It's a Chain Reaction, Baby!

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

Perhaps you have not thought about a degree in Chemistry. Chemistry can seem like an unfathomable ocean of numbers. However, it is fundamental to our understanding of the world. It is also instrumental in powering and building technology for the future. Many people who study chemistry continue on to careers in medical disciplines including, pharmacy, dental or veterinary school. Others are able to find a job quickly in laboratories around the country. The criminal justice system and the agricultural and construction industries are a few fields that utilize laboratory services regularly.

Jabil and AEL in Memphis, Oak Ridge near Knoxville, Technical Laboratories in Chattanooga, Nashville Chemical and Eastman in Kingsport are a sampling of chemical companies offering jobs and internships around Tennessee. Nearby schools that have acclaimed programs in chemistry are UT Chattanooga, University of Memphis, Tennessee State University, Rhodes College, UT Knoxville, and Austin Peay University. Almost all of these have student chapters of the American Chemical Society (ACS) or Clubs on campus. Joining these groups will help your resume in the future. Even if chemistry is not your passion, taking a class may open your eyes to how the world around you is working.

Environmental Conservation

Tennessee is a beautiful state with a variety of water ecosystems and half of its land covered in tree habitats. With peaks higher than 6,000 feet in the east to the Mississippi River at sea level, there are six topological regions and three major ecological zones (Boreal, Deciduous Forest, Mississippi River Bottomlands). Another major ecosystem in Tennessee is comprised of the 9,600 documented caves, the largest number in the United States.   

Not surprisingly, Tennesseans are interested in preserving and stewarding our many natural resources. The Department of Environment and Conservation manages a State Park system that endeavors to protect the quality of our air, land, and water; promote human health; conserve cultural and historic places; and provide enriching outdoor activities. In addition, Tennessee has one National Forest, a National Historic Site and a National Historic Park, as well as 7 National Wildlife Refuges. Concerned citizens lobby the government for environmentally friendly policies and provide programs for the public to compost, recycle, and volunteer in research projects through organizations like the Tennessee Environmental Council and the Tennessee Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

If you want to study the environment or work outdoors several schools in Tennessee have programs that combine scientific knowledge with the practice of conservation. Roane State Community College has an Associate in Environmental Health Technology designed to give students specific job skills for the local workforce. You can also concentrate on several fields that will be foundational to degrees at other schools. The nearby University of Knoxville concentrates on conservation practices that relate to sustainable agricultural practices. They, along with UT-Chattanooga also have concentrations that focus on earth sciences and map-making issues. In addition, schools like Rhodes College, Lincoln Memorial University, and Lipscomb University integrate disciplines like sociology and fine arts to give students a holistic view of the world. Maryville College has a special emphasis on career building as well as Mountain Challenge, which takes students from any major and teaches them life skills in the great outdoors. Many of these schools are located near large farms, State Parks, or research stations that will provide you with hands-on experience anywhere you go.

From Our Table to Yours

Tennessee has over 90% of its area in forests and farmland. Corn, hay, and cotton take the bulk of crop land. Soybeans are also widely grown and contribute 11% of Tennessee’s agricultural income. In terms of revenue, however, beef cattle are the most valuable. This is followed by young chickens. Tennessee ranks 2nd in the country for the number of meat goats. Nursery and greenhouse products as well as tobacco are also important to the industry as are hogs and horses. Tennessee exports nearly $1 billion internationally in raw agricultural products each year.

This is not to say that most people live or work on big farms. However, many do have family or friends that do. And it is very common for people to have a small garden in their back yards. Having fresh vegetables in season is part of the culture and you can expect to see people sharing corn, tomatoes, and beans, among other things during the summer and fall. Small farmers sell local goods and specialty products at the 125 farmers markets across the state.

Photo by  Dane Deaner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Photo by  Jakob Owens  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

With agriculture being a foundational enterprise to many countries around the world it is a noble field of study. Several schools in Tennessee have programs that include it. Southwest Tennessee Community College has an associates in Horticulture and you can also work with landscaping which ties into business planning. Austin Peay University has a Bachelor’s in General Agriculture which will give you a good background in a range of venues. Both UT Martin and Tennessee State University have a Master’s degree available. Each of these schools are in middle and west Tennessee. In East Tennessee, the premier university in Tennessee is UT Knoxville which offers degrees in a variety of specialties as well as several doctorates including Food Science which can translate into other fields such as hospitality or medicine. Even if you do not want a degree in agriculture as a big business, you can benefit from understanding how it contributes to the economy in your country.

Music & Language

A music professor once asked me to suggest to international students that they take choir as a class. It’s an easy credit, a good way to meet people and travel, and singing helps with English pronunciation. Even if you do not consider yourself a singer, music is a good way to give your English-learning a boost. Spoken language and music both have a rhythm to it, volume, and speed. The rhythm in music pulls you along, creating a vehicle for natural expression of word order. Even when you listen to music recreationally, you are absorbing some of the sounds and rhythm of the language. Music is a language, in and of itself, that activates more parts of your brain to work together and can increase comprehension of the vocabulary more quickly. If the tune is catchy, you will find yourself rehearsing it effortlessly in your head, increasing memorization.

 We all remember singing as children to learn things in our own language, such as numbers or letters. Music is not just for children. It can help people of all ages learn a new language. Experts have some recommendations for using music to improve your language acquisition:

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  • Pick music you like to listen to. If you don’t like a particular genre in your own language you won’t be interested in listening to it in another language.

  • Find songs with lyrics. That way you can follow along visually as well as orally. It will help you hear sounds correctly. Watching people sing a song can also give you clues about how they are producing the sounds you hear.

  • Sing the songs with the music. Interpreting and producing language are two different functions. At least if you are creating sounds yourself, you have a feel for how it feels to produce the language.

  • Practice writing down what you hear. This will help you connect what you see to the sounds you are hearing. Even if you are watching a music video, different languages sometimes spell the sounds they use differently.

From Big-City Mumbai to Scenic Chattanooga

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Devan

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Devan

Khushi Dhruv is a first-year student attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She chose UTC for its strong psychology program, which prepares students for psychology-related careers in medicine, business, law, and other fields. The psychology department also prepares students for graduate study, offering undergraduate research publication opportunities in the student-run journal Modern Psychological Studies.

Khushi plans to earn a master’s degree and pursue neuropsychology after finishing her undergraduate studies. She hopes to conduct academic research and may someday open her own practice.

Moving to Chattanooga was exciting, Khushi says, but also a big transition. She grew up in Mumbai, an enormous city where she was always surrounded by tons of people. “The food is also very different, and I miss the spiciness of Indian cuisine,” she says.

Moving to a smaller city in a new country was a shock at first, but Khushi enjoys Chattanooga’s laidback atmosphere. Now, she is making the most of her time in the Scenic City. Her favorite spots include the Tennessee Riverwalk, which stretches 10 miles along the Tennessee River and through town, and the historic Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Starting over was challenging, Khushi says, “but I’ve made new friends with other international students and domestic students since I arrived.” In her free time, she enjoys cooking, exploring local restaurants, and attending campus events such as International Tea Time. She spends a lot of time in the UTC Library, studying and enjoying its quiet ambiance. She also likes walking through campus with friends and taking in the region’s natural beauty.

Khushi urges other students to join her in Chattanooga. “Come to UTC because it provides a wide range of courses, and it’s very flexible for students to choose their own path,” she says. “There are lots of extracurricular activities as well, like basketball and football matches that are fun to go to, and it’s nice that the University supports extracurricular things as much as classes.”

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Devan

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Devan

Guest blogger, Thomas Wiegand and Sarah Anne Perry

Religion

Tennessee is sometimes referred to as the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” an informal group of about 10 states in the mid- and southeastern United States. And with good reason. More than half of Tennesseans consider themselves religious and nearly three quarters attend religious services with some regularity. The religious population is predominantly Evangelical and Protestant, with just under a third being Baptist. Other major mainline denominations include Methodists and Presbyterians. Many Protestant denominations have established their flagship colleges or schools in Tennessee while the Methodist and Baptist churches both have large publishing houses in Nashville.

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Keeping track of the denominations: how they spread, broke apart, and rejoined to their current status can be confusing. Terminology, such as whether they consider themselves to be evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic, Calvinist, or liberal is just as perplexing. Even to those who go to church. Nevertheless, people can be passionate about their beliefs or worship style but you do not have to agree with them. Simply be respectful and do not argue. Express what you are comfortable with. Tennessee has very few Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, or those of other faiths. However, you are still likely to meet some of these people here as well.    

On the rise around the country, and even in Tennessee, is the number of people who do not identify with any particular religion. They may consider themselves spiritual seekers but haven’t settled on a belief system. If this is you, there are several good reasons to consider any one of the religiously affiliated schools in Tennessee. The faculty and staff are sympathetic to students seeking a spiritual home and dedicated to creating a safe place, physically and academically, for students to learn. As a student, you will likely find some level of biblical literacy and moral living required but no particular profession of faith.  As well, your like-minded classmates may or may not share your beliefs but are open to thinking through the issues with you. Generally these types of schools are privately funded. Therefore, they have more latitude to consider education as a holistic enterprise rather than job preparation only. Many religious schools have good reputations as being academically rigorous. You can be confident that you have received an honest and well-respected degree.

It's Complicated

February is the month of celebrating love. In elementary schools everywhere, children will be giving cards to their classmates and having Valentine’s Day parties. It is a good time of year for candy companies and jewelry stores as lovers shop for engagement rings and anniversary trinkets. But love is a complicated thing, isn’t it? Besides romantic love, we have love for our families and countries. And we value our time and possessions. It is hard when we love people but can’t be with them. Or we depend on people who disappoint us. How do you deal with these things?

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If you are interested in what makes people “tic” or if you want to help them sort through their relationships and gain self-confidence, then you might look at taking psychology classes during your time as a student. Even if you do not want to be a psychologist, it is likely that you will take a psychology class at some point. Psychology can be highly theoretical, yet many programs focus on practical applications. Many different fields make use of psychological principles as part of a broader understanding of their subjects, including law and business. Some schools have programs geared toward the health sciences; some concentrate in educational and child or school psychology; while others focus on economic patterns and how psychology affects the workplace.

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In the United States, you must have at least a Master’s degree in Psychology in order to practice in the mental health field. Each state has its own licensure requirements. Here are some licensure requirements in TN. Tennessee has specializations in Behavioral Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and School Psychology.

Tennessee at Christmastime

Tennesseans love to celebrate Christmas. Trees come up and decorations go out in November. Some places love to celebrate big. Take a look at some of the ways Tennesseans go all out to show their big Christmas spirit!

House in Brentwood, TN  Derek Bruff / Flickr

House in Brentwood, TN Derek Bruff / Flickr

Parade in Leipers Fork, TN  TommyJohn / FLickr

Parade in Leipers Fork, TN TommyJohn / FLickr

Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, TN (courtesy of tnvaction.com)

Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, TN (courtesy of tnvaction.com)

Museum of Appalachia, Christmas in Old Appalachia, Clinton, TN (Courtesy of tnvacation.com)

Museum of Appalachia, Christmas in Old Appalachia, Clinton, TN (Courtesy of tnvacation.com)

Tree lighting in Nashville, tennessean.com Erica Brechtelsbauer/The Leaf-Chronicle

Tree lighting in Nashville, tennessean.com Erica Brechtelsbauer/The Leaf-Chronicle

Speedway in lights tnvacation.com

Speedway in lights tnvacation.com

Rock city & Rock City Gardens Enchanged Garden of Lights at Rock City, tnvacation.com

Rock city & Rock City Gardens Enchanged Garden of Lights at Rock City, tnvacation.com

Cheekwood estate and gardens, Caitlin Harris, tnvacation.com

Cheekwood estate and gardens, Caitlin Harris, tnvacation.com

Christmas @ Graceland, tnvacation.com

Christmas @ Graceland, tnvacation.com

Gatlinburg, onlyinyourstate.com,  Jason AG - Flickr

Gatlinburg, onlyinyourstate.com, Jason AG - Flickr

Tennessee Hospitality

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As the temperature dips and the leaves turn color, people’s thoughts turn to comfort foods and cozy, family settings. The holidays are a busy time, especially for those in what is called the hospitality industry which includes a variety of concentrations such as food service, hotel management, and tourism. The United States relies heavily on its service industries and the International Student Guide says that it has the best hospitality schools in the world.

This field needs someone who loves to interact with the public and is willing to work hard, yet stay creative and have fun. It is also a field in which a good understanding of business practices will help you advance. UT – Knoxville recognizes the intimate connection between business and hospitality. Aside from Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, you can major in Retail and Consumer Science. Carson-Newman University also has a broad major, Consumer Services that will allow you to go into a variety of fields, including fund-raising. Product managers and sales representatives need to understand how consumers behave because retail suppliers also needs to draw shoppers to their stores and give them a good buying experience. Lipscomb University has a Hospitality and Entertainment Management program in their George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts. Hospitality overlaps with many different fields of study. They encourage collaboration with those in artistic fields. Southwest Tennessee Community College has 3 associates available as part of hospitality management: Hotel Management, Restaurant Management, Culinary Arts, each one giving you a very practical, job-ready education. Maryville College takes a different path and specializes in Outdoor Studies and Tourism. If you are interested helping people find outdoor adventure as well as promoting environmental conservation, this school is designed for you.

Each of these schools are conveniently located near centers of the industry from which you may find internship opportunities.

My Life in Tennessee

My mum and I in our first day in Bristol (August 2016)

My mum and I in our first day in Bristol (August 2016)

It was a hard decision to leave home. I was deciding to leave everyone and everything I have ever loved in my beautiful Madrid. I did it. I decided that studying and swimming in the US was going to make me happier than staying home. I could have never done this without the support of my family, so we did it.

I had never been to the United States. I did not know anything about this country apart from what I heard from a couple of friends who swam and studied here and the American movies. All I knew were stories but I did not have a clue of the culture I was getting into.

It was in March 2016 that I decided King University in Bristol, TN was the right school for me. In August I flew to New York city with my mum and my sisters and we stayed there for a couple of days. New York is just as amazing as it can get. After those days, we flew to Bristol. Bristol is so different to everywhere I had ever been in my life.

At first, everything was a shock for me. My culture has a lot of differences, plus I speak a different language at home. I have to admit that I knew English when I came here but the accent here was something I had never heard before. Schedules were different, swimming looked like a whole different sport, the food, the people, the way people socialize with each other, public transport…

First snow day (January 2017)

First snow day (January 2017)

South Holston Lake 2017

South Holston Lake 2017

Everything I had ever known was different. I guess I could say it was scary at first. I got to know my team, I got to know my neighbours at my dorm, I got to know more incoming freshman who were internationals and Americans too; and since that moment on I knew this was going to be my second home. King is now my home away from home, my safe place. I am not only getting an academic education, I have learnt so many things about myself here. I have learnt way more than chemistry and biology, I have learnt and I am still learning about life. Everyday I discover something I did not know. This place has shown me how the world can have infinite perspectives and points of view. I learnt how to be independent, how to trust myself and how to not trust everyone else. I know now that we are powerful enough to make our own decisions and that we need to deal with all the consequences of those decisions. I learnt how to manage my time better. I learnt what missing someone actually felt like and how we are the choices that we make and how we deal with them. It was not always easy but I can proudly say it was worth it. I learnt things not only about myself, but also about others. I have a new family at King. I met so many people who are now a priority in my life. Most of the friends I made in Bristol are the people I want to share my life with. They have made me better in every single way.

Swim Team 2017-2018

Swim Team 2017-2018

Guest Blogger, Macarena Martin Mayor, King University Class of 2020

Calling All Athletes!

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Being involved in a sport enables many international students to study in the United States through scholarships. Schools gain quality athletes and diversify their campuses. Attending school in the United States gives athletes the option to continue playing a beloved sport while pursuing an education. Being an athlete in the United States will give you a chance to meet more people and travel around the region. Your team can be a great support network for navigating life in a new place. However, this can have its own special challenges for befriending classmates who are not athletes, participating in other college life activities, and having time to study.

No matter what avenue of recruitment you use, you will likely be placed in a school that is competing at an appropriate level for you. The NCAA is the Association in the United States that determines the rules for many intercollegiate sports. They also set financial, academic, and eligibility standards for member institutions designed to keep competitions balanced, provide gender equity, and create opportunities for every athlete. The NCAA groups schools into three tiers that roughly follow the size of the school and the amount of money the schools spend on the programs and fan base. NCAA is protective of the amateur status of all college players. Playing against professional teams or accepting money for playing in your home country may impact your eligibility. See www.ncaa.org or PrepScholar for more about NCAA Divisions and rules.  

Below is a chart of some of the most popular and familiar sports available at Tennessee schools:                     

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Not all sports at all schools are governed by the NCAA.  There are also other smaller associations a school may belong to. Scholarships may or may not be involved with these sports. Several schools in Tennessee have unusual sports you might be interested in watching or participating in for fun. For instance, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has a rowing team. You can bowl at Lincoln Memorial. King University has an excellent wrestling program as well as a brand new gaming team. Cheerleading and dance has risen in popularity in the United States for both men and women.

Here is a chart of some of the more unusual sports activities at schools in Tennessee:

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The Business Degree

The business degree is a popular degree because it is so versatile. If you enjoy numbers, you can work in accounting or finance. If you care about people, you might concentrate on human resources. If you are creative, marketing might be for you. Even if you want to work in a field like art or sports management, understanding how your business works can give you and edge. Many small business owners or self-employers find that taking business class helps them achieve their goals. Ideally, business classes should make a student think objectively about the decision making process. Such research and analytical skills come in handy in diverse careers like law, psychology, and healthcare. Commerce touches everyone in some way and learning about it could lead to some interesting self-discovery as well. Understanding your own goals and the factors in society that impact your business will help you succeed in your chosen career track.

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Each school in Study Tennessee has excellent business programs. Universities.com lists several in their top 10 picks for 2018. Rhodes College, Lipscomb University, and Trevecca Nazarene University are all small private institutions in large cities. They can provide personalized attention to students while offering them access to major companies located in Tennessee. UT-Knoxville and ETSU are large, public institutions in small to medium-sized cities. ETSU combines technological fields such as computing and engineering into its College of Business and Technology (CBAT). The University of Memphis prides itself on providing a holistic approach to business excellence including healthy living, networking, and business etiquette. They also have The Cook Lab which mimics a Wall Street trading firm.

Internet Use

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Like the air we breathe, the internet touches almost all parts of our lives. We connect with friends and family. We conduct our banking and pay bills online. We get directions. We ask questions, do business, and find entertainment. If we cannot be with someone in the flesh, we may join them by video. If at any time we want to communicate with someone far away—or across the table—we send them a text message. Technology has made the world a smaller place. It has also made us more distracted and less present in the moments of our lives. How involved can you be in an activity when you’ve stepped out of it to take a picture? Or two? Or ten?

Human beings long to be connected to others. One study of college students in Taiwan showed that students who used the internet heavily tended to be more lonely or depressed. Those who used the internet less were happier with their studies. Presumably the quality of their relationships made them more satisfied. Being able to work through issues personally with your professors or coaches will make you feel more competent and empowered to help yourself in the future. Another study looked at the motivations that college students have for using the internet. It found that students who were creating social networks were better adapting to their study abroad experience as opposed to those who mainly wanted to stay in touch with family and happenings in their home country.

From this, we see how powerful technology is to both connect and disengage us from life. This is not to say that you cannot use the internet a lot or that you cannot stay in touch with your family. You need to maintain a balance in your life. You should care about your friends and family at home. But you also need to participate in your own life where you are. Even when you have a bad day are frustrated with your new culture, you will be able to work through it better with friends. If you only use the internet to escape life, you will continue to be unhappy with unsolved problems. So make the internet a tool that supports your life, not something that keeps you from it.

Embassies Should Not Regularly Limit Visa Validity

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The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) is an instruction manual for Department of State Consular Officers. Inside, a set of reciprocity tables provides a baseline as to what the validity period and number of allowed entries will be for visas issued for nationals of a particular country. Consular officers do have discretion to alter the visa validity period, for example, but a new provision at 9 FAM 403.9-4(C)(b) is telling them to be judicious in not following the reciprocity tables and limiting visa validity.

The line of thought is that limiting visa validity may lead to complaints by the host government that consular officers are biased and the United States has failed to accord reciprocal treatment to the host government’s nationals. Such a practice may also result in an unnecessary increase in workload. The reapplication rate of aliens with limited visas is relatively high at many posts. Therefore, the period of time and the number of applications for admission for which a nonimmigrant visa is valid must not be restricted without due cause to less than that permitted by the reciprocity schedules and only with the concurrence of a consular manager. If due cause to limit the nonimmigrant visa is not present, then an officer should issue a full-validity visa. Limiting visa validity may also impact the equities of other parts of the United States government.

It makes good sense when you think about it. These tables are based on reciprocal treatment between countries. If consular officers are regularly ignoring the reciprocity tables and limiting visa validity, other countries can cry foul, and this presents a diplomatic problem.

~From a blog post by contributor, Adam Cohen. 

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?!

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You will notice that Americans love the game of football. Not soccer, but American football. In September both professional (National Football League, NFL) and school teams begin playing. Almost all public high schools have a team. It is part of the shared American experience to have spent Friday nights in the stands cheering along with the cheerleaders, eating concession stand foods, and watching the bands play half-time shows. The best high school players can capitalize on their talent for college scholarships. College football generates an average of $30 million for schools with a good football program, far more than any other sport. You will definitely want to take note of the University of Tennessee football team, the Volunteers. Their colors are orange and white. They have especially celebrated rivalries with Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Bulldogs, and the Florida Gator teams. College football playoffs generally wrap up around Christmas as players take a break before heading into the spring semester. Football fans will continue to follow their favorite professional teams through January until the Super Bowl, the final game played on the first Sunday in February. It has become traditional to have parties with special foods designed to be eaten while watching the game with friends. The nation intensely watches for news of the half-time entertainment. There is a lot of interest in watching the commercials as well. Many are specially made for debut during the Super Bowl and could cost $5 million or more this year for a 30 second slot.  You can see how football plays into American culture in these films: Remember the Titans (2000), Radio (2003), We Are Marshall (2006), The Blind Side (2009), and Undefeated (2011).

Even if you do not know much about the game you can still take pleasure in sharing the fun with your American friends. Here are a few football words to help you talk about the game:

Gridiron: A football field is 100 yards long. The center line is the 50-yard-line and the yards decrease by 10 as they near the end zones. Early fields were checkered with lines making the surface look like a cooking grid. The name stuck even though the pattern of lines has changed. 

Pigskin: the football, itself. When the game began in 1869, balls were often made out of animal bladders. Fortunately, this practice quickly became obsolete.

Touchdown: The object of the game is to either pass or run with the ball into the team’s end zone while the other team attempts to gain control of the ball. If a team member is able to run into the end zone or to catch the ball there, that team earns 6 points.

Field goal: If a team is unable to reach their end zone, they may kick the ball through the goal post for 3 points.

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Sack: The quarterback is the player on the field who is calling the shots. This player possesses the ball until he can throw it to a receiver. However, if the other team can tackle or sack the quarterback first they keep that team from earning points. 

Fantasy football: Friends and coworkers sometimes form competitions based on imaginary teams. To play, competitors choose from current football players to form their own teams and earn points according to how their chosen players actually perform that season. 

Volunteerism

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Americans have been stereotyped as both wonderfully generous and stubbornly stingy. You can certainly find both in whatever part of the state you find yourself. The Philanthropy Roundtable indicates that Tennesseans gave 4.5% of their gross income in 2016, making Tennessee the 4th most generous state in the Union. Of all giving, almost three-fourths of donations come from individuals. We support religious causes (39%), education (19%), human services (15%), and health care needs (11%). We also give to support the arts, the environment, and causes outside the country. Charitable giving in the United States equals about 2% of the nation’s GDP.

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Although Americans give throughout the year, autumn brings a host of opportunities to do so. Cooler temperatures and harvest festivals bring people together and lend themselves to sharing resources with those less fortunate. You will likely see Veterans’ support groups handing out flags and asking for donations around Veterans Day. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated #GivingTuesday. Soon you will see the iconic “bell ringers” from the Salvation Army standing in front of stores ringing a bell for your change to be put in a red “kettle.” The Marine Corps collects new, unwrapped toys for local children in a Toys for Tots Campaign every year. Angel Tree is a ministry of Prison Fellowship to children whose parent(s) are incarcerated.

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Not only do Americans donate money, they also give of their time. 25% of adults and 63 million children and adults volunteered an average of 139 hours last year. Volunteering in a good way to meet a variety of people, not just the smiling student faces you see in advertising brochures. Although international students are unable to to work off campus, volunteering is not prohibited. At Thanksgiving and Christmastime many people volunteer to serve meals at shelters or bring food to the elderly. Perhaps your school will collect coats and jackets for Coats For Kids. Many groups work together to pack shoeboxes full of gifts for Samaritan’s Purse. If you want to volunteer for a longer period of time, it is a good idea to let your International Student Advisor know what you are doing. Your advisor may want to note it in your records so that there will not be any concerns about it later.

In November 2016, wildfires in Tennessee destroyed 17,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and parts of nearby resort towns. The fires affected almost 2,500 homes and businesses and killed 14. Tennesseans came together in creative and moving ways to send help to families and even their pets and wildlife. From across the nation, donations came in. Singer Dolly Parton, who was born in this area, created a fund called My People that would give 900 families money for five months. Mountain Tough Recovery Team continues to provide assistance. As these names imply, the people of Sevierville see themselves as survivors and you will find Tennesseans to be fiercely loyal to their neighbors. And when you come to Tennessee you will likely find that neighbor to be you as well.

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Student Voice: My Journey to Tennessee

I can still remember it vividly. 

Sitting in front of the US ambassador wiping sweat off my forehead thinking about all those sleepless nights applying for schools, studying for exams, interviews, learning English and all those things international students go through in order to study in U.S.

I sat there thinking that this decision is probably going to change my life forever.  And it did. The next minute, the Ambassador smiled at me as he stamped the APPROVED word on my papers. I wanted to jump and scream for joy, but I had to remind myself that I was still sitting in front of the US ambassador. Everything went well and getting my F1 visa was my last step I had to take before coming to Tennessee.

A few weeks later, there I was, tucking my heart and dreams into a suitcase along with a few books, a few clothes, and a picture of my family. I hugged them tightly and then flew across the ocean hoping for the better. A better education and a better journey to learn, to grow, to rediscover myself and new parts of the world.  

And I did. All of the above.

It’s been three years since I left the place that I call home Moldova, a small and beautiful land located between Romania and Ukraine. I lot of things have changed since but one thing I am confident about is that coming to study in U.S. is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Jazgul in Moldova

Jazgul in Moldova

I got a better education - different than the one I have ever expected. In my mind, education meant classes, assignments, and projects. That’s it. Instead, I got so much more. Confidence, adaptability, independence, and openness to new ideas, mindsets were only a few of the “classes” not included in the curriculum but somehow I ended up taking. I have always wanted to get better at those. Per my family and friends, I did.

Not to mention the importance of a cultural exchange and the gain of a global perspective when going into the job market. You learn how to approach, lead and work with people from different backgrounds. And I believe these are one of the most valuable skills to have.

I learned that different doesn’t mean wrong. Each culture is unique and U.S. is one of the most diverse countries. There are so many differences between U.S. and Moldova. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one is wrong and the other is right. It’s just different. In Tennessee, I’ve become friends with a lot of international students and it is beautiful to see different cultures interacting with each other. It is such a gift and the more you realize it, the more you learn to appreciate every ounce of it. There is, however, the risks of losing part of your own culture but you will only lose what you think it’s not worth keeping. And that is something only you get to decide.

Nashville became home and Nashvillians became family. I remember when I started meeting people and my accent was entertaining to others. I was even more entertained by theirs, like the Southern one! I remember laughing with tears and making others laugh at the way I was using English words in completely wrong contexts. Everyone around me was very understanding, while patiently teaching me the American measurement system, coins, or introducing me to the variety of food and the food combinations. They were also genuinely interested in the culture I grew up. They were asking lots of questions and welcomed mine without any judgments. 

A popular place in Nashville to take your picture!

A popular place in Nashville to take your picture!

Was the adjusting process to American culture easy? No.

Was the high caliber American education worth trading for a familiar and comfortable experience? Absolutely!

So dear friends, wherever you are in the process, whether is just thinking of coming or whether you are holding your acceptance letter in your hand, my only hope for you to go out, challenge yourself and take advantage of the opportunities which have been given to you (or the ones you have to find).

Jazgul and her friends on campus.

Jazgul and her friends on campus.

You won’t regret it. I promise.

Good luck on your new journey and hoping for your experiences to be even better, fuller and richer than mine!

Jazgul Orozova, Lipscomb University student, Nashville, Tennessee

 

 

 

Watch the Solar Eclipse

Eclipses are a kind of phenomena that disrupts the normal course of nature. There is nothing so constant in nature as the movements of the sun and moon across the sky. So whenever something threatens their faithfulness, civilizations have created stories and myths to explain them. Most often stories involve creatures eating the sun or moon. In fact, the old Chinese word for eclipse means “to eat.” Jane Lee recounts a clever Hindi myth in National Geographic in which a demon tries to gain immortality by stealing a special elixir but the sun and moon tell the gods on him. The god, Vishnu, cuts off his head before he can swallow it. His head is now immortal but not his body is not. In revenge, he chases the sun and moon and occasionally swallows them but they drop out of the bottom of his head. Others made lots of noise to scare the demons away and leave the celestial bodies alone. Not all cultures have reacted as fearfully to this phenomenon. One African culture uses the time to resolve differences and repair broken friendships. If the sun and moon see the people on earth getting along, maybe they will stop fighting as well. (Lee, Jane. "Solar Eclipse Myths From Around the World." National Geographic. Nov 2013. )

Today, of course, we understand that the sun and moon are passing in front of one another. Nevertheless, this celestial dance is impressive to watch. The August 21st eclipse passes through a large swath of the state of Tennessee. The eclipse will take place between one and four in afternoon, with totality occurring around 2:30 EST or 1:30 CST. Even those not in the zone of totality will see up to a 93% coverage. NASA has an interactive map that describes where and when the eclipse can be seen as it crosses North America. See map. 

While you may be leaving some unresolved issues at home, you will most likely be arriving in time to make new friends around the August 21st eclipse. There are many groups that will be organizing to watch the eclipse. Watch for flyers on your campus. Some campuses have a good programs for studying astronomy and may therefore open their facilities to the public. Several schools have observatories and programs that feature astronomy. East Tennessee State University has a research program in astronomy. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has a distinguished faculty in their Physics & Astronomy program. The University of Chattanooga uses the Clarence T. Jones Observatory which is also open and free to the public.

If you simply enjoy learning about the stars, Tennessee has several planetariums you can visit. Bays Mountain in the Tri-Cities area is also a nature park. The University of Memphis has one on its Lambeth campus that is free to the public. Sudekum Planetarium in Nashville offers a range of show and events, including Yoga under the Stars. There are planetariums in Gallatin and Memphis as well. For a list of nearby clubs, visit the Astronomical League’s site. But don’t expect them to bang pots and pans at this eclipse!

What should I do after applying to my preferred school? Apply to more!

Many students find one school they want to attend the most when looking for colleges or universities. Even though you may prefer one school, it is wise to apply to multiple colleges. This may sound strange at first. You may ask yourself, “If I have decided on a school that I want to attend, why should I apply to multiple universities?” Consider the following reasons:

Admissions may be competitive

Admission to some schools is competitive. Not all applicants who apply are admitted. If admission to your preferred college is competitive, you need to apply to additional schools as well. This will ensure that you have options if you are not admitted. This is especially true for graduate schools.

Scholarships

The college you want to attend might not be the college you can afford to attend. If your dream school grants you admission but does not provide the scholarship opportunities you need, you will need other options. If you apply to more than one university, you can compare scholarship opportunities and choose the school that is more affordable.

Graduate school

It may be even more important for students applying to graduate degree programs to apply to multiple universities. Graduate programs typically accept fewer students and apply more strict admissions requirements. In addition, assistantships for graduate students can be very competitive. There is a greater chance of being denied admission or a scholarship when applying to grad school. Students should apply to several universities to ensure they have options in the event they are denied admission to a program or cannot afford the fees.

Why are options important?

During the admissions process, international students have less time compared with US students. Getting admitted to a school is only the first step. After that, the international student must obtain an I-20, go to a visa interview, provide immunization information, make travel plans, and more. If an international student only applies to one school and is rejected or does not receive enough scholarship assistance, she or he may be left with very little time to make other plans. If it is too late to apply to another school, the student may have to wait for the next admissions cycle. So, when you are applying to colleges and universities, apply to at least five schools to ensure you will have a back-up plan.
 

A Place for International Students?

For decades, American colleges and universities have been a favorite choice for international students. The Migration Policy Institute notes that even though our global share has decreased, the number of international students has increased. Historically, schools and businesses understand that international students are helpful to the economy. Different perspectives create space for new, innovative ideas, which benefit people everywhere. International students who go on to leadership positions at home also build bridges of goodwill between countries. 


Speaking of the current political climate on a public radio program, NAFSA president Esther Brimmer observed that “there is a connection between the United States’ policies on immigration and its face to the world.” Students and their families are worried about their ability to finish an education in the United States. Her last question, however, caught my attention. “Are we seen as welcoming?” 
The news coverage about our newly elected President, Donald J. Trump, has created more heat than light, it seems. With lots of mixed signals, this year has been confusing, even for Americans. I hope you will ignore all the noise and remember that we are having an internal dialogue about the best way to balance our safety and welfare with helping others, both American values. International students embody the best of what the United States hopes to bring to its people and give back to the world. 
Despite the ongoing national debate, I hope you will indeed find that American people are welcoming to international students. Open Doors calculates that there are over 1 million international students in the United States. Many come to the well-known schools in California or New York. However, Tennessee is growing its international student population. Across the state you will get to know the meaning of “southern hospitality,” especially to strangers. If you are looking for a place to be able to think deeply and find yourself as an individual Tennessee is a beautiful, safe place for you to do so.