Category Archives: World Regions

Witnessing history in Venezuela?

It has been an interesting time to be in Venezuela over the past few days. Hearing about Venezuela from afar allows us to keep a distance from what is going on here; however, actually being here leaves a lasting impression and a keen interest in the country’s politics.

Today marks the final day of campaigning in their upcoming presidential election. On October 7, voters will make their decision between the incumbent president, Hugo Chavez, and his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

President Chavez has been in power for the past 14 years. His socialist policies have made him quite popular among large segments of his people, including the poor, as is evidenced by the large number of his posters and pro-Chavez messages that are proudly displayed in and around favela neighbourhoods that I passed by today.

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This is a picture I snapped while driving by a favela neighbourhood. If you look closely, you can see Chavez posters and a Chavez banner proudly displayed on their homes.

His slogan: “Chavez–el corazón de mi patria.” It roughly translates to “The heart of my homeland,” though the true meaning of patria cannot be properly conveyed in English, as it refers not only to country, but also culture, society, and national identity. Clearly, this is a man whose supporters believe is Venezuela.

Chavez’s campaign slogan draws on the hearts of his Venezuelan supporters.

Example of a Chavez campaign poster.

Capriles, by contrast (according to his supporters to whom I have spoken–I do not personally know his platform), has views that are more capitalist and market oriented. His election would signal a major shift in Venezuelan politics, economics, and international relations. His slogan, “Hay un camino” (“There is a way”) inspires his followers, who have told me things like, “Fourteen years has been too long, how can we stand another five?” Others said that they fear the direction in which Venezuela is going,  likening it to Communism. They also expressed frustration about the talented youth and people of means who have been leaving the country in droves because they feel that there is neither incentive nor opportunity to remain there.

Campaign poster supporting the challenger, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Today marks the final day of the campaign season, and there are many thousands of people who have taken to the streets to march for their candidate of choice. From my hotel room over the past two days, we have heard incessant car horns honking and music being played from huge speakers tied to the backs of trucks as people campaigned and drew attention to their candidate.

There is a huge demonstration on Avenida Bolívar in downtown Caracas with thousands of people who habe gathered to show their support for, and eventually hear from, Capriles. As I write this post, I am sitting in a Japanese restaurant watching a live TV feed of the demonstration, and everyone’s eyes are glued to the screen. Dressed in slacks, a t-shirt in the red, yellow, and blue pattern of the Venezuelan flag, and a similar baseball cap, Capriles is standing on a cooler in the bed of a truck waving to his supporters as he makes his way to a stage to address them.

I cannot help but wonder what is happening in demonstrations for Chavez, but I am very uninformed. The reality is that I have not yet met a single person who has told me that he/she supports the incumbent president. Instead, I have spoken to excited people who have been saying things like, “We are going to see history today,” and “This is an important time in Venezuelan history.” There is an energy, even a tension, in the air as we approach the election.

Sadly, if I was in the USA today, I do not think that I would be seeing too much of what is going on here in Venezuela; indeed, I think that even if it was on TV, I do not know that I would be interested in watching it. Being here and being exposed to the almost palpable energy of this city certainly has made an impact. I find that I am incredibly interested in the results of this election, and I think about the substantial impact that this election will have on the Americas regardless of who wins.

I look up from writing this article to watch the coverage some more, but suddenly the screen goes dark…some type of “interference” with the signal…

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Ankara Fair a Success

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Today, I participated in a five-hour fair in Ankara, Turkey. It went very well!

The turnout was higher than at the first two cities–including Istanbul, surprisingly enough; however, the traffic was not so overwhelming that we lost the ability to have quality conversations with the potential students.

What I liked the most about the fair was the range of academic interests of the students who attended. Half of the people we spoke with wanted graduate programs, a quarter of them wanted undergrad degrees, and the last quarter wanted ESL.

There was also terrific variety among the people who wanted graduate degrees. While we were asked about the usual degree programs (i.e., MBA, Engineering), several other degrees were in demand, including MA-TESOL, Computer Science, Exercise Science, Urban Affairs and Public Policy, International Relations, and even one of our dual degree programs. It was fun to be able to highlight the variety of degrees offered at the University of Delaware. We felt quite proud about that fact.

Interestingly enough, the majority of the people we spoke with today, whether for undergrad or graduate, would have to be conditionally admitted to the university due to their basic- to intermediate-level English skills. Most of this group would need around 6-8 months of study, as well. In my opinion, in situations like that, everyone wins–especially the students, since we give them the confidence and the skills to communicate intelligently in academic settings before they begin their university studies.

Three cities down, one more to go: I’m off to Izmir tomorrow.

Impressions of an Istanbul student fair

I’ve been attending a fair series in Turkey which involves stops in Antalya, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Last weekend, we had a two-day fair in Istanbul, and this afternoon I am heading to Ankara.

The fair experience has been interesting so far, particularly in Istanbul. It’s almost as if there were “themes” for each day. For example, on Saturday, we met with many potential students who are hoping to do graduate degrees in the US (and conditional admissions at the graduate level). They came to the fair without their parents, and discussed all aspects of the programs, the application process, funding opportunities, etc.

Sunday, however, was completely different. It was as if it was “ESL day.” The majority of the people who spoke with us wanted an intensive English program, for periods of time ranging from 2 months to 1 year. They also came with their parents, and, in several cases, parents came to inquire about our programs without having their children present! It was a very interesting mix.

I also found that these fairs do not follow the typical model that I have seen elsewhere in the world. Turks haven’t been coming to these fairs in huge numbers so far; however, we were able to take advantage of the slower traffic to actually sit and talk with them for 5-10 minutes at a time. That is something that I haven’t been able to do in some of the larger fair formats that I typically attend. I rather enjoyed it. Plus, it was nice to have a quieter format that didn’t make me lose my voice, for once!

There are two more cities on this fair tour: Ankara and Izmir. I’ll be heading to Ankara today. I’m interested in seeing how the next two fairs will compare to the first two events.