A good recommendation letter from the right referee can make a huge impact on a student’s application. But figuring out which professor to approach, and what information they’ll need can be stressful since few students are given much instruction on how to seek out good letters of reference. Never fear! We’ve compiled some tips on how to pick your references and get a good recommendation. So, whether you’re applying to grad school or your first job, or even if you’re looking for references for study abroad programs, scholarships, and internships, follow these four steps to a stellar recommendation and success.
1. Choose wisely
This is the part that students find most stressful – choosing the right professor to write the letter. Asking for a reference can feel rather intimidating, but it’s important to remember that most professors have a vested interest in their students’ success and are happy to assist in many ways. That being said, it’s important to approach the right professor. The instructor’s reputation can be beneficial, particularly if they’re well-respected or a leader in their field, but don’t base your decision on prestige alone. Make sure to choose a professor who knows you well – an ideal candidate for a reference letter would be a professor or instructor that you had for several classes over the course of your studies and with whom you have worked recently. It should go without saying that you choose a professor who has seen your best work and who gave you good marks and feedback. But it’s also important to consider the application requirements. If you’re applying for a Masters in Engineering, it may not be very helpful to choose your Poli-Sci professor from second year, even if you did get straight As in her class. Or if you’re applying for a job on a marketing team, it’s a good idea to ask a professor who can speak to your abilities in a group or on collaborative work.
2. Prepare well
Most professors understand that writing recommendations is part of the job, and they’re happy to help. In fact, many professors will be flattered by your request. But that doesn’t mean that you can just pop by and ask for a letter two days before the application is due. First, contact your professor either in his office hours or via email and ask, politely, whether he is willing to write a letter of recommendation. If you receive a positive response, gather all the information the professor will need to write a reference – your transcripts, CV, application instructions, and all the relevant documents – and visit his office hours with the materials. Make sure to include contact information so that the professor can get in touch with questions or requests. If you’re submitting the documents electronically, make sure that they’re clearly labeled and saved in a format that can be opened in many programs, and find out whether the professor will submit the letter or whether you need to collect it once it’s finished.
3. Timing is Everything
Professors are normally happy to help a student they feel have the skills and drive to succeed, especially when that student has performed well in class and demonstrates passion for the subject. But professors are also busy, and a good letter of reference doesn’t just magically appear overnight. Approach your chosen professor early – weeks (or months if possible) before the application is due. Make sure to submit all the necessary paperwork and information to the professor in a timely fashion, and complete as much of the application as possible to save your professor time and effort. If your application includes a personal statement or project plan, have a draft ready and include it with the information you provide to the professor so that she has context for your application. And follow up on your request – if the application is due next week and you haven’t heard from the professor, it’s appropriate to send a friendly and polite email to check on the letter’s progress. But don’t badger your professor – yours may not be the only letter they are writing.
When you think of countries with top engineering programs, China, the US and Switzerland may be the first to come to mind. However, plenty of other nations offer premiere engineering opportunities with allures of their own. One destination topping the list for engineers in search of an international education? France. Let’s take a closer look at four top reasons to consider France for your engineering studies.
1. Engineering Degrees Are Highly Esteemed
French engineering programs are well-known for their rigorous curricula aimed at positioning graduates for successful careers following graduation. France’s selective Grandes Ecoles d’Ingénieur fuse advanced theoretical concepts with practical applications, such as small workshop sessions and paid internships. They also integrate business training, foreign language study, and communication skills, all teaching Diplôme d’Ingénieur recipients to deliver creative solutions to some of today’s most complex challenges.
Standing behind today’s French engineering degrees is The Engineering Title Committee (CTI), the monitoring body tasked with ensuring the ongoing excellence of the country’s engineering education system.
2. Learn In a Culture of Ages-Old Engineering Innovation
Need more proof of the strength of French engineering programs and the capabilities of their grads? Just take a quick look at the country’s legacy of engineering innovation, starting with the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or “high-speed train”). World record holder for speed, the TGV is considered to be a technological marvel for its combination of performance, comfort, and commitment to eco-mobility.
And the TGV is hardly alone. The 17th century, 150-mile Canal du Midi which spans from Toulouse to the port of Sète in the Mediterranean is so extraordinary in both vision and execution that it’s earned Unesco World Heritage Site status.
And of course no discussion of feats of European engineering is complete without mention of the Eurotunnel. A joint project of France and the UK, the Channel Tunnel took more than 13,000 workers and five years to complete, and has since been declared to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
What do each of these have in common aside from their impressive engineering schemes? They were considered unthinkable until French engineers put their minds to the task. In fact, France recently topped all other European countries for innovation based on Thomson-Reuters’ roundup of the “Top 100 Global Innovators.” With the world facing so many challenges ahead, these past accomplishments speak to the potential of French-educated engineers to make a profound difference in society.
3. The French Language Adds Value
While the importance of knowing English is widely touted, the value of bilingualism is often understated. But as globalization continues to break down conventional barriers to communication, knowledge of a second or more language adds irrefutable value.
In addition to enhancing a student’s ability to communicate, studying French also affords students otherwise unattainable access to understanding French culture and context. These cross-cultural capabilities serve graduates well — both when working alongside other French speakers as well as when communicating with other international students, as well.
In short, adaptability is a “must-have” attribute in today’s complex economic landscape, and amplifying your ability to communicate goes a long way.
4. It IS France, After All
Mere mention of the word “France” makes most people swoon. While engineering programs are indeed demanding, you won’t spend all your time studying. When you’re not hitting the books, France offers an abundance of unforgettable things to see and do and taste and discover.
And while Paris may get all the buzz, there are plenty of other phenomenal French cities for international students, such as the European metropolis of Lyon. A major technological, industrial and economic hub, Lyon plays host to an impressive network of engineering schools.
Take the Institut Polytechnique de Lyon, for example. This coalition of 4 French “Grandes Ecoles” of Engineering, including CPE Lyon, ECAM Lyon, ISARA Lyon, and ITECH Lyon, draws students from all over France and around the globe. Each offers different areas of specialization under the umbrella of the Université de Lyon’s research and higher educational center.
Iceland may be small and sparsely populated (just 320,000 people live here), but it packs a massive amount of amazingness into its 103,000 square kilometers. Black-sand beaches, breathtaking cliffs, imposing white glaciers and fjords for days are just a few of the many reasons tourists flock to Iceland every year. It’s no surprise that this Nordic island nation continues to earn top spots on “best of” destination lists from places like National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine and Lonely Planet.
But Iceland’s stunning scenery is far from the country’s only allure. It’s also home to an internationally celebrated higher education system. Let’s count down a few reasons why so many students from all over the world are drawn to “the land of fire and ice” for enriching and unforgettable study abroad experiences.
Read more about studying in Iceland.
1. It’s Incredibly Open
Let’s face it: you don’t go to college to close your mind to new things. If you’re looking to truly expand your horizons, there’s no better place than Iceland — home to one of the world’s most liberal populations thanks to pervasive commitment to gender equality, sexual and religious tolerance, and progressive laws.
In fact, Iceland recently claimed 4th place status in the Social Progress Index 2015 behind Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Helping it earn this title? Support for personal rights, choice, tolerance, freedom and access to higher education, as well as its status as one of the globe’s most peaceful, ecologically sustainable places.
2. It Boasts a Rich and Dynamic History
The words “Vikings” and “boring” are mutually exclusive, but Iceland’s history is about much more than its medieval marauders. (And on that note, the Vikings themselves were about much more than medieval marauding.)
Whether you’re a political science or military history buff, fan of Old Norse sagas and contemporary Nordic crime lit, or an economic scholar, Iceland’s riveting history truly has something for everyone.
If you’re a believer in the supernatural, meanwhile, you’ll find yourself in good company in Iceland, where many locals believe in hidden elves and other mystical creatures.
Proud Icelanders celebrate their heritage with an abundance of local and national festivals meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities to join in the fun while learning even more about Iceland’s fascinating past.
An added bonus? Due to its fusion of Nordic, European and North American cultures, most Icelanders speak at least two languages fluently, including English and Icelandic. Reykjavik is known as a popular international study location, with more than 5% of all students being international. Reykjavik University is located in the heart of capital and offers a variety of programs taught entirely in English.
3. Its Changing Landscapes Are Like No Other
Iceland’s Mid-Atlantic Ridge location makes it a truly unique destination any season of the year. Green open meadows, bubbling hot springs (Reykjavík translates to “smoky bay” in Icelandic), geothermal lakes, grand glaciers, brooding volcanoes, and crystalline fjords are just a few of the landscapes you can lay eyes on during your time in Iceland. And need we even mention those spectacular northern lights?
With such a breadth and depth of remarkable scenery, it’s not surprising that Iceland goes to such great lengths to preserve it, and is known as a world leader in conservation and sustainability management. Iceland is home to Europe’s largest national park, and staggering 100 percent of its electricity derives from renewable sources. No wonder Iceland is such a popular destination for sustainability related programs, at Iceland School of Energy students can study Sustainable Energy programs and learn first hand about renewable energy technology and development. Or combine ecology, sociology, economics and business studies and consider a Master in Coastal and Marine Management at the University Centre of the Westfjords
And don’t get put off by the idea of snow: Iceland is renowned for its never ending summer. Schools like Bifrost Universityeven offer summer courses. They also offer various programs that will give you time to enjoy the landscape throughout the four seasons.
While Iceland is so beautiful that you may never want to leave, Europe’s second-largest island has yet another thing going for it: proximity. Not only is it a hop, skip and jump to other popular Scandinavian and continental European destinations, but it’s also close to the U.S. with abundant and affordable connecting flights.
Let’s face it: humanities degrees get a bad rap. In fact, the mere mention of the word “humanities” — defined by Stanford University as “the study of how people process and document the human experience” — brings to mind another four-syllabic word for many people: “unemployment.” But do these stereotypes hold up in the real world? In short: No. Read on to learn four reasons why a humanities degree may be the right choice for you.
1. Develop Creative and Critical Thinking Skills
Creativity leads to ideas and innovation. Critical thinking fosters execution and implementation. While both play invaluable roles in moving the world forward, their fusion achieves true synergy. Enter the humanities-based education.
Think about it. Our complex world requires people with the ability to think logically and objectively about subjective information in order to derive new levels of understanding. But what good is understanding without the ability to also think creatively toward solutions for the ongoing challenges we face as a society? Even in matters of science, scholars are increasingly pointing to the importance of the study of human behavior in answering the toughest questions.
The takeaway? Within the context of humanities studies, critical thinking and creativity are two sides to a priceless coin.
2. A Fulfilling Career And a Not-So-Shabby Paycheck?
Sure you could choose a career entirely because the money’s good, but where’s the personal fulfillment in that? A degree in the humanities, meanwhile, offers entry into a number of careers where people make a difference every single day. From teachers, artists and counselors to linguists, writers, and marketers, humanities majors and minors can be found in all walks of life. Why? Because the skills and knowledge acquired in humanities study surpass the barriers of discipline and can be applied to nearly any career or context.
Now consider that a whopping two-thirds of humanities majors go on to work in the private sector, and the majority of CEOs studied in the humanities. These figures are likely to grow when you factor in the rise of multidisciplinary studies between humanities studies and more traditionally lucrative fields, such as medicine, business, and law. Not to mention employment rates for humanities majors — many in some of the economy’s most quickly growing fields — comparable to employment rate for grads with non-humanities degrees.
And what if we told you that humanities salaries are actually higher than you think they are? That’s precisely what the latest report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences suggests. Released earlier this month, the study rebuts common misconceptions about humanities salaries to reveal that humanities majors earn more on average than the average American worker. While there’s a slight lag behind those at similar degree levels, the difference is minor and narrows with age.
And then there’s that whole personal satisfaction thing that goes along with choosing a career of great societal consequence. Ultimately, salary is only part of the comprehensive “compensation” earned by people with humanities degrees.
3. Outthink the Machines
Machines may be pushing the frontiers of science, but they’ll never replace free thought, nor the need for human interaction. Despite scientific advancements and the juggernaut of modern technology, we still live in a service economy in which the majority of the world’s jobs still require a human element. Ultimately, while coders and number crunchers may face a threat from machines in the future, plenty of jobs will remain for people skilled at doing things machines simply cannot do.
4. Make More of Your Major
Stevens Institute of Technology instructor John Horgan writes that in our science-dominated, certainty-rooted world, humanities leave room for an oft-undervalued commodity: uncertainty, and the truth it aims to discover. His assertion? “It is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever.” In other words, while science and technology may be in a state of flux, the humanities transcends these changes to remain checkpoint and lodestar.
Still not convinced? Well, what if we told you that a minor in the humanities offers all of these benefits — perhaps even more when studied alongside an alternate field? When merged with another course of study, a humanities minor has the power to amplify the value of your degree.
There are many schools and universities across the globe offering programs in the Humanities: from France to the USA, Germany to the UK, and many more. Faculties, like the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde, are renowned for their high quality programs across a wide spectrum of disciplines as well as for their professional approach of the Humanities.
When most students think about studying and traveling abroad, they think in terms of big cities – New York, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, and many more. This isn’t surprising – most big or capital cities serve as icons for countries and cultures, and there are many reasons to visit big cities. But anyone who has spent time abroad will likely tell you that it isn’t until you get outside the big cities that you get a real sense of a place and culture. And isn’t that what studying abroad is all about? So, if whether you’re planning a semester, a year, or a full degree abroad, here are five good reasons to consider a small-town school for your studies.
1. You’ll spend less money
Let’s face it: university is expensive and studying abroad isn’t cheap. Even if you choose a tuition-exchange program or earn a scholarship, you’ll still need to live, eat, and explore during your time abroad. It may be tempting to choose a big city, but the reality is that housing in big cities is expensive and hard to find. In a small city, you’ll be more likely to find affordable, attractive, and central housing, which means you’ll have more time and money to enjoy what the city has to offer, or to travel to the bigger cities you want to visit. Here are a few other ways small cities can help you save money:
· Small cities with airports are often hubs for low-flight airlines
· Small cities often rely on their student populations, so there are loads of opportunities, deals, and events aimed at students
· Big cities are expensive – whether you’re paying for rent, a cup of coffee, or a cinema ticket, expect a higher price in a big city
2. You can be close to nature
Sometimes you need to get away from it all, and while parks and green spaces are nice, they can’t replace real, untouched nature. Small cities are often close to forests, beaches, farmland, or mountains and getting out of the city for a hike or a day at the beach should be relatively easy. Find out where the locals go, or join an outdoor-activity club.
3. You can get in touch with locals
You might think that you’ll experience a country by living in its capital, but the fact is that apart from their landmarks, big cities can be generically international. If you truly want to experience a country’s culture, or if your goal is to learn a foreign language, living outside a major city is a better option. In a small city or town, you’ll have more opportunities to interact (and speak) with locals. Small towns are more likely to represent the normal lifestyle of a country, and you’ll probably have a chance to do things that only locals would do – visit a local artist’s gallery, taste a regional delicacy, try folk dancing…the possibilities are endless.
4. A small city doesn’t mean a boring city
In fact, it’s big cities that can often feel mundane. Big cities may offer variety, but it’s not all unique and the logistics of a big city can make it nearly impossible to do everything…or anything. Lots of students in big cities report that, after the initial excitement, they focus their activities in their neighborhood and only explore the rest of the city when friends or family come to visit. Small cities are normally easy to navigate and have shops, museums, entertainment, and restaurants in proximity to each other. Plus, since you’re able to afford more central accommodations in small cities, you’re more likely to be close to all the excitement.
No one can deny the many inimitable charms of Paris. It’s not surprising that the City of Lights tops so many lists of France’s best cities for international students. But the allures of this sublime city are no reason to overlook France’s many amazing offerings. Let’s count down several of France’s other extraordinary destinations for international students.
With a reasonable cost of living, exceptional geographic location with easy access to both the ocean and the mountains; and multiple top-ranked universities, it’s no surprise that France’s fourth biggest city — dubbed the “Pink City” for its brick-clay colors — is attractive to so many international students.
An added bonus for history buffs? Toulouse is home to one of the world’s oldest university systems, dating all the way back to the 13th century. And while all of Toulouse’s academic offerings are strong, aerospace enthusiasts have particular incentive to visit: it considered by many to be the epicenter of the European aerospace industry. Indeed, you will find schools such as the National School for Civil Aviation, ENAC, as weel as Polytechnique, INP Toulouse.
A frequent contender alongside Toulouse as a top international French study destination, Grenoble’s scenery offers enough incentive on is own. Nestled at the base of the French Alps, this alpine city is extraordinarily beautiful with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, and yet with easy access to other premiere destinations, including Paris, Italy and Switzerland. Because of its location, Grenoble also draws a large number of international faculty and staff — making for a particularly diverse academic community.
Widely considered a terrific place to learn French, Grenoble is also known for it welcoming people, bustling city center, and fine outdoor activities. (Skiers, hikers and bikers will all find plenty to do here.)
While lacking the same buzz as French cities like Paris, Toulouse and Grenoble, Lille was recently declared to be “France’s most underrated city.” Located in France’s northern region, Lille has also earned the distinction of being home to the country’s most cheerful people. That might have something to do its unbeatable location, which grants residents access to Brussels in 35 minutes, Paris in an hour, and London in under an hour and a half.
Factor in Lille’s vibrant culture known for its extraordinary architecture and the world-famous Palais des Beaux-Arts museum, and it’s no surprise that more international students are discovering this oft-overlooked destination.
Located in France’s stunning Aquitaine region, Bordeaux — a UNESCO world heritage site — has been described as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble.” And while wine may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this well-known region, the local libations are just one thing on a very long list of reasons to study in Bordeaux. A strong public transportation system, status as a player on the European technology scene, close proximity to sunny beaches, and popular football and rugby teams are just a few more of Bordeaux’s appeals.
And then there’s Bordeaux’s academic offerings. A commitment to cutting-edge research, multidisciplinary study programs, and exceptional faculty and staff combine to make Bordeaux a prestigious higher education destination. Bordeaux’s commitment to welcoming foreign students is demonstrated by its breadth and depth of international study programs as well as more than 250 partnerships with universities across the globe.
While Clermont-Ferrand may look small at first glance, its first impression belies its true status as a bustling international city. Located in the center of France between a chain of extinct volcanos (the “Chaîne des Puys”), Clermont-Ferrand boasts a strong reputation as a university town thanks to not one, not two but three prestigious universities.
Looking for a young, dynamic, student-friendly town? You’ll find it in Clermont-Ferrand, where a full third of the population is under the age of 20. From hiking to nightlight to France’s second-largest film festival, there’s an extraordinary amount to see and do here. And did we mention the region’s famous cheese?
Earlier this fall, Sweden’s Umeå University announced a scientific breakthrough related to the potential of ionic liquids as solvents. Published in the journal ChemSusChem, these findings are of interest for several reasons. Of course, there’s the fact that this advancement yields new and valuable insights into “enzymatic refinement of cellulose to precious molecules and industrial products.” This has numerous applications, including in the production of ethanol as fuel, which has the potential to significantly reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
But equally as interesting is the pivotal role students played in Umeå’s achievement, in addition to as as part of the teams that drive discovery in environmental research at universities around the world. Whether you’re just beginning to develop your knowledge of the changing environment and steps which can be taken to help safeguard it as a bachelor’s degree student or you’re pursuing advanced studies and research as a master’s degree or doctoral student, there are many paths to making a difference as an environmental researcher.
Our future well-being as people on this planet depends critically on the well-being of the natural systems around us. And while policy development and management are certainly important factors in protecting clean air, water, and other natural resources, another factor also comes into play: scientific knowledge.
With climate change and global sustainability challenges looming ahead, environmental research innovation will play a critical role in helping the world’s biological systems, communities and industries adapt, prevent further loss, and survive in a way beneficial to human life.
As with the important work coming out of Umeå, universities in all corners of the planet are leading the charge when it comes to addressing the world’s most topical environmental issues. Scientists and researchers not only play a critical role in identifying the concerns which face society both now and in the future, but also in developing interventions to mitigate human impacts.
The Field of Environmental Research
With more challenges facing the world than ever before, the need for solutions is increasingly paramount. The task is anything but simple: not only are current consequences difficult to reverse, but doing so also involves acknowledging and integrating a broad range of social, economic and political contexts.
Accordingly, degrees in environmental research cover equally dynamic topic, including the geological, biological and chemical processes which impact the environment, as well as how they come into play in the world around us (climate change, pollution control, population dynamics, ecosystems and biodiversity, etc.). Students and researchers also have plenty of opportunities to practice — both inside the lab and out in the field.
Why Environmental Research May Be Right For You
All academic degrees offer the opportunity to expand your knowledge and make a difference. However, there’s arguably no path more meaningful at this current juncture in human history than environmental studies.
While the challenges are profound, so are the opportunities: environmental research advancements are happening every day at lightning speed. As a student and researcher in this field, you’ll have plenty of space to innovate — in academia or in another environment-related sector. Because while environmental research is comparatively new as a dedicated field of study, it is at the top of the list when it comes to disciplines with relevant and topical real-world applications. And as the recent news from Sweden demonstrates, you don’t have to wait to graduate to start making a difference. Research opportunities exist for students at all levels which allow them to get their hands dirty while getting the planet clean.
Not to mention that these issues aren’t going away anytime soon. The takeaway for today’s career-minded students? There are plenty of jobs to be found. In fact, the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook reveals that jobs for environmental scientists and specialists have a projected growth rate of 15 percent for the years between 2012 and 2022 — easily outpacing the average for all professions.
One final morsel of food for thought? American Professor of Environmental Science and Policy Rob Sanford once pointed out that, “From an environmental standpoint, the planet doesn’t care if humans are here or not.” In other words, while the concept of “saving the planet” may be somewhat misguided when viewed through this lens, there’s another very real imperative for today’s environmental researchers: to make our lives more sustainable not just as an overarching concept, but also in terms of our own personal ideals, priorities, and how we choose to live our lives.
If you’re studying abroad this Christmas, you’ll probably notice that your host country does things a bit different from the way you celebrate at home. Christmas celebrations often reflect the unique culture and landscape of their homeland, and if you have the chance to celebrate abroad, you’ll probably discover some exciting new traditions. Here are a few unique celebrations that you might find on your travels, so whether you’re heading home for the holidays or ringing in the New Year in a new country, check out these foreign festivities for a bit of multicultural merrymaking.
1. The Finnish “Pikkujoulu”
Winter starts early in Scandinavia, and the nights get long and dark. But people make up for the darkness by celebrating Christmas early and often. In Finland, the Christmas season starts with Pikkujoulu – festive parties that range from a few hours of mulled juice to days-long celebrations that would put even the rowdiest frat party to shame. The main feature of the Pikkujoulu is glögi, or mulled wine, but Pikkujoulu will often feature traditional Christmas foods, music, dancing, and speeches. The tradition was brought to Finland from Germany and Sweden by university students in the early twentieth century, and the tradition is found (under various names) throughout Scandinavia. If you’re studying in Finland, expect invites to one or more Pikkujoulu during the festive period and be prepared for a good time!
2. On the beach in Australia
For much of the world, Christmas conjures up ideas of pristine snow, frosted windows, and starry nights, but in Australia Christmas marks the beginning of the summer holidays and that means – time for a barbecue on the beach! While most Australians include traditional northern hemisphere decorations in their Christmas celebrations, Christmas in Australia has a good dose of southern flare. Alongside traditional Christmas trees, you’ll find Australian homes decorated with ‘Christmas bush,’ an Australian plant with green leaves and white berries that turn red around the Christmas period. Santa makes sure that Australian children get presents, but Oz is too hot for reindeer, so he uses “six white boomers,” or kangaroos instead. Jack Frost won’t be nipping at your nose during Australian Christmas, but a tan is better than frostbite any day!
3. Decorate a banana tree in India
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in India, but with over 25 million practicing Christians, the holiday doesn’t go completely unnoticed in the subcontinent. Santa (known as Christmas Baba) brings presents to children using a horse and cart, but you probably won’t find a lot of Christmas trees. Instead, Indians who celebrate Christmas decorate banana or mango trees and use mango leaves and poinsettias to decorate their homes and churches. In Goa and Mumbai, paper lanterns shaped like stars and manger scenes deck the halls of those celebrating Christmas. And like most Christmas festivities, Indian Christmas wouldn’t be complete without special treats – you’ll find lots of coconut, dried fruit, and nuts in the mix.
4. The Boar’s Head Festival in England
Many of the traditions that dominate Christmas in Europe and North America originated in England, but there’s at least one tradition that doesn’t come from a Dickens novel. The Boar’s Head Festival is a variation on an ancient pre-Christian tradition, likely practiced throughout Western Europe. It took on its current pageantry and form at Queen’s College, Oxford sometime in the last millennium. According to the traditional story, an Oxford student was walking through the forest on his way to midnight mass when a ferocious boar attacked him. The only thing he had to defend himself was a bound copy of Aristotle, which he thrust into the gaping maw of the beast. The boar choked to death, and his head was served with much pomp and ceremony in the university’s banquet hall later that night. While the Boar’s Head Festival isn’t as wide-spread as other Christmas traditions, it’s commonly celebrated at several universities, as well as various churches, in the UK and US to commemorate its scholarly origins. Modern festivals usually include a ceremonial boar’s head, as well as music, pageantry, carols, and candlelight.
5. Prayers and Fireworks in Nicaragua
Christmas came to Nicaragua with the Spanish colonists, but while many Nicaraguan Christmas traditions have their origins in European customs, some are unique to Nicaragua. Take La Purisima, which celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary. Early in December, Nicaraguans throughout the country create and decorate an alter in their homes, with a statue of the Virgin Mary at its center. Then, they invite friends and neighbors to come and sit before the altar to pray and sing traditional songs. While the neighbors are inside, the family goes outside to set off rockets and fireworks, and afterward everyone celebrates with traditional sweets and cakes. If you’re studying in Nicaragua and are invited to celebrate La Purisima, you’ll find that each family has it’s own traditions, and since the festival is celebrated throughout the month of December, you’ll likely have a chance to see first hand some of the different styles.
There are practically infinite master’s degree options available around the world. In fact, whatever your interests or career aspirations, there is a program that will work for you. However, it’s not just a matter of deciding on a discipline, but also about whether a one-year or two-year course of study best suits your needs. We’re here to help with a roundup of the pros and cons of each.
The One-Year Master’s Degree Program
While a bachelor’s degree demonstrates proficiency in an academic area, a master’s degree signifies expertise. Think expertise can’t be attained in a single year? Think again. While there’s no arguing that one-year master’s degrees are intensive, in many cases they’re also the quickest path to reaching your goals. So what are the specific benefits of one-year master’s degree programs?
1. They’re Employment-Friendly
If you’re already a member of the workforce, taking two years off for graduate school can seem like a lengthy detour. One year, however, affords you the same opportunity for advancing your career without missing two years of working. In some cases, your employer may even be willing to hold your job while you’re gone, the chances of which are much less likely for two-year programs.
2. They’re Cost-Friendly
There are many reasons to get a master’s degree. That said, they’re also expensive, making them a difficult sell when it’s impossible to definitively quantify ROI. So what’s a master’s degree-minded, budget-conscious prospective student to do? One-year master’s degree programs offer appealing middle-ground: all of the advantages of an advanced degree at a fraction of the cost.
3. They Have Transformative Potential for Your Resume
Master’s degrees can be an invaluable differentiator in a crowded and competitive job market. While adding skills, job responsibilities and other talents add appeal to your resume, a master’s degree is more than a mere line item. Rather, it has the power to transform your candidacy. When time is of the essence, there’s no more efficient way to accomplish this goal than by enrolling in a one-year master’s degree program.
By now this all sounds pretty good, right? But before you sign on, it’s also important to keep the downsides of one-year master’s degree programs in mind, including the following:
1. They Offer Specialized Knowledge, But In a Hurry
Even if it was possible for a one-year master’s degree to convey as much knowledge and expertise as a two-year program, the pace will be significantly faster. For some students, this means taking less material in; for other, it leads to a much more demanding study environment. Conversely, a two-year master’s degree program gives you the time to thoroughly cover all materials in a less stressful setting.
2. Fewer Networking Opportunities
The connections you make in graduate school will stay with your throughout your life. Attending grad school for just one year shortens the time you’ll have to make and develop these connections. A shorter period of study can also impact your future references: will your teachers get to know you and your work well enough to speak on your behalf in the future?
The Two-Year Master’s Degree Program
While a two-year master’s degree covers the same material as a one-year program, it does so over an extended period of time. Which begs the question: why would you opt to spend more time and money for what is essentially the same thing? Well, we’ve got a few reasons that make two-year master’s degree programs a good bet, including the following pros:
1. They’re a Smart Use of Time
The job market is dynamic, and won’t always be in your favor. In times when the job market is unstable, a two-year master’s degree program offers a promising way to strengthen your candidacy during the off time. Not to mention that when you’ve completed your degree and the job market has (hopefully) rebounded, you’ll be positioned for an even better job.
2. They Maximize Learning
If you’re truly looking to increase your expertise in a particular area, then cramming all of that learning into one year can be a challenge. A two-year program, meanwhile, offers ample opportunity to learn everything you want to learn — not just in terms of your future career, but also in terms of your personal enrichment. While one-year programs may only cover the bare essentials, two-year programs offer the chance to delve into electives, too.
While Islamic finance may stand separate from conventional finance, the latest thinking in the world of finance at large increasingly places a high value on ethics. In fact, following the financial crisis of the first decade of the 2000s, business school students cited social responsibility as an integral part of b-school, leading many business schools around the world to respond by integrating ethical components into their curricula. The goal? To train students with “big picture” perspective of the world aimed not just at making money, but at making meaningful change.
In short, the next generation of business leaders has witnessed first-hand the fallout of a finance system short on ethics, and they want something different. Enter ethical banking. Also called alternative, civic, social or sustainable banking, this movement brings previously marginalized factors like social responsibility and environmental consciousness to the forefront of investment and loan practices.
The Role of Islamic Finance
So how does Islamic finance factor in? In order to understand Islamic finance, its first important to realize that Islam is not just a religion, it’s also a way of life which transcends religion to unilaterally affect political, economic, and social spheres. In fact, Muslims approach every aspect of their lives according to the Islamic code of sharia. This includes financial practices.
Comprising banks, investment firms, capital markets, fund managers and other components of the conventional financial system, Islamic finance also shares many of the same operational practices. However, the ways in which these entities are governed is very different. Why? Because above all else they’re guided by the core concepts of Islam. Economic activity can very much thrive within the Islamic financial system so long as acts remain compliant to Islamic laws.
Specifically, key practices of Islamic finance focus on promoting social justice, including the distribution of wealth through property taxes (zakat); defined state obligations; the prohibition of interest-based transactions and gambling; and the benefits of risk-sharing.
You don’t need to be Muslim to recognize the value in these practices — designed not only to serve the real economy, but also the planet and the people who populate it. And with a worldwide push toward more ethical capitalism and a rise in social entrepreneurship well underway, Islamic finance offers both a time-tested model and bridge to sought-after change.
Careers in Islamic Finance
The projected value of the Islamic finance services industry around the globe is projected to reach a staggering $4 trillion by the year 2020, and the presence of Islamic financial institutions continues to grow. Factor in a reported 55 percent leap in savings account applications to The Islamic Bank of Britain in the wake of 2013’s Barclays scandal, and the rising demand for both Muslims and non-Muslims with advanced knowledge of Islamic and ethical finance is undeniable.
If you have a knack for numbers, drive toward innovation, and commitment to principles of social justice, a career in Islamic Finance may be right for you. But how do you get to there from here? With a degree from the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF).
Now in its tenth year of operation, INCEIF has not only experienced rapid growth, but also lays claim to being the world’s only university focused on providing postgraduate studies in the up and coming field of Islamic finance. Top faculty and a cutting edge campus adjacent to CNN-declared “finance hub of the future” Kuala Lumpur make INCEIF degrees in Islamic finance an even greater commodity.
It’s been a great year for international students with lots of exciting developments. But with all the breaking news on education partnerships, new travel and immigration regulations, increased student mobility, and funding initiatives, it can be hard to keep track of everything. Never fear! We’ve compiled all of the year’s biggest news into one handy review so that you can take a look back or catch up on stories you may have missed.
1. International Student Numbers Rose Everywhere!
The figures are in, and international student mobility is up! In 2015 countries and institutions around the world reported growing and record numbers of international student enrollment. Many countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, and Turkey have been working to increase their international student numbers and given the success of various initiatives, the trend in international student mobility looks likely to continue to the end of the decade. In 2015 international education became Australia’s fourth largest export, and the Australian government is working to continue growth in the sector. In the Netherlands, international student enrollment was lagging behind the European average, but in 2015 the country saw rapid growth and now international students account for up to 62% of student populations in some Dutch institutions. The US has long been a leader in attracting international students, but in 2015, the study-abroad powerhouse saw an impressive 10% increase in enrollment, with a huge jump in STEM field enrollment.
2. Countries Around the World Developed Partnerships
Growing numbers of international students show that programs designed to increase overseas student mobility are successful, and more and more countries are working to develop initiatives that draw students to their institutions and encourage mutually beneficial cooperation. 2015 saw a jump in collaboration between East and West, with the UK and China, the UK and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, and India and Australia all announcing cooperative plans to increase student mobility, simplify application and credit transfers, and open borders for education and post-graduate employment. All of the partnerships were based on the understanding that by working together to educate students, countries can grow their economies and support innovation.
3. Ireland Instituted a New Reform Program
University systems around the world have been struggling during the economic crisis of the last decade, but countries like Ireland are working to improve standards and remain top destinations for international students. In July, Ireland announced the new reforms aimed at simplifying application processes for international students and making it easier for students from abroad to live and work while they study at Ireland’s well-respected institutions. The Irish government planned to implement the changes this past autumn, so we’ll have to wait and see how they affect the international student experience in the Emerald Isle. Ireland’s initiative mirrors that of several other countries that are working to open borders to international education and help overseas students pursue advanced studies in an increasingly challenging economic climate.
4. Obama Wants to Make Community College Free
Speaking of helping students financially, the American President Barak Obama wants to make higher education more accessible to American and international students. Earlier this year, Obama announced his intention to make community college universally free to students with GPAs above 2.5. The plan, if implemented, could cost the US $60billion in the next decade, but the President’s plan proposes dividing the cost between State and Federal coffers. Universal higher education exists in many countries, and in the US similar programs operate on a small-scale within individual states or communities, but it remains to be seen whether Obama’s initiative will have support from US law-makers in the Senate and Congress.
The prospect of flying half-way round the world to study in a foreign land and culture can feel daunting, and adjusting to life in a new country and university is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be stressful or scary. After all, one of the reasons studying abroad is such an amazing experience is that it takes us out of our comfort zones. Just follow these six tips to take the stress out of studying abroad.
1. Spend wisely and save money
Let’s get this one done and dusted first. Money is often a major stress-factor for students and studying abroad is expensive. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something…expensive. But that doesn’t mean that you have to empty your savings or pile up debt to have a great experience. Here are couple tips for smart spending and saving money while you’re abroad:
- Resist temptation
Don’t buy everything you see when you first arrive, no matter how cool things seem. Stick to necessities and save the souvenirs for the end of your visit. And remember – anything you buy you’ll want to take back with you, so consider your luggage allowance before buying a didgeridoo in Australia or a set of steel drums while studying in Jamaica.
- Do like the locals
One of the best ways to save money while studying abroad is to live like a local. Cook local foods, or better yet, get a local to teach you how to cook their favorite food. And while you’re at it, ask them what locals do for fun – you’ll get a much better sense of the culture, and you’ll make new friends in the process.
2. Use the money you saved to travel.
Souvenirs are great, but memories are even better. Use the money you saved by eating local grub (maybe literally in Peru) to travel and see the country and surrounding areas. Your camera and your journal will capture your time a lot better than a t-shirt or a snow globe.
3. Eat healthy food on a budget.
We’ve already pointed out that eating local can help save money, but it can also help you stay healthy. Burgers and sweets or the go-to college foods (noodles and frozen pizza) might seem easy, but your waistline and your health will take the toll and no one needs that kind of stress. Before you even leave home, take some time to learn a few basic and healthy dishes. Soups, stews, and casseroles are easy and budget-friendly, and they don’t require a lot of complicated kitchen equipment. Learn the ins and outs of a chicken – one decent sized bird can feed a poor student for at least a week if you know what you’re doing with a knife and some basic ingredients. Once you’ve arrived, check out campus and community centers to see if there are any cooking courses offered for beginners or students. We’ve already suggested asking a local for cooking tips, but as an international student you probably have the combined culinary expertise of the United Nations at your doorstep. Why not organize an international food night and ask all your new friends to cook and bring their favourite food from home.
4. Become a local-transport expert.
It’s tempting to hop into cabs when you’re in a new place, but if you can master the train, underground, or bus system, you’ll save yourself a bundle of money and time. Or better yet, start walking! While this may not be feasible all the time (especially if you live in a big city or a rural location) but you’d be surprised at how walking can often be the quickest, most enjoyable means of transportation. Plus, you’ll see lots of interesting sights and get good exercise along the way!
5. Prepare in advance
You’ve probably already sussed out the cost of accommodations and transport, but have you considered mobile phone plans? Prescription drugs? Bank charges? All these things can add up, and it pays to plan ahead and know what to expect. Some things, like prescriptions, might be cheaper (or free) in your home country so something simple like talking to your doctor and getting a few months in advance could save you a lot of money and stress. Check with your bank before leaving and make sure you won’t wrack up charges by using your cards abroad. Your mobile phone might be permanently attached to your thumbs, but using it abroad could be a major money pit. Switch to a local SIM when you arrive, or just get a cheap pay-as-you-go phone for the duration of your studies.
6. Make friends and have fun!
Landing in a foreign country will be a shock no matter what, so give yourself time to adjust but don’t just hide away in your room. Get to know your flatmates, classmates, and other people on campus. And don’t just stick with the other international students. If you’re having trouble meeting people, check out your school’s student associations and join a club or group that shares your interests. Sign up for excursions and get involved in on-campus activities. Go out and mingle with locals – take a dance class or volunteer. Whatever you do, relax. So many students worry so much about making their time abroad a memorable experience that they actually forget to experience anything – so have fun and live! Bon voyage!