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Old 09.07.2011, 11:27
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Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Hello there, I am new to this forum so I hope you can bear with me...

Unfortunately my first post in this so interesting forum is a mixed up and frustrating story about my admission at the ETH Zurich.

In April I applied for a Masters course at the ETH. I scanned all ETH websites (http://www.rektorat.ethz.ch/students...sites/language for language requirements) to make sure I was qualified, and turns out my qualifications were OK. During my application I had to fill out a whole list of subjects I have taken in my (5 year)undergraduate course, including course contents, textbooks, lecture hours, grades etc. I sent a whole package of all sorts of documents (language certificates, transcripts etc) to the admissions office, for which I paid a whole lot of money (translations, verified copies and so on).

After some time (beginning of June) I recieved an acceptance e-mail and a few days later a written letter. It seems I had some missing credits so I had to take 5 bachelor courses. Funny thing is, two of those courses were exactly the same as two courses I had already taken in my undergraduate, which was crystal clear through the list of subjects I was required to submit with my application... Textbooks and all. Moreover, I was required to resend copies of ALL documents I sent with my application, in order to enroll in the course, including the original documents. Since that was not possible, I phoned the admissions office and they told me it would be alright if I brought them the originals before the beginning of the semester.

After that phonecall I sent another fat package of documents (more money, more queueing for translations, more frustration) including my registration form. Two days later I received another letter confirming my registration and reminding me of the documents I had to bring in order to complete it. Among those I had to bring proof of adequate (yes, it was underlined) German skills. I was puzzled. I had already sent my German certificate twice and I was wondering why they need it again. My certificate is the Goethe Institut Zentrale Mittelstufenpruefung (ZMP) which was replaced by the Zertifikat C1 in 2007 (I got it the year before it changed). The Goethe Institut gave me an official certificate of equivalence stating that the two certificates are essentialy the same thing and are Level C1 according to the EU. After yet another phonecall to the admissions office (end of June already) they suddenly told me that my certificate was not recognised and that I had to have the Zertifikat C1 (essentially the same thing). The woman I spoke to told me: "you speak very good German. I don't think you'll have a problem sitting for another German certificate". Yeah. Sure.

I was enraged. First of all, they told me in the last minute and I have already missed all deadlines for any other certificate. Second, they require the certificate I already have which has been certified by the Goethe Institut that it's the same thing as the one they want. But no. They won't have it. I sent a few e-mails trying to clarify things and all I got was cold, indifferent replies, as if nothing had happened. The admissions office just keeps insisting that it's my fault that I didn't inform myself properly from the ETH websites and that the ZMP was never recognised by them as adequate proof of German language. That is a complete lie, since I saw the words "Zentrale Mittelstufenpruefung" written on one of the webpages (see attached image). I have tried to make sense with them but they just won't budge. It's simply outrageous and absurd.

All this caught me by surprise. All was fine, since they never told me something was wrong with my German certificate till the last minute. I had already planned my journey to Switzerland, arranged for accomodation and all. The stubbornness and the attitude of these people is just beyond me. Right now I am at loss since all my efforts and excellent academic qualifications were just reduced to a heap of useless paper. I have no idea what to do next and I have become depressed and desperate. This odyssey has outlasted my patience and psychological wellbeing...

I am sorry to tire you with my rant (which maybe belongs to the "complaints corner" section of the forum...) but I really need some advice right now on how to proceed. I have even considered taking the matter to the Rector, which may be drastical but I really think this is a major injustice. But even so, I think that I will hit another brick wall and receive another cold reply...
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Old 09.07.2011, 11:42
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

send it to the dean.
also is there recruitment agents for this school?
I know with our school if there was an issue they had enough power to push it through.
another thing you can suggest is to retake the test once you are already started.


or finally and most drastic....change schools.
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Old 09.07.2011, 11:48
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Imagine how frustrated you will be when you get here, it's like this all the time! The answer is No, whats the question again!

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Hello there, I am new to this forum so I hope you can bear with me...

Unfortunately my first post in this so interesting forum is a mixed up and frustrating story about my admission at the ETH Zurich.

In April I applied for a Masters course at the ETH. I scanned all ETH websites (http://www.rektorat.ethz.ch/students...sites/language for language requirements) to make sure I was qualified, and turns out my qualifications were OK. During my application I had to fill out a whole list of subjects I have taken in my (5 year)undergraduate course, including course contents, textbooks, lecture hours, grades etc. I sent a whole package of all sorts of documents (language certificates, transcripts etc) to the admissions office, for which I paid a whole lot of money (translations, verified copies and so on).

After some time (beginning of June) I recieved an acceptance e-mail and a few days later a written letter. It seems I had some missing credits so I had to take 5 bachelor courses. Funny thing is, two of those courses were exactly the same as two courses I had already taken in my undergraduate, which was crystal clear through the list of subjects I was required to submit with my application... Textbooks and all. Moreover, I was required to resend copies of ALL documents I sent with my application, in order to enroll in the course, including the original documents. Since that was not possible, I phoned the admissions office and they told me it would be alright if I brought them the originals before the beginning of the semester.

After that phonecall I sent another fat package of documents (more money, more queueing for translations, more frustration) including my registration form. Two days later I received another letter confirming my registration and reminding me of the documents I had to bring in order to complete it. Among those I had to bring proof of adequate (yes, it was underlined) German skills. I was puzzled. I had already sent my German certificate twice and I was wondering why they need it again. My certificate is the Goethe Institut Zentrale Mittelstufenpruefung (ZMP) which was replaced by the Zertifikat C1 in 2007 (I got it the year before it changed). The Goethe Institut gave me an official certificate of equivalence stating that the two certificates are essentialy the same thing and are Level C1 according to the EU. After yet another phonecall to the admissions office (end of June already) they suddenly told me that my certificate was not recognised and that I had to have the Zertifikat C1 (essentially the same thing). The woman I spoke to told me: "you speak very good German. I don't think you'll have a problem sitting for another German certificate". Yeah. Sure.

I was enraged. First of all, they told me in the last minute and I have already missed all deadlines for any other certificate. Second, they require the certificate I already have which has been certified by the Goethe Institut that it's the same thing as the one they want. But no. They won't have it. I sent a few e-mails trying to clarify things and all I got was cold, indifferent replies, as if nothing had happened. The admissions office just keeps insisting that it's my fault that I didn't inform myself properly from the ETH websites and that the ZMP was never recognised by them as adequate proof of German language. That is a complete lie, since I saw the words "Zentrale Mittelstufenpruefung" written on one of the webpages (see attached image). I have tried to make sense with them but they just won't budge. It's simply outrageous and absurd.

All this caught me by surprise. All was fine, since they never told me something was wrong with my German certificate till the last minute. I had already planned my journey to Switzerland, arranged for accomodation and all. The stubbornness and the attitude of these people is just beyond me. Right now I am at loss since all my efforts and excellent academic qualifications were just reduced to a heap of useless paper. I have no idea what to do next and I have become depressed and desperate. This odyssey has outlasted my patience and psychological wellbeing...

I am sorry to tire you with my rant (which maybe belongs to the "complaints corner" section of the forum...) but I really need some advice right now on how to proceed. I have even considered taking the matter to the Rector, which may be drastical but I really think this is a major injustice. But even so, I think that I will hit another brick wall and receive another cold reply...
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Old 09.07.2011, 12:26
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Sorry to here about your situation, it sounds like a right mess. When did you download the document you showed in the pic? If you go to the same address now the document is different. Under 'Sprache' it says ' vgl. auch nachfolgende Präzisierungen' which google translates as 'see also following clarifications.' But I can't see the clarification.

And in the link you provided for the Rektorat no mention is made of ZMP from what I can see.

You also mention there are bachelor courses you have to 'repeat.' I imagine these courses are required for the master, so even though you've done courses that are 'exactly' the same, they must be sure that everyone has the same level as far as the basics are concerned.
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Old 09.07.2011, 13:09
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

The image I posted is from the site that assesses your qualifications to see whether you are eligible to apply for a masters course. If you declare that you are a non-native German speaker, a little window appears which lists the recognized certificates (window on the right of the image I posted). On the main site ZMP is not mentioned, but Zertifikat C1 is mentioned. As I already said, the Goethe Institut issues confirmations of equivalence for the two certificates, for the people who took the ZMP exam before it was renamed to Zertifikat C1. I phoned the head of the language department at the Goethe Institut and she told me the same thing and that the two certificates are essentially the same and are both language Level C1. But the ETH refuses to accept the equivalence (which also causes problems for the Goethe Institut as well), and they want me to acquire the same certificate, which is absurd. This would cost me money and one year off my studies, since all deadlines for all possible german certificates (including the test DaF and the Austrian OSD) have expired.

Also the site states that "Candidates who must acquire more than 30 credits out of the Bachelor programmes as an additional study requirement, must hand in a German language certificate, level C1, before begin of studies." Well, I only have to acquire 17 credits so I really don't get why they want it in the first place. But even if they do, language level C1 is sufficient. The little window on the right links directly to the Goethe Institut page which happens to issue the confirmations of equivalence.

As far as the prerequisites are concerned, yes there are subjects that I have never taken in my undergraduate, so it's logical that I have to take them so my level is the same with the other students'. Still there are subjects where the course contents are exactly the same as corresponding ones from my undergraduate, so that is a clear 'repetition'.
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Old 09.07.2011, 13:36
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

This sounds so frustrating, especially as you've been on top of the admission process all along, it's not like you are trying to sneak in past the deadline.

At this point in time I would say stop sending emails and talk to someone who can help you.

I'm almost positive that a writing a letter (or worse, an email) to the dean/Rektor would be futile. They receive hundreds of emails from both perfectly qualified and perfectly unqualified applicants, concerning everything from perceived injustices in the admissions procedure through to requests for assistance in procuring spots in daycare.

And maybe they've just left for a three-week holiday...

I would suggest the following:

1. Prepare a brief summary of the situation, which (as I understand it) is that:
  • you applied for a Master's course and are provisionally accepted, but you are required to do a qualifying semester of 5 bachelor's courses.
  • Your Goethe certificate was considered sufficient for acceptance into the Master's course.
  • You have sumbitted a second, separate application for admission into the bachelor's courses (which was probably handled by a totally different office on campus, hence the need to send everything again).
  • The application for admission into the Bachelor's courses is being met with some difficulty because they will not accept your Goethe certificate of as being equivalent to C1, and it is now too late for you to obtain a C1 certificate before the semester starts.
2. Contact the admissions office for the Master's program (not the undergrad admissions office) by phone and ask to speak with someone concerning your application for admission into the graduate program. Don't settle for the secretary, make sure you speak to someone (likely a professor) who could potentially contact the admissions office for the bachelor's courses and pull a few strings for you.

3. When you speak with them, be as concise and polite as possible, and don't go on too much about what you may have once read on the website about admissions rules. (Websites can be out-of date, or there may be different rules for each program.) Stress that you strongly desire to complete your enrollment in the Master's program and that you are willing to take an extra semester of bachelor's courses to achieve this goal, but that due to time constraints you will be unable to present the undergraduate admissions office with a C1 certificate before the semester starts. (Note: don't even mention that you think you've taken two of these courses already, students who have studied abroad often have to re-certify so the university can be sure that your knowledge really is up to their standard. You aren't being discriminated against, this is totally normal, don't take it personally. I've had to re-take courses that I studied on exchange overseas, but on the plus side, they were dead easy the second time around. ) Also, right now your number one priority is completing your registration, perhaps you could take up this issue regarding course equivalencies after you arrive and you know you're really officially enrolled.

4. Very politely suggest that perhaps someone in charge of admissions in the Master's program would be able to ask the undergraduate admissions office to either accept your current certificate as being valid (especially since you aren't going to be enrolled as a bachelor's student for very long), or else ask them to grant you a deadline extension for submitting a C1 certificate. (Say perhaps before the end of the first semester.)

5. Make sure you get the person's name and address, and take notes of the conversation. After the conversation send them an email with a brief overview of the conversation you've had, and ask them to get back to you as soon as possible.

Having gotten into a Master's program through an "alternate route" myself, I know that it is much more effective to do things in person (or by phone) than via email, as it is much easier to get someone on your side that way. Also, because admissions into graduate programs are generally administered by academic departments (and the process is a bit more personal), you'll have much more success by asking your future department to help you out than by trying to argue with undergraduate admissions officers, who deal with thousands of anonymous applicants and aren't really interested in anyone's personal story.

Best of luck, and please keep us up to date!

Heather
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Last edited by HeatherM; 09.07.2011 at 13:54.
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Old 09.07.2011, 13:58
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Thanks a lot for your interest! Actually, i've been conditionally accepted to the MSc program, with the condition that I complete my undergrad (which is next week), and that I take 5 bachelor courses from their bachelor as an additional requirement. Apparently there is one more condition that I submit a valid C1 language certificate. So it's just the Masters admissions office causing the problem. I've already spoken to them and explained the whole situation and all I got was a "We're sorry, that's the way it is" sort of reply with no apparent flexibility. Also they are rigid about their deadlines and want the certifitate until 30 September the latest, which again leaves me with few options.

Stranely enough, there is one single admissions office which handles applications and admissions (both undergrad and postgrad) for all the departments. My registration has not even reached the department. I'm still communicating with the admissions office. It's like a fort you have to conquer before moving on to the actual castle...
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Old 09.07.2011, 14:40
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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Thanks a lot for your interest! Actually, i've been conditionally accepted to the MSc program, with the condition that I complete my undergrad (which is next week), and that I take 5 bachelor courses from their bachelor as an additional requirement. Apparently there is one more condition that I submit a valid C1 language certificate. So it's just the Masters admissions office causing the problem. I've already spoken to them and explained the whole situation and all I got was a "We're sorry, that's the way it is" sort of reply with no apparent flexibility. Also they are rigid about their deadlines and want the certifitate until 30 September the latest, which again leaves me with few options.

Stranely enough, there is one single admissions office which handles applications and admissions (both undergrad and postgrad) for all the departments. My registration has not even reached the department. I'm still communicating with the admissions office. It's like a fort you have to conquer before moving on to the actual castle...
Silly idea - but can you contact the Goethe Institut to see if they will issue you a C1 certificate - if, as they say, it is the same? Just a thought...
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Old 09.07.2011, 15:31
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Yes, I asked them and they said it's not possible and it would be unnecessary since the equivalence certificate verifies the level of the diploma.
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Old 09.07.2011, 16:36
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

I know it's lame but it's a pretty standard feature of higher education that they require a specific kind of language proficiency, or require that you re-do courses that you've already done. Especially if they think that those courses are so crucial to your future success and want to be able to guarantee the quality of student that emerges from the process. This is based upon my experience with the application procedures in the US. I also had to re-do courses that I had done previously when going from one US masters program to another US PhD program--and the courses were on the same level and taught with the same book. In the end, I know the material REALLY well

But if you think that ETH is hassling you in a way that is unacceptable, contact the dean of student affairs (or equivalent) and if you are not satisfied, vote with your feet. Wait this year out, and go to a school that has its shee-at together in international admissions.
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Old 09.07.2011, 16:46
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

I have a friend who had similar (frustrating) experiences both at the University of Zurich and University of Fribourg. In both cases, she had to go back to the admissions offices several times to make sure they had properly read her transcript. In both cases, some of the documents she had sent in her applications had been overlooked... She ended up paying to take classes that she didn't even need!
HeatherM's suggestions are great. Doing things in person is definitely a good way to go. This is how my friend resolved her issues as well.
Good luck!
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Old 09.07.2011, 16:46
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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. I have tried to make sense with them but they just won't budge. It's simply outrageous and absurd.
The stubbornness and the attitude of these people is just beyond me.
Welcome to Switzerland
Man up because you'll need it for everything here, from the basic right to find a room to stay to the higher joy of administration and bureaucracy in Switzerland!

But well done, you have already learnt one of the cultural rule in Switzerland: They don't like making sense they like sticking to the rules
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Old 09.07.2011, 16:49
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

I see no point in doing a masters in ETH or any other swiss school unless you did your bachelors here. Its just a continuation of the BS study, not meant for foreigners.

Do your masters somewhere else, come back for PHD.
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Old 09.07.2011, 17:05
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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I see no point in doing a masters in ETH or any other swiss school unless you did your bachelors here. Its just a continuation of the BS study, not meant for foreigners.

Do your masters somewhere else, come back for PHD.
If it's not menat for foreigners then they should avoid doing whole MSc programmes exclusively in English and should avoid even advertising them on the web. I thing the Bologna process forced them to break their 5-year degrees to bachelor and master and let some foreigners in, just to comply with the EU rules. Other than that it seems they will just make (non-Swiss) applicants' life a living hell just to make them change their minds. Almost made it there, but no. They're going down, whether I'm in or not.
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Old 09.07.2011, 17:13
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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If it's not menat for foreigners then they should avoid doing whole MSc programmes exclusively in English and should avoid even advertising them on the web. I thing the Bologna process forced them to break their 5-year degrees to bachelor and master and let some foreigners in, just to comply with the EU rules. Other than that it seems they will just make (non-Swiss) applicants' life a living hell just to make them change their minds. Almost made it there, but no. They're going down, whether I'm in or not.
hey wow look at my red squares! i must have been really nasty to deserve that
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Old 09.07.2011, 17:18
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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I see no point in doing a masters in ETH or any other swiss school unless you did your bachelors here. Its just a continuation of the BS study, not meant for foreigners.

Do your masters somewhere else, come back for PHD.
Can I ask what you are basing this on and why there is no point to it?
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Old 09.07.2011, 17:20
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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Can I ask what you are basing this on and why there is no point to it?
its based on my rather intimate experience with the aforementioned topic. there is no point because its not meant for foreigners
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Old 09.07.2011, 17:25
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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its based on my rather intimate experience with the aforementioned topic. there is no point because its not meant for foreigners
Well I, probably along with many others, have had a very different experience to you. My course is nothing like a continuation of the bachelors, there is a huge range of specialised courses, allowing you to really focus on a given area. And you still haven't explained what you mean by 'not meant for foreigners' . I'm a foreigner and have had no problems. In fact about 1/3 (rough guess) of people on my course are foreign, and most people seem to love it. I can see no reason why it's not meant for foreigners.
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Old 07.12.2012, 16:27
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

Ya absolutely correct.I have been at ETH masters as a foreign national.Its just not for people from abroad.Its a total continuation of Bachelors.Come back for a PhD.That experience would be very good!
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Old 07.12.2012, 18:53
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Re: Frustrating and unfair admission at the ETH Zurich

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Well I, probably along with many others, have had a very different experience to you. My course is nothing like a continuation of the bachelors, there is a huge range of specialised courses, allowing you to really focus on a given area. And you still haven't explained what you mean by 'not meant for foreigners' . I'm a foreigner and have had no problems. In fact about 1/3 (rough guess) of people on my course are foreign, and most people seem to love it. I can see no reason why it's not meant for foreigners.
My program is 50% foreign and does not have a bachelor's level program.. it's meant to take students from a variety of disciplines. If I do a PhD, it will likely be in yet another specialty since i'm heading into ever more specialized territory.

If it weren't meant for foreigners, they wouldn't accept foreigners.
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