Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ICSC Member Blog: Cooking Central - Asian Plov

There are no options around Ann Arbor (or, in fact, Michigan) to try any Central Asian cuisine. Thus, I had to learn on my own how to cook some dishes that are typical in my home country Kazakhstan. One of them is plov, which in the US might be more known as “pilaf” or “palaw” or something similar. There are different variations, some are more common to Central Asia, some – to Middle East Asia, some – to East Africa. The recipe here is the one I came up with based on what is cooked in my family, online recipes and what is available in the grocery stores.

Ingredients (for 4-5 persons):
  • 0.5-0.75 cup of oil (sunflower or olive, the former is preferred)
  • 2 big or 5-6 small onions
  • 1 lb of meet (in Kazakhstan we prefer to use sheep meet, but here I have to use either beef or chicken. In fact, I heard that also fish is used in Western Kazakhstan.)
  • 3-4 long or 6-8 small carrots
  • 1 or 1.5 cup of white rice (can be long- or medium-grain)
  • 5-6 cups of boiled water (should be boiling when you add it)
  • Can of garbanzo beans
  • 4-5 garlics
  • Salt and spices (I use black pepper and cumin, but it is really up to you)

Cut onions, meat and carrots into squares of 0.5-inch-side (can be a bit larger or smaller). Skin garlics. Put pot on high heat and add oil. After 1-2 minutes add onions and let them fry for another 3-4 minutes.

After that put meat (I used beef this time), add salt and spices (depends on you how much, keep in mind that you need to add more later), mix and stir fry everything in pot until meat doesn’t look raw on its surface.

After that add carrots, but do not mix, let carrots lay on top of meat. At this moment, you can add more spices and a bit of salt, if you are a fan of very fragrant meals. Leave for 3-4 minutes, then add rice on top of carrots and immediately pour boiling water such that it is higher than surface with rice by about 0.5 inch. I prefer to wash the rice till clean water before adding, but it is up to you. You can also add more salt and spices now

All this time you need to keep high heat. If you notice that onions start to burn, lower the heat and stir fry. Let water evaporate until its surface reaches surface with rice, then add garbanzo beans (I also pour all liquid from can with beans, it is up to you). 

All this time pot was open, but now it is time to cover it. After that, lower heat and let everything boil until all water evaporates (use your favorite technique of checking water level, I just pinch cooked mass with fork or knife). Keep the cooking mass covered till the end. After water and liquid from beans can on the top evaporates and you can see rice with beans, throw in garlics. If you are doubtful about this step, feel free to chop garlics and add them together with meat.

After all liquids evaporate (or about to evaporate), turn off heat and let everything rest for 5-10 minutes (keep it covered).

After that, mix everything and it is ready to be served. Feel free to improvise with spices, beans, you can also add raisins together with beans, some don’t skin garlics before adding them, some put the whole garlic on top of cooking mass, there is a lot to experiment with, if you are interested. As Bolsyn! (“Bon Appetit” in Kazakh)

Written by ICSC member Alisher Duspayev

Thursday, December 3, 2020

ICSC Member Blog: Festivals of India

Written by ICSC member Divyani Paul: Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Biological Chemistry

India is home to 1.3 billion people speaking 780 different languages with various religious beliefs. It’s rich history dates back to 2500-1500 BC and in due course of time civilizations have engendered an extraordinary blend of stories and events which are celebrated as festivals in India even up to this day.

(image: Rath Yatra Celebrations)

The beginning of the Hindu new year is celebrated by Makar Sankranti at the beginning of spring by praying to God for a forthcoming bountiful harvest. Similarly, the Sikhs celebrate Lohri and Baishakhi in Northern India and Pongal in southern India thank nature for generous harvest. People draw floral patterns in the house and make sweets as well as light a bonfire to celebrate these festivals.

(image: Diety of Beautiful Goddess Durga)

As we move further into spring, the festival of color-Holi is celebrated widely across the country and in recent times it has gained popularity in the western culture as well. Holi is filled with fun and frolic, people spraying colors at each other and engaging in dance and music but the festival signifies the love between Lord Krishna and Radha. As we move to the summer, the east Indian states celebrate world’s largest chariot festival-Rath Yatra.

Towards the end of the year, the Muslim community celebrates Eid after fasting for a month and they invite friends and family to an ostentatious spread of delicious food. Soon after Eid, Goddess Durga is welcomed to earth after defeating the evil in a four-day long celebration. As per the Hindu mythology Lord Ram and his wife Sita were exiled for 14 years when Sita was abducted by Ravan. The last day of Durga puja also remarks the victory of Lord Ram over Ravan to rescue his wife and after fourteen days they return to their home which is celebrated as the Diwali-“festival of lights.”

The year ends with cities embellished in Christmas decorations followed by the New Year Celebration parties. Hence, all year around India is celebrating an eclectic mix of cultures and their festivals.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

ICSC Member Blog: German Christmas Bread – Christstollen

Christstollen is a very popular sweet in Germany during the Holiday season. It is a type of sweet bread with lots of dried fruits and spices that pairs perfectly with a glass of mulled (spiced) wine, cider or tea!

Below you can find an authentic German recipe for Christstollen. Some of the ingredients might be a little hard to find but if you put in the extra effort, you will be rewarded with a delicious German Christmas bread!

quark christstollen

Recipe for German Christstollen:

  • 200 g raisins

  • 75 ml milk

  • 500 g flour

  • 14 g dry yeast

  • 150 g sugar

  • 175 g soft butter

  • 125 g quark (low fat soft cheese, can be found at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 egg

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp each of cardamom, cinnamon and gloves

  • 100 g candied orange peel

  • 100 g candied lemon peel

  • 200 g ground almonds

To make the yeasted dough, heat up the milk first. Mix flour with yeast and 1 tsp of sugar, then add the warm milk. Use a fork to mix all the ingredients together and let the dough sit at room temperature for 15 min. Mix in all the remaining ingredients (other than raisins, dried fruit and almonds) using a hand or stand mixer. Let the dough rise at a warm place for ~1h. Heat up the oven to 220 °C / 430 °F.

Mix the dough with the raisins, dried fruit and almonds and form it into an oval loaf. Put the loaf onto a backing sheet lined with parchment paper and let it rise for another 30-60 min. Cool the oven down to 180 °C / 350 °F and place the baking sheet in the lower third of the oven. Bake the loaf for ~1h.

Right after you take the loaf out of the oven, glaze it with some melted butter (~75 g). After the bread is cooled completely, some powered sugar can be sprinkled on top. Wrapped in foil, this Christmas bread will last for a few weeks.

Enjoy your Christstollen!!

This post was written by ICSC member Fabienne Birkle

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Connect with UM Alums to Start Your Career

Arman Golrokhian, Iran
Class of 2017, Dual Masters Degrees in Public Policy and Natural Resources
Senior Strategist at DTE Energy's Renewable Energy Solutions team

"I would highly encourage international students to connect with UM alums, especially with those whom they have most in common, and learn about their career path. What it took for them to secure their jobs, what skills are most valued in their field of study these days, and many more similar questions."

Born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, Arman Golrokhian Arman studied mechanical engineering at Sharif University in Iran before he came to the U.S in 2013 to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. After one year of course here, he was selected as an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps Fellow, a very competitive national fellowship in the field of energy and sustainability.

At EDF, Arman worked with the City of New York and developed a strategic framework to model and manage energy use in thousands of municipal buildings in NYC. He honed quantitative and qualitative energy modelling skills and learned how to present complex results to senior executives. By referring to this experience as a success story, he demonstrated his proven track record. "A real-world experience is what employers usually look for, and students can use their internship/fellowship as a golden opportunity to demonstrate that."

"University of Michigan has one of the strongest alumni networks in the world." During his job searching, he connected with many UM alums, both American and international alums. He learned about their career path, company/organization, and skills that are most valued in his field. These connections were extremely valuable and helped him find and only focus on the positions that fit his interests and abilities. Especially for international students, it will be helpful for a better understanding of the rapidly-changing job market and help them best prepare for their ideal jobs.

Besides, term projects, Master’s projects, completing a thesis, and other program requirements are great ways to find your own passion and innate competencies. A term project can easily help you know if you like spending most of your time on computer models, or working with teams, or spending time in the field or even what topic most excites you.

Arman's biggest challenge has been navigating the work authorization process beyond the typical OPT and STEM OPT. International students have to keep this challenge in mind that after 1-3 years, they will most likely need visa sponsorship from their employer. "Discuss this with their employers as soon as possible," he advised.

Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Graduate Student

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Mengyang Liu’s NBA Dream Came True

Mengyang Liu, China
Class of 2018, M.S. Sports Management
Manager, Chinese Social Media & Partnership at Brooklyn Nets

”International student identity can be a strength rather than a weakness. You have the unique resources and experience from your home country.” 

Mengyang completed his undergraduate in China with a bachelor's degree in International Business. To pursue his sports dream, he applied to the University of Michigan for further study. He started his on-campus job as a RecSports staff and tried to find a summer intern after one-year’s study. After interviewing with a NBA team for several rounds, he was told he did not get the job. At that moment, he decided to go back to China and then found a shadowing opportunity to work as a frontline sports reporter in Beijing.

That experience opened the door of the NBA for him. Later, he got the opportunity to cover the  Detroit Piston as a Chinese reporter for Tencent during his second year at Michigan. Thanks to the connections he accumulated at NBA, after graduation, he found a job as the business developer in a marketing firm at LA. At the same time, he still covered the Los Angeles Lakers stories. The most precious reward he gained during his graduate study is the sports environment of Michigan, as well as the alumni network. When he moved to LA, he noticed the alumnus Moritz Wagner was selected by Lakers at the same time. Fortunately, he interviewed him as the first Chinese journalist.

However, Mengyang faced many other challenges during his work as an international student. The biggest difference he pointed out was the mindset. In the U.S., reporters are more proactive and believe that nothing is impossible. He had to change his mindset of always being polite and stretched out for more opportunities. Starting to put forward the request for an interview and video shooting, he finally got more chances to finish many great stories and videos.

When it comes to networking, he shared his own story of how he got the job at Nets. “The most important thing is to sell yourself and raise their interest in a short time. That is the key that they want to have more conversations with you.” Therefore, he just sent the email to the direct contact person to sell himself as the most appropriate person for the position. And thanks to that email, he continued his NBA journey in New York.


Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Outdoor Activites in and around Ann Arbor

Although it is a small city, Ann Arbor has a lot of things you can do at your leisure. I am going to focus primarily on the outdoor activities one can do at Ann Arbor. The first thing one should do in Ann Arbor is to explore our own campus. The University of Michigan has a beautiful campus spread out along Ann Arbor with its many buildings, yards, and statues, which is a world on its own and deserves to be explored. The most iconic landmarks are the Michigan stadium and the law quadrangle. The law quadrangle is a part of Michigan law school and also houses its iconic library. It is located in the heart of the central campus. Its Gothic architecture rivals Ivy League schools and gives you a sense of going back in time. So, it's a place not to miss. 

The Nichols Arboretum is another extremely popular Ann Arbor attraction that you can explore. It is located right by the Medical Center and the Huron River runs right through it. It has gardens and hiking trails and is an extremely peaceful oasis really close to the city. You can also indulge in activities like kayaking in the Huron River. 

Nichols Arboretum - Wikiwand

The next one is Matthaei botanical gardens. It is a 300-acre property located in North East Ann Arbor. here you can find a conservatory, display gardens like bonsai garden, lakes garden and others and of course many hiking trails and natural beauty. It is often called “the best kept secret in Ann Arbor “and I highly recommend you explore it. 

In the heart of the city, is Main Street, one of the most fun streets in Ann Arbor. It has great restaurants and stores and is always bustling with life. You will enjoy its cosmopolitan culture, great food, and the M Den, which is a store where you can buy university merchandise. To explore Main Street is an adventure on its own! 

There are so many more things that can be done which I leave you to explore on your own. But don't forget that Ann Arbor is a short drive away from many cities like Detroit, Dearborn, Toledo etc. that you can plan day trips around and explore further. Feel free to explore the Zipline just outside of town, or the world’s largest Christmas store at Frankenmuth. And when you seek a thrill out of the boredom of university, a thrilling adventure awaits at Cedar Point, amazing amusement park. Explore world cuisine like Turkish tea, Mediterranean food, and make memories with your friends at Dearborn. Ann Arbor is truly a remarkable city with so many things to do and I am sure you will have a wonderful time here.   

Written by Diksha Agrawal

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student


Monday, August 17, 2020

My Experience of Volunteering Overseas and Reaching Out for Support

Hitting the rewind button, let us turn back to November 2019. In my first semester at umich, I received the offer of my second Olympic volunteer journey in Lausanne, Switzerland. Instead of being excited, I was facing a real financial problem. The volunteer opportunity is appealing, but I needed to pay for flights and accommodations on my own for more than two weeks.

To Go or Not To Go

My last Olympic journey in South Korea was a shining memory; however, it was fading away. The opportunity to explore a new city and meet interesting people in the sports industry definitely became extremely attractive to me at that time. While I must calm down to calculate how much I am going to spend on it. As you may already know, Switzerland rates as the most expensive country in the world to visit; not to mention that I need to stay for more than two weeks. 

“To go or not to go”, I was stuck in a quagmire at that moment.

Start to Reach Out

Adopting a positive attitude, I decided to ask my professors of each class to give me some suggestions, just as a trial. After having the lessons, I told them my story and the dilemma. Out of my expectation, they really provided me with many useful resources and ways to reach out for support. Over two weeks, I sent several emails to various departments in my school and tried to find some financial support. 

Furthermore, the most significant thing was the power they transmitted to me to pursue the dream and explore the world with courage.

Turning Point: Scholarship from School

The turning point was when I received the email form the Global Engagement Coordinator form School of Kinesiology, telling me that I can apply for the GoGlobal Travel Award. Besides, she provided me with many resources of financial support for education abroad experiences that I may turn to.


I applied for the award just before the deadline and received the success email one month later. I got the Block M flag for photography from my school before leaving. When I took the photo with the flag at the Main Media Center, I felt the power from the University of Michigan and was proud to be one of the students here. 

Always Be Proactive

To be honest, the scholarship was not a large amount. However, it just told me a success story of being proactive to reach out for help. Numerous resources are waiting for you to explore and utilize. The only thing you need to do is stretch out your arms to grasp each opportunity in your life. Never too early to reach out!

The first time I went to watch the football game at Big House, I totally had no idea why everyone was shouting ‘Go Blue’. But now, I have a deep understanding of the power of sports and the power of umich. Just Go Blue!

Written by Yajie (Tina) Wang

Summer Orientation Peer Advisor

Graduate Student