Sunday, June 28, 2015

Where Should I Buy My Groceries?

Ann Arbor’s grocery scene may not be as vibrant and diverse as those in bustling cities like New York, or Singapore (where I’m from), but it is more than sufficient to meet a university student’s basic needs. Most people I know depend primarily on Kroger as an economical supply of food but there are various other supermarkets worth visiting too.

In my opinion, Kroger and Meijer have the best prices around for the meats and produce you’d typically find in an American grocery store. The quality of items there is middling but they offer a good variety and will suffice if you prefer to get all of your groceries and other household necessities in a single place – without burning a huge hole in your pocket. However, do note that their ethnic offerings are exceedingly limited and slightly overpriced.

If price is your main concern, or if you are feeling adventurous and keen to try new foods, you may want to check out the various ethnic supermarkets in Ann Arbor. Way One Market is one of my go-to places because of its location and price. They may not have kale or arugula or beetroot – ‘foreign’ vegetables that I became acquainted with after my arrival in the States – but they have Chinese spinach, Kai Lan and many other leafy vegetables that are staples in any self-respecting Chinese’s diet and that you’d never find in a Western supermarket. Of course, Chinese and Western cooking utilize many similar ingredients – pork ribs, chicken thighs, broccoli, lettuce etc. – and these usually tend to be cheaper in Chinese food markets than Western ones. In general, you can get much more food for you dollar’s worth in an ethnic supermarket than an American one. Hence, do consider stepping out of your comfort zone and venturing into ethnic territory (not only the Chinese, but the Korean, Indian, Polish etc. food markets near our campus) if you truly want to stretch your dollar or enjoy a more diverse culinary experience.

Trader Joe’s, off Washtenaw, is another economical option too. Their snacks, cookies and chocolates are simply delectable, and their prices are even more so. Notably, their selection of cheese is also unbeatable for the quality, cost and astounding variety. However, I would think thrice about purchasing their fresh produce, fish or meats because those tend to be overpriced and of dubious quality.

Bulk bins were a novelty to me when I first arrived in the States. You’d generally find them in a typical American supermarket and these are another great way to save money on food, while adding variety to your diet. Because you’re only paying for the amount you take, you’re free to take as much or as little as you want. You can try new foods at minimum risk – by being able to purchase the exact quantity you desire, you need not worry about wasting the remaining 4.99kg if you eventually find it distasteful. Neither do you have to embark on an eating frenzy to finish it before it expires.

I was delighted when Lucky’s Market opened early this year because it has a good number of bulk bins offering a dazzling array of confectionaries, nuts, grains, condiments and spices at a very reasonable price per pound, in addition to the typical supermarket finds. By The Pound is a small store on South Main Street that specializes solely in bulk bins. It has an even more extensive selection of bulk bins containing all the typical bulk bin fare, and much more, at more than reasonable prices. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at Lucky’s or By The Pound, you can also check out The People’s Food Co-op. I believe it is slightly pricier per pound as compared to most other places. However, if you only need a small amount or a sample size of a particular item, it might ultimately be more cost-effective to get it at the aforementioned co-op.

There are a handful of other grocery stores in Ann Arbor that I’ve not touched on here. If you have the time and fancy, you may want to slowly check them out to discover which ones are best for your needs and budget. Who knows, your ordinary grocery shopping experience may also be transformed into a cultural immersion of sorts!

Christie Chan
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
B.A: Psychology
Country of Origin: Singapore

Monday, June 22, 2015

LeaderShape Experience

About a month ago I went to LeaderShape as a participant. I signed up for it pretty early, but I was worried sick for what I might run into in an activity that was totally new for me. Everyone who had experience told me to relax, “Just go, it’s great.” Carrying my worries and excitement, there I went.

I met a friend in one info session of LeaderShape so we agreed to “stick together” during that week. However, we got split up on step one—we were not in same dorm. I was afraid I didn’t have much to say or share with my roommates so my friend and I went to staff Sarah and asking for exchange. Sarah said to us this “random” assignment of roommates was actually strategic so there was no room for negotiation. That was when I realized this was time for me to step out of my comfort zone.

The first day was very tiring because I can’t go to sleep so I ended up getting up early. When I lay on bed I couldn’t get rid of the thought that this could be my milestone of life, which turned out to be true. Everyday was filled with knowledge and busy arrangements, everyone including coordinators were all experiencing “sleeping deprivation”. I was starting to be fonder of my pillows, but everyday when I woke up thinking about how exciting I will become since there was still so much to learn, and eat!

Trey, a strong and tough woman, ignited us to learn how to understand leadership, how to use what we have known into real life scenario. I played a few games which really test our community as LeaderShape participants in “difficult situations”. I met my “high five buddy” there and we shared our thoughts, daily life, personal interests and even our dreams for entire week. I joined a family cluster for deep thoughts sharing, perspective exchanging, and life stories. I had a new motto echoing theme of LeaderShape, “Now that you know better, do better.”

What really caught me was my family cluster. Family clusters were designed as a form of “discussion group” but at same time much more than that. Our group shared our life stories which really gave me a new idea about how others were living even though we were all students in U of M. Telling stories really brought us closer and it really provides us a more open space for discussing topics, or just talking things. Our group had so much selfies when we were in LeadersShape community. We even cried at the night before departure. After our session we set up email group and Facebook group where we share life experience almost everyday because we really missed each other. We’ll have a reunion when we all got back to Ann Arbor.

If anyone asks me about how was it when in LeaderShape I would definitely answered, “Just go, it’s great”. What’s more attractive? I gained weight for 10 pounds even if there was no relaxing moment. Because the food in LeaderShape was the champion of the best!

Kun Zhao
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
M.A: Sport Management

Country of Origin: China

Monday, June 15, 2015

Spring-Summer Time in Ann Arbor

While winter in Ann Arbor and Michigan in general can be a harsh, horrendous time that will encourage you to never leave your house or apartment to traverse the long or short route to work or class, the spring and summers here at Ann Arbor are surprisingly pleasant and beautiful. Granted, there is the occasional light snowfall (gasps!) or chilly days that occur throughout the spring and summer, so don’t stow away your jackets just yet, and always, always be prepared for the weather in Ann Arbor! Other than that, experiencing spring/summertime in Ann Arbor feels like you’ve been transported to a different state/country altogether, and you’ll be blessed with warm, sunny days most of the time. In this article, I attempt to discuss and share with you several activities and fun things to do during the spring and summer that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of.

1. Outdoor sports!
One of the most exciting experiences I had during my first spring at Ann Arbor was kayaking down the relaxing Huron River. It was my first time kayaking, so you bet I was feeling nervous and anxious, however, the route was surprisingly easy, and it was definitely a fun and exciting experience! The Argo Canoe Livery and Gallup Park Canoe Livery provide different routes of varying difficulties and charge similar prices that I think are very reasonable for such an exciting experience. Definitely consider kayaking or canoeing if you’re into trying something new or if you’re trying to cool off on a hot sunny day! This wonderful weather also offers opportunities for various outdoor sports that you can enjoy, such as playing Ultimate Frisbee in the Arb or Palmer Field, playing tennis at the courts provided at Palmer Fields, or even playing soccer at Mitchell Field and many more! Whatever you choose, I’m sure that you’ll have a great time as I did when you enjoy the nice weather and camaraderie with your friends or people you meet with during this time of year!

2. Outdoor activities!

The good weather brings countless opportunities to experience and enjoy being outside of your apartment not bundled up in countless layers of clothing. One of the things I highly recommend doing is taking a trip down to the Nichols Arboretum, colloquially known here on campus as the Arb. Being shrouded in greenery and flowers during the springtime, it’s a great place for a jog, playing Frisbee, having a picnic or just taking a leisurely stroll to enjoy the beautiful scenery and landscapes. They also often have events here such as the Peony Garden Bloom Season, where you are able to experience the beautiful flowers that bloom in the flowerbeds in the Arb during this time of year. Another interesting event that happens during the spring/summertime in the Arb is Shakespeare in the Arb, where you’ll be able to experience a mobile play by Shakespeare performed by University of Michigan students that moves audiences through the Arb for different scenes. It will certainly be a very unusual and interesting experience. Another thing that’s worth going to during your time here at Michigan is the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. It’s a huge event that occurs throughout the summer, and features many musical performances, food, movie screenings and more! It’s definitely something to look forward to if you’re here in Ann Arbor during the summer.

3. Food Fiesta!
If you’re a huge foodie like me, you’ll certainly enjoy these events! During late May/Early June, the Ann Arbor Main Street Area Association hosts Taste of Ann Arbor that is a community event that highlights most restaurants located in the downtown Ann Arbor area. Many restaurants located near the main street area take part in this event to promote their food products, and enables visitors to have a quick bite and try many different kinds of food for a reasonable price. Another event that many people (especially students!) enjoy is Ann Arbor Restaurant Week that takes place twice a year, once during January and another time during (you guessed it!) June. Restaurant week allows visitors to try food at various participating restaurants for a fixed price, and offers a one to three course menu, depending on the restaurant and if you’re going for lunch or dinner. I find that restaurants participating in restaurant week offer really good deals for the meals that they provide, and it also provides you with an opportunity to try out several fine-dining restaurants without burning a hole in your wallet! So, save a date in your calendar for restaurant week if there’s a restaurant that you’re dying to try out but it’s too expensive! Lastly, don’t forget to check out the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown for fresh food and local produce!

I hope that you’ll find my suggestions and ideas useful and that you’ll be able to occupy your summer with these exciting events! Don’t forget to keep exploring and discover more fun and exciting things to do, and welcome to Michigan!

Teck Sheng Tan
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Major: Psychology
Country of Origin: Malaysia

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trials and Tribulations of a Non-native Speaker

Congratulations on getting into the University of Michigan, one of the top public universities in world! Whether you were a high school graduate who had to spend countless hours studying for the SAT and TOEFL/IELTS while simultaneously finishing your school exams, or you were an undergraduate who had to give the GRE/GMAT (and TOEFL/IELTS as well) to get into graduate school. For what it's worth, your hard work and determination brought you into this fine institution and now you will get to work with the Leaders and Best.

Since I mentioned TOEFL/IELTS, I would like to take this chance to enlighten my fellow incoming students that the speaking portion of those tests is not a true reflection of how people speak in the United States. Just like other languages, English is filled with various idioms and phrases that do not follow the usual definition of the word itself. For example, during my first year here, people used the word ‘steal’ when they wanted to borrow something. Startled, I said yes without thinking and then go into introspection on whether he/she had actually stole a furniture in my presence. Another such case arises when someone gives the wrong information at first and then corrects himself/herself by saying ‘I lied’ after realizing their mistake. Surely, the context of that word would apply after one had found out that he/she was incorrect, but saying that before seems to lighten the embarrassing situation between the speakers in my opinion
English is not an easy language to master especially if your native language belongs to a different language family (Language Tree) but there are opportunities to improve here at Michigan. Since last year, Sweetland Centre for Writing started a new program called Chat CafĂ© where small groups of international students engage in current topics with a native English speaker who facilitates the discussion. Another way of improving is through the Language Resource Centre’s (LRC) Conversation Partner program where you can find a language partner who wants to learn your language in exchange for teaching their own. The same goes for the Language Exchange Club (LEC) in Michigan. The English Language Institute (ELI) have Speaking Clinics for the University’s Academic community that is designed to provide short-term coaching on specific English speaking goals. In addition, just like Sweetland’s chat circles, ELI also has Conversation Circles where international students and scholars at U-M are provided with opportunity to practice English in an informal, casual setting. The best part of all of these programs is that they are free of cost. If these do not work out, you can still takes classes through Sweetland (Writing 240) for undergraduates or through ELI for graduate students.
So that is all I have for now. I hope it serves useful to my fellow incoming undergraduate and graduate students. Even if you do not make any American friends or embrace the televised entertainment here, you will be compelled to communicate in English in the university setting regardless. As a result, you will inadvertently become more proficient in your second language and soon may sound like a native speaker as well. However, should you doubt that your English is sub-par, remember what brought you into this competitive institution in the first place. English is just one aspect of your plethora of skills, hence your acumen in other subjects is what got you here too. So give yourself a pat on the back and get ready to be a Wolverine.
Irfanul Alam
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
B.Sc. in Cellular and Molecular Biology
Country of Origin: Bangladesh

Monday, June 1, 2015

Finding the “Perfect Home”

Finding the right place to live is not always easy as there are so many factors that need to be considered. Some of the things that need to be considered are rent, location, convenience, etc. Certain homes satisfy most of your needs but may be higher in price. Certain homes may be budget friendly but may make your commute to school a terrible experience. It is important that you balance out all these factors in making your decision. Here are a few steps I took in my decision making process.

1.  Living on-campus vs. Living off-campus
First things first, you may want to decide whether you want to live in a dorm on campus, or live somewhere off campus. The dorms are located in various locations around North and Central Campus and function as small accessible communities within the university. About 97% of the incoming freshmen decide to live in the dorms because it allows a smooth transition from high school to college. Also, as the meal plans are included in the housing price, there is one less thing to worry about. All students at the University of Michigan are eligible to live in the dorms. However, due to high demand, the priority is given to freshmen and students who have lived in dorms for fewer terms. More information can be found at the university’s housing website.

2. Selecting a price range
The price is definitely something that you want to consider before anything else, as it is pointless to search for housing that is not affordable to you. Naturally, the homes with nicer facilities and convenient locations tend to be higher in price. If you don’t mind a little walk every morning, finding an apartment that is slightly farther away from the campus can bring down your costs by fairly large amounts. Also, sharing an apartment with other roommates is another way you can cut costs (however, it is more difficult to sublet because most people who are looking for rooms during the summer prefer to live alone!). The university offers off-campus housing resources on its website, so you may want to check that out.

3. Selecting the location
Michigan winters are brutal. So to be honest, the walks between your house and your classes or to the gym are not fun during the wintertime. Therefore, I highly recommend that you think about where you will be spending most of your time in. If you are a business, economics, or a psychology major for example, you may want to look for a place to live somewhere near South University. If you are a fitness maniac and like to hit the gym two times a day, you may want to find a place to live near the recreational buildings. Also, you may want to think about your lifestyle before you make your decision. If you are a type of person that likes to eat out, you may want to find a location where there are many restaurants around. If you like to cook, you may want to live near a grocery store. If your house does not have a washer or dryer, you may want to see if there is a place where you can do laundry around your house.

There are many other things that should be considered in finding your “perfect home,” but I hope these steps have made your decision making a little bit easier. Ann Arbor is a beautiful city and I assure you all locations are awesome in their own unique ways. I hope you make the most out of it, and good luck!

Jaeyoon Jung
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor
Major: Economics
Country of Origin: South Korea

Great Places to Visit in Northern Michigan

Winter might not be the best season to travel around in Michigan, yet there are a lot of places to see when it gets warmer. If you are new to Michigan, and are interested in exploring the Northern Michigan area, the following places would make perfect sense to you!

1. Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dune National Park is voted as the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” It is a must-see of the Michigan Upper Peninsula. The park features sand dunes about 300 feet (91.4 meters) tall that eventually end into Lake Michigan. The Dune Climb is a fun activity to kick your shoes off and embrace the giant sandbox. The spectacular views across the lake are definitely worth the effort once you reach the top. However, it would be a good idea to evaluate the physical strengths before you actually start. And if you ever get tired before reaching the top, the picnic area is always there waiting for you to slide down for a nice relax!

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2. Holland
If you would like to experience a different culture, Holland will be a great place for visitors to learn about its rich Dutch heritage. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Holland is famous for its white sandy beach and Dutch traditions. The city is featured with delicate Dutch cuisines, Dutch architecture (particularly in the downtown areas), and Dutch attractions such as Windmill and Klopen dance. In the early spring season, don’t miss out the great opportunity to see the Tulip Festival where tulips bloom in every color you can imagine. During Christmas, check out the annual Dutch Wintefest to experience the traditional European holiday celebration with night parades, ice sculpting competition, Christmas exhibits and much more!

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3. Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is a unique island in Lake Huron where no motorized vehicles are allowed. The island would be a fun place for outdoor adventurists to go hiking, bicycling or horse-riding. The downtown area is famous for its fur trade era homes and shops, as well as grand Victorian cottages. When you take a walk on the Mackinac, you would feel like as if travelling back to the Victorian Era. Another interesting attraction is the lighthouse. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other states. Each lighthouse has a distinctive look and it emits light to serve as a navigational aid for ships. So make sure to visit Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse with a history of more than 126 years. Especially at night, you will see beacon of light shines across the sky. Mackinac also has a global reputation for its homemade fudge, whose history can be dated back to the late 19th century. So don’t forget to sample the delicious fudge available in every flavor you can imagine!

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Before you start the road trip, here are some travel tips that might be helpful:
  1. Do some research on the places that you would like to visit and make a plan of what you want to do. The plan would be helpful to make your trip organized and efficient.
  2. Always put safety as your number one priority. Driving could take as long as 3-4 hours so make sure you drive safely on the road. While visiting a state park or a national park, you will probably be involved in a series of outdoor activities. So make sure to evaluate your physical strengths before start.
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek help from the local people. You would get valuable information from them.
  4. If you would like to learn more about where to visit, check out this amazing website offered by official Michigan travel agency: Pure Michigan
  5. Last but not least, I hope everyone will enjoy their road trip up north! Bon voyage!

Zoe Zhou
Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Master in Accounting
Country of Origin: China