Student to Student Discussion for New International Students

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Paula Wishart: Hello, from the University
of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

We are pleased to have you join us
today for the student-to-student discussion for new international students. It’s a sunny day here in Michigan. We look forward to you when you can join
us live. We are happy to have you here in the broadcast
today. My name is Paula Wishart. I’m a program officer for Rackham Graduate

I’ll be moderating the panel today. Our panel consists of five current international
students who will share their experiences of studying and living in the United States. In a moment, they will introduce themselves. Also joining us is Natalie Bartolacci who
will be moderating the questions you send online. Also with us is Kate Zheng from the International
Center. Let me take a moment to allow Natalie and
Kate to introduce themselves. Natalie. Natalie Bartolacci: Hi, my name is Natalie
Bartolacci and I’m a Program Officer at Rackham Graduate School. I wanted to let you know we would be sharing
the information that is covered today, with you in various formats throughout the summer. So, just stay tuned, happy interview. Paula: And Kate. Kate Zheng: Good morning everyone.

Well, I guess here, good morning everyone. My name is Kate Zheng, and I am the Program
Coordinator working at International Center. We are very excited about this opportunity,
and we hope you will enjoy it. Paula: Thank you. Let’s begin with an opening question, and
for this opening question, each panelist will introduce him or herself, and share their
perspective. From there, we will continue the discussion
with questions we have on this, but you are also welcome to participate as we go. Feel free to send in a question at any time. For the opening question, what are things
that helped you create a smooth transition when you came here to Michigan? Dishari Mukherjee: Hi everyone, I am Dishari
Mukherjee, I am a second-year graduate here in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. I come from India. The things that I considered to make my transition
smooth, two of the things were housing and transportation. Because I do not have a car, I need to find a house that is on a well-connected bus route.

This is the information you can find on the
website, even on the International Center website of the University of Michigan, and
on other websites like Craigslist. Thank you. Jialiu Ma: Hi everyone, my name is Jialiu
Ma. I am a second-year graduate student in the
Department of Chemistry. I come from China. I still remember the time I first came to
the US. It was last year, late June. When I came here, I was quite worried about the
housing because I came late and there was not a lot of available housing. Luckily, I tried to find some resources to
help me.

I found the International Center website
useful. They have a whole housing section, and I just
go through them. They provided the places you can start with. I just found a whole list of all the local
agencies of those leasing offices. Before that, I never called someone using
English! Then, I’m doing that! In one day, I’m calling like 20 different
local agencies and asking if they’ve got any available apartments. Then I just got an appointment, and I just
go there, take a bus, and have a look at those apartments. I found one I loved. Before I signed the contract, I knew there
were…Because in the International Center, they provide you with a lot of suggestions, like
where are the places you need to be careful about those contracts. Those pitfalls you should avoid. I said, “Wow, this contract is perfect.” Then I just signed it, and I lived in my apartment
for a whole year, and nothing happened.

It’s really sweet. [laughter] Jialiu: The first time you come here, you
will feel terrified. There are a lot of resources online
available for you that will try to help you make a smooth transition. Just be confident. Don’t be terrified. [laughter] Paula: Thanks. Wufan Jia: Hi, I’m Wufan. I’m a first-year graduate student in the School
of Natural Resources and Environment. For some reason, I felt like I was lucky because
I have a good friend, and we’re in the same college, the same major. We decided to live together. We both searched for apartments, but at
that time, we were kind of late. We planned to arrive in mid-August, and until
July, we didn’t have a house. At that time, I was on a vacation, so my friend
searched for an apartment. There was already one person living in the
apartment. When we arrived, our roommate helped us with
transportation because she had a car.

She took us around after an hour, for the
shopping or some tips that we can make our life easier in the time. For some reason, I felt I was lucky, there
are some suggestions for housing because we are not quite familiar with housing in
US, so we use tools like the Chinese always use. There are some BBS forums where people will
exchange housing information, which I think is helpful for international students. If you can find, there are such things in
your country that are popular, that would be helpful. Nebibe Mutlu: Hi everyone, I am Nebibe Mutlu,
I am a second-year Ph.D. student at the department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
and I am from Turkey.

My advice will be about the first day since
my first day was not so smooth. [laughter] Nebibe: When I came here, I lost my luggage
at the airport and I just realized that my phone was not working, and the shuttle that
I arranged beforehand but was down. My first advice would be, just to make sure that
your phone is working in the US, and also have some phone numbers written somewhere,
just you can call if your cell phone is not working. I was able to solve my problems because I
asked for help from the lady who was arranging the taxis at the airport. She gave me her phone and I called the shuttle. It came back and picked me. Just make sure that you don’t freak out and
ask for help. Abhishek Goyal: Hi, I am Abhishek. I have just completed my first year in Mechanical
Engineering Department.

I am a graduate student, looking to graduate
in December. The thing which helped me most in getting
familiar with this situation is contacting the Indian Student Association. I connected to those guys who are from the
same place as I am, in India. They helped me in getting accustomed to the
culture and the changes which I experienced after coming to Michigan. Like, as how to look for housing, and how to
shop at Kroger, and in other shopping areas. In the US, shopping is very different compared
to other countries.

When I went to Kroger, I was overwhelmed by
the choices of different kinds of yogurts. [laughter] Abhishek: I can find 30 types of yogurts. In my country, it is only one or two kinds. Apart from these normal non-academic things,
my friends were from India. They helped me in understanding American culture,
and the American way of working, like how to be friends with Americans while working, and how
to keep personal and professional life different from each other. Any international student should look for
the specific country’s or respective country’s association, because Michigan, they have
a lot of diversity in terms of international students, and they have their student
associations. So, I suggest we should go look for these
websites. [crosstalk] Kate: I am just going to add very quickly,
that is a great point, connecting with specific students’ organizations. But international students are coming
from other countries, and you don’t have a formal student organization, which is OK, but maybe
you connect with your specific department, and sometimes they have either US students
or international students there.

They can help you get more resources. She was talking about her luggage getting
lost at the airport. As everybody is packing right now, keep in
mind, don’t pack in any recent documents in your suitcase make sure you have them with
you, carry on, your passport, your recent document, and your housing contract. You know where to go from the airport in case
something unexpected happens. Paula: Thank you. Housing is something to talk a little bit
more about, we talked a little bit earlier about how sometimes a lease starts in September
1 but you arrived before that date. Does anyone want to comment on how to manage
that sort of transition? Dishari: I can add something. That’s something that I look for, and I’ve
moved a couple of times here, is sub-leases. That’s when you’re taking over someone’s lease. If you look at websites, like the Chinese
people’s website, reading this is really good using Google Translate or something. Or even Craigslist, some people are
living at and leaving Ann Arbor, so you can take over their lease and that can help if
you have an irregular time.

Natalie: Can I quickly add to that? A good resource on campus is to understand what
sublets are and understand your rights and responsibilities. U of M has an off-campus housing site, and
it has all kinds of forms and information about tenant’s rights laws, and information
about renter’s insurance, which is usually a pretty good idea to consider, to protect
your belongings. Paula: Anything else on housing that you can
think about, as the students make the transition? Dishari: I would like to add something. That is, maybe consider some of the apartments
are not finished. A lot of the apartments are not finished,
and that’s not something that, coming from India, I wasn’t expecting to have to purchase
furniture again. So just keep that in mind, and there are other
sources like yard sales, which are pretty common here in the US, in which people who
don’t want to, who do not have any use for any particular furniture, just sell it
at a lower rate than compared to stores and you can get good quality stuff that way.

You have to be careful, but there’s good stuff. Abhishek: Yeah, I have something to add. Just from my experience, just try to find
your roommate early or you’ll just panic at the last minute. But even if you don’t find a roommate in your
own country, it’s fine. I think the U and M have a site providing a
platform. You can type in your information, what kind
of roommate you want. And they will try to match you with or provide
you with a long list of other panels to find a person who is looking for a roommate. Then you can try to connect,
and after meeting some time here in the US. So then you can meet, so then try to find
a roommate. I have a few friends that just find their
roommate on the platform. They are international students, but I think
they found some local students here. Paula: Good. Nebibe. Nebibe: I used the website to find
my first roommate here, and it worked pretty well.

She was a senior student, and she
made my transition to Ann Arbor more smooth. Paula: Good. Nebibe: One thing that I want to add, university
housing typically offers early arrival housing. But I think that information is not going
to become available until late July. I keep checking their website every day, so
I know it’s not available yet. [laughter] Nebibe: What it does is, for students arriving
in early August, they typically provide early arrival housing on campus before you move
into either your residence hall or move into your apartment. The space is very limited, so that can be
a challenge. We don’t have the information for this year
yet, so stay tuned. Kate: I have a question that came in. The student wanted to know about what other
places you might be able to find some furniture to furnish your apartment or home. Dishari: Second-hand stores are also a good
bet, but there are also other stores like Ikea, Wal-Mart, and regular general stores. Salvation Army is another second-hand — thrift
store, that’s what they are called.

Sometimes, where we come from in India, we
have a tendency not to go for those. We think that secondhand is bad, for broken
furniture or something, but that’s not usually the case. They take good care of the stuff that they
are selling. Also yard sales, like I said. At least that’s my experience. Abhishek: Yeah. I also found that Craigslist is also a good
place to start with. Also, if you already found your apartment,
just circle. Usually, some people will have a yard sale,
which means they will sell their extra or the furnished they don’t want and put it in
the yard. And maybe you can just walk there and see
what’s out there — it’s like five dollars or something.

Usually, they are just offering a lot of things. Jialiu: It’s very good at the University of
Michigan’s Property Disposal Center. They usually sell stuff at very cheap prices. I mean, you can get a table for 5 dollars
which costs 50 dollars at Ikea or whatever. It’s an official University of Michigan resale
center, so you can expect very good stuff. Nebibe: I bought a file cabinet
from them too, so it’s a great resource. The other thing I recall, last year, one of
the new international students arrived. She went onto Craigslist to buy furniture. It happens, this person is putting a lot of
things on Craigslist, and the person even delivered everything to her apartment. It was hard at the beginning. It can be a challenge, but sometimes things
just work out and you have to look for it and ask. “I don’t have transportation. Would you do me a favor and send everything?” Kate: That’s a great point. I don’t have a car, so sometimes what I do
is I order things online, and then Wal-Mart and places like that, or even Amazon if you
buy things with a certain amount of money, like $50, they’ll deliver it free.

So that’s a concern there. Abhishek: I know people, especially students,
will try to save money as much as they can. But I just want to say with mattresses, I
would not use a second-hand one because you don’t know if they’ve got bed bugs. That would be trouble. So, try to buy a new mattress. That’s for your health. Paula: Yeah. Great advice, and from there, like the transition
to thinking about…you talked about getting here on the plane and making the transition
into your apartment. What about meeting people? You started talking about some of the cultural
organizations. What are ways that you connected to people
on campus? Either through student groups or other sources. Abhishek: I think, if I came here, I’d try
to just send emails to those seniors. I think they are also coming from our own
country, and I think that’s the kind of first step because they already went through the
whole process two or three years ago, and they still remember everything.

Then when I came here, I think the first place
I went to the department office. They’ve got all those resources for registering
for classes, how to join a group and find a rotation, and how to deal with anything academic. I think that’s also a good way to connect
with other people. I think once you join a lab or whatever, then
you can try to connect with the labmates and talk as much as you can because they know
everything about the lab. Dishari: The orientation program, where you
meet other students coming to the same program as you, helps. You become buddies for life, and that helps
a lot. I find America to be a very friendly place.

Coming from a really big city, I come from
Bombay, and Calcutta. We don’t walk on the streets or smile
at people, but here it’s really common for people to smile and even ask how you’re doing. Not that they are interested in hearing
how you’re doing actually, but you can make friends with your neighbors or people
like that. I used to live in a community housing and
I was very good friends with my Vietnamese neighbors and I got to have great Vietnamese
food. We’re getting invited to all their festivals,
and Indian festivals, they would come there. It’s really good we are connecting with people
from all over the world.

Nebibe: I feel like when I arrived, the International
The Center has many workshops and I attended as many as I can. I think that will be helpful for you to involve
in the environment and meet more people. After that, my school had an orientation for
international students and also for all of us. That school orientation is very helpful. Natalie: If I can add, using that moment as
a perfect pathway, you both mentioned orientation. Many orientations are going on on campus,
so it can be confusing. Rackham has its orientation on Friday
the 29th. International Center every year offers three
week-long orientation. This year, we’ll start on Monday, August
11th, and last until Friday, August 29th. We do three weeks and we do workshops, and
it’s repeated. Generally speaking, for the most part, it’s
once a week. So if you happen to be here the second week
of orientation, you still can attend many, many workshops. In addition to workshops, we have social events. The idea of doing workshops and social events
is essentially what you touch on. You will be connected with other international
students coming from all over the world, and maybe you are in the same school or major
in the same discipline-studies, all that, and connect with your department orientation
as well.

We think it’s critical for new international
students when you first arrive on campus, you’re new to the environment and you
don’t know many people yet. We’re trying to do this, bring people together,
so you have a strong support network from the very beginning. Everybody is going through…I shouldn’t say
everybody, but most people are going through the same adjustment phases. Everybody adjusts at a different level depending
on your prior experience, but I think having everybody together going through that, really
you enjoy the moment You gain a lot of information from going to
orientation workshops, from making friends with Americans, how to communicate with your
academic advisor, cultural difference in the classroom, shopping.

Just don’t talk about only the serious business
topic. We have fun workshops as well. So I would encourage everybody to take advantage. We do have the schedule tentative on the website
already, but by late July, everything should be finalized including the workshop presentation
handouts and everything. I hope everybody will take advantage of that. Kate: We should take this opportunity to apply
with the Rackham new student orientation as well. Thanks for mentioning that. It’s going to be held on the morning of August
29th, and we’re going to have a big resource fair which means that we’re going to have
different representatives from organizations all across campus. Parking, housing, et cetera, so that you can
get from there all in one fell swoop. I hope that the new students can join us for
that activity. Paula: even part of academics, let’s
talk a little bit about registering for courses. Where’d you find the most helpful information
about the process for registering? Who did you talk to? Where did you go? Who’d like to take that question? Nebibe: I can take that.

Paula: Thanks. Nebibe: As I mentioned, I think my school
did very well in helping international students. We had an international student orientation before our orientation. They talked to us about all the information we need,
for example, registering for the courses, and who should we talk to and we met that person in the orientation. After that, our person sent us emails,
“Here is the link to the rest of the course. If you have any questions, you can ask me.” That’s helpful. Usually, in my school, it’s in the office
of academics. It was an office there, and you can always walk
in to ask questions. Paula: Thank you. Do you have different experiences, or? Abhishek: Even in the mechanical engineering department,
there are some academic services offices, which deal with all the [indecipherable 0:22:50]
-related issues of the students.

In my department, they emailed me some information
on how to register for the courses in [indecipherable 0:22:59] and what the different terms
used by registering, like backpacks and [indecipherable 0:23:04] and other things. You should ask for the department, just email
the academic service office. They are generally very prompt in replying
to all these specific emails, which is important. So you can get the information from there. Paula: The different departments have different
timing and things that you’ll want to find out about ahead of time.

Jialiu: I found the department website is
usually helpful. For example, in our department chemistry,
we summarize all the rules about registering, like how many points you need to get and how
you keep a good standing. All those rules are summarized in a student
handbook, and they upload it online so you can have look. Even those seniors, cannot be like
know everything, so the best thing is just to go and check the rules in the student handbook. Also, on the Rackham school website, they
have the general rules for all Ph.D. and Masters, those things they need to stick to.

For example, I read the special rule, “If
you have sick leave, the maximum year is one year. You can stop everything and resume after one
year,” but you need to apply to some person and fill out all the forms. So that’s the official places you can start with. Wufan: Can I add something about the course
registration? In some departments, you cannot register in advance. You have to come here, attend the department
orientation, get consent from the advisor, and then you can register.

If somebody can’t register, they should not
be afraid of being late. Some departments work like that, so be aware
of that. Paula: What are the…Please, go ahead. Kate: I was going to add. One more thing related to class registration,
as international students you probably are aware of or hear about, there is a minimum requirement
you have to register to comply with the US Immigration regulations. What we normally suggest to new international
students, for the first semester or even the first academic year, take the basic requirement
in the foundation courses. Talk with your department and what some
of the courses should be considered the foundation, the basic course that you want to take? Don’t overload yourself, in a sense.

I know everybody is trying to finish everything
ahead of the schedule, and if your tuition, everything, is paid by all of your family,
and you don’t have any financial support from the school, you’re even more anxious to finish
everything in a short period. That can add a lot of stress to yourself. So the first semester, take the minimum requirement
and then go from there. Once you adjust to the environment and everything,
then you can pick up the course load shortly. Paula: Did you want to say something? Abhishek: No, I agree. [laughter] Paula: You got his support. [laughter] Paula: What about other things in the academic
culture at Michigan that you think is good to know ahead of time? And the things that were different for you,
that you thought, “This would help someone transition as a new student”? Dishari: A lot of professors, upload
the materials on a web page or a website that is dedicated to them. That’s not something I had in India, and
in the beginning, it was a bit challenging to find out, “This is where I have to upload
my homework assignment or download these.” Once you get the hang of it, it’s nice.

Jialiu: That reminds me, we use this website
called CTools, which all the professors uploaded their slides. Sometimes we upload our homework to the website
so people can grade them. That’s a website I currently bookmarked in
my browser because I use it every day. Another website that is closely related is
called Wolverine Access. You register your classes, you see your page
there, and you get a lot of information there. I found that useful. Abhishek: In India, there are no office hours-kind
of thing, which is very common in the US. Office hours are a time for the professor
to interact with the students, and he can answer any question related to the course

Besides the professor, the grader or teaching
assistant — which is called TA or GSI, Graduate Student Instructor — also helps in understanding
the material. For a typical class, generally, the office
hour ranges from one hour to two hours, a week. A student can go there and ask the doubts
about the course material or homework assignments, and other related stuff. Generally, the professor and TA are available
at that time and they can help with this. Paula: Nobody’s mentioned Michigan time. [laughter] Paula: [indecipherable 0;28:34] are waiting
to hear that. Do they want to take the Michigan time, what
that means? Go ahead. [laughter] Natalie: Michigan-time 10:00 AM is actually
10:10 AM. It’s 10 minutes after the student time, that’s
when it starts. It helps if you have class because the University
of Michigan is pretty huge and there are different campuses. If you want to get from one campus to another,
it might take you a much time. So we give that 10-minute grace period for
you to be there on time for your class to start. Paula: It bleeds into everything else we do
at Michigan. I think that’s different for people from the
United States or others, so it’s unusual.

Kate: Can I take a quick moment to do a housekeeping thing? Can you just remind us a little bit so that
people can see, and scoot your chairs in a little bit closer to the table? I can’t see you too well, so can you scoot
in a little bit? [laughs] I’m looking at [indecipherable 0:29:30], just
want to make sure they can see your lovely faces. Paula: One other thing, I noticed some people
their Michigan cards. Does anyone want to talk about that aspect of Michigan,
Mcard? Jialiu: Mcard? Kate: Do you all have them? [crosstalk] Jialiu: …The color of this card is called
maize. It’s a very special yellow which represented
Michigan. Another color represented Michigan is blue,
so it was maize and blue, right? [laughter] Paula: Yes, those are our colors. What can you do with your Mcard? How do you use it? Jialiu: I can start with that. This Mcard is an identification card for you
in Michigan.

You can use it to get library books, you can
use them to access your building at the locking times. Usually, it’s after 6:00 PM. Also, you can use it to access all the buses,
including the city bus. It’s free, so it’s a great privilege. Always keep in mind, “Just keep this card.” The first time you come here, just get a card. I think it’s in the Student Activity Building. There is an office there. You can get them free for the first time. Natalie: Yes, and I want to jump in at this
time. I know a lot of students are wondering, “When
am I going to get my Mcard,” because it is a very vital piece of your time here at Michigan?

Here’s the official word. New students will obtain their first Mcard
during their student orientation, and different orientations are going
to be taking place over the summer. You should be getting special information
about that via email, so don’t worry. If you need to get your Mcard when you’re
here, it’s before you arrive, There are things called Issuing Stations, like what you were
saying. Don’t worry. We’ll get information out to you, and there
are different points of entry where you can get your card. So you can start riding those buses for free. Did no one mention the student discount card? Has anyone used their Mcard for a student
discount? Nebibe: I just discovered that like
last week. [laughter] Paula: Just in time. Nebibe: Yeah, just in time. They have discussed where the restaurants
and some bookshops are. It’s very useful to know about, which discounts
are applied. They are all on the web page.

Jialiu: Yeah, and discounts for movies. I just went to see a movie, and you always
get a student discount if you have the card. That’s a plus. Nebibe: Yeah, not only movies but also concerts… [crosstalk] Paula: Significant discounts. Nebibe: Yeah, like the University of Michigan
Medical School concerts, or the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra concerts. They always have student discounts. Kate: You can also use your Mcard to make photocopies. Just swipe the card on the device making copies. Dishari: For the Mcard, not only can you ride
the city buses for free, but there’s also a Detroit Connector, which I didn’t know… [crosstalk] Dishari: That’s a free bus from the
University of Michigan to Detroit. You can take up to, I think, two guests or
four guests, so you can take your parents along to Detroit for free. [laughter] Dishari: Thanks for this card. It’s good. [laughter] Paula: Have you done that? Dishari: Yeah, we went to the DIA, the Detroit
Institute of Art, and then we’ll go to Eastern Market sometime this weekend. Paula: Nice! Natalie: Can you explain what Eastern Market
is? Dishari: It is the largest open farmers
market here in the US.

We go in there for vegetables and different
flowering plants. Is there anything else going on in Eastern
Market [indecipherable 0:33:22]? Paula: That’s a great restaurant. I grew up in Detroit, so I’m so excited to
hear that you’ve been to Eastern Market. [laughter] Paula: Yeah, that’s nice. There are a lot of things in Detroit that you can
do. Those are two highlights of Detroit, the Institute
of Art and Eastern Market. Abhishek: One more thing you can do with your
Mcard is to check in on any event, any ongoing events on the campus. You just go there, swipe this card, and then
all the relevant information related to that event will be given to you. All the points after the events. All the important points in all the presentations
that the presenter is going to present at the event will be emailed to you.

It’s a very good resource to get all the information,
which you can not note down every single point. You can get the lecture we use as
well like digitally recording the guest lecture we use at the events. You can get access to this if you swipe your
Mcard at the events. Natalie: That’s awesome. Paula: Yeah, it’s nice. It’s nice. You started moving into some of the cultural
things about Michigan, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. Share with us some of the things that you’ve
experienced that you didn’t expect, or things that you had assumptions about and found
were completely fulfilled when you came to Michigan. [silence and then laughter] Paula: That was an exciting question. [laughter and crosstalk] Jialiu: A lot of things. Yeah, I feel like the cultural difference in
the very beginning was quite shocking, I would say. I just got adjusted to that. One thing is that American culture is kind of very

[laughter] Jialiu: At the very beginning, one time I
had a project paper, so I [indecipherable 0:35:14]. I asked [indecipherable 0:35:16]
, “Oh, how good am I doing?” He said, “Yeah, good.” I thought, “Yeah, I’m doing good!” But once the result came out, I saw, “Wow,
crap. It’s really bad.” Later I gradually learned that “good” means,
“You’re doing badly. You need to work hard to improve the
markup on there.” “Very good” means, “Yeah, I’m doing OK.” And honestly, people say, “Oh, you’re a genius! Did you write that paper? I can’t believe it!” That means, “Wow, you’re really good.” [laughter] Paula: Did other people experience that sort
of deception? Dishari: I did.

I think it’s very common no matter how you
do. It’s always a good, good job. I don’t know how seriously to take that comment
anymore, but it’s a good way not to be very harsh or just have something good to say. If your content wasn’t good, you usually get
comments on, “That’s a nice font you used,” or “Nice presentation style.” It’s a positive admiring, but maybe don’t
read a lot into it. Jialiu: Sometimes you just get the wrong information
out of that. Paula: What are things that people experience
that were things about maybe the American culture that you didn’t expect? Abhishek: One thing I experienced is self-checkout,
the self-service concept, which is very prevalent in American stores. Whenever you go shopping, you self-service. You are choosing your stuff. From a lot of very [indecipherable 0:36:49]
things. You are using self-checkout. You are not depending on the cash counters,
and you are not required to stand in the queue.

Whenever you go to a movie, you can just swipe
your card and take everything. You can have everything without anyone. [crosstalk] Abhishek: You are independent of
the service of other guys. It helps in getting you independent
of every aspect of shopping or wherever you go basically. It’s a nice experience for me. Paula: I didn’t realize that that’s an uncommon
experience. Nebibe: One thing that I find interesting
about American culture is the personal space thing. In my country, we usually kiss when we are
saying hi and hug. Here, you can smile at strangers, but you
usually don’t have to [indecipherable 0:37:49] your mouth. [laughter] Nebibe: You have to be sort of respectful
to their personal space.

That’s something that I find interesting about… Paula: Do you have an example of something
that…? Nebibe: Yeah, actually I was on a bus one
time, and I was going to ask something about a guy. He was sitting in front of me, so I just touched
his shoulder. He just turned and asked, “What are you
doing?” [laughter] Nebibe: Do not do that. [laughter] Dishari: I can add something to that, and
that is…It’s kind of the academic culture but also the social culture. In India, whenever someone is saying something
and you understand what they’re saying or where they’re going with that thought, you
kind of interrupt, and you say, “Oh, yeah, yeah, this is what you mean.” That’s not acceptable here in the US. For example, we had an Indian professor who
was good, but whenever the student would ask him a question — he was an Indian
professor — halfway through the question, he understands what they are asking, or…He
would jump in with the answer, and some of my American colleagues got
angry at that behavior just because he wasn’t letting them complete the whole thought.

It’s very cultural here, acceptable in India. When someone is talking…We’ll be having
a conversation…You say something I understand, and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s what you
mean.” [laughter and crosstalk] Dishari: Don’t do that here, because… [laughter and crosstalk] Dishari: That’s a tough one here at least. Wufan: I just thought of something. I’ve been here, and I do not have a car. From my experience, I feel like it’s really
difficult to go out somewhere if you do not have a car, especially during weekends. The bus ends very early in the afternoon,
but the shopping mall is open until late. It’s really difficult to go out. Kate: Well, adding on that, it’s something
that you want to consider with the limited transportation. Sometimes once you know somebody has transportation,
offer, “That’s very nice of you, offering me.” Then you share the ride. You share and contribute some money for the gasoline,
so that person feels like it’s not like you’re always taking advantage and never offering

Keep that in mind as well. The other thing I was going to add is really…A
part of this cultural adjustment for some international students — I don’t want to
generalize everybody — for some, eye contact might be very uncomfortable, either in a social
setting or maybe even during a job interview, a conversation with your professor, et cetera. In the US culture, making eye contact is crucial. You’re showing that you’re listening
attentively, responding, and not looking around…People think you’re really rude and, “Do you have
somewhere you have to be? You don’t want to pay attention to me.” I know it takes time to get used to, but it’s
very crucial.

We need to keep that in mind. Paula: We’ve done workshops here at Rackham
on professional communication in social settings. I think Nebibe talked about the aggressively
friendly nature of Americans, so that seems to resonate with people. Natalie: I have a question that came in. What has it been like interacting with your
professors here, and has that been different from how it is in your home country? Wufan: Yeah, it’s very different. For example, in my undergrad, my professor
would ask us to meet him, once a month, at a certain time, but I feel like,
here, you should take advantage of his advice. You should make an appointment with a professor,
or otherwise, your professor will not request to meet you. Paula: I would like to hear more about what
might be the protocol for connecting with your professor. Is that different for you here in the United
States? Abhishek: Yeah. You can email the professor and set up an appointment
with him.

Generally, the professors give the appointment
in a very short period also. It depends on the professor and the projects. If you can ask a question that can be directly
answered in the email, they generally answer it. If the thing needs to be explained personally
or cannot be explained in the email, they generally give you some time, for half an
hour or whatever, depending on the question. You can go there and meet them during
this appointment.

Make sure that you arrive on time, and that you
are not late because U of M professors do not follow up. Like Michigan time for their appointments… [crosstalk and laughter] Abhishek: …With professors, you have to be
very sharp on the appointment. Kate: Also make sure you do your homework
before your appointment so you have at least your questions prepared. During orientation, we offer workshops on
how to communicate with your academic adviser. We had one professional staff plus two current
international students share their experience really how to take advantage of professors’
office hours and how to maintain that contact because those professors can be very crucial
for your future study here. You want to start by having a good relationship,
and understanding what are some of the mutual expectations.

Is email working better, or does the professor
prefer to meet with you once a week? How often should you meet with the person? Making sure you come and listen to the international
peer adviser talk about their firsthand experience. Jialiu: I agree with Kate. I think for the first time you meet a professor,
it’s always good to send an email first, and set up a time. Then on the first meeting, you can try to
ask something like, “What kinds of ways do you prefer? Should I just email all the time, or should
I just knock on the door or whatever?” I think every professor is unique. For example, my adviser always prefers, “You
got any questions, just knock on my door. Just push in, and we can just have a few words
if the question is really quick.” Some professors say, “I don’t have time. Always email me. Do not call me or knock on my door. Do not do that.” Just respect their schedule. They are really busy, so just set a first
meeting and ask for the way they prefer.

Paula: Jialiu, do you have any experiences
with the email interaction being different in any way? Jialiu: The first time you try to be as normal
as possible. [laughter] Jialiu: You don’t know about that. Once, for example, I get quite familiar with
my adviser, usually, it could be a little bit less formal. For example, I can call him by his first name
or my boss, and he was totally fine with that. It’s kind of like the way to interact. My boss is American. He jokes all the time. [laughter] Jialiu: Any time even I was talking with my
fellow students, he was just jumping and joking with us. [laughter] Jialiu: That’s another, where at the very
beginning, I wasn’t very comfortable with. Americans, it’s really like joking all the
time. [laughter] Paula: Yeah, [indecipherable 0:45:52] a lot. At times, it doesn’t seem appropriate. [laughter] Jialiu: Then I found that people value
humor, so I’m trying to learn that. Paula: Is there anything else anyone has experienced
with connecting with their faculty… What comes up for you? That was a surprise since you entered. Dishari: I guess some of the points have been
touched on, but in my experience, I found the professors here were very friendly and

It’s expected that you ask questions if you
don’t understand, so that’s better. Sometimes in India, we don’t always question
authority. Here there aren’t very cut-and-dry…Here
the professors consider you an equal, and that’s how you have to behave. That’s a little different
than [indecipherable 0:46:43]. Jialiu: Before I came to the US, in China,
I was always afraid of asking silly questions. Then I come here, and every professor says,
“There is no silly question.” Every question has its points, or at least
that means you don’t get it. You can ask it. Maybe other people don’t get it. They just didn’t ask, so it’s always good
to ask questions. Paula: You talked a little bit about connecting
with seniors at Michigan to help you in your transition. Have any of you connected with students that
might have been more advanced and used that as a resource? Wufan: Yeah, I feel like my school did very
well on that. We have Student Ambassador. It’s basically where each new incoming student
will be assigned a second-year grad student.

They will send you an email, and you can ask
him or them any questions you have. Paula: That’s great. Wufan: Yeah. Paula: Good. Did you find it helpful? Did you use it? Wufan: Yeah, it’s really helpful. You can ask about life here and also specific
questions you have about your program. [crosstalk and laughter] Nebibe: My friend also did a really good job
because they arranged a retreat just a week after we came here. It was mandatory for first-year students. If there is a retreat and if it’s not mandatory
for the first-year students, I would strongly advise going. You can meet all the people in your department
there, and it’s great to make connections.

It’s great to decide which courses to take,
and which labs to go to. It’s crucial for your adjustment
here, I would say. Paula: Good. What did you find particularly helpful about
the retreat, anything…? Nebibe: There were posters from the labs,
and in my department, you had the rotations when you came here. I talked to people and learned what they are
working on now. When you look at the websites, there are usually
papers from previous work. The current work is not usually published,
so you don’t know about the current. I learned about the current work more. I met some professors and senior students,
and they helped me a lot.

Paula: So it was academic and social. Nebibe: Yeah, it was academic and social. Paula: Excellent. Jialiu: It’s my experience that if you’re
interested in a certain lab or a certain professor, you can just knock on the door of their lab. There are always a lot of graduate students
there, and you can just directly talk with them. I think that’s normal in those departments. You can just talk with them and ask them,
“What do you think about this lab” and, “How do you feel about graduate school?” Everything.

They’re always, always very friendly in answering
those questions. I think our departments also encourage us
to do that. I’m not sure about those departments
that do not rely on the lab thing… Paula: Oh, that doesn’t get wet. How to connect. Jialiu: Yeah, but then I came up with…I
know that if you get a Munich account, we can always log in. I think we have a graduate student directory,
so if you know the name of the one you want to connect with, you can always log in there
and search for their email. Then you can just send an email and try to
connect with them. Paula: You started to touch on…It’s OK to
ask people questions about the lab and what people think.

What are other things that you had to learn
were OK to talk about, that might have been different than you expected, from your
cultural norms? Maybe even from the perspective of, you’re
shocked that Americans talk about things that you wouldn’t expect them to talk about. [laughter] Paula: Are there things that were new to you? Dishari: Something that is new to me was professors
taking some interest in me or asking me…It was the first professor I had. I used to work these crazy hours and not eat
lunch or something, and it was very surprising to me that she would come out and say, “Dishari,
did you eat?” And she would get me food sometimes.

That is really…it never happened to me. [laughter and crosstalk] Dishari: So that just depends, something that
depends… Paula: Taking personal care of you. Dishari: Yeah, yeah. Paula: It’s nice. [pause] Paula: Look first the question is this. Natalie: We wonder if anyone’s professor has
invited the department program [indecipherable 0:51:53] to their home for a meal and that’s
something that happens from time to time. That is an interesting setting, where students
have to come to the professor’s home. Has that happened to anyone? Dishari: Not to me. [laughter and crosstalk] Dishari: My friend took a course and at
the end of the course the professor invites all the students of the course to his house
for a potluck. Jialiu: OK, so it’s just one time for me,
the first supervisor, I [indecipherable 0:52:31] with he just got his tenure this year and
he’s really happy. He invited all the lab members and even former
lab members to his house for Christmas. That’s pretty good.

Paula: What about other things that have assisted
you here in Ann Arbor? We talked about the International Center,
which is certainly a huge resource for our international students at Rackham Graduate
School and cultural groups. What other, sort of student groups or organizations
on campus has been really important for you, particularly in that transition time
and even as you progressed? Abhishek: There are many organizations [indecipherable
0:53:19] speech, so you can connect with them through their organization which shares your

There’s some kind of music like salsa, or
some kind of [indecipherable 0:53:33] feeding group. [laughter and crosstalk] Abhishek: So you can connect with different
kinds of people who share your interest. You can interact with them. They have their monthly meeting or fortnightly
meetings. It’s pretty good to interact with other people
who have similar interests as yours. Paula: You spent a lot of [indecipherable
0:53:54] Maize Pages? Abhishek: Yeah, Maize Pages are
a university…There are many student organizations — around more than 500. They are listed on the Maize Pages. Maize Pages of the University of Michigan official
group. They list all the official groups associated
with the University of Michigan and you can sort by choosing keywords. They have their keywords category alphabetically. You can search with them to connect with those
student organizations.

Kate: It can be social academic, could be
religious, when you’re looking for any particular interest. Also, a good part of that Maize Pages, if
you don’t find an organization that’ll meet your interest, you can start your
own. [laughter] Kate: Center for Campus Involvement center
is there to support you and can work with you. Center for Campus Involvement also offers
a lot of programs on campus for students.

So, it’s a great opportunity to get involved
and participate in a program and another chance to meet with American students or other students
from different countries as well. Paula: My area is professional development,
a group that was started by international students. It’s a Michigan Graduate Consulting Club. There is a student who said, “I want
to get into consulting, and the undergraduate club isn’t serving my needs.” And he initiated that and it’s become an
active club. So, a great example of contributions from
the international students at Michigan. It’s also something you can do.

There have been personal groups too. Kate: Oh, for sure. My area is student development. We often partner with Rackham student government,
which you’ll probably hear more about from the new students. We offer social events for anyone. So, you can meet people from all across the
university, which is great. We also, at Rackham, have activities for certain
groups of students — students who are parents or LGBTQ students. There are lots of opportunities in your department
at Rackham. At your school, or college level, there are lots of
ways to get involved. Paula: I want to talk a little bit about Rackham
because we haven’t done that much. Your graduate students and Rackham students
and also, many of you will be out there.

There are things that Rackham does. I’m the lead of professional development, which
means there are workshops and job search, career development, and learning some core competencies
like leadership. So, there’s a lot we do that way. Natalie does student development. We’ll talk about some of those things also. Is there anything in particular that you want
to be covered? Natalie: Yeah. Kate: Yeah. Paula: Someone like you guys, how you’ve interacted
with Rackham? And what sort of things you’ve taken advantage
of through Rackham? Dishari: For me, I received the Rackham newsletter,
and they post the workshops.

I see most [indecipherable 0:56:54] than jobs,
and also there are some social events that I took advantage of. Paula: What kind of social events, can I ask? Dishari: I went skiing and rolling. [laughter and crosstalk] Abhishek: Rolling is nice, that’s [indecipherable
0:57:14]. Kate: We’re doing it again, so look out for
it. Dishari: I like the social events and also
the workshop that helps you find a job. And the music, music festival events. Also, I remember there were academic events
like lectures. You can find something you want and take advantage
of that.

Kate: I’m very glad you mentioned that email
newsletter that goes to students from Rackham because it does include a lot of information
including fellowships. Everyone likes money, so it’s a good place
to look for that information. [laughter] Kate: You’re going to be hearing from a lot
of different sources. As a student, your department is probably
going to send you tons and tons of emails, and your instinct might be, “Delete.” [laughter] Kate: But as much as you can help it, try
to at least skim those messages because there’s usually some great information you can get. After you’ve given it a quick skim, then you
can delete it. We just want to make sure that students are
hearing about the things that are happening. You might find through those communications
from your departments that there are grad-student organizations that are just department-specific
that you might not find on Maize Pages, because they’re not a registered student organization.

If you don’t find something on Maize Pages,
you might be able to find something in your particular program, so [indecipherable 0:58:40]
and after that, ask around. Paula: Anything else? I know that International Center and Rackham
does a lot of workshops together also, so you want to hear that closely. Kate: We do. It has been a truly great partnership with
Rackham. We do a lot of workshops to support international
students because the US Immigration regulations can be confusing and complicated. It’s not always a black-and-white situation. We do a workshop all year round from the employment
overview, so you have a sense of where you can work and what are the limitations from the
US Immigration perspective. We work sometimes with other offices’ Career
Center, finding an internship. We do that once a year in January. We also work with a couple of immigration
attorneys. I know it’s a long-term that you all knew,
but just you know what’s being offered by International Center. About those employment-related workshops,
we also work with other things to support international students from the social-cultural

We will send out emails to all international
students, that’s another office you will see emails from International Center. Again, as Natalie and Paula say, don’t
hit the delete button until [indecipherable 0:59:58]. Take a look and read it because
the email from International Center can be tied to a specific immigration situation. We do remind you because you may need a travel
signature or your immigration document is about to expire. So we remind all international students. Make sure you don’t hit that delete button
until you read everything. Paula: Rackham collaborates with a lot of
organizations like the Career Center, and International Center. We try to help coordinate some of the things
that you’ll learn about on campus. One of the other things that you brought up
was the Fall Festival, the Fall [indecipherable 1:00:34]. [laughs] Jialiu: Yeah, the Fall Festival. We’ve got all the student organizations in
the Maize Pages.

They also do have a real booth, so in [indecipherable
1:00:43], usually in September, it’s the Fall Festival. It’s held in the Diach, which is the center
of the Central Campus. Every organization will have a booth, so you
can just go around and just sign in for anything that you’re interested in. Paula: There are a lot of free things, too,
and giveaways. Kate: There’s also a Resident Festival on
the North Campus, which is in the northwest. They’re both held in the second week of September. Paula: One thing we haven’t talked about is
the physical campus. When are we willing to talk about the experiences
there? Is that what you thought when you first got
here, what people might look forward to? Jialiu: I think except for the engineering
departments — usually they are in the North Campus — the other departments usually are
located in the Central Campus. But if you need to sometimes take classes
on the North Campus, we have the University of Michigan bus system. It’s called Blue Bus. You can always take the bus and get to the
North Campus. It usually takes like 15 minutes.

Natalie: So it is not walkable. [laughter and crosstalk] Paula: And there’s Central, North, [indecipherable
1:02:09] the Med Campus, South Campus… Nebibe: But you can walk between the Medical
Campus and the Southern Campus? Natalie: Right. Yes. Paula: Yes. Kate: The North Campus has great resources. In addition to the College of Engineering,
you have Music. You have Architecture. The University Housing — the Northern community
says Family Housing — is located on North Campus. The NCRB is located up there, and a lot of
other off-campus housing is located on North Campus. Natalie: Kate, you just used an acronym, NCRB. [laughter] Kate: Yes, North Campus Recreation Center… Paula: Recreation Building. Kate: Yes. You see a lot of acronyms, and people just
say “Go to SAB,” and NCRB, CCRB, and all that.

That’s one to be mindful of. I know when I first joined Michigan back in
In ’98, there wasn’t any iPhone. At least I didn’t have an iPhone at that age. I always had a hard copy of the campus map
with me. During the lunch break, I would take the map out,
walk, and find one new building that I don’t know yet… [crosstalk] Kate: …just to walk around. Every day, I found “Oh, so this is where Rackham
is located.” The next time we have a meeting, you know
where you’re going. Now, everybody has an iPhone and all kinds
of devices. Paula: That’s a great way to think about it. Is there one piece of advice you would give
for someone — even if you didn’t do it — you think “This would be a good idea to acclimate
yourself to the campus”? Wufan: I think it’s good to take a map from
the International Center during orientation because sometimes the map is not available
on Google, especially the campus map.

They have the buildings’ names and the street,
so you can take a map and at least walk around to see some buildings. Many events happen on campus,
but it is not always in your department. It’s always around the campus. And next time when you want to attend the
events, you might find it difficult to find the building and the room. So it’s always good, before your term begins,
to walk around the campus, especially the Central Campus. There are many buildings. Kate: Can I add on that? Just in terms of getting the campus map, the
two places that you want to go to will be the Campus Information Center. One is located in Michigan Union
on the First Floor.

There’s another one in the Pierpont Commons. Those are the places you can get a campus
map, city map, bus schedule, and even a driver’s license menu. The Center for Campus Information and
the Union have those resources available. The one from the International Center
she was referring to is black and white! It’s not as nice as the one from the Campus
Information Center. We just make copies, and sometimes it’s really
hard to read.

I would encourage you to go to the Campus
Information Center to get a beautiful map. Natalie: Kate, can I just ask you to explain
what the Michigan Union and Pierpont Commons are in general? Kate: Sure. Michigan Union is…You’re going to find people
who will say “Oh, go to the Union.” They are referring to one of the landmarks
on Central Campus. The Michigan flag is flying there, right across
from the University of Michigan Art Museum. It’s a building that essentially has offices
but also has a lot of facilities and room for activities. Students go, and even people in the community
would go as well.

A couple of the offices I mentioned are located
in that building. The Center for Campus Involvement I mentioned
earlier. The Campus Information Center is there. Counseling and Psychological Services is on
the third floor. There are many, many, many offices in that
building. The Pierpont Commons…The concept would be
the Michigan Union on North Campus, if I may? [laughter] Kate: Even though it’s not called Michigan
Union on North Campus, it’s another facility, a major one, that hosts a lot of facilities,
shops, restaurants, and rooms for activities. Paula: You went for something that I was going
to go to, and now I just lost it… [laughter] Paula: …Oh, about getting around campus. Are there other places that you think are
key spots on campus that students should know about before they get to the Rackham
Building? We say Rackham, and we actually mean the Graduate
School, but we also mean a building. A studying building that we’re sitting
in right now is available to you to study in. We have lots of events here. What else on campus would you recommend, or
“Wow, you should know about this building”? Abhishek: The most prominent thing
in the North Campus is Duderstadt.

It’s a library of art, architecture, and engineering. It’s AAE, Art, Architecture, and Engineering
Library. It has one of the largest collections of
books in the US. It has some CAEN computers — CAEN is basically
College of Engineering — netbooks, which have all the engineering software available
for access. There are more than 500 computers there. You can access all the licensed software which
are otherwise very expensive for a person to use. Generally, people use that space to have some
group meetings for their project work. They have some cafes also, [indecipherable
1:07:44] cafes. That’s a very good collaboration space for
the project meetings and other stuff. They have study rooms as well, in which you
can go there and study alone. Paula: That’s a great resource. Are there resources that people have found
essential? Wufan: I think in Central Campus, there are
two libraries. The Grad Library and the Shapiro Undergraduate
Library. They are very helpful. Also actually there is a Clark Science Library
on the third floor of the Shapiro Library. It is not just a good place to study, but
also there are some displays, and exhibits that happen there.

Especially there are events in the Grad Library. On the first floor of the gallery, there are
some displays. That will be helpful if we want to take a
break from your course. Paula: Yeah, that’s a good suggestion. Kate: You both mentioned libraries. If I may just add it on? During orientation, we already set up tours
for Duderstadt and Central Campus as well. You will discover, as new international students,
there are so many libraries on campus. It’s not just a place to study, and you find
resources on how to utilize the library to help your academic study here. We have many, many tours scheduled for North
Campus as well as the Central Campus. It will be posted on the website. Nebibe: I can add, there’s a meeting room
in the… [crosstalk] Nebibe: …Some of my classmates, they did
not know that. I told them that we can rent four videos. [crosstalk] Paula: Yes, that’s wonderful. Nebibe: Yes, that’s wonderful, and the resources
are huge. Paula: That’s one of the largest video collections
in the United States.

We like to say that a lot at Michigan… [laughter] Paula: One of the biggest, the best. Abhishek: We are the best. [laughter and crosstalk] Wufan: Actually, I’m not [indecipherable 1:09:51]
, but some friend told me that The Dude…They called, it “The Dude.” [laughter] Wufan: …Has a great video game collection,
and you can even play Super Mario with a 1990s game console.

[laughter] Paula: How did we miss that? That’s good… Nebibe: Can I ask about a few more [indecipherable
1:10:10]. Paula: Just go ahead. Nebibe: I just wanted to say that in case
you are spending long hours in the lab or something, and you need food, there’s also
a cafeteria, which is open 24/7, at least for the medical school. The medical school cafeteria is something
I appreciate it. Paula: That’s a good suggestion. Natalie: I was just going to ask about what
other acronyms you might hear a lot when you’re a new student, and some of them are
funny, like, “The Dude.” What other acronyms should students be listening
out for? Wufan: Another fun is “Ugly”… [laughter and crosstalk] Paula: It’s still called “The Ugly,” and then
they rename it. [crosstalk] Jialiu: Another thing I heard is “Big House.” Michigan people are crazy about football games,
so the Big House is one of the biggest football stadiums in the United States. People love our Michigan football team, so
you are usually a big fan.

They were just crowding the whole stadium
during the game day. Paula: “Football Saturdays,” you ever hear
that? Does anyone have something that… Kate: “SAB” is used quite a lot, that’s where
the international center is located. That’s where the Empire office, and also housing
information center, career center, office of student conflict resolutions, financial,
student’s employment office, the undergrad missions office…There are lots of offices. SAB people just say, “Go to SAB.” Paula: “Student activities building,” that’s
what it stands for. Jialiu: Another thing is “BTC.” It’s Blake Transit Center, which is all the
bus stops. Paula: Very walkable. Jialiu: It is very walkable from the central
campus, like 10 minutes. Paula: The Ann Arbor town and campus are very
close to each other, and they’re intertwined. [laughter] Paula: You’ll find that. We haven’t talked much about, shifting back
to things that are very particular to international students, things that might have helped you
in speaking [indecipherable 1:12:19] English when you arrived here.

We cover that before we close out the call. Was anything particularly helpful for you,
or things that you thought are particular challenges, and how you resolved them? Dishari: The accent sometimes is a problem. I never thought I would have any problem [indecipherable
1:12:38] communicated, but you do take some time to get used to the accents here, and
they take time to get used to your accent, too. With time, that goes away. Also, just culturally, at least in some parts
of India, you speak too fast, and I still do that. I go like a train. But, I slow down. That’s something that helps. Jialiu: At the very beginning, I just feel
sometimes I don’t catch what other people are asking.

I understand every word they are saying, but
I just don’t understand if they are referring to some program, referring to some movie they
see. I just don’t get it… Paula: Too many cultural references. [crosstalk] Jialiu: Yes, the cultural references. My experiment is I try to watch a few American
programs on TV, like “Saturday Night Live,” that kind of comedian. [laughter] Paula: That’s a good pick. Jialiu: They get a lot of, I think, the cultural
thing there, so I just try to listen to some of them, and you can get kind of a feeling

Just don’t worry too much, you need time to
get adjusted. Paula: Has anyone used the English Language
Institute at all? Wufan: Yes. Jialiu: I got training before I just come
here, so we needed to take the training. I think it’s for all the science departments,
physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics, so we take the training. After the training, we have to pass English
tests. It’s kind of an oral English test. You have to get a B or above, so you can teach. That’s a requirement for a lot of Ph.D.

Programs. That training is kind of very helpful, and
I think the ELI, the English Language Institute, also provides a lot of courses during
the fall term and winter terms. You can take those classes to try to improve
every aspect of your English. They provide writing, listening, speaking,
and all kinds of stuff. Abhishek: One of my friends has joined this
ELI group, it’s the “English Language Institute,” they have an English-speaking circle in
which there’s one American student and four or five international students. They interact, each of them, in a casual way
for [indecipherable 1:15:16] during the week. American students can explain to them how to ask
questions and how to respond to them, what you should do with an accent, what you should
speak, and so many other things. It generally requires some kind of registration,
and it isn’t [indecipherable 1:15:32]. I think they should have open registration for
seminars, and I should be able to let them know.

Kate: The conversation circle you’re referring
to is very popular among all international students. As soon as registration opens, if you act
instantly…If you are unable to join that, the other opportunity would be really… There are a lot of opportunities in your community. They have conversation hour, or maybe people
share a common interest, hiking, like outdoor adventures on campus over trips. That’s another opportunity, not necessarily
sitting around a table, “Let’s improve our English interactions.” It’s people who share a common interest. International Center offers other opportunities,
maybe a coffee hour we’re doing right now for new international students. Other things that we do, even just talking
about American holidays, or culture, or making friends. Understanding the US election, that’s another
concept for a lot of international things, even though you can’t vote, we generally,
maybe every four years, invite a professor from political science to talk about the two
candidates, and what is something similarities or differences, and then we do a mock voting
at the end of the presentation.

It was fun, it was eye-opening and fine
interaction, to see the information from the professor in student participating workshops. We will do those social events, and collaborate
with Rackham as well, in the future. Paula: I can say, too, having been a University
of Michigan student, that I have had friends who are international students who we became
friends by them asking me if I can be their conversation partner. There are informal ways also to connect with
the conversation partners. Natalie: I have a question that came in, which
is a little more of a practical question, but, “Were you able to find good food here?” [laughter] Paula: That’s a good question. Nebibe: I would say the food is standard here. The restaurants are really good here if you
are eating out. For grocery shopping, you will need a
car usually. If you eat out, there are a lot of restaurants
from different cuisines around the world, so it’s great.

One thing is that there is no good Turkish
restaurant. [laughter] Paula: There’s an opportunity right there. Nebibe: Yes. [laughter] Jialiu: If you need some comments,
I think Yelp, it’s a website, is a good starting point. I feel it’s kind of like American’s
rating on the restaurant. Some may say, “It’s the best, I was eating
there, just so-so.” [laughter] Paula: So, take it with a grain of salt.

Jialiu: Yes. That’s a place. Another place I found good to start is MLive. That’s a website, which is for all local news. Some of them will give some comments on the
local restaurant, which is newly opened…I think they always send someone there to taste
the food and write those review articles. Another thing you can do is just ask your
classmates or your lab mates. They always get an idea of where the best restaurant
they can always try is during the first year. Wufan: I can add something. When I came here, I felt like Ann Arbor is
so small town, because I come from a relatively large city in China, and I feel like this
is the downtown [indecipherable 1:19:27] shop next street. Paula: Two blocks, right? [laughter] Wufan: Yes.

The supermarkets are all far away from the
central area, so I feel like it’s small. I just went back from my internship. That is [indecipherable 1:19:47] town, and
I found, the supermarkets, if I want to go to Kroger, I have to drive like 20 minutes. It’s another city. [laughter] Wufan: For the restaurants, if you do not
like to cook and you want to try new stuff, there are many restaurants in [indecipherable
1:20:09] streets that are very good and high quality. It was kind of expensive. If you like to cook, there are many supermarkets
here. For the cheap ones, you may want to check
Kroger. If you want to get high-quality foods, like
organic, Whole Foods is a good one, because when I interned in Ohio at a
small town, I tracked I had to drive one-and-a-half hours for Whole Foods, so I feel like Ann Arbor
is a good place.

Paula: We have two. [laughter] Wufan: The last year, I lived just near the
Farmers Market. I think that’s pretty good. The price may not be high, it depends. Some are of high quality, but they’re very cheap. Paula: Which is the Farmers Market, it’s an
outdoor market year-round. Wufan: Especially in summer times, like in
In September, and October, there are many fruits, and vegetables, they’re fresh and good. Paula: It’s about five blocks. [crosstalk] Dishari: I’ll add something to that. If you’re interested in cooking, there are
also Indian grocery stores or even Chinese markets where you can get your spices available,
and fresh fish also. What is good about Ann Arbor, is that
you have all of these places available. Talking about the restaurants, I think it’s
very subjective. There are lots of different cultures or different
country’s food that we can try out but, I guess just like Nebibe said, there are
not any good Turkish restaurants.

Even for us, Natalie, with the Indian restaurants,
they do not serve the kind of food from your particular region. That is very subjective, but it is very good. Paula: The international markets…do you
find them to be good, well stocked? Dishari: Oh yeah. Very well stocked. I like Wilson’s at least. [laughter] Nebibe: Actually, the Mediterranean markets
are a little bit far away. [crosstalk] Nebibe: So that does not work for me. Kate: We are talking about Ann Arbor as a
college town and things are not cheap. The nice thing about Ann Arbor is they do
it twice a year restaurant week. There is one coming up next week. The International Centre offers twice a year
as well to celebrate Ann Arbor Restaurant Week. We take students going to different restaurants. Next week, we are going to a Thai restaurant. It is also offered in January, so we do that
twice a year. It is a great advantage for everybody to taste
different foods at a discounted price. Sometimes a lot of them offer two for 15 dollars
for lunch, a dinner at a different price as well…so it is a great opportunity to try
different food, and then you will know whether you like it or not and in future want to come

Natalie: I want to take a moment to mention
a resource that I found to be helpful. I am from Michigan, but this is a lot of good
stuff about Ann Arbor in particular and it is the Ann Arbor Observer. They have a whole listing of restaurants with
different types of food. So you might want to check that out. This is all contained within what they call
a City Guide. It is everything you might want to know about
Ann Arbor in general. Paula: We are running up to the top of the
hour where we are going to wrap up, and I wanted to offer you an opportunity to share
anything that you thought, “Oh! I thought they would bring this up.” or “I thought we could get to this topic”
or something that you think is important for students to hear, before we close out.

Dishari: I could have just one thing that
I would put out for…That is, as International students, we are required to fill out tax forms. I believe our bookshops have them but what
I found very helpful was free software that we get, the Global Tax software. That makes it very simple to fill out your
taxes. That was a very helpful resource, because
tax forms can get pretty… [crosstalk] Paula: Yeah. It is important stuff. Kate: I guess for all incoming international
students at this point, don’t worry about it yet but it is a great resource. We do offer the software every year so it
is free for all international students to use as long as you are non-resident aliens
for tax purposes. We also work with Michigan State Government
agencies to help international students to file Michigan tax returns as well. That is something you can put on hold, and
don’t worry until next year when resources will be available. Abhishek: I have two things to share. The first one is that you can get an application. If you have a Smartphone, you could get a
Michigan application that has everything.

It’s M-Bus, course registration, Mirlyn, which
is a library monitoring software for Michigan, and other campus activities. You can have everything related to the University
of Michigan in an application. It is a very good application and is available
on Android and iOS. For example, if you are coming from India
and you have a vegetarian background, you do not need to convert your vegetarian status
to non-vegetarian. You can have everything vegetarian here. Generally, the perception in India is, if
you are going to America, you have to be non-vegetarian, because there is only non-vegetarian food. Ann Arbor in specific has a lot of vegetarian
options as well. Wufan: I can also add something. You can ask any questions you have even from
the Office of Academic Program Officer. If you have any questions other than academic,
you can ask and they will refer you to someone you can ask directly.

That will be helpful so you do not need to
worry. Paula: That is a good American way to talk
about things rendering in classic American style where we talk about all the positive
things that you can think about. Are there any closing comments about things
they should look forward to? They are two months in, they are going to
be here, what sort of things should they be looking forward to? Nebibe: I can advise them to check the websites
of their departments carefully during that time and if they are in a department that
requires rotations, they should check the web pages of labs that they are interested
in, get familiar with the faces of everyone, so it will be really helpful when they get
here. Paula: Good suggestion. Jialiu: I have one thing to add. The weather for Michigan…Last winter, is
like the worst winter in recent years. Remember to bring a large coat.

A large coat means not thick and
warm. I have a friend who came from South Florida
so at the beginning I asked because Michigan’s winter is terrible, did you bring any coat? He said yes, and then he showed me a jacket,
which was very thin. He said, “Well, this is the thickest I would
wear in South Florida.” I was like, “OK, let’s see.” After a winter’s storming day, he said, “No,
I would get another coat immediately.” Natalie: If you do not want to pack one, there
are lots of options locally all in surgical shape, everything that you would need to survive.

Paula: And you will not need them till November…so,
not immediately. Kate: We do shopping trips as well for international
students. You will have an opportunity to go shopping
and buy…I know everybody has a very limited number of suitcases you could bring and you
want to pack everything, which is impossible. Natalie: Continuing…do you have anything
else to add? Jialiu: Yes. When you come to Michigan next month, that
is the best time usually in Ann Arbor. I would say from May to October, is the
best time in Ann Arbor. Just enjoy. Dishari: Remember to check the weather before
you leave the house every morning because it will change. [laughter] Paula: We enjoyed this first inaugural
“Student to Student Discussion.” We appreciate our students and Kate
who joined us, Natalie and I appreciate that.

We will be having another Student to Student
A discussion coming up that is open to all students, but you are welcome to join in that too. We will be making available a summary of what
you have heard today, hopefully in a couple of different formats, some written, and also
have this available for you to view again if you would like or pass it to your friends
to view. Anything else you would like to add, Natalie? Natalie: No, just, thank you for taking your
time to join us, and thank you so much to the students. I think your insights are most helpful because
you have been through them. We are happy to be welcoming your new students
very soon. Paula: And thank you too.

Kate: My pleasure. Paula: See you soon. Jialiu: See you soon. [laughter].

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