Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Around Campus and Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan has a campus size of 12.86 km2 (3177 acres), situated within the 74.33 km2 (18367 acres) of Ann Arbor. This makes both the UM campus and the city of Ann Arbor a vast space that can seem daunting to traverse. However, the buses available both on and off campus, as well as the many taxi services, make traveling in and around campus simple. 

 The university has a bus system, aptly named the “U-M Buses.” In total, there are around seven different bus routes, which can take riders almost anywhere on North, Central and South campus, as well as the Medical campus. The stops for these buses are conveniently located all over campus (with signs indicating their location), and the buses themselves run every fifteen to twenty minutes. During the Fall and Winter semesters, these buses run regularly, with some even running seven days a week. However, it’s important to know that there are fewer buses running during the Spring and Summer semesters because of the decrease in the number of students on campus. Even then, it’s still possible to get to almost any place on campus, but you might not be able to use your usual bus routes and you may have to wait longer for buses to arrive. However, with the U of M Magic Bus website and iPhone application, you’ll always know which buses are running and when they will arrive at your stop. 

Getting around the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area is just as simple, thanks to the MRide program. Because of this program, students with a valid UM ID can ride the Ann Arbor Transportation (AATA) buses (also known as "The Ride") at no charge. These buses have stops at a variety of locations on campus, and can take you to a variety of locations around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. So, whether you want to watch a movie at Rave Motion Pictures, or if you need to visit the Social Secretary Administration, there is a bus that will take you there. However, just remember to always check the schedule at The Ride website. These buses run approximately every 20 minutes during the day, and every hour from evening onwards. But on weekends they have a different schedule, and stop running much earlier. Additionally, the AATA bus schedules are revised seasonally. So, before you decide to take the bus, make sure you’ve checked the latest schedule so you aren’t stranded. On a slightly related note, if you aren’t sure when you need to get off, always ask the bus driver. Even now, I ask the driver to let me know when my stop is coming up, so I know when to get off. This ensures that you won’t get off at the wrong stop.
In addition to the bus system, there are also several taxi services available in the Ann Arbor area. Two such taxi services include the Blue Cab and Amazing Blue. All you need to do is call them, give them your location, and they arrive to pick you up within a reasonable time frame. You can even ask for a specific driver or a specific type of car (e.g. you can ask for a van if you’ve just done a lot of shopping for your apartment/residence hall). These taxis can be expensive, but for times when there are no buses running, or when you have a lot of things to move, or you need to get somewhere important at a specific time, they can be very useful and reliable. 

For more information about moving around campus, and other types of transportation services available, you can check out the UM Transportation and Services website. The website not only discuses the buses available on campus, but includes information on bicycles, motorcycles and carpools. So be sure to check it out!

Written By:  Aashana Sunderrajan, Undergraduate student studying Sociology; Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience

Monday, July 29, 2013


The University of Michigan renowned for its academic has a couple of resources which I’ll highlight below. 

Flashback to the engineering career fair, and every engineering student brings out their resume/cv and thinks of ways to improve it for it to stand out since there are jobs and internship positions up for grabs. My mind just goes to the career center and the engineering career resource center. Located in the Student Activities Building and Crysler Center respectively, they assist one in resume and cover letter preparation, interview preparation and the even bringing out the forgotten skills which hadn’t been put on paper. They really do such good work in linking one in the job-search process and also available are a number of international resources. It’s as simple as booking an appointment with them and 50% of your troubles will be over. Okay probably about 25%.

A semester can be long and grueling coupled with the rigorous academic work and research work. We all get to that point in the semester where we want to recoil into isolation and get away from the pressures of the academic world and have some basic fun or bring out the child in us. Probably it doesn’t happen to you but I experience that a lot. Then the question stands, what’s happening on campus this weekend??? My answer - the union/campus information center. I most of the time look forward to passing by the campus information center, because of the numerous flyers advertising some fun things or upcoming programs. Be it the New York Philharmonic Orchestra concert gracing the Hill Auditorium, a student gathering at the diag, movie discounts at the Michigan Theatre or the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, there’s always something ‘cooking’.

Living in Northwood IV community apartment, I can bet my last dime I will be able to hear a pin drop in the next apartment. Okay, that’s extreme exaggeration. Despite the fact that it provides a conducive atmosphere for academic studies, the Northwood Community Center also has some resources to liven up the lives of residents. From community sports games, tournaments, workshops and outings. Even those living with kids aren’t left out.

In addition to the social interaction that twitter and facebook offers, I love following the twitter account of Ann Arbor ( / @AnnArborcom) since it informs me of events happening downtown Ann Arbor. Following the campus information center on twitter also gives as much information too.


Written By: Robert Lawson, Masters Student in Aerospace Engineering

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Working Out Part II

To continue my post in June, I am introducing more working out options in or nearby Ann Arbor. This time, I focus on outdoor adventures and some random ideas.

Michigan is heaven for Cross Country (XC)  ski lovers thanks to the enormous amount of snow we get during winter time.The Outdoor Adventure organizes XC ski trips to nearby trails. For a day trip, you pay around 30 USD and it covers all the necessary rentals, lunch, transportation and an introductory course on XC ski, strongly recommended for beginners. If you are experienced, then it might not be the right call for you ,but feel free to rent XC ski gears from the Outdoor Adventure and explore surrounding trials by yourself.

There are plenty of trails nearby Ann Arbor, for example, the Huron-Clintorn Metroparks (where you can also rent ski gear), Independence Lakes,  etc.

Snow Shoeing and Snow Hiking:
Besides XC ski, Snow Shoeing--hiking with snow shoes (you can also rent it from the Outdoor Adventure!) and snow hiking--simply hiking with waterproof shoes, are also popular winter outdoor activities in Michigan. The above XC trials are all suitable for snow shoeing/hiking. In addition, some more windy trials or ungroomed trials that may not be ideal for XC skiing are still recommended for hikers. I personally prefer snow shoeing because it allows me to step onto thick and soft newly snowed trials.

Unfortunately, Michigan is very flat and henceis  not the perfect destination for down hill skiers. If you would still like to go skiing, the most popular nearby ones are Nub's Nob and Boyne. Otherwise, you will have to travel much further--more than 8 hours' drive--to, for example, West Virginia. Groupons, Living Social, etc occasionally feature some more local ski resorts during winter time, for example Mt. Brighton. It's a good deal for absolute beginners.

Scuba Diving:

Want to become a certified scuba diver? Visit Huron Scuba. Michigan is too cold most of the year to go under the water, but over the summer the great lakes around Michigan provide a peaceful experience for beginners to try out. (It is more difficult to dive in the ocean because of the strong current, hence lakes are ideal to start with.)

Indoor Climbing:
IMSB is equipped with walls for indoor climbing and bouldering. Planet Rock costs a little more money than IMSB, out near Jackson and Wagner.

Martial Arts:
I am not into martial arts myself. But a classmate of mine practices Kendo and has made many friends through the UMich Kendo club. A quick search tells me there are a variety of such clubs, from Jiu Jistu to Taek won do, etc. Working out and meeting people, kill two birds with one stone!

The beautiful Huron river runs through Ann Arbor. People love relaxing on the river over the summer. Argo and Gallup park rent boats. Rackham also organizes social kayaking social events over the summer.

Written By: Wendy Shang, U-M PhD Student in Mathematics

Friday, July 26, 2013

Freshman 15-Guide to Healthy Dining Hall Eating Part #1

“From international cuisine to vegetarian entrées to gourmet pizzas, dining at Michigan is all about options. With many dining halls, residential cafés and meal plans to choose from, there’s always a tasty way to satisfy your craving for something healthy, hearty, spicy, crunchy, juicy, grilled or made to order.”
-Excerpt from the University of Michigan Housing Website

Hey everyone, welcome back to my blog! This week and the week of August 11th we are going to talk about how to eat healthy in the dining hall. Have you heard of the term Freshman 15? Freshman 15 is a popular and unique term used in the United States. It means that on average a new college student would gain 15 pounds in the first year due to unhealthy and uncontrolled eating habits. 15 pounds in a year? That may sound unbelievable and exaggerated to you! According to a recent study, it found that about 10% of college freshman did gain 15 pounds or more and the average person gained 1.5 pounds. So, are you ready to combat the Freshman 15? Before we go into a deep discussion about how to eat smart and build your own food pyramid, let’s first learn about the dining hall system here at the University of Michigan.

The University of Michigan has 8 dining halls located on central and north campus. Each dining hall has its own weekly menu and hours. All the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, and special holiday meals) come with buffet style, also known as All You Can Eat. Doesn’t this sound wonderful? J To eat in the dining hall, you can use either a meal plan or blue bucks & dining dollars. Meal plan is a good option for students living on campus and also students who live off-campus but want to eat in the dining hall most of the time. Meal plan is like a dining contract. You can choose how many meals you want to have in the dining hall per semester. The number of meals may range from 125 to Unlimited for resident hall residents and from 50 to Unlimited for Northwood residents and off-campus residents. If you are not sure which plan to choose, there is a Meal Plan Calculator that would help you figure out the best option for you. Once you sign up for the dining contract, it will be automatically loaded to your Mcard. Swipe your Mcard at the entrance and now you are ready to explore and treat yourself at any of the 8 dining halls! Another perk is that each meal plan comes with a certain amount of dining dollars, blue bucks, and guest meals. Dining dollars can be used in the dining halls, café, and snack bars in the residence halls. Blue bucks are the UM’s on-campus currency and they are accepted at a variety of on-campus locations including vending machines. Guest meals are useful when your family and friends are here and you can use guest meals to treat them. If you are not a fan of the meal plan but still want to try the dining hall meal from time to time, why not just buy some blue bucks? They are available online for your purchase and are credited to your Mcard immediately after the transaction is complete.

As I introduced before, each dining hall specializes in different type of foods to attract student dinners. You have so many choices: American food, European food, Asian food, Mexican food, Vegan food, Vegetarian food, Halal food, Gluten-free food, and more! Now, you may understand why students gain weights in the first year. Then, you may begin to worry: what on earth should I eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner every day, let alone eat healthy and smart? To make student’s life easier, the University Housing has come up with a great online tool MyNutrition to help you 1) select well-balanced meal, 2) see how your food choices measure up nutritionally, and 3) screen foods that contain allergens. Give it a try!

Although MyNutrition is a useful tool to record what nutrition you get from each meal, it is the food choice that makes the difference. In the next blog, we will talk about how to make the right choice by building your individual daily food pyramid. Stay tuned!

Written by Yihan Sun, pharmacy professional student (Pharm.D) at UM

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tips for Registering for Classes for Incoming Freshmen (LSA)

 Being a freshman as an international student can be intimidating: being in a new country on a new campus surrounded by new people is daunting. But for me, one of the hardest aspects of being an international student freshman was registering for classes. 

As an international student freshman, you’re allowed to register for classes (for the fall semester) only a few days before the actual semester begins. This means that a lot of the classes you may have decided to take are full. When I was an incoming freshman, I remember I spent the summer looking through the list of classes available and selecting ones I wanted to take - for my major, to be able to register for higher level courses in the future or just because I thought they sounded interesting. But when I got to campus and had my meeting with my advisor, I found out that every class I’d selected was full. So, I ended up in absolutely random classes, worried about how they would be and how it would affect my academic progress at UM. Fortunately for me, I was lucky. My classes ended up being extremely enjoyable, and the credits I earned went towards a lot of the LSA college wide requirements. But for some international students, this first semester sometimes ends up being a waste. So, below are a few tips and bits of advice I feel might help you decide which classes to register for, to maximize your time and minimize your stress.

TIP #1
If you already know what you want to major in, or at least have a vague idea, look for classes that relate to your major. The LSA Course Guide is the perfect place to start, as it has classes sorted by department. Chances are a lot of the classes you’d like to take will already be full. I know I wasn’t able to get into any of the classes I wanted to for my major. But, you never know. There might be that one class that has an open seat. If it sounds interesting to you and if you’ve fulfilled all the prerequisites, you’ll be able to register for that class and come one tiny step closer to finishing your concentration requirements!

TIP #2
If you don’t know what you want to major in, take classes that sound interesting or that you think you’ll enjoy. This might sound like a waste of a semester, but at UM, no classes are a genuine waste of time. Classes such as these will allow you to become accustomed to what classes are like at UM, while also giving you the opportunity to learn something fascinating. I’m currently majoring in Psychology and Sociology, but I wasn’t able to get into any class relating to my major in my first semester as a freshman. But I also love to paint, so as a freshman I ended up taking Printmaking for Non-majors (ARTDES 171). That class is still one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken, but it has also been one of the best. While the skills I learned aren’t applicable in my majors, they’re still amazing skills that I have and can use. For me, that’s pretty awesome. So, if you love Shakespeare, think Disney movies are awesome or want to know if aliens are real, your freshman year (especially when you’re unsure about your major) is really the perfect time for you to take classes to find out.

TIP #3
Try taking classes to fulfill your college wide requirements, which include first-year writing, upper-level writing, race and ethnicity, quantitative reasoning and a language. English 124 and 125 are geared towards fulfilling your first-year writing requirement. Each section of the class has a slightly different overarching topic, with different readings and different writing assignments. But overall, you’ll spend the entire semester reading articles and writing essays. Unless you love English, it’s a pretty dull class. But, since you have to fulfill this requirement, you might as well take it as a freshman. Note that there are other classes that fulfill your first-year writing requirement, such as Classical Civilization I: The Ancient Greek World (CLCIV 101). Yet, these classes can be more intensive, so you should take them if you’re truly interested in the topic. Upper-level writing is a requirement you should save until you know what your major is, because many departments offer 300- or 400- level classes for your major that fulfill this requirement. Last semester, I took a sociology class that was also an upper-level writing class, and this way, I was able to get credit from one class to complete two different requirements. Classes that fulfill the race and ethnicity requirement range from ones that talk about the conflict in the Middle East (AAPTIS 244) to those that discuss the rise and fall of witchcraft (HIST 375). So, the best thing to do is to take a class that you find interesting. Quantitative reasoning is predominantly fulfilled by math classes. Sometimes, you can fulfill this requirement by taking a class that you also need to take for your major. For example, I took Statistics 250 for both psychology and sociology, but the class also fulfills the quantitative reasoning requirement. So, if you do know your major and you know that you need to take a math class, check to see if it fulfills quantitative reasoning before registering for another math class. Language requirements are hard, and take a while to complete. During the first week of orientation, language tests are offered that show the college your proficiency. So, if you speak a language other than English, register for one of these tests. If you’re lucky, you’ll test out of the requirement. If not, you’ll at least test out of some of the classes, leaving few to take. If you graduated high school with a bilingual diploma, make sure your adviser knows. I did, and I had my language requirement waived. This way, you’ll have one less thing to worry about completing.

TIP #4
100-level classes are your friends. These classes are designed for incoming freshmen: they move at a good pace, they cover introductory and basic material and they give you an insight into how classes are graded at UM. Plus, higher level classes usually have prerequisites that include a low, 100-level class. Thus, 100-level classes are the key that lets you unlock higher level classes. So, the sooner you take these, the sooner you’ll be able to take those higher level classes that actually matter for your major.

TIP #5
Waitlists are good. Sometimes. But back-up classes are better. As a freshman. When a class has a waitlist, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no way you’ll get into the class. On the contrary, I know I’ve gotten into several classes over the last year or so by waiting patiently on the waitlist. If you’re on the waitlist, you should first send the professor an email. Chances are, they won’t read it, and if they do, they won’t reply (these professors get emails from everyone on the waitlist). But, if you have a professor that actually does read these emails, it will show them that you genuinely care about the class, and since they’re the ones that can let you into the class, this is a good thing. Once the semester starts, you should attend the class for at least that first week. Professors almost always discuss the waitlist in their first lecture. This is when you find out if there is a possibility of you getting into the class. If the professor makes it clear that the class is full and that no space will open up, move on. But, if the professor says there is a possibility of getting into the class, you can wait it out. As a sophomore, I attended a class for two weeks before I was finally taken off the waitlist and was able to register. It’s a gamble, because you might not end up in the class after all, but sometimes it does pay off. Again, as a sophomore I was on the waitlist for another class. But for this class, the waitlist exceeded 80 students, and so the department opened a new section with a new professor, and I was able to register for the class. So, don’t be afraid to register for a class with a waitlist. However, ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP. And register for that back-up. This way, if you don’t get into your waitlisted class, you aren’t left stranded without a replacement class two weeks into the semester.

These tips aren’t exhaustive. But hopefully they’ll help you when you’re registering for classes as a new freshman at UM.

Written by: Aashana Sunderrajan, Undergraduate student studying Sociology; Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to Dress for a Michigan Winter

While I enjoy winter in Ann Arbor, it does get very cold; and many students who are from a warmer climate find the winter temperatures unbearable.  As a result, it is important to dress warmly, especially if you plan on being outside for a period of time. Below are several clothing suggestions that will help keep you warm in the winter. 

1. Dress in layers: One of the most important things to remember is to always dress in layers during the winter.  It will help keep you warm when the temperature goes below freezing.  For instance, wear a tank top that you can tuck into your pants under a long sleeve shirt.  Remember to wear something under your jeans such as thermal underwear, leggings, tights, long john’s (the male equivalent to leggings), pajamas, sweats, or anything that you can fit underneath your jeans.  Also wearing two layers of socks is helpful if you don’t want to buy thicker socks made of wool.

2. Wear the correct boots: While flip-flops and converse are comfortable during the summer and spring, winter boots are a necessary purchase for the winter.   Good winter boots will keep you warm, are waterproof/water resistant, and have good traction.  Many good quality boots have temperature ratings on their tag, and this is a good way to determine how effective they are in keeping your feet warm.  A good way to determine if the boots are waterproof or water-resistant is to look at the outside material.  For instance, if the outside material of the boot is rubber, then they are good at keeping water out. If the outside material of the boots is suede, then they're probably not good.  However, if you have some boots that are not waterproof, you can always use a waterproof spray on the boots.  To determine if boots have good traction, look for grooves on the soles of the boots.  If the sole of the boots are smooth, then you will be more prone to falling on icy and slippery surfaces.

3. Wear a coat that covers your waist: While cropped jackets are cute, they won’t keep you warm during the winter.  Make sure that any coat you bring/buy will cover your waist completely.  The longer the coat is, the warmer you will be.  A good winter coat to buy is one with down feather insulation and one that is waterproof or water-resistant.  Also a coat with a hood is a perfect for keeping your head warm.


4. Don't forget to keep your head warm: Since you lose more heat through your head than any other part of your body, it is important to wear a hat, especially if you are going to be outside for a good chunk of time.  If hats aren’t for you, then having a hood on your coat or wearing earmuffs is helpful as well.


Hopefully these four suggestions will help you stay warm so that you can enjoy all the fun outside winter activities. 

Written by: Sonja Grinfeld, Doctor of Pharmacy Student