Thursday, June 21, 2018

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Staying Fit While You Study

One of the great things about attending a university like Michigan is that, as students, we have access to fantastic fitness and recreation facilities. Now, we all know that Michigan loves its football (if you haven’t heard yet, trust me, you will!). But as much as we might cheer on our teams from our seats at the Big House, let’s face it: not all of us are born athletes! Nevertheless, I believe that there is something for everyone here. From yoga, to zumba, to putting together your own basketball team (you don’t have to be all-stars), this campus has it all. This is the best time to get involved and get started!

The University of Michigan has three fitness facilities, and they’re all free for students. These centers have weight rooms, a pool, equipment to rent and lots of cardio machines. For me, the best way to stay motivated was to register for group classes, which cost an extra fee for the semester, but are totally worth it. They’re tough workouts, but they’re also super fun. They can also be a great way to meet new people, from different programs and departments.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens Trail

If you need a break from the old routine, consider an outdoor adventure! Ann Arbor is home to lots of fantastic walking and activity trails. My favorite places to walk are the Arboretum (“the Arb”) and Island Park, which takes you along the Huron River and is beautiful in the fall months, when the leaves start to turn. If you’re feeling ambitious, take a trek along the Border-to-Border Trail, which runs throughout several parks in Washtenaw County.

Don’t want to walk? Biking is a great option in Ann Arbor, for both leisure and day-to-day transportation. Be careful when biking on the roads and make sure to watch for pedestrians, when you’re using shared pathways. It’s courteous to use a bike bell and say “on your left” when approaching people from behind, so that they know to let you pass. Also, watch for deer! As you will discover, we share the city with lots of wild animals. Once, while biking up on North Campus, I rapidly turned a corner, only to come face-to-face with a full sized buck, antlers and all! No one was hurt, but we gave each other quite the fright!

Check out more information about bicycle rentals, safety guidelines and cycling paths in Ann Arbor.

But where’s the time to do all this stuff? In my first year as a student here, I was overwhelmed by all of the new demands of graduate school life. Especially during finals, it was so easy to sit, hunched over my desk, for hours at a time.

Science proves that exercise is good for the brain – that physical activity can actually sharpen your memory and your ability to think clearly. So, in a sense, being active is not really “time away” from your studies (although breaks are certainly important!). Think of physical activity as an investment into your research or coursework. After all, taking care of your body is taking care of your mind – and you might as well have some fun while you’re at it!

Written by Marissa Spada
Graduate Student

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to Live on a Budget living in Ann Arbor

Living in Ann Arbor as a graduate student can be quite expensive sometimes. But don’t worry, there are some strategies that have worked for me that you can try out to save on your monthly spending. 

Meal Preparation over the weekends 
This is one of the life hacks that have saved me tons of money on food spending each week. My weekly spending on grocery is about $30-$40 including snacks if I plan well ahead of time, and buy just enough groceries for my weekly meals. Compared with eating out for most meals, I would save around $60 per week! I usually spend 2-3 hours on Sunday every weekend to prepare most of lunch and dinner for the week. You can also swap meals with your friends who also do meal-prepping to increase the variety of your meals.

Use Public Transportation
Luckily, the public transportation system around Ann Arbor is pretty extensive and they are all free with your M-Card. Plan your travel route ahead of time using Google Maps or other GSP applications on your phone to know the time of your bus and whether you need to transfer. You can also download the Ann Arbor Transit App if you have a smart phone to see your bus schedule in real time.

Track your Spending 
This is the most effective way to learn your own spending habits and find ways to cut your living expenses. You can create your own monthly spreadsheet or use other spending tracking apps to help you. I have been using this spreadsheet created by somebody else and found it very easy to use. Towards the end of each month,  see which category took up the most of your spending, whether it is food, online shopping or entertainment and cut your spending from there. Cancel any unnecessary subscription or cut down any expensive snacks that won’t do any good to your body anyways. If we do not know what our money goes every month, it is hard to know how to save.

Use Your Student Discount 
There are many places in Ann Arbor that gives out student discount if you are a student with your M-Card. For example, the State and Michigan Theater have $8 student tickets for most of the showings. Suvai, the Indian restaurant on State St. also has student discount for lunch buffet. Ask around your friends and colleagues, or see this list with other deals in town.

I hope these tips help you better budget your spending in the future and save up money to spend on things that truly make a difference in your life. Comment below if you have other ways of saving money while living around Ann Arbor!

This blog was written by ICSC member Yeuzhong Zheng

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chinese New Year - Why is the Date Always Changing?

Have you wondered why China's Lunar New Year celebration is never on January 1st and changes every year? That’s because instead of using the Gregorian (solar) Calendar with 12 months and 365 days a year (366 every leap year), China also use a different type of calendar for their traditional festivals— a lunar calendar. A lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon phases. More specifically, Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. With similar months based on lunar cycle, lunisolar calendars also include intercalation (insertion of a leap day, week or month into some calendar years) to bring them into general agreement with the Gregorian calendar. So, in this sense, when 12 lunar months are up, here comes the Chinese New Year! As you could figure, there will always be a gap between the Chinese New Year and the ordinary January 1 New Year because the Chinese New Year date is different from year to year.

Another fun fact is that in China a lunar month is always 30 days. So, that means 12 lunar months only adds up to 360 days. To remedy the difference between the Gregorian and Lunar calendars, a leap month is added to the Chinese calendar every six years. This is also called leap year,  and there will be two Junes, one to be the leap June and the other one the ordinary June. Interesting, right?

It's important to mention that many Asian countries also celebrate the Lunar New Year, but I am not aware if they follow the same lunar calendar as China. So I can only speak to the event based on my own cultural perspective as a Chinese student. 

So, you may also wonder what do people do in China to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Would Chinese citizens do the same thing as what you would see in Chinatown in New York City or San Francisco, like the dragon dance, etc.? The Answer is yes and no. Yes, because in southern China, especially the Canton area, which includes Hong Kong, people do those things. This is because when they came to America as early Chinese Immigrant settlers, they brought with them a lot of those Chinese traditions. However, the other parts of China they might celebrate the Chinese New Year in a different way. For example, the people from northern China would make dumplings together as a family for Chinese New Year. You might think dumpling is a Chinese New Year tradition, but the truth is that only people from North would have dumplings for Chinese New Year.

No matter how would you celebrate the Chinese New Year through, the core concept is the same all through China: Family Reunion, it is all about family being together.


Here is a link to the Gregorian-Lunar Calendar Conversion Tables:

Written by Kehui Zhang, Master's student from China

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Markets in the US

Who does not like the smell of mulled wine, gingersnaps, Lebkuchen or roasted nuts when walking around town before Christmas? Christmas markets, which originated in Germany over 500 years ago, are nowadays present in cities all over the world. Although most of the famous markets are located in European cities, the US has a few great Christmas markets too! If you have a little time before the holidays, you should definitely check one out!

Big cities on the east coast like Washington, New York or Philadelphia are famous for their Christmas markets that last throughout the whole December. If you don’t want to travel that far, Chicago and Cincinnati offer great Christmas markets too. Right here in Michigan, you can find Christmas markets in Detroit, Frankenmuth and Holland. Even Ann Arbor has its own Christmas market called KindleFest every year on the first Friday of December. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy some mulled wine and delicious sweets this Christmas season!
Ann Arbor Farmers Market and KindleFest
Bildergebnis für kindlefest Ann Arbor

Bildergebnis für christmas market chicago

Bildergebnis für christmas market philadelphia

Written by Fabienne Birkle, ICSC Member

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