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February 27, 2009

What's it like to live in the dorm?

Many new international students may be considering living in one of the residence hall of the university right now, and many of them may have a lot of questions regarding dorm life. I am living in Middlebrook Hall, one of the residence hall right now, so I can apparently the question above very well. Let's find out what's it like.


First of all, rooms in different halls are different, so I will try to talk in general here.

There are many issues to talk about here, so let me talk about one at a time.

1) Room: The dorm room is actually pretty nice. Student can choose to loft or bunk his/her bed in order to get more space in the room. However, I would say that the size of the room itself is adequate for two people. Room is usually clean, but you will probably want to vacuum your room sometimes. You can check out the vacuum from the front desk of your hall for free with your U-card.

You can go and look at the pictures of the room from the link above by clicking the dorm's name and click "Photos".
You can also watch the "video tour" on that website.

2) Bath Room: For most of the dorms, you don't have your own, private bath room. I am not quite sure about the exact number, but I think there might be a number of bath rooms on a floor. However, for Middlebrook Hall, you will have "semi private" bath room, which means you have one bath room in front of your room and you share it with 3 more people (usually your roommate and the other two in the room next to you). Although you have to clean your own room, you are not responsible for cleaning the bath room (except in the double suite in the new addition of Middlebrook Hall, where the bath room is adjacent to your room and you can get into there right from the inside of your room)

3) Food: Food in the dorm is pretty good, actually. There are variety of foods you can have. There is a sandwich bar, where there are many types of bread and meat and vegetables for you to create your own sandwich. There are pizzas, Asian foods, ice cream, salad bars, soups, and many others. There are also over ten types of cereal to choose from and tons of drinks from soda to coffee. Therefore, don't worry much about the food except if you are worried that you might miss your home country's foods. Ha-ha-ha.

You can go and check the menu here:http://www.campusdish.com/en-US/CSMW/UnivofMinnesota/default.htm?LocationID=159

4) Friends and lives: Living in the dorm means that you will meet a lot of people. You will have a lot friends on your floor as well as those on other floors. In the dorm, people will walk around all the time and you can go and talk with your friends any time, which makes dorm life really fun. Sometimes, there will be an activity on the floor like movie, or games that you can enjoy. This is actually a good way to have a sense of community on the big campus. Furthermore, there is also a study lounge on the floor where you can go and study with other people. You may need help with your homework and that's where you can get some helps. There is also a tutor room in the dorm where you can also get helps on your homework from the tutors.

5) Front desk: The front desk is where you can check out many things. They have TVs, PS2s, movies, video games, board games, vacuums, piano rooms, music practice rooms, table tennis table room, billiard table room, basketballs, and many more for you to check out!

There are also many more services in the dorm as well: http://www.housing.umn.edu/student/services.shtml

Finally, I would like to add that living in the dorm one of the best ways to make friends. It is convenient and very safe. You will have a good time living here.

Making Friends: Are there any golden rules?

Whether or not you are a confident English speaker, you do have one universal language that helps you make friends in Minnesota. It's your SMILE! Minnesotans are known to be relaxed and friendly people, so your smile works perfect in this State. Aha! Isn't it good?

Let me share some more about making friends.


[Do you know the person? It doesn't matter, give a smile.]
On various occasions, you may be surprised how people smile at you even if you don't know the person. It happened to me when a girl walked by on campus, in a grocery store with a local person, at a bus stop when shivering in the cold weather... Smiling to strangers is not very common in Japan. If you don't know the person, you don't really look at him/her let alone give a smile. Even in the other American States, specially in busy cities, people don't necessarily show a friendly face. Apparently, this is not the case in Minnesota. From time to time, you will find people who will smile at you when your eyes meet. If this happens between strangers, why not in class?

[Smile and introduce your background.]
If you are in a small class, you will have a better chance to make friends easily. Give a smile and don't forget to say the magic word, "Hi." Yes, it is simple but makes such a difference when meeting new people. Don't feel discouraged even if you missed to do so in the first class. It takes some courage, so go for the next class.

You can also break the ice by telling your name and country of origin. Because of the diversity of American society, students may not notice or pay attention to the fact that you are an international student. So let them know that you are new to Minnesota. Some of the local students may look happy and ask how you like Minnesota. You can bring up the key topic, "Minnesota winter." Ask them how to survive the weather, and how different the temperature is in your country. If you are from a tropical country, you may even receive an envious reaction!

If you are in a bigger class, it will be harder to make friends. American students tend to take off quickly after class and you may wish to have more time getting to know someone. Don't feel discouraged, though. Try to find ONE person whom you feel comfortable talking to before class or during class break. Of course, it can be with an international student. The chance is that your network of friends expands through that person later on. So keep your hope and never give up.

[Find connections.]
Just as I said, any single friend can change your world. Find connections with international students and American students who are interested in languages and cultures. You can meet them at ISSS activities such as Small World Coffee Hour and Cross-cultural Discussion Group, a variety of Student Groups including MISA, TandemPlus Program at CLA Language Center, or the Language Departments at the U. Look for key persons and places where you can start to build friendships.

And don't forget your magic smile and "Hi"!

February 22, 2009

How far away from the city are the campuses?

Some of your concerns might be whether or not you will be able to easily get to some grocery stores or retail stores from your apartment on campus. Another might be how close is the campus from the city (either Minneapolis or Saint Paul) and I would say if you like walking, Minneapolis is at a reasonable walking distance..Although I always take the bus to go either to Minneapolis or Saint Paul :)

Downtown Minneapolis is about 10-15 minutes of the West and East bank. On campus you can easily catch a bus (usually bus routes 3, 16 and 50) to go there. If you were to walk, it would take you about 30 minutes and you would have to take a slightly different road than the bus one. From Downtown Minneapolis you could reach several other places like North Minneapolis or Uptown. You can also go to Downtown Minneapolis to catch the light rail which transits between Downtown, Minnehaha Falls Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

Saint Paul is a little farther away and with the campus connector it would take you about 15-20 minutes to get there. The campus connector go directly from the Minneapolis campus to the Saint Paul campus and close to the CTC housing in Saint Paul so it's faster than the public transport of both cities (usually bus routes 3, 16 and 50) . The public transport however will get you to more places in Saint Paul like little malls where you can go groceries shopping, one of the office where you can get your driver's license and other entertaining places.

February 20, 2009


In some cultures like in England and Thailand, students have one midterm and one final exam for each class in school, while in others, students might have only one final exam in a semester. What about the University of Minnesota?
How many tests and exams are there in each class?

The first general answer to the previous questions above is "it depends". It depends on the class you take and depends on the instructor.

In more details, normally, most classes have a final exam. That is the only mandatory exam that most classes have in common. In the end of the semester, after the last day of the class, which is the same day for every class, the university will have a day off for students to study. This is called "study day". After that, it is the final week. All the final exams take place in that week. However, the specific date for the final exams for each class depends on the instructor of the class. Same course with different instructors might also have different date. For example, my roommate and I might both take the Organic Chemistry class, but we are in different sections and have different instructors. The final exam date for our Organic Chemistry class might be different. Therefore, this means some people might have three final exams in one day and finish the final week in the first two days, while other people might have one exam each day but finish the last day of the final week.

However, some classes may not have the final exam at all. For example, for the freshman writing class, students only have to writes some papers and do some homework for grade. There is no exam for the freshman writing class at all.

Let's now come back to normal classes that have the final exam. As I said earlier, the only exam that most classes have in common is the final exam. Any other exams depend on the class and the instructor. For many classes, there are also other exams during the semester. These exams have various names: midterm, quiz, test. All these mean pretty much the same thing: exam!! When we say "midterm" here at the University of Minnesota, we refer to the exams apart from the final exams. Thus, midterm can be in the third week, in the middle of the semester, or the last week of the semester. There can be more than one midterm during the semester as well. The quiz and test are normally the same thing as midterm. These kinds of exams are scheduled by the instructor. It can be any day during the semester depending on the instructor. Normally, the midterm will be like a short exam since the instructor uses the class time for the midterm,i.e., unlike the final exam, the university doesn't have any specific week designated for midterm.

As a result of this system, students at the University of Minnesota usually have several midterms in a semester and they often have midterm(s) every week or every other week. For example, I had a midterm for my Physics class last Friday. I had my Math midterm this week. I will have Biology midterm next Thursday. The week after that, I will have Physics quiz again!!! This means that students usually have to study quite hard in order to perform well in the midterms.

However, don't be intimidated. As I said, the midterm is usually a short exam, so it may not cover so many materials and it may not be too difficult. Just keep working hard and be prepared and you'll be fine.

For more detail for each class, you can look up at the Class Search link from One Stop website.

February 19, 2009

Minneapolis, one of the best places to live!

Believe it or not, Minneapolis/St. Paul is ranked 3rd best city to live in US by City Magazine based on health care, schools, housing, quality of air and so on. As rated by Forbes in 2007, it is the most affordable city in US. With the soon to be ready TCF stadium adding to the list of attractions, the ranking of the city should improve further.

For the museum lovers, there are many arts, science, historic museums here. Winters might be harsh, but its a different experience. And summers are pleasantly warm. There are a wide range of places to roam around as well, Mall of America stands as one example. And there are many Fortune 500 companies situated in Minneapolis. With all these plus points, it is one of the best place to come here for your studies in University of Minnesota situated in Minneapolis.

On the ending note, a wonderful video about Minneapolis for you.

See you here the University of Minnesota.

Interdisciplinary research

Of late I've realized the scope of interdisciplinary research going on in the University here and the way students can connect to this. It is really interesting to know how all the disciplines are working together in achieving their respective goals. I'm now part of a project where there are Mechanical Engineers, Surgeons, Graphic Designers, Computer Scientists and Bio-medical engineers are connected. Its really an exciting experience knowing how my field of study can be applied along with other fields of study in order to develop something of great value to the society. In another project, I'm working with a doctoral student from the department of archeology. It's fun to get exposed to new and interesting areas.

With this interdisciplinary collaboration and research, we get exposure to many different areas. And we never feel guilty of not putting the physics, mechanics of solids and other topics which we studied years before as we end up putting these to a good use in such kind of collaborative environments.

There are many such collaborations in various departments at the University of Minnesota. The Professors are quite accessible to discuss their research with students, and their active research is also quoted in their websites. This way the students can pursue their best interests by getting in touch with people working on areas of their interest.

English Resources at the University of Minnesota

When you come to America first time, you might be worried much about English. At the first semester, it is difficult and challenging to everyone. However, you can actively start improving your English from the first semester at the University of Minnesota. I want to introduce three very useful and beneficial resources to learn English as well as understand American culture.

When you come to America, you might be worried much about English. At the first semester, it is difficult and challenging to everyone. However, you can actively start improving your English from the first semester at the University of Minnesota. I want to introduce three very useful and beneficial resources to learn English as well as understand American culture.

1. TandemPlus: Language Exchange
TandemPlus involves a partnership between two fluent speakers of different languages. For example, if you speak Japanese and are studying English, you might be matched with a native English speaker who is learning Japanese for face-to-face exchanges.


2. Cultural Discussion Group
International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) organizes cross-cultural discussion groups which often consist of both international and U.S. students. Members of these groups meet once a week to share cross-cultural experiences, personal thoughts, and feelings in a relaxed atmosphere. Examples of the topics discussed in the past are culture shock, cultural customs, friendship/relationships, communication styles, family, and future aspirations.


3. Small World Coffee Hour
Also held by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), Small World Coffee Hour (SWCH) gives all international and US students the opportunity to meet with each other in a relaxing environment and to learn about other cultures and traditions around the world. SWCH events are free and take place every other Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Approximately 200 people attend each event, so come join us in the fun!


February 17, 2009

One of the good things about Minneapolis

I just got back from Tokyo, Japan, where I collected data (i.e. interviewed people) for my thesis work. It was an interesting return trip because I was constantly comparing the two cities of Tokyo and Minneapolis while I was there. It was as if I was looking at the hustling and bustling city of Tokyo through a different pair of glasses. The city looked familiar, but not in the same way as it used to be.

During my stay in Tokyo, I really missed the coffee shops in Minneapolis. There are lots of good ones in Minneapolis where we can relax, chat, and have access to free wi-fi. Each coffee shop has its own atmosphere with cozy couches, arts, and music. Many students bring their laptops and textbooks to study there. You are never kicked out for staying too long or plugging in your laptop.

It was almost impossible to enjoy this environment in Tokyo. Yes, there are fancy cafes but they are just too crowded and hardly come with free wi-fi. There are very few outlets so even when I was lucky enough to find a place, my laptop's life was too short. Why not just read a book then? Umm, no, no. The noise and atmosphere was too distracting. The coffee shops did not seem as welcoming and comfortable for students like me as they are in Minneapolis.

So now you know you have more choices of study place in Minneapolis. If not at home, not in the student lounge or library on campus, go to one of your favorite coffee shops to study!

February 15, 2009

Writing, writing, writing...

Writing is one of the primary skills that students are expected to demonstrate. We first face this challenge in the TOEFL writing session where we struggle to write to the point in a limited time. The pressure IS big. Now, the real challenge comes when we start to work on our writing assignments at school. The amount of writing depends on the field of study, but in my department, for example, the average length of one paper assignment is 10-page-long. When it comes to a final paper, the required pages can even reach 20 or more. Waaah! Don't freak out. There are certain ways and resources that help us learn to write more academically. So here are some tips for you.

At first, I was so tempted to write SOMETHING on a blank screen. I wanted to fill out one page as quickly as possible so that I could begin to count down the remaining pages. This is not a good idea at all. Sooner or later, I would usually get stuck. So only to be more productive and efficient, you can start with:

1. Mind mapping:
Before starting to write anything in a structured way, I randomly write out keywords on a sheet of paper. This is a so-called "mind mapping." This allows me to explore possible thoughts, topics, and concepts that I want to include in the paper. When they are all up, I organize them a little more systematically. I connect relevant keywords, or categorize them by contents. This is a brainstorming exercise and helps me prepare for the next step-to outline the flow of the paper.

2. Outlining:
Now on a computer, I list up the above categories and topics in the order I want to present in the paper. These will form the basic body of my paper. Don't forget to put the intro and conclusion, too. The intro precedes the body like an announcement: "What I am going to write in this paper are: A, B, and C..." The conclusion comes at the end of the paper by summarizing the content nice and clearly again: "What I have argued in this paper are: A, B, and C..." When the outline is ready, you will feel much better about writing the paper. You are getting there!

3. Start writing:
You are ready to go. Keep writing based on the outline that you have made. Make sure that each sentence is not too long. Don't worry about grammars and small errors halfway through your work. Keep going until you reach the end!

4. When you are done-revise and use available resources on campus:
Congratulations, it's time to revise the whole work. Check the flow of your argument, grammars, spellings, etc. As Hee Sung introduced in his previous entry, get professional feedbacks at the Writing Center. It definitely helps you improve your writing skill.

And...if you are still wondering how you can write in a nice and smart way.

Learn to speak the language:
It's not about English. Every field of study has its favorite vocabularies, phrases, and expressions. You can learn the "intellectual way of speaking" through the readings in class. Increase the variations of the language and develop your writing skill!

Oh, but don't get confused. You are NOT supposed to copy and paste any whole sentence of other's work (ideas, explanations, etc.) without citations in your paper. Beware of "plagiarism" because it is strictly prohibited.

Good luck, friends!

February 14, 2009

All about Leadership

This time I would like to introduce you the Leadership Minor and the First-year Leadership Institute that I was in last year.

- First of all, I don’t think many people know the Leadership Minor.
I took the first course PA 1961W Personal Leadership in the University in my freshman year and I got 100% overall. I chose to take the online version and I felt extremely comfortable with the teaching environment online and the way the instructor teaches. The second step course is PA 3961 which is for Junior and above. There are only 4 courses that are required to complete the program. Please check the web that above to know more if you are interested.

- I was also involved in the First-year Leadership Institute that I strongly encourage freshmen to join.
“It is a new program offered through the Office for Student Engagement and Leadership and is one of the premier leadership development opportunities offered for first-year students. Each year, a select group of 20-25 first-year students will join this semester-long program that is designed to enhance leadership skills; foster intrapersonal, interpersonal, ethical and moral development; and connect first-year students to the University of Minnesota and the surrounding communities.��?

At the beginning of the semester, we had a weekend retreat as an opening ceremony for the program. It impressed me a lot; 20 of us were living together, talking and knowing each other. Then it followed by the weekly meetings. Basically, we learn about leadership from guest speakers, discussions and activities. The campus engagement project that we were required to accomplish by the end of the program was a real practice to check what and how well we learned. Each group picked our own idea such as how to improve the U’s tunnel system. Throughout the program, we also got a mentor who was previously in the similar leadership program. For me, I think it is to build a long-term relationship with the person that I can learn from. I really enjoyed the time that the 20 “leaders��? spent together over a semester.

February 13, 2009

What are they talking about???????

I believe that one of the main concerns for many international students studying in the US is about language.
I had been quite confident about my language skills and fluency before I came to the U. However, after the first week, that confidence had vanished gradually. Why?.....What happened to me??? I believe that this situation might have happened to many other international students or will happen to many future international students as well, so let's find out about my story...

That first week of my college live in the US was the Welcome Week, the program designed for helping new students adjusting to the u before the semester started. (Details about Welcome Week experiences will possibly be posted later) During the Welcome Week, students were divided into small group of 20-15. What happened to me was that when I was in the group and people started to talk to one another, I didn't know what they were talking about! For example, there was one time when they were talking about some books that they had read in high school. They mentioned several names of the books that I had never heard before!! What next? I then didn't know what to say about that topic they were discussing because I had never had that kind of experiences in school before. Additionally, that didn't happen only once. That situation happened all the time during the Welcome Week since everyone wanted to find new friends. They talked to each other on several topics in order to make friends, but for me, I didn't have much stories to share with them!!! Furthermore, that is not the only issue; I also found out that the informal language used by teenagers was quite different from what I was familiar with as well. People tended to speak very fast and often shortened the words. Sometimes, they used some words or idioms or slang that I had never heard before. As a result, I ended up feeling really lost in the group. As a result, I ended feeling really lost in the group and I rarely said a word. Even when I tried to say something, they sometimes didn't understand me as well. It wasn't because my grammar was wrong or I used the wrong word, but because I didn't use the phrases or words they were familiar with, i.e., the word they usually used. These are what happened to me.

Now, the next interesting question is, how did I manage to fit in?

All right, the above story might sound scary, but I eventually got a happy ending. First of all, about the difference in experiences, I made use of my difference as my advantage!! Although I might not have many things in common with other people, I had so many interesting stories about my differences. When I tried to talk to other people, I tried to bring up the fact that I was from foreign country and tell them some interesting stories about my country. For example, when they talked about the weather, I told them the lowest temperature in Thailand. They were all surprised. Then they started to ask another question about my country. This was then the great start to a conversation between me and other people. After a while, they eventually found out how many interesting stories I had and they wanted to learn more about me.

Secondly, about the informal language problems, what I did was trying to notice how they talk. That is what words they used, what kind of structure and what slang they used. After a while, I learned those style of speaking and I could speak with my friends without any problems.

Ultimately, after that struggling period, my effort paid off. I can eventually fit in with my friends and with the new culture and I feel a lot more comfortable.

Therefore, my last word is that don't be discouraged if these things happen to you. Calm down and try to fit in. You will succeed at last.

Last four important points about the above situation:
1) Don't be scared. This doesn't have to happen to you. You might not have the problem like me, but in case you have, just be aware that you are not alone.
2)My advice is not to be shy or embarrassed when you don't understand what others say. Just ask them.
That happens to me all the time. Whenever I don't understand some phrases or words, I just ask them to explain to me.
3)Don't give up and stay alone. You can't be alone in the college for four years!!!!
4) The situation above is technically called "Culture Shock", which you will learn about during your international orientation.

February 6, 2009

How do I apply to the University of Minnesota?

If you have that question wondering around your head at this moment, click "continue" to read the rest of my blog ^0^

As I went through emails that we received from the passport site (http://www.passport.umn.edu/), I recognized that many prospective students have more questions about how to apply to the University of Minnesota. All of the ambassadors in this program are actually undergraduate and graduate students at the U. We would love to share our experiences with you all on what we went through during the application process and how we dealt with certain challenges. Unfortunately, we cannot answer any questions related to admission since the regulations and requirements will be different from year to year. We would suggest you to check out the admission website at:

1. For undergraduate (both freshmen and transfer) admission

2. For graduate admission

3. For professional school admission

On the left side of the undergraduate admission page, there are more links that will guide you to find more information about applications, cost, scholarships, etc. Additionally, there is also an "Ask Us" link at the very bottom left of that page. If you click on that, you would find contact information of Undergraduate Admission Office. You can give them a call or send them emails if you have any questions related to the admission process and I am sure they are more than happy to answer those for you. But again, we will also try our best to give you information about the University of Minnesota, so do not feel hesitate to email and email and email us (that's what we're here for, we're here for you ^0^)

Good luck!!!


Class Structure

How are classes like? Is the class big? Will I be able to talk to professor in the class? What if I have questions during the class? How are the labs?

Many of you may have these questions in your mind right now.
All right, your answers to those questions are here!!!!

All right here is the class structure here. There are three elements for each class: lecture, discussion, and lab.

-Lecture: It seems obvious that lecture is the place where you get the concepts or principles for your course. For freshman classes, most lectures are in a big hall with more than 100 students in your class. Thus, it may be a little difficult for student to ask or discuss some topics directly with the professor during the lecture. Most of the time, lecture is the place where you go and learn some ideas or some concepts in the book. However, I am not saying that you can't discuss with your professor at all. In fact, you can normally do so after the class, and I usually do that.

-Discussion: However, sometimes you don't have time to talk to your professor after the class. What should you do then? Don't worry, because in a section called discussion, you will be in a small class like 20-30 people. Sometimes, discussion class is taught by a teaching assistance or TA, but many times, it is taught by your professor. What do you do in the discussion? Well, it should be obvious from the name; you discuss. However, what you discuss depends on what that class is. For example, in my Microeconomics class, in the discussion, the TA will review the topics covered in the previous lecture and give students some problems to work on. In my Math and Physics discussions, we usually work on problems in group. This discussion is designed to give students opportunities to ask or discuss on the topics that they still don't clearly understand or to practice on problems that might be in the exam.

-Lab: You may already know what you would do in a lab. Hands-on experiences!! I am in Institute of Technology, so most of my labs are in the field of sciences. These labs are really great. You will have chance to use many hi-tech gadgets you have probably found in you text. You will have chance to prove the laws or theories covered in the lecture, and you will have chance to gain laboratory skills. I remember a lab that I used the absorption spectroscopy to determine the types of bonding in an organic molecules. That was really awesome!!

Finally, please be reminded that not every class has all these three elements. Some classes, like a Writing class might have only discussion. Some classes like General Biology might not have the discussion but have the lab and the lecture. Some classes like Physics might have all!!! However, whatever the class structure of that course is, you will gain a lot from it if you participate in every class and section! Therefore, always go to the class and get something out of it!!!

You can find the structure of each class from One Stop website here:http://onestop2.umn.edu/courseinfo/searchcriteria.jsp?institution=UMNTC

Info on Teaching, Resources and Research in CS

Here is some information about the teaching style at the U in general, the library resources available and research areas in the department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Teaching style-
Most Professors use Power point presentations in the class for their lectures, but there are some who still use the primitive way of teaching on the board. Either way, the Professors like to have an interactive class. They love questions and doubts from the students, and they would encourage students to be interactive by discussing in the class. Apart from that, the Professors also offer Office hours where the students can go talk to them about the questions they have. And we have Teaching assistants (TA) for the courses, who are students with good background in that subject. Students who are really shy in approaching a Professor regarding their doubts can take good advantage of TA. Though I would suggest talking to a Professor will clear your questions in a better way. For the sake of Students who take classes online, some of the course lectures in the Computer Science department (and many other departments) are video taped. The students can make best use of this technology as well, by viewing the recorded video sequences of the lectures. And a typical course will have some or all of home works, surprise quizzes, projects, discussing or reviewing papers, writing papers and open/closed book exams. Some courses might also have a take home exam, where you are asked to submit the answers to a test within a specific period of time.

We have a huge number of libraries. You can find the list of libraries present in the U here, specific to different areas. And they offer a variety of services like allowing inter library loan, access to selected journals and publications, borrowing books from libraries on-campus and off-campus as well, and the most importantly the workshops on how to put these huge information repository to the best use.

Research in Computer Science-
There is a recent increase in the number of prospective students asking questions about the various kinds of research going on in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering here in the University of Minnesota. Here is a glimpse of that, though I suggest the best way to find out is to go to the webpages of Professors and find out. Some of the research groups here in the university include Data mining, Computer and sensor networks, databases, human computer interaction, artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision, graphics and visualizaton. And there are many more areas which I might have missed out in this list. Hope this information helps to the students who are planning to pursue their undergraduate/graduate studies here at the University of Minnesota.

February 5, 2009

All about the U & the International Students

• Population (in general)
Fall '08
Students : Total - 66,312 Twin Cities Campus - 51,140
Faculty - 19,718 Staff - 14,554
• The U promotes the internationalization of the teaching, research, and outreach missions of the University of Minnesota:
– Study, work, intern, and volunteer abroad
– International students and scholars
– Funding opportunities
– Language-learning research
– Intercultural training
– International project management
– Visa-related services
– Databases of international resources
– Alumni abroad
– Bridging to China
– Outreach and information

There is an updated Annual Statistical Report that I want to share with you. It provides by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Here is the link: http://www.international.umn.edu/about/facts/isss_annual_report_jul08.pdf

I am very impressed by the numbers and figures in the report. I can see the trend is that the U is recruiting more Asian students. And among all the countries, China ranks the first.

• Useful info
International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), 190 Humphrey Center, 612-626-7100
Learning Abroad Center, 230 Heller Hall, 612-626-9000
China Center, 150 University International Center, 612-624-1002

If you want to know further information about the International Program of the U, you can always go to the web http://www.international.umn.edu/

More opportunities for Engineers and Computer Scientists!!

Are you considering to find a full-time job, or a summer internship, or maybe a co-op while studying or after graduation? If you think you can take advantage of it, I encourage you to read this post.

Students and companies have many opportunities through the academic year to find either of them and the University of Minnesota will definitely get you well prepared for that moment.

Students are looking...but you must know that companies are always looking for bright students as well!! We as students are looking to get that specific job that we always dreamed of, and vice versa; companies certainly take the time and the effort to find the right person for a specific job description. Since we all have to make an effort, I will name some of the most common conferences that I had a chance to attend and participated at some point while I am a gopher!! student. This is how I got a summer-intership!!! I will also write about how the University of Minnesota helps us (students) to be prepared for interviews, writing a good resume, and some more tips!

Definitely the right job for you will take time and effort. So let’s get started with some details that at the begging I had to understand. First, what are some of the differences between co-op, internships, and full-time offers? An internship is no longer than 3 months, and it usually takes place during the summer break. Most of the companies are looking for potential full-time employees thus they will hire students for only a few months, give them a project, take them to really cool places in the city so that you can get familiar with it, and then it will be over. A co-op is much longer; it usually takes around 6 to 9 months therefore you will have a chance to work in a longer project or in multiple ones, but in general you will get a better feeling of the company and the group itself. A full-time job is nothing but a regular job that you will be interested in after you graduate; you will be joining a company that previously have make you an offer and that you accepted.

Now, what is the University of Minnesota doing to help us students to get ready for the interviews, and on how to write a good and impressive resume? Most of the companies will make a first filter based on your resume and GPA. If you think about it, your resume is like your ticket for the next step: the interview. Therefore you should really make a good effort, and with the help of the Career Center, to build a solid, concise, with no grammar mistakes!, and updated with either academic or professional experience (if you already have some). This is the link to the CCSE - Career Center for Science and Engineering; here you will find the latest news about career fairs, and other opportunities on campus.
The CCSE also offers to students mock (fake, not-real) interviews; this is a great opportunity to interview with real professional recruiters that will ask us behavioral type of questions, as well as technical ones. They come from local companies such as Lockheed Martin, 3M, etc....just to prepare, and give us an invaluable feedback. So take advantage of it!

On the other hand, there are many out-of-campus activities like conferences where you can find this space. For example I mentioned before about Grace Hopper, but you can also assist to SHPE or SWE. (If you are only looking for technical conferences to specifically dig into specific topics such as Data Mining, AI, etc. take a close look at this web-page Computer Science Conference Rankings)

I hope I have given you important highlights to find the right place where you want to be any time soon!!!! And if you have any comment or question, please post it here in the blog with your email, and I will get back to you.

Good luck!


Career Center at University of Minnesota

Many international students want to find a job in America after studying abroad.

Then, how can we start job search and be ready for a right job?

How can we start job search in America?

What documents do we need?

Where can we find a right job for us?

How can we prepare resume and interview?

Career Center at the University of Minnesota will help you about these questions and requirements to have a right career in America.

Career Center also has experienced and professional career consultants who will help you in person about resume critique, mock interview, and career counseling.

Here’s the website. Check it out!

In Job search, the sooner the better!


. i miss my mom but...

...i know i'm gonna be just fine ^0^

Last winter break, I went back to Indonesia to visit my family and friends and to also have the most amazing food ever (let me know if you're thinking about visiting Indonesia, I might be able to take you around >o<). I got back here on the 20th of January and was struggling with homesickness for about a week. That's why I thought it would be a good idea to write about how I dealt with it.

Homesickness is very common among international students. A wonderful home deserves to be missed, doesn't it? Yet it is also a rare opportunity for growth, so we gotta take advantage of it!

When I was about to leave Indonesia in the first place, it was actually tougher than I thought. I knew that I was going faraway and would miss my family, especially with the jet-lag http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_lag. Then when I got to Minneapolis, culture shock hit me pretty hard. My mom always tells me to think of challenges as opportunities to grow as a wiser and stronger person; therefore, I did not want to give up that fast. I decided to:

1. Stay in touch with my family!

I grew up in a family-oriented family ^^ It is important for me to tell my family how I am doing and to know how they are doing back home. Since the technology is growing rapidly, it is very possible for me to talk to them through emails and facebook (a networking website-check out their website at http://www.facebook.com), to hear their voices (I personally like to make a phone call over the internet by using SKYPE http://www.skype.com), and to see their faces (via web camera). Sometimes I feel like I want to talk to them through phone, then what I do is just purchase a telephone card which is available in any grocery stores here.

2. Stay focus on why I am here!

I am here to learn something. It does not mean that I study all the time because learning here could also be interpreted as learning how to manage my time (I learned to start doing my assignments beforehand so I could talk to my professors or TA if I need more explanations on those), how to build good relationships with other people, how to cook for myself, how to get a direction to a place, etc. When I miss home, I like to use that homesickness as a motivation. Since I miss spending time with my family, I do not want to waste my time here.

3. Step out of my comfort zone!

College is not always about GPA (Grade Point Average), it is also about networking. University of Minnesota provides me that. Since it is a big and diverse school, it has hundreds of student groups which hold events through out the year (check out the list of the student groups here: http://www.sua.umn.edu/groups/directory/index.php?group_by=name). Since there is something going on on campus, I like to keep my eyes open when I walk between classes (there are posters of events everywhere) because I personally like to meet new people and get involved with campus activities. Attending some of those events has definitely helped me meeting new friends, who has been my second family here, and finding a place where I belong, a place where I feel just like home.

p.s. Please feel free to leave any comments in my blog (questions? agreements? disagreements?) and hope to see you guys around the University of Minnesota soon ^0^


February 3, 2009

Women in Computer Science...this is for YOU!

I should talked about this topic a loooooong time ago, I am sorry about it. I missed one of the Ambassadors meetings because of this conference, actually. This conference is one of the most popular ones in Computer Science, and it has a particularity: it is made by and for women! The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computer Science annual conference takes place in different and exciting locations that always surprises everyone!

This special conference is oriented to Master and PhD female students in Computer Science or related fields.

The University and especially the CS Department encourages and supports female students to assist at least once to this conference; besides that inspiring it is the right place to find people working or doing research on that topic that also interests you. Students from all over the country travel once a year to present a post, talk about women in CS specific topics, have fun, enjoy great food too, and dance! It also has a recruitment event, where the most popular companies in the industry of technology are waiting for you to talk about your ideas, why you would like to work for them, etc. etc.
This is a great opportunity to network! too. It is very important to expand your list of people you know in the field; you can help them and they can help you. It is a space to give and receive technical support but also to get motivated to continue with your professional or academic initiatives...and to get more involved as well!!!

I posted some pics that I took in the last conference at Keystone, CO, last year (2008).


Please if you want to ask me or send me any comment, post it and leave you email I will get back to you.


About the GRE and TOEFL

When I was getting ready to start my graduate studies here in the US I knew I had to do very well in the GRE and the TOEFL exams. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination, and TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. Here you can lear a little bit more about each of them * GRE * TOEFL *...Wikipedia is awesome by the way!

I started to prepare the GRE exam a few months before I had to take it! GET PREPARED! That is my advice to all of you students that are still having second thoughts; especially coming from another country you have to feel comfortable enough to read, understand, and know how to answer in English. And not only that...you have to do it fast! The GRE is long and sometimes time will not be on your side, you have to think fast. There are many textbooks, websites, local institutes that will get you ready for the exam. Please take advantage of it. It will prepare you so that day when you are in front of the computer you can feel prepared and you will not be as nervous as if you didn't do anything to help you remember and practice for it.

Also make a reservation as soon as possible, as we get closer to important deadlines such as submitting your application to the School you applied for UofM!! it gets harder to find a spot. So don't wait until last minute. It might happen that after you get the results you may need to take the exam again because you didn't scored high enough or because you know that you can do better. Take into account that you are paying a considerable amount of money every time you take it, so also keep an eye on your budget ;)

These same advices apply for the TOEFL exam. But also for this exam I think you can get help from other medias such as the TV, movies, music, technical magazines!, books that are sell in CD format,...explore your options! And speak! Speak! Speak!
Practice it and be very conscious about how comfortable you feel speaking in English. Keep a list of new words and incorporate new words as frequently as possible; make sure that you know how to use it as well.

It is also very important to practice your analytical skills and writing skills. They will ask you to use them. Practice how to write short essays, and to highlight your ideas in it. They will try to get into your brain! to see how you think, how you process the information given, what can you say about it, how can you make it better, what is wrong about it, etc. They might give you a topic and ask you to write about it. Read technical papers that might help you to understand what I am really saying here, as they will point you out the right way to get through it successfully.

I wish somebody had said to me all these tips! Use them wisely.

If you have any question or comment, please post your comment and leave your email so that I can contact you back....I will! :D

February 2, 2009

Writing Center at University of Minnesota

For every international student, writing might be the hardest job ever.

However, the University of Minnesota has a very convenient and competitive writing center for you!

For every international student, writing might be the hardest job ever. However, the University of Minnesota has very convenient and competitive writing center for you!

As working on your paper or assignments, you can just easily make appointments online to meet with a writing consultant at the writing center or walk-in in other satellite centers.

Here writing consultants are very kind and understanding, because they are well trained and experienced working with international students.

Here is the link to the writing center. http://writing.umn.edu/

Don’t get worried about writing a paper or assignments any more.

You have the writing center here in Minnesota!

February 1, 2009

Back for a new semester and new year + Philadelphia Photos!

Yep, the Spring 09 semester started about two weeks ago, probably on a good note, for most students, faculty members and University Employees, because of the new classes, new perspectives, new buildings and the new US administration we all witnessed on the first day of class :)


New Classes - You might already know this, but each semester you have to register for new classes through the registration system of the University . Some of them might just be the continuation of classes you were taking the past semester (ex: Organic Chemistry semester I and II), others might be totally different. I come from a french educational system, and for the most part, we would have the same classes for both the Fall and the Spring semesters and this was something new I noticed when I first started at the University. Most majors will give you a four-years program you have to follow for registration and full-time students are registered for 13 credits or more, and any credit over 13 is free.

New Perspectives - This is probably the usual resolutions of doing our homeworks on time, make use of our student services fees like going to the Recreationl Center more often, making use of clinics and services Boynton Health Service offers, Boynton being the Health Center on-campus for most international students. Using the professors, and teaching assistants office hours more often for help in our classes and homeworks or just for a talk and getting the best out of our social experiences!

New Buildings - The University is currently rebuilding The Science Building on-Campus. That building was used for most Chemistry classes, and also had a study area. The new building will be called the Science Teaching and Student Services Center.

New US Admisnistration System - The inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan 21, 2009 (the first day of class), was probably the most followed new story on that day since he brings a lot of expectations for the US and World economy and also social relations. Luckily, students had the opportunity to watch the inauguration at Coffman Memorial Union’s theater.

I hope your holidays went excellently well :). I went to Philadelphia and here are a couple of photos I took (>Right click>View Image to see High Resolution of the Photo). Enjoy you week!

Downtown Philadelphia


Cool Sky near Philadelphia Intl Airport :)

Winter is Fun!

The month of January must have been very happening to all the prospective applicants. People must be busy filling out application forms and sending them, and waiting for their admission results. Some of you might have even received the admission status later from the Programs you have applied to. Good luck to you all!

Let me share some of my winter experiences with you, a few highlights here.

I felt like a free bird today when the temperatures got really better with only 43F or so. I could roam around with only minimal winter wear. A nice transition after the weather websites showed -37F wind chill a couple of days back.

I got a chance and learned to walk again, after kissing the earth (read it falling down :P) a few weeks back when the snow melted and formed a thin layer of ice making all the roads and sidewalks very slippery. Learning to walk and trying not to fall down is all fun.

Had been to Lake Calhoun. Its like one big, thick piece of rock hard ice, you have to see it for yourself. The shining sun, the raising snow and the frozen lake!

Minnehaha Falls looked really beautiful with the frozen falls making nice pattens.

All in all, winter is fun!