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Admitted Chinese Graduate Students Get Answers via Sina Weibo

Their questions were typical of incoming graduate students: What are the best housing options on- and off-campus? Are tuition payment plans available? How successful have graduates been in pursuing careers in New York and Washington D.C.? And of course, are graduate students able to get tickets to Duke basketball games?

What made the group of admitted graduate students posing the questions different is that they were using Weibo, a popular Chinese social media channel, to connect with current graduate students and Duke staff in real time to learn more about graduate school and campus life at Duke.

The session Tuesday morning was hosted by the Graduate School’s Admissions Office, in collaboration with Duke’s International House and Public Affairs and Government Relations team, the Career Center and the Duke Chinese Student and Scholars Association.

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CLG workshop at IHouse - Employment/Immigration Visa Issues

F, H, I, J, L, O are not just letters of the English alphabet but also the different types of non-immigrant visas issued by the United States (US). As a student, scholar, researcher you may have a lot of questions about how to maintain your current legal status and what options are available in the future regarding employment, change of status and possibly, permanent residency. In this week’s CLG Workshop hosted by Dr. Li-Chen Chin, IHouse, Lisa T. Felix of Klasko Immigration and Nationality Law covered all these and more.

Visa and Status
Non-immigrant ‘visas’ are issued for a specific – purpose, employer / institution, period of time and are required to enter the country. When the visa holder enters the country, she acquires ‘Status’ (I-94) which determines the period of stay and permissible activities during that time.

H-1B Visa
Students (F-1) and scholars (J-1) who are offered employment may change to H-1B visa. For this, the job has to qualify as ‘specialty occupation’ and the employer has to make the application. But this visa is subject to a CAP / quota and the general trend for the last several years shows that the quota is gone by April itself. Don’t lose heart though – universities, non-profits affiliated to universities, non-profit research organizations and government research organizations are exempt from this quota.

Alternatives to H-1B
If you are not able to make it in the H-1 race, you still have certain alternatives like:
L-1 – Intra-company transfer for executives, managers, ‘special knowledge’
E – For nationals from treaty countries
TN – For citizens of Canada and Mexico (NAFTA)
I – Journalists
O – Artists with distinction, Scientists with extraordinary ability
E-3 – For Australians only
Dependent on spouse visa

Permanent Residence
Till now we have been looking at non-immigrant visas that provide permission to stay and study / work in the US for a limited period of time. Form I-551, more popularly known as the ‘Green Card’ provides authorization to live and work indefinitely in the US. This is an immigrant visa, which is subject to quotas. Applications can be made on the basis of: family, investment, asylum, employment, DV lottery. Allocation is based on preference categories. Employment based preference categories are:

First preference (EB-1): Extraordinary ability, Outstanding researcher, Multinational Executive
Second preference (EB-2): Advanced degree professionals, Equivalent – Bachelors + 5 years experience,
 exceptional ability.
Third preference (EB-3): Skilled worker, Bachelor’s degree (2+ years experience)
Fifth preference (EB-5): $500,000 - $1 million investment in the US

While applying for permanent residency it is important to weigh different options like, employer-sponsored or self-sponsored, labor certification or extraordinary / NIW and consider filing under multiple, different categories.

The presentation familiarized us with the A-Z of visas and immigration. It was a packed house and Lisa deftly answered the volley of questions from the participants. If you require more information, go here.
 

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IHouse 50th Anniversary - World Music Night

I hesitated at the threshold wondering, ‘Is this the right place?’ Then a group of smiling faces greeted me and I was welcomed into the Duke International House family. That was four years ago, at the IHouse Intl Spouse / Partner Orientation. As I was reminiscing thus, SangHee’s voice brought me to the present with a ‘Hello everyone, Good evening!’ It was World Music Night, part of the 50th anniversary celebration of IHouse, where we were treated to eight wonderful performances and (you guessed it!) a quiz.

‘To me, music is like breathing’ – Huda Asfour, (postdoc, Biomedical Engineering department) got the show started with an Arabic song accompanied by the rich notes of the Oud (Arabic instrument) that she played. Next performance was her own composition that conveyed the feeling of ‘being unsettled’. You can listen to more of her songs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘To me, music is a means of expressing my thoughts and emotions’ – Bryan Somaiah, (undergraduate, Trinity College) got the attention of the audience with his sweet voice, simple lyrics and soft notes of the acoustic guitar.
‘Music is energy for life’ – Duke Dhoom (dance team of undergrads and grads) took to the dance floor with a spring in their step. Their performance was so energetic and lively that we had to grip our seats to stop ourselves from getting up and dancing.

World Music Quiz – Lisa Giragosian (IHouse) tested the audience on their knowledge (in my case, ignorance) of world music by playing songs from different countries. Needless to say, the closest I got was identifying the continent from which the music came. So, no prizes for me.

‘To me, music is happiness’ – Pratiksha Sharma (Undergraduate ’18) sang a Nepalese song about unrequited love, in her soothing voice.

IHouse Divas – Annette Moore, Li-Chen Chin held the audience spellbound with their mellifluous rendering of ‘The Round of Leprechauns’ and ‘Tap Dancer’ on the flute and clarinet.

‘To me, music is the Food for Soul’ – Rimli Sengupta (spouse of Duke postdoc), in keeping with the season, harmonized a melody about the onset of spring, followed by an emotional English song ‘Leaving on a jet plane’. Her voice touched us gently like a breath of fresh air.

‘Music is happiness and passion’ - Devil’s Reject (undergraduates) had the audience clapping to their A Capella singing of popular songs like ‘Are you coming to the tree’ and ‘I’m Yours’.

Racemates – Duke Indie Rock and Progressive Folk band played some great music for us. Check out their facebook page for more info. Special thanks are due to them for managing the sound system, the entire evening.

Thank you IHouse, for the musical jamboree and for reminding us that: ‘Music is the universal language of mankind’ – H W Longfellow.

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Speaking Up for Yourself - IHouse CLG workshop

“What does it mean?” asked one of the participants at the CLG Workshop on Speaking Up for Yourself hosted by Seun Bello Olamosu, IHouse where Dr. Gary Glass and Brandon Knettel, Intern, from CAPS made a presentation about communication strategies.

When somebody ‘steps on your toes’ do you just grin and bear it?

Why do you hesitate to speak up?
Cultural Differences and Gender Influences
In American culture, the concept of “self” is valued. People like to talk about their accomplishments, express their emotions and they may not hesitate to challenge authority or just ask for what they need. But other cultures may place more value on humility, being less expressive and respect for authority. Further, lack of clarity about gender roles can make it more complicated.

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Sometimes, people may treat you differently because of your racial or ethnic background. Is it “discrimination” based on bias or because they respect differences and want to put you at ease.

Language
If speaking up is difficult, writing could be more so because there are so many things to think of like grammar, spelling mistakes and striking the right balance between sounding passive and assertive.

How can you overcome your inhibitions and speak up?
Understanding Conflict
Conflict can be “A Tool used to improve Relationships”. There is a saying in my country – “Fire can be used to light a lamp or burn down the house”. This is true of conflict too. If it is not used the right way, it can end up hurting everybody.

Confidence
“The enjoyment of what you KNOW to be TRUE about YOU”. And, using that knowledge about you, to manage different situations at work and home.

How Do You Speak Up for Yourself – Effectively / Respectfully?
1.    Assess whether to assert yourself: Evaluate the situation - Is this the right time? What would be the consequences of speaking up or not speaking up?
2.    Identify what you want to assert: Figure out what is wrong with the situation and what is to be done to change it.
3.    Confidence Cycle: Rehearse, Implement, Evaluate, Correct or Adjust as Needed.

Communicate Your Needs
Express your needs using “I” statements like, “I would like it if you” rather than blaming the other person like, “You never do”.

Conflict is a Tool
Use conflict effectively to understand the other person and to help them understand you better.

Coming back to the question asked at the beginning of the workshop, I realized that Dr. Glass had not only answered it but in the process, he had given us a practice lesson in speaking up for ourselves.
 

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Flag of the Week - Zambia

The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, neighboring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest.

Originally inhabited by Khoisan peoples, the region was colonized during the Bantu expansion of the thirteenth century. After visits by European explorers in the eighteenth century, Zambia became the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.

On 24 October 1964, Zambia became independent of the United Kingdom and then-prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the inaugural president. Kaunda's socialist United National Independence Party (UNIP) maintained power from 1964 until 1991. From 1972 to 1991 Zambia was a single-party state with the UNIP as the sole legal political party under the motto 'One Zambia, One Nation'. Kaunda was succeeded by Frederick Chiluba of the social-democratic Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in 1991, beginning a period of social-economic growth and government decentralisation. Levy Mwanawasa, Chiluba's chosen successor, presided over Zambia from January 2002 until his death in August 2008, and is credited with campaigns to reduce corruption and increase the standard of living. After Mwanawasa's death, Rupiah Banda presided as Acting President before being elected President in 2008. Holding office for only three years, Banda stepped down after his defeat in the 2011 elections by Patriotic Front party leader Michael Chilufya Sata. Michael Sata died on October 28, 2014, the second Zambian president to die in office. Guy Scott was the interim president, until new elections that were held on 20 January 2015 elected Edgar Lungu as the 6th President.

In 2010, the World Bank named Zambia one of the world's fastest economically reformed countries. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is headquartered in Lusaka.

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Flag of the Week - Argentina

Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the Southern Cone with its smaller neighbor Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south.

With a mainland area of 1,073,500 square miles, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

A historical and current middle power and a prominent Latin American and Southern Cone regional power, Argentina is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies and Latin America's third-largest. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, WBG, WTO, Mercosur, UNASUR, CELAC and OEI. Because of its stability, market size and increasing share of the high-tech sector, Argentina is classed by investors as a middle emerging economy with a "very high" rating on the Human Development Index.

The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on—while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook—Argentina enjoyed an historically almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th century it already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.​

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Flag of the Week - Thailand

Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam is a country at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

Thailand is a monarchy headed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX and governed by a military junta that took power in May 2014. The king is the ninth of the House of Chakri, and has reigned since 1946 as the world's longest-serving current head of state and the country's longest-reigning monarch. The King of Thailand's titles include Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Adherent of Buddhism, and Upholder of religions. Although a constitutional system was established in 1932, the monarchy and military have continued to intervene periodically in politics.

With a total area of approximately 198,000 sq mi, Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country. It is the 20th-most-populous country in the world, with around 66 million people. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is Thailand's political, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub. About 75–95% of the population is ethnically Tai, which includes four major regional groups: central Thai, northeastern Thai, northern Thai, and southern Thai. Thai Chinese, those of significant Chinese heritage, are 14% of the population, while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry comprise up to 40% of the population. Thai Malays represent 3% of the population, with the remainder consisting of Mons, Khmers and various "hill tribes". The country's official language is Thai and the primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of the population.

Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1996, becoming a newly industrialized country and a major exporter. Manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy. Among the ten ASEAN countries, Thailand ranks second in quality of life. The country's HDI had been rated as "high". Its large population and growing economic influence have made it a middle power in the region and around the world.

 

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American Common Courtesy - CLG workshop at IHouse

When I am introduced to someone in the US, often I do not know what to do – Say Namaste with my hands pressed together in the traditional Indian way or Say Hi with a tentative wave of my hand or just go forward and shake hands with them. SangHee Jeong at IHouse hosted a workshop on American Common Courtesy, and Duke student Ashley Gibbs, with some help from Ilana Weisman, shared with us the appropriate manners and levels of courtesy in the US.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. When someone greets you, ”Hi, how are you?” , just say “Good” (don’t start explaining about your stiff back, unless it is your doctor).  When you are introduced to someone, you could give a firm handshake or a hug (I like the sideways hug demonstrated by Ashley and Ilana), depending on the setting and how well you know the person. If you are in a group, remember to introduce them too.

Around Americans, you better watch your mouth – yawning, chewing with your mouth wide open, coughing / sneezing without covering your mouth, talking loudly on the phone, are all considered rude.  When you are talking to someone, respect their personal space and maintain a few feet distance and also, maintain eye contact. During a conversation, do not ask people their weight or salary and definitely don’t ask a woman her age. It is considered impolite if you don’t hold the door when there is someone a few feet behind you.

While punctuality is important, do not show up early to a party. Men do not wear hats indoors but women can wear church hats or fashionable hats. Cutting in line, laughing loudly and staring at strangers are considered inappropriate. While walking, if someone wants to walk past you, please make way for them. With Professors / superiors, play it safe by using Professor / Doctor / Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. / Sir / Ma’am. If they want to be on first name basis, they will tell you.

People in the South like to be friendly. So while passing strangers, if they smile, be polite and return their smile. Do not interrupt them while speaking and when you want something to be done, ask questions (ending with ‘please’) rather than giving orders. But in the North, life is more fast-paced. People do not commonly smile or make eye contact with strangers. They tend to speak fast and do not mind being interrupted.

One thing common to all Americans is they prefer to be direct. So if they offer you something and you want it, then go for it. If you are trying to be polite and say no, you may not get another chance. Now, about eating out, if someone says, “Let’s get a meal together”, it means you are going to split the bill. But if someone says, “I’ll treat you to lunch”, it means they will pay for you too.

As the Berenstain Bears say “Please and Thank you can make your day; they are as nice to hear as they are to say”.

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Black Popular Music - CLG workshop at IHouse

February is Black History Month. It was created to understand the history of African-Americans from the time they were displaced from their homeland, the hardships they faced and their ongoing struggle to make this land their home. Their resilience and rebellion found expression in the form of music. In celebration of Black History Month, IHouse offered a workshop last Thursday about “Black Popular Music from Spirituals to Hip-Hop”, hosted by Lisa Giragosian, with a presentation by Alec Greenwald, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

The origins of Black music can be traced from the historical context. When people were brought as slaves, they lost their identity and tried to keep their culture alive through music. Their musical traditions began as a form of communication - call and response and their artistic creativity came to the fore when they made musical instruments like the banjos and drums from gourds and hollow tree trunks/ animal skin. The theme of early Black music was mostly coded messages seeking freedom from slavery, conveyed through simple lyrics (“Follow the Drinking Gourd”).

Alec took us on a historical journey through various genres that evolved under the secular traditions of Black music – from the melancholy notes of the blues to the vibrant and energetic beats of hip-hop.

  • Game Song / Play Song: Created by children, involving distinctive imagery and complex dance steps
  • Work Song / Field Call: Lifted spirits, offered encouragement, coordinated the movements of workers
  • Rural Blues: Three phrases performed in simple harmonic foundation, expressing feelings of sadness
  • Boogie Woogie: Evolved in barrelhouses, railroad camps inspired by rhythmic clacking of steam locomotives
  • Urban Blues (Electric Blues): Amplified form of Rural blues that evolved in urban areas
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll: Filled with teenage sense of rebellion, independence, and an aggressive beat
  • Soul: Gospel influenced music with passionate vocalizing, powerful rhythms and honest lyrics appealing to the younger generation
  • Disco: Dance music (soul, Latin-soul, funk) played by mobile DJs in discotheques; recordings exceeded the standard three minute length to keep the dancers moving
  • Funk: Instrumental, vocal dance music based on jazz, blues, R&B, soul; the rhythm helped them dance
  • R&B: Dance music incorporating various styles like jazz, blues; encompassing all types of popular Black music other than hip-hop
  • Hip-hop: Original poetry based on range of experiences and world views sung in rhythm and rhyme; four essential elements are – DJ, rapper, dancer and graffiti artist

Just reading or talking about music may not be that interesting. But Alec kept it lively by playing some music (on the laptop), humming tunes and dancing a few steps. In order to fully appreciate and enjoy Black music, it is important to understand their history and culture. As Lisa nicely summed up, the presentation was not only about music but a combination of history, geography, anthropology, sociology, culture, dance etc.
 

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