Monday, November 26, 2018

My Express Summers of '18

For past few months I was thinking to pen down my experience during this year's summers at Express Scripts as a Data Science intern in the Clinical Research and New Solutions division. After 3 months savoring the memories, I finally found some time to reflect back on what I learned and what I achieved in those 3 months.

The internship experience as a whole was really rewarding especially since I got to work on the flagship clinical product named Advance Quality Management (AQM) to be launched in 2019 with an estimated $20 million in revenue. The predictive models I was building as part of the clinical solution had a potential to impact 400,000 patient lives suffering from diabetes and lipids conditions. The sheer impact of my work made me feel worthwhile and empowered at the same time responsible and accountable. It was the most rewarding experience as I was solely responsible for 4 of the 12 models for the clinical solution.

Coming from a Chemistry and Scientific Computing background, I did have the skill set to get the job done but I still learned a ton during the internship. Previously I had the experience with predictive modeling in my research here at University of Michigan but the problem statement and context were completely different during the internship. The intern project made me familiarize with different aspects and intricacies of predictive modeling in clinical domain, different techniques of doing things and how the model would be put into production.

The other major highlight of the internship was the 1-1 with leadership in different departments of the company. It helped me gain an insider perspective on the business model of a PBM (Pharmaceutical Benefit Manager) and the functions the different departments perform within the company from sales, logistics, accounting, finance, HR and distribution. It also helped me understand the day-to-day workings and responsibilities of a director, VP, Senior VPs, COO, CTO and CEO of a fortune 25 company. I also got some great pieces of advise from all the people I met within the company and few of them which I will always remember are following:
  • You are your own boss of your career. No one can or should decide your career except you! 
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you and when you think you are equal or surpassed them, it's time for a change! 
  • Be a sponge and absorb as much around you as possible! (Which I always try to do!) 
  • Build your own brand! 
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses! And never be scared to say No. 
  • Use fewer exclamation marks in professional emails as possible! (That's a hard one to follow!!) 
This intern was my first interaction with Corporate America and would always hold a special place in my heart. As for me it's always about the people around, so I would like to give a shout out to my awesome supervisor, my team, my HR, my intern peers for making my summers a memorable experience. I am sure it will help shape my career in more ways than I can imagine.

Written by Sahil Chhabra
Country of Origin: India
Ph.D. Student in Chemistry

Monday, November 19, 2018

November 20 – Vietnamese Teacher’s Day

“When you eat a fruit, think of the man who planted the tree”

This is one of many common sayings about teachers passed from generation to generation in Vietnam. Vietnamese have had a long history of paying respect and gratitude to educators since a very long time ago. Every year on November 20, millions of people celebrate the National Teacher’s day to show their appreciation for the teachers, from current students, to alumni and parents.

On this day, students and teachers are allowed to have a day-off. Instead of preparing for a day of class, they prepare and organize activities for the celebration. Types of activities vary depending on students’ interest and the annual theme. Most schools have performances, including singing, acting, traditional/contemporary dancing carried out by either teachers, students or famous performers who are former students of the schools. Some schools grant special rewards to teachers in respect of their contribution to education.

Besides those activities, students also give gifts to their teachers. They can be flowers or handmade gifts. Parents usually offer more practical gift, such as clothing, cosmetics, and fruits. Alumni often wait for this day to visit their former teachers and together recall the memories from the school years. 

These photos were taken at the Vietnamese Teacher’s Day at my high school in 2017.

This blog post was written by Van Ngoc Thuy Nguyen, a 2018-2019 ICSC Member. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Understanding the Mid-Term Elections As an International Student

While international students, like other non-U.S. citizens, cannot vote in the midterm elections on November 6th, you can participate in other ways.

You can talk to members of the campus community who are eligible to vote and learn about issues that affect higher education in general and international students in particular. Many campus conversations will touch on the election this fall, so learning about the issues, the candidates, and the outcomes offers you an opportunity to connect with others on campus and deepen your understanding of U.S. culture and politics.

The University of Michigan International Center and English Language Institute have a few ideas for ways that international students can get engaged in this electoral season:

  1. Educate Yourself: Learn about the U.S. election systems, the purpose of the midterm elections, and why voting is a fundamental part of the U.S. democracy.
  2. Be Curious: Ask your American classmates and friends about their views on the candidates who they find most appealing and the issues that they find most important.
  3. Attend an Event: Keep an eye out for election result watching parties hosted by campus organizations on the University Calendar.
  4. Vet Your Sources: Seek legitimate, non-partisan news sources. Be sure that you are looking at the factual news- not just opinions or social media posts. 
  5. Think Local: Get to know the candidates in Michigan and the ballot issues at the candidate websites and general sites including these:
  6. Remind Your Friends to Vote: This election is too important for those who can vote to stay at home. College students have busy schedules, so it is important that they make a plan to vote. Remind your friends to schedule a time to vote!
  7. Familiarize Yourself with Campus-based Initiatives: Check out Ginsberg Center’s website for more information on campus-based voting efforts including the Big Ten Voting Challenge.
  8. Run for Campus Office: There are plenty of elected positions within student organizations, including U-M’s Central Student Government and Rackham Student Government, where you can influence the activities, policies, and climate at the University. Run for office – and vote in student elections! 
  9. Keep Things in Perspective: If you don’t understand something, that’s OK. It takes time to fully understand the history, current events, and politics of another country. What’s important is deepening your understanding of life in the U.S. and connecting with other students, faculty, and staff around issues that are important to them -- and to you!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

International Center Fall Events

While orientation is over and classes have started, events and programs put on by the International Center will continue on into the school year. While your main focus might be on classes and school work, balancing work with social activities is an important aspect of mental health, meeting new people, and making the most of your time at the University of Michigan. This blog is meant to highlight some of the fun social and cultural events hosted by the International Center. A full list of events can be found on our website calendar. We also promote our events on Facebook, so make sure to like our page!


International Picnic Saturday, September 9 | Noon-2pm
This event is one of the most popular among international students, scholars, and family members. Come to Island Park, one of many beautiful parks in Ann Arbor not far from campus, where we can play games and enjoy the outdoors. Food and drinks will be provided, so come by yourself to meet new friends or bring your friends to kick-off the school year!

American Football 101 Saturday, September 29 | 3pm-5pm
While American football might not be your favorite sport, it's the most popular sport in the U.S. and (if you haven't already noticed) is a very important part of campus culture at U-M. Learn the basics of this sport, eat snacks, and watch the first half of the game against Northwestern University with other international students at Munger Graduate Residences.


60 Minutes Around the Globe
This event features a short presentation about a specific country given by a student or scholar from that country. Snacks are provided by the International Center and there is plenty of time for Q&A. This relaxed event is both a great way to learn about a new country and to other people interested in culture and travel.

Volunteer Opportunities at Food Gatherers
Join other international student, scholars, and families in helping alleviate hunger in Ann Arbor. The group will take AATA bus together after meeting outside the Student Activities Building at 1pm. The service starts at 2pm and ends at 4pm.

International Coffee Hour
Come meet other students and scholars over a hot cup of tea or coffee. There is no presentation or lecture, just time to chat and meet friends. Come when you want; leave when you like. We'd love to see you there!

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Plenty of cake to eat and people to meet!
Birthday Celebrations
The main attraction of this event is the free birthday cake! Come to International House Ann Arbor to meet people and celebrate those who have birthdays during that month. It doesn't have to be your birthday to attend, just come ready to party!

International Student Lunch Conversation
This event is for international students only and is intended to provide a safe space for students to talk about their experience as an international student at UM. The group will discuss a specific topic, usually related to navigating American culture, dealing with academic stress, or any other topic the groups wishes to discuss. Lunch is provided.


Sleeping Bear Dunes Saturday, September 15 | 7am-10pm
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Stunning views of Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Visit one of the state of Michigan's most beautiful natural attractions. You'll have the opportunity to hike on the dunes or walk along the beach--the views are spectacular! Cost is $46 dollars round trip, and we recommended you bring some money for snacks and souvenirs too.

Chicago Trip Saturday, October 6, 2018 | 7am-11:45pm
Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest. Plan your own day visiting museums, shopping, and eating great food. There are plenty of famous attractions and great sites to see! Cost is $46 for round-trip transportation.

Written by Kate Guichelaar
International Center Peer Advisor
Graduate Student
United States

Monday, August 27, 2018

Career Fair Tips

A common worry of college students is finding a job after graduation or finding an internship during super long summer break. Career fairs connect college students and companies; however, it’s definitely not an easy thing. During my sophomore year, I attended the Engineering Career Fair for the first time. I still remember that my resume was almost like a blank page and I didn’t know what I should talk about when facing employers. Now, as a senior student, I have gained more experience and I am going to share with you some tips on attending career fairs. Feel free to comment and share your own thoughts with me too!

I have only had experience with the Engineering Career Fair, which might be different from other career fairs on campus.

Before the career fair
1. Make sure your resume stands out
A resume is a snapshot of your entire professional life. In order to leave a good impression on hiring managers, your resume should show that you are the best fit for the position. If you need advice on how to write your resume, you can find a lot of useful resources at the career center.
2. Do your own research
Before the career fair starts, the Engineering Career Resource Center (ECRC) usually gives out a booklet on the visiting companies and their hiring policies. It’s a good idea to study who is going to be at the fair before attending. For international students, it’s extremely important to check the hiring policies beforehand. Make sure that the companies you’re interested in are eligible to sponsor work visas for international students.
3. Get a suit and a pair of comfortable shoes
Nothing makes a recruiter groan more than being approached by a sloppy dresser. Appearance is part of the first impression you give to people, and it reflects your earnest to get the job. A suit will make you look more professional and confident. A pair of comfortable shoes is also very important, since you will most likely walk around for two whole days during the career fair.
4. Rest well
The most important thing to do on the day before the career fair is to get enough sleep. Make sure you have enough energy to be your best self.
During the career fair
1. Rock your communication with employers
Now it’s the time to fight. Always make confident, positive eye contact and smile. First, start with a one-minute introduction of yourself that you have prepared and give them your resume. Then wait for the employers to follow up. Some employers like to dig deep into your resume, and others like to ask more general questions. Therefore, prepare for all kinds of questions beforehand.
2. Don’t get bored while you are waiting
Compared to the time you spend talking to employers, the time you spend waiting is much, much longer. Therefore, don’t waste it! It’s a great time to connect with other people. Most will share a lot of useful information, such as the employers they have met, their conversation experiences, and the best follow-up gifts. When I came to the career fair in my sophomore year, I learned how to communicate effectively with employees while talking to people waiting in the same line. The more information you have, the better prepared you would be.
After going back home
1. Get ready for the interviews!
The battle does not end after the career fair! Companies will usually reach out to you very soon.
2. Follow up with hiring managers
Don’t be frustrated if you didn’t get interviews. You can try to send the hiring managers an email to express your strong interest in joining their company. Sometimes, you will get a second chance!
This year's Engineering Career Fair will be hosted on Sept. 17 & 18 on North Campus. I hope the career fair is a success and you find your ideal jobs/internships.

Written by Jiayue (Margaret) Lu
Peer Advisor
Undergraduate Student

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Few Things I Wish I Knew Earlier As An International Student

The definition of excellence in education is tricky and varies a lot among different cultures--even person to person. The following are a few things I wish I knew earlier as an international student in Michigan.

Lecture and Office Hours:
A lecture is an informational presentation given by a professor or graduate student instructor (GSI) in class, but it’s more complex than that simple definition. While professors want students to know the material of the class well, they also want students to pursue answers to questions rather than relying solely on what they say in class. In the US, students are expected to truly get involved in the lecture; for instance, by asking quick questions, confirming one’s understandings, or even talking about some ad hoc ideas for a potential research topic. This might differ from cultures where the professor is considered the sole authority and questions are taken more as interruptions than participation and engagement. Moreover, the loose academic hierarchy also carries over into office hours, talks, and seminars. For international students, starting off attending office hours may be a little tough, especially given that one-on-one conversations require a ton of preparation and prompt responses (for those who's first language isn't English). At the same time, attending office hours can present you with tremendous opportunities, since the interaction promotes mutual understanding between students and professors and conversations often lead to topics beyond the class like research opportunities. This is not uncommon even in basic classes, and professors are always looking for students who are truly enthusiastic and invested in their  academics. Therefore, don’t hide your potential by being silent always!

More to checkout:
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU); grader positions in departments; tons of super cool study abroad programs by CGIS (with timespan varying from a few days to the whole academic year)

Group Activities on Campus:
As a newcomer to U-M, international students can make life much easier for themselves by staying with people who share their similar culture. This, however, can make life boring and doesn't take advantage of studying in the U.S. Don't trap your experience in a tiny area and characterize your American experience only by taking classes in English. There are many extracurricular activities to check out, especially group activities to enrich your life in Michigan. I keep urging people to attend the upcoming Northfest and Festifall at the beginning of September. You’ll find numerous organizations and clubs on campus and can even pick up a new hobby. I was really into swing dancing last year. This was a club where men and women hung out and danced on Wednesday nights--it was organized but still relaxed. I also have an everlasting love for the men’s rowing team! Step out of your comfort zone and maximize your quality of life as much as possible!

Other activities  to checkout:

Information Overload and Filters:
Like many international students, my life became entirely overwhelmed by emails after coming to the US, and it took me quite a while to get used to it. It took two seconds to register for emails from the organizations I was potentially interested in, but two years to make the decision to drop off. Especially on Monday mornings, be prepared to get smashed by emails. For those who are involved in everything, you will probably be on the mailing list of hundreds of organizations from your department’s weekly newsletter to Stubhub. This information overload can be exhausting and distract you from your daily routine. This situation is the opposite extreme of staying in a closed community--you’re too involved! Too many choices can lead to information overload, and it’s important to learn to filter information with efficiency. 

Helpful resources to balance information overload:
Google Calendar for staying organized and keeping track of events; Umich Career center can help you navigate the choices you need to make about what to do after graduating

Written by JinCheng Wang
International Orientation Peer Advisor
Undergraduate Student
Courtesy to Kate Guichelaar for Review

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Conference Tips: My First Conference Experience in Vancouver

During July 29 to August 3, I had my memorable first conference trip to Vancouver, Canada. The Joint Statistical Meeting (JSM) is the largest annual statistical conference in the North American, with over 6500 people attending from all over the world. Before arriving at JSM, I made four goals for this conference trip:

  1. find inspiration from talks related to my thesis work
  2. go to talks for personal interest
  3. reunite with old friends from college who also attend the meeting
  4. explore Vancouver area
In order to achieve these goals, I made a detailed plan. Here are seven tips that made my conference experience a success for me and, hopefully, for you too!

1. Register for the conference, book the flight, and apply for the Rackham Graduate School travel grant
Each academic year, Rackham Graduate School provides one travel grant for each graduate student, both masters and PhD level. Details can be found here. For large conferences like JSM, early bird flight and hotel booking can ensure you more flexibility in planning and save you a lot of money.

2. Make a strategic plan for the sessions you want visit
With more than 600 sessions happening in a week, it was daunting to fit in all sessions and topics that interest me. As a newbies, I carefully studied the session information over the JSM app on the flight to Vancouver, and marked the ones I wanted to go on my calendar. This prevented me from being overwhelmed by hundreds of dazzling talks happening at the same time.

3. Broaden and balance the sessions you attend, and allow time to process new information
While I was busy going to the sessions related to my work, I also benefited from those that were not directly related to my research. For example, during the session on how to effectively communicate with non-statisticians, the presenter shared the core ideas and tips to successfully cooperate with investigators with different statistical demands. This type of talk was less technical, but useful to all researchers.

4. Take advantage of the social events
I was surprised to find that the social events at night were an incredible extension of the formal meetings in the daytime. In addition to personal meet-ups, different schools usually have their own official alumni receptions in the hotel. This is a great opportunity to mingle with alumni and review the remarkable achievements the department made in the past year (and the great food served is always a bonus!).

5. Don’t miss the career fair
Another crucial part of large conference is the career fair. By registering and submitting resumes in advance, you will be contacted by attending companies for interviews during the conference. Although an extra fee is often required to attend the conference career fair, those positions better target your major field and you don't have to fly for onsite interviews.

6. Reconnect with old friends
For your friends who studied the same major as you, it’s a great opportunity to reunite with them if they also attend the conference. For me, it was amazing to reconnect with a college friend during the poster session who I had lost contact for many years.

7. Take advantage of exploring local restaurants and landmarks
Vancouver is definitely paradise for a seafood and outdoor lover, and I happen to be both. I finished my Vancouver trip by spending the last 2 days in the mountains hiking and camping; it was one of the most incredible hiking experiences I have ever had.

Garibaldi Lake where I spent one night camping

Written by Tian Gu
International Orientation Peer Advisor
Graduate Student