Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beautiful Ann Arbor – Bike trip


     Living in Ann Arbor for two years now I do love the city even more. Being in a small college town surrounded by beautiful trees and vegetation and split apart by Huron River you feel enchanted by the calmness and serenity of the nature. However, the lively downtown area with its occasional fairs and festivals reminds you of crowded metropolitan lifestyle. However, I found one of my best hobbies neither in downtown nor in nature. I found it on roads!

     As you can tell, Ann Arbor is a very bike friendly town, You can see dedicated bike lanes on most of the roads in town which makes it safe for cycling around the city. When I first got my bike I found it pretty easy to get everywhere in town. At scale of a city like Ann Arbor it is quite easy and fast to commute by bike. Moreover, there are very pretty roads to bike in and around the town that you can bike in couple of hours. Kind of a perfect plan for a weekend. Now I would like to share some of my biking experiences in Ann Arbor.

     The first story is about biking along Huron River through the tunnel of trees, enjoying the beautiful riverside and ends with a brunch at good old Northside Grill (Northside Grill). The road starts at Barton Drive and goes along Huron River all the way down Barton Shore Drive, then it goes up the hill on Spring Valley Road to a beautiful golf course on the top of the hill, it descends down the Country Club Road where a bridge takes you to the other side of the river. Biking down the Huron River Drive, you reach the Broadway Street which takes you to Northside Grill, a perfect place to have a delicious brunch and chill for a while after your bike trip.
     Moreover, there are beautiful roads in the suburbs that are perfect for biking. One of my favorite short biking trips is a ten mile biking from Ann Arbor to Sidetrack Bar and Grill in Ypsilanti (Sidetrack Bar and Grill).The path goes through Gallup Park Pathway which is a beautiful road that goes around Gallup Park along Huron River. Then you pass the 23 highway an go all the way down to Eastern Michigan University, Most of the times that I am there I get out of the way and go for a ride in beautiful Eastern Michigan University Campus. Getting back on the road you are just ten minutes away from your destination where the famous handcrafted Sidetrack burger is waiting for you!

     If you are interested in biking with larger group of people there are many biking clubs and biking groups with different levels of proficiency that you can find online (maize pages). Get a bike and enjoy your ride in beautiful Ann Arbor.

Prepared by Omid Oliyan 
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from Iran 
Ph.D. student in Architecture 

Travel in the U.S.


Everyone loves travel. “Travel” usually represents relaxation, excitement and happiness. Before we start our exploration, let’s get familiar with some super useful resources:
1.     International center website, without a doubt, this is one of the most helpful websites. From planning the trip to transportation to things to do in your destination, it has answers to almost all your questions. In addition, you can also find holiday programs such as Christmas international house, and thanksgiving from this website.
2.     Kayak and Priceline are good places to find cheap plane tickets and hotels, ah, for hotel, try AirBnB as well.
3.     Yelp and TripAdvisor are good at giving you recommendations for good places to visit and eat.
4.     Greyhound, Amtrak, Megabus and Airport Shuttle are convenient public transportations to get around Ann Arbor.
5.     Your umich email! There are always trips to Detroit, Chicago or Cedar Point organized by the international center or other school organizations. So don’t miss out the opportunities.

So now, what places to visit?!!
For places nearby, I recommend:
1.     Detroit, a must see city if you are staying in Ann Arbor. Definitely check out the Detroit Institute of Art, GM Renaissance Center, Comerica Park, and of course restaurants in Greektown (stop by Astoria Pastry Shop and you will be thrilled!)
2.     Toledo, yes, it is in Ohio, but it is 1hr away, not too bad. Things you can do: Toledo Zoo, The Toledo Museum of Art, and Toledo Mud Hens Baseball.
3.     Cedar Point: Roller Coaster Capital and the Best Amusement Park near Ann Arbor.
4.     Traverse city is an ideal place for fall break, when all the trees become red and yellow. You will see the gorgeous Michigan in this beautiful city.  Things you can do:  the Sleeping Bear dunes and the Michigan Lake!



5.     Ludington and Upper Peninsula, very beautiful places for camping! Lighthouses, beaches, canoeing and hiking!  For camping, I recommend you reading some camping tips before you go on the trip.
6.    The last place nearby I want to talk about is Chicago. It is a big city, modern and sexy. You need to visit it and fall in love with the city.  Things you can do: Art Institute of Chicago, Cloud Gate and the Bean, Millennium Park, Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue, Willis Tower and deep-dish pizza!
In General, west and east coast of U.S. have great places for a short vacation:
1.     New York city, the most popular city in the U.S. Lank markers: Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, and of course Time Square and Central Park. You can also find the grandest Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don’t forget to enjoy the New York Cheesecake, bagel, hotdog and pizza!
2.    Seattle (summer is the best time to go). Things to do: pikes place market, the first Starbucks, underground city, space needle, aquariums and seafood!
3.     San Francisco is also very popular. Things to do: Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars,  Alcatraz Island, and Chinatown district. As for the food, most of the restaurants are around 4/5 scores. My favorite places so far are Mama’s for brunch and  Little Star Pizza.
4.     Hawaii, it is a paradise on earth! Different islands with different styles.  Save enough time and money so that you can explore them one by one!
5.   Cities such as Orlando, Miami and Key West are also very popular. Orlando can bring you back to your childhood: Disney world, Magic Kingdom, and space center, etc. Miami: Jungle Island, Miami zoo, Sea aquariums, and Miami beaches. When are you at Miami, you wouldn't want to miss the Southernmost point in Key West.
6.     The list can go on and on… Historical cities such as Washington DC, Maryland, Boston and Philadelphia are fun to visit.

So take some time off, bring your backpack and go on an adventure!

Written by Xiaoya Ma
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from China
Ph.D. student in Movement Science

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Classroom Experience

One conspicuous characteristic of the American classroom that I’ve come to acknowledge during my two terms at the U-M is the wide scope of freedom is given to students in the classroom. As an example, students commonly eat their breakfast and lunch during lectures. In South Korea where I received most of my education, students are not allowed to bring food except drinks in their classes. It is not because anyone says students shouldn’t but because it is a considered to be a courtesy towards instructors. However, here I have seen many students eating meals in classrooms. One day, I saw a girl eating a pack of blueberries, yoghurt and some bread for breakfast. My classmates also commonly brought sandwiches, burgers and salads for lunch. Although it was really awkward to start bringing my food into the classroom, I soon felt very comfortable and enjoyed the new freedom given to me as others.

However, not all freedoms in the classroom made me comfortable as previously mentioned. I had a hard time adjusting to the style of classroom interaction. In U.S., students are encouraged to participate in teaching and learning. Even in the lecture setting, numerous discussions and questions were frequently raised. Challenging professors with students’ own beliefs and ideas was common as well. However, since I was raised in a culture where professors have authority in knowledge and students are encouraged to listen, I felt insecure speaking out during this type of classroom interaction. I was afraid of being judged by professors that I am not interested in learning and have not given much thought on topics. Although I was eager to participate in discussions, the first term was extremely difficult due to following factors: First, my low level of my academic English made it difficult not only to understand what was going on but also to express my ideas logically. Next, the pace of discussion was really fast and so many students were talking, sometimes on unrelated tangents, so I did not know when to jump in and say something. In addition, I was afraid that my ideas are not culturally inappropriate in the U.S. context. I was often frustrated with my lack of participation in the first term.

As a last attempt, I decided to talk with professors and share my concerns, which was actually one of the best decisions I made. One professor who used to believe that Asian students are only too shy to participate came to understand me and other Asian students better. With her assistance in the classroom, I had more chances to speak up and slowly built up my confidence. After the painful first term experience, my second term became much better. With an improved language ability and cultural knowledge, I felt much more comfortable in sharing my insights in the classroom. Therefore, my advice for new students who may experience cultural differences in the classroom is: Do not suffer alone and feel free to seek help! Most professors at the UM are open to assist you to adjust better in the classroom.

Written by Ashley Kwon 
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from South Korea & U.S. A.
Master in Higher Education 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Still want to Eat Out when You are Broke?

University of Michigan campus offers a variety of restaurants. From American diner to Japanese food and Italian cuisine to Cuban delicacies, we are spoilt for choices when it’s time to eat out. However, there is one thing that, for me at least, has always been a problem to enjoy all of these; money. I like to try everything! So, here are a few tips that may help spending less for eating out while still enjoying every bite of it!

1. FlockTAG

picture credit : http://www.arbormoon.com/sites/default/files/flockTagCard.jpg

FlockTAG is a card that stores “restaurant-points”. Everytime you eat at a restaurant, you get a point!* Most restaurants and cafes offer, collect 10 points, get the 11th free, while some offer, collect 5 points, get the 6th free (e.g., Bubble Island)! This is a great way to save up since you can choose when you want to use the free ones. So, what I usually do is, collect all the free points, keep using the FlockTAG, and redeem the free points when you are really broke and you want to eat out!

There are also deals that they usually give out and most of the times, the deals are pre-paid meals for less (e.g., 4 meals for $14 instead of the regular $28). So, when I have money, I will buy a bunch of these deals and only use them when I’m broke! Also, when you buy these deals, they NEVER EXPIRE. Excellent.

FlockTAG cards are available at participating restaurants for free. All you have to do is register your card and you are good to go! Here’s a link to register and if you want to know more about FlockTAG, https://deals.flocktag.com/q/login?dtok=default

*Items eligible for points depends on the restaurants.

2. Campus Special Coupons
picture credit : google

So here’s the thing, early Fall or Winter Semester, there will be people on the Diag (central and north campus), in front of Shapiro Library and Espresso Royale and some other places*, that will give out coupon books. One advice, TAKE THEM! These are coupons books that have amazing deals throughout the semester. I once use a deal at Mia Za’s (an Italian Restaurant) and paid $3 for two complete meals. So much win! They also have deals online, just go to http://www.campusspecial.com/michigan/coupons or download their app and enjoy great discounts!

*These places may not sound familiar to you now, but when you get here, it will all make sense!

3. Restaurant Loyalty Card

Not all restaurants on campus participate in FlockTAG, but there is a high chance that those restaurants offer loyalty card. No Thai and Rich J.C., for example, has one and they offer one free meal after 10 points. So, there’s no harm in asking!

Have a good day and we’ll see you soon!

Written by Elissa Irhamy
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from UK & Malaysia
Bachelor: Actuarial Math, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 things you must see/places to visit on campus


                  Ann Arbor is where every Wolverine’s heart belongs and as one of America’s best college towns, it offers so much to the students. Here is a short list of 10 things you must see/places to visit on campus to help you decide where to go!
1.     Nichols Arboretum
When you get to Ann Arbor, visit the Arb as soon as possible! In the spring and summer seasons, you can enjoy the peony garden and the lilacs by the Geddes entrance; it looks beautiful and the aroma is magical. There are many trails you could follow, including one of the trails that goes by the Huron River. Go for a walk, a jog, or just enjoy the view.
2.     Fleetwood Diner and  Kiwanis Thrift Sale on Saturdays
Though you could visit Fleetwood Diner any time you want (open 24 hours!), when paired up with Kiwanis Thrift Sale, your Saturday mornings will be awesome. Kiwanis Thrift Sales, as one of Ann Arbor’s best thrift stores, only opens on Saturdays from 9-12. Go visit and find cheap and eccentric clothes, house items, and antiques! Then, make sure you try Hippie Hash at Fleetwood.
3.     The Law Quadrangle and Law Library
Located on State Street, you will find yourself admiring the view in Law Quad during the fall. The red and orange autumn leaves will capture your heart as you do your homework or read your favorite book. If it gets cold, make sure you check out the law library. Though you have to be as quiet as a mouse when visiting the library, you will clearly see that the architecture and the stained glass are astonishing. Rumor has it that the Harry Potter movies were almost going to be filmed at the U of M library. Do you think the rumor is true?
4.     The entire downtown area for Fairy Doors
Fairy doors are small artsy doors found on building walls. There are many around Ann Arbor, and it is a lot of fun to just walk around the downtown area and find them. Here’s a photo of the very first Fairy Door I found!


Yes, we all love Starbucks and Espresso Royale that’s basically everywhere on campus. However, make sure you try these cafes and tea rooms! Click on each link to find out more.
6.     When in doubt, go to the League.
Sometimes it’s really difficult to find study spaces on campus. When I can’t find a spot at the Undergraduate Library, I make my way to my secret study space – the cyber lounge of the League or the Beanster’s. They have really comfortable leather chairs and most are enclosed for privacy. But beware - there are limited study spaces. If you can’t grab a spot, hey, you can still grab a taco from Taco Bell!
7.     The Diag
The Diag is the very center of the central campus, which you will pass at least six times every day in between classes. It is one of the busiest places on campus, with all sorts of different events, student groups and more. Legend has it that if you step on the “M” before taking your first blue book exam, you will fail that exam. Be careful!
8.     North Campus
Maybe you already have classes on the North Campus, but not all of us do. I personally haven’t had a single class up there. However, I advise you visiting North Campus to experience a different campus atmosphere. Don’t listen to those who say that North Campus isn’t cool; it’s definitely worth it!
9.     Ann Arbor Magic Shop and Antelope Antiques & Coins
Located underground on E. Liberty, Ann Arbor Magic Shop and Antelope Antiques & Coins carry an eccentric array of U of M inspired items on top of top quality antiques. I once found an old medical shock therapy machine, which was quite eerie! Pop in to take a look at some vintage and specialized items.
10.  Kerrytown
A little bit of a walk, but the historic Kerrytown has an amazing selection of organic and locally grown food, on top of local artisans’ original artworks. Make sure you stop by Zingerman’s; if President Obama loved their sandwich, it must be good!

Written by Sarah Hong
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from South Korea
Bachelor in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience

Things to do in the summer


Without a doubt, summer is one of the best seasons in Ann Arbor.  The weather is beautiful and there are a lot of activities going on. 
To start, summer is the best time for renting a tube, kayak or canoe to float down Huron River.  You can find available rentals in Argo and Gallup parks.  If instead you feel like taking a hike, Matthaei Botanical gardens and Nichols Arboretum are amazing and beautiful places to get active.  The city’s Fuller Park Outdoor Pool and Waterslide is also now open until Labor Day. Buhr Park has also softball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts, and picnic and grilling facilities available to the public.

Additionally, the summer welcomes every year the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  This July event provides four different art fairs in one, allowing visitors to view and purchase everything from jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, photography, and much more from hundreds of artists from around the United States.  During the Ann Arbor Art Fair, you can also experience great music and entertainment across the different stages around downtown. Ann Arbor also offers The Concerts in the Park series during the summer.  A variety of concerts from Blues to Irish music are held in Burns Park.  Another opportunity to enjoy good music is offered by Sonic Lunch concert series. This event hosts great bands at noon most Thursdays during the season at the corner of Liberty and Division.  Furthermore, during some selected Fridays during the summer, The University of Michigan Museum of Arts will open until 8pm. UMMA Friday’s After 5 is free to the public. 
Summer is also the ideal time to visit the Ann Arbor Farmers Market located on Kerrytown every Wednesday and Saturday.  Here you can find everything from fresh produce to baked goods. Summer is also the best time to enjoy the unique shops and restaurants on and around Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.  Usually the restaurants are less crowded during this time of year, plus several restaurants offer outdoor seating for you to enjoy the nice weather and the continuing activities across Main Street.

No matter what you enjoy doing, either staying active, shopping, dinning or listening to great music, Ann Arbor definitely offers you something special to do this summer. So go out and start embracing this beautiful time of year!

Written by Natalia Blanco Herrera 
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from Costa Rica
Ph.D. student in Public Health 





Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A self-journey during spring break 2014

I’ve heard enough compliments about how beautiful the west coast is, and finally I got a chance to take the Coast Starlight Train from Los Angeles, along the west coast, all the way to Seattle.

Taking some quiet time and reflecting by myself is always enjoyable for me. This is a good opportunity to know myself better and clear my mind from everyday conversations, so I decided to take this trip alone.

LA, surprisingly, was raining upon my arrival. This was a bit disappointing at the beginning since everyone comes to LA with the expectation of enjoying sunshine.  But the climate there and the experiences of Hollywood still brought me enough joy.  I enjoyed the time I spent at Universal Studios, the Walk of Fame and Pasadena Old Town. My favorite part of the trip at LA was the VIP Tour at Warner Brother Studios. The VIP tour groups 12 people in a group, and the tour guide leads people through the studio to see filming places in well-known movies. The guide explains details about how moviemakers changed the decorations of these places to make them look differently in various movies. The most exciting part of the tour was to visit the site used for filming the most successful past TV show, FRIENDS, and the most popular current one, The Big Bang Theory.  Another reason I enjoyed LA is that cultural diverse brings various cuisines to LA. Walking around Little Tokyo and Little Thai Town added a tasty memory to my journey.



The long train trip from LA to Seattle was relaxing and beautiful. The Coast Starlight Train goes through areas with ocean, river, mountain, cropland and jungle. Diverse scenery along the west coast makes it enjoyable enough even just staring at the window and let your mind wondering freely.  Reading books and keeping journal was a great relaxing for me.  After 34 hours journey on the railway, the train arrived King Cross Station at Seattle.

Rain was patting Seattle gently when the train approached the station. Seattle is always rainy at early March.  Hot coffee at rainy windy winter is perfect to satisfy your body and soul; inspired by this idea, at the year 1971, the first Starbucks started at Seattle. The first Starbucks shop is still opening there. That is a small store, without any seat, located at Pike Place Market. Everyday there are many people from all around the world to find the original taste of Starbucks there. Pike Place is the most historic farmer market in the US, and attracts many venders and artists gathering there.  Every morning, fish venders through fresh fishes from one to another while yelling loudly to attract customers.  Different kinds of music keep hovering around the market; people can buy CDs from these artists as a way to support their music. All kind of free samples are available to customers, fruit, nuts, cheese, jam, you name it, and they have it.  My favorite shop is a French bakery called Le Panier.  I still miss the mornings I spend there with warm coffee and authentic French bread. Although Seattle is famous for keep raining during early March, my second day there turned out to be a super sunny day! The view from Space Needle was spectacular in such sunny weather. Besides Union Lake, downtown Seattle you can also clearly see the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. The campus of University of Washington was more than beautiful under sunshine. The grad library there has similar style as the reading room at Hogwarts. Many other buildings also have the medieval-castle style, which is my favorite. Seeing students playing Frisbee, talking to each other and playing music on the lawn make me started missing my campus at Ann Arbor. It was also near the time I should head back. After a vacation full of enjoyable memory and ambrosial foods, I was ready to back to classes. - Prepared by Cecily Wu