Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Online Furniture Shopping

Happy first day of classes!! The International Center hopes that our students, new and returning, are having a great first day of their fall semester.  

While classes may just be getting started, some of you may still be trying to get settled in your residence hall or apartment.  Because we couldn’t accommodate everyone on our Bed, Bath and Beyond  and IKEA shopping trips, we wanted to share some alternative shopping options for students still looking to purchase furniture. Many of the sites listed below offer free shipping after a low price point, which means you can potentially have larger furniture items delivered directly to your door for free!

Some recommended online sites for furniture shopping are:


And, while orientation is over, don’t hesitate to reach out to the International Center with any other questions you might have while you are adjusting to your life at U-M, Ann Arbor, and the United States. We are always happy to answer your questions! Contact icenter@umich.edu if you need anything.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Empowering Women Through Bread Power and Gardens

This summer I was fortunate to spend 10 weeks in Kigali, Rwanda, working with an organization called The Women’s Bakery (TWB). Founded by former Peace Corps volunteers, TWB is a hybrid social enterprise built around the belief that community development and empowerment starts with education – or what we call bread power. By offering women access to knowledge, education, and applied business, nutrition, and health skills, we can spark/inspire generations of strong, independent women who feel empowered by what they do and are able to provide for their families. The first few weeks on field was a blur of euphoria and utter fascination for the organization. Educating, inspiring, and empowering women through sustainable bakery businesses? Not to mention their breads are chock full of nutrients, local vegetables and absolutely delicious? Heck yes, I was sold! I was so excited to immerse myself in the field of global public health/non-profit work and hopefully make a little dent in the organization with a bit of my own contribution.
My time in Rwanda was spent working on two main projects. One revolved around research and building the nutritional landscape of the country. As it’s such a broad theme, I decided to tackle this by delving into various national databases and reading up on nutrition-related research and literature based in Rwanda and the greater East Africa. I wanted to understand the current situation around health and nutrition of the region and whether we could incorporate culturally relevant ingredients into our breads to attract local customers and make it more accessible to the general public.
The other side of my project was a lot of fun and it gave me the chance to get down and dirty with Rwandan soil! As TWB expands their networks and curriculum this coming year, their vision also included the establishment of bakery gardens at the sites so that fresh vegetables can be the harvested and used directly for their baked products. The two pilot gardens I worked on were in Ndera and Remera, which had vastly differing landscapes from one another. Due to the lack of space in the Remera bakery, we settled on using planters to grow beets and carrots for the nutritious muffin recipes. On the other hand, Ndera’s vast acreage allowed us to build direct beds on the plot and practice succession planting by sowing a bunch of different seeds for carrots, beets, cabbage, and dodo.  
During my time in Rwanda I faced many challenges, a few of which were the inherent language barrier and the difficulty in earning the women’s trust and buy-in. By scheduling regular meetings, I was able to relay the project’s purpose and long-term benefits of having a garden for both the bakery and the individual. I feel that this experience has definitely developed my patience and I have come to realize that communication and trust builds the foundation to any good relationship.
Although the first harvest will begin long after I leave Rwanda, I have high hopes that these strong women can have fun in the garden and continue what I’ve started!
Written by Rina Hisamatsu
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Japan
Master's of Public Health student in Nutritional Sciences

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Cheaply Furnish Your Apartment


You’ve navigated the numerous housing options in Ann Arbor, signed a lease, and now you have a place to call home! But, how do you make it actually feel like home? There are many different places to buy furniture, kitchenware, and decor in Ann Arbor, but doing so on a student budget may seem challenging. Below are some options to furnish your apartment affordably:

  1. Thrift Shops - Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity. Thrift shops sell used items donated by members of the community. Because these goods are used, they tend to be very inexpensive. However, it would be wise to carefully check and inspect any items you are interested in buying. Some of my favorite items to buy at thrift stores are kitchenware items such as bowls, plates, glasses, and cups. Larger furniture pieces like tables may be available, but they may be quite worn. If you enjoy vintage goods or antiques, thrift shops are a fun place to look around for interesting items.

  1. Retail stores - Target, Meijer, Walmart. You can buy cheap furniture at these stores (though the quality tends to differ). If you are looking for basic home essentials, such as towels or diningware, these stores have you covered. If you like to cook, I would not recommend buying the cheapest available pots or pans from these stores since the quality isn’t the greatest. These stores are a good option for purchasing a television or small kitchen appliances such as microwaves, coffee makers, and blenders. Most of these stores also double as a supermarket, so you can pick up food, cleaning supplies, and other household items.

  1. Discount retail stores - Marshalls, TJ Maxx. These stores all sell brand new items at a discount because they may be considered “out of season.” You can find brand-name or imported cookware, kitchen gadgets, bedding, decor, and bathroom items here. Most of the things sold at TJ Maxx and Marshalls tend to be of better quality than similar items at Walmart, Meijer, or Target.

  1. IKEA - This Swedish company is known worldwide for the thousands of home furnishing items sold in their giant stores. All items sold at IKEA are brand new, and most items will require some kind of assembly. IKEA sells large furniture pieces (mattresses, bed frames, dressers, bookshelves, couches, etc.) and smaller items as well. The closest IKEA to Ann Arbor is in Canton, which is about 30 minutes away by car. If you are interested in going to IKEA, the International Center has organized transportation to and from the Canton store on August 27. Please check the IC website for details.

This isn’t a complete list of all the shopping options available in the area, but they’re good places to start!

Written by Janice Tse
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: United States
Master's student in Higher Education

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Job Search Tips For Your First Summer in AnnArbor

For international graduate students whose fellowships cover the fall and winter terms and not the spring/summer term, the prospect of spending 4 months without a steady paycheck could be intimidating. Going home is certainly an option, but if you want to stick around and maybe travel around the United States, then having a little extra money during the summer months can be very helpful. Depending on your interests and skills, there are several opportunities that are available in the University.
For a stress-free summer job hunt, it is best to start early. Speaking with your adviser and your department and letting them know that you are available to work in the summer can go a long way in helping you to find suitable opportunities within your area of interest. The Rackham Graduate School administered summer awards are usually not available for first year students and since you can work full-time (up to 40 hours per week) in the summer, you may also consider other work options outside your department.

University Library
Student positions are available throughout the year, but there are several openings in the summer term. Create a profile in the library employment database and apply for positions that you are interested in.
Temporary University Employment
Different departments, organizations and centers within the university seek students for temporary positions. These are usually office or staff assistant positions with pay ranging between $10 and $18 per hour. Search and subscribe for updates on temporary employment options within the University during the summer months. You will have to have your resume and cover letter ready. Applications are usually open in February and the number of options increase by mid-March. The Student Employment Office  and the Student Life job website are good places to look for temporary opportunities. Temporary Staffing Services (TSS) also provides opportunities for temporary work to cover special projects, events, and workflow peaks.
Skill-Based Opportunities
Does your research have a gender focus? Visit the Center for the Education of Women (CEW) website or reach out to them directly. Deadlines for summer funding opportunities are usually around mid-March.
Are you IT-savvy or does your work or research have a technology focus? Consider the ITS Summer Internship Program, which is offered by the Information and Technology Services. Deadline is usually around mid-March. You can also look for opportunities with ITS at the Campus Computing Centers.
Would you like you to be an International Center Peer Advisor? Check the International Center website for updates. Applications usually open in mid-February.
Are you interested in recreational sports? Opportunities are available at the various recreational sports centers on campus.
Since there isn’t a central hiring office within the University, the summer job-search can be time-consuming and confusing. However, there are many opportunities available and by considering the above options and applying early, you are most likely to have enough jobs to keep you busy (moderately!) in the summer. Please remember to be patient, since you will hear from most employees by early-mid April only. Good luck and have a great first year at the University of Michigan!


Written by Naivedya Parakkal
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: India
Ph.D. student in Education

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grow New Roots in Ann Arbor by Connecting with Local Communities

After living abroad for a couple years, I realized that moving to a foreign country as an international is just like being transplanted as a tree.
When you plant a seedling, it will grow and thrive as long as the environment is suitable. However, international students usually move to a foreign country in their 20s or 30s, an age that is considered a full-grown tree in their home country. To transplant a full-grown tree, you first need to dig a trench around the tree, cut off part of the root system, then excavate a root ball of dirt. Next, the excavated tree is transported tens of thousands of miles away to a completely foreign land.
It takes careful steps and many critical conditions for a transplanted tree to survive and thrive in the new environment; the same is true for an international student moving abroad in their 20s or 30s. The right soil, appropriate temperature, and water are just a few of the necessary conditions to ensure the tree starts to grow new roots in the new soil. For someone who just moved to the U.S. from a foreign country, connecting with local communities is like growing out new roots in your new environment, something that is absolutely essential for survival.
I myself was like such a transplanted tree. After 30+ years growth in China, I was transplanted across the globe to the U.S. a few years ago. I was dropped onto a ground I had minimal knowledge about prior to the transplantation. It was a challenging and long process to finally feel acclimated. Luckily, I was intentional at the very beginning that I needed to grow my new roots in Michigan.
Joining local groups that share your interests is a great way to connect with the locals. I love running and outdoor activities. So, as soon as I arrived in Ann Arbor, I signed up for a trail race Run Woodstock, where I met some local runners and won my first Michigan medal. I also joined a couple Facebook running groups, such as A2Runners and Michigan Runners, and started going to the weekly runs with these like-minded people.
Meetup is another great platform to find your interest groups. Whether your interest is music, movies, singing, dancing, sports, robots, animals or food, you’ll always find several local groups that share your interests. And it is a lot easier to get to know people and communicate ideas if you share the same passion. Language is not a barrier any more. Ann Arbor is such a diverse community that there are almost always other internationals in any of these events. Currently, I’m in Ann Arbor Adventure Club, Ann Arbor Runners, Michigan Adventurers Club, and The Ann Arbor Chinese Language and Culture Meetup Group. All these groups are very welcoming and open to newcomers. All you need to do is sign up and show up. Then if you like it, keep showing up.
Another way of connecting with local communities is through volunteering. The International Center organizes volunteer events throughout the year, but you can also find your own volunteering opportunities pretty much anywhere. Who doesn’t want volunteers?! The Humane Society is a great place for animal lovers; Give 365 is the volunteer group under Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation that does a lot of work to beautify local parks and recreation facilities; many non-profit organizations recruit volunteers on VolunteerMatch.org. Don’t ever think volunteer jobs are low-skill labor work. You’ll be surprised how much you learn and how good you feel through volunteering.

Written by Liz Zhang
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Country of Origin: China
Master's Student in the School of Social Work and School of Public Health

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Housing: How to Find Your New Home

Looking for the right place to live in Ann Arbor may feel challenging as you prepare to move to Michigan. Starting your search as early as possible is certainly helpful since it allows you to consider a larger number of housing options. No matter when your search starts, however, there are a few important trade-offs to take into consideration. Below are the ones I took into account when I moved to Michigan for the first time and to a new place while already living in Ann Arbor.

Location
The University of Michigan offers a variety of options in terms of housing on both North and Central campus – dorms, furnished apartments (Northwood I & II), unfurnished townhouses (Northwood IV & V), and the Munger Graduate Residences. Living on campus gives you quick access to your classes as well as university facilities. However, many students choose to live off campus. Free access to public transportation through your Mcard indeed makes it possible to reach campus relatively easily. More information on both on- and off-campus housing can be found on the university’s housing website.

That being said, if you do not have a car and do not plan on buying one in the near future, you may want to consider what location provides you with easier access to the places you expect to frequently go to. For instance, if you intend to work out every day, you may want to find a place near one of the recreational buildings. In terms of food, if you like to eat out, you may want to find a location where there are several different restaurants around. If you prefer to cook, you may want to live near a grocery store where you see yourself shopping in. If your house or apartment does not have any washers or dryers, it may make sense to live relatively close to a place where you can do your laundry.

When talking about location, price also needs to be taken into account. The homes with nicer facilities and convenient locations tend to have a higher price. Finding an apartment that is farther away from campus can bring down your costs.

Having Roommates or Living on Your Own?
While deciding whether to live with other people or alone, there are a couple of factors to consider. One the one hand, sharing a place with other roommates can be more affordable, since it allows you to cut rent and utility costs. On the other hand, living on your own provides you with more privacy and greater flexibility in terms of when to have guests, how to organize the space and arrange the furniture, what to watch on TV, etc.

Regardless of where you choose to live, Ann Arbor is a great town. I hope you make the most out of it. Good luck!

Marzia Oceno
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Country of Origin: Italy
Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fantastic Study Spots and Where to Find Them

Have you ever felt frustrated in finding an ideal study space?  Study spaces need not to be designated as one particularly; it depends on your preference and study requirements.  Before you seek out study spaces on campus, ask yourself some questions: Do you want to study individually or as part of a group?  Do you need access to campus computers with the appropriate software?  Do you want to pull an all-nighter?  Or do you just want to do some quick review?  In my experience, the University of Michigan has various study spaces that meet every need one may have. Let me introduce them to you!


Two of the most popular libraries on campus are Shapiro Library, located on central campus, and Engineering library, in the Duderstadt center on North campus.  Both libraries are available 24/7 during Fall and Winter semesters, and provide large tables for group discussion; quiet study areas; and easy access to a pervasive computing environment, special labs, and production studios.  In the 1st and 2nd floor of Shapiro and the 1st floor of the Duder, there are individual study rooms available for reservation.  Need some snacks or beverages to keep you awake while spending the night in the library trying to finish a project?  No problem, there are nice coffee shops like Bert’s Café (on the 1st floor of Shapiro library), and Mujo’s Café (on the 1st floor of the Duder), where you can grab a cup of coffee with a ready-to-go salad or a sandwich.


Near Shapiro, on the diag at the heart of central campus, Hatcher Graduate Library is open until 2am Monday through Friday during regular semesters.  It has a computing site located on the 2nd floor equipped with PCs and Macs for general use.  If you walk across the computing site, towards to the north side of Hatcher, there’s a connection gate to Shapiro library that closes at midnight.  And here comes one of my personal favorite spots on campus: on the 4th to 6th floor of Hatcher, there are carrels open for anyone's use without reservation.  If you are seeking a quiet and private study spot, make sure to check those out!


The Law Library is located within the Law Quadrangle on central campus.  Designed in the English Gothic style, it became one of the most recognizable buildings and a must-go place on campus.  I was surprised when I first heard that in Harry Potter movies, they were considering the Law Library when they searched for locations for the Great Hall theme.  I’m sure you won’t be so surprised anymore once you walk into it.  Over your head, there are vaulted ceilings with exquisite designs.  Look around you for the beautiful stained glass windows with seals that represent the most prestigious institution in the world.  Whatever you are planning to do, don’t you feel a little more motivated because of this place?  Before you visit, bear in mind that the Law Library is the only place that enforces the no-talking policy on campus, and food/beverages are not allowed in the reading room.


Last but not least, the Michigan Union also provides a quiet study room located in the first floor and a computing site with CAEN systems; even more, there’s a food court in the basement that will keep your energy up during a study session!  If you are looking for a computer lab, the Angell Hall computing site (or “fishbowl”) is the largest and busiest computing site on campus.  It contains a large number of individual workstations including CAEN computers for engineering students; you are also welcome to bring your own laptops to work on or collaborate with groups.  There are individual/group work areas with tables and soft seating available.


I hope now you have a clearer idea about how to find a study spot at U-M; however, there are still more places out there for you, so keep on searching!


Written by Nina He
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Country of Origin: China
B.S Candidate in Data Science