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University Planning


Facts on Obtaining Academic Credit

The best option is to start at the university, government agency, school, or business which you anticipate accepting your foreign course work for credit. Hundreds of academic institutions routinely accept course work done at various schools for credit or equivalency clock hours. Check with your director of international programs, study abroad advisor, department chair, employee relations supervisor, academic dean, or registrar. If you're working with a state agency, see the director of license renewal, crediting department, or in service coordinator. A relationship may already be set up between your school, business, or agency and the foreign school.

If a relationship is not pre-established, you may find that coursework/credit transfer can be accomplished provided you bring back a complete portfolio of your foreign course materials (copies of homework assignments, course exercises, quizzes, tests, foreign instructor progress reviews/evaluations, etc.) - or take an equivalency test upon your return. Your institution may have provisions for guided reading courses, independent study, or work experience courses which award credit even if the program is taken overseas. Plan ahead and do some research into possible alternatives.

If you're coordinating an international credit transfer, get a written policy statement before you travel abroad. lt is imperative that there be no misunderstanding as to your academic and credit objectives. Most institutions will not accept credit transfer unless defined and agreed upon in advance.

In the United States, if your university or employer does not accept credit transfer from a foreign school, it may accept credit transfer from another US university. Some North American universities may have a credit transfer agreement with the foreign institution you plan to attend. This entails registering with that university in the US while (actually) studying abroad. This type of credit transfer can be costly, because you pay tuition both abroad and at the US university issuing the credits.

An additional option is to get a transcript or certificate of attendance from the foreign school. Be aware, credit issued does not imply credit accepted. Translated this means that earning the credit does not mean that it will be accepted by an institution in your country. Each country has its own unique system of educating and measuring levels of education.

Foreign schools will NOT be familiar with your credit transfer requirements, so it is your responsibility to advise the administration when you arrive at the foreign center as to what you will need and when (i.e. course syllabi, official course description). Make sure you have all the necessary documentation before leaving the foreign center so things won't get "lost in the mail." Be prepared to pay an administrative service fee for your transcript and possible photocopies of papers, tests, etc.

The key to a successful credit transfer is research and planning ahead.

Methodology: How to Study a Foreign Language

The word "communication" suggests that people talk to each other in pairs or in small or large groups. The word also suggests that questions are asked and answered; there is an initiation and a response. In other words, people communicating with each other take an active and passive role in conversation.

A foreign language teacher assumes a counseling role by initiating activity, listening, helping, and advising. Students are encouraged to communicate effectively in addition to producing grammatically correct forms of the language.

If you're attending a program to learn a foreign language, you should begin to set some language (accomplishment) goals for yourself.

You should want to increase your communicative repertoire in social areas, for example, asking for and giving permission and directions, making excuses, and the like. You'll want to build your language skills for extended discourse, e.g., for reporting, narrating, describing, explaining, etc.

You should practice connecting, speaking, and writing, and develop an awareness of different levels of formality. You'll want to practice study skills such as listening, note taking, reading, and writing, as well.

You should be trained to listen to and read the real spoken and written foreign language and to be enlightened on educational, social, and personal developmental levels.

When natives use their own language, they unconsciously follow certain patterns of syntax and pronunciation. Learning a foreign language consists of developing the habits of using the patterns of that language unconsciously. You should not concern yourself with apparent differences both in sound and syntax which you will encounter between your native language and the foreign language.

Each language is a system which has little or no relationship with the system that you are familiar with. In this respect, the foreign school should not translate from the foreign language into your native language when explaining, but should try to make you understand in the foreign language. It is very important that the foreign language you are making every attempt to learn, be used at all times. Don't fall into the trap of communicating in your native language.

BEFORE CLASS review the new material that will be covered that day. This should help you identify the characteristics of the structural patterns which you will be using in class.

IN CLASS listen to your teachers carefully, trying to imitate them as accurately as possible.

AT HOME prepare your homework, review the material covered in class, and repeat BEFORE CLASS, each day.

IF NECESSARY, seek out additional help from teachers and fellow students before class or during breaks. If there's a schedule for special help, get on it. If there is a major problem, you might want to consider getting a few hours of one-on-one assistance (although that will be subject to scheduling and additional cost).

As a stranger in a foreign land, there are ways and means of picking up on the foreign language all around you. Local radio stations will provide you with local music and an opportunity to listen to native speakers. Newspapers, magazines, and comic books will also provide you with a means of picking up bits and pieces of the foreign language. Magazines and comic books add a visual accompaniment, providing pictures and symbols. Television is also a great way to learn the language, especially commercials, again because it is both a visual and audio experience. Signs and printed ads, in magazines, on TV, splashed on brightly colored billboards and bus signs will also assist you in picking up some of the common everyday terms and phrases.

Many of the items above are available in more limited form in your own country and can be effectively used to help tune your ear and mind in preparation for your foreign experience. Check out your local library or newsstand. Inquire about volunteer opportunities where you may have contact with foreign nationals. The more you learn before you go, the faster you will learn abroad!

Attending a Foreign University

Some students who study abroad take classes at foreign universities with other students from those countries. If this is what you are doing, congratulations! It is a difficult experience but well worth it.

Youíll need to keep a few things in mind when entering into a foreign school or university.

1. It is likely that the professors will assume that you have similar language abilities as those of your native-speaking peers. While this may not be the case, do not let this situation hold you back! Participate in class and give it a try and your professor will notice you and the effort you are making. The more you participate, the more you will take from the class, and youíd be surprised just how comfortable youíll be at the end of the semester.

2. Do not expect to receive the same grades that you do in your American University. Give your self a break! Taking classes in a language that is not your own is challenging and exhausting. Do your best, but donít beat yourself up if you do not do as well as you typically do in the US.

3. Keep your expectations to a minimum. Colleges and Universities in the US are not good representations of the standards for higher education in the rest of the world. While you are accustomed to order, organization and all the amenities where you go to school, try not to go abroad expecting to find a similar situation. Many universities, even in Western Europe, are not extremely organized and may not even have a course catalog or a syllabus for your class let alone a computer lab. Donít fear! It is not wrong that these schools arenít what you are used to, they are just different. The level of education that you will get at a foreign university will equal or surpass that of an American school, so stay motivated and sooner or later everything will fall into place.

4. Attend ALL of your classes. European university students are notorious for skipping class and many professors do not care to take attendance. All that is expected of the students, in some cases, is to show up for and pass the final or midterm exams. This behavior may be tempting, but is not advised. You already have a handicap not being born speaking the foreign language of instruction. Half of the battle is going to class and taking adequate notes. Of course you donít expect to spend your entire time abroad in a classroom or at the library, but working hard and doing well in your classes is extremely rewarding and will prevent later pangs of guilt.

5. Never stop trying to improve your command of the language of instruction. Take advantage of the rich university environment and attend extra lectures or participate in extracurricular activities at your school. It is a great way to meet people, but also another great way to expose yourself to more of the language.