“Windy City”? Not Even in the Top 10!

By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Skyline from North Avenue Beach
Chicago Skyline from North Avenue Beach. Photo: Bohao Zhao


How well do you know Chicago? Do you know how many people live in this “city of neighborhoods”? Where does that “windy” part coming from?  Is it because the city is very cold? How the streets got their names? Yes, Lincoln Park is named after the US president Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Park also, but who were Kinzie, La Salle, or Van Buren? What about Wrigley field? Well, let’s find out!

I have no doubts that any time you walk out through the door during the winter experiencing the wind coming off Lake Michigan you think how the nickname justified is: “the Windy City”. The truth is that people cannot come to agreement how and when windy became description for Chicago. It is obvious that the city is cold and windy, but that’s not the only reason, especially considering that Chicago is not the windiest place in the USA, not even in the top 10. Surprised?

Let’s go back to the 19th century, when Chicagoans traveled across the East coast promoting the city as ideal place for investing. In 1893, couple of American cities competed for hosting the World’s Colombian Exposition. The choice narrowed to New York and Chicago, but Chicago ultimately won the contest. The big rivalry between these two cities existed even then, and New Yorkers didn’t like losing. The editor of New York Sun (publication that were operating between 1833 and 1955) Charles A. Dana claimed that the politicians in Chicago were “full of hot air” (the meaning of idiom is full of nonsense) and he allegedly wrote: “that nonsensical claims of that windy city. Its people could not hold a world’s fair even if they won it”.

The problem is that the article have never been found, and many researches dismiss that story as a myth. One judge from New York Barry Popik, now a consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary, spent hours and hours looking into old newspapers (New York Sun) searching for any article that contains word ‘windy’. He said he found none! He looked further and he found another article from 1887. Published in Louisville Currier-Journal calling Chicago “windy”. Many historians support the statement that the term was coined in the early 1880’s.

Even if Charles A. Dana might not be the person who coined the term, he was definitely one who popularized it since he didn’t hold Chicago and its citizenry in high regards, and he often wrote about it.

People like simple things, and the explanation that has to do something with bad politicians make perfect sense! That’s why many people give credit to Charles A. Dana and accept this urban legend as the only truth.

Windy or hot, the city is absolutely beautiful, the third largest in the USA. We get to another confusing thing: the size of population that live here. It really depends on what do you consider to be Chicago. Is it just the inner city, or does it include suburbs, or even larger metropolitan area? So, how big is the city?
First of all, there are 77 Community Areas: the last two Edgewater was separated from Uptown in 1980, and O’Hare area was formed in 1956. The latest data shows that 2,731 million people live in the city, but the larger area called Chicagoland is home to around 10 million people. Now, I want you to imagine how it started: in 1833 only 200 people moved to this territory. If you think about, it wasn’t that long ago, and yet Chicago managed to become the fourth most essential business center on the planet in the Master Card Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index. Impressive, isn’t it?

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Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Photo: Chad Zuber / Shutterstock.com

 

I guess that many of you landed to O’Hare airport on your way here. I did to.  The history of the airport area is quite interesting: First visitors were German immigrants, who settled down and named the area “Orchard Place”. When World War II started, the War Department bought the place and open an aircraft factory Douglas. When the war was over, the city bought the place and renamed it again, this time simply Orchard Field airport. I was always wondering what the symbol ORD stands for, and that’s where the identification letters coming from. Few years later, in 1949, it was suggested that the name should be changed in honor of Lieutenant Commander Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a young navy pilot who died during the war. He was the first one who got the Medal of Honor for combating enemy planes, actually 9 Japanese bombers in 1942. You can read more about that flight and fight here.

The first commercial flight happened in 1955. And just for the records, O’Hare International Airport is the forth busiest airport in the world by number of passengers; New York is at distant 15th place. Ha, not bad for a “windy” city?

One more significant thing happened at this place: the worst airline accident in the US history. In 1979 all passengers and crew on board American Airlines Flight 191 were killed when DC-10 crashed soon after taking off. The reason for crash? One engine on the left wing separated and flipped over the wing inducing damage to the plane. The number of passengers is something I couldn’t clarify: different sources, different numbers.

You got plenty of information today, hope didn’t know many. The next article is about city’s neighborhoods. You would get the answers on questions asked above, and much more!

 

Interesting facts:

  • Edward O’Hare’s father was a lawyer and a close associate of Al Capone. He presented strong evidence against him during the trial, and was killed couple of years later.
  • A replica of O’Hare’s firefighter is exposed in Terminal 2. Check it out next time you travel somewhere!
  • Every 90 seconds an airplane takeoff or land to the O’Hare International Airport
  • This airport has the cleanest bathrooms of the world’s busiest airports, according to the Association of international agents.

Are Americans rude, oblivious or busy?

By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

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I use public transportation almost every day, and I was surprised by the fact that Americans rarely give up their seats for older people. We were taught that we are supposed to threat elderly with respect: whenever you are in the bus and see an older gentleman or lady your obligation is to offer them a seat. That’s the rule also if you see a young mom with kids, or a pregnant lady with visible belly. Here sometimes I have feeling that people in the train are completely oblivious to their surroundings, deep in their thoughts or just staring in their iPhones. That’s what happened the other day in the train. One young girl literally had to yell at people: “Hey, don’t you see a pregnant lady here?” until some guy stood up. Then she said her friend loud enough so we could hear that it was her second time that day she had to react.

Strong sense of community

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I witnessed so many times when people approach police officers and thanking them for all work they do and all risk they take every day in order to protect citizens.

Honestly, I cannot imagine that picture in my county. Serbs really don’t like the police since it is widely accepted that that is one of the most corrupted part of the system, and people do not put a lot of trust in police officers.

I also saw couple of times in restaurants that some people would pay for the meal when they see people in uniform. Bravo, Chicagoans! 

 

Wedding is an event that has to be planned well ahead! Plus, as a guest you might have to pay for your drink(s)

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When friend of mine told me last year that she was invited to a wedding and she was super exited because it was an open bar I didn’t understand what she meant. I mean, I knew the meaning of “open bar” policy, but the wedding and this term in the same sentence was confusing. Then, she explained to me that the couple who was getting married (or their parents) were responsible for paying drinks for their guests. I was surprised. Does that mean that sometimes you have to pay for it when you go to the wedding? She smiled and said yes, that’s very common in the USA.

Since I am writing about weddings, I must say that this is such a big thing in the USA, so big that many people want to avoid stress that comes with amazing an event to hire professional help: wedding consultant. Not only that, browse the internet, you will find many websites created to help couples to find what they need for the most important day of their life, everything from florist, music, photographers, dresses, etc. According to the www.enlightenme.com the wedding planning industry is a huge business with an estimated $42 billion (yes, billion) in sales of wedding relating products!

I understand that a wedding IS a big thing for any couple, but I would say that things go easier in my country although it does require time to prepare all details. In small cities people know each other and usually word of mouth is the best way to go: just ask your friends and you would get recommendations for everything you might need! And, your friends will offer their help as well.

 

Street dogs are nowhere to be seen!

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I cannot stress enough how big problem this is my country, in almost every city. There is no enough shelters for street animals, and people can very often encounter group of very dangerous dogs on street in busy neighborhoods. The problem is even bigger in villages. So many hurt and wounded kids, and the authorities do very little (or nothing) to prevent these issues. The local officials know that is going to cost a lot of money in compensations after citizens sue the city, but they would still spend money that way then investing in permanent solutions. Do not think now that organizations for animals are not interested in helping: their voices are heard, but completely ignored. Ordinary citizens are not even allowed to protect themselves, the laws are very strict in case you hurt the animal, witch lead to the very undesirable position.

I have never seen ONE dog walking on the street, not in Chicago, not in other states I visited, unless they are with their owners. And that is the only way it should be.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this mini series of articles where I tried to describe the biggest differences between the USA and my home country Serbia. Of course, there are many more, but I will leave it for now. Maybe a couple more things that I do not have to explain:

  • The gas is extremely cheap. That’s why Americans drive big cars.
  • The language is very relaxed: addressing older group of people with Hi, folks, guys, people or something similar is unacceptable in my country.
  • The lack of geographical knowledge is very often a cause for mocking Americans calling them stupid. They usually divide Europe on East (former Soviet Union countries, where they believe my country belongs) and West (London, Pairs and Italy). Many of them believe Paris is a country! The rest for them is very blur, something over there 🙂
  • In my country people that walk a lot always have a bench nearby so they can rest. Here you can find one only in parks, even then the number is not significant.

The American Customer Service vs. Hospitality

By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

I talked last time about some distinctions between my home country and the country I am living in now. It seems that those differences are countless. Some of them I love, some I don’t understand, and some of them I think I would never be able to accept. That makes my life much more interesting: adjusting to the new environment is a process, and I am enjoying learning and observing all these small things that are so different. For example:

 

The “wild west” culture

I am reluctantly admitting this to you now, but sometimes I am afraid for my safety. Although I live in very safe neighborhood, how safe can one be in Chicago, with such a high level of all sort of criminal activities? Every day, EVERY DAY we hear stories of someone being killed. That is not even news anymore. The breaking news would be if one day passed without counting victims in Chicago. The fact that anyone can buy and carry weapon is horrifying. You can never know where some attacker can show up and start shooting randomly.

Check this story out: a 13 year old boy tried to buy alcohol, porn, lottery and cigarettes without success, since he was a minor. But, he had no problem buying a gun. It took him less than 10 minutes to walk away with deadly weapon in his hands. No questions asked. Something is very wrong, don’t you think?

Customer service is incredible!

It’s very easy to be a great customer when you know what kind of support you can get from any business! Amazing. I will give you an example: I contacted Uber support team at least 5 times so far and I always got an answer in less than an hour. The last time they responded in three minutes, while I was in the car trying to solve the problem I had with my trip (my driver canceled the ride accidentally, but he accepted to give me a ride. I wanted to be sure that he would be paid for his work). I couldn’t believe! And be positive that that is a standard here. (Okay, Comcast is an exception 🙂 )

It is less likely that that kind of service you would get in my country. Sad, but true. What a nightmare it was for me to cancel my mobile plan I had it there from here. I had to call so many times four different agencies in order to find which one is responsible for my contract. Plus, the ladies were very rude on the phone. And, that is standard in my country.

What can I say – the big market, tough competition – establishments are fighting for every single customer here. They need you back. And they will do almost impossible to make you happy. If they don’t – they lose the business. Plain and simple.

 

Maternity paid leave is a luxury

The United States of America can be proud of so many great things, and I don’t even have an intention of naming some of them, but when it comes to a safety net: if fails, big time. The current law (Family and Medical Leave Act signed into law in 1993) says that women have a 12 weeks UNPAID leave to care of new born and recover from the childbirth. And that’s not all. There are some restriction to this law: the size of company the women work for, the number of hours spent working for the same employee in the past year and so on. Some states tried and extended benefits new moms should get, but it is far from good.

Even my country is in very poor financial situation, it still provides full year of PAID maternity leave. Not only that, but pregnant women can take leave while they are expecting and they can still receive certain amount of money each month. That relieves the pressure from women and they can concentrate on their kid(s) more. And all European countries have far better health care system for their citizens than the US.

I remember one former co-worker when she worked as a house keeper in a hotel literally until she was due. She had to be on her knees cleaning and using all sort of chemicals every day, multiple times. Couple of days after she had her child, she had to come back and work, although still visible recovering. Her husband visited her every day with the baby so she could breast-feed her. It was sad that she didn’t have a choice to stay with the baby for a while. Those first months are the most precious, but her leaving her job would probably mean no income for her family.

And, honestly, I don’t understand how business can take a risk and bring a lady with hormonal misbalance to work with customers or perform some other tasks.

Put this note on a side, this topic is very hot in the USA nowadays and politicians (especially presidential candidates) finally speak up about such a big problem. It remains to be seen what will happen, but I strongly believe that every mother has a right to choose to stay at home with a baby without fear for surviving, and without fear of losing her job while doing the most important job in the world: taking care of a child!

 

The level of consumerism is extremely high

People waiting in line hours outside of the Michigan Avenue Apple Store in downtown Chicago, Illinois.
People waiting in line hours outside of the Michigan Avenue Apple Store in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Photo: jessicakirsh / Shutterstock.com

Com’ on, are you really going to sleep outside of the store just because you want to buy a new iPhone?

No way, even if they promise me one for free I wouldn’t spend time waiting. I can find it tomorrow or the next day, or I can buy something else.

 

Lunch time. Burger? No, thank you.

On traditional Serbian lunch table you will always find: homemade soup first, and then COOKED meal with meat (chicken or pork usually). Salad is a must. We consider sandwiches as quick snack, in between lunch and dinner, sometimes it can be served as breakfast, but NEVER as lunch.

 

And, again something that is self-explanatory:

 

  • We do not have cheerleaders in high schools
  • Rape on campuses is a huge problem in the USA
  • Only Americans understand and like baseball
  • The country is so big so it is no surprise that there are many cities with the same names in different states. How many Springfield towns have you heard of or visited so far?
  • Electricity is so cheap here, no kidding!

Best Ways to Immerse Yourself in American Culture

Learning about American culture can be challenging for international students. Most of what you may know may have come from U.S.-based television programs and movies. Even if you have visited the U.S., you were there as a tourist, so your interactions with the “locals” and how you were treated during your stay is typically different than if you are there to go to school, work, and stay longer.

American Culture

To get a better idea of local American cultures you need to:

  • Complete English programs for international students. You need to be able to speak, read, and write English in order to communicate.
  • Attend festivals, cultural shows, and other local events. These events help you expand your knowledge and see local cultures firsthand. In addition, it is a great way to meet new people and make new friends.
  • Partake in local cuisine. Eat outside your normal “comfort” zone and try new foods that are available locally.
  • Dress the part. Dress like you are a local and not a tourist. People will tend to be more open and engaging.
  • Read about local customs, holidays, and other information about a particular area before leaving home.

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in American culture is to keep an open mind. The United States is a “mixing-pot” of numerous cultures and ethnicities. From Italian and German, to Asian American and Spanish, and more, there are plenty of cultural experiences waiting to be discovered.

Remember to enroll in English programs to expand you skills in this language, by calling Computer Systems Institute at 1-888-652-2494 for more information today!

Tips for Preparing to Move to a New Country

Moving to a new country to pursue your college education, internships, or other reasons can be daunting if you are not properly prepared. Taking the time to prepare before you move will save you headaches and hassles later.

Learn Business English

  1. Visit the country on holiday/vacation first. If you have never been to the country you want to live in, it is a good idea to take a one or two week trip to check it out. During your stay, take time out to visit local shops to find out the costs of food, clothing, and other essential items you will need.
  2. Learn the local language. For instance, if you want to move to the U.S., you should know Basic English before you arrive and complete an intensive English program after arriving.
  3. Visit your healthcare provider. Make sure all of your immunizations and vaccinations are current before traveling abroad.
  4. Apply for your student visa and work visa. Simply having a student visa does not allow you to work in most countries. You also require a work visa.
  5. Secure housing before you depart home. Talk to your university or college about housing options and the costs.
  6. Save plenty of money. Make sure you have enough money to cover all of your expenses during your stay, or at least 3 months’ worth, if you will be working.

By using these tips, your move to a new country will proceed more smoothly. If you are moving to the United States, you can enroll for intensive English and interpersonal communication skills programs at Computer Systems Institute. Contact us now at 1-888-652-2494 for more information.

The America that International Students Can’t Learn from Movies (Part II)

Blog_07152016By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

 

“How are you?”

It’s meaningless, just get used to it! And two years later, I still want to answer honestly when someone ask me: “How are you?”. I do want to say if I am great, sad, exited, tired, angry or just happy. I don’t like to pretend and always answer: “Good, how are you?” And then keep minding my business. If I do ask you that, than I would patiently listen to what you have to say. I’ll make it personal. Otherwise, I’ll skip the question, even risking to look rude.

Friendship and family ties are way too….

Yes, I saw in the movies that families gather once a year, either for a Thanksgiving or a Christmas, and the family members are not close at all, even if they live together, but I never believed that. Now, I DO! And I understand why: kids are being taught to be independent from the early age. Plus, American nation is extremely mobile. The country itself is huge, and people move all the time from state to state, looking for a better job, for a college, marriage or an adventure. Imagine that you leave in the East coast, and your family on the West. It takes time and money to visit them. So, once/twice a year is enough and manageable. My country is very small, visiting anyone is pretty simple. On top of that, we grew up with the very strong sense of family importance. Look at this: Americans call their uncles kids cousins and relatives, we call them: brothers and sisters!

“Go To Café” or “To Go Coffee”?

There is no such a thing where I come from about to-go coffee. You go out with your friends, never alone, take a seat and have a cup of coffee while you are at the coffee shop (we have a special name for that – kafic). Or you invite your friends over and make delicious Turkish coffee and spend great time gossiping. It is a ritual! The best confessions I made while I was drinking that magic beverage with my best friends. And trust me, that’s how Serbians start their day: they make coffee first, then do everything else.

How “big” is the problem?

The biggest size for T-shirts in my country is XXL. Here you can find even 5XL!

I understand that the unhealthy life style leads towards obesity, the low quality of food, as well as low incomes. It is true that healthy food (fruit and vegetables) is more expensive than junk food, and the food in the USA is full of sugar! Sugar is EVERYWHERE! If you don’t believe me, just read the labels.

If we are already talking about food, I have to mention how big the portions are in restaurants! Trust me, no matter how hungry I am, I can never finish the whole thing. But, the very good thing is that “to go boxes” are available so you can take your food home and finish it later.

Another thing that strikes me is the way people eat salads here. In Serbia, we eat salads with oil and vinegar. We do not really have a dressing. Here… Well, take a look at this picture.

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Patriotism and Commercials Don’t Go Together

Patriotism – if that’s you are calling when you have flags EVERYWHERE, than I guess Americans are extremely patriotic nation. And when I say everywhere, I literally mean it: buildings, stores, house yard’s, schools, clothes…

Don’t get me wrong, but I would never be able to understand how Americans have turned one of the most important thing that defines one nation into such a commercial item. In my mind, this just don’t go together.

 

A Three Digit Number Can Make Your Life Difficult

Yes, I am talking about credit score. Depending on your credit score, which can go from 300 up to 900, you might not be able to find a good apartment for a living, get a loan from the bank if you want to buy a new car (or used one), to buy a phone and sigh a contract for two years with the mobile company or even get a job! Credit score is just like reputation – it follows you wherever you go and actually shows your relationship with money and banks. It takes quite some time to recover after ruining a credit score. Just like I said in some of my previous posts: be wise when spend your money!

 

And in the end, a couple of things that don’t require explanation:

– Free refills of soda

– Enormous amount of food being wasted in restaurants, while hundreds of people are starving on the streets

– The coffee is not strong enough. Not even close.

– Have a nice day

– American’s distorted perceptions of other countries

– Don’t get sick if you don’t have a health insurance. In other words: get one ASAP.

– Don’t criticize American foreign policy

– Biased media

– Non-affordable education

– Junk mail: special offers from the banks, money lenders, stores, insurance agents… I have only two words: poor trees.

The America that International Students Can’t Learn from Movies (Part I)

The America that International Students Can’t Learn from Movies (Part I)

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By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

Coming to the USA wasn’t an easiest decision for an international student. But, once I did it I had to prepare myself for a completely different way of life style, for the new culture, the new people, and of course the new language. The good thing was that I grow up watching American movies, so I was very familiar with many customs. Given that the real life is far away from any movie I have seen, I still have hard time understanding some things. I believe we all have the same feeling. Here is my list of interesting stuff that are vastly different that how things in my country work.

 

First thing: You CAN NOT drink alcohol unless you are 21! Period. You cannot even enter a bar or a club if you are a minor!

What a surprise was for me to be asked to show my ID everywhere I go if I wanted to have a drink, or if I wanted to buy an alcoholic beverage in the store. It didn’t matter that I looked old enough, the same rules applied even for much older people. I witnessed the situation in the Pigly Wigly local store in Wisconsin when a lady who was at least 70 years old had to give her ID to the cashier because she had a bottle of wine in her cart. I was in disbelief!

There is no need for me to tell you that in my country the minimum drinking age is 18, but unofficial – teenagers younger than that drink in clubs and bars, and no one is controlling them. I am not saying that this is right. In contrary. But what surprises me here is that anyone who is 16 can drive a car, anyone who is 18 can vote and join military (and yes, maybe kill someone), go to college, but can’t have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer when celebrating something? It’s beyond my comprehension.

 

Second thing: Tax is not built in the price

Wouldn’t it be nice when you see a laptop on sale for $699 that is actually means IT IS $699, and not $770? Yea, it is very deceitful and plus it is very annoying when you have to do the math in your head when you are buying something. Why they don’t just put the final price altogether with all sort of taxes they do and make people’s lives easier?

I have heard stories of the immigrants going to the store with exact amount of money for some products and being short once they got to the register. What a surprise, ha!

It’s very easy to calculate small amounts, but if you do a bigger purchase the 10% tax can quickly change the look of your bill. You better be ready.

Of course, I am sure that for Americans this is normal, since they don’t know for a different way, but for many foreign people it is just irritating.

Third thing: Food is really important

Going out and having food in the restaurant is SUCH A BIG THING in the USA. From my restaurant experience, I can tell that Americans intend to be overexcited when ordering and getting their meals. They would pull out their cameras, phones and making thousands of pictures, going straight to the Yelp to share their experience about the food, the service and the prices. Sometimes they would just scream and smile and look at each other – while I am standing and not believing what I am seeing and how to react. “Just walk away” – I am telling myself. Let them enjoy.

Since I am talking about food, let me tell you something: where I am coming from, we buy fresh bread from the local bakery EVERY single morning. It can be usable for only one or two more days, after that is garbage. Same for vegetables and fruit. It cannot sit on the table for two weeks and still look the way it looked like when you bought. No, no, no.

So, I would say that quality of the food is not the same here and in my country, and no, I do not suffer from nostalgia. Although my mom is the best cook in the world and I miss her meals.

Fourth: Tipping culture

All employees in Serbia have monthly salary, even the people working in the service industry. Although some servers could get small tip (usually it’s just rounding the bill, famous “keep the change”) no one actually expect to get extra cash.

This country has a tipping culture that I do not understand. And, tipping is not the part I have problem with. It is actually percentage that’s problematic. It is unwritten rule that wait staff get anywhere between 15-20% of the bill (some people would say it is 10%, which is NOT). But, could anyone explain why? Is it fair that some server who is working in a cheap place will get less money for the same effort he/she is making than the person in high-rise restaurant/bar for the same level of customer service? No logic in there. That’s why I am a strong supporter of an idea that establishment should be responsible for employees pay check, not customers.

How about couple of more things that don’t require explanation:

  • Most of apartments come without furniture
  • Knobs on the door are weird
  • There is no ceiling mounted lights in rooms in American houses and apartments
  • Every householder in my country has a wash machine. However, we do not use dryer machine, and clothes smell better!
  • Metric system. I still don’t know how tall I am. And I will never learn 🙂

To Be Continued

How Higher Education in America Differs from Other Countries

Post-secondary education in the United States is different from schools located in other countries. This is one of the reasons U.S. universities and colleges attract a diverse range of international students.

Higher Education in America

There are several key features, which makes the U.S. university and college system unique, as follows:

  • There is a wide array of subjects and degree options, from law and medicine to business and science, and more.
  • The ability to combine both Bachelor’s and Master’s programs into a five-year track. Most major universities offer the option to obtain both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees faster, which would normally take between 6 and 8 years to complete
  • Students can choose from community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities, as well as specialized and technical training schools.
  • Most post-secondary schools are independently run and not heavily regulated by the federal government.
  • There are different levels of post-secondary education course tracks. The first level is an Associate’s degree, the second level is a Bachelor’s degree, the third level is a Master’s degree, and the fourth level is a Doctorate’s degree. In addition, there are various certifications one can earn to further enhance their primary education.

If you are interested in pursuing a post-secondary education in the United States, make sure you improve your interpersonal communication skills by completing English programs for international students at Computer Systems Institute. Call us at 1-888-652-2494 today to learn more about our programs.

The Five Stages of Learning a New Language

There are five general stages each person goes through when learning a new language. The amount of time spent in each stage depends upon several factors, like the age and abilities of the student, whether the student is taking an intensive English program (or other language program), and their commitment to learning the new language.

Intensive English Program

Stage 1: Pre-Production

During this stage, the student is normally silent while listening to new words and gaining an understanding of the language.

Stage 2: Early Production

At this stage, students start to practice pronouncing new words, and typically learn at least 1,000 new words and their meanings. They also start using their new words to speak in short phrases.

Stage 3: Speech Emergence

Vocabulary continues to expand, and students will know a minimum of 3,000 words by the end of this stage. They start to speak in longer phrases and sentences, and to ask questions. In addition, at this stage they will start reading and writing assignments.

Stage 4: Intermediate Fluency

Students start to think and form responses in the new language. By the end of this stage, most people have learned well over 6,000 different words and their meanings. They are also speaking more fluently and continuing to improve upon their reading and writing abilities.

Stage 5: Advance Fluency

People who reach this stage continue to improve upon and expand their vocabulary and abilities in their second language.

For more information about interpersonal communications and ESL programs, contact Computer Systems Institute at 1-888-652-2494 today.

International Student? All You Need to Know about Credit Card

By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

International students who plan to stay long period of time in the US need a credit card. Without a social security number, or an ID it can be complicated. But, don’t worry: there are solution for that problem.

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For international students who plan to stay long period of time in this country, having a credit card can be useful. Without a social security number, or an ID it can be complicated.

 

Coming to the USA for the first time might be difficult and challenging. It’s definitely worth of knowing some basic rules prior arriving: where and how to look for an apartment, how much money you might need for a month, where to look for help in case you need some. For international students who plan to stay long period of time in this country, having a credit card can be useful. Without a social security number, or an ID it can be complicated. But, don’t worry: there are solution for that problem. Michael Jung, financial sales consultant from the PNC bank answered my questions trying to help you with all doubts you might have about getting and maintaining credit cards.

 

 

Q: We have a lot of international students that come to the USA who are not familiar with procedures of getting a new credit card. Can you explain us how someone without the SSN or the state ID can obtain one?

A: Someone that is not a native to the USA needs a residence here. We need that address in the USA for contacts and mail, and a residence back in their home country. With that two piece of information we can make a profile, and then student can apply for a card. It is little trickier for new people without the SSN to establish credit. When you apply for a credit card it’s better to be a resident alien, since it’s a little harder for a non-resident alien, but we have options for both.

If they already have a checking/saving accounts, which is very easy for international students to get, that will help you, and getting a credit card with that bank will be a lot easier. If they don’t have a credit history at all they can get a secured card. The student can put deposit on that card, minimum $250, which allows you to spend up to $250. If you pass that you will earn the interest on the balance. That money is actually protection for us. It is like a starter card, about 6 months or a year after using that card, you get your deposit back and then you can apply for a credit card.

 

Q: What factors determine credit limit?

A: Secured card limit is chosen based on how much money you put on as a deposit, similar like a deposit for an apartment. In term of factoring your credit limit for normal credit cards it goes based on your credit history. If you have a good credit score or a good relationship with borrowing money it will be higher.

If you are a young person an kind of starting out, the limit is usually around $500 and less, rarely more than $1000.

In general, it’s based on income, and how much debt you owe. Let’s say you pay $1000 rent every month, you make $4000 a month – they take that into consideration and calculate how much the credit will be.

 

Q: Many students do not work in the USA, since they have F1 visa. Do they have to prove their parent’s income?

A: In terms of documentation, we don’t have to have any documentation for your income. The applicant provide that to us.

 

Q: So, you don’t really check it?

A: I mean, we check in terms of your credit history. If you don’t have any credit history, but you are saying that you are making a lot of money a year, we are going to look and see where that money comes from, and we are going to contact you and ask for more details.

Once you apply for a credit card at PNC bank, you don’t really have to wait more than an hour to see the results. If, by any chance, you haven’t been approved, you might start thinking about rebuilding your relationship with your bank. Start with the checking/saving account, or the secured card that we talked about. It usually takes 3 to 6 months to establish significant change to your card. After that time, feel free to apply again.

 

Q: What is the most important thing students have to pay attention to when they are deciding which credit card is perfect for them, since there are so many of them.

A: So many, thousands of cards. They should look for any fees that are associated with the credit cards. Second thing, features of the card: depending on type of rewards you are getting with the card, depending on how much the fee would be or how do you spend your card. A lot of business people that travel a lot, have cards with rewards for travel spending: on rental cards or restaurants. There might be a fee, but it’s provided by company. Those cards work very well for business people.

Student cards that we have are basic cards, practically with borrowing and paying back, so the credit limits will be lower, also the interest will be little lower. That helps students in creating a habit: borrowing-paying back.

One more thing that is important: the type of cards that are accepted. For example, Discover is very popular here, but not in Europe or anywhere else. Michael says that the best way for building a good credit score is:

 

“Pay back what you borrowed, and don’t spend more than you can afford to spend. “

 

Although you don’t have to pay everything right away, 30 days go very quickly. Be aware that late payment can hurt your credit score and affect you in the future if you decide to apply for other credit cards, request a credit limit increase or maybe a auto or a student loan.

 

Q: Can international students apply for auto loan?

A: For international students it is very difficult, near impossible.

 

Q: Many students have work authorization in the USA, and they have jobs here. Can they apply for a car loan?

A: They can, in depends on their term. Usually, students are here for four years, and they have to have residency for that time. It is still difficult, but definitely worth of conversation.

 

Q: How about student loans?

A: For student loans they can apply online. We have different departments, we don’t do it in physical office. There are other lenders, millions of them, too. Definitely shop around, look for low interest rate. The only benefit is that you don’t have to pay it back immediately, you will do it after you graduate, but the interest goes the whole time.

 

Q: What happens if someone lose credit card?

A: Credit cards have much more security and consumer feature that debit cards. When you have a debit card you are spending your own money. If you lost your card that money is gone until we finish our investigation, which can take up to 45 days.

With the credit cards the money that you are spending is not actually you’re until you pay it back. In terms of fraud it’s very easy to fix it. As long as the transaction is posted you can disputed it. For example, you go out drinking, and you lose your card in a bar. When you wake up the next morning you can see that you spend your money only in the first place, but not in the rest of them. You can call Visa, you can call us, and we can see where the card lost possession, all transactions, and you don’t have to pay that money back.

 

The banks job is to protect their clients, their own money as well. That’s why they will conduct serious investigation when fraud happens. The first step is to find out where was the payment terminal, so they can call the ownership, and get the records, pictures and videos from the security cameras. Whenever unusual activity show up on your card, you can expect a call, text or an email from your bank: they just want to make sure that you are the person who still use that card. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to let them know if you are planning to travel outside the state, so you can continue using your card normally, without risking your card being shot down.

 

Q: What does having a chip in the card mean for the security?

A: The USA is the last country to update their cards. When you swipe the card in the store, the machine is taking the numbers right of the card, all the information from your card. That’s how they charge, using the signal. The chip creates unique signal only while the card is in the machine. When you click in you process transaction, for example 20, 30 dollars. As soon as you take it out and transaction is complete that’s when the signal is gone. So, the only time your card can be hacked is when it is physically in the machine. It’s much more safely, since when you swipe it normally the number goes to the machine and it will stay there. Someone would hack the machine and get all the information, but with the chip it won’t happen.

 

Q: How many credit cards students should have?

A: One. At least for a year. There is no reason for someone who is less than 30 years old to have more than one or two credit cards. It will be easier to manage one than multiple cards. That’s why I usually recommend people not to get credit card in stores, for example in Target, or Banana Republic, since their interest rates are going to be higher, and benefits for that cards apply only in that store. Our rates are anywhere between 10 and goes up to 25% – if you have really bad credit score. But, most of this cards start from 22% flat out. So the benefit is not good enough to getting those credit cards. And, besides, how often are you going to use them?

 

Q: If someone decide to close one of many cards they have, which one do you recommend is the best one for closing?

A: Close the one with the lowest limit. Let’s say you have a card with $250 limit and you spend $50, the ratio is good. But if you have $1000 limit, and you spend 100 the ratio is better. It is good when you close them with zero balance, especially if it’s zero balance on all of them.

       The last advice is: be very careful when using the credit cards. One day, if you apply for a good job in the USA, potential employer will have the right to ask to check your credit history. It is valid just as your criminal history.

        Be smart and shop wise.

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