you. A recent study by top college assessment


and prep firm Kaplan found that 80 percent of schools check applicants' profiles on sites like Facebook and MySpace-and that what they find often impacts their decision, either positively or negatively. The ethical difficulty experienced by many admissions staff seems to lie in the privacy realm: if a prospective student is posting pictures and messages on Facebook for their friends to see, is it appropriate for an admissions officer to judge the applicant based on such a narrow slice of their life? "I avoid [looking up profiles] when I interview medical school applicants because I feel that you can generally gather whether or not a person is a suitable candidate during a 45-minute interview," Glass says. "Body language, eye contact, social graces ... are far more important than anything I might find on an applicant's Wall, in my opinion." But Glass says she also understands the necessity to maintain a professional image online. "We receive lectures on social media and how it can impact your future prospects, and I have personally untagged pictures posted by friends that I feel are inappropriate; I try and limit the number of photos where I am holding infamous red party cups," Glass says. "I plan to carefully manage my Facebook

profile to minimize the damage it could potentially do to my future residency applications."

Cleaning your online house Conhaim joined Facebook for fun in 2005, his sophomore year of college, under an alias named Tad. During the medical school admissions process in 2010, he found that his friends were busy combing their Facebook profiles for salacious photos and posts to remove. "Only after getting into medical school did I learn that most admission officers don't bother Googling applicants' names or trying to find them on social media sites," Conhaim says. "Not only is it too much work, but the interviewers at UW recognize the dichotomy of professional and personal lives that are necessary to maintain one's identity. That being said, I still encourage applicants to crank up the security levels on their online identities to full. Most people have already done this, and recognize the immediate consequences of not maintaining privacy, but most don't realize that once you enter the professional realm or get accepted, a strict privacy setting will continue to maintain the important balance I spoke of earlier." Conhaim says he also reminds applicants that future medical patients may be viewing their posted material in the future, even if admissions officers don't. "Even with strict privacy settings, if you put something on the Internet, you never know who will save it or how it will be manipulated by others," he says. "People are always watching online, whether you know it or not; just ask the marketing directors who knew I was

For more information: Social Media Adoption Soars http://www.umassd.edu/cmr/studiesandresearch/ socialmediaadoptionsoars/ Establishing a Benchmark for Social Media Use in College Admissions www.cappex.com/med ia/Estab Iish ingABenchmark ForSocialMediaUse.pdf

shopping for backpacks a few months ago. I wish I could tell them that I have already made a purchase .... " In addition to cleaning up your profiles, try adding them to your applicant toolkit as well by emphasizing your talents, interests, hobbies and activities. Admissions officers love to use Facebook to get a sense of the "whole" person, beyond what an application can reveal. However, if you create a boring or even falsified version of yourself online, it may smell of being fake-or, even worse, disqualify you when the hoax is revealed, as has been the case with many would-be students who have made the news in recent years. Choose to build your profile around your professional and academic strengths, rather than as a photo album of embarrassing incidents. Try this adage: don't post anything you wouldn't want your beloved, old-fashioned grandmother to see. You also can, and should, try adjusting your levels of privacy on Facebook and the like, possibly setting everything to "friends only" if you don't want to take the time to delete or hide your 2,000 party images. Another important task to add to a pre-application to-do list is to Google your name and try clearing up anything that might raise eyebrows.

The view from the other side of the desk Cappex.com's 2010 Social Media and College Admissions Benchmarking Study compiled the results of a study of 170 college admission officials. It found that the use of social media in the admissions process is on the way up, particularly the use of Facebook, and suggests that it is an

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grams do not look up social media profiles," she says, adding that some programs like Chapman's famed film school will go onto a profile to look at a reel or portfolio if the student has indicated that their work is available there. Yen says that Chapman University is utilizing counselor and student blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts and more. Graduate school depmtments at Chapman also maintain their. own Twitter feeds, she says; o{ may have Facebook pages to help students connect prior to starting classes together. "We recently started a couple of Facebook pages specifically for international students ," Yen says. "One is for incoming international students. The students have been very active in posting a variety of questions regarding where to live, admission letters they have received, what to expect, excellent way for colleges to get in touch life at Chapman, etc. The other Facebook with students in a relaxed environment. page is to help students find off-campus Sixty-two percent of the schools inter- housing. Both pages seem to have a lot of viewed plan to increase their use of social activity, and questions are answered relamedia in the future, and nearly half of the tively quickly by the page moderators as schools said they saw social media as being well as other students." "important" or "critically impOltant" in their She added that the school 's many admissions strategy. Forty-three percent said Indian students tend to use word-ofit was "somewhat important," and seven mouth the most, and find it to be the most percent called it "not impOltant." helpful method of communication. Admissions officials at The George A Facebook page can help share the atmosphere of a school and increase its Washington University in Washington, sense of community, in what is seen as a D.C. say they do not look up prospective more "authentic" environment than a col- students ' social media profiles during the lege 's Web site, interviewees said, adding admissions process. Both Sarah Lang, that Facebook can be a faster way to reach director of admissions within the universistudents than standard e-mail. ty's Graduate School of Education and "It is about accessibility and authentic- Human Development, and Adina Lav, direcity," an unidentified survey respondent tor of Graduate Marketing, Admissions and said. "Students are able to learn more Record Management at the university 's about the college while also connecting School of Engineering and Applied with current students in a genuine and per- Sciences, say they do use social media sonal way." like Facebook and Twitter to market inforEva Yen, associate director of graduate mation sessions, research opportunities, admission at Chapman University in publications and events. "We are embarking upon a student California, says that each program at the university has its own approach to appli- blogging project this fall that will reflect on graduate student life first-hand," Lang cation reviews. "As far as I know, most of our pro- says. She also has found that Facebook

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36 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

has torn down some of the walls between admissions offices and students. "We have seen that many prospective students will get information straight from the Web site without making contact with an admissions officer. I think this is less an impact to prospective students as it is a call to action for graduate admissions professionals to adapt to a new online, social culture," Lang says. "In general , social networks have enhanced our ability to tell our story to prospective students. Similarly, I think many prospective students are more comfortable messaging us through Facebook than sending e-mails," Lav says. Both Lang and Lav say that one of the most common mistakes they have seen is the use of extremely¡ casual English by applicants in the admissions process, which may be due to the informality of social media.

Future shock:The consensus seems to be that social media will continue to grow as an important tool in the applications process in the future, but that boundaries and guidelines need to be established. "I con ' t think that social media will be utilized for grad school admissions in the future unless a program geared toward this specific function is developed," Conhaim says. "While social networking is an undeniably important concept, the admissions process for higher education still has a bit of romance that social media would pervert. "If someone wants to tout their acceptance on Facebook that is their choice, but for any institution to take their dealings with an individual into the public realm, to me, would be an immense sign of disrespect. My successes or shortcomings are very personal and I should be the gatekeeper of that information." "New technology will always change the way business is done; the typical Office of Admission is no different," Lang says. "We will need to adapt to the way our applicants respond best; be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Web-based applications, or something totally new that no one's even thought of yet. " ~ Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.


liain Power From By MICHAEL GALLANT

At the Realtime NY. 11 conference, new strategies emerge for Facebook, Twitter and beyond,

or many Internet users, online services like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are simply fun ways to share . news, look at photos, keep up with friends, or just waste time. But is that all they're good for? According to Web expert Tonia Ries and the attendees of Realtime NY II , a social media conference that took place in New York City earlier this year, the answer is a resounding " no. " In fact, to these new media entrepreneurs, such innovations have tremendous potential as powerful tools for business-and this is just the beginning.

F

Realtime lessons To help explore the use of social media in business, Realtime Y 11 brought together speakers from major companies like Delta Air Lines, Citibank, PepsiCo and IBM. Smaller technology startups such as Eventbrite, as well as nonprofit organizations like the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, were represented as well. Through the course of the day, many speakers shared http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 37


case studies about how they use Twitter to market their services, while others answered questions from conference attendees during panel discussions. "Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools present amazing opportunities for companies to connect directly with their customers," said Ries, who founded the Realtime conference and serves as chief executive officer for marketing and events firm Modem Media. "Companies originally used these tools just for customer service, to help solve problems and answer questions, but soon realized that they could be used in many different ways to allow brands to connect with the community of customers they have in the real world." 0Ile poignant example presented to the attendees of Realtime NY 11 came from Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald 's. "A mother had written a tweet because her son had received the wrong toy in his McDonald's Happy Meal," related Ries. 'The company's social media team saw the tweet and sent her a handwritten card with the right toy." Delighted by the note, the mother wrote a blog post about the experience and became a strong advocate for the company, Ries continued. 'That's a great example of how a company can connect the digital world to the real world and create something tangible, something that has real value to customers. Whoever thinks McDonald's is going to send them a handwritten card?"

Small businesses and customers You don't have to be a big company to use services like Twitter for your business, said Ries. "It's not too late to use these tools and you're not behind if you start now," she said. 'There

38 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

Tools like Twitter and Facebook wi ll give power not just to entrepreneurs, but to customers as wel l. are a lot of companies that haven't done very much social media work yet, and the tools are always changing. It doesn't matter what stage you get on, but it does matter that you do get on and experiment." Since every business has its own needs, Ries recommends becoming as knowledgeable as possible about Twitter, Facebook, and beyond, and understanding how to use each online utility. "You know your business and customers best and only you, over time, can really find the best way to use these tools for your own enterprise," she said. "Just jump in and get familiar." Ries also recommends a cautious approach to building your business' social media presence. "Start by listening," she advised. "When you're at a cocktail party or a networking event, or joining a table at a restaurant, you don't just start talking as soon as you walk in. You spend time figuring out what people are talking about, and then you chime in. Get to know the environment and let that guide you in terms of how you decide to engage." In the end, Ries sees real-time tools like Twitter and Facebook


Far left: B.B. King at Times Square, the venue of Realtime NY 11. Left top: Moderator Cathy Brooks (from left), Yahoof's Ebele Okobi-Harris and Fenton 's Susan McPherson during the panel discussion on Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Media. Left above: Realtime NY 11 audience at B. B. King. Left: The Realtime NY 11 program guide.

giving power not just to entrepreneurs, but to customers as well. "When you think about how commerce has worked over the centuries , you used to go to the market and know your butcher, and the farmers who grew the food you ate,"':' s h~ said. "There's a great deal of value that's been created in the last couple centuries with large corporations which can do far more than anyone farmer, for example, can do on his own-but they ' ve become much less individually focused . Now, that human connection, the ability for a company to truly understand its customers, is being added back in ." Ries believes that when companies actively listen to the communities that support them, and organize themselves around the needs of their customers, they put themselves in strong positions to succeed. "Any good company wants that awareness and connection," she said. "Now they have amazing tools to do it." ~ Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.


's common sense in real life is common sense on Facebook and Twitter. So, "don't over share; don 't invest all your time in it; and even if you do, don 't show it. Gaffes on Twitter last forever, or at least long enough to do real damage." That's Sree Sreenivasan for you, professor and dean of student affairs at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism , where he teaches in the digital media program. Sreenivasan was named one of America's 20 most influential South Asians by Newsweek magazine in 2004 and is one of 22 professors in the "Top 100 Twitterers in Academia" list by OnlineSchoois.org. He caters to more than 4,000 Facebook fans (http://www.facebook. com/SreeTips) and over 22,000 Twitter followers (www. twitter.com/sree) with a regular feed of technology tips, tricks, articles and job alerts. "By using it in a smarter and safer manner, you can use social media for ideas beyond sharing what you ate for breakfast or posting silly things and playing games. It's about building long-term relationships and connections so that when somebody looks at your profile, it reflects well on

40 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

you. They think what a smart young man or woman you are, instead of saying this guy wastes a lot of time," Sreenivasan said in an interview with SPAN. Between answering questions from a group of New Delhi school kids at the American Center, many of whom have been ignoring their parents ' friend requests on Facebook, to interacting with stakeholders of nongovernmental organizations and updating them about ways to use social media to their advantage, Sreenivasan clarified that his "real mission in life is to ruin social media for people," by making them use it more strategically instead of merely caring for sheep on Farmville or trying to ace Tetris Battle. It seems he did manage to spoil the fun for a select few. "You definitely did ruin the timepass and hangout part of social networking for us ," Bangalore student Ankita Lath posted on Sreenivasan's Facebook page. "But you have also given us this new angle to analyze it.. .. Now we know how important it is to be there and connect." Lath's sentiments were echoed by Shounak Banerjee, a student of Amity International School in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. He "made me look at social

media in a whole new ... and productive manner. Social media is not just about likes: comments and [status updates] but has much more to it," Banerjee says in an e-mail interview. Atjun Singhal, CEO of www.blowtrumpet. com, which provides online media engagement strategies for nonprofit and educational institutions, feels that the social media space offers immense opportunities for commercial, professional and personal brand building. "If we could improve the quality of content and drive engagement with audiences through better understanding of social media ... the Internet would become a more encouraging ecosystem for people to adopt as a means of communication, and a medium of education and governance." Sagarika Bose, vice president of programs at the NASSCOM Foundation in New Delhi, which uses social media tools to raise awareness about topics like volunteering, found Sreenivasan 's talk informative for NGOs in her network. "My personal takeaway was Professor

For more information: Sree Sreenivasan http://www.sree.neV Columbia Journalism School http://www journal ism.columbia.edu/


I don't see any difference in the way young people use social media in India or around the world and that's why the advent of Google+ is so interesting,

"

Sreenivasan's thrust on 'sustainable social media.' This is important as nonprofits have limited resources and in order to have the most impact, it is important to start small and in a focused manner with a clear plan of action," Bose says. For thousands of Indian students joining U.S . colleges this season, Sreenivasan stressed the need for using social media to build new connections in America besides staying in touch with family back home. "Many Indian students kind of stick to

themselves and I wish they would connect more to other folks as well," he said. "Social networking has pretty much become the default means of communication for a large part of the world. You can dismiss or underestimate its power at your own peril," says Nayantara Kilachand, editor and founder of http://mumbaiboss .com/, who attended Sreenivasan's talk in Mumbai. Sreenivasan also spoke about the evolution of new media platforms during his talks, organized by the U.S. Embassy, in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Indore, Jamshedpur, Trivandrum and Kolkata in J\lne. Speaking to college students and .:' social media enthusiasts in New Delhi, he said the amount of passionate fanaticism Google+ has engendered was amazing considering that a couple of months ago nobody thought it was remotely possible. "I don't see any difference in the way young people use social media in India or around the world and that's why the advent of Google+ is so interesting," he said. "It has come out simultaneously around the world. With Facebook, people at Harvard used it and then people at Columbia. So, it was a slow process. But here, it's happening instantly and so people who figure out what to do with

Google+ are likely to be with us right here in this room." "Though Google+ has a handful of selected users now, it has the potential to be extremely successful because of its exclusive ... attractive features like multiple video chat, circles, etc," says Debashis Chakrabarti, former professor and dean of Assam University, who attended Sreenivasan's talk in Kolkata. Sagarika Bose of NASSCOM Foundation agrees, while adding that it is too early to comment on the future of Google+. "The speed with which users .took to Google+ within weeks of its launch is truly phenomenal .... However, Google will need to work hard to keep the momentum going." Understanding the dilemma of investing time in new or prevailing social media platforms by the student community, Sreenivasan advises, "Being able to do things and deliver them as per the request of your teachers or bosses who determine your success in life is vital. Avoiding procrastination is a big part. Time management is going to be one of the best skills you should be learning on Facebook or Twitter. And always remember, social media cannot solve your problems for you." ~ http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 41


Left: Apple Inc. 's flag flies next to the California and American flags outside the company's headquarters in Cupertino. Above: A sign marks The Company Store, a favorite stop for Apple fans visiting Silicon Valley. Right: The Apple store in Bethesda, Maryland is one of over 300 retail stores worldwide. Below: Apple-branded clothing is sold exclusively at The Company Store.

The Apple Company Store at its headquarters in Cupertino, California is the only place that sells its branded accessories .

Text and photographs by JANE VARNER MALHOTRA

42 http://span .state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOB ER 2011

years ago, Apple, Inc. opened its first retail stores in the United States, revolutionizing the way computers are sold. Today, these shimmering spaces offer "Genius Bars" staffed by Apple technology pros, and sleek chrome storefronts with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the latest trendy iPod colors like designer shoes on display in New York City. Stores offer classes in photo or music management, one-on-one Web site development training sessions, and

I


The Company Store http://www. apple.com/companystore/ rows upon rows of iPads, laptops and iPhones for customers to check out. Even little customers have a place to sit, with touchscreen technology literally at their tiny fingertips . But before the retail stores, now numbering over 300, opened across the United States and eventually aro4nd the world, the company headquarters in Cupertino, Calif6mia housed a small shop where Mac fans in the know would flock in a kind of pilgrimage to purchase Apple-branded merchandise. Known as The Apple Company Store, the shop remains the only place where you can buy an official T-shirt with the revered Apple logo on it. And business is flourishing. The store is open to the public and certainly not a secret, although many people don't know about its existence, tucked in the Apple office park at the off ramp of a major highway. The address, once likely an orchard but now bearing fruit of another kind, is 1 Infinite Loop. Basic information about the store can be found on the company's Web site, yet somehow the store manages to keep a low profile among main-

stream Apple customers. All around the corporate campus, friendly, casually-dressed Apple employees and guests stroll along sidewalks between fourstory buildings, many in black T-shirts and flip flops with laptops tucked casually under their arms like the morning newspaper. A certain confidence permeates the air, as young and old-but somehow all hip-looking-people laugh and chat softly about the latest hush-hush projects and products. In front of the store, a busload of tourists hop off and head straight for the shop. Inside, customers calmly browse among products like Applelogo pastel onesies for baby geeks. Computers are not sold at this store, and there is no computer support service offered, but tum to any of the other customers, or perhaps even a friendly salesperson, and you might get a recommendation on the latest must-have app. The store does sell software and an impressive variety of accessories, such as headphones and phone or iPad cases in a rainbow of colors. Adult clothing includes sweatshirts, baseball caps, dress shilts and T-shirts printed simply with the logo, or with a minimalist classic Apple slogan saying, "Designed by Apple in California." One of the most popular is an adult-sized, black T-shirt with a white Apple logo on the back, and white lettering on the front that states, "I visited the Apple campus. But that's all I'm allowed to say." Many customers and employees shopping in the store have a good laugh over this one, which reveals a lot about Apple's corporate culture: at once cutting edge and secretive but also able to poke fun at itself. The T-shirt doesn't lie. As many visitors inside the corporate compound can affirm-it's no secret that the company 's image is carefully managed. In fact, Apple was recently named the most valuable global brand in the world, according to a study released by Millward Brown, surpassing Google, IBM and McDonald's. At The Company Store in Cupertino, employees are not allowed to speak to the press. In mainstream news, even interviews with former CEO Steve Jobs w~re few and far between. However, for the individual consumer, the robust retail operation around the world in bricks and mortar offers Apple the unique opportunity to touch the customer and vice versa, with face-to-face interactions available in 15-minute appointments or through the many classes offered at Apple's outlets. In the meantime, enthusiastic fans flocking to the store at Cupertino wait patiently in line to purchase Apple attire. As a group of three customers steps up to the cashier-a middle-aged woman accompanied by two young men-they are all smiles. As she sets her purchases in a pile on the counter, the woman announces in a French accent, "We just arrived from Paris, and of course, we came straight here from the airport."~ Jane Varner Malhotra is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 43


A news portal creates a space for India's youth to air their views, With over 1,8 million readers a month, Youth Ki Awaaz is making news,

44 http://span.state.gov


t may be a youth news portal but Blog on Social Causes in India from the topics it covers include issues indiblogger.in , and in September 2010, it like "Elderly Abuse in Old Age was awarded the World Summit Youth Homes" and the "Effects on Loved Award by the International Center for Ones After a Suicide." Youth Ki New Media and the United Nations Awaaz is a news platform for and by Global Alliance for ICT and Development, young people but don't expect the glitter- for best practices in online journalism, in ing, entertainment-studded displays that New York. are usually touted as news for young adults. Started by Anshul Tewari, who Changing stereotvpes graduated with a degree in journalism For Tewari and his team , this recognifrom Delhi University in 2011, it is a plat- tion is encouragement to do even better. form for news and views that found no Shruthi Venukumar, senior editor, says, place in the mainstream media. "The good thing about Youth Ki Awaaz is "I contacted newspapers, magazines that no matter how hard the times are, and even sent in letters to editors. there are always people on board who Basically, I did everything possible to believe that forward is the only direction make some space for what I might have we are going to move. We work in sync had to say, but nothing worked. That's and communication makes us tick and when I thought that the Internet is proba- crack the toughest of situations. It pays to bly the best way to go about it," says have a large, inclusive group of active Tewari. Youth Ki Awaaz started in 2008 members and advisers." and as Tewari started writing blogs reguThe site has faced its share of problems. larly, he realized that young people in "When YKA went mainstream I had to India needed such a space exclusively for understand that here, since there are not their opinions and thus Youth Ki Awaaz many independent news Web sites, you was made public. are either fighting with the top in the Today, it has a dedicated team of 16 industry or are not in the competition at editors, more than 600 correspondents and all. This often diminishes your [view] of student journalists and a readership of where you exactly are and what the next over 1.8 million a month. "My reaction to l~ve l is. But we are quite clear that we are start this might have been spontaneous but .ÂŁ .not here to compete, but to complement after two months, I started reading up as the media to help better sense prevail," much as I could about blogging, social explains Tewari. media, Internet journalism-basically Shraddha Sankhe, Mumbai editor, everything that goes into building a con- adds, "We had to recognize that while tent-based Web site," says Tewari. problems are many, the resources (time, In April 2010, it won the award for Best people, initiatives) to solve or change those circumstances, very few. We at For more information: YKA seem to prove naysayers wrong every time we publish a story about...drug Youth ki Awaaz addiction or an honor killing. To me, YKA http://www.youthkiawaaz.com is proof that Indian youth sure have a voice and a strong one to resist being Anshul Tewari on Twitter termed ' apathetic'."

http://twitter. com/ # !/anshuUewari

Showcasing . .reaess Their repertoire of stories shows Indian youth to be anything but apathetic. An entire section devoted to domestic violence, for example, covers the gamut of the issue including tips to check if readers are victims as well. They face the same editorial dilemmas as any mainstream news platform. Youth Ki Awaaz believes in showing all the opinions associated with news topics. "Our approach toward news makes sure that young voices do not get ignored, even if they oppose popular trends . Of course, with apt reasoning and facts," says Tewari. They are still experimenting with a lot of funding models. "Our primary sources of income are the display ads which we have on the Web site, which help us sustain the Web site on high quality, secured and dedicated servers," says Tewari . Their internship program is one element they are proud of. Interns sign up and can work from anywhere. Rahul Sharma, an intern, says, "I especially got my internship extended so that I could gain more experience and increase my knowledge about the various issues covered here." Parul Sabher:-val, assistant editor, who manages a large batch of interns , started as an intern herself. The site has redesigned the featured news section on the home page as well as integrated Facebook and Twitter in a way that makes Youth Ki Awaaz more social and easy to connect to. Plans are on to have a parallel micro-blog which will enable young people to voice themselves in a Q & A format. ~

Paromita Pain is studying journalism in a graduate program at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California. She is a former journalist with The Hindu in Chennai.

http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11 45


Praxis Youth leadership Orchestra

. ._ireclions

Through mentorshi p and leadership training, young musicians learn skill s for the concert hall and beyond . hen Nathan and Anna Hetherington first met in a New York City coffee shop in 2009, little did they know that, within a year 's time, they would exchange wedding rings and become husband and wife. Furthermore, they never could have guessed that their chance encounter would also lead them to create one of the most innovative educational programs in classical music -the Praxis Youth Leadership Orchestra. Founded in June 2010, Praxis teaches talented, young classical musicians not just the rudiments of playing in an orchestra, but a wider range of life skills as well. "When it comes to succeeding as a professional musician, one of the most important things is just being a good, competent person," says Nathan, who studied at the Manhattan School of Music and serves as Praxis' conductor and artistic director. "Knowing how to com-

W

46 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

in


Below left: Cellist Alexander Rohatyn during the final concert of the 2011 Spring Institute. Bottom: Praxis' artistic director and conductor Nathan Hethering ton at

New York City's iSchool, where the orchestra holds rehearsals. Below: String sectional rehearsal at the iSchool.

municate and work in a team is vital." "To really succeed these days, a professional musician has to be so much more than someone who can just read notes off of a page," adds Anna, an art history Ph.D. student at Columbia University who handles the administrative side of Praxis in the role of executive director. "We hold our stu~ents to very high standards. It 's all aimed toward giving them tools they need to succeed." Indeed, through a unique combination of mentorships and innovative teaching strategies, Praxis not only hones its students' abilities to create musical beauty, it also teaches them life skills that help them thrive within the concert hall and beyond.

Teaching at Praxis Key to Praxis' educational model is a faculty of young, dedicated professional musicians, says Anna. Every exercise, rehearsal and performance features students and instructors playing side by side. "There are so many subtle skills and sensitivities that you have to learn to play in an orchestra," says Nathan. "You can internalize much of that by playing next to someone who's modeling all of the behaviors that need to happen."

Nathan brings an innovative and interactive approach to the Praxis rehearsals he leads. One technique is the "spot check game," as one student calls it. Faculty members in each section intentionally make mistakes as they play through a piece. It is then the duty of Praxis students to pinpoint the errors and to communicate their findings in ways that emphasize kindness and respect, rather than anger or criticism. Praxis' founders also make a point of taking students out of their comfort zones-in particular, by rotating them through leadership roles. "We take kids who are used to being section leaders and put them in positions where they, all of a sudden, have to learn to follow," says Anna. "It gives them a different perspective, a different way of hearing the music, and also of handling problems." "How can you be an effective leader if you don't understand the perspectives of everyone you're leading?" says Nathan. "It's

For more information: Praxis Youth Leadersh ip Orchestra http://praxisorchestra.org/ http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 47


important for the person in the front to know what it's like to sit at the very back of a section. We always ask our kids to learn that kind of awareness."

Pasl reactions and fUlure plans Praxis launched its debut program in February 2011, with students and faculty meeting for seven days of rehearsals and workshops. The week culminated in two New York City performances of works composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Vivaldi and Frederick Delius. And, as always, students and faculty members performed every note side by side. Judging from the reactions of audience and orchestra members, the program was a tremendous success. "Praxis has been the experience of a lifetime," wrote student Zach Sidqi, a clarinetist, in a blog post. Another student, violinist Sophia Steger, put it simply: "Praxis Orchestra is the best orchestra I have ever been in .. .! loved all the different ways of practicing we did each

Top: Faculty member Brooke Quiggins Saulnier (left) and Alice IvyPemberton during a rehearsal at the iSchool.

48 http ://span .state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

Leadership Orchestra greets the audience before commencing the final concert of the season at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue.


Top: Faculty member Miho Saegusa rehearsing at the iSchool. Above: Execu tive director of Praxis, Anna Hetherington, on her way to the Stephen

Wise Free Synagogue for the final concert of the 2011 Spring Institute.

day .. .. It was amazing to play with so many wonderful professional musicians." Praxis' instructors expressed equal enthusiasm for the program. "The students were so motivated and inspired," wrote faculty coprincipal bassoonist Adrian Morejon. "During the concert, it was such a treat to look around at the rest of the faculty and see glowing faces in reaction to solos from students in their sections." As a young organization, Praxis faces the continued challenges of fundraising and securing rehearsal and performance space for future programs. But for Anna, Praxis' core strength is well worth the effort. "Our focus on leadership is unique," she says. "We're training students not just how to play in orchestras, but how to be successful in any sphere of life." Nathan echoes the sentiment: "They ' re with us for a week, but they can bring these skills-listening, communicating, working as a teamanywhere they go." ~

Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City. http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 49


"Come to think of it, you do have a lot in common -irreconcilable differences." Copyright © Tribune Media Serv ices. Inc. All rights reserved.

"It says here that people are getting older faster bllt staying younger longer. " Copyright © 20 I0 Saturday Eveni ng Post Society. Reprinted wi th permission.

! 'I

"I did it, Your Honor. May I go now?" Copyright © Tribune Media Services, Inc. All rights reserved.

"I call feel The baby kicking. " Copyright © Zachary KaninlConde Nast Publications/www.cartoonbank.com

50 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011


By VICKY HALLETT

Yellows is truly of nowhere.


For more information: Yellowstone Nati onal Park http://www.nps. gov/yell/index. hIm 52 http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 20 11

Top: A family visiting Yellowstone National Park waLk past Black GrowLer Steam Vent on their way toward Porcelain Basin. Above: A herd of elk graze in the meadows of Yellowstone National Park with Mount Holmes in the background.

lone. In the snow. In bear country. There I was in Yellowstone National Park on my way to the Lone Star Geyser, a backcountry erupter accessible by one of the flattest, widest, loveliest trails in the park. But instead of driving to the trailhead, a few [kilometers] south of the Old Faithful visitor center, I took a park ranger's advice to hike an unnamed path that would link up with the [4-kilometer] Lone Star Trail. After an hour of flinging myself over fallen tree trunks and splashing through puddles (singing constantly so I wouldn 't startle any bears), I ran into something I hadn't seen in a while: people. As two cyclists whizzed past, I asked when Lone Star last blew. Unlike heavily touristed Old Faithful, whose hourly or so eruption time is marked on a board in the visitor center, Lone Star goes off about every three hours, so only people who've made the hike know the last time. "A half an hour ago," they shouted. I forged ahead, brushing by what I thought was a statue of a bison. "So realistic," I marveled, just before the giant creature grunted and raised its head. The Lone Star Trail itself took another hour. And then, there it was in a clearing. It looks like a [3.5-meter-tall] deformed jujube made of white rock. Smoke rises from it


constantly along with spritzes of water. Although I'd passed other geysers nd had watched Old Faithful do its thing earlier that afternoon, there was something so random about Lone Star geyser. Its placement, [kilometers] from any of its big brethren, was how it got its name. Instead of being next to a gift shop and restrooms, it's truly in the middle of nowhere. I had more than an hour to wait, so I plopped down on a log and read while Lone Star bubbled. A couple joined my vigil in front of what the woman described as "an alien pod." We discussed what the first people in Wyoming must have thought of the strange landscape, boasting half of Earth's geothermal features : hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and, rarest of all, geysers, which require a hot spring's superheated water along with constrictions that force pressure to build up. Lone Star's cone was obviously doing its job: As minutes passed, the geyser shot up streams of water and steam, with a few minutes of particularly excited activity - the minor eruption that precedes the big show. And then suddenly, the spewing transformed into shooting. At first the water flew [3 meters] above the cone. A moment later,

Above: Streaks of bright sunlight pierce through storm clouds over the Fountain Paint Pot geyser field in Yellowstone National Park. Right: Visitors watch a demonstration of a model geyser at Old Faithful Education Center in the park. Below right: President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, look at the Old Faithful Geyser. a: w

it filled the entire sky. ~ C!l With snow falling more heavily t;: around us, and sulfur in our lungs, it felt ~ as if we'd become part of the explosion. And while Old Faithful lets loose for abp~t four measly minutes, Lone Star's show lasts close to 20. When the water died out and the steam started billowing away, I felt utterly exhilarated. I bade my new friends farewell and bounded down another trail-a more strenuous path than the Lone Star Trail. There I was, dashing through muddy puddles and climbing over fallen tree "trunks. Alone. In the snow. In bear ~ country. And it couldn 't have been more ~ z wonderful. ~~ a:

Vicky Hallett was an associate editor with ~ U.S. News & World Report. ;i

_-"-............................____________ ..._ _ _,...-___

http://span.state.gov sEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 S3


"---.if

---------

The SCienc ShO'BRl i~PPBy MaES

Cameras and software track shopping behavior.


People prefer wider aisles when they shop and, except in a few cases, brand loyalty is not always strong, ext time you go to a store, take a minute to look at all the things that are trying to grab your attention. With so many products available and so many stores and Web sites, how do you decide what to buy and where to shop? Whether it's convenience, good service or finding the best deals, store owners want to know what attracts you to their stores, and what it takes to keep you coming back. Turns out, there's a science to all this . With support from the Virginia-based National Science . Foundation, computer scientists Rajeev Sharma, Satish Mumrnareddy and their colleagues have developed software that breaks down shopping behavior much like Web sites do. Sharma's Pennsylvania-based company, VideoMining, uses overhead cameras to put together a top down view of how people shop and what they DUy. "Basically, what VideoMining does is use software along with cameras mounted on the ceiling of stores to track shoppers as they move around the store and create data that helps us understand how shoppers are shopping," explains Sharma, who has a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park. The software creates maps of a store 's traffic patterns by digitally analyzing the video. Using the traffic data, VideoMining

creates charts and graphs showing well travelled areas in a store and dead spots - places people ignore. The software can also tabulate how long shoppers take before that "moment of truth" when they select an item to purchase. Cameras are positioned directly above and picture resolution is intentionally set low so all shoppers remain anonymous. "You cannot identify individual shoppers," says Sharma. "The computer is actually watching the video and generating numbers that represent [each] shopper's behavior. It's all about capturing human behavior so you can really understand it over a long period of time. " The idea is to show retailers and manufacturers the best areas in the store to place products, and how to create a comfortable place for people to shop. "By providing the data to retailers and manufacturers," says Sharma, "they can customize and design the stores and the shelves and the products to match the shoppers' interest." Sharma identifies trends. For example, people prefer wider aisles when they shop. Women take a lot longer to shop than men, and, except in a few cases, brand loyalty is not always strong. "What we're finding in some categories, people are going to the store and making up their mind right there. You can see people coming in, going between brands and picking up the product based upon price; based upon other attributes." The software was initially created to monitor the elderly and disabled in their homes. Now it's keeping an ~ye on shoppers, giving businesses a scientific leg up in the rat race of figuring out how to best serve their customers and keep them coming ~ back. Miles O'Brien is a correspondent for Science Nation, the National Science Foundation's online magazine.

For more information: National Science Foundation http://www.nsf.gov/ VideoMining http://www.videomining.com/

http://span.state.gov SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 55


A. Peter Burleigh (center), Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, visited the out-patient department clinic of the Blue Peter Public Health & Research Centre, in Hyderabad , in July. USAID, as part of its tuberculosis project, provided support to the center to upgrade its capabilities to diagnose multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB). The upgrading brought the center's infection control practices to international standards, al lowing it to reduce the time required to diagnose MDR TB, from four months to three days. http://www.facebook.com/USAIDlndia S.M. Goyal. Ajmer, Rajasthan In the July/August issue of SPAN, which is almost entirely devoted to music and dance, it is indeed a surprise to find the same focus on a serious subject like education . The innovative, imaginative and interesting learning devices of the Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, which provide hands-on creative experiences at a very young age speaks volumes of the revolutionary changes in this crtJcial area. Kudos for the article. Paresh Pandya, Surat, Gujarat The article related to the McAuliffe school , published in the July/August issue, was really wonderful. Recently, I had read an arti;-::""=" ==-cle in a magazine about a per::;=-",,,";=-",,ÂŁ-'::'''':::-:'':':~ . son who took the kids of his ~t~~.:: ~ ~ area to the seashore, and asked them to create a town of their choice with the wet sand. The kids did a wonderful job as they made almost everything requ ired in a town, except a school. Did this show how much they like their school? Articles like "Learning, the Fun Way" are important as they show that such schools also work and succeed in this competitive world.

"

Vijay Menon, Mumbai, Maharashtra I am not usually given to fulsome praise but I do feel that the SPAN team deserves special accolades for the July/August 2011 issue. From the front cover to the back, and everything in between, it was visually appealing and textually informative, interesting and absorbing. It was a great issue-one that has stirred even a senior couch potato into action! James Godsil. Milwaukee, Wisconsin "The Green Evolution" is a very important essay that will become a moment marki ng the acceleration of partnerships connecting governments; NGOs; small , medium and large producers with micro producers and innovators, to advance aquaponics and other natural approaches to food production, for food security and sustainable economic development.

For her Fulbright project, "A Glimpse into Secondary Schools in India, " Meenakshi Chhabra (left) of Lesley University in Massachusetts, spent time at the century-old schools in the narrow lanes of Old Delhi as well as the new crop of elite schools in South Delhi. Chhabra's project focuses on exploring the notion of citizenship among Indian high school youth by examining the teaching and learning of the newly revised history textbooks. http://www.usief.org.in


Ice-cream eating contests, trivia Quizzes and American music and dance provided a glimpse of Uncle Sam for the residents of Chennai in July. Held at Express Avenue Mali, of its kind event in the different

The

Pawan H. Dhingra, sociologist and Asian American studies scholar, has been appointed curator of the Smithsonian Asian Pacifi c American Program's HomeSpun: The Indian American Heritage Project. HomeSpun was established in 2009 to chronicle the story of Indian immigrants and their descendants in America. It will consist of an exhibition, public programs, a middle school curriculum and an interactive Web site. "The project welcomes both personal items for possible collection at the Smithsonian and funds for the pro ject," says Dhingra. htlp://homespun.si .edu/ About 200 students affiliated with eight nongovernmental organ izations in Kolkata celebrated America 's Independence Day in July with a "Flame of Independence" talent show organized by the American Library. Held at the American Center, the event saw students parti cipate in American-themed dance, music and art contests. Guest performances included a ski t on the theme of freedom, a dance drama and a patriotic song sung by a visually impaired ch ild. http://kol kata. usconsu late .gov


"Transposition ," presented by the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust,

Illinois, in July. The 10-day festival , organ ized by Chicagobased Anookullnc. and New Delhi-based Teamwork Films, presented a colorful extravaganza of Indian music, theater, art, literature , film and cuisine .

SPAN: September/October 2011  

Education Opens New Worlds; Demsytigying Social Media; Youth Make Headlines; The Science of Shipping

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