Vietnamese Student (Mis)Perceptions of the USA

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Image courtesy of Nevada News & Views

I recently talked with a Vietnamese student who had studied in the US and was back home.  When I asked him about the experience of living there, one reply really stood out:  people are free and equal.  That answer jump-started my interior monologue, which quickly went into overdrive.  The first reply was Which people, in what ways, how, and why?

This response reminded me of the US party line, the stuff of cultural mythology, the American Dream, and all that jazz.  Such statements reflect 1) a lack of knowledge about the country before studying and living there, and 2) limited in country experience, regardless of how long the person is there.  It’s easy to hold false beliefs when one is sheltered (e.g., perhaps mostly Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American friends) and living in an echo chamber. 

This is not unlike many (most?) US Americans who are born into privilege and grow up thinking that the US is the land opportunity for everyone willing to work hard enough.  (There are millions of examples of people who are working very hard, as in multiple low-paying jobs, yet who continue to sink financially and in many other respects.) 

It also doesn’t take into account one’s social class, gender, or race.  Life is much better for people who look like me, i.e., white, and who had the kinds of advantages I had.  In other words, some US Americans are “freer” than others in the sense that they have more freedom of action, a greater chance to realize their potential, to find their ikigai, as it were. 

Since this is a blog post and not a feature article, a report, a book chapter, or a book (!), let me offer a few compelling examples that blow the notion that people (in the US) are free and equal out of the proverbial water. 

US life expectancy drops for second year in a row (22.12.17)

Extreme poverty returns to America (21.12.17) “We’re #1 in…” child poverty among peer countries.

Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report (8.11.17)

The US has a lot of money, but it does not look like a developed country (10.3.17)

All of the above was happening before Trump declared an all-out war on virtually everyone who is not part of the financial elite. 

MAA

 

 

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Xuân Mậu Tuất 2018: Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Happy Lunar New Year!

Chúc mừng năm mới an khang, thịnh vượng, dồi dào sức khỏe, thành đạt, và cuộc đời tràn đầy hạnh phúc!

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Rewarding, & Successful New Year!

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Vietnamese Students Contribute Over $1 Billion to the US Economy

In 2016/17, Vietnamese students enrolled in US colleges and universities contributed $818 million to the US economy, according to the Open Doors 2017 report.  (Source:  US Department of Commerce)  Keep in mind that those data are from fall 2016 and are limited to higher education.

Let’s update and extrapolate using SEVIS data from December 2017.  This includes both higher education and secondary enrollment.  The latter refers to day and boarding schools.  And let’s use the same figure:  $36,456 per student.  

level-of-study-vn-12-17As of the end of 2017, there were 31,389 Vietnamese studying in the US.  Here’s the breakdown for the aforementioned categories:

  • Higher education:  23383 * $36,456 = $852,450,648 (Note:  This includes both undergraduate, graduate students and recent graduates with OPT status, taking into account that a sizable number of currently enrolled students at both levels receive varying levels of scholarship support.  Remember, this is about economic impact not the total amount being paid by Vietnamese parents for their children’s education and living costs in the US.)  
  • English language training:  2681 * $25,000 = $67,025,000  (This is a guesstimate, perhaps on the conservative side.) 
  • Secondary education:  4129 * $36,456 = $150,526,824  (I used the OD number.  This is a reasonable estimate knowing that many boarding schools are in the 40-55k range with day schools costing much less. (Feel free to question these figures, dear reader.  If I err, it is hopefully on the conservative side.)

Drum roll…  The total economic impact of Vietnamese students on the US economy is…   over $1 billion:  $1,070,002,472.  Now THAT’s significant economic impact.

This amount does not include other categories that involve Vietnamese nationals or their Vietnamese sponsors spending money in the US such as other vocational school (36), flight school (121), primary school (141), and other (898).  

The always popular issue of how much Vietnamese parents are spending on their children’s education and living expenses in the US is another matter.  One can assume that it’s a significant percentage of the total economic impact amount. 

Addendum:  The Vietnamese media routinely use the $3 billion figure when talking about how much parents spend on overseas study for their children.  Unlike fine wine, that number is not aging well with the passage of time.  In fact, the actual number is even higher, given the fact that there are more Vietnamese students than even studying abroad, including over 140,000 in the top five host countries alone:  1) Japan; 2) USA; 3) Australia; 4) China; and 5) the UK. 

MAA

“International Students Contribute to Our Economy & American Innovation”

This image, created by NAFSA:  Association of International Educators, a “non-profit professional organization for professionals in all areas of international education including education abroad advising and administration,” was recently posted on Facebook by a US higher education colleague. 

All compelling points with which I agree 100%.  In fact, they could create another graphic that lists more reasons for hosting international students and encouraging a certain percentage to remain, if they so desire.   

Here’s the problem though:  while this information appeals to reasonable and rational US Americans who either already have somewhat of a global outlook, or at least “get it” when it comes to the economics of hosting large numbers of international students, it falls on blind eyes and deaf ears when it comes to people like President Trump and many (most?) of his supporters. America First, remember?  Their words and actions, rather than making the US better than it is for all people, are accelerating its decline.

Why? Nativism and nationalism – in that order.  If you’re not sure what these words mean, don’t worry you’re in good company.  Many people with a Ph.D. after their name don’t know either.  Just read the articles linked from one or both of the words. 

MAA

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R.I.P. Michael Cull: A Life Well-Lived

I received a very sad but not totally unexpected message last night from my friend, Chuck Searcy, informing me and many others that Mike had died at 8:50 EST (8:50 p.m. Viet Nam time) of pancreatic cancer, after slipping into a coma almost four hours earlier.  Here’s what Chuck wrote, which best sums up the kind of person Mike was and what many of us will remember about him:

Mike’s gentle spirit, his kindness that gave way to moments of indignation and anger when he saw injustices, and his good humor and contagious laugh will comfort us as warm memories of a good friend, a Vietnam veteran who gave much back to Viet Nam over the past two decades.

 

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Mike with a young friend at the Friendship Village in Ha Noi, where he worked as a volunteer for many years helping children and veterans who were dealing with medical and other problems believed to be caused by Agent Orange.

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I remember meeting Mike for the first time on a beautiful sunny day in Nha Trang, where he lived and worked.  I was wearing a New York Yankees cap, not because I’m a fan but because I needed a hat.  A New England guy, Mike was a loyal fan of the Boston Red Sox, archrival and mortal enemy of the Yankees.  His first comment after “Hi, great to meet you!” was about my cap.  I assured him that it was only to protect my follicly-challenged head from the tropical sun, not a display of team loyalty.  🙂

I enjoyed hearing and reading, since most of our contact was via email and Facebook, his comments about important issues of the day and from the past.  One of the things we had in common was our love of and respect for Viet Nam.  Another one was what Chuck referred to as kindness giving way to moments of indignation and anger when we saw injustices.  Mike was a soul mate in that respect.  I will miss his passion and honest feedback.

It seems as if many of my US expat friends, few in number, are veterans of the American War in Viet Nam who have returned to Viet Nam to do penance, so to speak.  I counted Mike among them.  Below is a photo taken by Catherine Karnow at General Võ Nguyên Giáp’s state funeral in October 2013.  From left to right:  Mike Cull, Manus Campbell, MAA, and Chuck Searcy.
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Photo by Catherine Karnow
Here is a story in English and Vietnamese entitled The Long Goodbye written by Manus, who spent nearly two months with Mike and his wife, Lan, from the day he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to the moment he passed away.  

I will miss his playfulness, the sparkle in his eye, and his smile.

Don’t say goodbye.  Say see you again, my brother

-Manus Campbell

Life goes on and people like Mike Cull inspire us to be grateful for each and every day and to keep our eyes on the prize of what’s truly important in this exceedingly short journey we call life. 

 

My heartfelt condolences to Lan, Mike’s Vietnamese and US families, and his many friends in Viet Nam, the US, and around the world. 

 

MAA

Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report- Department of Homeland Security

DHS logoA colleague recently sent me this report with the above title.  (Thank you, K!)  Yeah, I know; it’s not most people’s idea of a good time but it is interesting to wonks like me who follow these trends in the field (and industry) of international education.  Information is power, right?  OK, if not power, then at least it has the potential to give you more insights and the ability to make more accurate predictions than a crystal ball.

Here’s an excerpt from the report about the purpose of providing this data, at least on an annual basis:  This report analyzes the overstay rates to provide a better understanding of those who overstay and remain in the United States beyond their period of admission with no evidence of an extension to their period of admission or adjustment to another immigration status.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has determined that there were 50,437,278 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs who were expected to depart in FY 2016, which represents the majority of annual nonimmigrant admissions. Of this number, DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.47 percent, or 739,478 individuals. In other words, 98.53 percent of the in-scope nonimmigrant visitors departed the United States on time and abided by the terms of their admission

There are two categories: total overstay rate and suspected overstay rate.  Think of the latter as the net version of the former.  As the report points out, its purpose is “to provide a better picture of those overstays who remain in the United States beyond their period of admission and for whom there is no identifiable evidence of a departure, an extension of period of admission, or transition to another immigration status.”  In other words, these are the people who have simply disappeared, presumably to surface later with legal status.  Or not.  

At the end of FY 2016, there were 628,799 Suspected In-Country Overstays. The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate for this type of traveler is 1.25% of the expected departures.  When you consider that over 50 million foreigner visitors entered the US in FY16 and that 98.75% of them did indeed return home, that’s not too shabby.

The report is broken down into “nonimmigrants admitted to the United States for business or pleasure, i.e., B1 and B2 visas, and student and exchange visitors (F, M, and J visas).  The average suspected in-country overstay rate for FY 2016, excluding Canada, Mexico, and students, was 1.90%. 

sample visaFor Viet Nam it was 3.40%, or 79% higher than the national average.

Student and Exchange Visitor Visas (F, M, J) Excluding Canada and Mexico

Just to give you an idea of how Viet Nam compares to many other countries with students studying in the US, here is a list of some with much higher overstay rates in descending order.  Asian countries are in navy blue.

  1. Eritrea: 75.21% (117)
  2. Burkina Faso: 46.78% (699)
  3. Chad: 36.77% (68)
  4. Congo (Kinshasa): 36.56% (517)
  5. Djibouti: 33.33% (21)
  6. Libya: 31.85% (1,036)
  7. Congo (Brazzaville): 23.88% (201)
  8. Equatorial Guinea: 20.42% (284)
  9. Côte d’Ivoire: 17.09% (755)
  10. Ethiopia: 21.71% (1,110)
  11. Fiji: 15.84% (101)
  12. Gabon: 23.40% (406)
  13. The Gambia: 29.08% (196)
  14. Benin: 31.25% (400)
  15. Cameroon: 28.68% (889)
  16. North Korea: 27.27% (11)
  17. Togo: 26.14% (176)
  18. Guinea: 26.12% (157)
  19. Central African Republic: 25.93% (127)
  20. Moldova: 25.49% (2,299)
  21. Nepal: 23.50% (2,873)
  22. Nigeria: 22.74% (8,034)
  23. Bhutan: 22.42% (165)
  24. Burundi: 20.96% (167)
  25. Somalia: 20.00% (25)
  26. Cabo Verde: 18.40% (125)
  27. Mali: 17.19% (349)
  28. Iraq: 16.54% (1,300)
  29. Afghanistan: 15.83% (556)
  30. Kyrgyzstan: 14.41% (666)
  31. Malawi: 14.40% (250)
  32. Tajikistan: 13.37% (486)
  33. Liberia: 13.30% (218)
  34. Ukraine: 12.90% (826)
  35. Senegal: 12.59% (657)
  36. Guinea-Bissau: 12.50% (8)
  37. Serbia: 12.46% (4,800)
  38. Kenya: 12.28% (2,326)
  39. Niger: 12.07% (174)
  40. Papua New Guinea: 12.03% (158)
  41. Tonga: 11.29% (176)
  42. Bangladesh: 11.03% (3,237)
  43. Macedonia: 10.98% (1,658)
  44. Uganda: 10.65% (3,273)
  45. Syria: 10.35% (599)
  46. Sudan: 10.30% (304)
  47. Rwanda: 9.73% (997)
  48. Haiti: 9.67% (982)
  49. Uzbekistan: 9.48% (1,181)
  50. Mongolia: 9.44% (2,399)
  51. Zambia: 9.42% (414)
  52. Mauritania: 9.40% (117)
  53. Timor-Leste: 9.38% (32)
  54. Turkmenistan: 9.16% (371)
  55. Maldives: 8.11% (74)
  56. Sri Lanka: 8.74% (1,774)
  57. Burma (Myanmar):  8.59% (1,036)
  58. Namibia: 8.63% (139)
  59. Albania: 8.34% (779)
  60. Viet Nam: 8.15% (14,878)

Several points stand out. 

  1. While Viet Nam is at the lower end of the spectrum among these 60 countries in terms of percentage, it has one of the highest suspected in-country overstay rates in Asia.  In terms of numbers, 1,213 young Vietnamese were out-of-status last year.  Compare that to China, which ranks first in the number of students it sends to the US with 360,334 last year.  The suspected in-country overstay rate was only 2.09%.  The days of the brain drain are clearly over.  It’s obvious that quite a few young Vietnamese are using the F-1 (in most cases) as a backdoor means of emigration.  (This assertion is also based on anecdotal evidence.)
  2. Many of these countries have relatively few students in the US, i.e., fewer than 500.
  3. Many of the countries are war-torn and/or desperately poor, due to war and other factors.

Keep in mind that this percentage is higher in some parts of Viet Nam than others, i.e., those with people who have relatives in the US, mostly in the former Republic of Viet Nam (South Vietnam).  These data are reported to the US Mission, the Consulate in HCMC, in particular, and could have an impact on consular officers’ decisions for applicants coming from areas with a higher overstay rate.

Note:  Whenever I deal with statistics, I’m often reminded of the following quote, which was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Not included in the above statistics are international students who remain in the country legally, e.g., through marriage or a work (H1-B) visa.  Thus, neither country really knows how many young Vietnamese come home after completing their studies and/or an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work experience on a F-1 visa.  Another unknown variable is the number of graduates to move to a third country for study or work.    

MAA