Students preparing to go abroad

The following are essays from the international preparation online course that students going on a semester abroad are required to complete. You may find them interesting. I got their permission to share these:

Education Abroad Basics

May 26-June 1

Getting Ready

This fall I will be making the biggest trip, I will have ever taken in my life. I will spend my fall 2014 semester in Weifang, China. I came to Bemidji State University with a goal. A couple years ago, a huge deciding factor that drew me towards Bemidji State University was the Education Abroad programs. Once discovering that tidbit about the University, that became my goal—to study in China. Fast-forward to present day and everything is falling into place, just as I would have hoped. I’m going dive right in and explain more in depth with my reasoning for studying abroad, then I’ll explain what I plan to accomplish and finally how I expect studying abroad to affect your career plans.

Traveling to China became a goal when I was a sophomore in High School. I had signed up for my very first Chinese class to take. My friends and family didn’t know what was wrong with me, they called me crazy for taking a world language class that used characters rather than an alphabet. Of course I was nervous, but I like to challenge myself and I thought that taking this class would be the perfect opportunity. I know I could’ve been like the rest of my family and either not learned another language or I could’ve taken Spanish. Throughout all of the late night studying I did for my Chinese class, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. My decision lead to my goal of traveling to China. I can date back to when it was formed when, it was when I was sitting in Chinese class one ordinary day and my Chinese teacher was talking about her hometown in northern China. She explained to the class about her every day schedule, the food she ate, and traditions that her family had. After that class period, I started to thinking of myself traveling to China. That thought that I had, sank in. I let it sink in to the point of me investigating my options, I eventually found Bemidji State University and their connections they had with China. Needless to say, that is how I picked Bemidji State University.

On this trip, I plan to put aside all stereotypes that I have ever heard about China. I fully intend to get outside of my comfort zone and try new things—things that I would never do otherwise. I know for a fact, I will likely get culture shock, since I have lived in only small Minnesota suburbs my entire life. I hope that doesn’t last too long and that I can emerge in their culture right away. One thing that I cannot wait for is to attempt to have a conversation with the locals or to try the unique and different foods. Going to China is a wonderful opportunity for me because of my major, which is International Business. When I graduate from Bemidji State University, my plan is to work internationally. Since I have been learning the Chinese language, China would be the ideal place for me to work. By the end of my trip, I hope to take a lot out of what I have learned. I’m not necessarily talking about the classes I will be taking at the University, but rather their culture as a whole.

My trip to China will be my first time outside of the United States. That means I don’t have a passport or any of the required documentations. Due to this lingering fact, I made a visit to the International travel website. On this website, I found the application for a passport, among a whole lot of required paperwork. Within a couple of days of visiting this website, I went done to the local DMV to get my picture taken and to turn in my passport application. My passport is important to have, but I also saw that I have to have more paperwork to do such as: health insurance, visa application, and vaccine shots. I am beginning to find out that there is a lot of paperwork on my end to complete, but the thing I keep looking forward to the overall experience I will get out of this trip. Although the paperwork is a lot, there are some travel warnings that I saw. A big one that I’m a tab bit nervous about are the disease that foreigners are most likely to catch. Out of all of the travel warnings, that is the one that scares me the most because when the last thing that I want is for me to be miserably sick in China, therefore I will be taking all precautions and getting all needed shots and take the necessary medication. In the upcoming months I will prep for my trip my reading up on China and their local news, among a book that I was suggested to read about how to behave in China.

As each day comes closer and closer to my departure date, I become both nervous and excited. Though, after talking to Bemidji professors and my boss at the International Program Center, I realized that my trip I will be taking would be much easier with the helpful words that I have heard. I’m curious and full of questions and I’m so lucky to have BSU faculty right behind me. When I look back to my sixteen years old self, sitting in my Chinese class when I realized that I wanted to go to China it was only a thought that I had and it seemed a little too farfetched. I would have never pictured myself four years later and my dream and goal of traveling over the seas would come true, but I sure glad I am.

Education Abroad Basics INTL 1130

1 June 2014

Getting Ready

At the end of the 2012-2013 school year I heard from a friend that we had visitors from Switzerland on our campus. He then preceded to explain that Bemidji State University created an exchange program with The University of Luzerne PHZ. I then found videos and an article online describing the pairing a little more and who the program was geared toward. When I found out that PHZ was The College of Teacher Education I instantly decided to go with no hesitation. It seemed too perfect to pass up on this amazing opportunity. I then went to an informational meeting where I fell more in love with the college and Switzerland. I know I have made the right choice by studying abroad. It will shape me and my future in many positive ways.

When I went to college, studying abroad had never crossed my mind. I was a home-body. Moving three and a half hours away with none of my previous friends was a big step for me. Moving to a town with more than 400 people in it was a big step for me. But as time went by I became more independent and freer with nothing too pressing to keep me from travelling. I know it will be hard leaving my family and friends, but I will have internet and I will only be gone for four months. I know that none of my current relationships will suffer because of this experience. After making the hasty decision of studying abroad I really thought about my choice and realized how great of an experience this will give me. I made a list of pros and cons and the pros definitely won. When I tell my fellow college aged friends that I am studying abroad in Switzerland they all congratulate me, tell me how great it is that I am doing this, and tell me how jealous they are that they are not planning to study abroad through their school. It is great because there are many people that miss the chance to get their education somewhere completely different and to travel to another country. Many of my parents’ friends tell me that that is their one regret of college is they didn’t take advantage of their school’s studying abroad program. I don’t want to have that regret when I’m older. I want to take advantage of all that BSU can offer me including studying abroad at PHZ. I also have a few friends that did study abroad and they love telling how great of an experience it was and how lucky they were to have an opportunity like that. Now is my time to see things beyond Minnesota while I’m still in school instead of trying to fit it in when my career life starts after college.

While studying at the University of Luzerne I hope to acquire as much knowledge about being a teacher as possible. I think that by studying abroad I will obtain different teaching techniques and different opinions on the best way to teach. I will then compare their techniques to ones that I have already learned and decide what will work best for me when I become a teacher or if a mix between the two cultures will be best. I can imagine myself taking what I learn in Switzerland along with what I learn at BSU to make me the best teacher that I can be. This experience will make me a more culturally well-rounded student and teacher. I will have a first-hand experience on what it feels like to be immersed in a foreign and unknown culture like so many of our students are here. It will give me the opportunity to empathize with them and reach out to them so they can make the most out of their American education. I think it will be enlightening to see how a different country trains its future teachers compared to ours. I also hope to accomplish making memories, ones that I can share with my students one day. I was taught in Pedagogy that stories are one way to reach students and create a connection with them. By reaching students you will then be able to teach them. By spending four months in Switzerland I will have a great deal of unique stories that I will be able to share with my students and future coworkers. Ideally the stories will be able to teach my students an underlying message to be daring and to step outside of their comfort zone in safe situations. It will be worth it. I believe that my study abroad semester will stand out on my resume and hopefully make me memorable and stand out in a positive way when it becomes time to apply for a teaching job. I’m thinking of it as the cherry on top of my accomplishments at Bemidji State University. I am expecting this to be an experience that I will be more than happy to discuss with future employers and tell them how it made me a more culturally well-rounded individual and how learning from the College of Teacher Education in a different country made me a better teacher. I anticipate that this experience will only benefit me in my career path as a high school mathematics teacher.

Exploring on the International Travel website I found out that I am not required to have any special vaccinations to travel to Switzerland. I will be required to get a visa because I will be staying for longer than 90 days, so I will need to visit the Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. I will be going to Chicago considering it is the closest being around 9 hours away from my hometown. In order to travel to Switzerland my passport must not expire within 90 days beyond my departure date which it will not because it expires in 2021. Bemidji State University highly recommends me buying travel insurance which will basically insure that if something were to happen in Switzerland and I were to die my body will be brought back to my parents. I also learned that if ever I were to get arrested by the Switzerland government, which I don’t ever plan on that happening, I need to let the U.S. Embassy know. There are two U.S. Embassies in Switzerland, one in Zurich which is closest to Luzerne and one in Bern which is a little farther away. The website also informed me that there are not a lot of terrorist attacks in Switzerland and has a low rate of violent crime which was great to read and eased my mom’s mind a little bit.

Overall Switzerland and PHZ University of Switzerland seems like a great place and the perfect fit for me. Studying abroad will benefit me in my career as a high school mathematics teacher by making me more culturally well-rounded person and the best teacher I can be because of it.

Class: Education Abroad Basics

Week #1

I decided to study abroad not because it was initially required in my international business major but because I’ve desired to travel outside of the country ever since I was young, taking interest in other cultures and places around the world. My parents have taken my sister and I many places in central America and road trips across the U.S. which brought on my interest to see new places. There are so many incredible things to see on this planet, and when given the opportunity to study abroad I couldn’t pass it up. It has already become a learning experience regarding applying and preparing for the program and gathering the materials needed for the consulate of Spain to obtain a Spanish student visa. During my term abroad I’d like to gain experience first- hand in Barcelona upon totally new surroundings while applying what I’ve learned in my classes at Bemidji State University to real life situations and improving my fluency and vocabulary in the Spanish language. When I was younger, my parents traveled to many different areas of South and Central America which included living in Costa Rica for a year and a half before moving back to the states. In doing this at a young age, I believe it brought on my interest to see new places and travel leading to my decision to choose international business as my major emphasis. There are many positive aspects to studying abroad which include developing international relations whether casual or professional, getting to know yourself by stepping outside of your comfort zone, improving language skills, intercultural understanding, and effectively enhancing your job resume which can place yourself ahead of other job applicants. This is a major step in my life which can be intimidating at times but a challenge filled with opportunity I’m willing to put the effort into. It’s one thing to read an article or look at pictures of a foreign country but experiencing all of that first hand is totally different when immersed in new day-to-day life and culture significantly different from that of your own. Being introduced to a new support network is a chance to improve my own skills and gain some independence which can help when job searching. Understanding how to manage my finances with a new form of currency and living expenses when abroad will further more benefit me by not relying so much on the support of my family and applying what I’ve learned in my finance classes at BSU. In regard to my career plans, I want my experience studying abroad to expand my knowledge and abilities that will set me apart from other applicants among job searching or positions in graduate school if I decide to further my education. Originally, I had planned to study abroad in Argentina, but there was trouble having credit requirements met. Studying abroad in Barcelona however, I feel, is a great choice for me regarding my major emphasis and development in the Spanish language. It’s a chance for me to step outside my comfort zone and make new attempts and decisions I may not have normally taken back home, which I hope will make me a more open-minded and well-rounded person. Before traveling to a foreign country, however, it’s important to study and do research behind it, allowing for extended knowledge and proper preparation. On the U.S. Government’s international travel website in the “Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements” section for Spain I did not see any requirements holding me back from my travel plans and have almost all of the materials prepared for my meeting with the Consulate of Spain in Chicago. Regarding safety and security, Spain along with the rest of the world shares an increased threat of international terrorist incidents. Its open borders with its neighboring Western European countries allow the possibility of terrorist groups to enter and exit the country with anonymity. It’s important to remember that I stay aware of my surroundings and exercise caution at all times for my personal security. For example, I 2004, Islamist extremists bombed four commuter trains entering Madrid, causing 191 deaths and 1,400 injuries. In 2011, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization announced “definitive cessation of armed activity,” and there have been no attacks attributed to the ETA since. Foreigners have been killed in ETA attacks, and there is risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Remaining vigilant and exercising caution while avoiding demonstrations and other potentially violent situations will all help decrease the chances of this happening. Most of Spain has a moderate rate of crime while street crimes against tourists occur in the principal tourist areas. Madrid and Barcelona report incidents of pickpocketing, mugging, and occasional violent attacks. The largest number of incidents reported occurred in Los Ramblas, El Prat Airport, Sants train station, inside Metro stations, Sagrada Familia area, Gothic Quarter, and beaches. It’s suggested that I carry limited cash, only one credit card, and a copy of my passport while leaving any extra cash, cards, passports and personal documents in a safe location. Valuable belongings should be kept in sight and not unattended. Increased caution should be taken account for when in crowds and avoid placing passports, cash, or valuables in outer pockets of backpacks. Thieves may be in groups of two or three. Physical assaults rarely happen while most motives are to distract and pickpocket. There have been reports of thieves posing as plainclothes police officers asking pedestrians about documents and inspection of counterfeit bills which they ultimately confiscate as “evidence”. Theft from vehicles is also common. A passing car or helpful stranger will attempt to divert the driver’s attention while the accomplice steals from the unlocked car. I should be cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a Spanish police officer or Civil Guard. Baggage should not be left in plain view inside parked cars, doors should be locked, windows rolled up, and valuables out of sight. Drinks should not be left unattended in bars or clubs. Traffic in Madrid and Barcelona is faster paced than in U.S. cities which include unfamiliar signs and motorbikes weaving between traffic lanes. There are separate traffic lights for each side of the intersection. Driving under my U.S. driver’s license is not allowed and driving while talking on the phone is prohibited. Public transportation in large Spanish cities is generally excellent. Other than that, I did not find anything specific holding me back from my travel plans for studying abroad in Barcelona.

INTL 1130
Summer 2014
Week 1 Essay

Traveling is always something that I have heard talked about positively. Between the experiences people have and the relationships that are created, studying abroad has been almost romanticized in our college culture today. In fact, I often hear that if someone didn’t travel abroad, it’s their biggest regret, and if they did, it was one of their best times of their life – and they are often dying to go back.

Even Seneca, who died in AD 65, speaks positively of travel: “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” I just finished my third year of college, and some new vigor in my studies would be greatly welcomed. I have all good grades on my transcript (three B’s total for 105 credits) but I feel like I am on autopilot. Instead of taking a break, I thought that getting away but still accomplishing things and having a great experience would do me better than simply working.

I picked Sevilla, Spain because I loved taking Spanish in high school and it seemed more approachable than some of the other Spanish-speaking countries. I am not currently fluent by any means, but I picked up on Spanish quickly in school and I know that with the additional language courses required by CIEE that I will come back fluent. Going abroad for a semester adds that time onto my degree, but because the track I was on was going to have me graduating in the winter, I decided that taking this time now would be beneficial. I am not accomplishing any courses towards my major in this time, but getting a fresh perspective will be worth every second and every penny. I am also hoping to complete a Spanish minor with the semester abroad, which will look great for many places that I would potentially apply to for work later. The ability to fluently speak Spanish will be useful in many ways in my future career as well as every day life, which is very exciting.

I am a mathematics education major, and one of my personal goals has always been to become fluent and teach a bilingual classroom somewhere along the West coast (California, Oregon, Washington). I had originally thought that I would join the Peace Corps outside of my bachelor’s degree and become fluent through service. In fact, I even put in hours researching graduate schools that have a program called Masters International, which partners the Peace Corps with a graduate program and allows students to complete two years in the Peace Corps as a part of their degree. I found three schools spread across the nation that have a program I was interested in. Each required their students to spend four years completing their masters and writing a thesis on the experience they would have, with the two years of service either being the first two years, middles two years, or last two years of the degree. However, with this trip to Spain I will fulfill much of what I wanted on a smaller time frame towards that personal goal. Although I may still serve someday in the Peace Corps, it isn’t something that I now need to do, and that gives me some flexibility later.

Thinking about the impact this trip will have on my long-term future is exciting, but what I really can’t wait for is to actually be there. While I’m there I will be taking courses mostly within CIEE’s program, which unfortunately means that I will be interacting with many other Americans, albeit from many different places. Despite that, I am hoping to step outside my comfort zone and really try to interact with other Spanish students and people. The program also has us taking trips throughout the city and even a four-day trip to Morocco, which will help me gain perspective. There are many clubs and organizations within the Universidad Pablo de Olavide that I will be able to participate in, and I’m hoping to meet other Spanish students that way. The experience I will have by participating in a homestay will really exacerbate that and introduce me to many cultural habits as well as people my host family will know. Certainly, I will stick out as a tall, female Caucasian with blue eyes, but hopefully I will get used to it quickly. I am already learning a great many things about the culture through the program I am visiting with, but really being immersed in the culture will be such a cool, and eye-opening, experience. I hope to really make an impact on their lives as well, introducing them to my culture and hopefully dismantling some stereotypes. Whether this is through deep conversations (in partially broken Spanish on my part) or simply through swapping recipes, I am going to learn innumerable lessons both explicitly and implicitly.

Something I really want to be careful of, however, is spending too much time communicating back home. Maintaining relationships and keeping my family in the know is important, but I want to get the absolute best encounter with Sevilla that I can, and I don’t want to be stuck inside telling other people about it until I get back to America! Already I realize that I am going to have to work at this with myself to ensure it doesn’t happen that way, but I think that awareness of the problem is an important first step. I also read through any warnings the government’s website had, but none of them really seemed to warn anything specifically through Sevilla, more just general “be aware,” type of stuff. I did create an account through their warning site, so if anything changes I should be notified via email. Nothing that I found on their website will impact how I travel, because I was going to be very careful in the first place.

When I come back to the states, I want to share my experiences with other people. I want to have that same impact on my return to the US as well. I recognize that I will be a changed person in some ways, and I want to embrace those changes whole-heartedly. Who knows, I might come back and want to do my student teaching semester abroad, or even live overseas. Overall, my goal is to let Sevilla, Spain change me as it will, and then fly with the changes.


One question related to the subject line of this post:

What would happen if BSU required all incoming freshmen to complete at least ONE of the following while here?

1. A semester long internship
2. A semester abroad
3. A significant service learning project
4. A student/faculty research project

Gallup findings six critical ingredients of the college experience that have a profound link to life well-being and engagement at work

May 30, 2014
Higher Education’s Six Sigma

The Gallup-Purdue Index reveals six critical ingredients of the college experience that have a profound link to life well-being and engagement at work

by Brandon Busteed

Higher education has studied pretty much everything except itself.

Strategies such as Six Sigma and total quality management took corporate America by storm in the 1990s, serving as tools and techniques for continuous improvement. They helped companies drive down costs, increase profitability, and improve customer satisfaction.

Yet higher education remained conspicuously absent from the quality movement, even as industries around the world widely adopted these strategies. Now, findings from a Gallup study of college graduates may finally change this, ushering in an era of continuous improvement for higher education — its equivalent of Six Sigma.

A profound link to life well-being and engagement at work

There are many different rankings of higher education institutions, but they have yet to motivate real and continuous improvement. Since 1986, when the Six Sigma movement was launched, higher education tuition has risen dramatically while its quality has come under ever greater scrutiny. Yet over this same time frame, higher education has studied pretty much everything except itself. Few institutions of higher learning can answer the fundamental question: What elements of college drive long-term measures of success?

Findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index — a study of more than 30,000 college graduates — answer this question. We’ve identified six crucial elements of the college experience that have a profound link to long-term success in work engagement and life well-being: three elements that pertain to feeling supported and three that apply to experiential and deep learning. These are all things colleges can measure and manage — and by taking action, they might not only improve the campus experience for their students, but enrich students’ lives after graduation.

College graduates who felt supported during college (professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and they had a mentor) doubled their odds of being engaged at work. They were also three times as likely to be thriving in all areas of well-being as those who didn’t feel supported.

College graduates who engaged in experiential and deep learning (worked on a long-term project, had an internship, and were extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations) during their college experience doubled their odds of being engaged at work. They also were slightly more likely to be thriving in all areas of well-being than were students who did not have these experiences.

It’s stunning and inspiring to know what a profound impact these six relatively simple elements can make. To all those great faculty and staff who care for and mentor students and create deep learning and experiential opportunities, congratulations. Your life work is validated in more ways than you can imagine.

But when we look at the percentage of college graduates who actually experienced these essential ingredients of life well-being and engagement at work, things get rather depressing. Only 14% of all college graduates we studied strongly agreed that they experienced all three support elements, while a mere 6% strongly agreed that they experienced all three experiential and deep learning elements. The percentage of college grads who hit the career and life lotto on all six was just 3%. We must do better.


What students, parents, and educators can do differently

The empowering news is that all of us can do something about every one of these crucial elements:

If you’re a student, you can look for a college or university that provides these experiences for most students. You can gravitate toward faculty and staff who have reputations for caring about students, mentoring them, and making them excited about learning. You can work hard to ensure your college experience includes internships and long-term projects.

If you’re a parent, you can understand how important these elements are to your child’s success and do your best to ensure that he or she experiences them. This plays out in the values you espouse to your children and in how you help them select a college or university.

If you’re a faculty member, coach, or student affairs staff member — or any adult working on a campus, for that matter — you can work harder in myriad ways to show students that you care about them as people. You can mentor students and ask them about their hopes and dreams, and you can create opportunities for long-term projects and real-life work opportunities.

If you’re a college president, you can provide leadership by ensuring that your institution does everything in its power to double down on making these experiences happen for as many students as possible. You can prioritize how you spend precious time and resources to maximize them toward these ends.

And if you’re an employer, you can do your part by offering college students as many paid or unpaid work experiences as possible.

For students, here’s the bottom line: We found that it really doesn’t matter what type of college you go to — whether it’s public or private, large or small, very selective or not selective. The type of institution has little to no bearing on your long-term life well-being and engagement at work. But how you go to college makes all the difference to your future. Finding a college that provides you with support and experiential and deep learning should be your top goal.

Colleges have a long way to go before they can guarantee this kind of experience for all their students. But it is so very possible — and a true effort aimed at continuous improvement will get us there. Welcome to higher education’s era of Six Sigma.

Brandon Busteed is Executive Director, Gallup Education.

China trip June 2014…summary

Monday in Weifang

Today was a very good day. We arrived close to midnight last night. Today, Monday, we met Shuai who works for CIBT. I have worked with him for about five years. He took me to meet with a visiting professor from Beijing who is coming in the fall. Also one of their students who is a transfer student who will come start with us in the fall.

Both are very excited and very nervous at the same time. It was fun to be able to talk about the University and what to expect in the city. I hope that our students and visiting professors get very special treatment from everyone. They are giving up a lot to come be with us and hoping it will help their futures personally and professionally.

Shuai talked with me about continuing to develop a couple of more partnerships for transfer students. He believes we can continue to find and promote transfers. Most are interested in finishing a bachelors degree and then going into graduate programs. The student I talked with today is one of those. She is coming into mass communication and wants to pursue a Masters. With her as one of the group I think we have 12 Chinese students coming in the fall. They are a mix of transfer, exchange, and ambassadors. But we also have five or six visiting professors coming from China. The wheels are beginning to turn. Marsha and Chris meet tomorrow with about 20 students interested in coming to Bemidji. All of them are currently at Weifang University.

We leave early tomorrow morning to fly to Weifang to join them and to visit the new international school. There is a formal unveiling ceremony for the name of the school that will include Chinese education ministry representatives and dignitaries from the city. Our student teachers going over for the fall are set as well as the faculty member who will be with them. That is Judy and she is here with us to visit the school for the first time. That will begin a constant flow of student teachers coming over here from Bemidji every semester. And the cooperating teacher will come over at least once during the semester to help them get set up and visit and observe. As the school continues to grow and expand that will add additional opportunities for more engagement. This will continue to spin and result in more students coming to us from over here. The international school will become a future pipeline of Chinese students coming to Bemidji State. That is how the Canadians are working their international school over here. All of their students plan to go to Canada after they graduate.

David An and Shuai will be talking with me tomorrow as well about a business plan idea they have. They will suggest that we consider hiring someone over here part time to work on our behalf. They will suggest it be a local Chinese person who understands the American educational system and knows about us and all of the programs we offer and etc. That person would constantly be in contact with our partner universities and with agents who work to recruit. They believe that we could hire someone part time and maybe partner with another university to help reduce cost so that we can afford it. With that kind of person on the ground representing us they would greatly enhance the number of students interested in coming to Bemidji. That is what they believe because They have seen it work with other universities all over Southeast Asia.

Finally, he talked with me about a university that would like to have our name on one of their colleges. It would be a Bemidji State University college with degree completion programs that we deliver here. Their students would complete two-three years with them and then transfer into our college here on site. What and how we deliver the degree completion programs there is up to us. He believes that would instantly fill up with students because they could complete a Bemidji State degree without leaving China. Major universities are already doing this all over China but very few are providing it for the second and third year universities like we work with.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Weifang

We flew from Beijing to Weifang early Tuesday morning, getting up at 4 a.m. and arriving in Weifang at 8:30 a.m. David An met us at the airport and we began the never ending day. We were whisked to the hotel to check in and change into business attire. From there, we drove over to the future International School to do a tour of it and the grounds. It is located on a huge school complex in the middle of the Hi-Tech Weifang zone. Beautiful grounds, with a very new and modern facility for K12. There were large basketball and tennis courts outside with green space mixed into the landscape. The buildings were typical on the inside…pretty bare and basic despite the fantastic exterior. However the International School portion will be renovated this summer so that every classroom is a smart room with new desks and furnishings. Instead of about 50 desks in each, there will be 25. It will be a very nice facility.

The kindergarten area of the school was fantastic; extremely colorful and active like you would expect to see. Overall, the location is superb and the facilities are excellent. It will be a great experience for our students to student teach there as they will be part of the larger complex with over 2,000 students total in the K12 complex.

We left the school and were taken for lunch at a local club site with David An and some of the education people that will be working with CIBT on the school development. Then we were driven to Weifang University to meet with President Wang and his cabinet. We talked about collaboration in special education as a possibility and signed the final pages of the joint program agreements for biology, technology management, and computer science. We need to follow up with them on articulating those programs so that students can come to BSU for a year of study. President Wang’s right foot was swollen from infection from a spider bite and he was on strong antibiotics, so would not be able to join us later in the evening for the formal dinner.

Judy and Amna were then taken to the west campus of WFU to present to faculty and students there. Amna presented on BSU and studying abroad. Judy did a lecture on special education in MN.

While they were on the west campus, I stayed behind with David An and Shuai Wang to visit with the WFU ambassadors who were with us last summer. All but one showed up to chat and talk about where they were in their education and what they wanted to do next. We have 5 ambassadors coming in August from WFU again, and they will be meeting with last year’s group before they come over. It was just decided, however, so it will be a rush to get their things in order and get their visas.

Shuai and David talked with me about the possibility of working with Shandong Normal School to set up a transfer program with them. 2+2 and 3+1 were talked about. I agreed that we could explore that this coming year. They also informed me that I was speaking at the unveiling ceremony the next morning for the International School. It would be a major event with NSU and BSU faculty and students attending along with education ministry officials, party officials, CIBT staff, WFU leaders, and parents of students planning to attend the school in the fall. I agreed to draft something when I got back to the room after the upcoming dinner meeting and send it to them for their review. And for translation.

We then left to meet the WFU cabinet members, along with NSU and BSU faculty and students, and CIBT staff for dinner. It was a huge group around a very large table. The VP from WFU was hosting. We had a great time catching up on things with each other. It was an emotional thing for me to see people around the table from NSU mixed with BSU people. We started the Weifang/CIBT connection at NSU and two of the students there were the first students I took over to visit almost 4 years ago. They were in Weifang working for CIBT and were finishing up this summer to go back. The two NSU faculty were colleagues I worked with there and hadn’t seen since leaving. It was a great reunion.

Also, the friends from WFU and CIBT from 4 years ago were there…and they talked about the wonderful friendships and relationships built over that time and how it is impacting them and their students. Luke and Amy were there from BSU along with Chris and Marsha. Amna, Judy, and I with them along with all the others formed a group that felt like an extended family.

We finished dinner about 830 and returned to the hotel. The ambassador WFU students came over to talk with Amna and I until we ‘hit the burnout wall’ about 10 p.m. They left and I went to my room to write the talk for the next day, finishing about midnight. So, my day was a 2:45 a.m. until midnight day…never ending. I face planted in the bed.

We were able to sleep in a bit, leaving the hotel at 8:30 for the ceremony to unveil the International School. The room was packed with people and we spent about an hour milling and talking and snacking, meeting new people and enjoying the company. The ceremony began around 1030 and was very formal. The school’s board members were introduced then the local party leader gave a motivational speech with great enthusiasm. I have no idea what he said. After him was the principal of the existing educational complex for about 10 minutes. I have no idea what he said. But everyone applauded both politely.

I spoke last and Season Wang interpreted for me. I’ll send you what I said as a separate attachment. It was a 10 minute talk, but took about 15…time for interpreting added to it. I did toss in a quote from Confucius for two reasons: it applied to the current educational effort and I wanted to put it out there in front of the party secretary. According to Marsha’s summary of her trip to the mountain where Confucius lived, he was not recognized by the party for a very long time and still is not promoted by them as a major influence on Chinese culture. The talk went well.

The school name was revealed…the Ameri-Can International School.

Meaning…America/Canada. We took lots of pictures, spoke to the press, the TV reporter, and then broke into groups. Shuai presented to parents and community members. The NSU/BSU/CIBT staff were on their own so hung out and snacked. Chris and I joined David and met with the local dignitaries from the school district, which is a huge collection of 12 high schools with as many middle schools and many more elementary schools. We had an hour long discussion about technology and education.

After that, we joined the BSU/NSU/CIBT group and chatted until the meeting with parents and community was over, then all went to lunch downstairs. We had a great time reviewing the morning and the experiences of Chris and Marsha and others. Amna and I were then whisked out with David to the airport for the flight to Hangzhou and two hour car ride to Jinhua. When we get to Jinhua, David says we will have dinner and then be able to go check in and sleep…likely around 10 this evening. That is to come…as I am on the plane to Hangzhou typing this.

Tomorrow we will tour the Polytechnic and sign the automotive technology agreement for NTC/BSU. I will talk with them about sending students to BSU who finish their Bachelor’s degree with us in one of the BAS areas…then reverse transfer to NTC for automotive technology, adding a certificate to their degree. It would make them more employable. We will see what they think.

More later after tomorrow is done.

Talk for Opening Ceremony for Ameri-Can International School

Distinguished guests, as a member of the board of directors for the International School, I am honored to be with you today. I want to recognize and thank our friends and colleagues in Weifang and at CIBT Education Group for their hospitality, their inspiration, and their vision of public/private partnerships that brings us to this historical point in time.

While serving as vice president at Northeastern State University four and a half years ago, we entered into a partnership with CIBT Education Group and Weifang University. Through that partnership, we began student and faculty exchanges and planning for joint academic programs. When I left Northeastern State University for the vice president’s position at Bemidji State University, that relationship with CIBT and Weifang University expanded to include Bemidji State University.

Because of that relationship, students and faculty members from Northeastern State University and Bemidji State University study, research, and work in Weifang. Students and faculty members from Weifang University study, research, and work at Northeastern State University and Bemidji State University. It is a beautiful partnership that has become the core of our internationalization efforts at all three universities.

I invite those students and professors from Northeastern State University and Bemidji State University who are here with us today to stand. I invite any Weifang University or CIBT employees who have visited Northeastern State University or Bemidji State University as a result of our partnerships or who are planning to visit next year to stand. And this is just the beginning.

This fall we will be sending three student teachers to the International School along with their supervising professor. We will continue to send student teachers and professors to Weifang to provide support for the International School while giving those student teachers and professors an outstanding cultural experience living and working alongside our friends in Weifang. We have outstanding universities, and we are committed to helping the International School become a distinctive learning community for the children of Weifang and Shandong Province. As Confucius said many years ago: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. We want the curriculum of the international school to help students develop their creativity and learn by doing.

David and Shuai, thank you for including us in this opportunity to build something of great value to the children and to the community of Weifang.

ameri can dedication
Group picture at dedication of Ameri-Can International School.

international school site
The school site

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Kindergarten classroom

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Hallway in school

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Hallway in school

Wednesday and Thursday Jinhua

Wednesday evening we were met at the airport in Hangzhou by a driver from Jinhua Polytechnic, arriving about an hour later than planned. It would be a two hour drive to Jinhua. All I will say is that I am glad I was not in the front seat, that the car had seat belts, and that I have insurance. Amna and David were even a bit anxious by the two hour ‘drive’ to Jinhua.

We were met at the local hotel by 3 people from Jinhua. One was the full time CIBT staff member here and the other two were deans from the Polytechnic. We had a two hour dinner and conversation about the institution so that we were up to speed on the place and what the priorities are. There are 24,000 students; the university is a top ten technical school in China; they offer 1, 2, and 3 year technical and vocational programs. The Chinese government is now pouring a lot of money into technical programs across the country. Jinhua U just finished spending $10M on equipment for their industrial tech, manufacturing, automotive programs. We will see that tomorrow.

We finally got to bed about 11 p.m. Another 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. day of meetings and travel.

Thursday morning we were met at the hotel at 8 and driven to the university. We toured one of the colleges, the college that wishes to cooperate with us on academic programming. It was HUGE. Equipment included CNC machines, 3D printers, milling machines, welding, computer labs for design, an automotive manufacturing line, automotive maintenance equipment, and a large area dedicated to machining and fabrication. There were a few robots as well. Impressively large space that went on and on and on filled with equipment. However, I would not refer to it as high tech and focused on creation/design, etc. It was pretty oily and old school manufacturing, even where new equipment was placed. And the new equipment seemed sub-standard. The focus was obviously on production, maintenance, and fabrication…getting your hands dirty by building parts and maintaining equipment that ranged from small vehicles to large farm equipment. The impressive part was the size of the facility and the expansive base of vehicles they have students work with. There are over 2,000 students in that college.

We then were taken around campus a bit and then to the admin building. We spoke with several vp’s and deans, talking in general about the university and possibilities. The president then joined us and we spent the next hour+ talking and reviewing the agreement. I pushed the 3+1 with our BAS degrees, stating it would more likely be a 3+2 to complete a BAS with us. They pushed a 2+1+1. I spoke about coming to BSU for 2 years to complete the BAS and possibly participate in an internship along with picking up another credential such as a certificate program in an area within the BAS degree they choose to pursue. They liked all of the ideas, and the agreement is general enough that it will accommodate whatever we decide to do down the road. They just need to begin the 2-3 year approval process to work with us, which it will likely take, and begin exchanges of students and faculty if we can. Even exchanges may not happen until fall of 2016. We are not going to get a sudden influx of students for the technical college.

However, they send about a dozen students to NSU each year now, and NSU does not have a BAS program or technology programs like we do. They believe we are in an incredible position with the BAS degrees and technical programs…since the government is now promoting technical education in china and providing funds. We are very attractive and they believe provide something that very few if any U.S. universities have offered here…acceptance of 45 technical credits and gen eds on a course by course basis, multiple opportunities for credentials…diploma, AS/AAS, certificates. If we tie those together into several pathways for students in China to begin here and finish here or begin here and finish with us, we will get a LOT of interest.

We signed the agreement and I am bringing a copy back with me. It simply begins exchanges and allows us to articulate with them to bring students in Industrial Technology to BSU to complete a BAS degree in one of the BAS areas we designate.

We then did all of the formal follow up including lunch with everyone and their kin, debriefed with the key people who brought us there, and tried to stay cool. It was about 93 with a heat index of 110…needless to say my shirt was acting as a swamp cooler most of the day. We left the campus about 3 p.m. and was taken to the train station to get the train to Shanghai.

Photos of Technology College of Jinhua Polytechnic University

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Huge and crowded…the train station. HUGE and CROWDED…lines everywhere. We stood and sweated in our line for about an hour before boarding. The train was a fast one…150MPH…but would still take about 3 hours to get to Shanghai. I read; David was on his phone; Amna was stuck next to someone with a 3 year old who was always eating, spitting things, moving, getting up, etc etc. I don’t think she had a great train ride to Shanghai.

We arrived at the HUGE airport, train, subway hub west of the city. It took over an hour to get through it and to a cab, then another 45 minutes to the hotel. The city is unlike anything I have seen. Huge doesn’t do it justice…amazing…huge…20 million people. Westernized…but huge huge huge. We got to the hotel about 930 and David wanted to take us to dinner at the Bung, which I guess is a huge tourist area on the river…and it was. We got there via cab, ate, walked around and took some pictures…then it began to rain. We had no umbrellas. All cabs were grabbed by people due to rain…we couldn’t find one. After 30 minutes, we did find a vendor selling umbrellas, so bought a couple. Then decided to try the subway. By now it was 11 p.m. Last call…so we took a subway one stop and had to switch lines…last call…so we RAN from one line to catch the other. Amna ran up stairs to get ahead of David an I who was trapped on a moving staircase…and she came out on the other side of a 5 foot metal fence from us…and needed to be on our side. Hundreds of people running by us to try and make the last subway…and she was stuck on the other side of the fence inside this huge subway terminal. So I said “CLIMB!” And despite the security cameras and people running by, she tossed me her stuff and tried to get a leg over…with help she made it…and we RAN again.

But missed the train.

So now we had to go back outside…3 miles from the hotel and rain pouring. David got on his phone app for getting a cab…after he had to beg someone in a restaurant to let him charge his phone because the battery died…we fought off a woman wanting to sell us roses…and uninsured cabbie wanting to take us for a ride…and David finally got charged up and got in touch with a cab…bribing him with extra cash to take us back to the hotel.

We got back soaking wet and exhausted at midnight.

I have pictures.

Friday is now here and I am going to bed.

Friday in Shanghai

Today we actually started late. After the late night Thursday events, we needed rest. At 10 we left the hotel, bags at the concierge, and went for a late breakfast. Then David took Amna and I into the city. I don’t think I can describe Shanghai. How do you explain a city of over 20 million people with the tallest buildings in Asia and currently constructing the tallest building in the world? How do you describe a sea of humanity in the subway and a river of humanity on the streets?

I took pictures and will attach them, but they won’t do the place justice.

Shanghai…definitely not Beijing; definitely not Weifang. Not Hong Kong either, but similar in some ways down in the business district at least.

But it’s still mainland China, so you have a huge new Renaissance Hotel going up across the street from old world apartments. You have Mercedes on the street dodging bicycles, scooters, and carts. You have an entire section of the city that is the most incredibly advance looking area you’ll ever see and then you take a subway a couple stops down and walk into an old market area for the ‘locals’ that are stocked with things you will never see in the newer districts.

This city dwarfs the Twin Cities. It dwarfs Chicago.

How is something like this sustainable?

We ended our day with dinner and a foot massage. All of the walking around justified that.

It’s now after 11 p.m. and we will be up at 530 to pack out, have a bite, get to the airport and begin the 14 hours in the air, 4.5 hours in waiting, and the 4.5 hour drive from MSP to Bemidji.

It was a good week for BSU.

Shanghai pictures

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Marsha and Chris at Weifang University

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Crossing the street in old town Shanghai



It has been a while since the last entry. Ending the academic year; MnSCU CAO retreat; vacation (yes I finally got a week!); system leadership seminar; AASCU leadership seminar.

Between those times, we have spent about 4 full days as a deans council reviewing the MAP in order to bring it up to date on the past year and to reorder it for next year. We will present the final draft proposed changes to faculty and staff at fall start up.

We also are getting close to wrapping up several facultyy searches that held over from the spring. While we did end up failing 3 searches it appears that the rest will be completed, and we have a great list of outstanding people joining us in the fall. I think at last count there were 15 replacements, temporary, and new full time faculty members that will be joining us.

We also continue to see positive results on the international front We have 3 student teachers going to Weifang in the fall where we are assisting CIBT with launch of a new international school there. Judy Olson will be their supervisor. She goes over next week to check out things in preparation for the fall and to present to the WFU faculty information about collaborating on a special education program with them. She will be joining Marsha Driscoll, Chris Brown, and two of our students who are currently there. Marsha and Chris are recruiting and building relationships. The students are studying and working. We have 7 students going over in the fall to study and work.

We also have several students enrolled in the education abroad course planning to go to China, Switzerland, and Spain in the fall.

Our international student numbers are up over last year point in time by about 30. We have student ambassadors from Weifang coming for a month again in the fall.

We are signing an agreement with Jinhua Polytech and BSU/NTC focusing on automotive technology, but with transfer possibilities for Jinhua students to NTC and BSU.

The appointment of Bob Griggs to NTC as interim dean has resulted in a lot of conversation about closer articulations, joint programming, and collaboration with NTC over the next year. We expect to have a proposed direction to share in the fall for comment and input as we move into this new opportunity to meet the needs of the Bemidji region. As a steward of place, BSU and NTC has a moral obligation to improve the lives of those we serve, and better alignment with NTC will allow us to meeet that obligation much better than in the past.

We are also considering a phased in realignment of BSU colleges, mentioned last year a couple of times by me in campus forums. There are several reasons to consider this;

1. Balancing the college numbers of programs, students, and departments

2. Providing for interdisciplinarity in new ways than in the past

3. Consolidating our efforts to expand programming in allied health areas

4. The need to enhance our efforts in STEM areas

5. The need to focus our liberal education efforts in a way that provides all students a ‘core’ of experience that no other MnSCU university can provide

6. To fulfill the MAP goals of aligning our organizational structure in order to meet MAP priorities

That is a lot…but considering that it has been a few weeks since the last entry, there is still a lot going on out there that I am not entering in this post.

I will try to add more as the summer progresss. We are in for an exciting academic year on 14-15!

MnSCU award: Affordable Education Abroad for Students and Faculty at Bemidji State University

Affordable Education Abroad for Students and Faculty at Bemidji State University

In 2012, Bemidji State University embarked on an internationalization effort which included the following goals:

1. Increase international population to 10% of residential headcount at BSU/NTC over the next 5 years
a. Partner to provide an Intensive English Center for international students coming to BSU/NTC and raise the TOEFL requirement to 520 or IELTS of 6.0.
b. Enter into programmatic agreements (2+2; 3+1, 1-2-1. etc.) with one new international partner each year over the next 3 years
c. Provide non-credit learning experiences at BSU for Chinese students, including summer camps at BSU/NTC
2. Partner to promote opportunities for BSU students to go abroad and make it financially affordable for ALL BSU students to go abroad before the conclusion of their senior year
3. Increase the number of work abroad/international internships available to BSU students
4. Add an international recruiter for fall 2013 and provide faculty coordinators for: Fulbright/Rhodes/etc. opportunities and development of an international credential for students
5. Increase the number of visiting scholars to 4 per year and eliminate the costs to BSU
6. Create an interdisciplinary International Studies emphasis/certificate program
7. Organize an International Council while clearly defining the role of the International Studies Council and recreating that council
8. Engage faculty and staff in international opportunities

All goals except the 10% of residential headcount are met, and we believe that the internationalization efforts underway since setting those goals will allow BSU to reach the 10% international enrollment target within 5 years.

For this application, we will briefly describe how we created affordable education abroad opportunities for BSU students and faculty. Affordable education abroad for students means that a semester abroad is available for $1,000 or less above the cost of staying at BSU for that same semester with no lost time towards degree completion. For faculty, it means spending at least one month at a partner university site at no cost to them.

The move to provide affordable semester abroad opportunities for students is one of 3 priorities in BSU’s Master Academic Plan. It also fits BSU’s signature themes found in BSU’s Strategic Plan. While internationalization of the campus is the overriding goal, providing affordable semester abroad opportunities is the cornerstone and starting place for the internationalization effort.

While we have several international locations/partnerships for students to spend an affordable semester abroad, we will use Weifang University, China as a detailed example of how the model works. Weifang University is a superb partner, and serves as our own internal replicable model for education abroad.

Affordable Education Abroad for Students: The Model

For a semester abroad at Weifang University:

1. Students meet with the Weifang University site coordinator to plan a semester abroad as a sophomore, junior or senior. The site coordinator is a BSU faculty member who arranges the semester abroad for all students going to Weifang and accompanies them for the first week of their stay, then leaves. Students have on-site mentors at Weifang U.

2. Students register for and complete a 1 credit preparation course for going abroad. The course is an International Studies general education course. Tuition from the course is captured to cover site coordinator’s travel costs.

3. Students register for at least 12 BSU credits for the semester abroad so that they are full-time BSU students while at Weifang University.

a. Six credits are for the following BSU courses, taken at Weifang University as face courses. Both are taught in English:

i. Introductory Chinese
ii. Chinese History and Culture

b. Students register for at least six additional credits of online courses from BSU to complete while at Weifang University. Most choose general education or major/minor courses.

4. Students stay in Weifang University faculty apartments, two to a two-bedroom apartment. Apartments are furnished. The apartment costs are $180 per month each plus utilities (approx. $30/month each additional).

5. Food is very inexpensive; approximately $3 per meal if taken at the on campus cafeteria.

6. We have students on semester abroad at Weifang University; students working at Weifang University; and BSU faculty going to Weifang University for a month in June. We also have former visiting professors from Weifang University who are now back at Weifang and meeting with our students and faculty regularly.

How this is Affordable

1. Tuition for 12 BSU credits: Same cost as staying at BSU; nothing additional to pay.
2. 1 credit preparatory course cost: $250
3. Passport and visa cost: $305 or less if student has a passport
4. Travel: $1,700 round trip airfare
5. Housing and meals: $3,300 for a semester at BSU; $1,500 for a semester at Weifang U = $1,800 savings
6. Insurance and discount card $125 (from International Program Center)
7. Net costs for the semester: $580

Work and/or Study Abroad

BSU students may work part-time at Weifang University while on semester abroad. This further reduces their costs. CIBT (an educational provider/partner) provides 15 students with part-time work opportunities while on site. See attachment A. We are working to expand this to other sites.
Students may also take a semester or year off to work abroad full-time in Weifang while taking 1-2 BSU online courses, or may work abroad for a semester or year after graduation. See attachment B.

Faculty Abroad

Two BSU faculty members spend the month of June each year in Weifang. They present seminars on education in the U.S. and within their professional field of study. They co-research with Weifang University professors. They also meet with students in groups and individually to recruit them to BSU via the exchange we have with Weifang University or via the 2+2 or 3+1 route we also have available. All of the faculty member travel expenses are covered and they receive a $1,000 stipend for the month to cover incidentals. See attachment C.
BSU funds 3 professors from BSU each summer to participate in CIEE summer abroad seminars. Professors may choose from any CIEE seminar they wish.

Summary and the Future

Weifang University is used as the example of how affordable semester abroad opportunities have been created for BSU students and faculty. The model was built so that student concerns about going abroad are addressed (see attachment D). The model is replicable, and a list of our other partners offering an affordable abroad for students and faculty are listed in attachment E. We also list partner sites that are reasonable in cost, but do not meet our definition of affordable for all students. We have been recognized by a NAFSA publication for the model created for affordable semester abroad: