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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Top 6 Reasons to Study in Cuba

1. Education is a Priority Here…As Evidenced by its Excellent Universities

Cuba’s 60 public universities have grown in repute over the past several decades thanks to a strong commitment to education shared by the government and its people. Five of its universities earned places in QS University’s 2016 ranking of the top universities in Latin America, which considers factors including academic reputation; employer reputation; faculty/student ratio; citations per paper; international research network; proportion of staff with PhDs; and web impact when determining standings.

And while Cuba’s universities offer a breadth and depth of subjects to choose from, its programs in medicine are particularly celebrated.

2. It Has a Top-Notch Health System

Given Cuba’s exceptional reputation when it comes to educating doctors, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s also known for a top-notch health care system.

Just how extraordinary is health care in Cuba? Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in 2014 as reported by the Huffington Post, “Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation.”

Whether you’re looking for an innovative medical education or simply hoping to benefit from the country’s widespread access to medical services, you’ll find both — and much more — in Cuba.

3. Its Politics and History and History are Fascinating

Sure, Cuba has gorgeous white sand beaches, breathtaking architecture, and picturesque towns and villages, but so do many other Caribbean destinations. What separates Cuba from the rest? Its remarkable history, for starters.

While Cuba is small, it plays host to nine UNESCO world heritage sites with three others on the tentative list. These historically, naturally, agriculturally, and architecturally significant spots comprise everything from fortresses to coffee plantation remains — all packed into Cuba’s tiny 44,200 miles.

And, of course, no discussion of Cuba is complete without acknowledging its long-standing commitment to Communism despite tremendous external pressure, and the crossroads at which it now stands.

4. You Will Improve Your Spanish Skills

If you’re looking to learn Spanish or improve your Spanish skills, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in Cuba.  However, keep in mind that just as there’s a difference between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America, there’s also a difference in the Spanish spoken in Caribbean-influenced Cuba. That said, many language experts agree that if you can speak and understand Cuban Spanish, you’re in excellent shape as it’s widely regarded to be one of the more challenging accents.

Don’t speak Spanish? While it’s always good to learn a few basic phrases in any country where you’re traveling, the Cuban people are enthusiastic, hospitable and very patient.

5. There’s Nothing Like Cuban Music

Cuban music has been influenced by many different cultures and styles with origins in both Europe and Africa. The result?  Not only is the island’s music scene unique and vibrant, but it’s also inextricably interwoven into everyday life. Wherever and whenever you go, you can expect to hear amazing live music.

Already a fan of the Buena Vista Social Club? That’s just the start of what’s waiting to be discovered in Cuba. From Cha-cha-cha and Conga to Timba and Trova, there’s no end to the heart-stirring, toe-tapping tunes you’ll hear while visiting Cuba.

6. You’ll Beat the Crowds

Because Cuba was inaccessible for so long, it retained its culture in a particularly unique way. But with travel to Cuba easier than ever and relations on the upswing, more people are adding Cuba to their must-do destinations, meaning it may experience a decline in authenticity and charm as it becomes a mecca for tourists. If you’re hoping for a taste of pure, unadulterated Cuba, the time to go is now.

The College Student’s Guide to Voting

Voting in Your State of Residence?

Just because you’re voting in your state of residence doesn’t mean you can automatically expect to walk into your local polling place, grab a ballot, flip a few levers, and call it a day.

For starters, most states don’t even allow walk-in registration. Not only that, but registration deadlines vary from state to state. For example, voters in Alaska must be registered by October 9th regardless of whether they’re doing so online, via mail or in person, while voters in Vermont have nearly a full month longer to register. Furthermore, how you plan to register is also a factor with some state deadlines for registration methods varying by as much as a month.

Looking for information on your specific state? Lucky for you, the New York Times has assembled a comprehensive guide of state-by-state deadlines, which also includes handy information about supporting materials you’ll need to register. (Usually, a driver’s license or other state-issued form of identification will suffice.)

Additionally, the U.S. government’s website Vote.gov is a terrific starting point for determining how to register in your state, while Vote.org is also a useful portal for streamlining the registration process.

Not sure if you’re registered? Check here to find out.

Voting Outside Your State of Residence?

If you’re planning on being out of your state of residence on voting day, you can utilize Absentee Voting (also known as “mail-in voting” and “by-mail voting”) to cast your ballot.

Depending on the requirements of your state, you can register to receive an absentee ballot to fill out and return. Some even allow early voting and in-person absentee voting. While 21 states require that voters provide an excuse before being permitted to vote by absentee ballot, others — including Washington, D.C. — offer no-excuse absentee voting. (You can check out which category your state falls into here.)

In addition to students who are out of state, other valid excuses for being absent from polling sites on Election Day may include illness, physical disability, religious constraints, public service or membership in the military, age, and even vacation.

Again, the rules regarding absentee voting and early voting depend on the state. Taking time to educate yourself aboutAbsentee Voting and Voting by Mail and Early Voting and In-Person Absentee Voting can help ensure your ability to make good on your constitutional right.

Voting from Overseas?

Overseas U.S. citizens and members of the military stationed overseas are also eligible to vote absentee. However, unlike stateside voters who being the process with their state or territorial election offices, overseas votes must use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to both request to vote and to receive their absentee ballot electronically. The best part? All it takes is filling out a single form to get started.

And while acting early can help you avoid last minute panic, if you do find yourself in the position of missing your state’s deadline for returning your absentee ballot, the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) may also be used as a backup. (However, you must have at least submitted an FPCA or registered to absentee vote by an alternate method in order to have your FWAB counted.)

Wondering what to use as your voting residence if you’re living outside the country? It’s surprisingly straightforward:  Whether or not you still own property in the state and even if you have no plans to return, your voting residence remains the U.S. address where you last resided prior to leaving. (Military members, meanwhile, should use the state listed on their Leave and Earnings Statement — even if it’s not their home of record.)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, you’re not alone. The Federal Voting Assistance Program website offersstep-by-step guidance for overseas citizens, as well as a repository of links comprising all voting information in one central place.

6 Tips for Improving Your Writing in Graduate School

1. Convey Your Expertise
Graduate students are training to be experts in their field. This expertise should be exemplified by your writing. Your language should be direct, confident and authoritative in order to foster a sense of trust with your readers.

Other ways to assemble a cogent argument? Avoid first person tense whenever possible; employ transition words and phrases; and pay attention to sentence structure. Two true hallmarks of graduate level writing? Clarity and control.

2. Make Writing Routine
We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” This is no more true than when it comes to graduate level writing. Making time to write regularly will not only help you develop critical thinking and writing skills, but can also be an invaluable confidence booster.

Establishing a writing routine is particularly beneficial when it comes to working on your thesis. Many graduate students wait too long to start writing and end up rushing through the process. This can lead to everything from an underdeveloped argument to lack of proper formatting. Avoid this pitfall by setting a schedule for writing as you go…and by committing to stick with it.

3. Know Your Reader
Any piece of writing should keep one overarching question in mind: Who is the audience and why are they reading your writing? In addition to clearly presenting your ideas, keep in mind that your thesis is an original contribution to your particular discipline. Make sure your reader knows what to expect by including “signposts” — such as a table of contents, abstract, introductory paragraphs, etc. — along the way to help guide your reader. Each sentence should relate in some way to your overall argument.

4. Seek Feedback
While graduate level writing is largely an individual effort, there’s plenty of help to be found if you know where to look. For starters, your advisor can be an amazing resource when it comes to “big picture” issues, such as selecting a topic and refining your thesis. In addition to helping identify your paper’s strengths, your advisor can also help suss out your weaknesses thereby preventing you from venturing too far in the wrong direction.

Your fellow grad students, meanwhile, can offer editing and proofreading assistance. And while finding someone in your field can be particularly useful — especially if you’re writing about a complex or scientific subject — friends and family members can also offer a helpful second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes.

5. Embrace the Revision Process
No piece of writing gets it perfect the first time. In fact, research and writing go hand in hand with revision, but many writers still get tripped up by setting impossible expectations for themselves. The best way to avoid this trap? Make revision part of your mindset.

Also, keep in mind that revision is much more than merely proofreading for mistakes. Rather, it’s an act of complete “re-seeing.” While this often involves expanding on key concepts, it sometimes means letting go of good material if it doesn’t make an essential contribution to your writing. We can all learn from William Faulkner, who once spoke of the need to, “Kill all your darlings.”

6. Learn from the Best
One of the best ways to get a better sense of what your writing should look like? Immersing yourself in published work from experts in your field. Visit your school library to read top journals in your discipline, noting writers and writing techniques you most admire. Reading dissertations in your particular area can also help you familiarize yourself with the corpus of research while gaining a better sense of the language used to describe varying concepts.

You’ve already proved your mettle by getting into graduate school, but that’s just the start. These six tips can help you take your writing to the next level. The best part? Writing is a transferrable skill. In other words, you can continue to call on these skills to be a better writer, thinker and communicator throughout your professional and personal life.

Four Steps to Becoming a Diplomat

1. It depends on your homeland
The track to diplomatic careers differs depending on where you call home, but in most countries, foreign service officers, or their equivalent, are subject to similar requirements. Many countries require FSOs to be citizens of the country they will be representing. In the US, FSOs must be between the ages of 20 and 59 to qualify for service. But in general, countries are looking for FSOs with diverse skills, qualifications, and personal aptitude because each position is unique and presents its own challenges. Diplomats work on projects related to everything from sporting events to disease outbreaks, education initiatives, and peacekeeping. There is no one skill-set needed for diplomacy, but a willingness to listen and understand situations is a must.

2. Some degrees give you an upper hand
In the US, diplomats hold a variety of education levels ranging from high school diplomas to PhDs, and in the US, the UK, and other countries the first step to qualifying for a diplomatic career is passing a general aptitude test. These exams normally assess a candidate’s overall knowledge, so it’s important that prospective FSOs brush up on things likemathematics, reading comprehension, and logic. But a solid foundation from a degree in history, politics, law, or human rights will be a plus. Most foreign service offices also recommend that applicants be well-read and informed on current events, government, and international politics – essentially, if you’re serious about a diplomatic career, you should be reading a lot of newspapers.

3. Brush up your language skills
In the US, foreign language proficiency is not required for a diplomatic position because all successful applicants receive language training before their first post. However, fluency in a second or third language, as well as international experiences, will help your application stand out. Languages like Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu are in high demand, but it’s more important to have strong written and spoken communication skills in your own language. After candidates have passed the entrance exam, most foreign service offices subject applicants to rigorous interviews and assessments aimed at identifying individual strengths and suitability.

4. Prepare for challenges…and competition
Foreign service is a challenging career. FSOs are always moving, which means that staying in touch with loved ones can be tricky, and for officers with families, the position can be taxing. But that doesn’t mean that foreign service is an unpopular career, and most foreign service offices have a large pool of new FSOs waiting for deployment as well as an established rank of officers, all of whom are competing for the choice assignments around the world. Placements are often given out based on rank, and new recruits should expect their first assignments to be in areas or regions that are more challenging than others. Successful FSOs learn to make the best out of tricky situations, know when to ask for favors, and work hard to succeed.