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The end of the first road... M.A Exams

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After two years of experiencing different topics, places, people, ideas and so on, I have gotten to the end of the first road. I said the first because this is just the end of my Master and the beginning of something else, possibly the PhD in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics. I'm writing this almost seven days before I take my oral exam. I don't have authority to talk about the oral yet but I'll about the written experience. This will help you (international student) to get through these particular days, since these days can be really stressful and your mind goes out of control, even if you try to be as calm as you can. I'll give you some personal advices.
Please, take the ones that fit your personality, we are all Grad Students, but we are not the same being:

1. Meet with your adviser regularly to create a list that will help you to start getting organized with the different topics related to your field.


2. Be practical about studying for your exams. You don't necessary have to start studying for your M.A. exams a year before, but keep in mind the more time you spend getting organize for them, the better your mind will feel weeks before you take them.


3. When you study for your exams, write topics, instead of a long dissertation of what you are going to argue about. I work better writing different topics related to the subject, then I write some examples and discuss about them. In terms of theory, I think it is important to have a clear idea of the ones you are going to use.


4. Create a work groups with the rest of the students that are taking the exam at the same time and discuss about the theories, the books that you have work on. This is really helpful. You ended up feeling that you should study more!


5. I think the steps 3 and 4 are the most important ones. Your mind will be also an important factor the days after your take your exams. Try to practice Yoga, or Pilates, go to a meditation center, or just go to the Gym. Try to be calm. That's the clue.

Good luck with your exams.

Post. This is also an interesting link for you to check http://dbrabham.wordpress.com/category/thoughts-on-academia/

Thesis, oh Thesis

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Hi everyone! I hope you are doing good in this semester! So some of you might be in the same position as me right now: finishing up their thesis/final project. It can be an exciting moment because you are almost done with school! But to get to that point you have to go through the arduous process of completing your thesis. For me, so far it has been smooth sailing, but a few days ago I've realized that I have LOTS of things to do. It's kinda scary.

So the point of this blog is to share my experience and the stuff I've been doing that might come in handy for you guys. Oh, please comment if you have other tips that can help ease your thesis writing process.

Probably the hardest part is to think of a thesis title. It can be extremely hard to get a fitting and original title, but don't worry, just as long as you know the concept of your thesis you can start with a preliminary title and develop the title along the way with you chair adviser.

Start researching as soon as possible. If you are like me whose thesis is more of a design thesis than a research thesis it helps a lot to start researching as soon as possible to allow yourself more time in the design phase, because designing takes a lot of time (especially if you are a perfectionist).

Creating your own timeline really helps with keeping your self on schedule. Put your timeline in front of your desk so it becomes an everyday reminder that you are not allowed to procrastinate! Hahahaha... Ask you department for a typical semester schedule for finishing your thesis (if they have one), which shows you when to preferably submit your draft, final draft, apply for a graduation package and so on.

Having scheduled meetings with your chair adviser is a must, but it doesn't hurt to meet with your other committee members as well. Try to set up a time somewhere in the middle of the semester for a mid-term review with all of your committee members present. This will help a lot in knowing what direction your thesis/final project is heading.

Peer reviews are also a good way to receive feedbacks. If you see your friends loafing around or not doing anything then don't hesitate to ask them for their opinions. Some of the good feedbacks might come from your friends and since they are at the same stage as you are, they might have awesome ideas that you can cultivate.

Finally, don't forget to reserve a room way ahead of time for your oral defense. Especially for me it is very difficult to reserve a room at the end of the semester since there will be lots of final reviews. Also when you reserve a room, reserve 30 minutes before your presentation so you would have that amount of time to prep the room and presentation.

So that's all I have for everyone else who is going to start their thesis or already have started it. Hopefully it can come to some kind of use to you all and happy thesis writing!

Are you on the right track?

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Hey hey fellow blog readers! It's been a while since my last blog so I hope the things I'm going to share will be more helpful. So for today's blog I would just like to share my story. Something I experienced a couple of weeks ago and in a way changed the direction I want to go with my life.

From past conversations I've had with my friends and colleagues, some of them were not sure with the path they are taking. Meaning that they are not so sure if their major is what they want to actually be working in in the future. This is a common problem that some of us experience.

For me architecture is an interest that developed because of my love for drawing. After graduating high school, going into architecture was actually my plan B. However, now that I look back I would have not enjoyed my life if I went with my plan A. I chose architecture because it was the only field where I can channel my passion for drawing and have my parent's approval. But since I was a kid I loved to draw monsters and fantasy creatures. This was probably influenced by my love for RPG games like Final Fantasy.

A few weeks ago I went to Glendale to compete in Walt Disney Imaginations 2013 as a finalist. It was the best thing that happened to me this year. One of the highlights for me was to talk with the Imagineers and hearing their stories. I also met with other finalists and was inspired by their stories as well. They all had one thing in common: they were pursuing what they love. This got me thinking. Now I'm starting to polish my skill of drawing fantasy creatures and monsters and if architecture doesn't work for me then I would pursue my dream of becoming a creature designer.

It is not too late to change your career path. If you love it then you should put your best effort to achieve it. Sometime in the future you will come to that crossroad and before that day comes you should be well prepared for it. If changing career paths is too drastic for you or you do not have your parent's approval, then having a minor in what you love can be another way. The University Catalog can help you find your minor and whether the university offers it. Another way would be to join student groups that are related to your true passion. The Student Unions & Activities can help you find a student group you are looking for and the Groups at U of M facebook page can also help you out.

Again, if you really love it you should try your best to pursue it. And hey, wouldn't it be awesome to work in a field that you truly love and are passionate about? See you guys soon!

Managing that thing called FINALS WEEK

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As we are moving closer towards the final stage of this semester, I am sure many of you find yourself among the masses of students for whom the end can't come soon enough. Many of you are in the process of finishing final group work, papers, quizzes and undergoing exams soon. And maybe you are in the same boat as me and are experiencing the occasional Homer Simpson Freak-out mode.

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But don't you worry, y'all, in times like these it's always good to remember that it will be over soon and when that day comes you can look at the gigantic hill you climbed through your persistence. And on that day, you can pat yourself on the shoulder and be proud of yourself for making it through another semester and one step closer to your degree.

As someone who has gone through it all in this academic system for the past 5.5 years, I have always found it useful to develop different strategies to get myself through the final stage of every semester and its accompanying madness.

1)Take some time out while studying to do a few breathing exercises to regain composure and get your thoughts back in order. Sit down in a comfortable position or lie down for a few minutes, if needed.
2) If you are the type of person that doesn't like be distracted, find a quiet environment to complete your studies and final projects. If your apartment or dorm isn't the ideal type, university libraries are usually a good place to start at.
3) If however, you are sick of being stuck in your residence cut off from the rest of the world and crave being around people, follow my friend and fellow ambassador Angela Castro's advice and find a coffee shop. Apart from the amiable atmospheres you find in the Twin Cities' coffee shops, you also have an accessible supply of caffeine and other delicacies.
4) Have some chocolate (highly recommend the German ones simply out of personal bias ;) )-Always a sweet stress reliever. Even research has proven it time and again.
5) If time permits, engage in some exercise to get the stress out of your system. Even a short walk and some fresh air can do you good.
6) Remember the funny health insurance guy from your international student orientation? Yes, massages are great and indeed a good resource to contemplate for some relaxing quality time before you take on your finals.
7) And my personal favorite: Set up a reward system for yourself to keep yourself motivated. B.F. Skinner once demonstrated it so well with his pigeons that positive reinforcement reinforces positive behavior. Reward your endeavors with something you like and enjoy, say a favorite activity. I know that laughter can be one of the best medicines to get the endorphins going. So, after long hours of studying, finishing up a paper or group project I usually like to treat myself to an episode of Family Guy, Community or Scrubs.
8) And of course, feel free to expand on this list by leaving some comments on this blog. I am always eager to learn new strategies to manage the challenges of finals week
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That's all from me tonight, my friends. I would like to finish this blog with a suitable quote from the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

"Dass etwas schwer ist, muss ein Grund mehr sein, es zu tun."

Good luck with your finals and all other projects. Take care and see you all soon.

Howdy loyal blog readers! As most of you might know, I am a grad student ambassador majoring in Architecture. Although I am passionate about architecture, I also have tons of interest in product design and especially toys! Personally I am a huge fan of high-end action figures (most toy enthusiasts will know what that means lol!) and have a large collection of toys at home, ranging from fixed pose action figures to plastic model kits. Ooops, sorry I got carried away... I like to blabber on and on when it comes to toys :)

So back to the main point. Knowing that I had a huge interest in toys, I was deeply intrigued by this product design class offered in Spring 2012. It was the Toy Product Design class offered by the College of Design under PDES 3711/5711. So without hesitation I registered for that class and boy I did not regret it.

If you are in the College of Design or College of Science and Engineering and you are interested in hands on experience with real clients and prototyping then I would definitely recommend this course. But wait! Other students from different majors can join as well, just as long as you can show your interest in this class to the instructor.

In this class you will be working in teams to create an innovative toy that you will present in the end of the semester not only in front of your clients, but also to kids and families who are the prospective buyers. We call this final presentation as Playsentations because this type of presentation incorporates play and fun! Click here to see videos of this years Playsentations.


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Through this class I managed to learn a LOT of things. Not only were the lectures fun and informative, but during lab hours you will have the chance to use all of the cool machines at the W.L. Hall Workshop and DigiFab Lab. So if you're that type of person that would like to have a dynamic and interesting class different from your everyday boring lectures, then you might find enjoying this class as much as I do! Oh and if you do decide to register for this class next Spring then it is likely that I will see you at class because I am going to be one of the lab instructors! Hopefully I will see you there!

Earn ONE credit and have FUN?

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Time flies! Getting close to graduate in May, I still cannot believe it has been almost two years since I came to the US and started my master program. As I am studying international development, I got chance to have access to resources at different schools and programs at the U, such as agriculture, education, applied economics and public policy. Many courses are great and impressive. However, today, I really want to recommend to you some ONE credit courses that you are not only earning credits, but having fun, learning about life skills and being healthy as well! I did not know those course are available to take when I was a first year student. Hope this can help you for your class registration!

Karate
I took several Karate courses last semester and I really enjoyed the class. Although I had to drop the class for schedule conflict, I highly recommend students taking this class. The professor has many years experience practicing and teaching Karate. Often in the class, we not only learn how to strengthen ourselves and concentrate our power, but learn about wisdom about life.
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Where can we find these courses? Go to OneStop, Class Schedule, and you can begin to search courses of Physical Education. In the long list, you can also find many other course quite interesting! Some of my friends said they have taken swimming and bowling courses and they love it very much. I make a small summary list of courses offered by physical education for non-PE students. Please check it out if you want to take ant of them next semester, being healthy and having fun!

PE 1035 Karate
PE 1034 Judo
PE 1032 Badminton
PE 1029 Handball
PE 1012 Beginning Running
PE 1007 Beginning Swimming
PE 1004 Diving: Springboard
PE 1036 Racquetball
PE 1037 Squash Racquets
PE 1038 Beginning Tennis
PE 1044 Self-Defense
PE 1045 Rock Climbing
PE 1046 Tae Kwon Do
PE 1048 Bowling
PE 1053 Ice Skating
PE 1055 Golf
PE 1057 Beginning Skiing
PE 1058 Snowboarding

And basketball, soccer, volleyball, broomball and a whole lot other fun stuffs! I believe there are other fun courses of music, painting and even cooking offered by different schools at the U. You can check them out simply at onestop or going to different schools' websites. Let our more colorful by learning something out of our major and our field! I wish I have taken more of these courses at the U. If your journal is going to start and just begins at the University of Minnesota, lucky for you that there are many great fun activities to explore at here. Registration for the next semester is coming, are you considering to have some healthy, educational and fun courses now?

Social Media and Homesickness

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What has Social Media done to us!

We obviously cannot live without it. To name a few, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (I just learnt about it today: Check this article!: Pinterest in Academia!)

We are all intricately connected: People from back home get a chance to see what we are doing one click away. So what does that mean for you as a college student? As an international student it means that you get to see what is happening at home faster (remember those days when you had to write a letter and mail it?) - and it also means that it may be easier to get homesick [click here for an interesting article on homesickness]

"[Homesickness] stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security -- feelings and qualities usually associated with home, said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama's School of Public Health. When these qualities aren't present in a new environment, we begin to long for them -- and hence home."

So how to we try to connect with others more? This is where the wonders of social media has allowed me to get more connected with those loved ones...

It means sharing memories like this :...


It means being able to share this with those who are far away...


So stay connected with the University, UMN site for social media!

Hopefully you will be able to connect with others through the various social media resources - and if you do get homesick you can always get help whether it is from your friends and family or from other University of Minnesota resources.

:)

The recipe to succeed...at the U!

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Many students have asked what are some of the secrets to succeed at the University. And although there are some general recipes our there, this is my own personal one that I will share with you. I have used it for my undergraduate studies and have found that it has worked very well!


In order to concoct a recipe to succeed at the UofM, you will need:

1 cup of "Study Hard" mixed with "Pick a Major you Love" and "Be and Active Part of Your Education"
1 cup of "Rest" and "Take care of yourself" (blend well)
1 cup of "Be Proud of Who You Are"
2 cups of "Academic" and "Personal" growth - let rise at room temperature
Don't forget to add some "Healthy Eating (you can include your favorite foods from home here!)" and "Healthy Exercise"

Mix all of these together and add:
1/2 cup of "Be Nice to everybody even if you have a bad day", "But if you have a very bad day, talk to someone" and "If you don't feel like talking to someone, surround yourself with things you love"
1 tbsp of "Humility", "Leadership" and "Stand up for yourself"
3/4 tbsp of "Don't be afraid to ask for help" and "Get involved (sometimes outside your comfort zone" and "Make some new Friends"
A dash of "Organizational Skills" and "Effective use of resources on campus"

Sprinkle some "Fun" on it, and don't forget to add some "Don't be afraid to try new things" and "Go make your own adventures"

Let sit for 24 hours and cover with a whole pack of assorted flavor "Friends" and voila!
You have concocted my own special recipe to succeed at the University of Minnesota. Don't forget to add "Being part of an Awesome Group just like the International Student Ambassadors"

Don't be afraid to try it many times, and try new recipes as well! Why don't you share some of your tips?

This Fall semester is ending, so take care of yourself and hope you all do well in your finals! Winter break is almost here!

"M"

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Asking students at the University of Minnesota, they would know what "M" stands for.
Asking Minnesotans, they are huge fans of "M", too. [Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnehaha, Minnetonka, or 3M.... .]
Asking me, it is another "M" that I am exclusively focusing in today's blog. It is very important to my life now and in the future...[Hint: it is my studying major]...

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Score study: Brahms's Sonata no.2 in E-flat for clarinet and piano


"M" = Music

-Part 1-

Music study at the U of M:
I came to the U of M because there are conditions that fit me:
1) The U of M offers the Doctorate program in the field I am interested, and I got accepted.
2) The school offers me the Graduate Assistantship position, which helps covering the tuition fee.
3) My teacher/advisor Timothy Lovelace is wonderful pianist in the field.

Music as my dream:
Studying at the U of M gives me a chance to pursue my dream: doing what I like, what I believe in, and what I can share with others. My ultimate goal is to be a part of the music educational team in my country and improve the Collaborative Piano program, which currently has not been available there. Along its way, to be a good teacher, I think I need to be a good musician. So I am working hard to find performance opportunities while studying in the US.

Now, I guess the question is....

What is "Collaborative Piano" ?:
- Collaborative Piano is a program that concentrates on a piano playing skill for collaborating with other musician/s. This usually includes chamber music/ensemble performing [chamber music: music that is played by multiple players], accompanying lessons or classes, vocal coaching, assisting opera/musical theater production as a Repetiteur. Often CP also includes orchestra keyboard, choir accompanying, orchestral reduction playing. Sometimes it is necessary to play by sight reading the score.


My daily life with Music at the U of M:
Almost everyday for me is about music and collaboration with others. I practice multiple hours as much as the time and my health allow for preparing rehearsals, assisting students' lessons or classes, and performing in any assigned musical activities in the music school. I am very often involved in student recitals. To give you more ideas, this semester I am assisting total of eight recitals, including Phong's, Shelby's, Christine's, Rosie's, John's, Wei's. In addition to these recitals, I have my own recital on this upcoming November 22. (Please check out the music school website for events calendar. There are tons of free performances you can join.)


Here are some pictures from my first DMA recital in the Spring 2010:


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With my violinist Josh Holritz, playing Beethoven's Sonata for violin and piano in c minor


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our warm-up time


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sorry that there is no picture while I performed since the camera makes noise with its shutter sound..


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greeted by audiences and chit-chating with my advisor after the recital


As part of my DMA program requirements, total of five recitals I must complete. I am working hard to do one each semester. Other than that, other musical activities I am involved are varied. For example, the previous three semesters I assisted the U of M's opera workshop and opera production; this recent summer I served as a staff pianist at the Bravo Summer String Fest at the U and also played for my singer's wedding; previously in my former graduate school time, I worked off-school at churches, assisted some high school music events, joined the distance learning team, and performed for locals as the community service at retirement homes.


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working in Opera Workshop/Theatre

-Part 2-

Music opportunities for everyone at the U of M:
If you are a music lover, whether as a listener or as a performer, there are some opportunities waiting for you at the U of M. At the U we have quite many music activities that are available for non-music major students to join:
- University Symphony Orchestra - for instrumentalists
- University Campus Singers, Men's and Women's Choruses - for singers
- Chamber Ensembles
- U of M Jazz Ensembles - for jazz players
- University Opera Theatre - they always need chorus, extras, and supporting works

To highlight the School of Music event, considering the biggest form of classical music event, this Fall'11 the University Opera Theatre are offering the Mozart's opera "Cosi fan Tutte", performing during November 17-20, 2011. Please join. And for me, my singer will be singing Dorabella role; I definitely can not miss this performance!

Here also I have searched some example of courses offered for non-music major:
MUS 1051 Class Piano for Nonmusic Majors I & II
MUS 1260 Voice Class
MUS 3230 Chorus
Find out more at Onestop website.


Finally, while studying classical music, at the end of my day.... I go back to my apartment and turn on the radio to NPR 88.5' for some jazz to relax myself. ...And now it is the time. I will be back with more about "M"usic, but outside the U of M, next time.


And it would be strange talking about Music but no music in the blog! Therefore, if you are now curious and wanna hear some of my performance, please check out the below audio links: Le Grand Tango by Piazzola and "Home" encore piece by Thee Chaiyadej, performed with my former violinist Erica W Ward. Hope you enjoy them!




See you soon!
::Banchinda::

Can I survive the winter? Yes U can!

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Today is October 7th, 2011.

The weather, rather pleasant in its 80's (or 27 degrees Celsius as I still have a hard time figuring out Fahrenheit and Celsius).

I have nothing to complain until I realize, it is October 7th...We have been one month in school, and we are technically 2 months away from the dreadful (suspense music) WINTER!

To tell you the truth, my experiences with Minnesota Winter have not been awful. See picture below:

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Ok, ok, I can see from the look on your faces, this is not what you expected! I did not either. But don't worry about it! MN also has 3 more seasons:

Fall (Autumn):

Considered the beginning of the academic semester, or August to December, it is also the season when leaves change their colors and the scenery is beautiful. spring.jpg


Spring:

Considered the second part of the academic calendar, or also a season when everything comes back to life! Some students have Commencement or their May Graduation at the end of the Spring Semester, but many other students also have different times of the year when they graduate! Here is my undergraduate commencement picture with my mom and my undergraduate international advisor: spring 1.jpg

And my favorite season...

Summer: This summer, I started working for the International Student and Scholar Services. It is also called in Minnesota as "Construction Season", because of all the construction that is going on. Hey! Want to see what construction looks like at the University of Minnesota? Check Banchinda's second picture on her blog!

Summer is also the season that when it comes back every year, makes me feel it was worth waiting through the winter for that moment of warm sunshine...Whatever weather you enjoy, MN sure has them all. And there is always SOMETHING to do for every weather.

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As for my title question, yes, I do believe you can survive the winter; I have survived it at least 6 times already as I have been in MN since 2005. The University of Minnesota, as well as the state of MN offers plenty of activities for all seasons and taste! See you next time!

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