- Get started on the paperwork ASAP: arranging student visas, acceptance letters from the university, booking your flights, applying for accommodation. It is never too early to start. Engage the international office here, as they have experience as well as connection with the school that you are going to. This one applies to choosing the courses that you might be interested in. In some schools, only first 25 students can register for the course and as you know first come, first serve.
- Choose the courses that are in line with your study programme, so that you obtain the necessary study points at your home university. Of course you want to take classes that you are interested in, but bear in mind that exchange semester is also about studying and earning your credits, so that you are not behind in your study progress once you back.
- Get a buddy. Most universities have a buddy programmes consisting of other students who volunteer to show exchange students around. It is always best to get in touch with yours before you travel, and they might even be able to pick you up from the airport, train or bus station. That was the case for me when back in 2006, on one cold February Sunday evening I arrived to Groningen and my buddy was there to meet me, take me to the student dorm and next day showed me around and brought me to the city council to apply for a residence permit. Besides, you will then know at least one person at your new destination who is familiar with how things are around there.
- Join an international student network. Those people would most likely be the first friends you will make at the new place as they are in the same boat as you: do not know anything, are there to have fun and know when is the next party. Besides, as international students, like you, do not know anyone, they are more talkative and it is easier to start up a conversation with them. By no means am I saying that getting in touch with the locals is not the right thing to do, but an international student club can get you started very quickly. Plus, you can be homesick together (I doubt that would happen often, but at the beginning being overwhelmed, it might be the case).
- Do not think that it will be awesome from the very beginning. As things would be new and unknown once you just arrive, you might feel disappointed or that you miss the way things were back home or things you are used to. I felt that way, the evening when I arrived to Groningen, the Netherlands, and missed my beautiful German dormitory straight away. What will get you through in this case is realization that this is temporary and once you settle in, get to know some people and start classes, you will like it. And believe me, you will.
- Make the best out of your exchange semester. Here I am talking about sightseeing, visiting places, attending parties (assuming you are a responsible drinker) and meeting as many new people as possible. However, remember that this should not harm your study progress as exchange semester does have studying involved. In Groningen, I did attend a lot of parties and did fun things with friends. I even met my husband that very same cold rainy February evening, but it never got on the way of me passing the subjects that I had to study to have them recognized at my university in Germany.
- Learn and practice the local language if you have not done so already. It is always fun and also appreciated by locals if you can say at least a few things in the local language. Plus, if you like the language and you are good at it, it can always give you advantage on the job market later on. Besides, practicing the language with the native speakers is a very valuable and rare opportunity, so use it. Did I mention the benefit of understanding what people around you are talking about, especially if you are the topic of their conversation?
May 31, 2011
May 27, 2011
2008 to 2010 were dark times for many financial institutions and governments. Banks, insurance companies, government’s agencies and homeowners lost trillions of dollars, and to what?! …Personal gains...
How? And perhaps more importantly, why? -We’ll have to start at the beginning.
Everyone is familiar with our universal lending system; you borrow money from a bank, Credit Card Company or any other cash/credit provider and you pay ‘m back with interest within a certain period, easy…a fool’s game.
With mortgages it takes years and years and years (sometimes the borrowers life-span) to pay back the money, so obviously banks were careful.
In order to lower their risk, the banks cameup with a rather genius idea (which was indirectly made possible by the former Bush administration back in 2001).
The lender (mostly banks) sold the house mortgages from homeowners to investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns) for a fixed price, meaning; the monthly payment for the house now goes to the investment bank since the lender sold it for a few hundred thousand dollars (eliminating their risk of not getting paid by the customer). Note: These mortgages were sold by the dozens so these were million- or even billion-dollar loan sales.
The investment banks then combined the home mortgages, car loans, student loans, commercial mortgages, corporate buy-out debts and credit card debts they bought to a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) and sold these to investors all over the world.
The chain did not end here but what happened from thereon is irrelevant for now.
So, lenders found a way to sell loans to investment banks, investment banks combined these loans into CDOs and sold these to investors worldwide. Kinda looks like this:
Now the real problems began when lenders realized that they could give away endless loans because they would sell these to investment banks anyway! So the bubble started when people received loans for homes, cars or college fee’s while they weren’t able to pay them back, ever!! And this happened on a massive scale.
These loans were called ‘subprime loans’ and were literally farmed by lending institutes, which made them billions in profit of which the CEOs received millions in bonuses.
Now imagine; thousands and thousands of subprime ‘bad’ loans, formed into CDOs, which appear to be worth billions of dollars but will become worthless in time because the homeowners weren’t able to pay their debt in the first place.
You realise that this bubble was a ticking time bomb
So far, the winners in this story (multi-billion profiteers) are of course the lenders and the investment banks. But the story does not end here…Oh hell no it doesn’t, shit has yet to hit the fan.
May 17, 2011
Are you feeling stressed at all? It's the end of the school year for us at the HES - exam period for you - lots of admin for us teachers, keeping everyone's grades fair - transparent - explainable... It's hard on all of us - although I'm sure for the students it feels much harder right now. And if it doesn't - well... they probably aren't reading this blog then! :)
I promised to be quick - or as they say - 'quick and dirty' - so here's the dirt:
Do you notice how people with cancer sometimes find the time to do the things they never allowed themselves to do because they were 'too busy'? Sometimes we healthy people also need to re-prioritize our lives. Every day it's important to realize that we are lucky to be alive, and to balance the 'needs' vs. the 'wants'. This goes for exam period too. Very often students tell me they spend hours and hours in the library (sorry - mediatheek) and yet, can't concentrate. That's because our left brains need a rest every 90 minutes. Study - REST - and when I say rest - i mean do something FUN. Also, the prize doing something FUN will help motivate you to finish the work/study you 'have' to do.
So, for example, this morning I got up and blah - sink full of dishes - so I did them, but motivated myself with a prize - doing ZUMBA after the dishes. And just now, I scheduled in a half hour of Dutch homework (ja, ja, Ik moet ook mij huiswerk maken!), and surprisingly I spent 50 minutes on it - but then as a prize, I got to have fun writing my blog - and also - had a chat with a very good friend of mine for 10 minutes. (Two fun things - I know - i'm really going overboard - by the way, this is my 'day off' from school...).
Um, sorry that it wasn't short but it really only took me 10 minutes to write and now I will get back to my work - reading and answering school mail!
May 13, 2011
May 11, 2011
As the end of the year is drawing near I really wonder how I managed to do some things. Like working two jobs while going to school and still have time for outside of school activities which I have been doing for the past month. And although I am dying of stress from time to time.
But I think I found a balance that works for me and I have friends that cheer me up when I am down. And now even my classmates could cheer me up by explaining something I don’t get, or work hard on projects we do together.
I think it works well for me, so I wonder why other people chose not to have a job and then complain about not having money or chose to meet friends instead of doing homework. Because I noticed that real friends understand that you have to work hard from time to time and you don’t have time to see them. They just let you do your thing and then when you do see them again, you have a lot of fun catching up.
As I read in this book about managing yourself, we tend to do things that make us happy on a short term and therefore we avoid doing things that we should do, even if it’s stupid things like doing the dishes or in our case homework. And I notice I still do sometimes just out of habit, while I know it’s wrong. What really works for me is knowing where I want to be in the future and how some things , like going to school and working and taking some courses on the side. I do give myself a day off, once in a while.
And I’m not saying I’m perfect, because I’m not at all. Every person is different and I’m just sharing what works for me. Although I really could use a holiday right now;).
May 2, 2011
(let’s just hope it doesn't get worse).