Monday, January 23, 2006

Being foreign

I'd be the first to admit that Australian universities don't often do their peachy-fresh best by international students (especially given the cash they bring in) in terms of creating a smooth application process.

Indeed, now being a foreign student myself and subject to the varying whims and idiosyncrasies of Cambridge bureaucracies, I have some sympathy for the confusion and terror that can be engendered through the process of applying to study abroad.

I can even believe that there exist in parts of the world "education agents" to recommend universities to those wishing to study in Australia and who will, for a fee, guide them through the application process.

What a shame they may prove no more use in the application process than a bootful of old cheese.

From a friend working in foreign student admissions, I present the e-mail she wish she'd sent to one such agent:

"Dear Ms X,

Thank you for your utterly unnecessary letter regarding your client, Mr Y.

As I am sure you can appreciate, there are a very large number of students who choose not to complete their enrolment until the last minute. Nor is your assumption - specifically, that you are entitled to special treatment on the basis that you can operate a fax machine - unusual.

Your efforts are, however, made more unique by your timing, and I am gladdened to see that you take your responsibilities so seriously as to require urgent completed enrolments within hours of making payment. Such a keen work ethic is to be admired.

As a professional courtesy, may I take this opportunity to remind you that in the majority of efforts to increase efficiency, underlining doesn't work. This is true irrespective of how many times it is used. The same can be said of the use of an "urgent stamp". There is a well-established inverse relationship between how many times the stamp is used and how effective it is.

May I also suggest that in future, you carefully analyze where the important information is found on any given letter, and avoid marking that section with a stamp of any kind.

I would also recommend that you request from your employer that you be allowed to undertake further training in the basic functions of a fax machine. This will allow you to send each page of your faxes once, as opposed to sending the same page one hundred and fifty times.

Warm regards, etc"

Oh dear. Anyone else had their own work held hostage by the incompetence of others lately?

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