More work stories

So I (jm) am still really enjoying my new job.  It’s amazing how busy the office is, yesterday I saw 6 people and today I saw 5.  That’s just me, there’s another voluteer and our boss who see people all day long too.  It’s also funny how the questions you hear come in trends.  Two days ago, there were three people interested in going to community colleges (lots of people who have a friend or relative in the states try to do this and then transfer to a four-year college after two years- a good idea and cheaper but they often won’t be able to get a visa).  Yesterday everyone was only interested in the Ivy League Schools. Oh, and of course they were not just interested, but wanting to know how to go about getting a full scholarship. 

It’s a busy time of year for MACEE because exam results are just coming out here for high school kids.  The education system here is quite different, and I’ve been trying to sort out how it works.  Kids go to school through the equivalent of 11th grade and then take tests in 10 or so subjects called the "SPM" tests (I still get very confused about this- in Indonesia school is referred to as SMP).  These are the results which are coming out now, so many students are coming in and asking if their grades are good enough to go to college in the States.  Some then apply directly to college, either here or in the States, and others go on to do "A Levels" , another two years of college prep work.  They can get into American schools without this extra training but not into the best schools.  So it can be very confusing when they come in and are not sure what they want to do because there are several options.

Some of the people who come in are really nice and truly interested in figuring out what the best idea is for their situation.  Some come in and want you to do their research for them.  I had a guy today looking at Hotel Management programs, and he decided he wanted to go to New York City or to LA.  I unfortunately let it slip that I’m from near LA, so he peppered me with irrelevant questions about living there.  He said "it’s cheap to live there, right?" and I said no.  He said "food is cheap there, right?" and after I said no again he said "what about if you just eat at Taco Bell?"  I grudgingly conceded that yes, it would be cheap to only eat at Taco Bell, but I restrained myself from asking if he’d heard of the movie "Super Size Me". Basically, after 30 minutes of nonsense he told me I had to tell him what city to go to.  So I politely told him that it wasn’t my job, and that he needed to find out where he thought he’d rather live.  Oh yeah, and worry about getting admitted somewhere.

I visited one of the local private colleges on Monday with a co-worker to do a presentation on studying in the US.  Basically I just went to watch her give her spiel.  The place is called the HELP University College (yes, it stands for Higher Education Learning Programs) and it does nothing to hide the fact that it is a business first and a college second.  They have a customer service desk instead of an information desk at the front.  And in the brochure they have a message from the CEO, not the president.  Weird.  There are dozens of these places around Malaysia, and it seems to strange to me, but I guess American private colleges are businesses too.  They just do a better job of disguising it.  All you have to do is read about their financial aid policies, which I started doing today. I’m gathering material for a rant on that some other time…

Comments 2

  1. fazu March 17, 2005

    smp = sekolah menengah pertengahan?
    “Kids go to school through the equivalent of 11th grade and then take tests in 10 or so subjects called the “SPM” tests”
    I don’t know if you heard about that girl who sat for exams on 17 subjects (as opposed to the minimum 9) and got A’s for all of them. The number of record number of A’s in SPM is rising every year it’s not funny.
    ditto on HELP 😉

  2. Julie March 18, 2005

    Yeah, I saw the news about the girl’s scores, it was all over. I think that type of thing is happening in the US too. Every year there are more and more kids who ace the SAT test with a perfect score. Makes it hard for the rest of us regular people to get anywhere!
    Tom says that smp is Sekolah Menengah Pertama. The first level is “Sekolah Dasar” and the top level is “Sekolah Menengah Utama”.
    And I’m glad I had the right idea about HELP!

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