Thursday, December 7, 2017

Historical Streets and Modern Streets of China

China is a multi-national country which has a long history of over 5,000 years. Thanks to the good protection of its ancient streets, people nowadays still have the chance to catch a glimpse of the lifestyles from ancient times. Moreover, to present the huge difference between historical lifestyles and modern lifestyles of China, some typical modern pedestrian streets will also be introduced.

Barkhor Street in Lhasa

Barkhor Street is located in Lhasa, Tibet. It has a history of more than 1,300 years. Since Jokhang Temple was built, the temple quickly attracted thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. And many of them passed through the path where Barkhor Street was used to be. This is the origin of Barkhor Street, which is also known as the ‘sacred road’ among Tibetan people.

Nowadays, Barkhor Street consists of 35 streets with traditional Tibetan buildings standing on both sides. Tourists can have a close encounter with traditional Tibetan clothes, Thangka (a Tibetan religious painting), Tibetan food, and other souvenirs.

Central Street in Harbin

Central Street in Harbin is the longest pedestrian street in Asia with length of 1,450 meters. It was built in 1898 by Russians and became the first pedestrian street in mainland China in 1997. Central street gradually attracted numerous foreign shops, hotels, and bars to be open there, selling a large number of exotic commodities like Russian leather, British wool, French perfume, and German medicine, etc. The architectural style on the street mixed some influential Western art styles including Baroque and Renaissance.

Guozijian Street in Beijing

Guozijian means imperial college. It was built in Yuan Dynasty (1306), and had been the highest educational institution through Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Students learned Confucianism, math, literature, music, archery, etc. there. It was a great honor for students at that time to be admitted to Guozijian. And some of the graduates had profound influence on politics of feudal dynasties. In 2008, after the thorough repair and maintenance work towards Guozijian, it was reopened to public.

Nanjing Road in Shanghai

Nanjing Road was the very first business street since the port-opening of Shanghai in 1840s, and has become the world's longest shopping district, around 5.5km long, attracting over 1 million visitors daily. East side of Nanjing Road is a pedestrian shopping district featuring the Shanghai Bund on one end, and numerous stores alongside the road. West side is a dedicated commercial zone, with numbers of upmarket mall, prestigious historic hotels, and famous Jing'an Temple.

Wangfujing in Beijing

Wangfujing “princess residence well” is one of the most famous pedestrianized shopping streets of Beijing. Commercial activities in Wangfujing dates back to Ming Dynasty, over 400 years ago. In the Qing Dynasty, ten aristocratic estates and princess residence were built here, therefore the name Wangfujing was given. Apart from being a popular shopping destination for local residents and tourists, Wangfujing is also famous for its streets snakes, serving exotic and traditional street food. Mouth-watering scents of food draw people to flood in the food market packed with restaurants and street food stalls.

Zhongshan Road in Ningbo

Ten kilometers of Zhongshan Road - Ningbo's historical, cultural, commercial, and political spine- is designed to foster and exhibit the city's past, while at the same time allowing for its rapid growth. Eight zones, alongside this main street of metropolitan city of Eastern China, Ningbo, showcase each of their own characters creating Ningbo’s radiant city center.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Traveling around Michigan: Chicago

Thanksgiving and winter breaks are coming up and while many people are going home for the holiday, it may be a little far for international students to go home. But, now international students get the chance to explore the U.S! There are many fun and exciting places to travel to around the states. One of the popular break places for University of Michigan students is Chicago!

Chicago, the windy city, is full of diverse culture and food. A 5 hour drive away, many people drive there or take the Greyhound bus. Flying would take only an hour, but it is a bit pricier. Once you arrive at the city there are many attractions to go see! The most famous site, I think, is “The Bean” or Cloud Gate. It is a public sculpture of bean that is mirrored on all sides.
Image result for the bean in chicago
Chicago also has many tall skyscrapers. You can enjoy the view from the Willis Tower or the John Hancock Center. The John Hancock Center also sports an outward leaning glass panel that has you facing down to the ground from around 100 floors up! And of course if you’re ever in Chicago, you have to try deep dish pizza! The two most popular places are Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. A great city to visit just for the weekend or a couple of days, so perfect for thanksgiving break!
Image result for deep dish pizza in chicago

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ethical Global Engagement: How to Avoid the White-Savior Complex in International Service

My name is Haley Phillips and I am a first year Higher Education Administration masters student at the University of Michigan with an interest in international education. Upon completing my master’s coursework, I hope to work on university-based ethical global engagement programs that promote positive relationships between international volunteers and the host communities they serve.

Voluntourism is an emerging phenomenon among privileged travelers. Essentially it unites volunteering and traveling. Despite being founded on good intentions, the effectiveness of, and motivations behind, such trips overseas must be examined in-depth in order to avoid the trap of moral imperialism – aka going abroad and acting like you know everything about said country. Before you sign up for a volunteer trip anywhere in the world this summer, consider whether you possess the skill set necessary for that trip to be successful. If yes, awesome!  If not, it might be a good idea to reconsider your trip. Sadly, taking part in international aid where you aren’t particularly helpful is not always a good thing. It’s detrimental. It slows down positive growth and perpetuates the “white savior” complex that, for hundreds of years, has haunted the countries white people were trying to help.
Be smart about traveling and strive to be informed and culturally aware. It’s only through an understanding of the problems communities are facing, and the continued development of skills within that community, that long-term solutions will be created. Here’s some tips for ethical global engagement:
  1. Choose to travel with a company that really believes and promotes sustainable tourism. Research research research!
  2. Ask for evidence of how previous volunteers have made a difference. Finding hard evidence such as testimonials from community members and data is a good way to determine if the service organization is actually helping the community.
  3. Educate yourself! Prepare to be a voluntourist by researching and understanding the area that you are visiting. Google stuff such as cultural norms, acceptable behavior, and appropriate dress.
  4. Consider simple ways that you can protect the area that you are visiting and support the people in your host community. For example, carry around a plastic bag with you and collect trash.
  5. Get to know the people who live in the community where you are volunteering. Eat meals with them and learn about their wants and needs.
  6. Consider the long-term impact of your volunteering and take steps to make it count beyond your volunteer trip. When you leave, will the community be better off than before you arrived?
  7. If you are not qualified to do it in the US, don’t do it abroad. If you aren’t trained to build a house in the US, then why would you build one in another country?
  8. The community needs come ahead of yours. You are volunteering to help a community. The trip is not for your Instagram pictures or stories you can tell your friends. You are there to make an impact for the people you are serving
Adapted from:
Northover, R. (2016, October 28). How to be a Responsible Voluntourist. Retrieved October 30, 2017, from
Plummer, A. (2017, January 21). Responsible Voluntourism - Doing Good Abroad. Retrieved October 30, 2017, from

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 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