Scholarships Abroad Abound

The truth about continuing one’s education is that it is expensive – particularly here in the United States. As tuition skyrockets and the economy continues to lag, competition for good jobs increases and pushes the expectations for education to ever higher standards. You will hear a recent college graduate argue with his or her parents about the future. The youth will say that they cannot get a job without a higher degree and the parent will defer to experience and assert that a college degree is enough to find serious pay.  For some industries, this argument is entirely moot, for market has already decided for both parties that a BA will earn significantly less than an advanced or professional degree and confine one to the lower few rungs of the ladder. The question, thus, becomes – are you ready for the debt?

Debt? Is there another option available? Here’s an idea from left field (just one of many viable left-field ideas) – how about a foreign government scholarship? Hm? Wouldn’t you like an MA, MS, MPP, PhD, LLM, or MBA that’s fully paid for? How about a stipend? And a plane ticket? Free housing! No debt! No catch! Sound like a scam? If this were a television commercial with an 800 number it would be but, thankfully, it’s not.

There are plenty of foreign governments that provide a range scholarships (including full-boat ones!) to Americans.  A former colleague of mine had lunch with Ambassador Hamid from Brunei last year. Ambassador Hamid indicated that Brunei’s government gives away about 5 scholarships per year for Americans who want to obtain a master’s degree, covering multiple different fields. PhD options and BA options are also available. He also indicated that in the application cycle for the year of 2010, the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam did not receive even one single application.

While some countries that offer government scholarships to Americans, like Germany, tend to have significantly more competitive applicant pools, Ambassador Hamid’s comments prove that there are valuable, enriching opportunities waiting to be seized. It’s just a matter of whether or not you are willing to seek them out and take hold of them.

Below, I have made a list of some of the government scholarship programs I have heard of through my exposure to various diplomatic missions here in Washington. I’m sure that this list is in no way comprehensive. There are bound to be more. If there is a particular country to which you are interested in going that is not listed below, I highly advise that you contact their Embassy and ask to speak with the officer who covers education (you can find some contact info here or just do a Google search). There will be someone at the mission who is charged with the duty of explaining to curious Americans whether or not such opportunities exist in their country. Sometimes, finding this kind of information takes a bit of digging. However, if you are willing, it could very well pay off in the end – especially if you’re finding information that others have not found.

Perhaps you’re skeptical. Perhaps, you think that most people already know about these opportunities. The fact is that even at the University of Chicago the Career Advice and Planning Services advisers and the individual faculty advisers (even those who focus on international studies, scholarships, and study abroad programs) are not entirely aware of these opportunities. When I was there, not one individual even suggested that they might exist. Fortunately, they do. Here are just a few of them:

Austria: The Oesterreichischer Austauschdienst (OEAD) offers research grants and scholarships for studying various fields in Austrian Universities.

Brunei: Most likely, you will need to contact the Embassy directly for information about the scholarship and an application form for the current cycle.

China, People’s Republic of: Information about Chinese government scholarships are available through the China Scholarship Council’s website.

China (Taiwan), Republic of: Taiwan also has its own set of scholarships that cover both degree programs (BA, MA, PhD) and language enhancement programs. You can read about them here.

Germany: Offering many programs through the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (or DAAD), German government scholarships can even sponsor you to study in other European countries in addition to Germany (depending on the degree program and field of study). Read all about it on the DAAD website.

Indonesia: While I’m unaware of Indonesian government scholarships, there is a great organization called USINDO that offers some grants and fellowships for study in Indonesia. These vary from year to year.

Japan: There are an array of scholarships for study in Japan. These can be extremely competitive. The most comprehensive scholarship program the Japanese government offers is the Monbukagakusho Scholarship (offered by the Ministry of Education). You can read about the Japanese government study programs on the Study in Japan website.

Korea, Republic of: South Korea offers a great scholarship program for Americans to study in Korea. BA, MA, PhD, and professional degree programs are available. The scholarship also covers a year of language study. You can read about the Korean Government Scholarship Program on the National Institute for International Education website.

Switzerland:  The Swiss government offers scholarships for foreign students to attend universities, arts, and music schools. Check out their website here.

There are some websites that try to post these types of opportunities. One such website that I find to be fairly informative and relatively easily navigable is Scholarships Online. They also tweet as they go @ScholarshipsDB.

Many scholarships are also offered by Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Singapore, and so forth. For the sake of space I have not listed them all here. While some are general and can be applied to multiple disciplines, many are also specific to certain fields of study – such as computer science, engineering, biotechnology, robotics, etc. As in some of the examples above, some countries also offer grants for language acquisition, like Italy.

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오늘 배운 四字成語

오늘 친구하고 얘기하는 동안에 사자성어 두 개 배웠습니다.  몇 주 전에 알게 된 語言無味(어언무미)라는 말을 좋아한다고 친구한테 그랬는데 친구는 사자성어 놀이를 심심풀이로 하는 게 재미있다고 하면서 無味乾燥(무미건조)라고 대답했어요.  無味乾燥는 사람이 재미나 취미나 없고 메마름이라고 뜻해요. 사자성어 놀이 덕분에는 심심풀이도 하고 수준이 높은 새로운 표현을 배울 수 있으니까 一擧兩得(일거양득)이지요. 일거이득이란 한 가지의 일로 두 가지의 이익을 보는 것입니다.

그래서 오늘 사자성어 두 개 배웠습니다. 無味乾燥와 一擧兩得입니다. 미래에는 열심히 공부해서 사자성어를 잘 알게 되면 언어학적인 놀이들이 진짜 재미있으니까 사자성어 놀이 꼭 해 봐야겠습니다.

The Magic That Is G.L.O.S.S.

For those of us who do not have the luxury of taking foreign language classes on a regular basis, the internet can provide a wealth of opportunities to continue foreign language study. Yet, it doesn’t take long before one exhausts Google searches, YouTube and the blogosphere in an attempt to find something truly challenging and slightly more like curriculum/coursework. This is particularly true for people who are studying less commonly taught languages.

BUT – have no fear, there’s a solution: G.L.O.S.S. (Global Language Online Support System). G.L.O.S.S. is run by the Defense Language Institute (DLI), which is an educational organ in the U.S. Department of Defense that provides foreign language training for federal employees. While G.L.O.S.S. is geared towards this same group of individuals, it is not at all exclusively for government workers.

In fact, if you’re learning Albanian, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Croatian, Dari, Egyptian-Arabic, French, Greek, Gulf-Arabic, Hausa, Hindi, Indonesian, Iraqi-Arabic, Japanese, Korean (South), Korean (North), Kurdish-Sorani, Kurmanji, Levantine-Arabic, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, or Uzbek, then you can click on this link and start using it to study right now.

The best part about G.L.O.S.S. is that it works on multiple aspects of language acquisition on subjects ranging from security to the environment and culture. It also uses the DLI language proficiency rating system (1, 1+, 2, 2+, etc.), which will help you understand how different your level varies based on each subject about which you’re learning.

G.L.O.S.S. is a great, free resource and it’s also very interactive. If you have the time to dedicate to studying but no way to enroll in a class, this is a great way to do it.

Chinese from Another Perspective

When someone learns a foreign language they are learning it from the perspective of their native language.  Let’s take the example of Mandarin Chinese. If I want to learn Mandarin, I will do one of a few things. I will seek out a class near where I live, buy a book from a local bookstore or an internet carrier, or perhaps make use of the daunting diversity of free online language learning opportunities, ranging from blogs to Livemocha. All of these resources (supposedly) suit me best, because they are designed for English speakers to begin tackling Mandarin.

When I have free time and don’t feel like venturing into the city, I usually pass my time looking through these online resources and finding new venues to learn languages. One day, I was doing my best to find something suitable for Mandarin. I wanted something that would explain to me, in a little more depth, the basics of Mandarin. When I say basics, I don’t mean “hello” and “goodbye”. I wanted an explanation of sentence structure, the relationship between verbs and nouns, how grammar is employed, etc. A long story short, I failed. I found endless amounts of nǐhǎo‘s and wǒ jiào‘s but nothing of more substance. I decided to change my tactic.

Instead of typing in “learning Chinese”, I typed in “중국어 배우기” and “중국어 강좌”. The Korean language search for Chinese language learning materials opened my access, literally, to an entirely new niche online. I had found a whole new market that thrived on an entirely different set of expectations for the didactic materials and learners.

As an English speaker, the assumption made by the “teacher” (or what have you) is that you know absolutely nothing. Therefore, the “basics of Chinese” are excessively infantile. Korean speakers, however, share a large percentage of their vocabulary with Chinese (just as Western European languages do with Latin). Koreans also have usually studied some Chinese characters in their schooling. This background means that the Chinese “teacher” can explain the basics of Chinese at a more complex level. Some of the explanations, also, have to be different given the grammatical differences between Korean and Chinese.

Long story short, I found this awesome video called 기초 중국어 (basic Chinese) on myong7351’s YouTube channel. In the video, he describes the way that the Chinese view individual characters – phonemes – and how they proceed to construct words and grammar from these basic concepts. He uses some characters as an example and separates them into “definition” and “connotation” (한국어로 의미와 뜻으로 설명합니다). He indicates that while an individual character may have multiple connotations, it only has one definition. Trying to learn the multiple connotations of each character is, in a sense, equivalent to multiplying the number of characters that one has to learn. Where as, if one just learns the definition,  one can intuit most of the connotations one will encounter.

This, among many other explanations of aspects of Mandarin Chinese, was exactly what I wanted to find. I encourage anyone who knows enough of a 2nd language to use it to navigate their 3rd. It is exciting and you might just learn something you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Awkward Insa

I happen to be one of those people who wish they were  a morning person. I set two alarms in the morning – one to wake me up and the other to tell me, “You’re going to be late, you slow, lazy, bum”. After hustling to get out of the house, a few blocks to the station, skipping every other step in the case up to the platform because of the extremely reliable irregularity of the trains, I am eager to wait.

Arriving at work, I’m usually either groggy or engrossed in some entirely irrelevant and abstract thought that has nothing to do with my quotidian ritual of waving my i.d. in front of the sensor next to the door or punching my card. The elevator is where it hits me. I’m still in stream-of-thought-mode and I try to walk through the doors to get on the elevator and someone is standing in front of me and all that comes out of my mouth is “Oh!” Normally, I would be adept enough to say, “Good morning,” but working in an environment when you’re surrounded by people who all speak another language that you have spent so much time trying desperately to learn,  it’s not exactly the same process. It’s probably the most basic and awkward forms of confusion – that rushed, stressful feeling of desperately wanting to respond accompanied by a simultaneous, dumbfounded ‘what do I say?’

Of course, with a good 30 seconds of preparation, I’m able to come up with a suitable greeting, but human interactions are a lot quicker than that. Getting on and off the elevator is a fairly simple, brief action. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the culture you’re surrounded by isn’t all that into greetings. For example, if you’re learning English and you just came to America the likelihood of someone being offended by you would be pretty low. Especially, if you manage to get out the basic, universal human greeting – the smile. Most Americans will feel content having been smiled at as a greeting, especially at groggy morning hours and when you may have one of those seen-each-other-around acquaintances.

In Korean culture, however, greetings are important, especially at work, especially towards your superiors. Being fresh out of college and lacking military experience, I am undoubtedly the inferior of everyone else.

My colleagues, who are slightly older than I, are so adept at greetings that they can respond in the briefest situations. They can even squeeze a bow into the second it takes for the elevator doors to close. As for me, my most immediate reaction is an “Oh!” with a side of smile while I think to myself, ‘Dammit. Too slow’. Consider this my official confession that I have yet to make this habit of oral recognition instinctual and move past those awkward insa.

Awkward silence when you say hello, that pause, when you see someone and neither of you speak the other’s language very well. That pause when you both think of something to say, but can’t, so all that comes out is grunts and uhh and such.sdf

This Is So Exciting! Wait… What Do I Say, Again?

Have you ever gotten really excited by something and felt the incredible, instinctual impulse to scream something like “Yay!”, “Hell yeah!”, or “Sweet!”  and then realized that you’re in the context of another language and saying that would sound incredibly foreign and doesn’t really fit? How often does this happen to foreign people whose mother tongue is not English, who come to the United States? You don’t hear Germans getting really excited and shouting, “Prima!“, do you?

Today, I wanted to shout “Yay!” in Korean but then realized that I didn’t know how. Talk about nothing more stifling than being super excited and not remember how to express it in the context of the language in which the whole exciting conversation happened! So, I just said, “Yay” and then asked. Turns out it’s 아싸아~! (Assah!). Of course! Duh! I knew that one, right? I mean, I’ve said it before, I’ve used it before, I’ve heard it a lot before. For some reason in that moment it just didn’t come to me. Is that because such exclamations come from some deeper place in our linguistic identity? Is it just as hard to exclaim your excitement spontaneously in a foreign language as it is to count large sums and calculate quickly? Will that always be something that will come to the speaker just a bit too slowly?

“Dreaming in Chinese” by Deborah Fallows

I was at a New Year’s Eve shindig and got into a good conversation with this girl who’s moving to China to work on an English teaching venture. We talked about her former experiences in China, her passion for the Chinese language, and how a foreign language can open a door to another realm of thought and social constructs. At that point, she recommended that I read Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows (bio and blog). A few days later I stopped by a book store and picked up a copy.

Dreaming in Chinese is not a novel. Its chapters are not linked together by plot or character development or something of that sort. Rather, the book is a series of linguistic  and cultural experiences organized into chapters by their topic or some overarching theme (sort of like vignettes).

Having a Ph.D. in linguistics, the author has a lot of fun musing about Chinese culture and language. She clearly has lots of enthusiasm for the language learning process and this struck a cord with my own interests. In terms of writing style, it is very pleasant and leisurely so you don’t have to worry about struggling with technical linguistic terms like “paradigmatic lexical relation” or “metonymy”.

While the cultural concepts that are encountered may not serve to enlighten those of you who are advanced sinophiles or have had long exposure to the Middle Kingdom, the book is entertaining and will help those who are unfamiliar with China to become more knowledgeable. It is a good book for someone who is just becoming interested in China and a must read for those who are about to get on the plane Beijing or Shanghai and aren’t exactly sure about where they’re headed.