November 2011 Archives

OMG! Is it December, already?! Thanksgiving is gone. Time flies.

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Couple of weeks in mid- to late-November are always very busy with a full of events and projects to me (and probably to most people). It is probably the most exciting season of the year, but I am glad that I have survived this crazy time again.


EVENTS
1. Thanksgiving
Although I did not grow up with Thanksgiving tradition, it is kind of the "must" as I am living in US (and of course, I LOVE enjoying foods!). As neither my husband nor I have family in US, we have developed our tradition to join our close friend's family gathering. Turkey.JPGIt is a big family gathering with probably over 30 family members. Everybody brings in one or more Thanksgiving dish (stuffing, dumpling, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, casseroles, etc...) and the host bakes turkey and ham. We are not part of their family, but they welcome and treat us as their family every year. We feel so blessed...we will be joining their Christmas dinner in December, too!

2. Black Friday
I'm not talking about only crazy shopping on Friday morning. Of course, I do go to find Friday morning deal, but all the best deal come in on line shopping, too...On Black Friday, we got a sweater and two pairs of pants for my husband, a down jacket for me, and a good sauce pan that we had wanted to buy for a while. As for on-line shopping, I have been receiving a package almost everyday :)


PROJECTS
1. Personalized calender
Last year, we created and ordered a personalized wall calender to Shutterfly using a coupon. Because our daughter was born in 2010, we created a calender with her pictures taken in each month. That means we included pictures from May 2010 for May 2011, and so on. The great thing of this personalized calender is that we can include a photo not only for a month but for each day. For example, I put my daughter's birthday party picture for her birthday. We also created one for my parents; they loved it! We have decided to create it every year. Bad thing is when I realized that I needed to do this project this year, my coupon was expiring next day! So my husband and I put together photos and ordered within 24h!!!!

2. Christmas tree and wreathWreath.JPG
As soon an Thanksgiving passed, we start to see Christmas ornaments everywhere. On the next day of Thanksgiving, my family set up a Christmas tree in our living room. Christmas Tree.JPGThis year, my daughter helped me put ornaments on the tree. It was one of the happiest time to me...Next day, my neighbor set up beautiful Christmas light ups in his front yard. We don't have any in ours, but we are enjoying his light ups.
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3. Christmas cards
It is still an on-going project, but we ordered and received our cards, again from Shutterfly. Because I want to write cards to my family and friends in my home country, I'd better start writing cards NOW considering international mailing takes several days.....

4. Christmas gifts
My husband and I have prepared gifts to all in our household (husband, daughter, and me). But we have been and is receiving gifts from my family and my husband's family, so I'd better hurry up to get gifts to them! Any gift idea, anyone?!?!Gifts.JPG

I can't believe it is already December tomorrow. Time flies. There will be more events for Christmas and the end of the year, which will keep us busy. Enjoy the exciting last month of the year!

Maki

Thanksgiving weekend!

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Hello All,

I hope you all enjoyed the long relaxing thanksgiving weekend.I am sure many of you travelled to other cities taking advantage of the break.I was in town this time because of my work(yeah research!),but a friend was kind enough to invite me to her sister's place for thanksgiving dinner.It was a great experience and I had an opportunity to observe the holiday celebration closely.One of the important thing I learnt from this experience is that the thanksgiving dinner is not exactly a "dinner":p.When my friend invited me,i thought it was going to be a routine dinner in the evening and we won't be going before 6PM so I scheduled my experiments for the morning,however I learnt a day before that it was at 2 in the afternoon!Watch out,next time you are invited you don't want to be in my position.I got hold of things in the end,but I had to make an "extra"effort..lol

The food was amazing.The best thing was when we all talked about things we are thankful for in our life.You may wonder whats amazing about this,but we seldom "think"about blessings in our life,we just assume we know but once asked to name them,we think and realize how long the list is..:)

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At the end of the day,me and my friends went to the Mall of America for black friday shopping(Black Friday is the beginning of the holiday season shopping,in terms of retail,I am sure there is some historic significance too,but I don't know yet).We left at 10 PM from the campus and the bus was full of people going to the mall for shopping.At the mall,people were lined up outside the stores which offered great deal!The mall was decorated for holidays and it make you want to shop!

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Enjoy the winters and I am sure many of you are stressed out like me because of exams and work,but give yourself a break every once in a while and have fun:)

until next time,best wishes:)

After Black Friday..is....Cyber Monday~

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Xi Yu recommended great places to go shopping around Twin Cities, such as Mall of America, Outlets and etc. I would like to follow her lead and introduce the Cyber Monday, which is the Monday immediately following Black Friday and it is the biggest on-line shopping day of the year! So I would like to recommend some websites for you to find great deals and coupons! This is not supporting consumerism. But it might be helpful if you want to buy some winter clothes or prepare gifts for your families and friends!

Catch deals when fresh---- Coupons websites:
DealAM.com is a leading free coupon and discount information website that provides thousands of free coupons from more than two thousand local and online stores (e.g. coupons from Amazon.com, Dell.com, Walmart.com, Newegg.com, OfficeMax.com, Macys.com, Priceline.com and more). It has a very simple mission: help consumers shop smarter and save more.

Personal Comment: I like this website because it has different categories to guide you search coupons you need like Beauty Deals, Tech deals....Especially they have a special Black Friday session to help you find all the great deals during the holiday. Chinese students may find it even more helpful as they have a Chinese websites for Black Friday with editors' comments and recommendation.

Another similar website is DealSea, which is also created to provide coupons and deals for consumers, including beauty, style, electronics, credit cards, and more.

And DealMoon: http://www.dealmoon.com/


Sometimes you can just browse official websites of stores, which may have a better discount:

Retail Stores:
Macy's: http://www.macys.com/
Targets: http://www.target.com/

Wholesale stores:
Costco: http://www.costco.com/

Beauty:
Stila:http://www.stilacosmetics.com/
Bliss: http://www.blissworld.com/
Clinique: http://www.clinique.com/index.tmpl
Origins: http://www.origins.com/index.tmpl
The Body shop: http://www.thebodyshop-usa.com/
Clarins: http://www.clarinsusa.com/

Consumer Electronics:
BestBuy: http://www.bestbuy.com/
Apple: http://store.apple.com/us
Lenovo: http://www.lenovo.com/us/en/
Dell: http://www.dell.com/

Offices Supplies:
Staple: http://www.staples.com/

Nutrition& Vitamin:
GNC: http://www.gnc.com/home/index.jsp

Hope you find those helpful. Cause I know I did on this great shopping weekend. With so much time off for the long weekend, and so many great deals how can anyone study? Oops.. to the library while I wait for my goods to arrive ^^

F-1 Visas, and a little bit of HUMOR!

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Hello blog readers,

I have always cherished the humor that life brings upon us, and the following comic made me LAUGH! Please, take the comic with humor (and not seriously)... You might even relate to it.... well, maybe after you have been accepted to the University... (^___^)"

F-1 Visas procedures are difficult to understand sometimes, and it does add stress to new incoming students. Even students going back home and having to renew their visas, this is a stressful time as well. However, with a little bit of humor, I hope that you realize that although life might give you lemons, you can make lemonade out of it. We've all been through it at least once!

On a more serious note, if you do have questions about F-1 visas, please visit the ISSS office during walk-in hours or schedule an appointment to meet with an F-1 advisor.

In the meantime, sit back, enjoy and laugh at the difficulties we all international students face as we prepare our journeys to the United States. Perhaps this will help you feel more calm about the whole F-1 visa procedure!

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Let's go SHOPPING!!

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Hey there,
Are you ready for Black Friday? Just in case you are not familiar with it......Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, many stores open very early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season!! Great deals are waiting for you!!
Let's check out the good places for shopping around Twin Cities!

Mall of America
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MOA is one of the country's leading tourist attractions, and the nation's largest indoor shopping mall! You could easily take light rail from downtown Minneapolis to MOA directly. It is a perfect destination for crazy shopping on Black Friday!!

Albertville Premium Outlets

OMG, are you ready for Midnight Madness Sale??
Find impressive savings at Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic, BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Coach, Gap Outlet, Gymboree, Kenneth Cole, Nautica, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and more!!!!! Located between Minneapolis and St. Cloud.

Downtown Minneapolis
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Nicollet Mall, including Macy's, Target, Neiman Marcus, and many other stores and great restaurants are located here.

Minneapolis Uptown

Cappuccino Corner! Many independent stores, restaurants, bookstores and more radiating out from the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue.

Saint Paul Grand Ave.

St. Paul's hippest shopping area. Spans 30 blocks from Mississippi River to Downtown Saint Paul.

Hope the information helps!!
See you next time!

Sincerely,
Xi

Hi blog readers! It is 27ºF (-3ºC) in Minneapolis right now. We had a pretty cold and gusty day today. The highest temperature was only 37ºF (3ºC)...I know, I know...it is November in MINNESOTA! I grew up in the moderate climate, and have moved multiple times, but not to cold regions like Minnesota. All I did when I moved to Minnesota to prepare for winter was buying a 4-wheel drive car (which is VERY important for me to drive in snow and ice!). Let me introduce you several "MN winter" things that I have learned.

A garage (or roofed parking) makes my life much easier
In my first place in Minnesota, I did not have a garage. I parked my car in outside parking lots. In winter, we sometimes (often) have inches of snow over night. When I started my car in the morning, I had to spend 15-30 minutes to clean up snow covering up my car! Not only snow, cars get icy in the windows. I learned to keep a brush and an ice scraper in my car through winter. snow scraper.jpgLater I moved, and having a garage (ideally heated) was the must.

window seal.jpgDouble windows or window seals to keep cold air out
Only one layer of the window is not always enough to avoid cold air coming into the room. Many people installed double layer windows in their houses, but old houses are likely to have cranky windows. If you rent a room or house (more likely for students) with not tight windows, you can buy window seals (something like a huge plastic wrap) and seal the whole window from inside. Installing the seal is not too hard and does not take much time.

Face mask! - Even if you are covered up, your face is cold!
Seriously, I had never seen people wearing a face mask in their daily lives. I do skiing, so I had seen skiers wearing a face mask. When I saw a person walking in a face mask on the street for the first time, I was shocked. ...not any more though. face mask.jpgThe air is painfully cold in winter and I have thought about buying a mask several times (although did not happen yet). I've seen tough joggers wearing a face mask, too!

Living in a house = You have to plow snow.

My husband and I used to live in an apartment, but moved in a house when our child was born. We knew that living in a house means we have to mow the lawn in summer and plow snow in winter...but we did not realize how hard it could be. Last winter (our first winter since moving in the house), we had very heavy snow. Thumbnail image for snow blower.jpgWe did not have a snow blower (electric or gas) yet. On the first snowy weekend, my husband spent a literally whole day just digging, digging, and digging snow from 8am to 4pm! One of our neighbors noticed my husband's hard work, probably felt sorry, and finally came by with his snow blower to help him. My husband and I learned that we need a snow blower to survive winter.

It is hard to get these little tips to survive Minnesota winter when you are not living here, but I promise you will get them soon once you start your life here!
Keep warm!

Maki

Finding a place to live!

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Hello Everyone.I hope you have been doing great.I wanted to share with you my experience of finding housing on campus.I know for many of the incoming graduate students,this is one big issue.I was able to take care of this before I arrived on campus and everything worked smoothly for me.I used basic tools like google map and the university housing website for this.I will tell you how.Let me tell you though,I am very lazy and I wanted to be somewhere really close to campus so I don't have to wake up early in the morning:)

When you accept an admission offer from the university,you are provided with an option to set up an internet access account on the university website.I would recommend to do it as soon as possible.It gives you access to a lot of resources on the campus portal.

The first step is to determine where you will be spending most of your time.You should check with your department website as where the main office is.If you are working in a lab,it will have a building address.

The second step is to login to the university housing website .This will take you to the housing and residential life and you could see more information about the on campus housing(Halls and dorms mostly).This link will take you to the off campus housing rentals.
Screen Shot 2011-11-15 at 7.45.17 PM.png
You will be required to login using your university ID and password to access the system.Once you are inside,you will see this:
Screen Shot 2011-11-15 at 7.47.14 PM.png
You can choose the type of unit,rent and neighborhood you want to live in.Its a good and credible way to start looking for options available in different areas around the campus.

Coming back to my experience,I used google map to find directions between the building where I was supposed to spend most of my time on campus and the places that I liked.I selected a place that was 5 blocks away from my campus and was on bus lines.Just go to google map and click on get directions.Enter the university building address and name,and enter the address from the listing you like most.Check if buses run between those two locations frequently.For example,if I want to go to Carlson school of management from my location,this is how it will look like:
Screen Shot 2011-11-15 at 7.52.12 PM.png.You will get an idea how far is the closes bus stop from your place and if you will be able to commute comfortably from your home to be to the place where you will be found the most!

The rent is variable.For a furnished place closer to campus,you can expect to pay anything from $500-$800!The housing away from campus is cheaper.Your ultimate choice will depend on your preference.And remember,it is always advised to start early.Places around campus go as early as April for the coming fall leases,so just don't wait until the last moment to get the right place and deal.

Stay well and let me know if you need any help:)

My Eyes Bugged Out for the University of Minnesota Insect Musem

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One of the fun things I did at the university in the last week was visit the University of Minnesota Insect Museum. There they study the bugs of the world, collect them and preserve them. It is a very fun place! I learned about this museum from my friend, Kit Martin, who is a master student in the international development program and a PHD student in the Department of Entomology, a pretty difficult word to me which I think means the study of bugs!

University of Minnesota always has something interesting for you to explore. As we normally find at the university of Minnesota, when you look inside one of our departments, you find something completely unexpected. This museum, tucked down a dark hallway is a collection of 3 million insects from all over the world.

The scientists there study how all the insects in the world are related, by looking at their common characteristics, even looking at the hairs on their little legs and counting them. For instacne, the picture of the water bug in the picture below is a girl. (Thats what they said, I don't know how). The room is a big room full of metal boxes, and in each one is a drawer full of insects. They study them all the time. Very NICE PEOPLE. You should visit them sometime.

It is actually very interesting to learn something outside your world, explore something new, and even pay attention to some tiny creatures that you might dislike and never think about them. We are living in a same world. Slow down your pace and you might find beauty and have a new look on these cute creatures. The following pictures are taken by kit Martin~~

Corixidae-------Is it like a cute Alien?

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An unknown flower Beatle!

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And my favorite "heart" one, which is an atta!

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The Museum is on the St. Paul campus by the the Borlaug building, if you want to see the collection yourself contact Paul Tinerel, the curator at ptinerel@umn.edu.

The people working there can provide you a tour and show you around their cool collections. Welcome to send them an email anytime ~You can see their website at: http://www.entomology.umn.edu/museum/

My supporting systems & its event 'ThaiNight'

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One of the new things that I have found out while studying in the US is that people like to build their own New Year resolution. And according to my resolution this year, not only that I has joined the International Student Ambassador group (ISA) but has also joined the staff of the Thai Student Association (ThaiSA.) As each country has its own supporting system available, at the university of Minnesota ThaiSA is the group I has discovered this year. Apart from that ,Thai Association of Minnesota (ThaiAM) is also available for me. Their collaboration has brought an event called "ThaiNight." It was happened on the last Saturday November 10 to gather good wills from people in the Minnesota to people of Thailand who are victims by the current flood disaster.

ThaiSA, ThaiAM, and ThaiNight: these are what I would like to share with you today:


-1- ThaiSA: Thai Student Association of Minnesota

Active webboard: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThaiSAofMN/
ThaiSA is a student group that envisions bonding a stronger networking among Thai students of university of Minnesota, alumnus, and people who comes to work around the Twin Cities. ThaiSA also focus its activities that aim to help new Thai international students settling their study life.

Each year the activities include
- Welcome night event in the Fall
- ThaiSA talk throughout the year
- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year gathering and potluck
- ThaiNight, an biggest annual event in collaboration with ThaiAM

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ThaiSA staff meeting, always paired with the great cooking of our ThaiSA president Ponnawat Otwong, a U of M engineering student.

-2- ThaiAM: Thai Association of Minnesota
Website: http://www.thaiofmn.org
Active webboard: https://www.facebook.com/groups/242150902471766/

ThaiAM is broader in term of its members, which are mainly Thais who have relocated permanently in Minnesota. Their main events include:
- Thai picnic, an annual event in August
- ThaiNight, an annual event in collaboration with ThaiSA


-3- ThaiNight
As I have mentioned, ThaiNight is the biggest annual event in collaboration between ThaiSA and ThaiAM. This year is actually different since its goal is not only to have a good time but also to raise the donation to send back to help the victims of the current flood in Thailand. They have sold out their tickets; along with the tickets sales, there are additional activities including the silent auction and additional donation. At the end of the night they have raised about $17,500 in this fund-raising event.

Please check out the news about this event the the Star Tribune local newspaper: http://www.startribune.com/local/133403223.html


And here is the scene of the event:

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at the ThaiNight event's entrance


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The line of Thai Food!!! sponsored by over 20 thai restaurants around the Twin Cities


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Entertaining: Thai Dancing


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Off course, I am a part of the event by giving some piano performance of thai songs with ThaiSA president joining me by singing


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More performance by ThaiAM and lots of kids

-4- Becoming the supporting system

You know what, it feel great! when you are a part of something, especially a part of the community. Therefore and lastly, if you are becoming part of the U of M, do not forget to include these in your coursework:

-Join a student group
-Learn to be a part of your community
-Give the community what you have
-Do good deed to others
-Make new friends
-Expanding your networking

And at the end of the day, you might feel the tiredness BUT you also will be able to reflect back about yourself what you have grown for yourself.. each day.

See you soon, Sawaddee ka (greeting in Thai)
::Banchinda::

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Photos by
Borwornsom Leerapan
Parichart Wallen
Ani Chen

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Road trip to...BOYNTON!

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The advantages of attending a bigger University, such as the University of Minnesota, is that its health services are also bigger and more comprehensive. Being an International Student, having had the Boynton Health Insurance was really convenient.

As an international student, we are usually used to the Health Care in our countries - or health practices (such as drinking sprite when you have a cold, or taking a cold shower when you have a fever!). We are usually lucky to have our friends and family to take care of us - but when we are in the United States as international students, we sometimes don't have that support. Having an effective student health service center is essential when one is sick or needs additional support.

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I recently had to visit the Boynton Services, and I got all of these services covered or mostly covered by our Student Health Insurance
-Eye exam (plus contact lens fitting)
-Left ankle X-ray
-Sore Throat check-up
-Right wrist pain check up
-Medications

I was also able to make appointment to see a Primary Care Physician (the doctor who will be your main/primary doctor), which is usually recommended to have (most of our Primary Care Physicians are back home, so having one in the US can be important!)

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Just a reminder, the University of Minnesota now requires all international students, visiting scholars, and accompanying dependents to purchase the university's insurance - the Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP).

It is flu season, so dress up, be warm, take care of yourself! Or you might have to take a trip to...Boynton!

See you next time!

Try something different to eat!!

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Okay, I totally understand, you must miss the food in your country sooooo much, when you just arrive in the US. But...let's try something local!! I am sure you will like it!
Since this summer, I have been exploring the great restaurants, especially cafes, around Twin Cities with my friends. Please check out what we found!

1. Cupcake (www.cup-cake.com)
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2. Green Spoon (www.greenspooncafe.com)
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3. Panera Bread (www.panerabread.com)
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4. Purple Onion (www.thepurpleonioncafe.com)
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5. Overflow Cafe (www.overflowcoffee.com)
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There are more out there around campus, wait for you!! ^o^

Cheer up!

Xi

We need to learn, but fun time is a bonus :)

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Having a conference presentation is one of the academic activities that PhD students are involved. I have been trying to have at least one presentation at an academic conference each year and actually I like to attend a conference. It is a great opportunity to learn what is new or hot in the field and also to meet people for net working.

Last week, I visited Boston to attend the International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, one of the conferences by the American Association for cancer Research (AACR) to present one of my dissertation projects. IMGP2014.JPG To prepare a presentation, I came up with a project idea, designed a study, created a data set, analyzed data, wrote an abstract (and a manuscript), and prepared & printed a poster. I had a poster presentation, which is not an oral presentation, so I stood by a poster on the board and answered questions from people came by. I attended this conference for the first time, but I liked it and would like to return next year. It is much smaller than the AACR main annual meeting, but much focus was on cancer prevention and epidemiology.

After the 3 days in this conference, I attended the other meeting - the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cohort Consortium Annual Meeting. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and this meeting was an opportunity that principle investigators (PIs) of major NCI-sponsored cohort studies discussed about projects using data from multiple studies so that we will be able to have a larger number of study subjects. I accompanied my adviser who was invited to the meeting. It was a great opportunity for me, as a student, to be stimulated.

Since it was my first visit to Boston, I walked around the town with my friend during the off time. We went to a casual seafood restaurant "No Name" right by the pier. Of course, food was good, but the waiter was such an entertainer! He spoke multiple languages including Japanese :) He even treated us a free desert (what a yummy apple pie!) as hospitality, as he said.
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Preparing a conference presentation is a lot of work, but having fun in other cities is a bonus for hard-working students, right?!

Perhaps, a lesson for me is taking a comfortable pair of walking shoes to a next conference trip. My legs are still hurting from lots of walking :)

Maki

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra!

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This weekend I went to the Ordway center for performing arts!We were invited by a couple of friends.We attended a concert and I really liked the performance.Since I am in the middle of my assignments,I will keep my blog as short as possible,however I would like to share something interesting with you.As you know the routine ticket price for the shows is around $40,it may not be a good option for those interested.I found about this great option:

http://www.thespco.org/concerts-tickets/club2030

If you are 18-39 year of age,you can sign up for the club 2030,and receive coupon codes which will allow you to buy the concert tickets(for unto two people)for $10.Isnt that great?This season some great artists are coming to St.Paul.Even if you don't want to be a frequent visitor,I must insist you all must experience this live music experience once.Let me know how it goes:)

Take care

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