Recently in Ambassadors 2012-2013 Category

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/

On Accents and Speaking a Foreign Language

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Have you ever felt frustrated when nobody understood you or slightly annoyed when someone made fun of you because of your accent? I have seen that frustration among my international friends. Sometimes I experience it with refugee clients of mine in my current social work internship. And yes, I have been there myself as a foreign student. Not only are we asked to adapt to a different culture and academic system, we have to master our conversing in a foreign language in a way that people understand us. My self-consciousness about my accent and way of speaking got me to the point that I would fear doing presentations in front of the class.

How did I overcome that anxiety? For one, I often asked myself why there should be a subtle emphasis on conforming to one unique way of pronouncing and speaking in a foreign language. Wouldn't it actually be boring if we as international students all spoke the same way in a foreign language? Instead we should embrace our way of speaking because our accent and culture make us who we are. Why should we deny something that is part of us and makes us unique?
To give you a personal example, it was a running gag among my best American friends for some time I that I couldn't pronounce the word squirrel. My friends helped me realize that I shouldn't take the pronunciation matter so seriously and instead take it with a sense of humor. Eventually, I laughed with my friends whenever they were amused about my accent because my pronunciation mishaps made them happy. After all, I was there to learn a new language and making mistakes during the learning process is normal. Moreover, learning and speaking a foreign language should be fun and never a chore.

I also realized that in the end I shouldn't focus so much on my accent, but on the overall message I want to get across in my communication. This important point is best summarized in an essay by Chinua Achebe about African authors writing in a foreign language: "So my answer to the question: Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing? is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask: Can he ever learn to use it like a native speaker? I should say, I hope not. It is neither necessary nor desirable for him to do so. The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use. The African writer should aim to use English in a way that brings out his message best without altering the language to the extent that its value as medium of international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience." Consequently, always keep in mind that there is diversity in the English language of how you can communicate and express yourself.

Now I am not saying that we as international students shouldn't improve our English proficiency or if we want to work on our public speaking skills, by all means, we should all go ahead and seek out opportunities to do so. I remember an important lesson from a French teacher at my German high school that one of the key parts about learning a new language successfully is the courage to speak and practice it with others in public. We have a great German saying for that: "Uebung macht den Meister (A master arrives where he is at through exercise)."

But if you are still in doubt about yourself and your way of speaking, then please stop for a moment and give yourself a pat on the back. We all need to remind ourselves that we are making an effort in speaking another person's language in order to communicate with them. It says a lot about us that we are putting a lot of work into learning other people's languages and cultures, it reveals that we care deeply about communicating with the people in the host country and that we respect their language and culture. So...never forget this.

This is all from me today. Embrace the opportunity to learn and converse in a new language, make it a fun experience and laugh about your mistakes because they make you human. Also, please do me a favor and check out the following clip, you may or may not have walked in this guy's shoes before. Bis demnaechst und haltet die Ohren steif, my friends.

Dedicated to Dr. J., all of my international friends and all international students

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.

My Q&A About Applying UMN

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Hey Everyone, this time I am going to write some words about the tips and important information about applying University of Minnesota Twincities for future graduate students.
Ok~ Here we go!

1.What is the APPLICATION DEADLINE ?
The graduate school highly recommend that students submit the application at least two weeks before the deadline, most of the programs will end application on December 15, and some programs will end a little earlier or later around December. Check each programs' own websites to get correct deadlines and those are the most reliable resources.
The link: Choosing Program Website

The picture below shows the webpage of choosing different program's own site to get information of the deadline and application instruction.
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### If some urgent issue happen and you miss the deadline by lately submitting some materials, you could contact the specific department office by phone or email to ask if you could still hand in your application. The Officers will be very friendly to answer you. ###

2. What should you prepare for application?
Usually,your application should include your GRE score, your resume, your unofficial transcript (electric version needed), your official transcript (closure in an envelope), recommendation letters ( at least 2-3, depends on different programs), your personal statement, your research or work experience report, some programs need extra writing sample or other credentials. Also you need your Credit card (Visa, Discover, American Express and MasterCar) ready to pay the application fee.(International student:$95.00)
The detailed instruction link: Application Instructions

3. How to apply?
Our school use the online application system which is very easy to use. You need to create an account, then login the system to begin your application!
The link is below: Online Application!
The picture of the login webpage is below :
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After login, just follow the instruction to continue your application process.You will fill in your information in Personal Information, Application Information,Educational Background,Test Information-Self Reported,Languages,Awards and Activities, Employment / Residence Information,Financial Support,Legal agent/privacy statement, Applicant Statements, Program Supplementary Information.
For the recommendation letter, you could download the form on the website and ask provider to complete it or to give the providers' email address to let them finish and hand in online which is much efficiency.

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4. After applying
After finishing the applying process you should be very patient of waiting the decision made by the school. Actually, I really suggest you that the good applying work is to contact a specific professor whom you would like to work with and the dean of the department to know you are going to apply if you want them to pay more attention to you.
If you are eager for the decision news, you could search and check in the grade cafe forum to know if the decision has worked out!
The link : Grad Cafe Forum

Good Luck everyone!! I hope you all will get good news from UMN, we really welcome you!

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Unique Places in Minneapolis

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Hola a todos! We have been talking about things regarding to the U of M. This time I will introduce you with some of my favorite spots in Minneapolis and some info that could be helpful. Since winter is coming and my mood is shifting with the rhythm of the cold, I decided to remember all the places I find unique here. When you have time, you should definitely check them out.

1. If you are in the mood for a cultural vibe, go to Walker Art Center: This museum located on Hennepin Avenue is one of the most important cultural attractions in Minneapolis. The architecture is exceptional. If you go on Thursday you can get in for free. Here's the link http://www.walkerart.org/

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2. If you want to read, or grade surrounded by different kind of people you should go a coffee shop located in Uptown called 'Spyhouse'. You will find independent music, a tasty coffee, mocha, latte and so on. At the same time you'll see a lot of students doing the same thing like you do, so you will feel related, connected, linked, associated to them. If you want more information here's the link http://spyhousecoffee.com/


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3. One expensive but interesting place in Minneapolis is Guthrie Theater if you want to see a play that you'll remember for a long time. This place will let you see the Mississippi river from an exceptional yellow lens. The performances at the Guthrie are qualified and outstanding. Save some of your money and go to check one of their productions once in a while. I just got a Facebook comment from a college who literally says that Guthrie has student discounts and/or rush tickets (cheaper tickets, if you get them a few hours before a performance). Find out http://www.guthrietheater.org/


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4. If you want to go to a 'college' pseudo-cultural club you can go to Kitty Cat Klub, which is a place really close to the U. You will see local bands and you can try decent drinks. The decoration of the place is attractive. You can give it a try on Fridays after class to relax your busy mind. Website http://www.kittycatklub.net/


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Enjoy and let me know what do you think. Hasta la próxima!

What happens when your academic life and your dreams coincide

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The week of November 11th to November 18th is an International Education Week. It is a great opportunity for all international students to learn about educational opportunities around the world and in the USA in particular. As an international graduate student studying Comparative and International Development Education at the U of M, I would like to share about my contribution into the "world of international education."

When I just arrived to Minnesota to start my first semester as a grad student, I accidently got involved with the Civic Leadership Engagement Program for Minnesota and Ukraine due to my natural desire and ability to jump into any kind of unpaid job or initiative. I was just a very happy Russian-English-Russian interpreter for a while until I realize how much I care about this Program and how much I want something similar to this Program to be done for Ukrainian youth. As the result the idea of creating Youth Leadership Engagement Program for Ukraine and Minnesota youth was born. And thus, my new journey started. During next few month several people gathered together to discuss, create, and set up the Program. My classmates and some of my professors got excited and agreed to help out. We've contacted many youth driven organizations around the Twin Cities area to see if we can work together for the best learning experiences of our youth. The Youth Leadership Engagement Program for Ukrainian youth that once was just a big dream of mine turned into my Master's thesis project; and more than that, it turned into the everyday reality of my life.

The junior high and high school students from Ukraine arrived to Minnesota about two weeks ago and are going to spend two more weeks on Minnesota soil learning about youth empowerment, leadership, governance, transparency, and democracy. I'm completely overwhelmed with enthusiasm and all of the learning experiences we discover together every day. We've visited many organizations (Public Achievement, Fire Department, Police Station, City Hall, University of Minnesota, etc.) and interacted with many inspiring people (ex-Governor of Minnesota is just one of them). I would never believe I'd be a part of such an important initiative that someday, I'm sure, will turn into a movement and will give my country incredible leaders capable of making best decisions for the better future of our nation. Now I believe more than ever, big accomplishments start with big dreams. So never lessen your dreams.

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International Education Week

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Today marks the beginning of the annual International Students Week, an event initiated by the US department of State and the US department of Education.
As international students, it's a great opportunity to celebrate education and diversity among students in institutions all over the world.
Interestingly, the University of Minnesota comprises students from over 120 different countries and over 1,300 international faculty and scholars. Last year's event at the University of Minnesota included lecture series, poster presentations, a learning fair and of course, the fun parts - lots of games and film shows.

This year's celebration will culminate in a documentary titled "Crossing borders", which focuses on cross-cultural discussions and misconceptions. The documentary will be followed by a panel dicsussion by students on cross-cultural experiences.

For details on specific events during the week, please visit http://global.umn.edu/global-u/iew/

Looking forward to more exciting events this year!!

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An Ambassador's perspective on the presidential elections

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Everything got quiet suddenly with everyone seeming to hold their breath. We were tightly packed together in a gym hall with blue signs of "Hope" and "Change we can believe" flaring across the crowd. Then out of the speakers blasted U2's song "City of Blinding Lights" and the crowd of students and community members erupted into a jubilant choir of cheers upon his arrival: Barack Obama.

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Back in February of 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Obama speak during his campaign trail for the Presidency. It was a surreal, cool event to see a charismatic political figure give an eloquent speech only several meters away from you. Of course, one couldn't help but being taken in by the crowd's passion along with Obama's charisma, charm, humor and outstanding oratory skills. At the end of his speech Obama made the rounds toward the crowd and fortunately, I had the chance to shake his hand twice (I still enjoy bragging about it to my American friends :)). To this day I think that that was one of the coolest events in my college career.

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In my 6 years of being here I had the privilege to witness two presidential elections. Overall, I have always found the time of elections here very interesting, in particular when it comes to the expression of preference for a candidate. It's not like every day that you suddenly see yard signs with political slogans or candidates' names decorating peoples' front lawns and properties. Whenever you drive or walk through the streets you can't help but noticing the multitude of bumper stickers glaring at you from passing cars. In addition, it's a time when you can encounter many political ads in social media, TV and radio and it's always fun to see how creative both campaigns tend to get with their messages.

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Apart from the candidates and slogans, I also enjoy the effects that the elections have on the people. One thing I have always appreciated deeply about the elections is the amount of passion and energy that is emanated from campaign volunteers, mostly consisting of students and community members. Often you see them on campus or in the community, spending countless, unpaid hours handing out literature or encouraging fellow citizens to register and vote in the elections. Back In 2008 I volunteered along some of them to knock on people's doors to remind them and obtain their pledge to vote in the election. It was a great feeling to do something for the common good with other Americans.


One may wonder then why as an international student who can't vote in this country I care about the elections here. For one, it's the fact that the selection of the next president will also affect the relationship with the leaders of my country and will have an impact on foreign policy in general. More so, I come from a household where being informed and having discussions about politics is important. Consequently, I enjoy hearing peoples' opinions and take on the politics that occur in their country. I remember having some of the best, profound conversations about politics with American friends of mine because they often asked for my opinions and views on the elections. Sometimes these conversations could become heated and emotional when disagreements occurred. But with all fruitful and healthy debates, we could all agree at the end of day to respect each other's' opinions and appreciate the opportunities for an enlightening discussion with insight into another person's beliefs.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that if you have a chance to talk politics with people here don't hesitate to do so because it's a great way to explore people's passions and beliefs. My experience has always been that they also like to hear a foreign perspective on their elections or on politics in general. And if you have the chance to see a politician or candidate speak, don't hesitate to do so because it can be another insightful American experience for you. Make sure to check the news on Tuesday because it's probably going to be one of the tightest and most exciting elections in U.S. history. Until next time, my dear friends.

Activities In Winter Minnesota

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The first snowfall came late October this year as predicted. My fourth Minnesota winter is coming. For me, cold winter is not that horrible. And that's the only time I prefer to stay in the warm library and study than to wander outside. However If you really like to explore, you will find there are lot of hot things ongoing.


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No.1 BIG NBA games.

The NBA new season just kicked off. We have some new guys here in T-Wolves. Brandon Roy the former all-star and Andrei Kirilenko a former leading blocker will make the Minnesota Team more competitive this year. I am really anticipating the comeback of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. They almost complete the reconstruction. For a student at the U, we will have a college night every Wednesday, a $20 ticket for just $10 for U students only. That's one thing you may want to check out.
Go Timberwolves!

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No.2 Vikings is on the way.

I am a big football fan. This year I really hope that the Vikings can make something happen. They are 5-3 and the second in the division. The young quarterback Christian Ponder is really a smart guy, and he is growing up and making progress. Also, we have Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harven. I believe they will make the playoff.
Go Vikings.


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No.3 Skiing and snowboard

If you don't want to sit inside to watch the games and instead you like snow and winter sports. This is the right place too. I still remembered that in winter 2010, I had my first skiing experience in St. Paul. It was like a baby learning walking on her own. Well, for me, skiing is hard but so much fun. In the late December, you will find that you can ski everywhere, since you got couples of inches snow almost everywhere. Then, after 2 years experience you may try the more skilled sports snowboard in the professional field. That's something really fancy. By the way, the university also offers skiing and snowboard course every year. I am sure you may don't want to miss it.
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No.4 Ice fishing
Somebody may ask me, are you kidding me? It's so cold outside, what can you do except find some shelter? But, don't forget that, we have thousands of lakes in Minnesota. Ice fishing is really cool. You can find a lot of ice fishing lakes in the north Minnesota. Ice fishing is not that difficult or danger. Once you find a lake with ice thick enough, you can cut a hole and fish with your rod and bites . Surprisingly, it's not as cold as you might expected.

Go Ice Fishing

"Driven to discover" even you are in the freezing Minnesota, you will find something amazing.

Managing stress and what does that have to do with your roommates

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Have you ever had a feeling like you can't keep up with your crazy life anymore, as if somebody stole every happy thought from your brain and there are almost nothing (even babies and poppies) that can make you smile again. Perhaps you don't even want to walk outside you room... or bed. You feel so overwhelmed, responsible, stressed, and mad for the whole world's problems laying on your shoulders (really, there are just the midterms, papers, and job you are juggling with but it feels like there is the whole world involved in making your life miserable). And your social life... just sucks! Oh wait. It doesn't suck, because... you just don't have a social life at all. So imagine you are sitting in your room all by yourself and not even trying to keep track of the Sneakers bars you ate while embracing your misery, when the magic super hero in the image of your roommate appears at your door to rescue you from the mythical Dragon Life you created. Sounds familiar? Well, may be not so much of the dragons and the super heroes part :) But, seriously, how often we all get so much caught up by our everyday business with all of the activities and responsibilities that eventually leads us to an awful stress and even depression. Student life might be difficult and stressful. Think of your ways or tools to manage stress? How do you handle difficulties?

I found for myself the best way to reconcile with my crazy life is to have happy roommates around. Seriously, I love my roommates. And I don't know what exactly keeps them happy: the Ukrainian food that I cook from time to time, or the fact that we live in a beautiful house right by the lake, or a desire to support and accept each other as we are and create a little "family" away from the family? Anyway, on that "rainy" day of mine, my roommate Bitsy yelled me from the kitchen to "get on the couch right now!" to see some uTube video. What happen next... 15 minutes of a crazy laughter and 15 more of a discussion about how some people can produce joy and pure happiness within themselves and how we sometimes forget that we can really notice simple things and the joy they can bring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI
My Dragon Life flew away scared and embarrassed and I felt how my cheerfulness comes back to me. After all, this is my choice to be happy or not. I choose to smile or not. I decide to keep myself above the stress and self pity. I love my roommates for reminding me about simple things that bring you joy and for encouraging me to bring joy to others whatever that means (an unexpected gift, or a sandwich, or a hug)


But even if you don't have awesome happy roommates or friends around, or you don't feel comfortable to talk to your friends about what you are going through, there are always services for you at the U of M to help you get where you want to get (I mean finishing up your midterms, or getting your dissertation done, or graduate, or whatever else it might be (I seriously can not think of anything not study related now :) Some of my friends checked out the U of M Boynton Mental Health Services (the word "mental" here doesn't mean you might not necessarily have to have mental disorder or disability to be eligible for the services. You might simply feel homesick or suffer a heartbreak after breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend.) The experienced professional will be glad to help you there: http://www.bhs.umn.edu/east-bank-clinic/mental-health-services.htm You just need to ask.


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Ambassadors 2012-2013 category.

ADMISSIONS is the previous category.

MEET THE AMBASSADORS is the next category.

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