Clark Gilford, a junior from the University of Oklahoma, shares some of his experience as an academic all year student in Barcelona, Spain (Fall 2013 – Spring 2014).    I am a junior at the University of Oklahoma with a major in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. I have done many hands-on activities with my major, but I was lacking real-world experience for my minor. For that reason, I started thinking about ways to improve my Spanish. I went to talk with a study abroad advisor, and she recommended CEA. I saw the cities available, and Barcelona seemed the most appealing because I thought it would be great to get what I needed while being on the other side of the world. I had thought about studying in a place like Mexico or Colombia, but since my scholarship would cover all the costs, I thought I would take advantage of it and adventure further away from home. One of the conditions to my scholarship was studying abroad for an entire year. I had not traveled to another country before and was intimated by the thought of going for a whole year but I stayed committed to the process. CEA Weekend Trip to the Pyrenees Looking back, my expectations were relatively low compared to what I actually have learned. I was just focused on studying and learning more Spanish from the books. It has always been a priority for me to study, but being in Barcelona has taught me that there truly is more to learn outside the classroom with practice. I became more fluent every day simply by engaging in conversation with locals and friends. I was also taken by surprise with the laid-back culture of Spain. I was expecting a similar culture to the US, just with a different language. Although the “siesta” produces misleading stereotypes, the general culture is simply much more caring than any other place I’ve ever been. They highly value time with family and friends and I became a warmer person by being forced to communicate with the rhythm of the people, who are much more willing to talk than the general culture I know back home. One of my classes at the Universidad de Barcelona   Local students from the UAB university – Fall ’13 I am very happy I made the choice to live with a homestay family because it provided me exactly what I wanted: a better hands-on experience while studying abroad. I used my Spanish in real and practical ways everyday with my host-family. Living with a host-family exposed me to different aspects of the language and culture that otherwise I would not have learned. For example, I practiced my second language more than other students, and I was more enthusiastic to learn everyday Spanish words and phrases. I also was more involved in cultural activities with the homestay family, while other students engaged in more touristic activities. Each person in the family was nice and I felt they sincerely cared about me. I learned things from them like how to eat healthier and searching for activities in the city. For instance, the host-mom was vegetarian and my host-brother had to go on special diets sometimes with gluten intolerance. For that, I ate a lot more fruits and vegetables than I did in the US, along with soy products and decreased sugar (but they did cook meat for me, and bought other “normal” staples). I also realized that they spend less time watching television. They do more reading, going for walks in the city, and going to local events such as festivals, runs, special offers in museums and cinema, etc. My host family – Mercè, Eli, and Miquel I enjoyed finding a more stable lifestyle in Barcelona, figuring out different parts of me I didn’t know I had such as learning to get over uncomfortable situations and how much I seek being alone sometimes. It took time, but I became more comfortable in my environment by adjusting. For example, I found an international church, and brought my saxophone back from home the second semester to play there the remaining months. I also volunteered during the whole academic year at a home for children with special needs. I participated in homeless ministry, I went to watch my host-brother’s soccer games, and I had several intercambio partners to practice different topics of Spanish. These activities really helped me stay connected to who I am back home, a person active in ministry activities and being involved with volunteering while watching local sports and talking with new people just for talking. Nonetheless, I have changed a lot mostly by feeling like I have less of an agenda of what I thought I had to be, and I’m more comfortable showing people who I actually am. Homeless Ministry Barcelona changed me immensely, and I appreciate the experience. I thank the whole staff at CEA, Merçe, Miquel, Elisabet and many other friends for helping me to have a great time in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Some of the best people I know Some folks from CEA

[via CEA Study Abroad Programs]

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While researching your options, you may decide to contact a U.S. institution’s international students office. Here are five questions you can ask the international students office that will help you decide which college or university is right for you.

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If you missed the EducationUSA Interactive “Adapting to American Campus Culture,” you can still watch it to find out if Americans are really like they are portrayed in movies, what it’s like to live in a dorm and more information about American campus culture!

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The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Georgetown University is pleased to announce its Fall 2014 online chat sessions. These informal chats provide prospective students with opportunities to ask questions about the graduate programs offered at Georgetown as well as the application process.

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Ashley Glenn It was my first time to the NAFSA annual conference, also my first year in the field, and I traveled to San Diego alone. Attending NAFSA can be overwhelming in the way family reunions show how far your family name extends and how few people you know. Not knowing anyone, it is tempting to stand at the edge of the room, walking in only for hors d’oeuvres (which I did at one of the receptions). My first time at NAFSA , I was determined to get involved. For this to happen, I needed a plan, a master list. Many boxes would need to be checked. A few weeks after the conference program arrived, I decided to start the process. This would require an Americano and a few hours of reading through session descriptions, poster topics, volunteer options, and more. Similar to planning a trip, I needed to think strategically to make the most of my time. This moment of strategy arrived when I saw that the Career Center would be offering a case-study challenge . This was the fulcrum by which to focus my week. I now had a conference conversation starter—”have you heard of the case study challenge?” Most people had not. They didn’t know about this opportunity for young professionals to work in a team and present a solution to challenges in the field of international education But that didn’t impact the amount of information they wanted to share. The convention center was my library, and there were experts walking all around me. Taking the shuttle to my hotel, I spoke with a NAFSA regular. Waiting to buy a coffee, I shared ideas with a cultural competency trainer. I spoke with DSOs at poster sessions. At a meeting spot, I made conversation with an associate director. Participating on the challenge allowed me to network with individuals I may not have otherwise spoken to. And rather than taking notes and saving them for when I returned to the office, I was taking notes, discussing ideas, and finding ways to incorporate them into my presentation. Unexpectedly, the conference became one larger clustering exercise where I only needed to draw out the connections—each person I spoke with, each poster I walked by, each session I attended. Making connections was both the challenge and the most beneficial part. When Friday morning came, my partner, Lisa Maroni, and I were able to present the connections we had made—with offices on the fictional NAFSA campus, resources available to NAFSA administrators, and most importantly, the connections between our fields—education abroad and international recruitment and admissions. My first year at NAFSA, I had a scheduled presentation. And this time, I was not the audience. I was the expert—able to share successes from the work I am doing at the University of Utah and strategies of how international offices can work together to best use their resources. Though I came to San Diego alone, by participating in this challenge, I returned to Salt Lake City with a presentation to be proud of, a better understanding of how my work relates to other fields, and confidence that I have a voice in the field of international education. Make your own connections next year in Boston and compete in the case-study challenge! Ashley Glenn is a Learning Abroad Coordinator at the University of Utah and a recent returnee to the United States of America. After completing her MA in History, she moved to Wuhan, China to teach business writing and academic writing courses, and now combines this experience in China and time spent in student affairs when advising students and creating programming for returned students. At the University of Utah, Ashley works with both domestic and international students through coordinating the university’s exchange program and serving as a staff partner for the Go Global Living Learning Community.

[via NAFSA: Association of International Educators Blog]

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You may have heard that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has shifted course in its efforts to improve the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVP has decided to step away from plans to develop a new “SEVIS II” system, and instead explore options that would enhance the existing SEVIS system. The agency will be working to develop alternative approaches to closing what it sees as security vulnerabilities in the system while also enhancing the value of SEVIS to designated school officials and schools. I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed a principal member of the SEVP’s SEVIS Modernization Analysis of Alternatives Oversight Board and will be involved in the development and consideration of these alternatives. I will be joined by NAFSA Director of Regulatory Practice Liaison Steve Springer, who will serve as an associate member of the board. The board was recently chartered by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is made up of senior federal agency officials and several members of the stakeholder community. With your feedback and input, we will provide valuable guidance to the agency as it works to develop and evaluate alternatives for improving SEVIS. We welcome your ideas for improving SEVIS. Your voice plays a critical role in our liaison and advocacy efforts, and will be a valuable asset as NAFSA participates in this analysis of alternatives process. As always, we invite you to provide your input to NAFSA staff by visiting IssueNet: Report an Issue . We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the board moves forward. For more on SEVP’s progress in modernizing SEVIS and expectations for the analysis of alternatives process, see the SEVIS: The Way Forward FAQ and SEVP Director Louis M. Farrell’s opening remarks in the July 2014 SEVP-Spotlight . For more information on how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) generally uses the analysis of alternatives process, see the Analysis of Alternatives Methodologies: Considerations for DHS Acquisition Analysis report.

[via NAFSA: Association of International Educators Blog]

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Did you get accepted into a university in the United States and now have questions about the differences between studying here and studying in your home country? Join an interactive webchat with the Assistant Director, International Student Services at The George Washington University on August 19 at 14:00 GMT as she talks about adapting to campus life in the United States!

[via EducationUSA News Feed]

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Myrl Jones and his wife Lorene have hosted dozens of international students throughout their lives. The couple have many stories about international students they have connected with through the international student friendship program they pioneered more than 40 years ago.

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The University of Northern Colorado’s Monfort College of Business will begin the 2014 fall semester with a Master of Business Administration program for graduates seeking to complete their master’s degree. The college, which has earned exceptional accounting and business accreditation from AACSB International, seeks to expand access to education with convenient schedules and the ability to surround students with experienced faculty. The MBA program, with the help of expert faculty members, will guide students to thrive in today’s business world and global enterprises.

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I think it has something to do with everyone being mutually confused and excited, but people aren’t joking when they say your friends from study abroad become your friends for life. There is just something special about every study abroad experience; only the people that were there with you really understand where you are coming from. The cool part is that this includes your CEA study abroad leaders and directors, too. Leo, my roommate and I at our farewell dinner. As I wrap up my time interning with Program Directors, Maggie and Leo, at the CEA San Jose location, here are three ways you may bond with your onsite team when you study abroad: Fun: It is probably no surprise, but being away from friends, family, home, and everything familiar for an extended amount of time can be difficult in many different ways. Oftentimes these difficulties are not something the students can address themselves. Cue program director! As described in my past post, the Directors have to wear many different hats on a daily basis, but throughout everything the primary goal is to help the students to feel as safe, comfortable, and happy as possible. Leo & Maggie Friends: Program Directors also work very hard to plan enjoyable cultural activities and excursions,   many of which they accompany students! As a result of the constant availability, desire to help, and proximity on trips, Program Directors become pretty good friends with the students. Family: On this matter, I can speak from experience. After being in Costa Rica for three months, I left thinking of Maggie and Leo more as friends than separate authorities. While I did have to reach out to them occasionally about logistical questions or business-like things, we have stayed in touch mostly due to our shared passion of study abroad and a desire to be mutually helpful to each other in whatever ways possible. I know that if I ever need a letter of recommendation or travel advice from people who have been there, I can contact Maggie or Leo. They know if they ever need somewhere to stay in my area of the US or a student’s perspective on CEA issues, I would be happy to accommodate. Leo, Marissa and I at Volcan Irazu. And the list goes on. But the important thing to remember, much more than the beneficial reciprocity, is that your Program Directors are people, too. Something to keep in mind if you’re about to go abroad or something you already know if you have returned from a program: While they are not in the same boat as you in terms of immersion into a completely new culture, your CEA leaders are still interested in having fun and making friends from other cultures! Macey Hallstedt is a Winter 2013 CEA San José alumna, CEA Senior Alumni Ambassador at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and currently a summer 2014 CEA Alumni Ambassador intern in San José. Don’t miss her next post about her connection with her host family!  

[via CEA Study Abroad Programs]

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