October 2012 Archives

HUGE Campus. No problem!

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Hello my wonderful friends!!!

I might be cheap but I have to admit that I LOVE FREE STUFF. If you haven't had a chance to look at Tamilola's blog about navigating around the Twin cities, do it! http://blog.lib.umn.edu/isss/undergraduate/2012/10/minneapolis-is-probably-one-of.htm It's very helpful. You can use public transportation in a smart way to save a lot of money.

However, they are still not free. In this blog, I will mention a free transportation that the U of M provides you. And as a student at the U of M, getting around the campus is one of the most important things you need to master!

Let's me start with a question: What is the most common thing you hear about University of Minnesota? Like it or not, attending University of Minnesota means going to a HUGE campus.

The University of Minnesota size is 1,204 acres (about 5 square kilometers) with three campus locations: West Bank, Eat Bank and St. Paul. To make it easy to understand, just imagine a campus in two cities: St. Paul and Minneapolis. The distance between St. Paul campus and Minneapolis campus is about 4 miles (approximately 6.5 km)
I took the distance from Coffman Memorial Union in the East Bank to St. Paul Student Center in St. Paul campus. University-of-Minnesota-Twin-Cities-Campus-Map_mediumthumb.jpg

In the Minneapolis campus, the Mississippi river separated the campus into 2 parts: the East Bank and the West Bank, which takes you about 15-20 minutes to cross the river.

Take me as a specific example. My major is Communication studies. Thus, most of my classes are in Ford Hall, the East Bank. I have a minor in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, which has all the classes in St. Paul campus. As an international student and international student ambassador, I work with ISSS a lot. ISSS office is in the West Bank. I also work an on-campus job in Coffman Memorial Union, which is in the East Bank. Now, you can imagine how crazy I would be just to run around!


umnbuspict.jpgThe Campus connectors and Campus circulators are there for you! I still remember that figuring out how to use the Campus shuttle was one of the most useful things for me during my time at the U. The Campus connectors take you from the West Bank to the East Bank in less than five minutes, from the East Bank to St. Paul in about 20 minutes. The Campus circulators take you around each campus location within few minutes. But that's not everything! The Campus shuttles have a super high frequency. In peak hour of classes, the campus shuttles come almost every minute. Otherwise, they come in about 5-10 minutes. In the evening or late at night, still they come in about 15-20 minutes.

You can check out more details as well as the Campus shuttles' stop and routes.



Free. Fast. No more cold. No more waiting. Navigating around campus can never be easier!

Minnesota winters are no joke! But they can be fun with the appropriate gear. I've met some people who have seen pictures of 5 feet snow falls and think it's fun or crazy, but that's not the part of winter I'm concerned with. The snow is the least of my worries. When you see that the weather reports indicate a temperature of -20 or less that's when things get risky.
It's true last winter was mild, but that's no the norm in Viking's land!
Seriously! it is no light matter, and even if you're on a limited student budget like most of us here don't be cheap and risk getting pneumonia, frostbite or any other number of horrible things. But this is no tetric blog, i mean it to be an invitation to go on a fun and thorough winter shopping trip while on a srudent budget.
I've read and heard people say just bundle up, but allow me to give you some tips on how to bundle up for a Minnesota winter from the point of view of the wisest person in earth according to me, my mom who lived to the U of M 20+ years ago before I was born.
The following list is for the coldest day, which should be what you prepare for, since after that everything should be a joke if you have good clothes. Also don't wait till it's freezing cold to start buying clothes!

1. A good base layer of cotton long underwear.
winter underwear.jpg

Both bottom and top. It sounds unnecessary but there will be at least a couple of weeks each winter when waiting for the bus or walking to school will be like standing outdoors in the North Pole! I got mine for about $20 at Herberger's. There are a couple of locations around town, so just google it and find one near your place.

2. Wool socks!

Why wool? Because they're extremely warm and if they were to get wet they dry up really fast. However normal wool can be extremely uncomfortable for some people and sometimes to big and if you love hiking like I do you might be familiar with the "smart wool" brand, they are the most comfortable sock fabric ever and they're not overwhelmingly warm! Plus they last forever! Just make sure they are boot length, otherwise there's no point!
You can buy smartwool socks online, or at hiking and outdoor activity stores like REI. I'm lazy so I prefer online: http://www.smartwool.com You can buy a pair for about $12.

3. Good snow boots!

Even if it doesn't snow your feet will get extremely cold if you're only wearing warm socks. As a matter of fact when it snows it doesn't get as cold as when the skies are clear and the wind is freezing. So... What I mean by good snow boots is that they are labeled to be good for bellow 32 degree temperatures and they are waterproof so that the snow won't freeze your feet and they have good traction on the soles so you want slip when walking on eyes.
They might not be the cheaper ones but as an avid hiker I recommend Columbia boots. They're way cheaper online than at the stores. Try amazon, or sometimes the Columbia site has good deals.

4. Warm scarf!

On below freezing temperatures dressing well has nothing to do with fashion! You can look good, but stupidly freeze. Make sure whatever you buy is cotton, wool, polar tech or fleece and is a tight fabric. Those cute fluffy scarfs with holes are the worse idea ever! You can find good and cheap scarfs almost anywhere. I personally love kniting so I make my own, but Ragstock is my favorite spot for buying student budget scarfs and base layers. Or clothes in general... Just make sure that they are big enough for you to wrap your neck and face around a couple of times.
Try Ragstock and tell me if you agree with me that it is the coolest clothes store ever! http://ragstock.com/

5. A warm hat that covers your head and ears

It is so easy to freeze if the only part of your body you don't cover is your head. And if you keep you head warm, everything else will feel great. So make sure again you find a nice warm tight fabric, and make sure you ears are covered. When it gets really cold a few seconds outside without the appropriate gear could cause frostbite which is basically damage to your skin and tissues due to freezing, and your ears and nose are the parts most at risk.

6. Comfy waterproof gloves or mittens!

Don't be cheap with these cause you will use them everyday! Make sure that their label says they're good for very cold temperatures, once again that they are of a warm fabric, and that they have an outside waterproof layer. When it snows if you hands get wet you're in trouble, but if they're not you can actually enjoy the snow and play around with it. Even as a young adult I still get as excited as a 5 year old when it snows and I can go play outside, make snowmen, snow angels, etc... Why else would we come to Minnesota?
Mine are fleece with an outside layer of leather. The best ever! I bought them at a little boutique in Alexandria MN, but department stores, and places like Columbia and even Amazon.com have equally amazing options. Mine were around $55, and you should plan to spend around that amount for something lasting and warm.

7. Earmuffs!

I personally think they look ridiculous and cute at the same time, but this January there were a few days when I was extremely happy to have them, because even a good had won't fully cover your ears. And believe me! Ears get cold extremely fast and it's painful and uncomfortable when that happens. Again look for something made of some nice warm fabric and you'll do great.

8. Layers, layers, layer!

You can still wear your cool t-shirts and blouses during the winter time, but remember always to have at least one nice and warm sweater, over your t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on top of that. Or at least wear a long sleeve shirt and then a sweatshirt, unless you're already wearing long sleeve underwear.. Make sure that at least two of these layers don't leave any skin uncovered in between the them and the gloves because cold air creeps in amazing ways, and that your base layer (long underwear) is cotton. So with this in mind is a good idea to tuck your layers. The logic behind layers is that you will create air pockets in between each layer which is insulated by your body heat.

9. Really good jacket!

Your outer layer will shield you from rain, hail, snow, crazy freezing winds and the cold. I would certainly not be cheap when buying a jacket. And please don't buy a short one just because you think it looks cool. Make sure it goes below your hips at least a couple of inches, and that it has a hoodie to cover your head. The ideal jacket is definitely a goose feather one cause they're super comfy and warm. You can get anything from the super fluffy ones to really compact ones. They also vary in prices from anything around $80-$500 or more. Just make sure you like it, it's warm, covers your arms well and its good quality cause you'll use it a lot.
I got mine at Herberger's for about $120 and I love it. I personaly love the fluffy ones cause the compact ones make me feel naked. However I do have a lighter one for hiking and other outdoor adventures.

10. Enjoy the crazy Minnesota weather

Buying good clothes will definitely help you enjoy the weather, now make sure to always have them with you and have extra gloves and scarfs in your bag in case you loose them. Personally for me this is drastically different from rainy and humid tropical Guatemala City where I grew up, but it is nevertheless exciting. Make sure the weather doesn't stop you from going and out, hanging out with friends and doing all kinds of fun things outdoors. Staying active is key to a good mental health during the winter months! Once you have the right gear you can enjoy outdoor winter activities like snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, to even snow camping and blaying broom ball with friends for the more adventurous ones.

You can rent special gear for really good prices from the U of M Center for Outdoor Adventure. http://www.recsports.umn.edu/coa/rental.html
Useful links!


Hello, this is Tony's speaking.
OK, this time, I'd like to talk about 4 supermarkets the U of M student usually go, since shopping for grocery is inevitable for our daily lives.

There are 4 main big supermarket around the U, Target, Walmart, Rainbow, and Cub foods. They are big in size so there's always a wide range of selections. They all stick together located in Midway shopping center on the University Ave. in St. Paul (don't freak out, remember I've told you Minneapolis and St Paul are fairly close to each others.) Take the Bus No. 16 heading to St Paul, and these 3 supermarkets are just on the way.
Screen-shot above shows the direction from Jones Hall, U of M to Super target as well as other markets by bus.
However, the "big four" are so different from each other.
As a leading supermarket enterprise, Target can be considered as a multitask market. Its products range from daily grocery to furniture, from digital products to fresh food. Almost anything you need can be purchased in Target, especially this Super Target in Saint Paul("Can I get a car there?""Of course! and you can place it on your desk, toys are always on sale in target!!")And also this Target is the Super Target that held the Welcome Week activity "Target Run"( "Gee, it's an nightmare shopping during the target run, people were everywhere from no where""well, I got a lot of free toothpaste and it took me a year to use them up....")
There's another target located in downtown Minneapolis, which is more closer to U campus. Again, take Bus No. 16 but heading to Minneapolis downtown direction, get off the bus at Nicolet Mall stop, and take a walk to the Target market(or take bus No. 10 or 18, but it's not that far.)
Name: Target
Category: Multitask market
Price: About average
Recommendation:High recommended
24/7 open:No

Walmart is just like Target, another big supermarket featured with their cheap daily goods in a relatively low price. I bought a bike which cost me $70 while in Target it was priced $120.
But the differences from Target is Walmart doesn't have any fresh food or vegetables in stock. The more they offered are microwave food or oven food.
Category: Supermarket
Price: Relatively lower, always on sale.
Recommendation: Recommended.
24/7 Open:No

Rainbow is the first market you will see when you riding a bus on the University Ave to St Paul. Rainbow is also a supermarket but not as "multitask" as Target. Its feature is the variety of food. Fresh pork, ribs; beef, lamb, fishes, chicken; vegetables, fruits and other category of microwave food. ("Gee, there's too many, I can't choose which one to buy....")

Name: Rainbow
Category: Food market
Price: Relatively low
Recommendation: Recommended
24/7 Open: No

Cub Foods
Here comes my favorite market, Cub Foods!("I thought it's Target""I'll explain..") Cub Foods is just like Rainbow, it provides a variety of food; the difference is, it's open 24/7!!!
for night people like me, that the most attractive part! and also, the price is relatively low too!!

Name: Cub Foods
Category: Food Market
Price: Low
Recommendation: Highly recommended
24/7 Open: YES "24 Hours for saving" and they meant it!!!

To sum up:
Target---Good in general owning to its bigger scale of the company.
Walmart---Good market for cheaper grocery( and Bike!!)
Rainbow---focus on food
Cub Foods---focus on food but open 24/7!!
So, to answer the title question, buy chicken in either Target or Rainbow at day time, go Cub Foods at night, lol
Today I shared my own experience about the "big four" markets that are popular for U of M students, for next Episode, I will talk more about some smaller but still pretty nice markets!

Live long and prosper to the infinity and beyond!

To be continued...

Horse carriages and buggies and camels, oh my!


Ok maybe my title is kind of random since as you guessed no one uses horse carriages or buggies or camels to get around the twin cities. BUT this post does have to do with transportation, so it makes sense right? Right!? Besides its fun to think about those old forms of transport... but that's enough of my meandering thoughts, its time to get back to the topic at hand.

Minneapolis is probably one of my favorite cities in the USA when it comes to the transportation system. It doesn't have the wild pace of New York, neither the desolate feel of Decorah, Iowa. No Minneapolis is in a world of its own with its near-European charm. There are always people on the roads running, biking, walking and getting fresh air. With how easy it is to get around in the Cities, it'll be easy for you to settle without the need for a car.

As a University student who gets around the Twin-Cities quite a bit, the U-Pass has come in handy time and time again. It's a discounted bus pass offered at $97 to enrolled students at the U. It is a one-time payment that lasts all semester long. It will get you on all metro transit buses, the light rail and suburban buses (associated with the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority) . So you can easily get anywhere with the swipe of a card because, really, you don't want to be THAT guy: you know, the one who fishes for lose change in his or her pocket while holding up the passenger line and beginning an unending cycle of a late bus for every stop after...


I can't tell you enough how time consuming it can be to have to look for loose change just to pay a bus fair...Look how miserable this guy looks.


My precious...

The Minneapolis transit organization is called Metro Transit. They offer many bus routes that criss-cross all over the Twin-cities in addition to the light rail. Metro Transit also offers a Go-To card. On this card you can store a lump sum of money from which a fare will be taken for each trip. Or you can pay for a specific number of passes. Find out more about the different payment options for a Go-To-Card here

Here is a Go-To card being swiped at a typical swipe station. All you have to do is take a second to swipe instead of looking for change and missing that train!

The light runs from Mall of America to Downtown Minneapolis. However, come Fall 2014, it's route will extend through the U down to Saint Paul.

If you prefer to do your own navigating, there are several other options available. For instance Nice Ride Minnesota is a bicycle sharing system that's offered seasonally (Oh winter, where is thy sting ? :( ). There are several bicycle stations all over the city where you can pick up a bicycle, ride for any duration of time around the city and drop it off at a station near your final destination. I hear you can rent for as little as $6 for a 24 hour rental. Get the real scoop here.

Here you have your Nice Ride bikes. Always in tip-top shape and ready for you to hop on and explore the cities.

If you would prefer to be within the confines of a car while getting around though, the ZIP CAR may be for you. You can easily sign up online and pick up your preferred car from a station near you or even on campus. These cars include gas and insurance which clears up a lot of documentation that is usually needed for regular rentals.

If all this fails,there are more travel options available within the cities. That still not working for you? You could always carpool with a good friend! or buy a car...However, that's a whole other process. If you have specific questions on how to get around feel free to shoot me an e-mail. Take care!

Let's talk about majoring in Agribusiness!

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Let's start with a brief introduction about my program and why I chose it.

I am a senior student with a major in Agricultural Food Business Management, at College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource(CFANS).

I know that this major sounds really "agriculture" and "countryside" right? You may think that I am studying how to produce food and make agricultural related products, and I will be working in the lab and field.

I get that perception a lot,but that's not the truth.

The courses in this major are composed with applied economic courses and courses from one specific emphasis in business that you personally interested in exploring. For example, there are emphasis in Business Management, Financial Management and Marketing, Sales, & Food Industry Management.
As you can see, this major makes great combination of both economics and marketing. For me, I like to learn more about the world's economic situation and trade between countries, at the same time, I want to explore more about the food market and related business between the U.S. and China. What's more, I am concerned about the current food safety problems in China, so I could have the chance to learn food related policies and rules. Sounds amazing right?

From my knowledge, except those who are studying science and engineering, a lot of Chinese students at the University of Minnesota choose to study economics or business related major. I understand that the reason behind is that the students are dreaming to get a job that allows them to sit in the office, talk to the customers, wear suit and tie, and make big money. I used to think in this way because job like this is easy and comfortable.

However, as I have talked to more professors, I realized that this is not a easy thing to do. Take agribusiness as an example, most students want to work in the retail or marketplace, whether American students or international students like you and me. If you are planning to find a job after graduation and stay in the U.S., as an international students, you are less competitive than the native American students. So, you need to have some different skills that could help you stand in this country. For example, I am thinking about minoring in food science or at least take some basic science class to support my understanding of the food industry. And the entire food production chain is not only about selling, there are other important segments such as farm, processing, supply etc. These are the jobs that require people to have some professional knowledge to understand how things work. In another word, you should think about develop yourself in a more comprehensive way instead of focusing on one thing which might restrict your prospective. You can major in finance, but think about minor something that less related to finance to supplement your knowledge system.

For the moment, there are only few Chinese students in my major. I don't know what their future plans are. But I will say, although the agriculture and food industry in the U.S. is quite different form that in China, and there's so much that China could learn from the U.S.. Yet someday in the future, there will be huge agriculture and food development breakthrough that happen in China because more students start to realize that the goal to study abroad is not only to find a comfortable office job for themselves, but also learn something practical and useful to bring changes to China.

Halloween <3

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Hello everyone!!!Are you guys ready for the coming Halloween? Is it your first Halloween in America ?If so, are you excited?

For me, Halloween is my favorite Western Festival. When I was an exchanged student in Wisconsin, I was super excited for Halloween!I was dressed as a sheep and went to nearly all the houses in the town for trick and treat with my host family. It is fun to see what kind of decorations that each family has. There are pumpkin lanterns lightened up outside the yard and even some skull toys hanging out side. It is really interesting to experience those. For those of you who have a host family, do not hesitate to join your host family for this awesome and amazing festival.

If you do not have a host family, do not worry! There are a lot of events holding on the campus for Halloween. There is a student group called International Student Buddy Program, which holds halloween party every year. Last year, I went to their event with my mentor and my friends. It is fun! You can also compete with other people for winning who has the best costume :)

Screen shot 2012-10-23 at 12.35.50 AM.png
This picture is from last year when my friend and I went to the IBP Halloween Party.

Valley fair, which is the amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota, has their special halloween activities as well. There are some corn mazes nearby Minneapolis, where you can actually go buy the pumpkins and also walk through the maze. Try eating caramel apples if you like eating sweet favor food.


This is when I was in the corn maze in Wisconsin. You can see a lot of pumpkins there.

I hope everyone has a fantastic halloween and thanks for reading my blog! :)

Study Hard! Play Hard!


Sports is the best way to unwind after a hard day of studying. Thankfully, the U of M has fantastic facilities for a number of sports-whether you feel like playing some soccer,or shooting some hoops, or even if you have a sudden urge to build some biceps in the gym to impress that hot girl in your literature class, you can do it all here at the U ! At the U of M, you will have the opportunity to play tons of different sports, some of them which you might have never heard of before getting here (still not sure what "curling" is!) . Taking part in fun pick up games is a great way to unwind and make new friends. On the other hand, the intramural league is perfect if the competitive side of you is longing for expression. And who knows if you have got some serious skills, you could even get picked to play for the U at a Club or Varsity level!
After joining the U, I immediately joined the intramural soccer league, which was a lot of fun (we ended up losing in the semi-finals). The same semester, I realized that the U had 6 great squash courts. Having played squash at an international level a few years ago, before I switched to soccer, I decided to to hit the ball for fun. A few minutes after I had started playing, I was interrupted by a man who said he was impressed by my strokes. Turns out he was the U of M squash coach! His enthusiasm for squash was so infectious that I became re-hooked to the game. I joined the squash team the following semester, and along with my teammates, some of them who have become some of my closest friends, took part, and still take part, in several tournaments in the city and around the country!
A you can see, taking part in sports has a great number of benefits! If you are still not convinced take a load of this - A survey has shown that people who play more have higher GPA ! So study hard and play hard!
squash team.jpg

Struggling? Need help?

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Hello friends!!!

In this blog, I want to share with you one of the biggest concerns that international students might have: Where can I find help?

How many of you here are so used to having support from friends, parents, family, etc? Studying abroad means you are no longer with family and friends that you used to know. You cannot just come to mom to tell her your struggle. You cannot ask mom to cook for you or to help you with the laundry. You cannot ask to fix the broken leg of the table or change the battery of the clock in your room. You cannot ask your big brother to help you with your homework. And thanks to technology, even when you can talk to your loved ones who are far away from you to seek for help, they might not understand everything about your situation, your problems and your life in the U.S.

So what can you do?

Luckily, the University of Minnesota provides you with a lot of consulting and counseling services. Check out this website for all the counseling services you will be able to get.

Personal Concerns Counseling

The University offers you counseling service relating to personal concerns through Academic Counseling or Learning Assistance in many different aspects: Academic Stress, Relationship Problems, Financial Pressures, Conflict with Parents, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Concerns

There are also WORKSHOP AND CLASSES about personal concerns. They are provided for all University of Minnesota students. I myself have registered for several Public health classes about how to manage stress to succeed in college as well as in life; how to eat, sleep, exercise healthily. Those classes are completely online to flexibly fit with your busy schedule.

Learning & Academic Skills Counseling

It's challenging to be in college. It's even harder to study in a different language than your native tongue. The University is aware of that by providing you service in order to help you go through your academic struggles. Also, take your academic advisor as a wonderful resource. They are very knowledgeable and helpful. I make appointment with my advisors at least twice per semester just to let her know how I am doing with classes. I also get a lot of advices from choosing classes, how to do well in classes as well as how to plan for the graduation. Besides your academic advisor, ISSS advisors are also a great resources especially for international students like us.

You can also talk to your professors or TAs. They have always been a great help whenever I have a problem with my academic life.

Career Counseling

I personally enjoy career counseling at the University of Minnesota a lot! You will have chance to take test to find out your strengths and weaknesses such as Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). There are also wide variety of jobs and career options that you can do in the future with your degree. I also love the staff and advisor here who provide useful and effective advice on career paths as well as critique on your resume and cover letter. The career counseling also provide you opportunities to do practice interview, which I found as an awesome experience to have before having a "real" interview.

Above all: ALL OF THOSE SERVICES ARE FREE. As a full time registered University of Minnesota students, you are eligible for all of those services without paying anything. So why worry? Go ahead and take advantages of all those services.

REMEMBER: We, International Students Ambassadors, are here to help you too!!! Feel free to leave comments below or send us an email at.... if you are in trouble and need some help. We will try our best to give you advice or provide you with useful resources.


Best of luck,
Thao Nguyen.

Fun Summer Time: WELCOME WEEK!


At the end of my summer holiday (which is the last week of August 2012), there was a week-long event especially ONLY for freshman students who would start their first semester at Fall, which was WELCOME WEEK.

It was such an amazing experience for me, because I got involved as the Welcome Week Leader. As I told you before here, I was a transfer student. I did not have such event that could help me adjusting to my very first weeks at the University of Minnesota, so for me, this is my chance to get some welcome week experience! =)

These are benefits that I got of being Welcome Week Leader (WWL):
+Meeting and Making a lot of new friends
+Building up my resume
+Free meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) for 10 days!
+Getting many cool t-shirts
+Have tones of fun! ;D

Now I will explain what I had during Welcome Week based on each day.

1st day: "Kick-Off Day"
It was the very first time meeting my group. I was in group 20 with my leader partner, A.J.
4.30pm: Kick-Off Meeting. It was the time when we got to know each other and had some fun introduction activities. Although it was not long, at least I got to know their expectation for me and for this whole entire week.
6.30pm: Dinner and free time.
10.00pm: Target Run. What is it?? What is Target? Okay, let me explain! Target is one of the super store brand in Twin Cities area. In this TARGET RUN, U of M especially booked the whole place just for us! (I felt like I was a VIP! Haha) That was the opportunity for students to just shop and complete their daily necessity to settle down. Click here to know what stuff they sell.
During this time, I got many free stuff and free samples such as food, drink, lotion, moisturizer, and so on. They started handed in from the front door to almost the end of cashier area. Students would get chances to win some fun prize or gift cards if they played some games Target provided.

2nd day: "College Day"
8.30am: Convocation at Mariucci Arena. All the student were seated based on their colleges. The fun part was before the event start, WWLs represented each colleges initiated the "song war". Students had to sing to prove their college pride and to show which college had the coolest cheers! That was really interesting to see all the students got really pumped up in the morning. The awesome U of M Marching Band was performing as the opening. Then, President Kaler (U of M president) gave speech and shared some campus tradition and history. This here to see the video they played Isn't it cute??
11.30am: Lunch and College Activities. Since I'm a College of Science & Engineering (CSE) student, I helped for my college. We heard speech form Paul Strykowski about why we should be proud being a CSE student. This was the opportunity for CSE students knowing about college program, CSE student groups and attending their first class.
4.30pm: Dinner and free time
8.30pm: Jermaine Davis talk. He was a funny speaker, talked about obstacles and frustrations that individual might face on their journey of life, and shared some strategies to overcome it.
10.00pm: FUN ZONE. Again, more free food and fun activities. It was my first time experience did rock climbing, learnt some Cha Cha movement dance, and photo booth!

3rd day: "U of M Day"
8am - 6pm: This time was the longest time I got to spend with my group and get to know them even better. On this day, we got to explore more about West Bank, East Bank and St. Paul campus. The students got to attend their interest session that they chose before the welcome week starts, visited the Rec Center, learnt how to respect each other differences, and knew more how to be 'Greener' and how to survive as a college student.
8.30pm: Pride & Spirit. This was the time for student to learn how to sing, chant, cheer U of M pride songs. We also took the class of 2016 photo.
10.00pm: Gopher after Dark. Free food were still provided. Free concert, movie bowling, henna tattoos, dance time! This event was not happening only during welcome week, it was organized by Student & Unioin Activities (SUA) all year-long every weekend. This is a free and fun place for students to spend their weekend during academic year!

4th day: "Community Engagement Day"
12.00pm: The purpose of this day was to let students knew more about not only excel in their academic lives but also be active and engage in their community and surrounding. The activities included raising awareness for those needy and attending session to get involved in various volunteer opportunities
1.30pm: EXPLORE-U, where many student groups were having their booth to introduce their groups and let the students joined. There were also many vendors giving up free coupon, food, and stuff.
4.30pm: Dinner and free time
9.30pm: Late Night at Mall of America! As some of you may already know, MOA is the biggest mall in America. The theme park inside, again, especially booked only for us that night! We got free unlimited rides at Nickelodeon Universe, you can ride as many times you want! Don't you think we have so much privilege through this event? Loved it!! xD

5th Day: " Community Exploration Day"
12.00pm: This day was technically the last day we would be together as a group. It was the opportunity for students to explore places other than U of M area, included Downtown, Uptown, Riverfront District. Our group were assigned to Downtown. Scavenger hunt was available to help students exploring places. Unfortunately, my group was kind of exhausted, so we decided to discuss more about their concerns and anxieties as new students and we also had the wrap up time for the farewell.
8.00pm: Pick-up sports included basketball, frisbee and lightning.

6th Day: Free Time / Optional Time
This was the time for students just to relax and preparing for classes the next day. For those that have more energy, there were several optional activity, one of them was going to Minnesota State Fair.

The welcome week was really the best experience to end my summer holiday. Although, it was tiring since I put so much energy into it, but I had so many priceless experience in return. Based on the students' evaluation, they were all ready and confident to go around the campus after Welcome Week.
For those prospective freshman that feel worry and overwhelmed with this big campus, not having friends, not confident with speaking in English, you definitely should join!
For those transfer students, this is your opportunity to get WELCOME WEEK experiences.

If you have more specific question, regarding Welcome Week. Feel free to leave the comment! *Photos will be posted soon*

The North Star, surprising things about Minnesota

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All the information here is from the internet, give the credits to the WWW~ Some of them are not proved yet, but they are most likely true~
So everyone, I'm Tony. As international students, there must be a reason for us to choose Minnesota for our college years. Maybe because of the relatively low tuition fee; maybe because of the high ranked major programs; Or even there's some weird reasons, for instance, I choose Minnesota because it's extremely cold in winter. (Dude, seriously?) and I'm not joking!
Don't know why choose Minnesota? Haven't thought about it? Well, let Tony tell you something about Minnesota!
1. Why named Twin Cities?
Twin cities is not one city's name, there are exactly two cities!Minneapolis and Saint Paul. They both have their own municipal governments.But why call them twin cities?Because they are really really close to each other. How close? you can take bus No. 16 from downtown Minneapolis to Downtown Saint Paul, and it takes about a hour. And also, their suburbans are more like conjoined twins---Actually there's one time I wanted to find my friends home, so I followed google map and walked, I departed from TCF stadium, when I arrived at my friends' apartment, it took me about half hour, and finally I found myself in Saint Paul already.
2. Who is the big one?
If the "big one" means which one is bigger in size, it's MInneapolis; If the "big one" means who is the capital city of Minnesota State, it's Saint Paul, even though Minneapolis is bigger in size and larger in population, Saint Paul is still in charge of the state.
Minneapolis at night.jpg

However, both cities have their own pride. For Minneapolis, its downtown has skyways connecting buildings. If we connect all skyways end to end, it would be the longest skyway in the world( about 13 km). Also, downtown Minneapolis is so beautiful especially at night, that why its nickname is "little Chicago."
As for Saint Paul, its State Capitol is the second largest unsupported marble dome, after Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Saint Paul is also the hometown of Snoopy and his father, Charles Monroe Schulz "Sparky".I was a big fan of Snoopy when I was a little boy, sadly Mr. Sparky past away in 2000, otherwise I would definitely ask an autograph from him.
Another funny thing about Saint Paul is the city's name. Saint Paul is not the original one, it's a replacement of the former name "Pig's Eye"( I prefer the former one!)
3.10000 lakes, and 1000000 mosquitos!!
Actually there's over 15000 Lakes in Minnesota. One I'm very familiar with is Lake Como because I used to live in Bailey Hall, which is the only dorm in U of M St Paul Campus. Bus No. 3 can take you there. Lake Itasca is the source of Mississippi River. (the image below shows the world largest fresh water lake, Lake Surperior, it's just like ocean, isn't it?)
Boys who like basketball would definitely know Los Angles Lakers, but many of them may not know that Lakers used to belong to Minnesota, because there's 10000 lakes in Minnesota, not in California.

And mosquitos, because there's too many lakes, and mosquitos need water to grow, so it is an nightmare walking along the lakes during the summer time(itch sometimes is worse than pain). Also, if there's no screen on the windows, in summer time, mosquitos will seattle down in the house and have a crazy blood party every night(Let's party through the roof!!).
Because of the frigid climate in Minnesota, most lakes would freeze, local people even drive on the ice or park their cars on the frozen lakes. (Try to find it in this winter, since it's gonna be so cold!)

4.Let's do business here!
Althrough Minnesota has her extreme climate, she still can't stop the steps of businessmen. There are about 21 Top 500 enterprises were established in Minnesota. Those brands people are familiar with such as BestBuy, 3M, and US Bank; Dairy Queen, TCF( twin cities finance) Bank, and Target contribute a lot to Minnesota's economy, as well as the United States.
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota is the largest mall in America. How big is the mall exactly?well, if you spend 15 minutes visiting each store in MOA, it would take you 3 months to visit them all. There's an amusement park located in MOA too, which again, because of the cold weather, people built this huge park indoor!
Another big thing that related to business is the Annual Minnesota State Fair. Once a year from late August to Labor's Day. One word to decribe State Fair is Crazy Crowded( "Dude, there're two words""Buy one get one free) So 10 things you can expect in State Fair are animals, vegetables, food, amusement park, and then, people, more people, a lot of people ,more and more People!PEOPLE are everywhere!!The population of Minnesota is 5.3 milions, and there are 1.7 milions people go to State Fair every year...
Although its super crowded in State Fair, it is undeniable that the total revenue from State Fair is quite a lot and very important for Minnesota.

The stories and legends of Minnesota can hardly be covered in just one blog article. There's still a lot to talk about, but I'd like to keep them and let all you guys to explore by yourself. It is a way to learn the culture, a way to expand vista, and a way to start loving Minnesota, or Minnesoda, LOL.
You all made the right choice!

Healthy diet

Eating is definitely one of the greatest pleasures in life, but we should never forget it is also the main key to a healthy life. I indeed forgot about this little detail when I moved away from home, and learned the hard way; gaining sixty pounds and getting very sick!
Indeed the pleasure of eating cup ramen every lunch, mac n' cheese every night and McDonalds everytime you feel like sounds glorious to some, and it is sometimes the easiest way to feed ourselves on the go. But making it a habit without realizing its consequences might be one of the most foolish things you can do while adapting to a life away from home, away from mom and grandma.
It is important to know nutrition basics, and I have to say, I am no nutritionist so I will only share what my doctors told me. And hopefully you won't have to get sick to start having some healthy and good habits. First of all, weight and figure is not the only reason why we should eat healthy. As full time students we need to always keep a good energy level and good health so we can survive long days of classes, and homework.
So here are the basic tips that were given to me:

  • Eat vegetables. Make sure vegetables cover at least half of your plate. Vegetables are low in calories, can be extremely delicious if you learn a couple of ways to cook them with the spices you like. Also try to buy them fresh since some vegetables loose some of their benefits if they're not fresh.
  • Eat at least two small fruits or a cup of cut fruit a day, between meals. Whenever you think your body is craving sugar it would actually be best if you eat fruit. Fruit have a bunch of vitamins, and help your body stay healthy but too many will not cover all of your dietary needs.
  • And here's one of the hardest for me! Avoid sugars, either reduce them drastically or if you're brave enough avoid them completely. Our body does not need fructose corn syrup or white sugar believe it or not. And it is one of the main ways in which we can harm our liver, and other organs that are not ready for it. (That's what happened to me ;( ) What I do now is I don't eat pastries, but once a week if any.
  • Make sure that at least a quarter of your plate is protein! Even if you are a vegetarian it's important to keep this proportion in your diet. You can eat grains high in protein, tofu or if you do eat meat just make sure you have protein regularly.
  • Drink water! There are different number of glasses different doctors and nutriotionists recommend, but just make sure you have at least six glasses a day even when you are not working out. It help with circulation and digestion.
  • Remember alcohol is a sugar! It has a lot of calories and definitely affects your liver. Drink moderately, to make sure you will be able to enjoy it longer and in a healthier way.
But I know our lives are already crazy without worrying about food and that our time is limited. So organizing our days and making sure we take time to take care of our healthy foods is crucial. So you have to make a decision and do it with discipline even when you're tired. Here are the things I came up with to change my routine and give my body a break. By the way, my health improved greatly!
  • Always keep apples or other small fruits in my backpack so I don't get hungry and eat chips or cookies. So I eat something healthy, but still eat when I'm hungry.
  • Leave beans already cooked to just warm up if I don't have time to cook every night.
  • Keep healthy snacks like granola bars, dry fruits, etc... at home all the time.
  • Pick healthy frozen food options. They're not the best, but if you choose ahead of time knowing that you won't be able to cook every day is better than getting greasy and unhealthy options.
  • Leave some meats marinated or prepared just for you to cook so it's not time consuming, but it is still fresh and yummy!
Don't eat at restaurants all the time even if you have money for that. The portions and preparation of all their food are not necessarily healthy and we can't consciously take charge of our healthy if we have other people cook for us all the time.

Undergraduate Research!

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Hey everyone! One of the biggest advantages of studying in a university as big as the U of M is the availability of plethora of academic related as well as non-academic related resources . As a genetics major, I was eager to get involved in research as early as I could in college . Doing research, or working in a life science based industry are one of my primary career goals and since high school I was well aware of the importance of developing lab skills to make a strong start in my career. I was also aware that getting involved in research would help me better understand my career aspirations. And thanks to UROP I was able to do precisely that!
UROP or the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The UROP provides a stipend and expense money for a research project done with a professor at the University of Minnesota. So basically you get paid to do research!
A few months after coming to the States, I started surfing the net for research being done by various biologists at the U (this information can be found in the website of the department in which you want to do research). After identifying professors that were doing research that seemed cool to me, I wrote emails to them letting them know about my desire to work in their lab. A lot of the professors, who were obviously incredibly busy with their work, did not even bother replying, but I did not lose heart and kept shooting mails until I finally got a response from a professor. And that professor's name was John Lee, a molecular biologist who graduated from University of California at Berkley . Apart from being a really smart scientist he turned out to be an incredibly nice guy, who agreed to hire me and helped me apply for a UROP . I eventually did win the UROP for this semester but more importantly am able to do research and gain valuable experience working under a great scientist!
So there you have it, that is my UROP story , and I hope I have been able to inspire you'll for getting involved in research in college. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have research or non-research related and I'll be more than happy to reply to them. Good luck!

The Midterms are intense, but you've gotta relax!

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From last week, a big group of midterm zombies have came to eat your brain...crunch, crunch, crunch...and they are still eating until next week...

For sure, it is a huge consuming of time, energy and brain preparing for the midterms, thinking about the midterms, worrying for the midterms, struggling for the midterms and taking the midterms. So, the entire process of dealing with midterms is like a constant battle that will tear you, exhaust you, scare you; however, if you think it in another way, the midterms will at the same time help you, shape you, train you and make you stronger, as long as you have a positive attitude and better plan for them. Here are my stories from the past and the strategies that I have right now.

I used to be super scared of midterms, I felt like it was the end of the world and there's no hope for me, totally darkness all the time. Then I tried to ask myself, what I am afraid of?
If I fail the exam, then I won't get an "A", then I can't have a high GPA, then I can't find a good job, then I will disappoint my parents and I will live a miserable life.
See, that's my logic. Don't laugh at me, you might think the same way too.

I definitely understand that the results may not be that bad (a miserable life), but those excellent students always want to make their GPA looks perfect and then making every effort to protect the holly number 4.0, trying to avoid any mistake and always fight for A! Does this sound like you? Well, that was the previous me.
I worried that what if I lose the points, what if I can't make it right, what if I can't get this or that. Well, stop!!!Things haven't started yet and I didn't even completely focus on my study, I haven't done my best to prepare for the exams. What I did was only thinking the bad results and worrying. Then I realize that the fear is from unable to control what you don't know will happen in the future.

The key point is, what you can do right now?

Every minute that you use to fully immerse yourself into study, the better control you will have of your knowledge, the more confidence you will have in yourself. It's a natural process, you have to try then you will realize that the worries will be gone gradually.

So calm down, focus, here's what we can do but not worry:
1. Put together your notes and go over them as many times as you can. If there's a lot of things to memorize, using repetitive memorization method, which means, try to memorize the same material several times a day in different time. Also, try to do one time before bed, as memories will grow in you while you are asleep. And when you wake up the next day, review it at least one more time.
2. The review session and office hours are very valuable opportunities for you to go over the weak points of your study, so be sure to make it for these sessions.
3. Regular sleeps and eating habit, try not to make it any different than usual. Your body is a system that has its routine that you'd better not to break it. If you always stay up late and over-consume your energy, your body will get back to you with a tired and exhausted response. You will feel uncomfortable and think slow like your part of brain is missing. So, take good care of your body, nurture it instead of consume it overtime.
4. Proper amount of exercise. I know during the midterm weeks the schedule is always tight, but I am still happy to take my African Dance class. I promise that after some running and jumping, you will feel very comfortable and relaxed, which will make you more efficient in study!
5. Focus, focus, and focus. Don't procrastinate! Don't listen to the music and open the Facebook while you are studying. I know you have sat in front of your computer for 3 hours, but did you really study? It is not the amount of time you put in, but the quality of time that really matters!

Last but not least, you won't have a miserable life, because you have just read my strategies right?! :)
Good luck studying!

You don't have to get picked last for the team anymore!

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Intramural sports is a program organized by the University to give students an opportunity to participate in friendly competition in a good selection of sports that could be played individually, with a partner or with a team. Opportunities include intramural leagues, events, athletic leagues (more competitive) and golf leagues. The focus of this post will be on the less competitive intramural leagues.

If there is anything that has been a constant since my freshman year, it has been my participation on an intramural sports team. I always played football (as some may call it, "soccer") while I was back home so when I came to the U, it was nice to be able to continue my hobby by way of intramural sports. I know many students who are sports active and would like to be part of an easy going league. So my aim in this post is to give you a feel of what intramural sports entails and how you can get involved!

-Why intramural sports?

As I said earlier, if you've been an avid sportsman all your life, this is an easy way to find other people who are interested in playing too. Also this gives you an opportunity to try out new sports since intramurals are typically not competitive. You never know, it may turn out you're a pro at a new found sport! It is also a great way to socialize and meet new people. Personally, I've found that participating in intramurals weekly has provided a kind of study break for me when I've needed to take one to get refocused on school work. The best part of intramural sports by far is you get to stay fit!

-Who organizes it?

Intramural sports are organized by the intramural sports office within the recreational sports department. However each sport has a specific group of students and staff that handles it.
The intramural sports office is located at 1901 University Ave SE.

The office can also be contacted by email at imsports@umn.edu or called at (612) 625-8094.

-Who plays intramural sports?

Basically anyone who has a working U-Card. Your U-Card, a form of student ID, is your key to all university services. If it works, it pretty much shows you are currently a student at the U enrolled in courses. So as long as you are a student and enrolled for the semester, you are eligible to play on an intramural team.

To clarify, intramural leagues are by no means professional leagues. Teams consist of normal students like you and I who are looking for a leisurely way to partake in some sport. This is not to say that teams are only filled with amateurs. Player expertise vary across board from those who have years of competitive experience to those who may be playing for the very first time. The point of intramurals is not competition but fun! So don't be shy with your skills (or lack thereof), this is a great way to start building them up.

-What sports are played?

Some sports include flag football, football (...fine "soccer" :'( ), bowling, basketball, ultimate frisbee (what in the world is that??), hockey, dodgeball and so on. You can find a full list of sports and their rules on the Intramural sports page.

-How much does it cost?

Usually the cost per team varies between $15 and $300**. $15 being for an individual sport like racquetball and $300 when you are using super cool facilities like Mariucci arena (where our school hockey team plays!!) for hockey.

The cost is shared among teammates. While playing soccer over the years, depending on how many players were on my team, I've always paid between $12 and $15 to play.

**The fees stated here are for Fall 2012 and do not include taxes. Fees for each sport can be found on the Intramural sports page as well.

-When are games played?

Typically leagues start after the first two weeks of school. Games are played once a week in the evenings between 6 pm and 11 pm on weekdays. Actually, in freshman year, majority of my indoor soccer games began at 12 am which was pretty late, I know, but those were some of the most exciting times from my time at the U.

On Saturdays and Sundays games could be played anytime of the day, spanning from morning till evening.

-How long do you compete for?

This depends on the sport and league to be played. For instance for a 7v7 TCF Bank stadium co-rec soccer league we have 8 teams and compete over 5 weeks. After that, if a team qualifies, they compete against other teams during play-offs that last one week. So this particular league lasts for about half a semester. Feel free to contact the intramural office to ask about the duration of a league you are interested in.

- Co-ed or Open?

This really depends on the particular sport being played but most sports offer the option of a co-ed or open team. Co-ed teams are required to have both male and female players in specific numbers while open teams could have any number of boys or girls on the team i.e. it could be an all-male team or an all-female team depending on your preferences.

-How do you register?

There are just a few steps to take in registering an intramural team:

-Get a team together!

Ask your friends, roommates, lab partners, student organization members, that random guy or gal you awkwardly make eye contact with in freshman writing... Ask ANYONE if they would like to start an intramural team with you or if they have an intramural team you could join.

If you don't have a full team by the time registration rolls around, don't worry, you are allowed to add players to your team roster right until play-offs.

If you can't find a team to join/start, most, if not all intramural sports have the free agents registration. This is for students who , for one reason or the other, cannot find a team. For this, you register yourself independently as a free agent and the intramural office assigns you to a team of free agents--very convenient right?!

-Fill out a registration form

Collect all your team members (or just your own for free agents) full names and ID numbers and fill out a team registration form that can be found on the intramural page when registration is around the corner.


Look on the intramural website to see the time and date of your sport's registration and make your way to the recreation centre to do so early.

I've had the experience of registering a team a few times and I have to say it's an interesting process. Soccer usually takes place at 7am in the morning BUT the line for registration is 20-people long by 5:30 am in the morning (yes before the crack of dawn -_-). When the recreaction centre opens at 5:45am to let us line up inside, the scene is best described by the picture below.

bar fight.jpg

Welcome to the jungle...Just kidding! We shuffle in in a civilized manner and conduct our business in an orderly fashion, eyes bloodshot and half asleep. Fun times, especially when you bring a friend to tag along!

And so I hope I've been able to shed some light on intramural sports at the U. If you still have questions about it feel free to ask! Goodluck!

Exploring U!

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Hey everyone!!!How is everyone doing? Some of you are probably busy doing homework and getting ready for your first midterms, but do not forget to check out and get involved in some student organizations. As many people may notice when they walk past the bridge recently, there are a lot of student organizations logos drawn on the wall. When I first saw them, I was shocked! I did no expect that there are so many and different kinds of organizations in the campus.

Some of you might wonder how I find a student group, what organization does and how I can go to their events. One way is to pay attention while you walking the bridge :) Another way is to look at the website. http://sua.umn.edu/groups/ It basically has all the student groups and their basic information. You can also find our International Student Ambassador there as well!!!!:) Actually, a lot of student groups have their own Facebook groups, where they post all of their events.

Screen shot 2012-10-08 at 7.45.56 PM.png
Here is one of my favorite student groups on the campus and also the first organization I joined. It is called Business Association of Multicultural Students (BAM). It is an organization, which opens to all major students. It has no limitations on anything. It provides a platform for our students to network with companies and also develop our leadership skills. It is a definitely great student group to started with. They have general meeting every Wednesdays and different companies come and give us an overview of their companies and some networking or interviewing skills. It is really helpful for us to actually network with those recruiters and talk with them once a week. Moreover, BAM offers a lot of leadership positions, like co-chairs and committee co-chairs.

I know it is hard to explain what an organization does and how it really looks like just through this blog. If you guys have any questions, please feel free to ask me or email me!! Thanks for reading my blog! Have a great week!!!

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