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JULY/AUGUST 2021 Rs. 20

Diversity JULY/AUGUST 2021 Rs. 20

Builds Global Learning at U.S. Universities

Building Communities for Success Safe Spaces for All Shaping Your College Application


July/August 2021

V O LU M E L X I I N U M B E R 3

https://spanmag.com

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CONTENTS 2

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Research Your Options

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Opt for OPT

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Finance Your Studies

Safe Spaces for All

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Realizing Higher Education Dreams

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Opening Doors to Global Learning Building Communities for Success Developing Leaders Through Diversity and Inclusion

Training Teachers, Supporting Students

Shaping Your College Application Prepare for Your Departure

Supporting Education in USA

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Courtesy University of New Mexico

16 Editor in Chief Michael L. Cavey

Art Director/ Production Chief Hemant Bhatnagar

Editor Deepanjali Kakati Hindi Editor Giriraj Agarwal Urdu Editor Syed Sulaiman Akhtar

Deputy Art Directors / Production Assistants Qasim Raza, Shah Faisal Khan

Front cover: Photographs by Dollar Gill on Unsplash and Getty Images

Printed and published by David H. Kennedy on behalf of the Government of the United States of America and printed at Thomson Press India Ltd., 18/35 Delhi Mathura Road, Faridabad, Haryana 121007 and published at the Public Affairs Section, American Embassy, American Center, 24 K.G. Marg, New Delhi 110001. Opinions expressed in this 44-page magazine do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.

* Articles with a star may be reprinted with permission. Those without a star are copyrighted and may not be reprinted. Contact SPAN at 011-23472135 or editorspan@state.gov

Courtesy Tufts University

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Indians represent a vital population of international students in the United States and bring critical and diverse perspectives to their institutions.

Right: Rohan Bandekar from Pune won the People’s Choice Award at the Bailey Oratorical Contest held in March 2021. The contest is one of Juniata College’s long-standing traditions in which participants answer a prompt which changes each year. Far right: Each year, the South Asian Student Association at Juniata College in Pennsylvania hosts a dinner on campus to celebrate Diwali. This event is open to students, faculty and staff and is frequently covered in the local newspaper.


Opening Doors to

Global Learning

Photographs courtesy Juniata College

By MICHAEL GALLANT

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he coronavirus pandemic disrupted the lives and plans of billions of people—including Indian students pursuing higher education in the United States. But as countries continue to work through the crisis, American colleges and universities are welcoming back students from around the world. Indians represent a vital population of international students who come to the United States. American institutions of all sizes and locations value the unique contributions of Indian scholars. “Our students of Indian heritage bring a rich culture and vibrancy to the college community,” says Reginald Onyido, who serves as senior associate dean of enrollment at Juniata College, a private liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania. Indians studying in the United States “will become the future scientists, researchers,

Courtesy University of Houston

Having students from around the world in the classroom creates the opportunity for dialogue from differing points of view and lived experiences.

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entrepreneurs and leaders of the world,” says Cindy Balero, international student program coordinator for Las Positas College, a public community college in California. Many Las Positas students have never traveled beyond America’s borders, she says, so students from India represent a precious opportunity “to bring other cultures and a diverse group to the area and into the classrooms. The exchange of culture, values and way of life not only benefits students, but it also benefits everyone the students come in contact with.” Jin Zhang is director of the International Student and Scholar Services Office at the University of Houston, a public university in Texas where Indian students represent the second largest international population on campus. “Indian students bring not only great academic achievements, strong research skills


and a hardworking spirit, but also a very rich culture,” she says. The Indian Students Association at the University of Houston actively welcomes new Indian students, involving them in campus activities that promote Indian traditions and culture. “We’re very fortunate to have such a rich Indian community,” says Zhang. “There are celebrations each year for events like Diwali and Indian Independence Day that include beautiful dance performances, tabla and other music, delicious Indian food and more.”

Photographs courtesy Drake University

Right, below right and bottom right: Drake University in Iowa offers international students hands-on learning opportunities, professional preparation and other forms of support and enrichment. Below: At the University of Houston, a public university in Texas, Indian students represent the second largest international population on campus.

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Photographs courtesy Las Positas College

Left, above and above right: International students can explore a wide range of subjects

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when studying at U.S. institutions like Las Positas College in California.


Go Online

Drake University drake.edu

Juniata College juniata.edu

Las Positas College laspositascollege.edu

University of Houston uh.edu At Drake University, a mid-sized private university in Iowa, professors and administrators pride themselves on fulfilling a mission of global citizenship—and Indian students play a vital role. “Welcoming students from around the world is key to this effort, and Indian students bring a critical and diverse perspective to an institution like Drake University,” says Annique Kiel, executive director of Global Engagement and International Programs. “Having students from around the world in the classroom creates the opportunity for dialogue from differing points of view and lived experiences,” says Kiel. “This global learning environment enhances critical thinking skills and broadens perspectives, leading to more well-rounded individuals— and future employees—and a more inclusive campus and community environment.”

Students can expect constant encouragement and help pushing toward their goals from their advisors, faculties, friends and overall community.

Education and location As Indian students prepare to learn in the United States, choosing the American community in which to study can be as significant as the college or university itself. And while landmark cities like New York and Los Angeles are well known internationally, Indian students should not limit their choices to famous urban centers. “Smaller American cities like Des Moines are extremely accessible, providing myriad opportunities for involvement and impact,” says Kiel. “We understand the value of professional preparation and offer hands-on learning experiences throughout your degree program and beyond. Whether you are

interested in data analytics or pharmacy, we have experiential learning opportunities that will significantly enhance your qualifications when you graduate.” Location has strong benefits for Indian students at Las Positas as well. “Our close proximity to the world-renowned areas of San Francisco and Silicon Valley provides access to cutting-edge technology organizations,” says Balero. Similarly, the city of Houston “is known as the world’s energy capital, and is also known as ‘space city’ because of NASA’s headquarters,” says Zhang. “There are many internships and research opportunities available for international students. We encourage international students to take advantage of those opportunities to gain knowledge in practical settings, build up their experience and enhance their résumé.”

Steps for success Studying halfway around the world can feel intimidating, but American institutions work hard to ease the transition. “With people being very warm and welcoming at Juniata, Indian students can expect their journey to be exciting and transformative,” says Mituul Sheth, Juniata’s dedicated admissions officer for India. “Students can expect constant encouragement and help pushing toward their goals from their advisors, faculties, friends and overall community.” Other institutions offer similar support for students coming from overseas. “We are dedicated to student success and we provide a quality education at an affordable cost in a safe and welcoming environment,” says

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Indian students bring not only great academic achievements, strong research skills and a hardworking spirit, but also a very rich culture.

Photographs courtesy University of Houston

Balero. “We have a dedicated international student coordinator who works closely with each student from admission to graduation and university transfer.” For ongoing success studying in the United States, Sheth recommends that Indian students make the effort to explore and understand American culture, and to engage with local residents and communities as much as possible. Different conceptions of privacy and personal space between Americans and Indians may exist as well, he says, and should be handled with consideration and care. For Indian students to make the most of their studies in the United States, Sheth says that networking is key. “The stronger their networks are, the better their position is, within and outside the college,” he says. “A well-networked student enjoys a better chance of receiving help from people at the time of need. Maintaining good relationships with peers, mentors, faculties, friends, seniors and everyone around will not only help students feel welcomed in the U.S., but will also help them find people who will be instrumental in their growth.”

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Above and far left : The student body at the University of Houston (top) is very international in character, with students from more than 130 countries. Left: University of Houston Indian student organizations host a Diwali celebration on campus.

Whether studying in large cities or small towns, huge universities or small colleges, Indian students should approach their international learning with a sense of exploration and adventure. “Studying in the U.S. provides Indian students with a wonderful opportunity to learn the English

language and become immersed in American culture while experiencing life in a new country,” says Balero. And Sheth says “students should really have an open mind and be ready to push themselves outside their comfort zones.” Kiel echoes the sentiment as well: “Come and see for yourself the rich experiential learning opportunities and strong sense of community that awaits!” Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.

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Building Communities

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Fostering

inclusivity in higher education

Softulka/iStock/Getty Images

creates a welcoming and motivating environment.

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he role of higher education in fostering student opportunities for success rests in the need to promote cross-cultural respect and appreciation through structural, psychological, behavioral pedagogy, infrastructure and activities. Within higher education, the moral imperative is to create inclusive learning environments yielding equitable opportunities for academic and lifetime success. To achieve that level of success, we must believe that the institution is no better off than the worst experience of its worst-off community member. As in the words of the poet John Donne, highlighting the importance of community, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In 2015, students from across the campus of Brandeis University demanded the institution address issues of structural, psychological and behavioral discrimination. They requested the school create the post I currently hold, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (EID) at Brandeis’ Heller School for Social Policy and Management for graduate students. Within this role, I work across the community to promote belonging and inclusion through education, training, curriculum and cultural

awareness events and courses. We strive to create a community that mirrors the diversity of the broader world. We track our progress through climate surveys, course evaluations and faculty activity reports. Our philosophy is that everyone at the school is a member of the EID council. Every academic program within the school needs to have a standing agenda item advancing routine discussion on contextualizing and embedding antidiscrimination pedagogy, research and policy. Creating a pluralistic learning environment means providing a concierge service that says to individual students, “We’ve got your back, you belong, and you are reflected in the faculty, staff, researchers as well as in the syllabus.” The steps to achieve this inclusive culture include: 1) Defining community, 2) Creating a concierge of messaging, services and support, 3) Campus-wide cross-cultural trainings, including diverse conversation and communication styles, 4) Recognizing and reducing bias and learning how to respond to bias, 5) Diversifying syllabi and varying teaching and learning styles.


for Success Various definitions of community exist around the world. Gathering people at orientation, before the school year starts, to share their definitions of culture and community increases mutual understanding and respect. In the United States, for example, there is a rapid demographic shift transforming how many languages, cultures, racial/ethnic groups and religions are increasingly represented in university classrooms. Some might summarize community as “a body of people having common rights, privileges, or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations.” Understanding differing definitions of community can promote crosscultural understanding from day one.

Creation of a concierge of messaging, services and support Recognizing the richness of diversity in the student body and across faculty, staff and researchers means students will also be represented in the university’s posters, statues, symbols and communications, including multiple languages. Other elements would include events celebrating various

cultures, including food and the arts, and service providers, especially those related to mental and physical health, who are either as diverse as the student body or trained in global cultures.

Campus-wide cross-cultural trainings, including diverse conversation and communication styles Trainings should include all members of the community including allies, mentors, gatekeepers, advisors, faculty, researchers, staff and peers. Through campus-wide trainings we can undergo quality control of ourselves and our organization to reduce microaggressions, microinvalidations, microassaults, and reduce students’ feelings of imposter syndrome, where they think they are unworthy of being a member of a particular institution. Discussions in some U.S. universities include, for example, prohibition of discrimination on the basis of legally protected class categories such as race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, genetic information, disability, protected veteran or caste. To be clear, at such institutions, retaliation is prohibited.

Courtesy Brandeis University

Defining community

By MARIA T. MADISON

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Photographs by Kenneth C. Zirkel/Courtesy Wikipedia

Above: Brandeis University in Massachusetts is named for Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the first Jewish justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Above right: A nine-foot bronze statue of Justice Brandeis on campus.

Other forms of harassment and discrimination are often considered to be below the threshold for “official reporting” but may still be injurious to individuals’ health and well-being. These include implicit or unconscious bias, where individuals may exercise automatic stereotyping driving them to behave and make decisions in certain nonobjective and uninformed ways.

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Recognizing and reducing bias and learning how to respond to bias

Brandeis University www.brandeis.edu/

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To create a thriving community, members must learn to recognize bias in themselves and others. Our brains are wired to react to bias triggers like age, gender or race; time pressure, cognitive overload, multitasking, ambiguity, lack of accountability, fatigue and/or stress, or cultural levers. How we react and treat each other has a ripple effect throughout the community, with the potential to impact individual health and well-being. To build strong communities, our goal is to promote multicultural, cohesive, inclusive and respectful dialogue and interactions. Learning how to reduce one’s own bias and/or respond to bias means engaging in respectful dialogue and building ally skills. Dialogue is not just about words but also what is communicated to others in non-verbal ways.  Share your perspectives, listen to the perspectives of others, notice and respect differences and seek to understand them.  Observe and track behavior rather than judge and interpret.  Acknowledge and inquire with interest about the perspectives of others. Let all ideas and perspectives be respected.  Inquire about and seek to understand the assumptions of others. Understand and share your assumptions.

Suspend debate and the need to prove the other person wrong. Focus on learning and suspend the need for a specific outcome. It is also important to learn cognitive reframing for stress management. Ultimately, it is not what you ask but how you ask questions in conversation—teaching community members to be genuinely curious, deeply listening, breathing and reflecting before responding. In the heat of a classroom discussion, for example, it is important to teach how to avoid posing biased questions or singling out students based on their real or perceived identity. It is often said that community is an act of courage, especially in the classroom where ideas and assumptions are challenged. It takes courage to engage with different beliefs, reframing dialogue to diffuse stress.

Diversifying syllabi, and varying teaching and learning styles Let’s face it, you don’t need a diverse classroom to teach from a diverse syllabus. Syllabi should reflect the world of scholars and intellectuals, multiculturally influencing our evolving understanding of every discipline. In conclusion, there are numerous ways to foster inclusivity in higher education to create a welcoming and motivating environment. It begins with each individual undertaking selfreflection and adopting best practices toward mutual respect across cultures and various identities. It also takes monitoring and tracking community progress toward reducing harm and promoting thriving communities. Maria T. Madison is the Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.


alphaspirit/iStock/Getty Images

Developing Leaders Through Diversity and Inclusion By STEVEN RADELET and ERWIN TIONGSON

Georgetown University’s Global Human Development Program embraces diverse backgrounds, experiences, identities and viewpoints to prepare students to work on real-world development issues.

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eorgetown University’s Global Human Development (GHD) Program is an innovative, academically rigorous skills-based master’s degree program that is designed to prepare the next generation of development professionals to work with public sector agencies, private businesses and nonprofit organizations to accelerate human development and fight global poverty. Since its launch in 2012, the GHD program has established itself as home to one of the premier graduate degree programs in international development in the world. Through coursework, extracurricular activities, faculty mentoring and practical fieldwork

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project to engaging with a real-world client over several months on an issue of importance to the client organization. As a result, our students complete the program with significant professional experience and a wealth of contacts to help them in the job market. At the core of the GHD experience are the relationships among students, faculty and staff. As described in our Values Statement, everything we do as a community is grounded in our four core values of service, inclusion, innovation and ethics. With our small size of about 30 students in each cohort, frequent small group discussions and community atmosphere, students, faculty and staff get to know each other well, learn from each other and support each other. The most important asset of the GHD program, by far, is the students themselves. We intentionally select students with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging experiences from around the world with the belief that students can learn as much from each other as they can from the faculty. As reflected in our Values Statement, we embrace diverse backgrounds, experiences, identities and viewpoints, appreciate how these differences enrich our perspectives on development and strive to further enhance the diversity of our community. We aim to cultivate an approach to development that is based on humility and respect and to Jacquelyn Martin © AP Images

We intentionally select students with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging experiences from around the world with the belief that students can learn as much from each other as they can from the faculty.

experiences, our graduates develop the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to become leaders in development and to make a difference in our global community. The two-year GHD curriculum combines core courses in economics, political economy, quantitative analysis, evaluation, development finance, and project design and management. The curriculum aims to give students a strong foundation in these topics, along with the flexibility to focus their electives in the areas in which they are particularly interested through specializations and certificates including food security, education, quantitative analysis, climate change and humanitarian crises, among others. These courses are complemented by our ethics retreat, skills workshops, seminars and optional language courses, which together give students the skills they need for a successful development career. We are proud to be part of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, which has earned a long-standing global reputation for excellence. The GHD program strongly emphasizes practical, hands-on opportunities for students to work on real-world development issues. Students intern with the many development organizations in Washington, D.C., spend their summer field experience working on exciting projects in developing countries around the world and devote their second-year capstone

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‘Go Online

Global Human Development Program

https://ghd.georgetown. edu/academics/ghd

Values Statement

Courtesy Georgetown University

https://ghd.georgetown. edu/about/our-vvalues

center, uplift and amplify the voices of people in the communities in which we work. We believe development efforts are most successful when they are based on mutual respect, inclusiveness, local ownership and open exchange of knowledge and ideas. Towards that end, during the last several years, we have worked hard to diversify our student body, our faculty, our course offerings and the perspectives we bring to development. The most important steps we have taken have been aimed at building a more international and more diverse student body. For the coming year, across our two cohorts of a total of 62 students, 21 students (34 percent) are international, 18 students (29 percent) are minority Americans (Black, Indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC) and 23 students (37 percent) are white Americans. By comparison, five years ago, across the two cohorts of 52 students, 16 students (31 percent) were international, 4 students (8 percent) were American BIPOC and 32 (61 percent) were white Americans. The share of female students has remained relatively steady over time at 60 to 65 percent. We have also taken steps to diversify our faculty. This year 48 percent of our courses were taught by international or American BIPOC faculty, up from 26 percent five years ago. At the same time, the share of courses taught by female faculty has increased from 30 percent to 46 percent. We are encouraging

faculty to include more diverse reading lists and perspectives, facilitate critical discussion in class, and incorporate more material dealing with race, justice, exclusion and ethics. For example, we are very excited that this fall we will be introducing a new required core course, Ethical Leadership in Development, taught by Professor Mohini Malhotra, and this spring Professor Shareen Joshi introduced a new elective course on Social Identity and Inclusion in Development Policy. At GHD, we strive to create an inclusive, open and supportive community. Georgetown provides a variety of support services for international and minority students, and our faculty meet regularly with students on a wide variety of issues. Two of our students serve as GHD student assistants for social justice, a role in which they provide input and recommendations to faculty and staff on our curriculum, events, recruiting and ways we can strengthen the social justice aspects of our program. We are continuously looking for ways to strengthen and improve our program, and student input is critical to that effort. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies focused on global human development, come check us out!

Above center: Steven Radelet is Director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University (top and left). Above: Erwin Tiongson is the Deputy Director of the Global Human Development Program at the university.

Steven Radelet is Director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University. Erwin Tiongson is the Deputy Director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University. JULY/AUGUST 2021 15


Safe Spaces for All By CANDICE YACONO

Courtesy University of Utah

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Through education, advocacy and support U.S. universities strive to create inclusive campuses for LGBTQIA+ students. 16 JULY/AUGUST 2021

or many students at U.S. universities, their visit to a campus LGBTQIA+ center might be where they feel understood for the first time. They’re safe places for students to congregate, celebrate and receive services like counseling, healthcare and scholarships. The centers often serve as a lifeline for those students who don’t receive such support in their home communities. At the University of New Mexico, LGBTQ Resource Center Director Frankie Flores (They) says they want the center to live up to the motto that when the most marginalized are upheld, everyone benefits. (Third-person personal pronouns, used to describe a person

or people, include the gender-neutral they/them/theirs. These words traditionally referred to a plural number but today are used by some individuals who identify as gender nonbinary or who prefer not to share gender information. Other pronouns include the feminine she/her/hers and the masculine he/him/his.) Flores has earned the nickname of Mama Frankie because of their involved nature with their students. They frequently spend time in the center’s common area, where they offer advice or just listen. This has led to Flores recognizing and filling needs among the


Courtesy Vanderbilt University Courtesy University of New Mexico

student population. For example, when Flores heard several students talking about asexuality, they decided the center would begin celebrating Asexuality Week. Students identifying as asexual were thrilled to be represented. Flores’ center offers many extra services on top of traditional ones, such as always having simple meals on hand to ensure students never have to go hungry. The center offers regular HIV testing. Flores says the center has a resident counselor who offers confidential services because many students don’t feel comfortable seeing other on-campus counselors. The center’s physical location is a haven for

many students who are afraid to come out on campus, and often gives them the confidence to take that first step. Flores recalls one quiet male student who donned a dress at the center and Flores walked the student to class in their first coming-out experience. Flores is an advocate for changing campuswide policies in order to bring change that benefits everyone. Their center worked with the university to permit the use of chosen instead of given names after a student in gender transition nearly failed a major assignment because they wrote their chosen name on it. The University of Utah’s LGBT Resource

Above left: The well-known Block U on the University of Utah campus wrapped in colors from the Progress Pride Flag in honor of the university’s annual Pride Week. Top: Representatives from Vanderbilt University at the Nashville Pride Parade. Above: The annual Rainbow Graduation is one of the oldest traditions of the University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center.

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Courtesy University of New Mexico

Below: The University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center strives to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all members of the university and surrounding community.

LGBTQ Resource Center, University of New Mexico

Go Online

https://lgbtqrc.unm.edu/

LGBT Resource Center, University of Utah https://lgbt.utah.edu/

Vanderbilt LGBTQ Policy Lab https://bit.ly/3s5OMgd

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Center also helped its institution switch to self-identified chosen names, gender and sexual identity in campus systems. The center was first housed in a converted janitorial closet before literally coming out of the closet and into larger offices. Today, the center empowers LGBTQIA+ students to grow as leaders and learners in many ways, says Clare Lemke (She/her/hers), the center’s director. Students learn to navigate the university environment, explore their own identities and develop as leaders. The center also assists students financially. It worked with alumni to award $33,000 in scholarships for the 2021-22 school year. The University of Utah’s LGBT Resource Center, like the one at the University of New Mexico, continues to impact students’ lives despite the pandemic. It virtualized its programming and services, introducing online office hours and a virtual student lounge. “This allowed us to reach many students who typically would not be comfortable entering our physical lounge,” says Lemke, so online efforts will continue this fall. More than 60 students participated in the center’s Lavender Graduation for LGBTQIA+ students this year, which was a record high. Some universities go beyond the studentand institution-centered LGBT center and have organizations or think tanks dedicated to tackling policy issues in their states and in the

world at large. Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has an LGBT center but also houses an LGBT Policy Lab. It studies and addresses how public policies impact the lives of LGBTQIA+ people, bringing together an interdisciplinary team of faculty, students, staff and community members to examine the causes and consequences of such policies and advocate for change. The lab has raised more than $2 million in outside funding. Policy Lab scholars have also published their research in prestigious publications. Lemke offers simple ways for institutions to tackle inclusion and advocacy issues. “One of our values as a center is that LGBTQIA+ advocacy is all of our work. Cultural change does not happen on a campus via a single office. Each person—student, faculty or staff—can make a difference in their area of influence, no matter how seemingly small, in working toward a more inclusive, equitable campus,” she says. “Start by noticing gaps and barriers in how students are experiencing your institution, ask questions about how a policy or practice impacts LGBTQIA+ students and other students with minoritized identities, and seek out professional development on how to incorporate more inclusive practices into your specific role.” Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.


Why Do Many

Americans List Pronouns on Social Media Profiles? By LENORE T. ADKINS

nadia_bormotova/iStock/Getty Images

correctly is important. To me, [pronouns are] an extension of that—of your name and how you want to be referred to.” While sharing pronouns is not new— Sakurai has seen it happen in LGBTQI+ communities for more than two decades—it is becoming more common in the United States. (LGBTQI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people, with the “+” signifying all the gender identities and sexual orientations that are not specifically covered by the other initials.)

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Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults knows someone who goes by gender-n neutral pronouns, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

n the United States, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to “share their pronouns.” Third-person personal pronouns are used to describe a person or people, in American English grammar, as the subject, as the object or in the possessive. These pronouns include the gender-neutral they/them/theirs—words that traditionally refer to a plural number but that today are used by some individuals who identify as gender nonbinary or who prefer not to share gender information. Other pronouns include the feminine she/her/hers and the masculine he/him/his. Some people are pioneering gender-neutral pronouns such as ze/zir/zirs. Many Americans are including their pronouns on social media profiles or name tags or as part of email signatures. They state them in meetings, whether online or in person, and at other venues. Shige Sakurai, author of the 5-year-old mypronouns.org, goes by they/them/theirs pronouns. They see sharing pronouns as a way of getting to know someone. Knowing and using someone’s pronouns avoids accidentally assuming an incorrect gender based on a name or an appearance. “People have the opportunity then to share how they want to be referred to,” says Sakurai, also founder of International Pronouns Day. “Learning names is important too, and learning how to pronounce them

Pronoun proficiency LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks give users the option to indicate their pronouns, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. American society is showing acceptance of the trend. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults knows someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. During his first few days in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. “It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” the order says. The White House also debuted a website contact form with gender-neutral pronouns and the nonbinary prefix “Mx.” And the Department of State announced on June 30 that U.S. passport forms will allow applicants to choose male or female gender, regardless of what their other documents indicate, and will eventually include an option for nonbinary, intersex and gendernonconforming people. Article courtesy ShareAmerica JULY/AUGUST 2021 19


Realizing

Higher Education Dreams

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By RUPALI VERMA

Student stories on how U.S. higher education is aspirational but also accessible and attainable. 20 JULY/AUGUST 2021

here was a time when students from small towns in India planning to pursue higher education at U.S. universities would have been called daydreamers. However, times have changed and so has the outlook of students and parents. An increasing number of parents are willing to help realize the dreams of their children who, through the world-class education they receive at U.S. institutions, gain the ability to elevate not only themselves but their families too. Increased internet connectivity and smartphone proliferation have helped students across India access the information they need to pursue their dreams of an international higher education degree. With close to 200,000 Indians studying at U.S. universities in 2019-20, the United States remains the most popular international study destination for Indians. The transition to a new culture, being away from home and acclimating to a new environment is never easy. However, students from small towns have shown resilience, dedication and persistence and are now global citizens contributing to an interconnected world and spreading the knowledge they have

acquired from their studies in the United States. Here are a couple of student stories, which show that while U.S. higher education is aspirational, it is also accessible and attainable. Born and brought up in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, Nickxit Bhardwaj chose the University of Michigan-Flint, to pursue his higher studies. According to Bhardwaj, his parents were supportive of his plans but had several apprehensions related to funding, cultural adjustment and readjustment upon completing the degree and returning to India. After meeting advisers at EducationUSA and attending a series of sessions and university fairs, they felt reassured and took on the challenges of the application process. Like many other students, Bhardwaj initially dreamt of studying at an Ivy League university but after delving deeper into his priorities, his overall profile and funding needs, he expanded his focus to universities across the United States that matched his requirements and aspirations. “The U.S. education system is vast and there are schools for every type of individual,” says Bhardwaj. Therefore, it’s important to


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EducationUSA India

The U.S. education system is vast and there are schools for every type of individual.

https://educationusa.state. gov/country/in

University of Michigan-Flint

https://www.umflint.edu

Drexel University

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https://drexel.edu

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Jessica Pittenger/Courtesy Flickr Matt Rourke © AP Images

explore a judicious mix of universities that might be the right fit, he advises. Take into account college communities, program accreditation, research opportunities, social life, class size, music and arts, professor-tostudent ratio and internship or job opportunities. “There are good and bad people everywhere. Depending on what sources of 22 JULY/AUGUST 2021

information you get, your opinions could be swayed in a certain direction,” he adds. Bhardwaj says he didn’t truly experience a culture shock in the United States. “I just found the slang, words and ways of doing things interesting,” he says. “Many Indian students are shy about the Indian ethnicity. However, I was shocked to see how Americans and others love to learn about your


At Drexel University, the curriculum was flexible enough for me to pursue my interests in entrepreneurship and social causes through a minor while gaining a strong engineering foundation.

Below: Born and brought up in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, Nickxit Bhardwaj chose the University of Michigan-Flint (left), to pursue his higher studies. Bottom: Aman Aggarwal from Khurja, Uttar Pradesh, recently got his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Drexel University in Pennsylvania (below left).

Courtesy Aman Aggarwal

Courtesy Nickxit Bhardwaj

culture. I have taken every opportunity to talk about India’s rich heritage, culture and diversity of natural landscape.” Aman Aggarwal from Khurja, Uttar Pradesh, researched his options and shortlisted institutions that would not only provide highquality education but also had a history of awarding scholarships and funding to deserving international students. Aggarwal recently got his bachelor’s degree in computer science, with a minor in social entrepreneurship, from Drexel University in Pennsylvania, and received scholarships in all four years of his degree program. “I wanted to explore various courses outside of my major and get a well-rounded education,” says Aggarwal. “At Drexel University, the curriculum was flexible enough for me to pursue my interests in entrepreneurship and social causes through a minor while gaining a strong engineering foundation. In addition to the career opportunities through their co-op program, the university offered me scholarships.” Aggarwal landed a job at Microsoft after graduation and his long-term plan is to continue working at Microsoft, gain insights into the technology industry and finally start a social entrepreneurship venture to use technology to transform fields such as agriculture, finance and education in India. He believes that prospective students should take calculated risks and follow their passion. “You will gain social and intellectual capital,” he says, “that is far more important than getting 4.0s or 100 percent grades.” Rupali Verma is an EducationUSA adviser at United States-India Educational Foundation, New Delhi. JULY/AUGUST 2021 23


Supporting

Education in USA

I Students in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha can access accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at U.S. universities through the newest EducationUSA center in India, at the Y-Axis Foundation.

24 JULY/AUGUST 2021

By NATASA MILAS

n March 2021, the U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad inaugurated the newest EducationUSA center in India, at the Y-Axis Foundation. This is the eighth EducationUSA center in the country, and serves the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network which promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. “This is a unique and innovative collaboration in that EducationUSA has established ties with a private educational consulting foundation to expand its services. It is a testament to the Y-Axis Foundation’s high-quality advising standards and ability to reach a large number of young women and men interested in studying in the United States,” says Salil Kader, cultural affairs advisor at the U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad. Indeed, the availability of such assistance is invaluable for students interested in studying abroad. Such a relationship between India and the United States has long been fostered, as the number of those seeking educational opportunities in America continues to grow. Almost 200,000 Indians studied in the United States last year, and many of them are from the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. One in four Telugu families has a U.S. connection, mostly through higher education in the United States. “The strong ties between this region of India and the United States have created an increased demand for education advising from students in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha,” Kader explains. “As a result, the U.S. Department of State sought out a partner who shared the U.S. Government’s high standards for ethics and quality.” To take up this role, the Y-Axis Foundation underwent a certification process, working with the Consulate, U.S. Embassy New Delhi and the State Department’s Bureau of Educational

and Cultural Affairs. This process aimed to ensure that the center met quality standards and expectations of services to be provided as part of the EducationUSA network. After this assessment and training process was completed, Y-Axis Foundation was officially certified as an EducationUSA advising center. “We are proud of our partnership with EducationUSA especially because I am a great believer in the U.S. education system as I am a product of it myself,” says Xavier Augustin, chief executive officer of Y-Axis Foundation. “I experienced firsthand what a wonderful foundation it can lay, add that international recognition and respect to one’s profile while opening several doors of opportunity to choose from.” Studying in America, after all, isn’t simply a matter of switching geographical locations, Augustin points out. “Being in an American classroom and being on campus is a huge opportunity for Indian students to transform and be oriented to be part of the global talent pool,” he says. One of the great advantages of what EducationUSA offers is that the entire process of considering study abroad can be one of reflection for the prospective student. “The EducationUSA methodology shows how the application process itself can be a process of self-discovery, a lifechanging experience that encourages the student to become the driver of the process and take charge of one’s own destiny,” says Augustin. In India, the EducationUSA program has historically been administered through seven centers at three host institutions, explains Bhavvna Jolly, senior program officer, EducationUSA. “The largest among these is the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), a bi-national organization that administers the prestigious Fulbright Program and hosts five EducationUSA centers in the cities of


cost of study, finding the right sources of funding, exploring options for financial support and learning how to build a strong application. “It has been observed that students are generally not aware of some of these key facets of the admission process,” Setia says, thus underlining the usefulness of what EducationUSA can provide and how the assistance of an expert guide can be crucial. All of these complexities, of course, increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the advising programs were up to the task. “The operations of the program continue in spite of COVID, thanks to the Y-Axis Foundation’s technology platform that is hosted on the cloud that allows EducationUSA advisors to work from the safety of their homes. We overcame all the challenges to ensure that there was no interruption in the operations of the center,” says Augustin. As the world moves toward a new normal, there will no doubt continue to be accelerating interest on the part of Indian students who wish to pursue higher education in the United States. Fortunately, with so many avenues of help available, they can successfully navigate their own roads to success. Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.

EducationUSA India

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New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai.” In addition, “the Indo-American Education Society, a not-for-profit organization, hosts the EducationUSA center in Ahmedabad and covers the state of Gujarat, while Yashna Trust hosts the EducationUSA program in Bengaluru and serves students in the Karnataka region.” The EducationUSA center at the Y-Axis Foundation extends the initiative, Jolly notes, “of the U.S. Mission in India through which EducationUSA has established ties with a private educational consulting foundation to expand its services and reach more students in and around the city of Hyderabad.” One important but often overlooked challenge facing students who wish to study in the United States is simply a matter of choice—there is too much to choose from, often leading to an overly narrow approach. “Commonly, the selection of universities by students is limited to a few known universities from their social or family circles or seniors at school and college. The U.S. higher education system allows students to choose from more than 4,500 colleges and universities that offer many specialized programs,” says Monika Setia, regional officer at USIEF Hyderabad. “It is very important for students to check the accreditation status of the institution before they consider sending their applications. Not checking the accreditation of the institution and the program of study is an additional common mistake observed among students.” Finances can be another difficult hurdle to overcome. “Understanding the financial aspects and each step of the application are vital to successful admission at a U.S. higher education institution,” Setia emphasizes. This includes the

https://educationusa. state.gov/country/in

Y-Axis Foundation

yaxisfoundation.org

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Photographs courtesy Y-Axis Foundation

Far left: Chief Executive Officer of Y-Axis Foundation Xavier Augustin (from left), Chief Operating Officer of Y-Axis Foundation Sabina Xavier and U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad Joel Reifman at the inauguration of the EducationUSA center. Left: The advisory center aims to provide students the right tools and guidance to navigate their path to studying in the United States.

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Training Teachers, Supporting Students By MICHAEL GALLANT

innovative online courses and a

Thanks to

unique international partnership, Indian educators are gaining new tools for teaching English. 26 JULY/AUGUST 2021


past achievements, but also an encouragement to remain lifelong learners.” The program began with a three-week pilot project in September 2020, and quickly attracted interest from hundreds of Indian teachers who were looking both to build their English teaching skills, and to successfully navigate the rocky new terrain of online teaching, during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The three-week pilot project not only focused on principles of language teaching, but also taught the students to create activities for online, offline and blended modes,” says Seth. “They learned to create Google Classrooms and explored different online quiz platforms. Most importantly, they learned how to make online teaching interactive.” For the main courses, instruction lasted 10 weeks and included lessons and educational content prerecorded by the project’s chief designer, Gina Petrie. Participants also joined live, weekly virtual meetings with one of 19 American English Language Fellows, each specially trained to “clarify our doubts and use activity-based learning strategies to explain topics to us,” describes Mittal. Texas-based teacher Stacie Davenport was one of the American instructors serving as a fellow for the online courses. Having previously taught English and other subjects in China and Spain, she joined the program after the pandemic thwarted her plans to teach internationally yet again, and describes being excited to serve as “the face, the connection and the personal application our students have throughout the course.” “As a teacher, it is really important to me that I buy into what I am teaching,” she continues. “It’s hard to motivate your students to learn something

The online classes focused on teaching 21st-c century skills such as critical thinking and critical literacy. Left: Participants joined live, weekly virtual meetings with one of 19 American English Language Fellows, each specially trained to clarify doubts and use activity-based learning strategies to explain topics.

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W

hen Ayushi Mittal wanted to strengthen her skills teaching English to elementary school students in Delhi, she turned to a groundbreaking new program—and a team of American English Language Fellows located halfway around the world. Mittal is one of over 650 Indian teachers who participated in two innovative virtual courses sponsored by the U.S. government. U.S. Embassy New Delhi’s Regional English Language Office (RELO) created the courses in partnership with the University of Delhi, in support of India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The courses incorporated hands-on experience with new classroom technologies, enhancing teachers’ abilities to support the development of their students’ English language proficiency in all subject areas, as well as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, digital literacy and other 21st-century skills as directed by the NEP. The teachers will use the skills they learned in the program to benefit tens of thousands of elementary and middle-school students. Nidhi Seth, an assistant professor at the University of Delhi’s Shyama Prasad Mukherji College for Women, played a key role in the development, launch and administration of the courses. The online classes focused on teaching “21st-century skills such as critical thinking and critical literacy,” she says, as well as developing proficiency in fundamental language skills. “The courses are taught by highly qualified and committed English Language Fellows and are free of charge for the students and collaborating institutions. Upon completion of the program, students also receive a certificate from RELO, which serves not only as a reminder of their


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I was able to learn new strategies and techniques of teaching the English language to elementary grades using various resources.

RELO facebook.com/ RELOIndiaNewDelhi

28 JULY/AUGUST 2021

you don’t think is truly valuable. In my 11 years of teaching both overseas and in the U.S., I really believe that the things Dr. Petrie covers in these courses are core to good teaching practices in every classroom.” Seth agrees that Petrie’s work was vital for attracting, engaging and supporting participating students. “Besides the course content, it was her warmth and genuine interest in answering students’ queries that kept the students engaged,” she says. For Mittal, the experience was highly positive. “I was able to learn new strategies and techniques of teaching the English language to elementary grades using various resources,” she says. “Also, I learned about higher-order skills which are important, and need to be addressed in higher grades. Since the course was activity-based, it helped me connect better to the resources and study material provided.” Students and organizers alike see great potential for the courses to continue and broaden. “My hope for these courses is that they will be used in every teaching university in India and continue to expand to other countries for teachers all over the world,” Davenport says, “even in the U.S.—and not

just for students learning to be teachers, but also offered as training for current teachers in our classrooms.” If you’re a teacher in India and are interested in joining future courses, Mittal advises that self-motivation is key for success. “The resource persons are facilitators who give direction to our thought process,” she says. “The individual needs to involve herself thoroughly in the learning process and participate in the discussions.” Davenport also encourages students to be diligent and commit to the learning process presented by the courses. “Each class builds on the next,” she says, “and if you’re just looking for another certification to add to your résumé, there are probably easier options. However, if your desire is to really make a difference as a teacher, if you long for your students to make meaningful connections to what they are learning and if you’re up for the challenge of taking your instruction a step deeper than has usually been done, then this is the course for you.” Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.


Tips on how to

find

right higher institution

education or

the

program.

Research Your Options

choochart choochaikupt/iStock/Getty Images

By STEVE FOX

I

ndian students who wish to pursue a higher education or program in the United States have a wealth of choices. There are more than 4,500 accredited colleges and universities in the United States providing world-class education. However, this vast array of choices can make it challenging for students to find the institution that best fits their needs. Here are some tips for prospective students on how to research their options to find the higher education institution or program that fulfills their requirements— academic, financial and personal.

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2021 29


Photographs from Getty Images

$

Define your priorities

Be practical

Start early

Finding a “best-fit” institution requires knowing what you want to get out of a higher education. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a school because others you know have, or because you’ve “heard” it’s good. Draw up a list of your specific requirements that includes your short-term and long-term career objectives and use it to identify institutions that offer degrees that will advance your goals.

Competition for admission to top U.S. schools can be intense, so take an objective look at your academic record, your capacity for learning and your test scores to determine if they are likely to gain you admission to the school of your choice. If you’re going to need financial aid, bear in mind that assistance typically is awarded to students with strong academic records, high GRE/GMAT scores and, in the case of graduate students, significant research, teaching or work experience. Remember that any school you attend must be certified by the Student Exchange Visitor Program. A searchable list of certified schools is available on the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States website. In addition, you must remember to choose from among accredited higher education institutions. Accreditation is a hallmark of quality and provides an additional check on how credible the institutions and their programs are. Accreditation check for U.S. higher education institutions is available through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

There are a number of different requirements you must meet in order to study in the United States. Therefore, you should begin your research about 18 months prior to the start of the academic year at the schools you’re considering. Make a timeline covering all the academic and financial requirements you must meet and the time required to do so, then use it to guide you in the process. For example, plan on submitting your completed applications almost 12 months before the start of the academic year at your chosen institutions. Applications for financial assistance are usually submitted along with admissions applications.

Don’t make the mistake of choosing a school because others you know have, or because you’ve “heard” it’s good.

30 JULY/AUGUST 2021


Create a financial plan

There are a variety of resources available to Indian students who want to study in the United States. Perhaps the most comprehensive is EducationUSA, a U.S. Department of State network of international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories. In India, valuable information from EducationUSA can be found at https://www.usief.org.in/Study-inthe-US.aspx, or at any of the eight EducationUSA centers in India. For the location of the center nearest you, see https://educationusa.state.gov/ find-advising-center. Also, check out the EducationUSA India mobile app available through the Google and Apple app stores. Most EducationUSA information is free and there are specialized seminars and workshops on admission application procedures and strategies, education fairs and predeparture orientation programs offered throughout the year. In addition, most U.S. colleges and universities have websites with detailed information on degree programs, application procedures, academic departments, on-campus facilities and other topics.

Before granting admission, colleges and universities in the United States typically require that international students demonstrate the ability to pay for at least one year of attendance by submitting appropriate financial documents such as bank statements, along with a credible plan for how they will support themselves during the rest of their time at the school. In researching how much it will cost to attend a specific school, be sure to include not just tuition and fees but also expenses such as food, living quarters, transportation and other costs associated with living away from home. There are a number of websites that provide information on scholarships and other financial aid. A good place to start is https://educationusa.state.gov/findfinancial-aid. While shortlisting and applying to multiple U.S. colleges or universities can seem daunting, thousands of Indian students have successfully navigated the process. There were 193,124 Indian students in the United States during the 2019-20 school year, according to the most recent Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education.

More are on the way. “Over the last decade, the number of Indian students in the U.S. has almost doubled,” says Bhavvna Jolly, senior program officer, EducationUSA at the United States-India Educational Foundation in New Delhi, “and Indians continue to choose the U.S. as their top higher education destination.” Steve Fox is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Ventura, California.

EducationUSA

https://educationusa.state.gov

Department of Homeland Security Study in the States https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov

Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs https://ope.ed.gov/ dapip/#/home

JULY/AUGUST 2021 31

Go Online

Access the resources


Opt for OPT By JASON CHIANG

O

ptional Practical Training (OPT) provides a valuable opportunity for eligible international students on an F-1 visa to get real-world work experience directly related to their field of academic study. Through OPT, students get a chance to apply and supplement the skills they learned in school. OPT is a popular option for Indian students to work in the United States after completing their studies at an American university. According to the Open Doors survey by the Institute of International Education, there were over 81,000 Indian students enrolled in the OPT program and nearly 200,000 Indians studying in the United States in 2019-20. EducationUSA’s team of advisers at its eight centers across India are a valuable resource for students who are interested in seeking OPT in the United States. EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network that promotes U.S. higher education by offering comprehensive information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions throughout the United States. Postsecondary institutions include universities, colleges and vocational schools.

Boarding1Now/iStock/Getty Images

Optional Practical Training offers temporary employment for international students in the United States to work in their area of study.

32 JULY/AUGUST 2021

What is OPT? It is a form of training, typically paid, that directly relates to an F-1 category visa student’s program of study. F-1 students can either apply for OPT during their program of study, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or after they finish their program of study, which is known as post-completion OPT. There are three types of OPT: OPT: For students engaged in postsecondary institutions or at conservatories, 12 months of Regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. For example, a student may have 12 months OPT for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months

OPT for a master’s degree. Pre-Completion OPT: Any part of the OPT used before the student’s program end date. It may be part-time or full-time. Precompletion OPT is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session but can be full-time during breaks and annual vacation. Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of the OPT used after the student’s program end date. It must be full-time. 24-month (STEM) OPT Extension: This is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT for qualifying students with approved science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. Students approved for STEM OPT can engage in training for an additional 24 months after finishing their regular postcompletion OPT. Students can participate in up to two separate STEM OPT extensions if they earn a second qualifying STEM degree at a higher education level.

How to apply for OPT There are several key steps to apply for OPT: 1. F-1 students must request approval from their designated school official (DSO). 2. The DSO makes a recommendation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and by endorsing a student’s Form I-20—the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. 3. The student must then file the Form I-765, which is the Application for Employment Authorization, and supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 4. If approved, USCIS will issue a Form I766—the Employment Authorization Document. 5. Once the F-1 student receives authorization from USCIS, they can begin their Optional Practical Training.


How EducationUSA can help EducationUSA is the official source of information on U.S. higher education and helps Indian students navigate the process of applying to American universities through accurate, current and comprehensive information. EducationUSA advisers guide students to identify their educational and professional priorities, make informed choices and become active decision-makers in the admissions process. The advisers equip the students with skills and resources to successfully transition to life at U.S campuses. “Practical training opportunities are a

hallmark of U.S. higher education that allow students to translate academic knowledge into employable skills and gain relevant work experience in their program(s) of study,” says Bhavvna Jolly, EducationUSA senior program officer. “OPT is a stepping stone to building successful careers and provides the opportunity to students to gain a ‘return on investment’ on their education—an important factor for Indian families in selecting universities abroad.” Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

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https://bit.ly/uscis-opt

https://bit.ly/dhsstudyinthestates

EducationUSA India

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FinanceYour Studies

A

By PAROMITA PAIN

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The cost of living and studying varies across the United States. With the right planning and research, students can access a range of financial assistance options to make their U.S. higher education affordable.

34 JULY/AUGUST 2021

cceptance to a U.S. university means a new world of learning and ideas that can often be life-changing. An important aspect of living and learning in the United States involves funding and while that can be daunting, students have many options to explore. Funds can come from different sources like the specific university applied to or federal or private sources. For international students on an F-1 visa, universities have funding opportunities like scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, need- or merit-based awards and other grants available to qualified contenders.

Fellowships For graduate students, fellowships are often the best way to finance their education. The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), for instance, provides different fellowships and editorial assistantships in addition to helping students find externally-funded fellowships. The university also awards college and departmental fellowships based on nominations from departments. Fellowships are usually merit-based. UT Austin has recruitment fellowships which are prestigious awards given by the Graduate School to attract top-quality graduate students. While


Go Online

Financial aid

https://educationusa.state.gov/financial-aid preparing your application, reaching out to the department and starting a conversation with professors whose work interests you or falls in your area of research can set you on the path to landing one of these awards.

Need- or merit-based awards Merit-based scholarships are given for academic excellence and international students qualify for these awards. Need-based scholarships are primarily based on the student’s needs and can be in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study positions and loans. Checking the grants and scholarship information specific to international students at your university can be very useful. These grants are usually meant for continuing or new F-1 or J-1 visa students enrolled in a degree-seeking program at the university. Most of these require a certain GPA. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno, has several continuing scholarships for international students. Undergraduate students with a total cumulative university GPA of at least 2.75 and graduate students with a total cumulative university GPA of at least 3.0 in graduate-level courses are eligible. While applying for scholarships, it’s important to remember that all scholarships, no matter what the amount, matter.

Other scholarships Scholarships like the Fulbright Foreign Student Program aimed at graduate students often have full scholarships to support study in the United States. Nearly 4,000 international students receive Fulbright scholarships each year. The American Association of University Women has fellowships for non-American women pursuing full-time graduate or postdoctoral study in the United States, and who intend to return to their home country to pursue a professional career. The Aga Khan Foundation’s International Scholarship Programme accepts applications from Indian students planning to pursue graduate studies in several countries, including the United States. While the foundation gives priority to scholarship requests for graduate studies, it

also considers applications for Ph.D. programs from students who are highly recommended for doctoral studies by their professors and who need a Ph.D. for the fulfillment of their academic or researchoriented career objectives.

Assistantships The University of Louisiana at Lafayette describes graduate assistantships as a “salaried student employment opportunity for graduate students” where employed students work a certain number of hours and receive a living stipend and tuition waivers. Teaching assistantships are often integral parts of the teaching community and they are a great way to develop skills. While applying for and budgeting your study around a fellowship, make sure you understand all the qualifications required and the items the scholarship covers. Often students are unprepared for winter and summer semesters that grants and fellowships may not cover. Preparing financially means understanding how grants and scholarships can be used. Universities often put out information asking for applications for different funds. Keep an eye out by signing up for information from the university and the grants office. Your department graduate coordinators are usually a great source of useful information. Since they are the ones who send out notifications about departmentrelated matters, they are the first to know about positions, especially those related to research and teaching assistants. Many U.S. universities have very generous grants for international students. For instance, Arizona State University in Tempe awarded 2,803 international students an average of $4,737 in financial aid in 2019-20, according to the U.S. News & World Report. The key is to do as much research as possible and work with the grant officers. Most schools are extremely receptive to talking to students. Take the first step and schedule an appointment. Paromita Pain is an assistant professor of Global Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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2021 35


Shaping Your

College Application By PAROMITA PAIN

Tips from admissions officials on how to craft a compelling application package.

36 JULY/AUGUST 2021


https://www.tufts.edu institution. “Misspelled words, cut-and-paste errors and other inaccuracies really rub admission counselors the wrong way,” says Strehorn. Kathleen Sakura Harrison, communications manager at the University of Texas at Austin agrees. “It is essential to prepare early for the application process and understand the necessary requirements and deadlines,” she says. “Obtain your official academic transcripts and records early and be sure to have several copies on hand.” Above: Bridget

Find the right fit The U.S. college application process isn’t a purely academic one and that can be complex. Bridget Moore, associate director of admissions at Tufts University says, “Your academics are the focal point of your application, but we also really care about who you are going to be on campus.”

Moore, associate director of admissions at Tufts University (below).

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Photographs courtesy Tufts University

C

ollege acceptance in the United States is extremely competitive. But there are many ways to rise above the crowd. A critical step in the journey to getting accepted to a U.S. university is giving yourself enough time to get through the application process. “Start early and know your deadlines,” says Kregg Strehorn, assistant provost for enrollment management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Oftentimes, students underestimate just how long applications can take to fully complete, and we receive many on the night of the deadline. It’s often obvious that these applications were rushed and may not have been handled with care.” Rushing through the application process can lead to mistakes and damage your chances of being offered admission to your selected

Tufts University


Below: Kregg Strehorn, assistant provost for enrollment management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (below right and bottom).

University of Massachusetts Amherst https://www.umass.edu

For instance, Tufts University has a plethora of campus opportunities and admissions officials want to understand how students will take advantage of these offerings, both in and out of the classroom. “Your application is like a book with multiple chapters. No one wants to read the same chapter over and over again,” says Moore. “So in your essays, your recommendations, your supplements—the admission committee wants to learn as much as they can about who you are and how your attributes will enrich our community.”

Tell a clear story

Photographs courtesy University of Massachusetts Amherst

Making connections before sending an application can help. Harrison advises students

38 JULY/AUGUST 2021


to take advantage of the many opportunities to explore and interact with schools. “Some schools have restarted their on-campus inperson visit programs, while many schools continue to offer virtual and online experiences,” she says. “While not the same as an in-person experience, this is a very costeffective and efficient way to learn more about many universities.” Reading thoroughly and understanding the admissions information and procedures of each institution is important as requirements vary from institution to institution. This is especially important for international students. A clear narrative that ties the different parts of the application together is important.

“Oftentimes applications seem thrown together or scattered in terms of trying to cover too many areas,” says Strehorn. “I believe this is due to the myth that schools in the U.S. are looking for ‘well rounded’ students. What I prefer to see is an organized application that tells a complete story about the student.” Strehorn says he is often drawn to applicants that clearly know about the University of Massachusetts Amherst and aren’t just adding a few obvious facts that they found in a quick Google search. “We are looking for students that know about our school, have a clear plan and can emphasize why they are a good fit here.” Knowing about the institution also helps

We are looking for students that know about our school, have a clear plan and can emphasize why they are a good fit here.

JULY/AUGUST 2021 39


University of Texas at Austin

https://www.utexas.edu

Photographs courtesy University of Texas at Austin

Above: Kathleen Sakura Harrison, communications manager at the University of Texas at Austin (right and below).

40 JULY/AUGUST 2021


write strong statements of purpose. “Don’t go with the first topic you think of,” says Moore. “Try a few ideas out and see which one is coming together best. Attend a workshop on writing a personal statement, like the ones Tufts offers, to get ideas and support for writing your personal statement. And always show, don’t tell.” While writing essays or short answer responses, Strehorn advises students to write about something that matters to them. “Do not worry about making a special effort to include impressive vocabulary words or overly complex sentences,” he adds. “If you sound like yourself and discuss something you care about, your

essay will be more effective.” Connecting with faculty, especially for doctoral applicants is recommended. “Make sure the institutions you are applying to have faculty researching the same area that you are interested in,” says Harrison. “Ask questions about what graduates are doing after they graduate, including any placement statistics. Be sure to speak with current students to get a student’s perspective of their experience, especially those who are from your home country.” Paromita Pain is an assistant professor of Global Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Prepare for Your Departure

W

By NATASA MILAS

Illustration by Shah Faisal Khan, photographs from Getty Images

Seek assistance from an EducationUSA advising center and the international student adviser at your chosen university while planning your journey to the United States.

42 JULY/AUGUST 2021

hen it comes to higher education, the United States is one of the most desired destinations for students across the globe, including from India. According to the Open Doors Report published by the International Institute of Education, nearly 200,000 Indians studied in the United States in the 2019-20 academic year. To help international students navigate the application process, the U.S. Department of State created EducationUSA, a network of international advising centers which promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA has created a simple fivestep process to help students navigate their journey to studying at a U.S. university: 1. Research your options 2. Finance your studies 3. Complete your application 4. Apply for your

student visa, and finally, 5. Prepare for your departure. If you successfully completed the first four steps, you are a few months away from your trip to the United States. One of the first things students can do at this stage is to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the website of the university or college they will attend. Here students will find information regarding housing, local weather, campus, transportation and more. It is very important to attend the predeparture orientation at the nearest EducationUSA center, which will offer advice on a variety of topics, including which documents to take with you, how to acclimatize to a different culture, what are the academic expectations at U.S. institutions and how to pack for your trip. At the EducationUSA predeparture orientation, students can meet with advisers and alumni and ask questions to better prepare for their upcoming trip. This year,


EducationUSA centers across India presented virtual preparatory sessions, titled the Prepathon series, to help students learn about predeparture formalities, port of entry procedures, tips on settling in, ways for international students to maximize their educational experience and more. The entire webinar series is available for viewing on the EducationUSA India Facebook page. Another great resource for information is the international student adviser at your chosen university. Students traveling to the United States should have their passport, visa and eligibility documents from their educational institution (I-20 or DS-2019) at hand. Additionally, each student should acquire an I-94 document upon arrival in the United States. Once in the United States, students need to report immediately to the office of international services at their university or college.

Students should also think about health requirements for traveling. With new COVID19 regulations, students should remain up-todate with requirements to board a flight to the United States. It is essential to bring all medical records with you as well as your immunization records. Additionally, every student is required to have health insurance during the course of their studies. Therefore, students should inquire about their healthcare options before their departure. Once you take care of your immigration and healthcare arrangements, you need to think about housing. Ideally, you will make your living arrangement before arrival, especially if you want to live on campus. With off-campus living, you may have the option to arrange beforehand or once you arrive. It is important to get in touch with the housing office at your institution which will provide you with necessary information on housing or finding a roommate. Once you are settled in, sign up for an orientation session at your university. Every university or college offers orientation sessions for new students. New students can also check out student clubs and organizations at their institutions. Many universities have international student organizations or even more particularly, Indian student organizations. These are great places to meet fellow students from India or other countries. Universities across the United States host Indian student organizations, including the Indian Students Association at the University of Texas at Austin, the Students of India Association at the University of South Florida or the Hindu Students Organization at Columbia University, all of which offer opportunities for Indian students to meet, socialize and keep in touch with their Indian roots while acclimatizing to American culture. Next, think about the geographical area where you will attend your college and the local weather. This will influence how to pack for your trip. Traveling to California will require a very different wardrobe than Midwest. Learn about local transportation, especially if you plan to live off-campus. Mostly, prepare as best as you can, seek out the myriad assistance possibilities available from EducationUSA and your institution, and get ready for an exciting academic adventure in the United States. Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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To help international students navigate the application process, the U.S. Department of State created EducationUSA, a network of international advising centers which promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States.

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