2019 International Education Predictions and Outcomes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to revisit our 2019 predictions. Each year we come up with a list of predictions related to the world of international education. Now that the year is almost over, let’s take another look at our predictions and see how we did!

Historic Decline in International Student Enrollment in the US

Our Prediction from January

Since the 1948/1949 school year, when IIE began reporting on the number of international students in the US, there have been four years when the number of international students in the US has actually declined.  The first was in 1971/1972, when total enrollment dropped from 144,000 to 140,000. The other three years with declines were the 3 academic years after 9/11, which saw very modest declines of -2.4%, -1.3%, and -.05%, while the student visa process was overhauled.  With those exceptions, it’s been a 70 year history of steady growth. So when we say a “historic decline” we don’t mean a huge decline – simply that it’s a reversal of a 70-year trend. With smaller incoming classes the last two years, and likely larger drops over the next two years, we expect the 2018/2019 Open Doors Report from IIE to show a lower overall total.

Evaluation of Prediction

There’s no hiding that we got this wrong.  We can’t say, the incoming class of international students shrunk for the third year in a row, and but for the increasing popularity of OPT, the overall numbers would be down.  That sounds too much like excuses! The truth is, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report, there were 1,095,299 international students in the US for the 2018/2019 school year, up 507 total students or .05% over the previous year.  The decrease in the size of the incoming class has slowed dramatically, so hopefully, we can begin to return to growing enrollments next year.

Efforts to Encourage Diversity in Study Abroad Will Ramp Up

Our Prediction from January

We predict more initiatives encouraging underrepresented populations to study abroad in 2019, especially by colleges and universities directly. Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more focus on diversity through grants like the Capacity Building Grant for US Undergraduate Abroad, and IIE’s Generation Study Abroad Initiative. In fact, the IIE initiative includes more than 800 commitment partners aiming to not only double study abroad students but increase diversity before the end of the decade. Schools like NC State University are accepting this challenge and rolling out efforts like creating new scholarships for underrepresented students and hosting pre-departure orientation sessions geared towards minorities, LGBTQI+ students and other underrepresented students. And although during the past few years the IIE Open Doors report has shown a steady increase in ethnic diversity when it comes to students studying abroad (it now sits at nearly 30%), there is still room for growth.

Over the course of the next 12 months we will see increased strategy, grants and support put in place to increase diverse viewpoints in study abroad programs.

Evaluation of Prediction

This one is a win. Along with the latest IIE Open Doors report reflecting that diversity remains on the incline within study abroad, we have seen a continued flurry of action this year around making it stay that way; CIEE’s 2019 annual conference was focused on “Opening Doors to Increase Diversity in Study Abroad”, and many schools like Lander University and Ashland University that pledged to Generation Study Abroad exceeded their set goals of sending an increased percentage of underrepresented students abroad. Even with hurdles like the new ETIAS travel screening expected to be operational in 2021, we hope to see the progress continue from here.

More Turmoil and Adaptation Within the For-Profit Sector

Our Prediction from January

The for-profit industry will continue to evolve and change through more mergers and transitions from for-profit to non-profit and at a quicker pace.  Last week we even saw National American University delisted from NASDAQ. Going into 2019, it is now or never for the schools to make the change. The sector could see more scrutiny with a new Congress and much uncertainty of who will have the helm in 2020.  These schools need to take advantage of Devos policies and lax oversight now or end up in deeper trouble down the road.

Evaluation of Prediction

Correct. Like years in the past 2019 also brought on tribulations and changes within the world of for-profits. There have been numerous for-profit schools this year going through changes, but perhaps the most notable is the closing of Argosy University amidst fraud charges.  The series of continuous changes has also brought continued attention from lawmakers and regulators- including many states like California, New York, Maryland stepping in to propose their own regulations. It’s certainly a sector we will continue to keep an eye on as it continues to alter.

Big Tech Will Make a Move to Disrupt the Healthcare Market 

Our Prediction from January

The health insurance industry in the US is a behemoth, and insurance companies, in general, are slow to innovate with technology and efficiency improvements. We’ve seen this with our own business, where our own company with a committed tech team of five can often offer better interfaces and tech solutions than some of the massive players in the industry. With healthcare costs in the United States steadily rising, way faster than any other inflation, and a greater number of Americans becoming dissatisfied with their medical care, Amazon has announced its ambition to disrupt the healthcare market. The technology company that focuses on e-commerce and cloud computing is partnering with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create a new healthcare model that could be less like the traditional healthcare infrastructure and more like Amazon’s direct-to-consumer model.

We predict in 2019 a greater number of technology companies will move into the healthcare space. Expect to see Google, Apple, and possibly even Facebook following Amazon’s lead and pivot into a growing $3.5 trillion industry.

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. 2019 was not the year that big technology companies moved in to disrupt the healthcare market. Examples of large tech companies moving into the healthcare space include: Google buying out Fitbit, Apple actively seeking involvement from both health researchers and hospitals, and Amazon launching its telemedicine service to its employees.  However, with all the hype surrounding big tech in healthcare, we have yet to see major innovations that would disrupt the healthcare industry.

Pathway Programs Take a Breath

Our Prediction from January

Pathway programs are becoming increasingly popular across the globe, but especially in the US.  These public-private partnerships are a way for colleges and universities to increase their international student numbers and open up their recruiting pool to students that might not meet all of their academic and English language standards.  For the students, they get a year of extra attention on their English language skills and support acclimating to studying in the US all while earning first year credits.

However, pathway providers are feeling the challenges of the downtick of international students coming to the US.  Pathway programs are still relatively young in the international education industry. Some have been around long enough to show that the model can work.  However, even some of those pioneers are seeing lower numbers than they did four years ago. Others are breaking into the industry and trying to prove themselves for the first time.  

2019 will be a year of proving out the model in a relatively challenging time.  We think that there will be fewer new schools signing up with pathway providers, as they take a wait and see approach.  We think the current providers will double down to ensure the success of their current partnerships, increasing their creativity and initiative in finding new ways to fill seats college and university classrooms.  

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. With the flexibility and economical impact of pathway programs, they have not yet slowed down. During the past year we have seen a continued increase in students wanting to pursue a pathway program, schools increasing their pathway program advertising efforts, and more support and resources in general available, like the Kaplan University Pathway Guide. We might have been a couple of years early on this prediction and look forward to keeping an eye on it.

Enrollment From China Declines

Our Prediction from January

Over the past 12 years, the United States has benefitted from massive growth in the number of Chinese students studying in the US.  According to the Open Doors Report, In the 2005/2006 school year, there were 62,582 Chinese students in the US, and for the next 12 years enrollment exploded, growing over 20% for five of those years and reaching 363,341 in the 2017/2018 year. Although growth has been slowing, we predict that next year’s Open Doors Report will show the first actual decline in the number of students from China enrolled in US colleges and universities.

The slowing Chinese economy, the trade war, the political rhetoric, the growth of China’s own higher education system – all of these factors combine with our own anecdotal experience to support our prediction.  In discussions at conferences around the world, again and again we’ve heard how Chinese students are preferring other destinations over the US.

Evaluation of Prediction

We missed this one as well, as the continuing trend did not go as far as we predicted. Growth in enrollment from China has been slowing since the giant spikes began twelve years ago.  From 8.1% in 2015/2016 to 6.8%, to 3.6% last year, to 1.7% according to the latest 2018/2019 Open Doors Report, there’s been a steady decline in the growth rate in students from China.  However, there was still growth – whether that growth has continued into the current academic year we won’t know for sure for another year.

GDPR Enforcement Begins in Earnest

Our Prediction from January

If there was one thing 2018 will be remembered for, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will almost certainly come to the forefront of many people’s minds. The GDPR update in 2018 saw the law expanded in many ways – but none more far-reaching than the geographic coverage. The law now purports to cover the treatment of personal data of any EU citizen, regardless of where that company holding the data resides.

The run-up to the May 25th 2018 deadline saw companies from all corners of the world scrambling to make sure their websites and data policies were all updated and compliant. Since this mad scramble, there has been a calm period, but there has been a hint of things to come with GDPR as we are starting to see the first few enforcements taking place. In September 2018, the Austrian Supervisory Authority issued a fine of €4,800 under GDPR and following that in October of 2018, the UK and Irish Supervisory Authorities served their first enforcement notices. We expect that these enforcement notices will become more common and start to scale up into 2019, and we will watch with interest for the first enforcement action outside of the EU.

Evaluation of Prediction

Correct. GDPR enforcements certainly gathered pace in 2019, and we expect that to continue into 2020. As we outlined in our September blog post, a range of enforcements came from within the EU, most notably, Microsoft and British Airways being hit with over £300 Million in fines. It gets a little fuzzy for the companies located outside the EU, and have no office within the EU. There is very little guidance on who will be responsible for regulating those companies. However, it’s guaranteed that  GDPR is here to stay and we will certainly see more enforcements as the years roll on.

Decline in Reports of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses 

Our Prediction from January

Betsy DeVos has proposed major changes to the existing Title IX guidance that will change the way sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses. While the final changes are still undergoing scrutiny, we predict that in the coming months the new changes will make it more difficult for victims to report and pursue cases of sexual assault, and thus the number of cases reported overall will decrease.

Some of the major changes include narrowing the definition of what “sexual assault” is, requiring schools to investigate incidents that occur on campus and not off campus (previous guidance had required schools to investigate incidents that occurred off campus by enrolled students), that there is a higher burden of proof to accuse someone of sexual assault from “preponderance of evidence” standard to a “clear and convincing evidence” standard, and that advisors would be able to cross-examine accusers in hearings over sexual assault complaints.

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. While sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic for schools around the world, we had originally thought that the number of reported sexual assaults would decline as the proposed rules to Title IX would relax a lot of the enforcement. Turns out we were wrong.
At the end of October, the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct was released by the Association of American Universities who surveyed 181,752 students at 33 colleges and universities. Their findings showed that rates of sexual assault slightly increased over the past four years, and the highest rates were among women and transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary (TGQN) students. With all the chatter about sexual assault, Title IX, and the #MeToo Movement, there is more awareness than ever before about how to report a sexual assault and how to access resources, contributing to more reports than in years past.

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International Student Insurance Welcomes Elaine Del Rossi

International Student Insurance (ISI) is pleased to welcome Elaine Del Rossi as the new Managing Director of Healthcare Solutions.

Prior to coming to ISI, Ms. Del Rossi served as Chief Sales/Client Experience Officer at GeoBlue, formerly known as HTH Worldwide. While at GeoBlue, she oversaw sales, customer service, global health and safety, and transformed their student group division into a $80 million entity.

With nearly 20 years of experience in the international student and study abroad insurance space, she brings to ISI both experience and expertise, and will work to continue to expand ISI’s group insurance business.

Get to know Elaine Del Rossi

What brought you to International Student Insurance?
I was a VP for Human Resources and then VP for Corporate Large Group markets for many years. When an opportunity arose to work for a start-up company and establish a new insurance market for higher education clients, I jumped at the chance and have been delighted with that decision for rover 20 years.

How do you help schools find the right insurance product?
I have learned the best way to help clients-or anyone-is to actively listen. Clients typically know exactly what they need. They only require someone with broad market experience to articulate those specific requirements and then deliver the exact solutions.

What do you think are important considerations when choosing an insurance plan for their students?
First is to understand the risk tolerance of your organization and the particular needs of your student body.. Once you have a clear understanding of what those are and how they intersect; then design a program that best meets those requirements.

For more information, visit ISI’s press release: https://www.prweb.com/releases/elaine_del_rossi_joins_international_student_insurance/prweb16623520.htm

If you are interested in a group insurance plan, or want to get in touch with Elaine Del Rossi, you can contact her at edelrossi@internationalstudentinsurance.com.

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2019, The Year That GDPR Enforcement Began

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well versed on the highline items around GDPR. 2018 was the year that companies around the world were scrambling and talking about the new regulations that were being implemented by the European Union that would take data privacy globally, not just within the EU.

If you were living under a rock, GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation that was updated and enacted into law in 2018. While there were privacy laws already in place within the EU, this update to the law not only protected the data of EU Citizens within the EU, but also globally around the world. This latter part of the law made it a worldwide phenomenon, as technically any company around the world that held information and data on an EU citizen would have to comply with the law.

Enforcement within the EU

Within the framework of the GDPR law, the EU stipulates that enforcement is to be handled by each member state, and those states must develop their own guidance around the law and supervise the application of the law. The law also requires that each EU member state must designate an independent, public authority to be responsible for monitoring the application of GDPR and addressing any non-compliance. For example, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) handles GDPR compliance in the UK, and this is the same in all other EU member states.

Enforcement has started in earnest during the later part of 2018 and into 2019. During the summer of 2019, we learned about £300M in fines that were imposed against the Marriott hotel chain and British Airways. It showed the ICO in the UK is not going to be holding back from imposing fines, and companies that have locations within the EU should be mindful.

There is now also a GDPR tracker website that has been setup to track the number of fines across Europe. While we cannot guarantee this is accurate, it is a clear indication that authorities in Europe will be vigilant about enforcing the law and issuing fines. On a worldwide scale, it can be noted that Google was fined 50 million euros by Belgium, so impact is reaching outside the EU.

Enforcement outside the EU

While the guidance and setup within the EU is pretty clear, outside of the EU it starts to get a little fuzzy on who would be regulating international companies that do not adhere to GDPR. For larger organizations that have offices or headquarters within the EU, GDPR enforcement would be handled by the relevant authority where the offices are located. As the article listed above states, the fines that were imposed on the Marriott Hotel Group and British Airways is a clear message to large multinational organizations that they could be targeted for breaches.

For companies that do not have any locations within the EU, the message is not that clear. Who will be regulating them? What authority would any EU data protection authorities have to impose any fines, or have the appetite to look at companies abroad? These are questions that are still unanswered and only time will allow for them to be. There are indications that the EU is willing to work with countries that have equivalent data protection laws, but there is no framework in place at the moment.

Love it or hate it, GDPR is here to stay

It certainly was infamous last year, but the essence of GDPR is actually a good move by the EU to try and protect the data and privacy of their citizens. These are all things companies should be looking to do, so while the whirlwind of GDPR introduction was a little intense, the outcomes are very positive. Time will be the indicator of how it will be regulated around the world, but the EU has begun and continue to enforce regulations now.

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The Acceptance of Gaokao Scores in the US Continues to Rise

Many are familiar with how much weight the Gaokao holds; for those who are not, Gaokao is a two day test in June that millions of Chinese students in mainland China prepare diligently to take- typically in their senior year of high school. Gaokao is China’s National College Entrance Examination and can “make or break” a student’s chance at getting into a Chinese university. The higher the score, the better the odds of getting into a university will be. There’s even a Chinese saying on the Gaokao that says “one point higher can beat a playground of students.” To avoid a gap year in the event of not receiving high enough scores, and acceptance into a Chinese school, students are now also easily applying to US universities that accept Gaokao scores.

Gaokao scores are a primary determiner for Chinese universities, however, the number of universities in the US that are exploring the option of “test-flexible policies” continues to increase, and institutions that are accepting Gaokao scores in place of ACT or SAT results are also on the rise. As of Summer 2019 more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities support test-optional admissions according to Fairtest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. When it comes to Gaokao specifically, universities in the US that already accept the exam’s scores primarily consist of private schools. In June 2018 the University of New Hampshire became the first state university to accept Gaokao scores, and last month University of Oregon, University of Tulsa and Rochester Institute of Technology were the latest schools to announce their acceptance of Gaokao scores (in combination with an InitialView interview and writing sample) in their international student application process. Allowing Gaokao scores, and implementing flexible test policies in general means that students can bypass other standardized tests.

“Over the course of the last several admission cycles, many students outside of the US have met with challenges in accessing test sites,” Patricia Peek, dean of undergraduate admissions at Fordham University said in an article for The Pie News. “We, along with other institutions, want to promote access for these students by adopting test-flexible policies.”

Many universities in both Canada and Australia already accept Gaokao scores in their application process, and as more and more universities embrace the test-flexible policy, and Gaokao specifically, it raises the question on if this move will increase the number of international student applicants from China. Share your thoughts on if you think it will have an impact on the number of inbound students from China.

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ETIAS and Your Short-Term Study Abroad Students

In 2018 the European Commission announced they were taking measures to increase security, including creating the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Although legislative proposals have been in place since 2016, this announcement has since raised questions on what will be required of non-EU citizens to Europe visiting less than 90 days, who currently do not require a visa. Although some rumors have circulated that ETIAS will mean having to obtain a visa, in actuality it will be a pre-travel screening.

A press release from the European Union last year stated that ETIAS “will ensure that we no longer have an information gap on visa-free travellers. Anyone who poses a migratory or security risk will be identified before they even travel to EU borders, while the travel of bona fide travellers will be facilitated.” Although ETIAS will mean an extra step for non-EU citizens and visa-free visitors, the EU is aiming to keep the process “affordable, simple and fast.” In fact, “Completing the online application should not take more than 10 minutes with automatic approval being given in over 95% of cases,” the European Commission stated. The cost to complete the application is a €7 fee for applicants between the ages of 18 and 70, and granted authorization will then be valid for three years.

Once the application is submitted it will go through automatic processing based upon the submitted details of identity, travel documents and answers to the background questions. Response is typically given within minutes unless there is a “hit” from the automatic process which would then require manual processing by ETIAS staff.

ETIAS is expected to be operational by 2021 which means citizens from 60 countries, including US travelers, to Europe will need to gain pre-travel screening.

This new regulation does spark questions on how it will impact students wanting to study abroad through short term programs. Currently, US citizens studying abroad in Europe for less than 90 days do not need authorization, however, after ETIAS goes into effect, that will change. If the ETIAS approval process is as simple and fast as anticipated, then it might mean short term study abroad programs will not be impacted apart from adding one more step to the process.

Share your thoughts with us- do you think ETIAS will be seamless or possibly impact the amount of students studying abroad?

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Sexual Assault – A Worldwide and Widespread Problem on College Campuses

While we here at International Student Insurance have been working on sexual assault prevention programs in the United States geared at international students, it is important to recognize that this is not just a US issue. In the time of the #MeToo movement, other countries who host international students are looking inwardly to evaluate their procedures on college campuses, and realizing they have a long way to go. International students in general are considered to be at a higher risk of sexual violence since they are more likely to be isolated, lacking a safety net, perhaps new at navigating the culture of dating, and may not feel comfortable in a new language, among many other reasons. As such, it is even more important that colleges and universities provide awareness and education to help international students know their rights and resources when it comes to sexual assault. Outside of the US, other top countries that receive international students such as Canada and Australia are revamping their support services and are creating programs to shed light on what has become a major issue for colleges and universities across the world.

Australia

In Australia, advocacy groups and journalists found that their system was far from perfect. Reports of sexual assault took too long to investigate, they did not have good communication procedures in place, and some universities would even place the responsibility with the victim, advising the survivor to change their class schedule or avoid interacting with the perpetrator.

In 2017, 31,000 students across the nation were surveyed to investigate the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) found that there was a high rate of sexual violence on college campuses, that there was widespread under-reporting, and that there was an overall lack of university policies and procedures aimed at addressing the problem. The study found that 1 in 15 university students were sexually assaulted in 2015-2016 and 1 in 2 students reported having been sexually harassed in 2016.

While we don’t yet know the impact this awareness has generated, we do know that Australian universities are reviewing their policies and procedures, and that funding has been secured to administer the study every three years to provide insight into how things are changing on college campuses.

Canada

Australia is not alone. Canada is also realizing that they need more resources to effectively educate and respond to the number of sexual assault allegations. For example, a report  cited that the University of British Columbia (UBC) had ‘countless unresolved issues’ when it comes to reports of sexual assaults on campus. In response, the school is now hiring more staff, implementing more training and programming, and creating new spaces on campus to deal with sexual violence. They are working on launching a new investigation office along with support services for survivors. Many of these services have been launched in the last two years, and they are still working on streamlining services, as well as  figuring out their communication plan – but all with the aim of creating a safe and supportive campus for students.

With other Canadian schools in the same shoes as UBC, a Vancouver immigrant services organization named MOSAIC is working to help school staff reach international students more specifically, since they are at a higher risk than domestic students.  MOSAIC is putting together a series of workshops for staff at schools to help them develop ways to better assist students who report being assaulted. Their overall goal is to let international students who have been assaulted know that they do not have to be afraid to reach out for help.

If your school is looking for a training on Sexual Assault Awareness designed to reach international students, we recommend this training module  that was compiled in partnership with RAINN. With a PowerPoint presentation, activities, videos, pamphlets, and a proctor guide that will guide the presenter through the entire training, international students will explore the concepts of consent, bystander intervention, students’ rights, reporting, and more. In addition, ISI has created a student info page for students to engage with the information and material right online, and schools are welcome to both link and share this with their international students.

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The 2019 EIC School the World Team Helps Complete School

This blog was written by Greg Heindel, one of the 2019 EIC School the World team members. 

You can learn a lot about a person when you travel. You can learn even more about yourself, or an entire culture if you are willing to commit yourself.

Today most of the 2019 School the World volunteer team is around 30,000 ft above sea-level cramped in flying sardine cans pointed towards different parts of the world after departing from Guatemala and successfully completing the construction of three new classrooms and two playgrounds for Caserio Chuchun, a community of Sacapulas. We all have a feeling of accomplishment, but the sense of fulfillment comes from far more than the concrete development we assisted with.

After spending a week with the community members of Sacapulas including visiting the citizens in their homes, speaking with the municipality, and working side by side with the community, it is quite clear that they already have the drive and desire to reach their educational goals. The collaboration between the School the World team and their community is what gave them the foundation and facilities to move forward and we were sent off with a ceremony that showed their absolute appreciation for everyone involved.

The mayor and his municipal staff were present and gave heartfelt speeches to thank our team, the parents, and the community for all of their hard work. The beautifully decorated ceremony included live local musicians, gift exchanges, home cooked meals, dancing, and lots of playing on the new playgrounds as they saw us off on our journey back home. Our goodbyes were long and it was sad but we left smiling from ear to ear as we piled back into the buses bound for Antigua.

By this point the EIC School the World team was used to the bumpy roads down the mountainside under skies lacking any clouds or even a jet streak. We were weaving in and out of traffic, as aggressively as it was natural for commuters in Guatemala, perusing alongside the active volcanoes with only a few words of congratulations and pleasantries exchanged as we soaked in all that was accomplished as a group and as individuals.

It was well worth the peace within the silence because we knew that we still had one last night together to share our personal stories and feelings about our experiences before departing to our home countries. Needless to say, we will all bring something new back with us and will return the favor when we return next year to assist in constructing another elementary school in Guatemala.

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Day 5: Our Last Full Day Working On-Site

This blog was written by Greg Heindel, one of the 2019 EIC School the World team members. 

We woke to the sound of roosters crowing just slightly later than our usual dawn patrol – today we are in for a treat. While we waited for the night crew’s mud to cure, the team loaded up in their buses and headed off down the winding road to the market Chichicastenango.

Guatemala is known for its brilliantly colored textiles, woven into scarves, satchels, clothing and other beautifully hand-crafted items. Among other products were fresh tamales, traditional wood Aztec masks, and novelty souvenirs galore. There is something to know about shopping in the market of Chichicastenango – they have a bartering system and if you’re not aware you will pay the price in Quetzal (approx. 8Q to 1USD). The rule of thumb is if you are speaking English then your quoted price will be at three times the actual market value and the vendors love to drive a hard bargain! But, after a few practice runs and with a little help from the veterans, we made it out with shirts on our backs, some change in our pockets, and loads of lovely gifts and souvenirs.

The change of pace ended after only an hour and we headed back to Chuchun to finish what we started the prior evening – pouring the floors of the remaining two classrooms. With our deadline closing in on us during our last full day on-site, we began to hand mix the first of two of our largest batch of (approximately 3 tons) concrete mix right on the ground. The team has grown very familiar with the recipe:

Elapsed time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
15 Wheelbarrow loads of sediment/dirt
12 Wheelbarrow loads of gravel
12 80lb bags of concrete
Water

Directions:
Mix sediment and concrete thoroughly. Knead your new mixture into a large circle like a hand-tossed pizza. Add rocks evenly across your mix. Next, saturate your fresh concrete mix thoroughly with water and let sit for five to ten minutes. Stir well and serve.

With plenty of extra hard-working hands on deck the concrete was mixed and poured into the remaining two classroom throughout the day. Meanwhile, other members of the team alternated between spreading gravel around the large playground, planting flowers

With the sun setting, we cleaned the rubbage from the work area while the local senoritas swept the front play area in preparation for the closing ceremony the next day. Even though the team still has a small amount of work to finish, we all left feeling incredibly fulfilled and headed off to have our last supper together as a complete group.

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Day 4: EIC Team Cultural Immersion

The alarm clocks started going off at 5am. The EIC team got ready and had their coffee (Ana got sugar for us to add in- one of the many things we take for granted). We packed our lunch sandwiches and headed out.

After the nearly two hour drive to the community’s school, we were greeted by the kids and their enthusiasm never fails to put a smile on our faces. Today, while half of us worked on the new playground for the school, the other half was divided into teams and went to visit the home of one of the members of the community. Sutherland, Bryanna, and Emil got to go first while Greg and I began mixing the cement and hauling gravel along with our other teammates left from IMG, Ivywise, and Flywire.

The home visits were an incredible experience on their own. Sutherland learned how the locals make their candy and got to make her own candy on the shape of a snake. Emil and Bryanna learned about the process of grinding corn to feed the family’s chickens and to make the dough for the tortillas. Corn is a very crucial part of Guatemalan’s diets as it’s used for the tortillas and served with every meal in Guatemala.

After 11am, Greg and I got put into our respective groups and walked over to the family we were visiting. Norma welcomed my group to her home and she walked us from the school to her family’s house. She lives about 10 minutes from the school and in the same land, she shares her home with her parent’s and one of her brothers. We had the pleasure of meeting her mother as well, whom mostly speaks the native language and just a bit of Spanish. Norma has 3 kids and you could see how as the generations get younger, they are starting to lose a lot of the native’s culture- starting with the language. However, Norma is adamant about teaching her children the customs of the people of Quiche, even if they don’t learn the language.

During the home visit she taught us how she sews the beautiful hair pieces that the women often wear in their head for special occasions. That’s how she makes her money. She also showed us how to make tortillas and had me try to make some- thankfully I’ve had some practice beforehand! At the end, we presented her with a few gifts that we brought for her and her family as a thank you for inviting us into her home. Norma and her children were very thankful for every single gift; once again reminding me how important the work that School The World and our teams do, and how thankful the community is for all of it.

During the afternoon, everyone worked extremely hard. We were tasked with finishing the floor on one of the three classrooms we are building. There was a lot of mixing and shoveling cement from one place to the other but we were able to finish most of it. As simple as this task may sound, mixing cement by hand is an incredibly arduous job. Needless to say, everyone was exhausted at the end of the day. Tomorrow, we will need to finish the rest of the floors for the other two classrooms so for tonight, we will all get plenty of rest!

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EIC Teaches in Guatemala

Today began before sunrise as sandwiches were packed and bowls of cereal quickly consumed alongside steaming mugs of coffee. The hour-something trek to the community seemed longer today, but the journey was quickly forgotten once we arrived at our destination.

Young, now familiar faces greeted us at the school gates with open arms. Shouts of “hola” and friendly embraces have quickly become our morning ritual and one the team won’t soon forget – it seems like each day the warm hugs of the students have become tighter and longer than the day before. Some students have even begun to memorize our names and seek us out individually among the throngs of bodies on the basketball court in front of the school before classes begin.

After our initial greetings the team was shuffled in to a small but vibrant classroom full of smiling children. Unique to this year’s corporate trip, we were given the opportunity to teach a second grade class, and the curriculum was ours to decide. Choosing what we thought to be appropriate, Yessica explained to the class in Spanish that we’d be trying our hand at teaching the students several things in our language – among them, the alphabet and parts of the human body.

The students were quick to pick up the alphabet and after a few short minutes were singing right along with the EIC team. Once they had a decent grasp of their ABC’s in English and the familiar tune playing in the back of their heads, we played a few rounds of hangman, allowing each student their turn to come up to the board to choose and pronounce a letter of the English alphabet. Nearly every student skipped or ran to the board, and we ended with the class as the winners (despite the fact that our hangman had eyes, fingers, shoes, and even a bow in her hair).

After a quick lunch and a game of hide and seek with the sunshine, the team grabbed some paintbrushes and helped create a hopscotch court on the concrete directly in front of the school.  Armed with paints of varying colors, we crafted a jet for all of the schools students to enjoy tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the home of a local student and can’t wait to share more of our adventure with you!

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