Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learning the American Language, Stanford style

Ace! NewsFlash 

Under Stanford's Language and Orientation Tutoring Program, humanities graduate students help international graduate students improve their English language skills and offer them insights into America's academic and popular culture.

Graduate student Meng Xu meeting with tutor Christopher Stroop
'Using music to learn American culture and history is pretty fun,' said graduate student Meng Xu.
At Tongji University, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in China, Meng "Melissa" Xu designed a new fluorescent nanoparticle to detect pathological changes in the retina associated with diabetes.
Xu, now a graduate student in materials science and engineering at Stanford, is studying thermodynamics, nanobiotechnology and programming methodology.
Yet one recent afternoon, sitting in the Stanford Bookstore Café, she was puzzling over a decidedly nonscientific concept: "I'm proud to say she's my buttercup."
"What does buttercup mean," she asked Christopher Stroop, a doctoral candidate in history, pointing to the word she had underlined in the lyrics of All Shook Up, a rock 'n' roll song recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957.
Stroop is a tutor in the Language and Orientation Tutoring Program, which pairs graduate students in the humanities with international graduate students who are interested in improving their English language skills and also learning more about academic culture at Stanford and American popular culture.
Stroop, who explained I'm all shook upMy friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug and My insides shake like a leaf on a tree, told Xu that buttercup, a flower, was a term of endearment in the song – and then explained "term of endearment."
"A lot of the expressions in All Shook Up are just playful," he told her. "They're meant to be silly. They're meant to be fun."
"Oh," Xu said, a smile brightening her face. "I thought it was a small cup for holding butter," she said, forming an imaginary cup in the air with her hands.
Since the beginning of winter quarter, Stroop and Xu have been exploring American English through the medium of song. It is a journey that started with protest songs, delved into classic country and continued with the blues and early rock 'n' roll. Recently, the duo began exploring the blues and jazz.
"Using music to learn American culture and history is pretty fun," Xu said.
Stroop said songs help teach American geography, too.
"You can't really talk about blues, jazz and rock without talking about New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago and Harlem," he said. "Nor can you talk about alternative music without talking about Seattle. Songs often make geographical references. We used John Mellencamp's Pink Housestoward the beginning of the quarter, which talks about people taking vacations 'down at the Gulf of Mexico.' We have pulled up maps on Google. There's a lot more packed into music that will help foreigners with both linguistic and cultural orientation than you might think at first blush."

 Pairing up far-flung fields

This quarter, about 100 international graduate students are enrolled in the program, which provides free, one-on-one tutoring in weekly, one-hour sessions.
Stanford also offers group classes for international graduate students under the university'sEnglish for Foreign Students program.
Most of the international graduate students in the Language and Orientation Tutoring program speak Chinese (49 percent) or Korean (45 percent) as their native language. The rest speak Japanese, Portuguese, Thai and Arabic, said Bronwen Tate, a graduate student in comparative literature who has served as a tutor.
L.A. CiceroChristopher Stroop at a table with Meng Xu
Tutor Christopher Stroop has helped Meng Xu explore American English through music ranging from protest songs to early rock 'n' roll to country, blues and jazz.
Tate runs the program with Russell Berman, a professor of comparative literature and of German studies. The program was Berman's idea.
Tate said there is a wide range of English-speaking skills among international students in the program, which is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.
"Some have just arrived on campus and they're great scientists who read English really well, but are not at ease speaking it," she said.
"Some are in their third or fourth years of a doctoral program and are really pretty comfortable speaking English, but want to work on becoming more idiomatic, or on varying their vocabulary."
Tutors – currently, there are about 20 – receive $20 a session. Most of the tutors are PhD students in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages and the Department of Anthropology.
Tate said 65 percent of the international graduate students in the program are studying engineering. Twenty-five percent are enrolled in the School of Humanities and Sciences. The rest are studying business, education, law and medicine.
"Pairing humanities graduate students with international graduate students, primarily from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, makes a lot of sense in both directions," said Berman.
"The international students get an opportunity to build their English and to learn about everyday culture, but the humanities graduate students – nearly all native English speakers, and all with excellent English language – benefit, too. They develop their profiles as teachers in this new setting, and they have an opportunity to learn from the STEM students about fields far from their own."
Tate's experiences as a tutor illustrate how far afield those fields could be.
For the past few years, Tate has been the managing editor of Mantis, an annual Stanford journal that publishes the work of talented poets, translators and critics around the world. As a tutor, she has conversed with a graduate student working in the Palanker Lab on an electronic retinal prosthesis; an earthquake expert working in structural engineering and geomechanics; and a PhD candidate studying at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

Howdy Pardner!

Lisa Barge, a graduate student in German studies, said the students she has tutored fall into two groups. Some want to work on a specific project, such as a slide presentation or journal article. Others want to learn how to talk to native speakers in a casual way. For all, the sessions are safe places to ask cultural questions: Is it OK to ask someone their political party? Why do Californians sunbathe?
Over the past year, Barge helped an international graduate student prepare to give a talk on quantum mechanics to high school students by editing his slides, listening to his presentation and peppering him with questions during a mock Q&A.
"When students prepare for a presentation, it is nearly impossible for them to accurately predict what questions they will be asked during the Q&A, so they cannot plan what to say in advance," Barge said.
"Practicing answering questions with a tutor helps them feel more comfortable speaking freely about their topic, instead of from a script."
She has joined another student to watch the television sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. He hits "pause" when he wants to discuss how a joke worked and why it was funny.
Barge used tongue twisters to help a South Korean graduate student practice the letters "r" and "l." They took turns reciting sentences like "Thirty-three thirsty, thundering thoroughbreds thumped Mr. Thurber on Thursday" and "Luke Luck likes lakes." Barge also recorded the sentences on the student's cell phone so she could listen to them later.
TED Talks – riveting talks by remarkable people – have been popular in the tutoring program. Viewers can toggle subtitles on and off on the videos, and can click on a transcript to find a particular moment in a talk. Once tutor and student have mined a talk for new vocabulary and discussed the speaker's ideas, the video provides a topic of conversation with someone else on campus – in the lab, at CoHo or at the gym.
Also, emails have been the focus of many tutoring sessions. Tutors help international students understand the difference between informal and formal writing styles, so they can learn how to write emails in the appropriate register.
Some emails, though, require a "translation" only a native speaker could give, like the one a Korean graduate student received from a lab partner. It was an invitation to a barbecue written in cowboy slang – buckaroos, rootin' tootin', howdy pardner!

Humor me

Non-fiction books have been a focal point of conversation between Jihee Kim, a PhD candidate inManagement Science and Engineering, and tutor Jeff Knott, a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages and Cultures.
"I wanted to learn about American politics, economics and social issues, and Jeff was the perfect person to talk to about these things," said Kim, who earned a bachelor's degree at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – the M.I.T of Korea – in 2005 and a master's degree in economics at Stanford in 2011.
One of the books they discussed was Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard.
During a tutoring session, Kim would read a paragraph aloud, and Knott would correct her pronunciation, intonation and flow. Then they'd discuss the ideas in the selection she'd read, with Knott providing cultural and historical context.
Kim said it helps that Knott speaks Korean, which has a different sentence structure – subject-object-verb – than English.
"Jeff knows why I make certain mistakes, because he knows what's going on in my head," Kim said. "There are certain vowels and consonants I try to avoid using, but Jeff encourages me to try them."
During their tutoring sessions, Kim takes notes on vocabulary, idioms and pronunciation.
Among her notes are the following idioms: "slip like sand through your fingers," "sleep like a log," "humor me," "under the weather," "awe-inspiring," "I was writing like crazy" and "It took longer than I thought (it would)."
"We've been doing this together for more than a year," Kim said. "We spend about half the time talking about random things – our lives, politics, the news, the presidential campaign – and rest of the time talking about the book. He's a really good friend now." March 2012

 *** Ace! is a member of the EducationUSA global educational advising network affiliated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. We provide free EducationUSA counseling services to students in the northern provinces of Thailand; our faculty of U.S.-trained Test Prep Experts can help you with cost-effective result-driven training programs for SAT-1, SAT-2, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, GED, AP, IB, TOEIC, IELTS etc ***

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Stop obsessing on rankings. Don’t share all details of college apps"

Ace! NewsFlash 

Admissions Expert Offers Tips On Getting Into College
Reed College, a member of Colleges that Change Lives. Photo courtesy of CTCL
College acceptance letters will be arriving soon, followed by the inevitable news stories about the students with the perfect grades and resumes who didn’t get into their top choices.
And that will only amp up the stress and worry of those parents and kids who are already freaking out about the tiny acceptance rates of the best colleges as defined by the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings.
“In less than three weeks, you will begin to get an idea about college admissions that is not the way it is,” admissions expert Martha O’Connell told a couple hundred parents and students who gathered Tuesday night in the cafeteria of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. “The problem is those stories don’t tell the whole truth. The reality is far different.”
“The reality is that the average admissions rate at four-year colleges and universities is close to 70 percent,” said O’Connell, the executive director of Colleges that Change Lives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process.  In fact, fewer than 100 schools reject more students than they admit.
That was one of the key messages that O’Connell delivered during a PTSA-sponsored talk on choosing the right college. The session drew parents from Walter Johnson and Walt Whitman high schools and other Montgomery County public schools as well.
O’Connell, who spent 30 years working in college admissions, told parents and students to stop obsessing on rankings that focus on a college’s applicant pool, but don’t say much about what the school offers students.
“We are driven by name brand. We love what we know about,” she said. “This process works best when it starts with the student. You are not a refrigerator. You are not a car. Those things are easy to rank. There’s no direct way to measure the quality of an institution.”
“I say this to get you to be a careful and considerate consumer,” she said. “So look at the numbers and what they really mean.”
Most importantly, students should drive the search process, asking whether prospective schools offer the culture and learning environment that will make them happy and successful. And they can only discover that by researching those schools and asking questions during college fairs and campus visits, O’Connell said.
To get a sense of a school’s culture, check out its website. If it features lots of news about sports teams or politics, then that’s probably what important to the school. And when visiting campuses, make sure to go during the busiest class time to see how students act and how they dress, and to listen to what they talk about—all of which also will tell a lot about a school’s culture.
Some other helpful tips:
Set up an email address just for the application process. Some schools will communicate only by email and important messages could be missed in the flood coming into your regular account.
Start making contacts at schools that you’re interested in. That means filling out online prospect cards and info cards at college fairs, and making sure to let schools know when you stop by to visit or emailing them after. Go to the admissions tab on the school’s website and find out who is the admissions officer for your area and email that person about your interest.
“They’re the person who’s going to be reading your application,” O’Connell says, noting that contacts can be the deciding factor for an admissions officer. “I’m going to admit the person who has a lot of contacts because they’re interested and they’re probably going to enroll.”
Schedule a specific time each week to talk about how the application process is going. That will help reduce the stress on students who can get overwhelmed by the nagging of worried parents. O’Connell says her family chose Sunday nights and met for just one hour each week.
“It created a time and a place for it and I guarantee it makes for a happier household,” she said.
And finally, don’t share all the details of the application process with everyone. That way, there’s less to deal with if things don’t work out.
“If you can resist the urge to share a lot about the process, it will make it easier for you,” O’Connell advised.

Mar 16, 2012 - 12:08 PM

 *** Ace! is a member of the EducationUSA global educational advising network affiliated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. We provide free EducationUSA counseling services to students in the northern provinces of Thailand; our faculty of U.S.-trained Test Prep Experts can help you with cost-effective result-driven training programs for SAT-1, SAT-2, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, GED, AP, IB, TOEIC, IELTS etc ***

Saturday, March 10, 2012

HOT SCHOLARSHIP NEWS! 800 U.S. colleges awarded money to international students in 2010

Ace! NewsFlash 

For international students, studying in the United States can be a pricey endeavor. Many U.S. colleges are expensive, cash-strapped, and in demand. And unlike their American peers, international students typically don't qualify for federal loans to help them fund their education.

[Read more about international student trends.]

But while financial aid for international students tends to be very scarce, it does exist. At least 776 colleges offered some amount of financial aid to undergraduate international students for the 2010-2011 school year, according to school-reported data to U.S. News. The average award packages ranged from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands, with the highest average packages topping $50,000.

The list below includes the 10 ranked schools that awarded the highest average financial aid packages to undergraduate international students for the 2010-2011 school year. Those schools enrolled varying numbers of students from abroad, but all awarded, on average, $47,469 or more.

[See which universities enroll the most international students.]

Yale University tops the list of schools that offer the most generous average aid packages to undergraduate international students, reporting that the average award in 2010-2011 was $51,044. Like Yale, all the universities on the list below are private schools. Many are national liberal arts colleges, which means they focus on undergraduate education and grant at least half of all degrees in liberal arts majors, such as English, humanities, and philosophy. Nearly all are located in the northeastern United States, in states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

Keep in mind that these statistics aren't a guarantee of financial aid at a certain school. Since these awards are averaged over the number of international undergraduates enrolled, it's possible that some students may have received much more money than their international peers at the same school. In addition, schools that are designated by U.S. News as Unranked, meaning they did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not eligible to be on this list.

These 10 schools awarded the highest average aid packages to undergraduate international students for the 2010-2011 school year:

Yale University (CT)$51,0443483, National Universities
Wesleyan University (CT)$50,7438412, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Skidmore College (NY)$50,0005649, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Amherst College (MA)$49,0101462, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Trinity College (CT)$48,99911937, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Gettysburg College (PA)$48,9084347, National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Chicago$48,436635, National Universities
Williams College (MA)$47,7131281, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Vassar College (NY)$47,62312214, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Colby College (ME)$47,4699421, National Liberal Arts Colleges

 *** Ace! is a member of the EducationUSA global educational advising network affiliated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. We provide free EducationUSA counseling services to students in the northern provinces of Thailand; our faculty of U.S.-trained Test Prep Experts can help you with cost-effective result-driven training programs for SAT-1, SAT-2, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, GED, AP, IB, TOEIC, IELTS etc ***

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

YES, THERE IS! Financial Aid for International Students

Ace! NewsFlash 

Many of the students who work with me are international kids.  They come from China and Haiti, Germany and Ghana, Nepal and Costa Rica–and dozens of other places as well.  And while they are as different from each other as you can possible imagine, they all have one thing in common when it comes to attending college in the United States: in order to get a visa to study in the US, they all have to demonstrate where the money is coming from to pay for college.
Some colleges recruit international students partly for their ability to pay full tuition, and in fact, many families outside the US save and save and save for years to be able to pay cash to send their children to a great school in the States.  However, increasingly, colleges and universities are realizing that having international kids on campus is good for more than just financial reasons.
International kids also offer a terrific wealth of information for students in the US by sharing their language, background, observations, and culture.  Making a friend with someone from far away can lead not only to a great relationship but also a great contact, and when kids from different religions and language groups live and work together, horizons are expanded and differences are reduced.  This is a wonderful thing.
The way that many international students engage in campus life creates a positive effect for a large number of other students. When there is a real world diversity on campus, discussions are enriched, points of view are challenged, and new ideas are generated.  Students suddenly have the opportunity to practice their Arabic with someone from Dubai, or French with a Moroccan, or Spanish from a student from Argentina.  It makes good sense, then, for colleges and universities to figure out ways for international students to get to the US, and that’s why financial aid for international students exists.
Any survey at any college about financial aid will show that almost all of it comes from federal sources–in other words, money that the US government has generated or set aside for education.  And that money is not for international kids, but for US citizens or green card holders. Logical. However, there is also money available for international students at many colleges, but it simply isn’t as much as the amount that comes from federal aid.  That is also logical.  There are fewer international students than US students at college. Money for international kids tends to come from private sources, benefactors, and unique college programs aimed at increasing international enrollment.
The financial aid that is available varies from school to school.  Some colleges have NO money for you as an international student, while others have been more successful at creating a fund to help cover expenses. Remember that basically colleges are businesses, and they run programs the way businesses do.  If something is not cost effective, it doesn’t last.  The schools that have found ways to pay for international kids have also figured out how to make that cost effective for themselves as well.
To qualify for financial aid as an international student, it is usually required that students submit a good deal of documentation about the family’s financial situation–much the same way that every kid who is a US citizen has to submit the FAFSA before he or she can be awarded any financial aid.  International kids don’t do the FAFSA; instead the colleges ask them to use a different form.  Usually it is the International Student Certificate of Finances, and sometimes it’s the CSS Profile.  In most cases, colleges will list links to these forms and worksheets right on their admissions pages, under “International Students.”  Additionally, most colleges will also ask for a bank statement or official letter that certifies how much money the family has in a checking or savings account.  That information typically has to be notarized or legalized, and it also has to be translated into English.  Without those documents, the Financial Aid Office at a college or university has no way to figure out what a family can pay or what the college might be able to offer as a scholarship or grant.
Getting these documents completed and submitted is almost always a hassle, and parents often do not understand why some of the questions seem so personal and intrusive–especially in cultures that are very different from that of the US.  However, filling out the forms as accurately and quickly as possible allows the Financial Aid Office to do their best to provide the most money possible for any given family.  And then once a student and college have agreed on how the student’s college education will be paid for, the US government makes it possible for a visa to be granted, allowing someone from a different country to enter and live in the United States legally.
The money that is available to help students get to the US varies enormously, and often the most money is available at the smallest colleges.  Some schools have figured out that by having a large international population, they are able to attract more students from their home regions–students who are interested in globalization, international studies, world economy, diplomacy, languages, and business.  Sometimes the schools that cost less can offer enough financial aid to make to make a college affordable–it’s one thing to receive $20,000 of scholarship at a school that only costs $30,000 to start with, but something else entirely to receive that same amount and face fees in excess of $55,000.
To find out what is available for them, international students should ask lots of questions.  Those questions should not only be about costs, but about the possibility of finding a campus job (yes, international students can work on campus, but with restrictions), about transportation expenses, about possible tax responsibilities, and about grade requirements to renew those scholarships.  Write emails.  Attend college fairs at local schools and hotels. Go online and look for information.
Money for international students exists. It really does.  But to find it, a student should understand that he or she will need to present honest and accurate information about the family’s financial situation.  And students will also need to be flexible in where they look for aid.  Where the most money might be available might surprise people, so it is important to research schools thoroughly.  In the end, if a student from outside the US is determined to study in a college or university there, it is possible.  It just takes a little bit of work and organization and patience.

John Carpenter was a founding Executive Committee member of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools.  John currently is the Director of Admissions and University Counseling at the United World College, UWC Costa Rica.

 *** Ace! is a member of the EducationUSA global educational advising network affiliated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. We provide free EducationUSA counseling services to students in the northern provinces of Thailand; our faculty of U.S.-trained Test Prep Experts can help you with cost-effective result-driven training programs for SAT-1, SAT-2, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, GED, AP, IB, TOEIC, IELTS etc ***

Saturday, March 3, 2012

EducationUSA Fairs: Bangkok & Chiang Mai

Online Advance Registration --- Get a Special Gift & Win Prizes!

* Click for Bangkok Fair, April 4      13.30-19.00  Grande Centre Point Hotel @ Terminal 21

* Click for Chiang Mai Fair, April 5  13.30-19.00  Le Meridien Hotel @ Night Bazaar

EducationUSA Fairs Care Line: 083.2033066


สนใจเรียนต่ออเมริกา ต้องไม่พลาดงานนี้

EducationUSA Fair งานศึกษาต่ออเมริกา

โดยศูนย์แนะแนวศึกษาต่อ EducationUSA ในเครือข่ายของสถานทูตสหรัฐ

กรุงเทพ: 4 เมษายน 55 เวลา 13:30-19:00 น. @ Terminal 21: โรงแรม Grand Centerpoint 

(BTS อโศก ทางออก 1 หรือ MRT สุขุมวิท ทางออก 3)

ในงาน ท่านจะได้พบปะและพูดคุยกับเจ้าหน้าที่จากมหาวิทยาลัยชั้นนำในสหรัฐฯ อาทิ John Hopkins, 

George Washington, St.Olaf College, U. of San Francisco, U. of South Florida พร้อมรับฟังข้อมูล

ทุนการศึกษาของ ก.พ. ฟุลไบร์ท (Fulbright) และ East-West Center จากผู้แทนของหน่วยงาน การ

เสวนาประสบการณ์การศึกษาในสหรัฐฯ โดยนักเรียนเก่า การสรุปเทคนิคและกระบวนการในการสมัครเรียน 

การสอบมาตรฐาน TOEFL-GRE-GMAT รวมถึงการให้ข้อมูลเรื่องวีซ่านักเรียนโดยเจ้าหน้าที่ฝ่ายกงสุลจาก


รู้อย่างนี้แล้ว น้องนักเรียน นักศึกษา และผู้ปกครองที่สนใจโอกาสในการศึกษาต่อสหรัฐฯ ต้องไม่พลาด 

EducationUSA Fair 4 และ 5 เมษายนศกนี้

ท่านสามารถเข้าร่วมงาน พร้อมลุ้นรับรางวัลมากมายได้ฟรี และสามารถลงทะเบียนล่วงหน้าที่ 

หรือส่งรายละเอียด ชื่อ เบอร์โทรศัพท์ สถาบันการศึกษาและระดับชั้นที่กำลังศึกษา สาขาวิชาที่สนใจเข้า

ศึกษา รวมทั้งสามารถสอบถามข้อมูลได้ที่ 

หรือ EducationUSA Fairs Care Line: 083.2033066

Bangkok:     Wednesday 4 April 2012, 13.30-19.00

                  Grande Centre Point Hotel @ Terminal 21 (BTS Asoke, MRT Sukhumvit)

Chiang Mai: Thursday 5 April 2012,  13.30-19.00 

                  Le Meridien Hotel @ Night Bazaar

Meet Top U.S. Colleges, Find Scholarships, Get Tips on Successful Applications, 

SAT/GMAT/GRE/TOEFL & Student Visas...

all at the official EducationUSA university fair supported by the U.S. Embassy!

* Johns Hopkins U, George Washington U, U San Francisco, U South Florida, Ohio 

Wesleyan U, St Olaf College, and many more!

* Expert Panels by Fulbright Scholarships, OCSC (Royal Thai Govt), U.S. Embassy Visa 

Officer, Scholars & Alumni of Carnegie Mellon U, Syracuse & top universities!

* Early-bird Registration Gifts, Door Prizes, and lots of fun!

Click to Pre-Register for Bangkok, April 4

Click to Pre-Register for Chiang Mai, April 5

or email us at: 

or call EducationUSA Fairs Care Line: 083.2033066