The etymology of “Africa” is up for dispute. It was originally used by Romans, and there is debate as to whether it refers to a tribe, the Phonecian word for “dust,” the Greek term for “without cold,” or the Latin aprika, meaning “sunny.” If it is the last one, it has come, in terms of popular understanding, to be a term of irony. After all, we all know of Africa as the “dark continent,” a place of hunger and jungles, of war and disease. Most people instinctively write it off.
Regardless of where the name came from, it is pretty clear that the name, and the less flattering nicknames, are part of a millennia-long trend of outsiders imposing their own ideas onto Africa. From assuming it was all sunny to the pernicious race theories and violence that underpinned colonialism, to the post-colonial hand-washing and history-erasing, interspersed with spasms of guilt-laden charity, Africa has long been an idea rather than a place where people live. However, there are promising signs that the continent is shaking off the shackles of history, and is rising to take its place in the world. We’ll take a look at Africa rising, and what it means for your school.
For anyone in the world, yesterday, Thursday the 17th of July, was a particularly dispiriting one, with grim and savage news piling up on itself. The day started with the news trickling in that a Malaysian Airlines plane had crashed in the Ukraine, bringing nearly 300 people to a terrifying and unjust end. Feverish speculation about it being shot down started to circulate- and for once, it appears, the speculation was correct. Though no one has claimed responsibility, and at this point it is circumstance and conjecture, it looks as though (at the time of this writing) it was pro-Russian separatists. We’ve talked about the Russian/Ukrainian crisis before, and now it seems that the ongoing battle is potentially entering a newer, somehow even more dangerous phase.
Elsewhere, in the Middle East, the unending battle between Israel and the Palestinians went from a constant and endless mutual barrage of missiles to an Israeli ground assault, theoretically limited, but no war ever is. Without getting into the politics or “picking sides” (as if this was a ballgame), it suffices merely to note that every death on either side pushes the prospects of peace, already in a dim and hazy and unknown future, back even further.
At such a time, it can be immensely frustrating to run an international department in a high school, college, or business. Your whole goal is to condense the world into one international student body, to bring people together, to make the world a better place. But days like these make that seem an impossible pipe dream. Don’t give up, though- your efforts are even more important than you know.
We live in a world dominated by images and soundbites. A picture of a quick video clip can ricochet around the world and harden perceptions before context even has a chance to announce itself. In this world, the first image you see is often the one that most informs how you feel about something.
America is going through a bout of images and complicated issues devolving into barely-understood and half-baked passions. In the last several weeks, an immigration issue has pushed itself, with pleading insistence, to the forefront of our debate. Hundreds and thousands of children have escaped terrible violence from Central America, enduring a horrifying journey across unforgiving lands and the human refuse that prey off misery, to try to find shelter at the U.S. border. The pictures have elicited a cruel response, as many see this as a grim invading horde trying to break into America. They have responded with anger, bigotry, and threats of violence.
The flip side of that is the image it presents of America, trying to figure out how to solve a “problem,” with seemingly scant concern for the human costs, while the worst, full of passionate intensity, paint the picture of a nation consisting of racist violence-junkies. For people considering studying in America, this could be an image that dissuades them. This is a problem for international recruiters, for the students themselves, and for the country. Figuring out the root, and how to make sure this doesn’t forever alter attitudes toward the United States, it a huge challenge for international recruiters.
It was, given the circumstances, possibly the worst loss in the history of modern sports. You know the game we’re talking about- the 7-1 thrashing the Germans gave to Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals. Brazil, the host nation, was expected to win the Cup, or at least go down with honor. Instead, in a stunning, jaw-dropping, adjective-defying 3 minute span, the German squad crushed those dreams, scoring goal after goal. This wasn’t supposed to happen. No one loses that badly in soccer. Certainly not a fantastic Brazilian squad. It was arguably the most surprising result of any match in any sport ever (and Nate Silver crunched the numbers to back that up).
This led to some nation-wide despair. “Sad Brazilians” is already its own meme. The nation’s newspapers trumpeted “humiliation” in all its tragic glory. And everywhere, we are told, they are in mourning- shocked, embarrassed, a global joke, an object of pity or derision.
But that’s kind of a strange concept. After all, ignoring that it was “just a game”, and ignoring that this will exacerbate the anger the country already felt about the cost of the Cup, it is deeply weird to think that the actions of 11 men could somehow transfer themselves to a nation of 200,000,000, imbuing them with either pride or despair. But we all believe strongly, if even unconsciously, in not just national characteristics, but the idea that a nation is somehow one, that it can be summed up- that it isn’t just a collection of people, but can feel and think one thought. This is an interesting thing to be aware of, and it matters more than you might think if your school has a large number of international students.
Brain drain is something that has worried economists and politicians in nearly every country for decades. More formally known as “human capital flight,” it is when skilled, educated, and talented workers leave one country for better opportunities elsewhere. Developed countries are afraid that, for tax reasons, their best workers will go elsewhere. Developing countries are worried that they will never be able to reach their full potential if their intellectual capital is fleeing for greener pastures.
This is a legitimate concern. Human capital, more than resources or geography, is the most important factor in growth. Minerals can’t just flee a country, and barring catastrophic geographic disasters or war, you aren’t going to lose ports or access to a river. But people can go. Two rising powers, India and China, have long been worried about the effect of human capital flight.
This has often been a worry for people looking to study in the USA. Especially for countries like India and China, who are making their way in the world, many students feel like they are abandoning their country, and contributing to the brain drain that has hindered growth. However, as we’d like to show, the opposite is actually true. Studying in the USA is actually one of the most powerful ways you can reverse the effects of human capital flight.
Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It’s a day for reflection and thinking about the wildly improbable series of events that led to the creation of the United States. You may be here right now, getting excellent preparation for your semester abroad. Or you may be getting ready for the fall, at home, trying to figure out who you will be and what you will do when you travel to America. Either way, we think it is important to get ready. And so, on this day when Americans should reflect upon what it means to be an American, to look back on the sacrifices that people made for freedom, and how we’ve either taken advantage of it or sadly squandered it, we want to listen to some songs about America, those that embody the nation. These aren’t national anthems- we’ve already covered those– but rock songs, and blues songs- the two true American art forms. None of them glorify the country, some scold, some praise, some capture the feeling of freedom. All sing a different part of America. This isn’t a master class in American history. But listening to this music will give you an idea, even a subconscious one, of what the country in which you choose to study is all about. And these songs about America provide a great soundtrack for tomorrow’s fireworks.
There’s a lot that goes into recruiting international students for your school. You have to figure out your budget. You have to manage paperwork. You have to look at political currents within various countries. It’s important that the curriculum at your school won’t be overwhelming for the students coming over (while balancing that with the needs of native students). On top of that, you may have to pay attention to global labor markets.
That might seem like a stretch. After all, with everything else going on, paying attention to standard wages in Thailand might seem a bridge too far. But in a global economy, demand in one area of the world can lead to supply elsewhere, and nothing is more important than human capital. As an international recruiter, if you are aware of growing needs in foreign countries, you can tailor your pitch to meet a specific market. And that can be the difference between signing students up for your school or merely sparking a passing interest.
“World Cup Fever” is an interesting term. It is usually meant to connotate getting swept up in the excitement of the games, the quadrennial celebration of soccer. And there has been no doubt that this year has been particularly thrilling, filled with stoppage goals, upstarts rising, champs falling, biting- everything you could ask for. But this year there has been a different kind of fever.
In Brazil, where, as the cliche goes, soccer is a religion, the thrill of the games and the very good chance that the home nation will take the cup has been dulled a bit by protests and anger at the government. These protests have been about many things- the astronomical costs of hosting the World Cup (and the 2016 Olympics) at a time when the Brazilian economy is struggling, allowing the flagrantly corrupt and unpopular FIFA to literally dictate national laws, and corruption and stagnation in general. As an international recruiter, it is important to know what these protests mean, not just for Brazilians, but also how it will affect your recruiting in this rising, but still fragile nation. You might be surprised to hear that it is actually a good omen.
This week, the World Cup, that once-every-four-years celebration of sport and national pride, is ending the opening rounds and moving into the knockout stage. After Thursday, only 16 teams will be left to play for what is probably the most prized trophy in the entire world. Even if your team has already been knocked out, or didn’t qualify, chances are you are watching with rapt attention this magnificent display of sports. The question to consider today is whether or not sports, particularly soccer, can be a good thing for schools with international students (for the purpose of this article, written in America, we will continue to say “soccer”, while acknowledging that this term puts it in the firm global minority). There are many people who think that sports are divisive, maybe even destructive, especially when they revolve entirely around a nation. But in the end, we believe that this can be a great thing to help create friendships and bridge a divide between international students and their American counterparts.
In Tuesday’s article, we talked about the importance of demonstrating leadership if you are a student at a school with international students. After all, international students are in some ways uniquely vulnerable: they are away from their families, separated from their comfortable friend groups, pushed out of their routines, and are operating in a different language. They are trying to navigate not just the confusing social mores of high school, but the cultural norms of a new and confusing place. Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to make friends and easy to become the target of bullies.
This is considerably more rare than it once was. People have become more progressive and understanding about differences, open and curious. The internet and global communications have helped to smooth out many cultural differences, and it seems like kids are far kinder than they once were. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be shyness, awkward communications, and cross-cultural confusion. That’s where a student leader comes in.