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    There once was a girl with a tiny little curl, right in the middle of her forehead...
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    Old school photography, botany, horticulture, neuropsychopharmaceuticals
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    #1: Mommy. #2: Researcher, Crazymeds.us

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  1. I think that article is misleading - especially regarding TUM. The article subtly focuses on Masters programs, which are, indeed, primarily taught in English. Baccalaureate programs however, are not primarily in English - especially at TUM. Are scientific terms basically universal? Of course. Yet the entrance requirements (as Regentrude will attest) are either a 3/3 or (holy crimeny) a 4/4 in the Language. (a 4 is native fluency). It has always been my suspicion that they do this specifically to weed out students who are not capable of assimilating into the workforce upon graduation (in order to pay the government back, so to speak). I am not simply speaking of Americans, either. I know of Ukrainians who have had to take very intensive German courses to enroll in Masters programs - in technical fields that one would assume would be in English. There is a university in northern Germany (the name escapes me at the moment) that is entirely in English, but that is only one university. Also, the intensive German courses are not "free"; they cost around 500 euro per semester at a university or 100 euro at a state run center (aimed at immigrants - doesn't move as quickly). Finally, nothing is "free" in this world; we should all know this. The price of healthcare may be low for these students, but the cost is long waiting times for appointments and sitting in waiting rooms watching everyone with private insurance (even someone who has arrived without an appointment!) be seen before them. Sadly this happens in the ER as well. Rent may appear low, but in major cities, it is very hard for students to 1. find someone to rent to them and 2. find a place remotely near the university that is anything more than a room that fits a twin size bed and small desk. So that $400 is actually pretty expensive on a sq ft basis. Again: I've met these people. Are there exceptions? Of course! But student housing, and housing in general is not viewed the same as it is in the states. My .02 Asta
  2. My sister said something to kid that was incredibly helpful: kids look at a handful of schools; admissions officers look at thousands of kids. Over time, admissions officers become quite good at identifying which kids are a "good fit" for their university -- even more so than what the kids themselves may recognize / acknowledge / etc. The school that wants YOU will always be preferable to the one whom you must convince to take you. A good uni that will go the extra mile for you (your kid, I mean) will continue to support you long after you have completed your studies. A
  3. Yes, definitely. I was thinking more along the lines of a kid who is thinking "well, if I can't get in for music/art performance, maybe I can get in for music/art history." Two completely different programs, but the same genre. Although I know jack about either one of them in the UK, I knew someone in the US who was technically an art history major, but had splintered off somehow into a sculpture program wherein he won all of these prestigious awards (but still graduated with an Art History degree). That "performance"aspect, had he applied to it initially, would have been much harder to enter. Needless to say, he didn't have many friends in the performance realm... (he is REALLY good). a
  4. Kid went off to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland a couple of weeks ago and started classes this week in GeoPhysics. I don't know how long it will last, but he has been calling me every afternoon to "walk through" his notes and discuss each of his lectures with me. Essentially - to teach me each of his classes. Kid is "Socratic - methoding" ME. I guess I did something right. Sniff. Asta
  5. In the land of Visas (Tier 4 - Student Visa), Americans are in the "Trusted" category. This means that they are considered low risk in the "they are likely to disappear into the countryside and never go home" department. As such, the application will state that many items are not required to be submitted but "should be available in case the officer asks for them." Make sure you have all of those stupid documents. Especially the ones that prove you can pay the bill for the schooling. And if your kid is planning on attending a UK university for a full 4 years, make sure they have a brand, spanking new passport - not one that is due to expire in a couple of years. A Tier 4 Visa is ridiculously expensive, and they will NOT transfer it to a new passport when you have to get one without you paying the fee all over again. Make sure you have enough time to get a new American passport AND enough time to get a UK visa. They both take longer than you expect. We live in Europe. The Visa arrived Thurday morning. We flew to Edinburgh Friday morning. Yeah - no stress there. (full disclosure: we had been given misinformation about his passport - from the university) When they are at the University, there is something called "International Day" where tons of free stuff is given out to International students. Have them take ALL of it - even if they don't think they will use it. They may find out later that yes, that is something they needed. Only now, it will cost them, because the companies and groups aren't trying to suck them in. They will have to get a UK bank account. This is not difficult and the University will help them. They shouldn't go for the first place they see, or "just because it is where everyone else is going". They should investigate them. Some of them have wire transfer receiving fees that are really harsh, and since you'll be sending them money, this is very important. Cell Phones: Pay and go chips are MUCH less expensive than contracts. They have great rates to the US, even. Students can "top them up" at ATMs and at all sorts of little stores. Eating & Drinking: Direct quote from my kid - "I don't know how these kids can afford to go out drinking every night - a beer is 4-6 quid and the mixed drinks are even more!" In dollars, that is +/- $6-$9. My kid is in accommodation, and it includes breakfast and dinner, but not lunch. He quickly discovered that lunch is expensive. He also belongs to the Catholic Student Union, however, and they have a 1 quid sandwich everyday. They put out bread, cheese and a meat. Since it is centrally located, it is a good option. I suspect other groups have similar things. Also, many grocery stores cut the price of their packaged sandwiches & microwave meals the day before they will go out of date. I mention this because Catered accommodation students aren't allowed to keep food in their rooms or have refrigerators. There are many student discounts for bus and train travel in the UK and websites to help them take advantage of the best times to book fares. Finally, check and see if the school your kid will be going to accepts credit cards when you go to pay tuition/housing. Most do, and most will run the charge in dollars rather than Sterling. If you have a "rewards" card and a high enough limit, you can get some pretty significant benefits just by paying something you'd have to pay anyway. Asta
  6. [Caveat: my experience is with Scottish Universities] My son is at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, as a GeoPhysics major. This is obviously STEM. Unlike the young lady in the article that Laura posted (who is attending U of Glasgow), his experience is nothing like an American Uni set-up. He has no electives, nor will he ever during his program. Students in programs such as that young lady do have electives. In fact, all of the students in the liberal arts programs do (sorta). It is a system of take A or B then, take 3 of the following 12 classes (for example), then take something else of interest to you that may or may not be in relation to your actual program. Kid's program is completely laid out, without deviation. The only "exception" in his program is if a person starts as a "first year" or a "second year" student, and starting as a second year is discouraged, as the program is integrated (this is pretty much exactly like serious STEM programs in the US). Applying as an American was both simple and a complete pain in the @ss. It was simple in that Scottish universities (with the exception of St. Andrews, anyway) didn't want to see anything other than his American standardized test scores and a diploma of all things (I bought one from HS diploma dot com). Their rationale was that, since there are no "National Standards" for teaching or grading in the US, grades and transcripts are useless indicators for evaluating potential candidates. The UCAS (common app) allows students to initially apply to 5 schools, but the student must winnow that down to 2 - a primary selection and a "safety" once the offers come in (full acceptance, conditional acceptance [you need to sit an exam again for a higher score, for example], or full out denial). Obviously, that "winnowing" is sometimes done for them simply by what offers they receive! The UCAS asks for an essay (which has VERY strict length parameters), a letter of recommendation (there is a convoluted system for the person to submit it to them blindly), SAT or ACT test scores (broken out, but no writing score for either), and then, depending on the uni and the program, SAT2s a combination of SAT2s and APs, or just APs. The number and type of each varies by program. For instance: my kid had to submit science and math (duh). Here is the interesting thing (I thought, anyway): it isn't like entrance requirements are going to be significantly "lower" at a well respected university vs a less respected university. The ones at the bottom are constantly trying to claw their way up the rankings, and they can't do that unless they are pretty much as selective (or appear to be) as their "higher" counterparts. So a "safety" school almost has to be a slightly different program; a program that has lower entrance requirements (entrance requirements vary by program - this is why everyone says to call the department itself to get entrance requirements, not just the university admission office). Why is this so important? The dang UCAS essay. When a student is writing their UCAS essay, they not only have to sell themselves and their accomplishments (there is actually a page that tells them what they need to include and what to leave out), they also need to show why they belong in that particular program. They need to, without sounding like a pompous @ss, slide in things showing how they are a good candidate: experiences, knowledge, etc. Easy enough to do - until you're trying to do it for two different programs and you're really trying to sell yourself to the first one. Then the person who is recommending you has to manage something similar. It is a real dance. The last bit is the freaking College Board. Don't. Ever. Trust. Them. EVER. To send your kid's scores. They'll lie to you in an email. They'll lie to you in a letter. Hell, they'll lie to you over the phone - even the big kahunas. Worse, they'll lie to the Admissions officers at the Universities. Why? I have no idea. And just when you're starting to feel as if you are an individual case that is simply unlucky in CB love, the Admissions Office will tell you "Oh, no - CB is the biggest pain in our @ss - we don't know why, considering how many American students we have come through the British & Scottish system for both full and exchange programs." The good thing? Save those stupid reports you receive in the mail and the FIRST one you get by email outlining your student's scores (it will magically disappear off of the CB site, leaving only their numerical score, not the entire readout), because Admissions officers tend to take pity and accept those print outs when push comes to shove and CB is dragging their butt - even though they aren't "officially official". Next: Visas. A
  7. Kid has had no problem using his military ID. He just turns it over and points out his birth date. I think that young man just took the wrong tactic. Also, you *can* go into the US military prior to 18 - you just need the permission of your parents. I went in at 17. A
  8. I think this IS one of the most difficult things for most people in the international community to come to terms with. Wherein Qaddafi was an obvious loon (who ended up looking like Gloria Gaynor), Castro suspended Cuba somewhere in the 1950s, Hussein was killing football teams for losing matches and Noriega became a really, really embarrassing go-between for the US... Assad actually is a well educated, well spoken, cultured man. Who happens to be a brutal dictator with a penchant for accepting truckloads of chemical weapons and other nasties under the cover of darkness from nearby nations as they prepare to be invaded by the US et al. I have absolutely no doubt that those same trucks will be loaded and moved somewhere else long before any opposing force comes to town. When something works, you stick to it. The US et al need to stop looking at these conflicts in terms of Western time constructs; "time" in the Middle East is looked at differently. One year, ten years - they are but a trifle to civilizations that have been around as long as these have. They have no problems waiting out what they perceive to be the follies of the West. A
  9. I have everything since Kindergarten. How sick is that? :svengo: A
  10. Just a heads up for anyone wanting to jump through ASU's hoops: They suck. Pretty much my entire extended family went there - back when it was a good university. Nowadays? Not so much. One of my nieces transferred out a couple of years ago after showing up for her "classes" only to discover one only had a room and a teacher the first day - after that? She was expected to do the entire thing online. She doesn't do well with online courses to begin with, and it was Math! It was a double whammy for her. 500+ lecture halls with teaching assistants are the norm, not the exception. Big university, yeah, yeah. But if you have a kid intent on Arizona, they should go to a University that is more interested in academics than their freaking football team. U of A has great athletics and is a great school. NAU definitely puts athletics second and is an awesome school. A
  11. My son's uni refuses to even look at US transcripts, saying they are "worthless indicators" due to uneven standards and grade inflation. He had the choice of submitting either the SAT or ACT and then either a certain number of AP exam results or SAT subject tests. It's kind of sad that the EU has figured it out and the US hasn't. A
  12. I pulled out my fugly brass insert & painted it with black matte BBQ grill paint (withstands all heat). Then I put some things with "weight" to either side of it, and a VERY large print above it to mask the wimpy, shallow mantle. Honestly, it would be less expensive to repaint the room than to do major repairs to the fireplace. Vertical stripes on that wall in a shade one half off the existing shade would make the fireplace look less wide. The flowers painted in a row next to it continue the horizontal line and make it look wider. THAT SAID: If the brass thing is an insert, new inserts are expensive - paint it. If it isn't, and is just a screen - take it out and use an interesting, half-moon screen -- maybe with vines on it. Unless you want to live perpetually in the past, don't scrape half the paint off. Either keep it, decide on a new color (that isn't the color of the room), or have someone come in and paint a design on it. (yes, a design - like a tree thing going from one corner to the other or up and around the opening). No one really pays attention to your mantle. They'll notice if you have cr@p all over it or something really ugly, but if you have a lovely display of candles, it will look great. You can also drape fire retardant vines and flowers across and down it - even having them fall in a cascade before the end of the mantle - thus truncating the width of the fire place. No one really pays attention to your hearth, unless it is burned or broken. It looks weird at the moment because there are books on it. No one puts books on fireplaces: they burn. If you had a big copper pot with kindling and one of those artful things that held wood, that would look normal. A
  13. 1. What Bill said. ;) 2. One must be very careful to remember that the majority of people and news sources see/read/present things from a Western perspective, steeped in Western history. The view from the Middle East is quite different. 3. Power vacuums are much more deadly than anything we are currently seeing. A
  14. Actually, the MP5 (a German Submachine gun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_MP5) is the preferred weapon used, and it can look remarkably similar to an Uzi in some of its configurations so I can see the confusion - especially from the perspective of a 12 year old (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzi). I don't know when Regentrude was last in Germany, but I see MP5s on Police all.the.time. As the composition of the nation has changed (and the economic situation in Europe has significantly degraded), the Police have "up-armored" themselves. General city "walking police" carry 9mm semi-automatic pistols, but crowd control, demonstration (including "peaceful"), riot, etc., and airport police all carry MP5s. Even Oktoberfest police carry them. As to the American/NATO products - yes, this DOES happen. Customs violations are big business for German States with the presence of the US and NATO military forces. Both parties take it very seriously, as it not only violates German Federal Law (Status of Forces Agreement), but also US military law. A US military member found guilty of violating customs agreements loses everything and goes to jail. That the OPs family was approached in this manner is unfortunate, but was most likely part of an investigation involving a US or NATO Military member and got 'caught in the net' by having something in their house. It would not be the job of the German govt to tell the family this, only to fine them for "accepting" the American (or French - they have stores in Germany also) goods. (OP: you knew of Burger King wrappers; 8 hours & 1000 Marks points to your parents having accepted/paid someone to get them cigarettes, alcohol or gasoline, unfortunately). There is a HUGE black market for NATO goods in Europe that come from the Military stores, as they are purchased without VAT and at a subsidized price due to money donated from other, internal Military recreation programs or through arrangements with manufacturers (e.g. Alcohol is MUCH less expensive minus the VAT). Asta
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