Sunday, August 30, 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Connect with UM Alums to Start Your Career

Arman Golrokhian, Iran
Class of 2017, Dual Masters Degrees in Public Policy and Natural Resources
Senior Strategist at DTE Energy's Renewable Energy Solutions team

"I would highly encourage international students to connect with UM alums, especially with those whom they have most in common, and learn about their career path. What it took for them to secure their jobs, what skills are most valued in their field of study these days, and many more similar questions."

Born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, Arman Golrokhian Arman studied mechanical engineering at Sharif University in Iran before he came to the U.S in 2013 to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. After one year of course here, he was selected as an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps Fellow, a very competitive national fellowship in the field of energy and sustainability.

At EDF, Arman worked with the City of New York and developed a strategic framework to model and manage energy use in thousands of municipal buildings in NYC. He honed quantitative and qualitative energy modelling skills and learned how to present complex results to senior executives. By referring to this experience as a success story, he demonstrated his proven track record. "A real-world experience is what employers usually look for, and students can use their internship/fellowship as a golden opportunity to demonstrate that."

"University of Michigan has one of the strongest alumni networks in the world." During his job searching, he connected with many UM alums, both American and international alums. He learned about their career path, company/organization, and skills that are most valued in his field. These connections were extremely valuable and helped him find and only focus on the positions that fit his interests and abilities. Especially for international students, it will be helpful for a better understanding of the rapidly-changing job market and help them best prepare for their ideal jobs.

Besides, term projects, Master’s projects, completing a thesis, and other program requirements are great ways to find your own passion and innate competencies. A term project can easily help you know if you like spending most of your time on computer models, or working with teams, or spending time in the field or even what topic most excites you.

Arman's biggest challenge has been navigating the work authorization process beyond the typical OPT and STEM OPT. International students have to keep this challenge in mind that after 1-3 years, they will most likely need visa sponsorship from their employer. "Discuss this with their employers as soon as possible," he advised.

Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Graduate Student

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Mengyang Liu’s NBA Dream Came True

Mengyang Liu, China
Class of 2018, M.S. Sports Management
Manager, Chinese Social Media & Partnership at Brooklyn Nets

”International student identity can be a strength rather than a weakness. You have the unique resources and experience from your home country.” 

Mengyang completed his undergraduate in China with a bachelor's degree in International Business. To pursue his sports dream, he applied to the University of Michigan for further study. He started his on-campus job as a RecSports staff and tried to find a summer intern after one-year’s study. After interviewing with a NBA team for several rounds, he was told he did not get the job. At that moment, he decided to go back to China and then found a shadowing opportunity to work as a frontline sports reporter in Beijing.

That experience opened the door of the NBA for him. Later, he got the opportunity to cover the  Detroit Piston as a Chinese reporter for Tencent during his second year at Michigan. Thanks to the connections he accumulated at NBA, after graduation, he found a job as the business developer in a marketing firm at LA. At the same time, he still covered the Los Angeles Lakers stories. The most precious reward he gained during his graduate study is the sports environment of Michigan, as well as the alumni network. When he moved to LA, he noticed the alumnus Moritz Wagner was selected by Lakers at the same time. Fortunately, he interviewed him as the first Chinese journalist.

However, Mengyang faced many other challenges during his work as an international student. The biggest difference he pointed out was the mindset. In the U.S., reporters are more proactive and believe that nothing is impossible. He had to change his mindset of always being polite and stretched out for more opportunities. Starting to put forward the request for an interview and video shooting, he finally got more chances to finish many great stories and videos.

When it comes to networking, he shared his own story of how he got the job at Nets. “The most important thing is to sell yourself and raise their interest in a short time. That is the key that they want to have more conversations with you.” Therefore, he just sent the email to the direct contact person to sell himself as the most appropriate person for the position. And thanks to that email, he continued his NBA journey in New York.


Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Outdoor Activites in and around Ann Arbor

Although it is a small city, Ann Arbor has a lot of things you can do at your leisure. I am going to focus primarily on the outdoor activities one can do at Ann Arbor. The first thing one should do in Ann Arbor is to explore our own campus. The University of Michigan has a beautiful campus spread out along Ann Arbor with its many buildings, yards, and statues, which is a world on its own and deserves to be explored. The most iconic landmarks are the Michigan stadium and the law quadrangle. The law quadrangle is a part of Michigan law school and also houses its iconic library. It is located in the heart of the central campus. Its Gothic architecture rivals Ivy League schools and gives you a sense of going back in time. So, it's a place not to miss. 

The Nichols Arboretum is another extremely popular Ann Arbor attraction that you can explore. It is located right by the Medical Center and the Huron River runs right through it. It has gardens and hiking trails and is an extremely peaceful oasis really close to the city. You can also indulge in activities like kayaking in the Huron River. 

Nichols Arboretum - Wikiwand

The next one is Matthaei botanical gardens. It is a 300-acre property located in North East Ann Arbor. here you can find a conservatory, display gardens like bonsai garden, lakes garden and others and of course many hiking trails and natural beauty. It is often called “the best kept secret in Ann Arbor “and I highly recommend you explore it. 

In the heart of the city, is Main Street, one of the most fun streets in Ann Arbor. It has great restaurants and stores and is always bustling with life. You will enjoy its cosmopolitan culture, great food, and the M Den, which is a store where you can buy university merchandise. To explore Main Street is an adventure on its own! 

There are so many more things that can be done which I leave you to explore on your own. But don't forget that Ann Arbor is a short drive away from many cities like Detroit, Dearborn, Toledo etc. that you can plan day trips around and explore further. Feel free to explore the Zipline just outside of town, or the world’s largest Christmas store at Frankenmuth. And when you seek a thrill out of the boredom of university, a thrilling adventure awaits at Cedar Point, amazing amusement park. Explore world cuisine like Turkish tea, Mediterranean food, and make memories with your friends at Dearborn. Ann Arbor is truly a remarkable city with so many things to do and I am sure you will have a wonderful time here.   

Written by Diksha Agrawal

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


Monday, August 17, 2020

My Experience of Volunteering Overseas and Reaching Out for Support

Hitting the rewind button, let us turn back to November 2019. In my first semester at umich, I received the offer of my second Olympic volunteer journey in Lausanne, Switzerland. Instead of being excited, I was facing a real financial problem. The volunteer opportunity is appealing, but I needed to pay for flights and accommodations on my own for more than two weeks.

To Go or Not To Go

My last Olympic journey in South Korea was a shining memory; however, it was fading away. The opportunity to explore a new city and meet interesting people in the sports industry definitely became extremely attractive to me at that time. While I must calm down to calculate how much I am going to spend on it. As you may already know, Switzerland rates as the most expensive country in the world to visit; not to mention that I need to stay for more than two weeks. 

“To go or not to go”, I was stuck in a quagmire at that moment.

Start to Reach Out

Adopting a positive attitude, I decided to ask my professors of each class to give me some suggestions, just as a trial. After having the lessons, I told them my story and the dilemma. Out of my expectation, they really provided me with many useful resources and ways to reach out for support. Over two weeks, I sent several emails to various departments in my school and tried to find some financial support. 

Furthermore, the most significant thing was the power they transmitted to me to pursue the dream and explore the world with courage.

Turning Point: Scholarship from School

The turning point was when I received the email form the Global Engagement Coordinator form School of Kinesiology, telling me that I can apply for the GoGlobal Travel Award. Besides, she provided me with many resources of financial support for education abroad experiences that I may turn to.


I applied for the award just before the deadline and received the success email one month later. I got the Block M flag for photography from my school before leaving. When I took the photo with the flag at the Main Media Center, I felt the power from the University of Michigan and was proud to be one of the students here. 

Always Be Proactive

To be honest, the scholarship was not a large amount. However, it just told me a success story of being proactive to reach out for help. Numerous resources are waiting for you to explore and utilize. The only thing you need to do is stretch out your arms to grasp each opportunity in your life. Never too early to reach out!

The first time I went to watch the football game at Big House, I totally had no idea why everyone was shouting ‘Go Blue’. But now, I have a deep understanding of the power of sports and the power of umich. Just Go Blue!

Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


Summer 2020 of an International PhD Student

I had switched research groups in March and was still on the probation period in the new group when we received the news that the labs will be shut down for an unknown time period. I was not much concerned about progress towards my degree, as I am not close to graduation. But those who were about to graduate or were finishing work for theses were certainly affected. 

Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge destructive effect on all aspects of life. As an international student in these circumstances, I got worried about my family back home, health safety around, research for my PhD degree and the economy of both the USA and my home country. Summer of 2020 caught me with these things in mind.

Research supervisors can be different, but I consider myself extremely lucky with the one that I have. Not only he is great in communicating with students, but also he is not constrained to experimental physics only. All experimental research work experienced a huge hit by the quarantine measures, but my supervisor has many ideas and pre-work done for theoretical studies. And here we all were, picking up suggested projects or finishing previous papers and working on them from home. Funny enough is that I am writing this on the next day after I submitted one of the papers we prepared for publication. A fight with the referees is ahead.

While working on these projects, I found an additional thing for myself to do. Despite experimental physics being my main research direction, I have been interested in making simulations and mathematical modeling for complex systems for quite a while. So, while scientists were trying to convince everyone about measures to “flatten the curve”, I wrote my own simulation for this process. Although a model is quite simple and considers just a certain number of objects (some being initially infected) randomly moving on a 2D plane of certain size, I indeed saw that social distancing helps to prevent fast virus spread even in such an elementary setup. I don’t show the actual data I obtained, but here you can see green paths of objects (people) moving around the city area painted in blue with red areas being infected. I even considered preparing a small paper with my results, but decided that there are enough speculations and arguments around. 

One might wonder how I dealt with the anxieties I mentioned above. Moreover, it can be surprising how one can spend time on modeling something such terrifying as virus spreading. Well, scientific curiosity… Other than that, I was spending time on my actual research and was trying to put my mind away from what was happening around by doing my hobbies such as reading. Also, regular short walks (while keeping social distance and wearing masks, obviously) helped not to feel like being put into some Swedish jail (check photos online, they actually look nice). 

Fortunately, labs opened at some point in June and we started to resurrect the lab. In some sense, we are still doing that, it is not an easy task (check out a photo of the setup I am working at, surrounded by Christmas lights). Every time I enter the physics department building, my temperature is checked, I get a sticker that says my temperature is checked on that day and I can finally go to the lab. There I disinfect all I need based on the safety protocol. Wearing a mask and gloves are required all the time, by the way. And the same disinfection needs to be done before I leave. We live during strange times indeed.

Written by Alisher Duspayev

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student



Life as a Married Graduate Student: How I Balance My Academic and Personal Life

A picture containing sitting, board, cutting, table

Description automatically generated Finding a sound balance between our professional and personal life is by far one of the most challenging things to accomplish. Where you are a college student, graduate student, or working in the corporate or academic realm, it is imperative to find that “sweet spot” of an ideal balance between home and work to ensure success in both domains. 

For some of us, balancing work and personal life may not be terribly challenging, depending on our responsibilities in either area. For someone like myself who joined graduate school after getting married, designing my graduate school life and personal life in a way that does not overwhelm me requires more conscious efforts. 

One of the first things I did when I decided to join graduate school is have a detailed discussion about my goals and aspirations with my partner. Ensuring that my partner and I are on the same page regarding certain added responsibilities and redesigning our lives made the onward path a lot smoother and hassle-free. I believe it is very important that your partner fully understands the demands of graduate school (if they have not experienced it themselves) for them to fully support you in the best way they can. In my case, my partner went to graduate school himself and was therefore very familiar with a graduate student’s life.  

In the first two years of graduate school when I had to juggle classes, teaching, and research, giving sufficient time to my personal life was difficult. Again, the way I handled it was to have an honest conversation about it with my partner and reason it out that he would have to handle more of the household responsibilities than I. To make it more interesting, we had a deal that one day out of the week (usually a Sunday), I would take care of majority of the house chores and give him a little break! This served the purpose of focusing sufficiently on my work, helping out around the house and assuring my partner that I understand and acknowledge his support. During exam week(s), I would request my partner to take care of all chores until I am through exams and have some relaxed time on hand. Open communication in this regard, ensured that I would not have to compromise on my studies nor my relationship.

Today, as I am in the later stages of my PhD, with my primary focus being my dissertation research, I tried to redesign my personal life to better support my work. I make sure I contribute equally in taking care of the house as my partner also has a full-time job. Some of the ways we keep life well-balanced and fair are:

  1. Assigning specific chores to each of us and allowing the other person to fulfil their chore-duty when they find the time. We have a spreadsheet that we maintain to keep track of chore-completion! This also keeps life more interesting, even when performing mundane tasks.

  2. Taking small breaks over weekends to go out hiking, biking, or some other activity that the two of us equally enjoy. This may not happen every weekend due to work commitments for the both of us, but we try to make it happen as often as possible.

  3. Assigning ‘movie night’ once (or sometimes twice) a week where we pick a movie we’d both enjoy and take out a couple of hours from our evenings to watch it together. I often view this break as a little ‘reward’, which keeps me motivated and makes me work extra hard at work to really enjoy this time I get to spend with my partner.

  4. Picking some chores that we can do together. For example, we typically vacuum our apartment, sort through our old things that we would like to donate and go grocery shopping together. We easily spend several hours together like this and make these mundane activities more fun!

Ultimately, having a well-balanced personal and academic life as a married person depends a lot on how understanding and supportive your partner is of your career goals. If you and your partner are on the same page, you will lead a healthy and balanced life pretty much by default! I have always believed that one must never compromise on any domain of their lives, be it personal or professional. Restructuring life to accommodate all your life goals will certainly make the journey much more rewarding. I wish you all the very best as you embark on your new journey at the University of Michigan. Welcome and Go Blue!

Written by Gayatri Iyer

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


My Experience in Learning the Magic of Self-Soothing

Lie down on the floor and play "Snow Angel" in this hot summer. This is exactly what I must do every time before the 2020 summer Peer to Peer sessions. You may feel confused about why did that, or was that something we as student peer advisors must have to do before the meeting, something like a magical passcode? 

50% correct! That was my passcode to be ready to see all of you! When I am faced with difficulties/ uncertainties/ challenges, I will be stressed and lose my mind. So that's the reason why I did the 'Snow Angel' before the live presentation. I admit that I may look odd, but it's a good way for helping me let the stress out. It sounds fun, doesn't it? However, when I recall my self-soothing progress, it took me a long time to find some fun and healthy way. 

At the very beginning, I relied on comfort food a lot. We know that these types of food such as cookies/cakes/ice cream contain high calories. Certainly, eating comfort food could make me happy temporarily, while it also brings love handles. After 'enjoying' my love handles for a while, I realized that it caused worse health. Initially, I wanted to relieve myself, while it results in another problem.

Luckily, I got one self-soothe guidance one day. A magic brochure that guides me to care about myself with FIVE senses. 

  • Vision - Through your eyes, you feel relief. Whether it's an item you like, a movie you want to watch, or just looking at something you like. What I did mostly was looking at nature when I cycle on some trails.

  • Hearing - There are so many beautiful sounds you can hear. Music/radio/stand-up comedy/your loved one's voice... 

  • Smell - Do you remember what you feel when you smell breakfast in the early morning? Have you ever lit a candle when you read at night? Have you tried lotions with fragrance? For example, having some lavender lotion after shower before sleep could help me feel relieved after a busy day.

  • Taste - There is no doubt that food is healing, while except comfort food. Try some decent food or try a new restaurant when you feel bad. It may surprise you and empower you.

  • Touch - Pet your dog/cat. They are the cutest buddy that you can always feel happy with.

When I lie down on the floor, I use the sense of touch a lot. I could feel the temperature of the house and it made me feel present. Also, it gave me the confidence to continue my work. So by talking about my stress and how I handle them, I want to say that sometimes we just see difficulties/challenges as giant monsters while we are totally capable of doing it. The most important thing is that we have to prioritize ourselves, feel your feelings with your 5 senses, do something, and then gain the confidence to challenge it. 

Keep in mind the challenges that will change you in the end. Here is the magic brochure, I hope you all embark on a new journey at U-M. Go Blue!

Written by Tammy Wang

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student