Thursday, July 11, 2019

FAQ: Studying abroad in the U.S.

Hey everyone - it's Megan!
Over the past two years, I have received many questions from friends, family and strangers about what it is like to study in the U.S. A couple weeks back, I got an email from two Norwegian girls who had a lot of questions about this topic for a school project, asking me if I’d be willing to answer them. After reading through their questions, I found myself thinking that these are questions a lot of prospective students might ask. So, for my blogpost this week, I figured I would share some of my answers as well other frequently asked questions I receive. Hopefully this can be of help for some of our incoming and prospective international students!

Have you ever been unsure about traveling to and studying in the U.S. ?
The last photo I took before moving!
Surprisingly, no! My mother studied in the U.S. back in the day, so she was always an inspiration for me to study outside of Norway. The only real concern I've had comes from comparing finances between studying abroad vs. studying in Norway.  
Did you travel alone?
My mother came with me to help get me moved in, but I came to PLU "alone" in the sense that I didn't know anyone before coming here. I'm very glad I traveled alone! Studying abroad is one of the few opportunities you get to start from scratch -- nobody knows who you are and it's nice to have a clean slate when meeting new people. 
Did you miss your family and friends? Were you homesick?
I do miss them from time to time. It's hard to explain, but I rarely feel homesick due to the fact that I've created a new home for myself over here. I have my own friend group, two jobs, classes, and all these things that keep me occupied from feeling homesick. That being said, I love coming home to visit my friends and family, and we still have very close relationships. I think feeling homesick is a very personal thing, though. Some of my international friends here feel homesick a lot, so it just depends on you and how you deal with distance.

Culture & Communication
Did you notice any difference from your home country? Etiquette, manners and customs? 
Americans are a lot more open and social! Norwegians are known for being reserved and more anti-social, unless a situation calls for it. Despite being an extroverted person, I definitely still struggle with social interactions from time to time simply because I've grown up in a "stranger danger" culture. Studying abroad has taught me how much culture plays into who you are as a person, and you can tell which students on campus have an international background. That's the beauty of difference, and (most) Americans love to learn about different cultures and experiences. 
Did anything surprise you?
I was shocked by the academic level of American universities. If you have a decent English proficiency, you will find that the course load and structure of higher education here is a lot less strenuous than back home. Basically, I find it easier to get good grades here than I did back home. This might also have something to do with me having better time-management skills than I did when I was in high school, but comparing the work I have to do with what my friends in Norway are doing, I think American universities provide an easier learning process and a more wholesome education. 
When you first got to America, did you have any problems with communication?
Not for me, as I've grown up speaking English. I do have some other friends from Norway studying at PLU, that didn't grow up speaking English. I think most Norwegians will be surprised to find out that our English is very good when compared to other international students, so communication is rarely an issue over here. I do still "think" in Norwegian though, so sometimes it's hard to think of the English word of something I have in mind.

How and where did you live? Roommate? Distance to campus?
I lived in a dorm on campus. For prospective students, I highly recommend living in dorms as it is an important part of the "college experience" over here. I shared my room with a roommate for the first half of my freshman year, but we ended up not being a good match so I lived in a single room for the remainder the year. Regardless, having a roommate was a valuable experience, and most people end up having good relationships with their roommates! If you would like to see an overview of the different dorms on campus, check out this blogpost I wrote!
My dorm room freshman year - this is in Tinglestad Hall! 
Do you have to live on campus?
No! PLU requires that all freshmen and sophomore students live on campus, or all students under the age of 20. Once you turn 20 (or you will turn 20 during that academic year) or have junior standing, you are able to move off campus. I moved off campus last spring, and have since lived in a house with four other girls! The house itself is barely a minutes walk from campus, so I would almost say that it still feels like living on campus.

Keep in mind, some of these questions are based on the Norwegian school system.
Which grade did you get in English in VGS (High School)?
Not always easy, as you can see!
I've grown up with an American dad where English was my native tongue, so I ended up with a grade 6. That being said, you do NOT have to have perfect English to study in the US! Studying abroad is a great way to learn how to speak and write in another language, so don't feel like you need to have it all down before you go. If you're a grade 4 or above in English, I wouldn't be worried at all. If you're under a grade 4, I would put in some extra effort to improve my English skills before earning your undergraduate degree in the language!
Did you have English in VG2 and VG3?
I chose English as an elective in VG2, and I wish I chose it for VG3 as well! From my understanding, VG3 introduces you more to English (American) literature, and includes a lot of readings that my American peers read throughout their years in school. I learned how to write a research paper in English from my VG2 course, which has been very useful for my undergrad degree! American universities require a lot more paper writing than Norwegian universities, so getting your written English skills down before studying in the US is great practice!
Were the admission requirements strict?
I don’t think the admissions requirements were very strict. For example, Scandinavians don't need to take the TOEFL test, or the SAT/ACT, and PLU doesn't have a minimum GPA requirement. I think the acceptance rate at PLU is 74%, so it's not the hardest school to get into.
Are the studies difficult?
Like I mentioned, I think the studies here are easier than they seem in Norway! American universities function a lot more like high school, in the sense that you have to take general education courses in addition to your preferred major/minor combination. I really enjoy this aspect of the studies, because it allows me to broaden my education and gain different insights rather than studying the same field throughout all three years. At PLU we also have multiple "exams" (read: tests) throughout the semester, instead of having one cumulative exam at the end. 
Which minors and majors did you choose?
I am majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and I'm also taking a minor in Communications. 

Is there any possibility to work in addition to your studies? Can you only work on campus?
Absolutely! Unless you have American citizenship, you will only be permitted to work on campus. I have two on-campus jobs as a barista and an internship position at the International Admissions office. 
Did you at any point regret your decision about studying in the U.S.?
Do you recommend studying abroad?
Yes! Yes! Yes! I cannot recommend it enough - if you're thinking about it, do it!
Do you want to return to Norway when done studying or do you want to live in the U.S.?
Again, unless you have U.S. citizenship, you will most likely have to return to Norway at some point. I'm American because of my dad, so I have the option to stay if I want. Based on how my life is going right now, I'm planning on staying in the Pacific Northwest for some time!

I hope these answers are able to give you more insight into what moving to the States is like. Leave us a comment below if you have questions in particular you would like to know!

Until next time,
- Megan 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Computer Science Capstone πŸ‘©‍πŸŽ“πŸ“šπŸ’»

Hello everyone~πŸ‘‹

I hope dead week is not too much (yetπŸ™Š). Capstone presentation week for most majors started last week so all I had been up to was to finish my part for the big presentation. So yes, today blog post will be about capstone because #I’vedonenothingbutthhatforawhile πŸ˜‚.

First, some of you might ask, what is capstone? Capstone is “a senior thesis or senior seminar serves as the culminating and usually integrative experience of an educational program” (Wikipedia - because I actually don’t know how to explain it🀦‍♀️). To sum up, we all need to do capstone(s) to be able to graduate with our degree(s) at PLU. What makes capstone more fun (and stress πŸ‘€πŸ§ ) is that you get to choose what you want to do! Since I’m a computer science major, my capstone was about building a cross-platform application for textbook exchange with my group. You can either work individually or in group. In computer science department, it is recommended to work as a group because that’s mostly how it is in the tech industry and we should be more familiar with this concept before going to the real world.

You might notice the part when it’s said you can choose your own capstone project, but what if you don’t know what you wanna do (yet🧐)? Don’t worry, your professors, advisors and classmates are there to help. Or just anyone that can give you an idea of what you might find interesting to work on! I know I didn’t know what I wanted to work on, I spent a whole three days in the summer to think about what I wanted to do, and nothing came up to me at all (you might wonder why). Then the very first day of capstone class, we were asked about our ideas, right then, my brain tried to work really hard because I didn’t want to just sit there at the front being silent (not that I don’t do it most of the time when I’m in class, didn’t know why I felt more encouraged on that day… πŸ˜Ά, but really, don’t worry, there were many of my classmates who did not talk about their ideas and that did not make them less than anyone else).
Our application logo πŸ˜†
I ended up speaking about it in class just to be in a different group in the next minutes of the discussion… 
πŸ˜… So yeah, I found a group to work with, our capstone project idea is from one of the teammate, but we for sure all enjoyed working on it together. Our capstone lasted for a full academic year, but I know some majors only have it for one semester.

Sorry if I scare anyone while reading this post πŸ˜‚. It it true that there was a lot of work and sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming, but that is why it’s our last project! I have learned so much while working on it and I actually feel more prepare for my future job (disclaimer: interview only, i hope😹). It gave me an opportunity to at least know what field I want to work for now, something that I have always been unsure about. Most importantly, it can definitely be something my group really proud of because we tried to put in all the skills and knowledge that we learned all these years along with months of research to create this “product” that is ours. To a certain extent, it shows what we know in the most creative way. And we’re all feel so rewarded and happy (mostly relieved) that it’s done at the end πŸ€—πŸ€—πŸ€—.

A n Y w A y, this is probably my last post as an undergraduate student because I’m graduating in 2 weeksπŸ₯³πŸ₯³! Thank you to everyone who spent time reading my posts! Since this is dead week, please don’t forget to take care of yourself while studying hard πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ! Good luck πŸ€πŸ€πŸ€~

~Cloud ☁️~

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Chambers Bay!!!

Hey guys! 

This is Bryan
Today, I want to introduce you another good place around Tacoma to travel to. 
It is ----- Chambers Bay
Chambers Bay golf course
Chambers Bay is roughly 25 mins away from campus by car
I went to Chambers Bay to skate with my friends last week. And I was stunned by the beautiful view of it. 
It is a park combined with a huge golf course. You can't enter the golf course without paying money, but you can walk on the trail around the golf course, which is uphill to it. You can have a bird view of the golf course as well as the ocean while walking along the trail. If you go there around sunset, you will be able to see the sun slowly sinking into the ocean. 
Although the trail is located on a hill, it is really comfortable to walk/skate on. Take a look at the video I took while skating in the park. 
(It is pretty windy there, be sure to wear enough clothes)
Take a look at the pictures below for some beautiful views of Chambers Bay!
Besides the trail, there is also a lower park where you can walk on a flatter trail and do some activities on the grass. 
There is also a bridge that allows you to walk to the seaside and take a closer view at the sunset.
There are many locks on the bridge. Me and my fiends had a little debate about whether the lock represented "locking one's relationship" or "locking away the secrets". 
Flowers blooming
Flowers are blooming in PLU also!
That's all for my blog about Chambers Bay! 
I hope you guys enjoyed it and maybe consider about going there. 
As final is approaching, don't stress yourself out too much during the dead week. Take some nice breaks in between and enjoy the charming view of Chambers Bay! 

-- Bryan Yuan
May 9th, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

An overview: Meal plans on campus

Hello everyone, it’s Megan!
One of the many questions you have to make as an incoming Lute concerns which meal plan you should get. If you’re like me, you’re not really familiar with the idea of meal plans or what that means for your day-to-day life on campus. So, this week’s blogpost is going to be a brief overview of meal plans; what they are, which options are available, and when you should consider terminating your meal plan. Hopefully, by the end of this you’ll have a little more information about which meal plan is right for you!

Old Main Market: one of the three coffee shops on campus. Photo: H. Doan
First things first: who needs meal plans? The answer is everyone who lives on campus. So, all students with an active housing assignment must enroll in one of the following four meal plans: A, B, C or D. There are exceptions for residents of South Hall and Kreidler, as these dorms are usually reserved for upper classmen. Kreidler residents have additional meal plan options of Meal Plan E, F and G. If you plan to live in South Hall, you are not required to have a meal plan at all. And of course, if you live off-campus you are not required to have a meal plan either.

Meal Plan A-D
If you are entering PLU as a freshmen or sophomore, you have the option of choosing Meal Plan A-D. The different options offer varying degrees of guest meals, meaning “swipes” you can give to your friends or guests who don’t have meal plans. They also vary in terms of dining dollars. Dining dollars is pre-paid money on your Lutecard, that can be used to purchase food, coffee, snacks, etc. Dining dollars are tax-free, meaning that anything your purchase using your dining dollars will remove the additional tax charge. Long-term, this is very beneficial, as 10% sales taxes add up over longer periods of time.

Here is an overview over meal plans A-D:

The star next to Meal Plan B indicates that this is the default meal plan. This means that if you do not actively select another meal plan, this is the one you will be charged for. Meal Plans A-D include unlimited access to buffet style dinners, which PLU calls “all-you-care-to-eat meals”. All-you-care-to-eat access counts for Sunday-Friday dinners, as well as Brunch on Sunday mornings.  

When I lived on-campus last year, I had the default: Meal Plan B. This meal plan was a good fit for me, although I ended up not using all of my dining dollars evenly throughout the semesters. Dining dollars roll over (transfer over) from Fall semester to Spring semester, but they do not transfer to the next academic year. This is very important to know, so that you don’t end up wasting un-used money. By the time May rolled around last year, I still had $450 dollars to use and less than a month to use it all. A luxury problem for sure, but it is also smart to allocate the money evenly throughout the semester so you get the best use out of your money.

Meal Plan E, F, G
These are the Meal Plans available to only Kreidler, South Hall, and off-campus residents.

Meal Plans E include 50 one-admittance all-you-care-to-eat meals and Meal Plan F has a similar offer but with only 20 one-admittance meals. Meal Plan G is all Dining Dollars: you have $536 dollars that you can spend freely at all campus restaurant facilities. Here is an overview of different costs associated with each Meal Plan:

The FLEX-D plan is a new addition to our meal plan offerings. This option is only available to students who are eligible to be off-campus (has at least 60 credits and is 20 years or older). The FLEX-D plan is also all Dining Dollars on your account, but here you get $2169 instead of $536. In other words, this meal plan could serve as a substitute for cooking yourself, rather than an addition to cooking yourself.

So, what can you use Dining Dollars for?
As mentioned, Dining Dollars are restricted to only food purchases, and are exempt from sales tax. They may be used during a la carte meals in The Commons, or to purchase all-you-care-to-eat meals for guests in The Commons and at all campus restaurant locations:

  • The Commons
  • Old Main Market
  • Kelley CafΓ©
  • Lute CafΓ©
Alright, that concludes my Meal Plan overview! I hope this was helpful to any incoming International students, I know it can be hard to navigate all of these new terms and conditions for room and board, so taking the time to read up on your different options is a nice way to save money. I hope you all have an amazing weekend, take care!!

-       Megan