Friday, August 15, 2014

For the love of shopping

As a shopping lover, you might be an expert in shopping in your home country, but I’m sure you will need these tips and strategies to survive in the overwhelming shopping choices and stores in the US.
Save for the most necessary ones. Here in Ann Arbor, first and foremost, you need to be well equipped for winter because winter is not far when fall comes. In order to survive in the five to six months’ winter time, you need to get your winter clothes ready. Winter clothes usually cost more than summer t-shirts, so be prepared to spend some good amount of money on your winter clothes to keep you warm and comfortable. Don’t buy too much when clothes are on sale before you make sure you really need them.
Consider textbook as a part of your budget. Don’t expect you can deal with textbooks within a few bucks. However, there are still ways to save on textbook spending. I believe most of you know about Amazon, but how about Amazon Student Prime. Currently, Amazon has six-month membership free trial which can give you unlimited two-day free shipping for half a year. How does that sound? There is more textbook-focused website like Chegg which makes it more convenient to rent and purchase books. Half-ebay also has good deals on used textbooks. It is really your choice to choose between purchasing new books or used ones. I would recommend used books because according to my experiences, I’ve always been surprised and satisfied with the quality of used books. Make sure you are looking for the required edition or ask your professor before you make the purchase. Finally, don’t forget the UM Book Exchange in the beginning of every semester.
Search for online coupons. You can always find online coupons of some online stores, such as Sephora (personal care), H&M (clothes), etc. Try to search online coupons (you can simply put “store name” coupon in Google) before you place the order, there is always surprise out there that could save your money, so why not?
Take advantage of what university has to offer. You can go almost anywhere with public transportation free of charge using your MCard. You will get a $15 eye exam annually and discount on glasses and contact lens with your student insurance. In addition, if you like socializing, our campus has an array of museums, movie nights and social events for cheaper price or even free.
Use a free finance management tool. For example, also has its corresponding apps in smartphones, which is really convenient and keeps track of your money automatically. It is much easier to manage your finance when you actually know where your money goes.  I found it really useful as it gives you a visual look of your spending and earning, and it also divides your spending into categories, such as shopping, grocery, so that you will not over spend on any certain categories. Most importantly, it is safe, free and automatic.
Share with your friends. It is always a good idea to share with your friends your tips and tricks for shopping, and you might get better suggestions from them in return. At the same time, you can make friends by having shopping as a common interest and make your next shopping trip much more fun.
All of these are just some tips that I use for shopping and financial management in the US. They are not official or authoritative, and sometimes it might not fit for your shopping style. The best way is to figure out your own as you experience through this life journey in the US. If you want to know more specific about shopping in Ann Arbor, don’t forget to join us in the August workshops! Welcome to Michigan and good luck to all of you!

Enni Zhao
Transfer Connections Summer Coordinator
Transfer Connections Mentor

International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

As Changeable As Weather

The weather in Ann Arbor is totally unpredictable and sometimes extreme; as Jeff Foxworthy once said, "If you've ever worn shorts and a parka on the same day -- you might be in Michigan." It could vary unexpectedly and in a very short span of time. Some days might start sunny, heavy rain for the afternoon (may be with thunderstorm warning) and might get too cold in the evening.
Ann Arbor averages 45-50 inches of snow per winter season. We had our snowiest winter on record last year with 90.3 inches, but some years can have much less snow, on the order of 25-30 inches. Either way, it will be an experience if you’ve never seen one before. But winter can be fun and I can assure you no picture can do the beauty of a fresh snowfall justice. Now, as a college student, there is NO better time than Fall in Ann Arbor! The trees turning colors, apple cider, U of M football, the crisp weather- there is no time like it (Ann Arbor is a huge college town, as you may already know). Spring may take a while to get here (it usually snows a few times in April), but again, seeing everything come alive from winter is neat. Lastly, summer will be VERY comfortable as it doesn’t get too hot (at least not as my hometown in India). There will be a handful of hot summer days in the 90s, and also a handful of cool summer days in the 60s-70s, but the huge majority of summer is sunny with highs in the 80s.
To realistically prepare them for an Ann Arbor winter- What locals consider a "mild" or "easy" winter would be one where the temperature only gets into the single digits a few times, with many winter days thawing in the 30s and 40s (all temperatures in Fahrenheit), and snowfall totals only around 20-25" by the time spring comes (of course this being the total, not all at once). A "severe" winter would see several dozen weeks’ worth of lows below zero, not seeing 30 degrees for over a month, and seeing upwards of 60-70"+ of snow. There are some nice places around to shop for winters.
There are lot of options, like Briarwood Mall, Burlington Coat Factory etc. are available around for winter’s shopping. Having proper clothes and shoes are very important especially during snowfall. Negligence could be very dangerous and could lead to very serious health issues like frostbite etc. Snow shovels and other equipments are also available in community centers and with resident advisors.
Don’t be scared and don’t hesitate to ask for help from senior students, faculty or staff members and everyone here would be happy to help you. We live like a family and support and love each other like one. Have a happy stay in Ann Arbor!

Prepared by Deepak Singh
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from India
Ph.D. student in Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Night Life

As is expected of a university town, Ann Arbor is known for its diversity and vibrancy. One of the beautiful things about the city is how the University and the city are so intertwined that within the central and south campuses you are sometimes unaware of where one stops and the other begins.
As a result of this diversity, night life in Ann Arbor is a varied experience, and depending on what your flavor of fun or penchant for relaxation is, you might have several options available to you to choose from. With its host of restaurants, bars, lounges, and clubs, Ann Arbor has a very active night life.
If you’re like me and after a week of classes you enjoy relaxing with music, dancing, and games like billiards or darts, then the establishments below and a host of others can cater to your needs.
Located in the basement of the restaurant Lena, on the corner of Main and Liberty, Habana is one of my favorite night spots. Thursdays here is Salsa night, and the music is predominantly of the Latin American variety; usually suited to Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Cha Cha and Reggaeton genres. On Friday and Saturday nights the DJs play a mix of popular music from several genres. With a 3.5 rating on Yelp, it’s definitely worth an experience. As is expected of a club, it has an age restriction of 21.
Rush Street
Also located on Main Street, Rush Street also features popular music on Fridays and Saturdays. With a considerably sized lounge area, it caters to the needs of people who simply want to listen to music and hang out with friends and as well as those who want to get on the dance floor. It has also has an age restriction of 21.
Located on Liberty, this is a regular bar and lounge. Drinks and food are provided in an environment with a nice ambience, with patio sitting available during the times of the year when that option is worth trying. On Friday nights, a section of the lounge is transformed into a dance floor with the music mainly of the Latin American variety. The age restriction for entry is 18, although patrons younger than 21 are not allowed to purchase any alcohol.
Located on South 1st Street, Circus provides the classic bar and lounge experience with additional entertainment like karaoke and billiards. It also has a huge dance area and features mostly popular music. There is an age restriction of 21.
Located on West Liberty, Blue Karaoke provides a more private setting for having fun with friends with karaoke. With the opportunity for making reservations for parties of a certain size, it provides an ideal setting for individuals who don’t like big crowd settings. A plus for this location is the fact that on weekends, it stays open until 5am, whereas all the other clubs and bars close at 2am.
Resources like this Ann Arbor Clubs have pretty extensive lists of clubs and bars and other establishments that help make nightlife in Ann Arbor a fun experience. Add to these the myriad social events organized by student organizations and various organizations affiliated with the university and everyone, no matter their proclivity will find something fun to do in Ann Arbor.

Prepared by Femi Sawyerr 
Graduate Student from Nigeria 
Master in Natural Resources and Environment 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Campus and Community Resources

Fortunately, with a school the size of Michigan, there are countless number of on-campus resources that are available to support you, often at no additional cost to you! For instance, you probably know the International Center by now and how it can assist you.

For me, one of my biggest challenges is developing a new friendship group after arriving in the U.S. The residence hall is a great place to make friends! If you live on campus, you will meet your resident advisor soon after moving into your residence hall. They will serve as an invaluable resource to you whether by answering your questions or by putting on events so you can get to know the people in your residence hall. I made solid friends by attending the first community dinner my RA hosted and the fun events they hosted throughout the year.

In addition, exams can be very stressful since many tend to occur during the same week. If you ever feel down, stressed or overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the Counselling and Psychological Services a visit at the Michigan Union! They have trained counselors when can meet with you right away if needed. When I felt stressed the first time I had exams, I visited CAPS and got a free chair massage in their Wellness Zone. I felt really relaxed afterwards. In addition to massage chairs, they also offer yoga, meditation, Xbox Kinect and more! Give it a try!

Also, right next to CAPS is the Dean of Students office. Their office is here  to support you through tough and stressful situations and help you get on track with your studies. For instance, their office can send out an email to all your professors asking them to accommodate you academically if you are facing a hardship that is interfering with your academics.

As a freshmen, I often forgot to stay active due to the hustle and bustle of college life. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the many wellness resources my first year. I knew about University Health Services. It’s like a smaller hospital that serves only U-M students. But it was not until sophomore year did I step foot into one of the three campus recreational centers. These centers are great places for those who are serious about body-building and also for those who are simply looking to stay fit and active like myself. If you are interested, the University also offers a variety of fitness classes through a program called  U-Move. You can choose a particular class from a list of over 40 classes or get a semester pass and attend any class you would like for a whole semester. I had a semester pass my sophomore year and went to a variety of classes including kickboxing, zumba, hip hop...

Like I said, most of these services require no additional cost. You already paid by paying tuition, so it’s not a bad idea to get your money’s worth by utilizing them!

Written by Josh Qian
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser from China 
Bachelor: Industrial and Operations Engineering