Friday, May 31, 2013

Places to Study in Central Campus

If you are new in town, you might wonder: where should I study? As you can see from looking at the campus map, there are so many buildings with unfamiliar names that the list can be overwhelming for new students and scholars. Well, don’t worry. After I walk you through various locations in central campus, I’m sure you will have a better grasp on where to go, depending on your personal preference or what type of studying/research that you do.

(Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library)

There is no better place to start our little “journey” than the Hatcher Graduate Library, since it is conveniently located on the Diag at the center of central campus. The Graduate Library is not only the University’s primary research collection for the humanities and social sciences, but also the ideal place if you prefer to study alone and quietly. Its reference room on second floor is arguably the most popular spot in central campus for self-study: quite atmosphere, well-lit tables and overstuffed chairs in the center! During fall and winter semester, you will see that the room is crowded with students doing homework, writing papers, and reading through large textbooks. If you want a place both quiet AND private, take the elevator in the south building to the stacks (3-6 floors). Each floor has multiple individual study rooms, though they tend to be small in size.

(Shapiro Undergraduate Library)

Let’s move to the adjacent building, which is the ShapiroUndergraduate Library. If you are the type of person who is not easily distracted by other people, or if you like to study in a group, this may be the place for you. I’d say that the atmosphere at Shapiro Library is more “inviting” than that of the Graduate Library, and for this reason many students come to here to study in groups, discuss ideas, hold meetings, or work on group projects. In fact, you can even reserve group study space in Shapiro Library using the online reservationsystem. This library also features Bert’s CafĂ©, which allows for easy access to coffee, snacks, or meals (be sure to check its hours of operation!).

(The Reading Room at the Law Library)

If you have been to the reference room at the Hatcher Library and like the place, I strongly recommend that you visit the reading room at the LawLibrary. The Law Quadrangle is designed in the English Gothic style, and you will be absolutely fascinated by the interior of the reading room; studying there almost makes you feel like you’re at Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Since the reading room is extremely quiet – almost to the point of silence, I personally go to the Law Library when I have a lot of readings to do. So if your field of study requires you to read a lot, consider paying a visit to the reading room at the Law Library – after all, it is the “reading room.”

Are you in need of a computer? Or more specifically, a desktop that comes with large workspace? If this is the case, I’d normally advise you to go to the Angell Hall Computing Site, but it is unfortunately closed during Spring/Summer for renovation. It will reopen when the fall semester begins. However, you still have a number of options. Both the Graduate (on its 2nd floor) and Shapiro Library (on each floor) have multiple computers. If you prefer a very large workstation along with dual-monitor desktop, visit the Clark Library located on the 2nd floor in the Graduate Library.

(Why study in library if the weather is this beautiful?)

Despite the long list, libraries are not the only place to read and study. The Michigan Union offers a quiet study lounge that is spacious yet cozy. The classrooms in Mason Hall can also be a great place to study (just make sure whether or not the doors get locked after certain hours). And if none of the above-mentioned locations suits your need or preference, it’s okay: simply grab your book and go outside. You’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the US, and you’re here in summertime. Anywhere you choose – be it coffee shops or the Diag – can be a great place to study.

Written by Ji-Won Lim
Undergraduate Student 
Political Science and International Studies

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Travel in the U.S.

Are you a fan of traveling? It's my passion to travel. I usually travel to other cities or states during breaks. At U of M, there are several breaks that we can schedule travels. Remember to check school calendar and plan your trips in advance. You can find the calendar from the Office of the Registrar

Fall 2013 & Winter 2014 Calendar
Fall Break: Oct 14th -15th
Thanksgiving: Non. 28th - Dec. 1st 
Christmas: Dec. 21st - Jan. 7th 
Spring Break: Mar. 1st - Mar. 9th

I usually plan my vocation 2-3 months in advance so I can get early bird discounts. I book tickets and accommodation after I decide my departure and return dates. Some reservations are non-refundable/non-changeable, which means you can’t cancel or change your reservations. This type of reservations is usually cheaper, but less flexible. One tip to keep in mind is to double check the refund policy before you make any reservations. After making the reservation, you can either print out the confirmation/ Itinerary, or save it in your phone, which makes it easy to check during the trip. If you travel a lot, buying a student discount card may save some money. For example, International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and Student Advantage DiscountCard  give discounts on Amtrak and greyhound, respectively. I list several websites that I usually use to book transportation and hotels.

Bing Travel   (This website can predict price, and tell you either to buy now or to wait)

Megabus (Prices start from $1)

Hotelscombined (After you find desired hotels, use this website to compare prices and find the best deal)

I’m not a good driver, so I rarely rent cars when I’m travelling. The only website I recommend is (, which compares prices and finds the best deal.

There are many popular destinations in the U.S.. If you don’t have a preference among different destinations, take a look at a rating on tripadvisor, which lists the top 25 destinations in the U.S. After you have decided the destination, it’s always a good idea to prepare a detailed travel plan. My plans are based on some travel websites (e.g. tripadvisor) and blogs. Then I make my travel plans, and label attractions on the map. You can either buy a map before departure, or get a map from airport, hotels and tourist information center after arrive.

When it’s time to do packing, check the weather forecast, so you will have a better idea of the temperature. You may make a packing list in case you forget something important. There’re several items that I always bring with me.

Passport, Visa & copies
Driver’s license
Student ID
Compass (You can use the compass in your phone)
Camera & charger
Toothpaste & toothbrush

            Now, you’re ready to go! Bring your travel documents and enjoy your trip. Some attractions have student tickets, so remember to bring you student ID with you. Another way to save money is to buy a CityPass. You can find the CityPass of the most popular destinations, such as New York and South California. CityPass combines admissions to must-see attractions, saves money and time. It’s a good choice to buy a CityPass if you have never visited that place before.

            A great resource at U of M is outdoor adventure trips. If you love outdoor trips, this is the place to meet your peers who have the same interest with you. They offer different trips, canoeing, backpacking, hiking, climbing and so forth. I went to West Virginia in 2011. That’s my first outdoor trip, and I didn’t have any skills or gear before the trip. During the trip, I was introduced to skills in backcountry camping, rock climbing and rafting. If you’re interested in outdoor adventure, you can check their website and find some upcoming trips. You don’t need to have had prior experience since necessary skills will be taught before and during the trip.

Written by Yu Zhang
Graduate Student in Psychology 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Movies in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is a great city for watching movies. There are two theaters located  very conveniently a block from central campus:

1. The Michigan Theater at the corner of State and Liberty streets is a classic "movie palace" and a center of "culture" in Ann Arbor. Housed in an old and ornate building with two movie screens, and  built in 1928, the theater feels a lot more like an opera house than modern American movie theaters. Seeing a movie here is a must-do in Ann Arbor. 

The theater tends to show more art/independent/foreign films than normal American movie theaters (which I consider a very good thing!). Many of these films are not easy to find if you don't live nearby a theater with such a diverse collection. However, the theater also shows some popular blockbusters (especially in the winter, when it tends to show almost every movie that is nominated for Best Picture in the Academy Awards/ Oscars). 

The Theater does not only show new movies; it often shows classic old movies (for example, the Bell's Summer Classic Film Series), or films that are sponsored by various University of Michigan film or cultural studies programs.    

Besides movies, the theater is also a center for other types of cultural events-- including concerts and stage plays, for example, I went to a James Blunt concert during my first visit to AA. It also houses some major film festivals: namely the Ann Arbor Experimental Film Festival, and more recently, Cinetopia. Be warned, the movies at these festivals are often pretty strange :). 
One aspect of the theater's charm is its pipe organ. The pipe organ at the Michigan theater is one of few that has not been updated digitally and has not been moved from its original location. Before many showings of night films, an organist will play the organ while the guests are being seated. 

2. The State theater is less than a block away from the Michigan Theater. It is also in a nice old building, though probably less majestic than the Michigan Theater, and also has two screens. The State Theater is operated by the same people as the Michigan, and has a similar selection of films. Often, a movie will move from the Michigan theater to the State, in order to move a new movie in to the Michigan. Another popular option at the State is the Midnight Movie; which takes place in a Saturday night at midnight. This is often a little bit trashier movie-- a comedy or horror film. On Halloween, they show a classic American cult film called the Rocky Horror Picture Show--- people dress up, sing songs and cheer while the movie is being shown.

3. There are two "traditional" American cineplexes within a 10-20 minute drive of Ann Arbor: Rave Motion Pictures on Carpenter Road in Ypsilanti and Goodrich Quality 16 on Jackson Road in Ann Arbor. At these, you will get the usual major american movie experience. The two specialty theaters I listed above are small, so for many new movies, your only option will be drive to one of these two cineplexes. On certain days of the week, they have various discounts- check out their websites before driving over!

4. Renting movies can be a fun way to get in touch with movie culture, and to improve your English (I have seen this work before!). For doing this, I highly recommend Askwith Media Library, on the second floor of the Undegraduate Library (often called the UGLI), on central campus. Nearly every movie I have ever wanted to see, in addition to almost every TV series, and many books on tape, is available for checkout here for free to Michigan students. 

Another good option is the Ann Arbor District Library (which also has free rentals); I don't know much about the selection of movies here, but one advantage is the district library has locations all over Ann Arbor. 

Finally, Netflix is a cheap paid subscription website, which many college students find useful for renting movies, either by mail or from online streaming (although the streaming collection is not as large. 

Written by Wendy Shang
Ph.D. student in Mathematics 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Programs in the summer

Are you looking for things to do in the summer? Are you interested in meeting people and making new friends? The International Center has something for everyone (students, scholars, families).
  • Trips to Chicago and Cedar Point are always popular and sold out within a few days. 
  • Things to do in Ann Arbor is designed for new students/scholars/families. It is offered twice a month. 
  • Exploring Nichols Arboretum with International Families 
  • Dinner and Social at Sabor Latino 
  • English Conversation Group for International Scholars is offered once a month and features a different topic. 
  • If you are looking for volunteering opportunities and want to see a different aspect of American life, join monthly Community Service at Delonis Homeless Shelter. 
Other popular events in town are Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Art Fair, and Huron River Day. 

No matter what you decide to do, we hope you will enjoy the beautiful weather and have a great time!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Navigating Graduate School Admissions (written by Ayeza Siddiqi)

Senior year brings with it a wave of emotions and responsibilities. If you are an international student, it’s safe to say you are probably on an emotional roller coaster ride your first semester. Many students, like me, debated options including finding a job, take a gap year, do research or apply to graduate school. As someone who has an interest in academia, I decided to pursue the graduate school option. Some important tips that can help facilitate the process are:

1       Make sure you take your standardized tests well in advance! Almost all graduate schools require some sort of standardized test result (GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT), and this does not apply to only schools in the US. It’s a good idea to air on the side of cautiousness, and take these tests in the summer of your junior year or in the first semester of senior year even if you are not entirely sure you will apply for graduate studies. Most tests, like the GRE, are valid for five years, so it can still come in handy if you decide to take a year or two off!

2       Many universities provide funding to international students for graduate studies (a lot more compared to undergraduate studies!). Most commonly universities offer graduate assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships as methods of funding. Since international students cannot apply for federal aid, these options vary from school to school. There are universities that might ask you to provide proof of funding with the application itself. Therefore, it is important to take your financing into consideration and looking for different options before applying to the graduate programs.

3       Lastly, most graduate school Ph.D programs, and some Masters programs, invite you to interviews when it comes to determining fellowships/funding. In my case, I had to obtain a graduate assistantship to get funding for my program and therefore I had to interview with several different university offices. To navigate the interview process, you must remember three things: firstly, it is really important to plan your trips to the universities well in advance - you don’t want to be the candidate who has to Skype in because of bad planning (trust me, it doesn’t give the best impression!). Secondly, keep extra copies of your resume and cover letter in hand. You never know when you might need it. If you have the time, go to the Career Center for a mock interview and have them take a look at your resume. Lastly, “Thank you” cards should be your best friend - remember to take a stack with you to any university you go. It leaves a good impression on the people you interview with, and also the faculty that you interact with.

As an international student who has recently gone through this process, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any further questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at If you are planning on applying to graduate school, good luck!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Register day for a volunteer opportunity on Saturday, May 18

Ann Arbor Downtown Blooms Day is an opportunity to help beautify the city and to connect with other international students and scholars in a meaningful way. We will plant flowers, mulch planters, and help make the downtown areas along State, Main, South University, and Liberty Streets more attractive. 

Open to all international students, scholars and families.  After the activities, volunteers will receive a free pizza lunch and a free T-shirt or cap.