Category Archives: Education

Tips for a Productive Summer Break

unduhan-12Summer is the perfect time to develop areas of your resume that may be lacking due to your busy schedule during the year. Of course, part-time jobs and internships make for great work-experience, but if you want your time to be more flexible or meaningful consider volunteering. Find a program where you can utilize and develop your unique skills. Coaching a local football camp will help hone your leadership and motivational skills. Language and STEM students will find that their expertise is in high demand for volunteer reading programs. Sociology students can look for volunteer work in community organizations that address local issues. And while some volunteer programs may require some long-term commitment, many opportunities allow people to work and participate as they are able leaving you free to work and play.

2. Set Some Goals
The school year can be intense, and it can be easy to develop bad habits or fall into a hectic work schedule. But during the summer you have the chance to reboot your life. As the semester comes to a close, assess the past year and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Did you pull too many all-nighters? Are you subsisting on a diet of cereal and take-out? Are your notes in a shambles because you never took the time to develop a workable system? Identify areas that need improvement and begin practicing good habits. Even a small goal, like taking a 30-minute walk every day will improve your mood, concentration, and energy levels, and if you establish good habits in the summer, it will be easier to keep them in the fall.

3. Read Widely
If your summer reading activity consists of filling your beach bag with paperback novels and magazines, and then promptly falling asleep under an umbrella, take a moment to reassess. If you’re like most grad students, you probably spend a lot of time reading during the school year and unless you’re studying literature or theater, your reading material probably leans more toward the academic side of things. But even if you need a break from primary sources or technical manuals, don’t waste your summer not reading. Go outside your comfort area and read things that will enhance your understanding of the world.

4. Consider Summer Semester
Of course, you need a break from classes, but summer semester can be the perfect time to earn some extra credits or take a class that you wouldn’t otherwise attempt. And summer courses tend to be smaller, more personal, and more diverse than regular semester offerings. Take the opportunity to learn the basics of German or computer engineering. Explore an area of your field that is outwith your research scope. Or if you want to max out a summer semester – enroll in a short-term study abroad program. The best part of summer courses is that they’re often condensed, which means you can get a semester’s worth of studying done in just a few weeks and still have time for relaxation.

Becoming a Diplomat Tips

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.

1. 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 like mathematics, 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.

2. 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.

Start Your Retirement Planning Right Now

Just because retirement is still 20,30 or even 40 years into the future doesn’t mean you can’t have a plan in place aimed at helping you reach your goals along the way. The first step in planning for the future is having a plan in the first place.

Begin by considering both your immediate and long-term financial goals. Be as thorough as possible, including everything from daily needs like groceries and commuting costs to more significant objectives, such as home ownership. Write these things down. Not only does research indicate that writing down your goals can help you reach them, but this list will become a touchpoint over the years.

After you’ve prepared your financial goals, your next step is to determine a “big picture” comprehensive budget to determine what it will take to get you there. Luckily, a number of free online resources exist to help you with this part of the process. Sites like Voya Financial’s Home Budget & Savings Calculator are a great way to see where your money is going and how to start saving.

1. Start Saving
Saving money is a habit. The sooner your start, the sooner it will become something you don’t even have to think about. Not to mention that you can’t miss what you never had to begin with, which is why workplace retirement savings plans — such as 401(k)s and Roth IRAs — which be set up to auto-deduct a preset amount from your paycheck, can be an invaluable financial jumpstart. Not only are these funds tax-deferrable, but many employers will also match your contribution.

By saving early, you can maximize what you’ll have in the long run. Consider a scenario shared by Bankrate revealing the difference between saving $2,000 a year beginning at age 35 and the same amount beginning 10 years earlier at age 25. With the former setup (assuming 8 percent earnings), you’ll reach the age of retirement with approximately $245,000. This may sound okay…until you consider that the 25-year-old saver would have racked up $560,000 — more than twice that of the 35-year-old saver.

The best part of starting to save now? Once you’ve got everything set up, all you have to do is kick back and watch your nest egg grow. And even if you can only spare a small amount now, you can adjust how much is being deducted as your financial situation improves.

2. Manage Your Debt
When it comes to four-letter words, this one is enough to strike fear in the heart of any financial planner: debt. Unfortunately, failure to understand the impact of debt — from student loans to credit card debt — from the onset can result in an unpleasant snowball effect. While completely avoiding debt may be an unrealistic expectation, having a plan to pay down your debt can prevent it from escalating. Experts suggest building paying off loans into your budget calculations, starting by tackling debt with the highest interest rates first.

One caveat? While your instinct may be to throw everything you’ve got at your debt toward a “clean slate,” delaying retirement contributions while failing to establishment a critical “rainy day” fund can be a slippery slope. Why? Because saving for retirement doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older due to the accumulation of new financial responsibilities throughout life. In many cases, maxing our your retirement contributions while establishing a less aggressive loan repayment plan can lead to better financial outcomes.

 

Writing in Graduate School

If you’ve already been accepted to graduate school, we’ve got good news for you: your writing skills were strong enough to get your application past the admissions committee. But this doesn’t mean you can just kick back and coast on what worked during your undergraduate studies. Not only will more be expected of you during your pursuit of an advanced degree, but there’s also likely to be a thesis in your future. The takeaway? The time is now to sharpen up your writing skills. Let’s count down six tips aimed at ensuring that your writing is on point 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.

Inspire You During Your Degree

Thomas Edison famously declared genius to be “one percent inspiration and ninety-percent perspiration.” And it’s true: Even the world’s most celebrated minds didn’t have easy or obvious paths. The fact is that no matter how smart you are, true success requires many things, including hard work and perseverance. Let’s take a closer look at five famous scientists who set inspiring examples during their lifetimes.

1. Writer’s Block: Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin took a staggering 17 years to pen his magnus opus, “On the Origin of Species.” One thing that helped him stay the course during that time span? He established and stuck to a routine. While he set plenty of time aside for writing, he also designated time for other pursuits — including exercise, spending time with his family and dog, and gardening. In fact, according to an article on Darwin’s schedule in The Guardian, Darwin put “domestic comfort” above all else while writing.

Another thing that kept Darwin on track? An emotional connection with his subject matter. He once said, “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds. With birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

Your takeaway? Writing at a breakneck pace may not be as fruitful as you think. Darwin himself described the writing process as “very hard and slowly at every sentence,” but by prioritizing his personal life and maintaining a realistic schedule, he ended up writing the seminal book on evolution.

2. Applying a Theory: Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is among the 17th century’s most influential scientists, and his groundbreaking work is now the foundation for modern physics. Many experts posit that his true genius lay not in the theories themselves, but in how Newton applied them to the universe at large. And while he may not have come up with the concept of gravity after an apple fell on his head, as the legend insists, he did doggedly attack the theory of gravity, coming at it with great determination from every possible angle.

Of his process Newton once said, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

In other words, being willing and open to all possibilities can help you be more original and innovative when proposing and applying theories.

3. For Paving a Path: Marie Curie
There will be times in your life when people tell you that you can’t or won’t accomplish something. When they do, keep Marie Curie in mind. A pioneer in the field of radioactivity, she was not only the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, but was also the only person to receive the award twice and in two different sciences! She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris — all at a time when the contributions of women were largely devalued.

Curie herself once said, “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

We can think of no better philosophy for forging your way — both during your degree and for life in general — than this one.

4. For Being Open to Learning: Leonardo Da Vinci
The question isn’t what Leonardo Da Vinci did. It’s more what he didn’t do. From architect and anatomist to sculptor and scientist, Da Vinci is perhaps most famous for his mysterious painting of the Mona Lisa. But his discoveries about human anatomy were also huge, and approximately 200 years ahead of their time. Da Vinci also sketched concepts for everything from helicopters to plate tectonics with a list of inventions including musical instruments, crank mechanisms, hydraulic pumps, and even a steam cannon.

The lesson for the rest of us? Don’t limit yourself. Be open to learning and be open-minded while you’re at it. Da Vinci himself once said, “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

5. For Overcoming the Odds: Caroline Herschel
Marie Curie may be the most famous female scientist, but she was far from the first. Born in the mid-1700s in Hanover, Germany, Herschel began her career as as singer but eventually followed her passion and become a brilliant astronomer. She was the first woman to discover a comet and went on to discover several more, including one now named in her honor.

And while Herschel largely worked in the shadow of her fellow astronomer brother, she claimed many amazing accomplishments on her own, including being the first woman paid for her scientific work and being named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society. On her 96th birthday, meanwhile, the King of Prussia presented Herschel with a Gold Medal for Science.

While each of these scientists had very different stories, the overarching theme is the same. Not only were they geniuses, but they strove to apply that genius in world-changing ways. In following their example, you just may chart a pretty impressive course of your own.

Master Without Going Into Debt

unduhan-11Hardly a day goes by without another report of soaring student debt or rising tuition fees. And if a university education wasn’t already expensive, many students are finding that an undergraduate degree isn’t enough. But graduate school isn’t cheap (between $10-25K in the US and about £8K in the UK per year) and even when a master’s will increase a student’s employability or improve their potential salary, taking out more student loans or finding the cash to pay for another two to five years of schooling are hardly pleasant prospects. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid further debt or abject poverty during your graduate degree. Here are five ways to fund your master’s degree.

1. Scholarships
If you thought that scholarships and grants were only for undergraduates, think again. There are numerous scholarships aimed at funding post-graduate studies – you just need to know where to look. If you’re already enrolled in a program, visit your school’s financial aid department and ask for information on scholarships specific to your course or department. It should go without saying, but the internet is your friend when it comes to graduate funding. Sites like gograd.org, thescholarshiphub.org.uk, and scholarship-searcg.org.uk let students search for funding based on degree level, course, and even specific individual qualifications like gender or military service. Minority students should check the McNair Scholars Program.

2. Research Grants
Grants are a bit more specialized than scholarships and may take a bit more effort, but they have the added benefit of counting towards career development, especially if you plan on going into an academic or research career. Again, start with your institution and look for research or project grants aimed at your degree. Many departments have grant funding for graduate students to complete specialized training, travel for research, or purchase necessary supplies or equipment. Ask your professors or advisors – they may already have (or may be applying) for funding and will be seeking research assistants. Use the internet to find subject-based grants: health science graduates should visit the National Institute of Health’s funding site, while students perusing master’s in the humanities or social sciences can use h-net.org.

3. Study Abroad
Studying abroad is often viewed as expensive, but for grad students, it can be a smart, economical choice. While students in the UK and the US can expect to pay thousands of pounds or dollars a year for graduate studies, many countries offer master’s degrees at little to no cost for both domestic and international students. Scandinavia and western Europe are prime destinations for thrifty grad students – tuition is free in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, while students pay nominal fees in Germany, France, and Spain. Outside Europe, look to Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa for low-cost tuition as well as a low cost of living.

4. Assistantships and Fellowships
One often overlooked way of funding your graduate studies is through an assistantship or fellowship. Many universities offer reduced or free tuition to grad students who agree to perform research or teaching assistant duties during their studies. While this will increase your responsibilities during your studies, teaching or assisting with research can be incredibly valuable once you’ve completed your degree. Before applying for graduate school, take some time to research the assistantship opportunities at your top choices and don’t forget to consider some smaller, less well-known programs where competition for positions might be less rigorous but the quality of scholarship is just as prestigious.

5. Work and Study
And finally, if you’re unsure whether grad school is the right course of action and are concerned about the cost, consider waiting a bit. Once you’ve worked in your field for a period of time, you’ll have a better idea about the value of a graduate degree and the course of study that will be most beneficial to your career. As a bonus, many companies and employers offer career development subsidies for employees who want to earn a post-graduate certificate or degree. This is an ideal course of action for business students, early-career educators, and other fields where graduate degrees improve your salary potential but may be viewed as over-qualification for an entry-level position.

Career in Your Future

images-22Last year Inc. declared it to be one of “the most promising industries of 2015,” but have you even heard of it? We’re talking about fintech, and it’s revolutionizing how banks do business. In fact, the field is experiencing such rapid growth that US banking regulators are calling for new regulatory measures aimed at promoting “responsible innovation.” Is a career in fintech in your future? Let’s take a closer look at this game-changer in the financial industry, along with why a career in fintech may be right for you.

A portmanteau of the words “financial” and “technology,” fintech has been defined as “a line of business based on using software to provide financial services.”

Typically the domain of startups, fintech largely focuses on disruptive innovation.  (Although some argue that fintech is more augmentative than disruptive in nature.) Fintech sub-industries span everything from algorithmic asset management to peer-to-peer lending. Additional fintech sub-industries? Thematic investing, payments, digital currency, credit scoring, education lending, cyber security, working capital management, and others — all sharing a common theme: the imperative to improve the efficiency of financial markets and systems through technology.

But is fintech truly worthy of all the buzz it’s been generating? The numbers speak for themselves: According to a report from Accenture, global investment in this sector spiked to $12.2 billion in 2014 — tripling the prior year’s $4.05 billion. And while the US tops the list in terms of fintech investment, it’s on the rise everywhere from Asia to Africa with Europe exhibiting the fastest rates of growth.

In short, fintech is transforming the traditional business model. And with that transformation come near-endless opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start businesses as well as for existing companies looking to expand.

Why Fintech Matters

For many years the financial industry rested easy. While new technology might have penetrated its operations, banks ultimately retained control over how and when new digital financial products and services were introduced to the market. The combination of fallout from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and increasingly sophisticated technology has dispersed the power beyond banks thereby restoring balance and reshaping the industry.

In other words, fintech is changing the finance world for the better. From lower costs to more options, the potential of data-driven lending is not only huge, but uniquely profound in that it serves a previously underserved constituency: consumers.

Is Fintech Right For You?

We’ve already established how fintech is making a difference, which might leave you wondering whether you should add your talents to the effort.

If you are thinking about a career as a financial technologist, there’s good news: there’s a major fintech job boom underway. Consider London, for example, where experts are predicting that the sector will add more than 46,000 jobs in the decade between 2014 and 2024. The takeaway? If you’re looking for a job that combines security and financial payoffs, fintech is well positioned to offer both.

Fintech is also uniquely suited to Millennials — not just in terms of the fact that the products and services offered by fintech speak to their particular sensibilities, but also in terms of their role in driving the market. After all, Millennials are not only the first truly digital generation, but they also witnessed their parents bear the brunt of the financial collapse. It follows that, according to Fintech Week, “Many of the younger generation have completely lost faith in the banking world – and who are we to blame them? They need an alternative solution, and what they understand is technology and relentless innovation – a gap in the market which Fintech has now filled.”

For some younger people, meanwhile, the allure of fintech is also a very personal one: With student debt crippling the futures of many of today’s grads, fintech’s potential impact on the student loan refinancing market — both in terms of the creation of new products and serves as well as in prompting the banking industry to raise its own game in response– is particularly compelling. Imagine a future in which student loans are inherently affordable. Fintech may hold the key.

The best part? Not only is the fintech industry alive, well, and ripe with opportunities, but there are many ways to get in on the action. From formal business and finance studies to a foundation in engineering and technology, a multitude of avenues lead into this red-hot field — all with the potential to change your life, and maybe even the world, too.

Master Thesis and an Internship

You’ve got one camp telling you that an excellent thesis will help you make a name for yourself in your field. Another waxes on about the value of having an internship for landing a job. Given these dual imperatives, it hardly comes as a shock that many driven master’s students find themselves performing a daily juggling act. No one said graduate school was going to be easy, but it doesn’t have to feel like you’re always one dropped ball away from disaster. Let’s count down four ways to successfully balance your master’s thesis and internship.

1. Schedule Daily Time to Write
The fact that your boss expects you to be at your internship everyday provides meaningful motivation to show up. Unfortunately, the same element of external accountability is missing from the thesis scenario. The unhappy result? It often ends up getting moved aside and pushed back — ultimately leaving you in a bind when the deadline is suddenly bearing down and you’re weeks behind where you’d hoped to be by now.

The best way to avoid the last minute rush? Rather than letting your thesis become the thing you do when don’t have anything else to do, make it your priority by establishing a regular writing routine. Not only will this help keep you on track, but it can also get your brain in the habit of writing. Like any other form of “exercise,” the more you write, the easier it becomes. In fact, in committing to write every day, you’re likely to experience all new levels of productivity.

2. Prioritize Your Productivity
Do you work best in the earlier hours of the morning while it’s still dark outside? Or perhaps you thrive in the wee hours after everyone else has gone to bed? Do you find working in a coffee shop surrounded by hordes of other people invigorating, or do you need a more solitary environment in order to concentrate?

Not everyone finds inspiration in the same environment. Understanding where you find yours is extremely beneficial when it comes to promoting peak productivity. After all, making time to write is only part of the “big picture.” Also critical? Maximizing that time.

3. Keep Your Employer In the Loop
One of the good things about internships is that they’re often designed to accommodate student schedules. In most cases, your employer will be more than happy to work with you to come up with a mutually agreeable work schedule which allows ample time for thesis writing, as well. If you end up in a position where you need to cut back on your internship hours to devote extra time to work on your thesis, open lines of communication are key. Just be upfront in expressing your needs from the start in order to avoid confusion and/or bad feelings in the future.

One additional thing to keep in mind? If you’re planning on continuing to work for your current employer after you graduate, the completion of your thesis — particularly if it’s germane to the work you’re doing — can add to your marketability.

4. Accept Multitasking as a Myth
While much has been made of the benefits of multitasking, a growing body of research not only suggests that doing multiple things at once may not only be all it’s cracked up to be, but may actually lead to decreased productivity.

A recent study from McGill University indicates that in constantly shifting from one task to the next, the body uses up its oxygenated glucose stores — the very same fuel which would otherwise be used to focus. Concludes researcher and professor of behavioral neuroscience Daniel Levitin, “That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.”

While multitasking may no longer be of use to you, something else can be: Scheduling regular 15-minute breaks. Stepping away from your work — whether during your internship or while writing your thesis — can actually help you be more productive, but only if you let your mind truly wander. Just don’t let it wander over to the internet, however, as research also shows that online distractions can be particularly destructive. The takeaway? In order to make the very best of your time, stop checking your social media and shut off all of your automatic notifications.

While it’s easy to think of your internship and master’s thesis as warring entities, the fact is the two can be surprisingly symbiotic. Rather than focusing on how they’re working against each other, shift your mindset to acknowledge what they can help you accomplish together.

Study in Cuba

Last spring, President Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, at which time he called on Congress to lift the long-standing trade embargo. This continued a promising trend of improved relations between the two countries, including the reopening of embassies and the loosening of longtime travel restrictions.  The takeaway for many mobile-minded students? There’s never been a more exhilarating time to visit this intriguing Caribbean hot spot. Let’s count down six reasons why the island of Cuba claims a spot on our shortlist of desirable international study destinations.

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.

Take a Chance on Sweden

Sweden’s university system is among the top performers in the world, and the Scandinavian country aims to be one of the “most research-intensive countries in the world.” But that’s not the only reason Sweden is the perfect choice for global graduate students. We asked two international students in Sweden to tell us why earning your master’s degree in Sweden isn’t just about picking a place – it’s about picking a future.

1. Study in English and Learn Swedish

Last year Sweden ranked first out of seventy countries for English Proficiency, and most universities offer programs and degrees in English. Of course, international students are still encouraged to learn Swedish, but they don’t need to be proficient to earn a degree. Marina, a grad student from Brazil studying Digital Media and Society in Uppsala, feels that this bilingualism “gives students a chance to learn a new language” while creating “a friendly and open environment since everyone can communicate.” This open environment isn’t just reflected in language. Sweden is committed to student mobility and offers more than 1000 degree programs in English.

2. Support for Creative, Innovative Research

Sweden ranks among the top five countries in the world for commitment to higher education and research, but the country also emphasizes autonomy and freedom within its universities and master’s students have a lot of time and support for independent learning and collaboration with other students. Satu, a computer science student from Indonesia studying at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, found “a lot of things [to] learn” in Sweden and was impressed with the country’s “support [for] start-up and innovation minded” students. For digital media student, Marina, Sweden offered infinite opportunities. “You can work with a Professor, do internships in amazing companies and do different courses.” Master’s students like Marina find that Sweden offers the freedom to think creatively and experiment with new ideas. With so much support and so many chances for hands-on experience, it’s no surprise that Sweden is one of the top nations in the world for innovation.

3. Soak up Swedish Culture

If your only experience with Swedish culture is Abba and Ikea meatballs, you’ve got a lot to learn. From the daily fika(coffee breaks that include tasty Swedish treats) to gender equality, Sweden exudes an individuality that is both subtle and distinct. In fact, Swedish culture could, perhaps, be summed up in one word – lagom – which means, ‘just enough’ and applies to everything from behavior and social responsibility, to sustainability and shopping. For Satu, the biggest advantage of studying at KTH is “Swedish culture itself.” Satu believes that Sweden’s culture has “many good things we can follow…[and] by living among this value, [he] believes [he] can get used to it, and bring it home and spread it to people in Indonesia.” International students in Sweden will find that the informal, inclusive university environment encourages the spread of ideas and an open dialog, and Swedish university student unions and nationer make campuses open and inviting.

4. Something for Everyone

Sweden is an obvious choice for winter sports enthusiasts, but this Nordic country is more than just a winter wonderland, and Brazilian student, Marina loves that “Sweden has so many different experiences to offer.” If you love soaking up sunshine by the sea, summer days in Sweden are almost never-ending and the country’s long coastline offers a variety of maritime activities. Sweden’s cities are full of art and culture, with music festivals, cafes, and a vibrant international feel. For the more forest-minded individuals, nearly 70 percent of the country is covered in forests and their pristine natural beauty should be a major draw. And there’s huge bonus if you’re the adventurous type – Sweden has codified the Right of Public Access into its constitution, which means that you can strap on your boots and pack, and explore Sweden’s wilderness without any obstructions. Plus, easy access isn’t limited to trails and camping – according to, Marina, it’s easy to “go around without any trouble and having public transportation with good quality around you is amazing.” So whether you want to spend, your days trekking the rugged tundra of Lapland, your nights dancing in Stockholm, or watch the sunset from a kayak along the rocky coasts of Götaland, you’ll find something to suit your taste and shape your future in Sweden.