Contributed by SangHee Jeong, Program Coordinator at International House
Jun 108:42 am
Hello everyone! How is your summer going? I am sure it is going well, but here is an idea to make it even more flavorful! IHouse Summer Social with Music in the Gardens Concert Series kicked off last Wednesday, June 5. It was a perfect evening for an outdoor concert – the weather was very pleasant, and the rain was courteous enough not to come down in Durham in that evening so we could enjoy the concert happy and dry.
If you have never been to local outdoor concerts here in Durham, you should come with us. You will see how relaxing, summary and friendly atmosphere it has. People come in couples, families, and groups; sometimes alone – I saw a guy sitting in a lawn chair and reading from his Kindle while listening to the soothing live music. When a fast-beat, cheerful country music is played, you will see moms and dads with babies and toddlers stand up and dance with their kids. It is such a harmonious environment, and you will feel that you are having a quintessential experience of the local American culture.
Last Wednesday’s concert featured Jkutchma & The Five Fiths. They played country rock, featuring the pedal steel guitar, harmonica and guitars. I am always fascinated by the unique sound of the pedal steel guitar in country music. Do you know what that instrument is? It is a guitar placed horizontally in front of the player who plucks the strings and uses pedals to control the pitch. Even if you don’t know what it is, you must have heard of its sound. If you are interested, see this YouTube video clip featuring a pedal steel guitar playing “Desperado”. Its melancholy sound has special “country” characteristic!
The lead singer said he came to North Carolina when he got an offer to teach at an art school in Durham, and now he cannot imagine living anywhere else! I hear many international students say they will miss Durham so much when they go back home. So, why don’t you make the most of it while you are here? The Summer Social will meet every Wednesday evening in June, and the next one will be on June 12. The concert starts at 7pm and the seating begins at 6:30pm, so we will meet in front of the Duke Garden Visitor Center at 6:30pm. Come through the Garden’s main entrance on Anderson Street, and you will find me on your right, sitting at the fountain with the IHouse sign. Hope to see you there. Seize the day!
Contributed by from the Chronicle of Higher Education
Jun 710:46 am
American students who interact more with their classmates from abroad don't just gain greater cultural awareness but also develop skills that benefit them after graduation, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University.
The study, which is described in an article published in the Journal of International Students, draws on data from comprehensive alumni surveys of some 5,675 former students from the 1985, 1995, and 2000 graduating classes of four highly selective private research universities. The surveys were administered in 2005, approximately five, 10, and 20 years after those classes graduated. (The institutions are part of a pre-existing research consortium and agreed to share survey data.)
The researchers—David Jamieson-Drake, director of institutional research at Duke, and Jiali Luo, an assistant director of institutional research at the university—found that students who had substantial engagement with peers from abroad reported significantly higher levels of skills development in a variety of areas.
As every good thing has an end, this spring semester’s Connect. Learn. Grow Series had its final event last Thursday (03/21) at the International House. It was not like a regular workshop this time but was a rather interactive Mocktail Party!! We were able to apply and practice what we’ve learned throughout the semester about small talk, communication etiquette, traveling in NC, and constructing relationships. Do you know what was even better? We had native English speaker mentors to talk with us, comment, and answer questions! There were many topics that were discussed in the Mocktail Party such as travel, different countries, hobbies etc. as everyone enjoyed their hors d’oeuvres.
Getting to know different people that you wouldn’t normally be able to talk to was a very nice experience. For example, I loved talking to one of the community volunteers who said that she is friends with a very famous Turkish director from college. It feels good when people already know and like other people from your country ☺ I also met with a couple of sophomores and juniors that are starting a project to navigate international students by pairing them up with native mentors. If you’re interested, I suggest you to contact IHouse.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the International House directors, guest presenters of the workshops, our native volunteers, and all of our guests for attending these events and making them better every time! I enjoyed writing these blog posts very much, and I hope you were well informed and liked them as well!
By Elizabeth Redden, Published in Inside Higher Ed
In interviews with 40 international students at four research universities, Chris R. Glass was struck by the relative absence of Americans from his subjects' stories. The interviewees, half undergraduate and half graduate students, described close relationships with their international peers, including those coming from countries other than their own. But while they frequently characterized their American classmates as friendly or helpful, only rarely did they seem to play a significant role in their lives.
"Only one student has described a significant relationship with a U.S. peer and that student was from Western Europe and that peer was her boyfriend," said Glass, an assistant professor of educational foundations and leadership at Old Dominion University. "That to me is a striking omission from the stories that they're telling."
As one audience member at the AIEA conference said, unless faculty members are on board, all the student services programs in the world won't be enough: "Students really look to their professors to give them direction and advice and deepen their conversations, so if faculty were taught to embrace these conversations about 'difference' and 'other' and 'cross-cultural competencies' and international challenges in engineering, then those conversations would take on meaning for the students," she said. Participants in the session described the value of professional development programs such as Duke University's Intercultural Skills Development Program for faculty and staff.
“A process by which information is shared between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior” is communication! This week, International House continued its Connect.Grow.Learn workshop series with another important topic: Communication Etiquette. At first, I thought this workshop would be similar to the very successful one on “Small Talk”, but it turned out to be very different and useful!
Our presenter was Nadine Verna, Assistant Director, Counseling and Programs at Duke Career Center. Her portfolio concentrates on art, entertainment and international careers, and she believes that communicating with other people at every occasion is a fundamental skill for everyone.
The workshop didn’t have any emphasis on English language skills, but rather the skill of communicating with others; sending the messages you want to send correctly and understanding the messages of the people who are trying to communicate with you. Communication takes place a lot more than we realize and plays an important role in both formal and informal settings. Communication in the United States is not as black and white as it appears. For example, your boss could invite you to his house to have dinner as a “group building activity” and although the dinner is an informal setting, it could be to your disadvantage if you are unable to connect or engage in small talk with others.
The workshop had four main objectives; Learning ways to communicate effectively in an American context, understanding varying modes of delivery that can be used to achieve communication goals, examine native communication styles that may differ from American styles, and learning strategies to facilitate uncomfortable communication situations.
So what is there to learn about American communication styles? According to Nadine, one of the most crucial point to be understood is that Americans like and use clear, explicit communications. Americans are often direct and to the point, and prefer to have things “spelled out”. “What do you want?” and “What is the purpose of this conversation?” are examples of things that might be crucial in a formal conversation. There is an emphasis on the individual. Personal achievement is important, and position in society is determined by one's own achievements. While logic and communication skills are important, Americans also enjoy debating and stating a specific position on issues. There is a strong tendency to separate their business and personal lives. One last thing I would like to add is that they value written contractual agreements. While addressing the characteristics mentioned, Nadine asked us to keep our own communication styles in mind as internationals and compare them with the American style.
What are some of the other means of communication that are important? Emails, cover letters, interviews, networking, group projects, and social events. Believe it or not, how you behave and how you communicate affects how well and accurate the receiver decodes your message. Lines of communication are always open at the onset, and your job is to keep them that way during the communication.
We learned about three modes of communication; verbal, non-verbal, and written. We also touched on three modes of delivery; aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive. Shouting/raised voice, ALL CAPS (in a written message), pointing (in face) is considered aggressive. Weak handshake, low voice, no caps are considered passive. While rolling eyes, blocking ears, and sarcasm is considered passive-aggressive.
We had a fun exercise identifying modes of delivery by looking at pictures and deciding which mode each picture depicted.
And my favorite part was the specific tips, strategies, and tricks suggested; •Build relationships •Share your intentions •Be specific •Stick to the facts •Minimize emotions •Limit complaints •Don’t make assumptions •Make observations •Ask clarifying questions •Repeat messages back •Focus on the goal/problem •Give a complement •Tell a story
The last thing we did was to use these strategies in our communication in small groups while discussing with each other.
Note: If you will be around during Spring Break, I-House is organizing a trip to Lemur Center! I am sure it will be an interesting one and I recommend you considering it. Have a great break!
This week’s workshop was the one I’ve been waiting for since the first day I received the list of Connect. Learn.Grow (CLG) Series! As a freshman, “Traveling in North Carolina” was a topic I was really interested and had no idea how to plan one. Lisa Giragosian, Associate Director of International House, presented amazing ideas for us and gave useful resources as well as brochures and materials about relatively close places to go with even a limited budget. I was absolutely encouraged to pack my backpack and visit all of these places as soon as my exhausting weeks are over. Before starting to talk about the workshop, how did our presenter Ms. Giragosian become interested in travelling in North Carolina? Firstly, she loves to drive! She started day trips from Raleigh Durham and since then watches weekly Television Program North Carolina Weekend on WUNC TV.
Why is traveling in North Carolina a good idea? Well, I believe that students and scholars should learn and discover the state they are spending their years in, and this is not possible while staying only on campus the whole time. For example, did you know that Pepsi Cola was invented in New Bern, NC? NC is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, and the first protest against segregation took place in Greensboro. These are great facts that you would learn while travelling across North Carolina. Other incentives for traveling in NC include that North Carolina is less expensive than New York City or Washington D.C., and it is a beautiful, diverse state with its three distinct regions: Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. I personally love eating, and Durham is the America’s #1 Foodiest SmallTown! There are lots of good eating places across the state as well.
As most of us were wondering about it, I sadly have to say that the easiest and the cheapest way to travel is driving a car. I assume many of the international students might not have a car here. So, renting a car with others, asking someone who owns a car and offering them gas and lunch, advertising over list serves, or using WeCar could be options for them. Although there are not many options for tours around, Taste Carolina offers gourmet food tours (www.tastecarolina.net). There are amazing brewery tours, winery tours, and North Carolinian barbeque tasting events.
If you have a limited budget, you may want to consider local trips, day trips, travelling with group of people, cheap hotels through discount websites and travelling off-season. Also, don’t forget to include national and state parks, walking around and watching people in your options. They are always free! You can check www.visitnc.com where you can find helpful information about transportation and places to go.
Some Day-trip Suggestions: Day Trip to Raleigh via Amtrak Train (A train ticket costs $6.50 one-way and can be purchased online http://tickets.amtrak.com): In Raleigh, there are Contemporary Art Museum in ($5 per person), NC Museum of History (Free entry), City Market & Moore Square, NC State Capital and Raleigh City Museum (Free entry). For lunch, Lisa recommends Tuscan Blu or Beasley’s Chicken & Honey.
Day Trip to Greensboro via Amtrak Train! (A train ticket costs $10 one-way) In Greensboro, there are Greensboro Cultural Center at Festival Park, Greensboro Children’s Museum ($8 adults & children over 1), Greensboro Historical Museum (free entry), and International Civil Rights Museum ($10 adults and $8 students with I.D., My friends strongly recommended this museum!). The Summit Station Eatery and shopping in South & North Elm Streets and surrounding other areas are recommended.
Day Trip to Charlotte via Amtrak Train (A train ticket costs $26 one way): Betchler Museum of Modern Art ($8 adult, $6 students with I.D.), Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Discovery Place Science Museum ($12 adults, $10 children). For lunch, Holycon, Community Café within Science Museum, Betchler Museum Café or Merts are recommended. You can also plan a weekend trip to Asheville by car. It takes about 4.5 hours to get there, and it can be too exhausting to go and come back within a day. You can go to the Asheville Urban Trail, Botanical Gardens at Asheville, Historic Trolley Tour, North Carolina Arboretum and walk around downtown Boone!
These are some ideas for you if you are planning a trip in North Carolina. If you would like to have more information or more suggestions please feel free to contact me (email@example.com) or Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would be glad to help you! I hope you have a safe trip! ☺
Last weekend, a friend of mine from college, N, visited me here at Durham. He’s American and we got to know each other while he was studying abroad in Hong Kong, which was about 3 years ago. The fall semester before that I studied in Syracuse University in the US as an exchange student and I enjoyed it a lot, so I was very much in the mood of making friends with foreign students studying abroad in Hong Kong. I felt good serving the role as a Chinese from Mainland China studying in Hong Kong and had some living experience in the West, as to better introduce Chinese culture and discuss differences between China and America.
After that, N visited Hong Kong again for a short trip a year later, right before we were about to graduate but still not sure what’s happening afterwards. I was deciding which graduate school to go to, though I was pretty sure I would do a graduate degree in Statistics either in the US or in the UK. N went to business school in college and he had decided to work in a consulting firm after graduation. We had a great time together in Hong Kong, visiting old places we had been together and trying to explore new stuff. At that time, we were both eager to say goodbye to college life and excited about new challenges and adventures that were about to come.
And this time, one year and half after college, after experiences of so different life tracks, we met up again. It was great to meet up with someone you knew from the past, like part of you was woken up by meeting an old friend. We gave each other lots of updates, as it was hard for me to imagine the life of a consultant and the life of a graduate student for him. We talked about the challenges, the concerns, the hopes and the plans. I was glad that both of us were in an affirmative mood about life no matter what. We talked about old friends back in Hong Kong, how they are doing. As before, his interests in China brought us fun discussions of the development in China. These interests brought him back to China several times, and he probably had visited more places (more interesting places) in China than I had. I had to admit that my excitement about the US has gradually died down because of busy work in graduate school, and as I got more used to the life at Duke as a graduate student, few things happening are new to me. However I guess I was still sensitive, but as few of my friends here care much about cultural differences, I rarely had the chance to talk about these. Talking to N revived me and I started to realize more fun stuff around me.
But there was one thing that is definitely a change about me. N and I were similar in college years, loved traveling and making friends. He’s still like that. Though I am still a relatively happier and more cheerful person comparing to my peers in graduate school, my energy of trying to see more of the world has been diminishing. I was surprised to learn that despite of super busy work schedule, N tries hard to go to new places almost every weekend. He seems to always be on the go. I was a little jealous about his energetic mind and attitude, and if there is something that I would like to change my current life style about, opening up my mind to embrace new things, new people and new places is the one.
One of the first things associated with an “international” is the visa! In order for us to legally stay in United States, we should be knowledgeable about the complicated topic of U.S. visas. This week the International House Connect.Learn.Grow. (CLG) Series hosted “Immigration Options for Students and Scholars.” The workshop was very professional and informative.
The presenter was Bill Stock, founding partner of Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Seltzer, LLP. He has been providing immigration assistance and solutions to leading universities, research institutions, hospitals, multinational corporations, and individuals for over 18 years. Since this was a very fact based presentation, I will share the main points about U.S. visas with you in this blog post.
Bill Stock began by talking about H-1B visa and what it means for the prospective employers. Finding a job after college can be a stressful situation for everyone. However, international students have the added stress of maintaining their visa. Employers who choose to sponsor employees requiring an H-1b visa must pay fees, post notices about the position, and maintain documentation. Basic requirements for this type of visa include: job offer (either part-time or full-time) in a specialty occupation (requires U.S. equivalency of a bachelors or higher degree in a specific field), prevailing wage, and the combination of education and experience. The employer must file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor, file the H-1B petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and change the status in the U.S. or by consular visa issuance outside the U.S. The processing time is generally 3 to 6 months unless the premium processing fee is paid. In that case, the USCIS could adjudicate the H-1B petition in 15 days or less.
The H-1B visa can be held for a maximum of 6 years with the possibility of recapturing any time spent outside the U.S. Certain companies are subject to the H-1B cap. Each year 65,000 H-1B visas are available, plus an additional 20,000 for U.S. advanced degree holders. April 1 is the filing date and October 1 is the start date of the visa for companies subject to the H-1B cap.
What are some ways to enhance chances of getting a H-1B visa? Obtaining masters degree, filing multiple years, filing on the first day, using previously-obtained degree, combination of education and experience, and starting your own business are some the strategies that Stock shared with us.
Stock also discussed other visa options. F-1 visa is for students, while J-1 visa is for trainees, scholars, and researchers. Additional visa options are available for citizens of Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile and Singapore (TN-1, E-3, H-1B1). Spouses of J, E, and L visas are permitted to work.
Lastly, Stock discussed permanent residency. How can an international become a permanent resident in United States? The status could be obtained in a variety of ways. While spouses of U.S. citizen receive Employment Authorization Document and Advanced Parole within 3 months with no quota wait, all other familial relationships have long quota waits and no interim benefits. Another option is to invest $500,000 or $1,000,000. Cases of individualized fear of persecution (Race, religion, nationality, political opinion, social group, sexual persuasion) may be able to obtain permanent residency status as well. Finally, lottery is an option for some country citizens to be U.S. permanent residents.
Some other topics and questions asked by the audience during the workshop included Labor Certification Application (PERM) for employment based permanent resident status and self sponsored visas. If you would like to have more information and download the PowerPoint used in the workshop you can go to www.klaskolaw.com.!
Next Thursday, we will be talking about traveling in North Carolina. If you are you interested in learning about how to get around to interesting and historical places in North Carolina with or without a car come to IHouse Thursday Feb 28, 5:00-6:30 pm!