Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Living with Family, Why not?

I will say congratulations as you got admitted in the University of Michigan, a world class University in one of the best towns in the United States of America.  Maybe you also got admitted to some other universities, but your choice to study at U-M will be a great investment for your career and life in the future.  Also, if you have family, this is a moment that can be a good opportunity for you and family to gain living experiences outside your home country together.  But, you need to be aware that if you fail to manage both your life and your family life, it may jeopardize your academic achievement - which is not good.  Here are two things that I will share to you as a brief picture of living with family in Ann Arbor.

First of all, as an international student, it is important for you to prove a certain amount of money to obtain a visa.  To me, that amount of money is adequate enough to shop for groceries for cooking and purchase some fast foods or hangout on the weekends.  But, please keep in mind although you have that required amount of money, you still need to have a little bit extra money for an emergency call or vacation purposes.  Healthcare costs, for example, which are known as a co-pay, may occur when you are having illness or injury.  The costs are various and you can visit this website to get further information.  Another example is that a weekend or holiday is the best moment for you and your family to get rid of stress and have fun.  But, unfortunately, during that time the public transport (like buses) is not as frequent as a weekday.  Even on some national holidays they stop operating.  So, all you need to do is rent or buy a car, unless you are willing to spend your days at home.  But, you do not need to worry: the International Center would provide a presentation on how to rent or buy a car so you can get a better understanding on how to do it.

Next is housing.  If you do not have any idea where you are going to look, it is a good for you to start with visiting the University housing website.  There are a lot of options to live either on-campus or off-campus.  I would suggest you to observe following things: public transport access, marketplaces, amenities, and the neighborhood.  Last year, after doing some research I chose Northwood V because of many reasons.  The bus service is available over most of the semester and has many bus stops which are located at strategic places, such as markets, university housing, hospitals and clinics, sport stadiums, recreational centers, parks, and more.  Another reason is the neighborhood is also friendly, so it is safe for your family to stay at, even when you have to be away from home past midnight to do your homework.  Furthermore, the housing security and the police frequently patrol around the apartment complexes.  Lastly, the room rate is affordable with amenities that a family needs to do their daily work and there is a 24-hour support staff.  The latter is the most important thing when you there is a failure in your apartment and you do not know how to fix it.

All in all, I would say it is possible for you to live in Ann Arbor with family.  Even though there could be more burdens that you may get, you can still overcome it when you can identify as early as possible what your family needs in Ann Arbor!  I hope you can easily do your research and get success.  If you still have questions you can call the International Center for help.

Written by Gatot Arif Triaji
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Indonesia
Master’s Student in Public Policy

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Unwinding in Ann Arbor

“Stress relief” is perhaps one of the most common terms I have heard while studying in University of Michigan. Indeed, learning to manage one’s stress is essential in maintaining your mental and physical health during your studies. Furthermore, the stress management skills you acquired will benefit you beyond graduation. Everyone may have different ways in managing stress but I am going to write about the few things I like to do in Ann Arbor to unwind.

Going to the movies is always a nice way to take your mind off things. Michigan Theatre on East Liberty Street is a good choice for viewing independent and artistic films. The theatre also hosts concerts and plays which are also good for a distraction from students’ stressful academic life. Rave Cinema in Ypsilanti shows a variety of films and it has larger movie halls than Michigan Theatre. They also have more show times, thus making it a popular choice among students.

One of the easiest methods to unwind is to have a workout at the gym. The university has two gyms opened throughout the semesters (NCRB will reopen in September 2018), and these gyms are well equipped for students to do cardio, strength and other types of workouts. Moreover, the CCRB has regular spinning, yoga and dance classes which students are welcome to participate for a fee. These classes are great for students to join with their friends and enjoy a nice workout to unwind from their studies. There are also other gyms and yoga studios in Ann Arbor that students can go for a workout session.

If working out is too physically demanding, one can always go out for a nice stroll. There are twenty parks in Ann Arbor where one can enjoy the natural scenery. The more popular options are Bandemer Park and Gallup Park. Both of these parks are next to the Huron River, and they have barbeque equipment and open areas for social gatherings. However, parks may not be ideal during the winter for a nice stroll, therefore one may go indoors for their stroll during winter, such as Kerrytown and Briarwood Mall. Kerrytown hosts farmers’ market every Sunday and has a variety of shops and restaurants. Briarwood mall, on the other hand, is more of a conventional mall.

Lastly, the wellness zone is often overlooked by students for some relaxing time. The wellness zone is provided by the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS); it has massage chairs, yoga and meditation tools, Xbox Kinect system, seasonal affective disorder light therapy and other wellness resources. These facilities are opened to students at no cost Monday to Thursday 8am – 7pm, and Friday 8am – 5pm. There is no reservation needed so students can drop in to use the facilities. If one is interested in playing games for unwinding, there is a gaming archive in Duderstadt. They have many gaming consoles, both old and new, and are free for students to use.

The variety of activities available in Ann Arbor and in the university are numerous and accessible to all students. So be sure to try them out when feeling stressed from studies!

Written by Stephanie Tong
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Country of Origin: Canada
Master’s Student in Architecture

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Utilizing Library Resources for Free Access to Textbooks

Have you ever thought about the portion of your budget that might go toward having access to the textbooks you need? Well, there might be a couple of saving options like buying used books, borrowing from a friend who had the course before, or renting a book. However, none of them are free and in many cases, they might be relatively expensive in a way that even buying the used ones or renting them may not be so different from the new books.
But, you may not need to pay for your textbooks. All you need is some patience, planning, and knowing where to look for them! I want to share how I utilize a combination of library resources to have free access to the textbooks I need. These resources are the University of Michigan Libraries, the Interlibrary-loan (ILL) system through the university library, and the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL).
The University of Michigan has an extensive catalogue of all types of materials including textbooks. You can easily search the catalogue upon visiting their website. It shows you all the copies (either online or paperback) and you can request to pick them up at any UM library you choose.
If for whatever reason you could not find the book you want, you can request it through the Interlibrary-loan (ILL) system for which you simply fill out a form and the university will obtain the book for you from any library throughout the country that has a copy available for checkout.
In both cases (UM library and ILL) you will receive an email when the book is available for pick-up. You simply go to the library you selected as your pick-up location and check-out the book with your MCard at the information desk.
The last resource, that I personally use a lot, is the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL). There are several branches in the city from which the Traverwood branch is closer to the north campus and can be accessed by taking the Ann Arbor city bus (“the Ride”, free to UM students upon presenting your MCard) route number 22 which has a stop at Pierpont Commons on north campus and a stop at/close to the library. The Downtown library is the one close to the central campus and can be reached by walking or taking any city bus that has a stop at the Blake Transit Center (BTC) which is within 2 minutes of walk from this library branch.
The library membership and use of materials are free for people who live inside the Ann Arbor city limit. You can register and get a card at any branch by providing a photo ID and a proof of address. Having a card, you can request any material through the library website or check them out by visiting a branch. You can also request the book (either through your online account or in person) so that they can borrow it for you from another library, just like how the ILL works.
A nice feature of being a library patron is that you can use your membership information on some eBook provider websites that have a contract with this library like OverDrive. Upon visiting the website, you can search for and find your library (Ann Arbor district library) on its list and simply login using your library card number.
Final points:
1. It takes time and effort so DO NOT GIVE UP EASILY!
2. Take good care of your AADL card and report a lost/stolen card AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so that they can block your card.
3. Beware of the fine for late return of library materials.
All in all, these might seem harder than buying or renting a book but will save you a lot on the long run!

Written by Shiva RaissiCharmakani
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Iran
Master’s Student in Sustainable Systems

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why You Should Care About Michigan Football

If you come from anywhere besides North America, the mention of “football” probably brings up teams like Manchester United and Chelsea in your mind. But don’t worry about that; soon you’ll program your mind to call that sport “soccer,” and “football” will be the sport where men wearing padding charge into each other while passing an oblong ball. You will see it being showed in almost every restaurant and TV screen that is around. You will hear true Wolverine fans bashing Ohio State and MSU (Michigan State University). Even if you came here not knowing a thing about how the game is played or how many people are on a team, chances are you will leave Ann Arbor having Michigan football t-shirts and knowing who the quarterback is.
I was just like that, coming here insisting that “soccer” is the real “football” and thinking American football was just a rebranded rugby. Little did I know that the University of Michigan has one of the strongest college football teams in the country. I was amazed that our football games were aired on TV, and that people from all over the States, old and young included, were watching and supporting our football team. If that doesn’t amaze you, here’s a fact that will: Ann Arbor hosts the second largest stadium in the entire world!
So, why should you care about Michigan football? That’s because football is everything here. Wolverines are extremely proud of their football team and especially their coach, Jim Harbaugh. It’s all people ever talk about during Game days. It’s a topic that brings people together. If you ever run out of topics while meeting new people, just the mention of last week’s game will get the conversation going on and on. Even professors talk about it in classes. Once a season is over, Wolverines are already looking forward to the next. People in Ann Arbor breathe and bleed Michigan football.
I personally don’t keep up to date with any sport at all; but there’s one team that I will sit in front of a TV and watch the entire game – the Michigan Wolverines football team. From not knowing about what a field goal is, I can now tell what causes a foul and what is an interception. I find myself cheering with the rest of the crowd every time our team scores a touchdown, and I became upset at the referee when we lost to Ohio State.
Even if you have no interest in sports at all, I strongly recommend that you attend a Michigan football game at the Michigan Stadium. The sea of yellow that consists of 110,000 people singing “The Victors” and cheering on our team is more than enough reason for you to try it out. You can get students tickets for a low price of $25 per ticket. And don’t forget to get yourself a maize-colored t-shirt at the M Den before the game!

Written by Wen Hoong Ling
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Malaysia
Sophomore in Economics

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Game Plan for Your Stipend BEFORE You Arrive

Kristi Chin_blog photo.png

We come from all sorts of financial backgrounds and budgeting experiences. This may be the first time you’ve started paying for rent, phone bills, and groceries; or you may have been financially independent for years. My department had a financial consultant present during the first week of September when we arrived, and that was a real eye opener to budgeting on this stipend. You have many things to keep you busy in grad school – stressing over your finances should not be one of them!

Have no fear! Graduate students at the University of Michigan have one of the best funding packages in the country – we just have to budget accordingly. Saving money will become habit after a little bit of effort and practice. We all can do it, and so can you.

Before you arrive in Ann Arbor, think about what is important to you to have a comfortable and happy life here. Do you prioritize having a really nice space to come home to? Do you prefer going out to eat on a weekly basis? Want to save money to travel each summer? I chose to have a really nice single bedroom apartment during my first year in Ann Arbor. After, I realized I prefer having company and will be living with roommates in my second year. Things can change (and now I am saving money by living with roommates)!

Go over your contract from the University of Michigan and figure out what you can afford on rent. This is the biggest expense, and you’ll want to subtract it from your stipend to see how much it cuts into your pay. Then, figure out what other monthly and unchanging expenses you will have, such as cell phone bills, and subtract that too. With the remaining amount, you can divide by the weeks in the month so you know your weekly budget for food and other things.

Once you are in Ann Arbor, keep every receipt and write out what you spend your money on for the month. Sort it by categories (e.g., food, rent, personal, etc.) At the end of the month, subtract this amount from your stipend. Did you go over your budget? Did you save? Tracking what you spend gives you an idea of where your money is going. Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

Save as much as you can to have your money float over into the next month, because there are always unexpected expenses, gaps in payment dates, and substantial decreases in pay over the summer. You can apply for Rackham Emergency Funds and departmental funding for some emergencies (e.g., flying out to a family funeral, laptop repair). Monthly spending will fluctuate: in September you may be working so much that you don’t spend anything, and let’s not forget December when buy presents for all our loved ones (who are hoping for University of Michigan apparel). A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.

Written by Kristi Chin
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Canada
Ph.D. student in Psychology

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Preparing for Ann Arbor Restaurant Week in January


Restaurant week is a semi-annual event in Ann Arbor. The 2017 dates are January 15-20 and June 11-16. It provides a good opportunity for food lovers to go out and try as many great restaurants as they want for an incredibly low price. That means you can have a full lunch for $15 and a three course dinner for $28, and many restaurants offer 2-for-1 pricing. There are 53 restaurants in total involved in the January restaurant week. Also, some restaurants will donate a portion of the revenue from their selected menu to Food Gatherers, which is the first food rescue program in Michigan providing food assistance to low-income adults, seniors, and children in Washtenaw County. Check out the Ann Arbor Restaurant Week website for more information.

It’s worth mentioning that restaurants select their menu based on different strategies. Some restaurants view restaurant week as an opportunity to introduce their new dishes, some promote their popular dishes, and others use this time to sell less known or less popular dishes with a lower price. I’ll give a brief insider view below on some of the restaurants I previously visited. Since I personally enjoy Asian food a lot, my comments will be limited to Asian restaurants.

-2c251d7354798c50.JPGo.jpgNagomi has two sites on campus - one located on E. Liberty St. in downtown Ann Arbor, and the other one on North campus near Courtyard. Only Nagomi Downtown will participate in restaurant week, and it provides both a lunch and dinner menu. As a sushi restaurant, Nagomi has abundant choices of sushi that deserve a try. The selected menu provides three choices for both lunch and dinner: sushi, teriyaki rice, and ramen/udon, which pretty much covers the Japanese cuisine. With several appetizers, you’ll enjoy a full meal at Nagomi. Also, the restaurant will donate $3 to Food Gatherers for each Tokkuri Sake you have during restaurant week.

o (1).jpgSlurping Turtle also provides both lunch and dinner. The dinner menu provides more choices of cold snacks (sushi rolls) and dessert (cream puff) than the lunch menu. The other parts are the same for lunch and dinner. Slurping Turtle has really great cream puff that I promise you would love. I’ve tried three of four flavors: vanilla, green tea, and red bean, all of which are great. It also has a chocolate flavor that people who love chocolate would love too.

Written by Xiaoya Chen

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No Car? No Problem!

Moving to a totally new environment can be stressful, and the academic rigor of U-M tends to exacerbate the issue. I remember being best friends with Google Maps to help me navigate through the campus when I walked around my first two weeks of school. With a constant battle against time and shivery-cold winter, I had to look into means of transportation other than just walking. Now, I would to share what I have learned in the past year with you.

Lyft / Uber

Most people already know what Lyft and Uber are, but let me introduce them to those who do not. Lyft and Uber are companies that help users connect with drivers within the proximity through a mobile app. By having both apps, users have access to a driver almost whenever. I like Lyft and Uber because all the drivers are controlled and regulated by big companies, lowering the risk of me falling into a sketchy situation. The user is charged based on time and distance traveled, but the app is very helpful when you are crunched for time or have a lot of items to carry.

Tip: If you are a new user, ask your friend to give you a promo code so that you and your friend could get a free ride.

Welcome to Ann Arbor, where there are two different bus services to get you from point A to B. M-Buses and AATA are the most frequently used public transportation services. I am already so excited to inform you about how wonderful the buses are. Yeah, your commute will take longer than taking a cab. But if you time perfectly by monitoring where the buses are, saving money will be as easy as 1, 2, 3. Both services offer mobile apps and real-time M-Buses and AATA buses can be seen here.

Free to the public

Free with M-Card

Runs 24 hours

Routes available beyond campus

Live bus tracking available
Equipped to assist the handicapped
Frontal bike racks available

If you are living on campus, you will most likely use the M-buses more frequently. The bus tracking is more precise with the M-buses and it hits all the dorms. If you are living off campus and/or shop for your groceries, the AATA buses will quickly become your friends. On weekdays, the AATA buses wait time depends heavily on the demand. During rush hour, you will see one every 10 minutes. But on Sundays, you will see one every hour.

Zipcar / Maven

Having either a Zipcar or Maven membership (or both!) will make you live on the fine line between having a car and being car-less. The process of becoming a member starts on their websites. Note that in order to sign up, you need to have a driver’s license (makes sense, right?). With Maven, your smartphone is the way to get into the car. With Zipcar, you will need to wait a bit until the company sends you a card that you scan on the top corner of the windshield. One downside may be that you need to return the car at the same location you had picked up the car. A good (borderline great) thing about the membership is that the service is available outside of just Ann Arbor! Let’s say you are traveling to the Sunshine State (Florida). You will be able to unlock into a car there with your card!

Blue Bikes & ArborBike

If gliding through the streets on two wheels is something that interests you, look no further. In Ann Arbor, you have two options to rent a bicycle. Blue Bikes lets you rent a bicycle, a helmet, and a lock at an affordable price! The bikes are available at one location on central campus, Outdoor Adventures. If you are looking for a more spontaneous option, go with ArborBike. Your membership could last from 1 day to a year - it’s your choice! You sign up with a credit or debit card and will use it as a membership card. During your membership, you can pick up a bike from any location found throughout Ann Arbor and return it to any designated ArborBike bicycle rack. Here is the selling point: any trip under 60 minutes is free! Using this service will not only save your time and money, but you will be able to put your body to work! This is very useful for any students who spend much of their time sitting in one spot and studying.

Written by Minji Namkoong