Thoughts on living in New York

Obviously this is just my opinion based on observation after spending 9 months in New York and others might completely disagree. I’m simply just answering the questions that a lot of people are asking me on my opinion on (working in) New York, Americans and America in general.

I think in the end everything turns normal and even an absolutely crazy city like New York feels normal and I feel at home in the city. Dance performances in the subway, people rude and screaming at you, people being so nice it surprises you, saying the word ‘like’ 15 times in a sentence and a tiny glass of wine for 13 dollars, it’s everyday life now.

After almost a year here I can say there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand of this country because the contrasts are so big. The only thing on television and newspaper is politics yet nobody talks about it. I have seen a lot of jobs divided by race and there is still a lot of discrimination in daily life. People are either really well off or pretty poor without health insurance and they refuse to see a doctor. I’ve seen someone panicking because someone called him an ambulance but could not afford it. I have seen a lot of homeless people and honestly many of them were in really bad shape mentally and physically. From men to veterans, to a lot of (young) women. I just don’t understand the social system in the country and how it can be allowed that people are treated like this. It seems like life is more uncertain than I am used to. One day I had to help translate a conversation where a woman got fired on the spot at the end of her shift without any prior warning or a  bit of time to find something else.

We Dutch people might be direct, and Americans think we are but I’ve found people many times being very rude at me, especially guests and clients. Screaming in my face or being very angry. On the opposite, many times people approach you on the street if you’re lost to help out or a friendly stranger starts conversation with you which is pretty rare in my culture. When I travelled to New Orleans the people were extremely nice but also a little wary of tourists (although I can’t blame them).

Another question a lot of people asked me is whether it is possible to make any friends. Well, I think everyone in New York is really caught up in his own bubble and people mostly work. In general, I think it is a lot easier to make contact with someone than in Europe (West Europe especially) and it is really easy to get into a conversation or even coffee with a stranger, or go for drinks with people from work. However, I think it is a lot more superficial and you don’t just have close friends in New York.  For some people this works though, I prefer to have a few close friends. Also, a lot of people work six days a week or several jobs so people have other priorities like getting promotion. So yes it is easier to meet people to go for a drink with but I found it hard to build friendships with Americans. I did made some great friends but they are all foreign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and its energy, its interesting and talented people, the opportunities, the endless amount of things to do and explore. It is challenging to work with the staff and the guests but that is also what makes it interesting and in the end it depends on your ability to adapt because you are the foreigner.

 

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Does globalization of the American food culture change global health?

Nowadays, with this huge amount of international travel,  import, export, the internet and social media we seem to become more global than ever. Globalization is defined as a world with a homogenous society, dominated by American culture. Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonalds are imbedded into our daily lives and could be declared as symbols of the American fast food industry. Globalization seems to cause changes in food preference over the world. One can wonder to in what extent local societies are influenced by this new food culture, that also result in an increasing amount of Western diseases. Is globalization a cause of chances in global health? How are children affected by these food habits?

The documentary ‘Way Beyond Weight’ portrayed shockingly how children deep in the inlands of Brazil are wining and crying for more Coca-Cola and chips. These children are overweight and some even diabetic at the age of 11. They refuse to eat fruit and did not recognize a cucumber nor kale. Scholars in the documentary identified this issue as a global pandemic of obese children. The main question asked in the documentary was who is to blame for this global pandemic. Causes given are the food industry, the parents, advertising agencies and the government. In the documentary, globalization is pictured as a negative occurrence due to its huge and negative impact on global health. According to Caprio (2008) globalization can affect obesity through promotion of travel and migration, trade of high-fat products and food marketing.

One can wonder that if these children around the world are already this obese and even diabetic, what the world would look like in 50 years. Before, a child with type 2 diabetic was rare but nowadays it is much more common. It seems like the problem is too big already to stop, especially with several multinationals with so much power. The change needs to come out of these corporations but one can wonder if that will ever happen. Governments could also have great positive influence, though they seem to be reluctant and probably influenced (or under pressure?) by the multinationals.

There are many aspects to globalization, but in terms of food cultural there seems to be occurring a problem so big that it cannot be turned around anymore. Globalization is often seen as a positive occurrence, but in terms of health it can be concluded it is not.  The main question is how this will develop further, taking into account the extent to which children already are influenced. Societies seem to adopt the same cultural identity in terms of food, all leaning towards the American culture. It is sad to realize that in the end, the most innocent people of our world, children are the ones that are influenced.

Reference list:

Caprio, S. et al. (2008). Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood Obesity. Diabetes Care, 31, 2211-2221. doi: 10.2337/dc08-9024.

Nisti, M. (Producer) & Renner, E. (Director). (2012). Way Beyond Weight. Brazil. Retrieved on March 16th from http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/11987/Way-Beyond-Weight

World Health Organization. (2016). Global report on diabetes

The picture is part of the documentary Way Beyond Weight.

The truth about an online degree

In the United States, a growing number of students are deciding to take their degree via online education. Within one year, the amount of online enrolments has risen by 21%, while the overall higher education population has risen by 2% (Allen & Seaman 2010). Technology that makes these changes in higher education possible continues to develop at a fast pace, and the opportunities of using online education is growing. People in favour of online degrees state that online education makes it possible for everyone to receive education, that it is easier to receive a degree online than a traditional degree at a college.  In the United States of America, a rising number of students are taking their college degree through online education, but the passing rates and the job prospects of an online degree are worse than those of a traditional degree.

An argument commonly used by opponents, people in favour of online education, is that it is easier to get a degree online in comparison with those earned in traditional college way. However, studies have shown that an online degree is not easier to complete than traditional courses. Students who take online courses often receive lower grades and are more likely to drop out. In addition, students who take online coursework in early terms were slightly, but significantly, less likely to return to school later terms. It turns out that students have difficulties with adapting to online education (Xu and Jaggers, 2011). Students are not used to self-directed learning. It is a step to change from traditional education, which the students have received during their primary and secondary education, to online education.

Apart from easier degrees, another argument opponents use is that online education makes it possible for everyone to receive education. Students who have historically been underrepresented in college, for example ethnic minority students, teenage mums and poor students are able to take on online education much easier than traditional education. Students following a course online also share the belief that an online degree is cheaper because money can be saved on matters such as online books, petrol to go to college and  is less need for day care. These arguments are not supported by facts. It turns out that minorities, like black and Asian students, are the ones likely to drop out in addition to students with weaker academic credentials, according to research (Xu and Jaggers, 2013) Facts show different outcomes with regards to money as well. To support this with an example, an online master course at Indiana University costs students about $52,000, while the exact same course in traditional setting costs $23,592 (Get educated, 2012). The gap between online and traditional education does not always have to be this big, but this example indicates clearly that an online degree is not necessarily a cheaper degree. Research by WCET (2009) found that among accredited colleges which offer the same online courses as on-campus courses, 49% of these colleges charge more for the online courses.

The final argument opponents argue is that employers value a traditional degree the same as an online degree. However, research has shown different results. A national survey about hiring employees showed that 96% of the employers would choose traditional degrees over applicants with virtual degrees (Wellen, 2006).

To conclude, research has pointed out some worrying facts about online education. Students are more likely to drop out compared to a traditional college setting. The main reason is that they have difficulties to adapt from traditional to online education. Ethnic minorities’ students are even more likely to drop out of online education. This suggests that these type of students are struggling even more in adapting to online education.  This is worrying because this could suggest that if online education would become bigger in the future; the gap between these students will be enlarged. In order to be successful, students have to consider if online education is the right way to study for them. They should research the online course thoroughly in advance of their studies, think critically if they can manage their own time management effectively and if they can handle self-directed learning. Changes in education like this are necessary to give students the possibility to prepare for and adapt to online education effectively and hopefully prevent them from dropping out of the course. Hopefully, the statistics about study results will eventually change and online education can become a more effective and beneficial way of learning.

References

Allen and J. Seaman. (2010) Class differences; Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group, USA.

Get Educated, Inc. (2011). Online Masters degree cost more than traditional residential programs.

Gladieux and W. Swail, (1999). Virtual University & Education Opportunity. The College Board, Washington.

Wellen, (2006). Degrees of acceptance. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/education/edlife/conted.html?_r=0

WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. (2009). Online Education Programs Marked by Rising Enrolments, Unsure Profits, Organizational Transitions, Higher Fees and technical Training for faculty. Hanover Research, Pennsylvania.

Xu and S. Jaggers.  (2011). Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges. Community College Research Centre, Columbia University, USA.

Xu and S. Jaggers. (2013). Adaptability to online learning. Community College Research Centre, Columbia University, USA.