Celebrating Home Culture at RIT

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

This year the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, fell on October 4th. This festival is when Chinese people worldwide celebrate the end of the harvest season and get together with families and friends. As an international student, I sometimes feel sad to be far away from home during festivals like this, but luckily, the Chinese Student Scholar Association (CSSA) at RIT hosted a Mid-Autumn Festival party during the weekend before the festival, which helped maintain our home culture and also introduced it to a bigger community.

During the party, we played themed games and had some really good traditional mooncake and Chinese food. I was glad to see that the RITCSSA brought us closer while helping us relieve the feeling of homesick and enjoy student life as international students more here.

CSSA is not the only student club that draws the campus community closer – there are actually approximately 300 active clubs on RIT campus! During the New Student Orientation, usually in late August, the school will host a club and organization fair that gives all students the opportunity to check out all of the clubs and activities available on campus and learn more about them. You could check out the Center for Campus Life website for more details. The listing of groups and organizations on campus could also be found here.

I have also heard of a group named Into the ROC, which offers students unique and challenging opportunities to explore the culture in the greater-Rochester community, such as kayaking down the Genesee river and doing some community service with a local non-profit. Free transportation and food are usually generally offered as well during the events! I personally would love to sign up for a trip with them soon and experience life with the community. You could visit their site to find out more details.

So as you can see, there is actually a wide variety of fun and exciting events and activities for students both on and off campus. And even if you don’t see any club that interests you, you may start your own club, and start to recruit your own members to share the same interest! Now go ahead and explore! Good luck!

Getting Around Rochester – Renting a Car

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

 In my experience, driving around in a car is usually the most convenient way of getting to places in the US. Whether it is for weekly grocery shopping or to head out of town for a weekend, a car is quick and gas is quite inexpensive.

As a graduate student living close to campus, I had not felt the need to get a car for myself immediately after coming to the US. After spending a year at RIT, I realized that there were many places around Rochester which were worth visiting; Niagara Falls, and the Finger Lakes region to mention a few. I did some research on car rentals and found them to be affordable. For example, a sedan for a day would cost somewhere around $40, which when split across 5 friends seemed like a good deal. Some of the popular car rental companies are Budget, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, and Zipcar.

It turns out that most of the car rental companies either have a rule of only renting cars to drivers aged 25 or above, or require drivers below the age of 25 to pay a premium to be able to rent a car. Fortunately, I belong to the former category.

The only exception to this rule is Zipcar; they rent cars by the hour and the price includes gas so you don’t need to worry about how much you drive. They have cars available on our campus (right by Grace Watson Hall) so I find myself using this option when I want to quickly go pick up groceries or some such similar shopping. They require you to become a member; the process of getting the membership card (mandatory to have one before you can ride) may take about 2 weeks.

Companies like Budget, Avis, Enterprise, etc. rent by the day and usually have no limit on the distance driven. The pick-up locations for these are close to campus, either at Marketplace Mall or at the airport. The sign-up process for these is all online and usually can be done within a short period.

For ID purposes, if you have a state ID or a US state driver’s license, it is enough. If you have neither of these and are a foreigner, I would suggest you to carry your passport to be on the safer side.

Zipcar puts a user on a monthly insurance plan which is renewed automatically every month unless cancelled manually, whereas the other companies let you buy insurances with every ride you book.

The state of NY allows non-US driver’s license holders to drive a car using their foreign driver’s license if it is in English. I found this rule to be beneficial in my case as it allowed me to tune my driving skills in an automatic-geared car without much headache. Having said that, I urge everyone to educate themselves about road rules, and to drive safe! Safe travels!

Transitioning to ROC

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

In early June I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school at RIT. In late July I took my GMAT exam, and, by August 22nd I had moved to Rochester. I didn’t know much about this city, I was sad to leave my mother who cooks like an iron chef, and I was a little hesitant to move into a house with three guys that I really didn’t know anything about. Despite it all, I couldn’t shake a feeling of excitement. Transitions can be an intimidating time in every person’s life, but there’s something exciting about change. Its nerve racking, and often filled with many mistakes, (and in my experience, parking tickets), but at the end of the day it leads to growth.

With my move to Rochester for grad school there was a transition in culture, education, housing, and so much more. For example, my first job while here was working on a farm. Coming from NYC I thought that I’d be milking cows and breaking in wild horses. I remember telling my friends back home, like I was reliving an old western. Much to my surprise, that’s not the way this farm work goes. Instead I was on an apple farm manning an apple cannon that uses air compression to fire apples out into a field. What? Exactly. Not what I was expecting, but cool nonetheless. And that’s the real lesson here. Change and expectations go hand in hand.

As I grow accustomed to graduate school and life in Rochester, I am starting to realize that you cannot rely on your expectations or hope to know exactly how things will play out. Sometimes you just need to take the change as it comes and learn from it, grow from it, and especially, enjoy it. From my enlightenment of farm life, to my many parking tickets, to the incredible enjoyment I have had in my graduate business classes, moving to ROC has been a whirlwind of change, some of it like I expected, and some of it entirely different… but interestingly, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Except not having my mom’s cooking…

And the parking tickets.

First Day at RIT –

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

When I got to Rochester for the first time in late July, 2016, I had some idea of what all needed to be done but with not much conviction. An extremely helpful leasing office assistant at Park Point helped me out with a map of RIT and the key areas marked out. However, without the use of Google Maps, I ended up not being able to follow the map too well and took a much longer route than necessary to get to Gleason Circle! A helpful app to download on your mobile phone beforehand would be “RITMobile”. It is available on the App/Play stores. The RIT Wi-Fi is accessed using the same university credentials that you would have used during the application process. This post is my attempt to help an incoming student with their first day on campus at RIT.

So, let me begin with introducing Gleason Circle. It is where you would catch the RTS public bus (to head towards downtown), the RIT shuttles (to get to Park Point, the Province, and all on-campus housing), and The Lodge’s shuttles. It is also from where you usually get picked up by a friend or a cab. This is the south-central part of campus (roughly where Texas is in the continental United States). The residence halls (dorms) are located to the east of this point, and almost all the academic blocks are to the west of this circle. It is the de-facto center of the campus. You could check out the map of RIT at https://maps.rit.edu.

For an international student such as myself, the first place to go to is the International Student Services office which is on the second floor of the Student Alumni Union (SAU). This is roughly north-west from Gleason Circle.

Once signed in with ISS, you need to get your student ID. This is done at the Registrar’s office (first floor) which is in the George Eastman building (right next to the SAU).

After this, your previous academic documents might need to be verified in case they were not submitted during/after application. For doing this, you would take your degree certificate and transcripts to the Graduate Enrollment Services office which is on the lower level in the Bausch & Lomb Center.

While running around finishing up the formalities, if you feel like grabbing a bite to eat, check out the various dining options that are on campus. Although all may not be open until start of term, there certainly are some places that could serve you nice food; the Brick City café, Artesano’s (both in the SAU), Crossroads, the Cantina Grill (both in the Global Village), or the always available vending machines all over campus. I personally love the deli sandwiches at Brick City, and the nachos at Salsarita’s (located within the Cantina).

After you are done filling up on some much-needed energy, I would suggest you visit the Student Health Center in the August Center to verify and ensure that all necessary immunization and health insurance related action items are taken care of. Do visit the Wallace library; it is right by Gleason Circle and it houses Java’s café, which, per most people I know, serves the best coffee on campus.

Depending on your major, your department could be located anywhere from the George Eastman building to the Golisano Institute of Sustainability (far west of the campus). Look around and start getting used to the campus. RIT is going to be your home for at least a couple of years, start getting familiar with it right away!

Working on campus – how to find a job

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

Working part-time is an integral part of a student’s life. It provides a chance to earn some money which could go towards rent, groceries, or for a trip out of town.

As per the Student Employment Office (SEO), RIT has over 9,000 student jobs on-campus. These range from dining services to administrative jobs, from working as librarians to being tutors and teaching assistants. The minimum hourly pay for an on-campus job, as per NY state law, is $9.70. The pay may go up to $15 or so per hour for some jobs. Dining services pay minimum wage. RIT states that no student may work more than 20 hours in a week (counted from a Friday morning to the following Thursday midnight). The student has complete flexibility to choose the hours for which they would like to work, subject to shifts available at their workplace. Managers at all jobs know students are eager to work but at the same time will put studies ahead of any job they do; they are usually able to accommodate any modification in work schedules to work around mid-terms or project submissions, if such requests are put in advance.

The SEO requires a student to report any new job that they get, and assign a badge/punch number for the same. This number is unique to each student’s each job. This is used to maintain time sheets. A student is issued an SEO card every semester, and this is a mandatory requirement to be taken care of by the student. This card is issued only once the SEO can see that the student is enrolled as a full-time student for the term in question (12 credits for an undergraduate and 9 for a graduate student). Salaries are paid biweekly, on the Friday after the end of a pay cycle. They can be picked up as checks from the manager or auto-transfers can be set up toward the student’s bank account.

When I first arrived at RIT in August 2016, I had not taken up a job immediately as I figured I would first see how hectic my coursework would be. I found out that dining services usually employ a lot of students. So about 2-3 weeks after start of the session, armed with my class schedule, I had first approached Gracie’s (located in Grace Watson Hall, near the Residence Halls) for a job; however, there were no positions available there by then. My roommate had just started working at RITz Sports Zone (in the lower level of the Student Alumni Union) and told me to try my luck there. It took me a few days to get a hold of the manager during her break, and once I spoke to her and asked her for a job for around 10 hours a week, she immediately looked at my class schedule and asked me if Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 AM to 1:30 PM would work for me. I said it would be fine, and that was it. I started the day after that. People at RITz were extremely helpful and welcoming. It only took me a few days to get used to working in an environment I had never seen before. I had always been a customer at a restaurant; I had never given thought to how things worked behind the scenes.

During my winter break, I came across an opening on the SEO website for the job of a Graduate Student Liaison at the Graduate Enrollment Office. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. The last seven-odd months that I have been working here have been wonderful, to say the least. I have had the opportunity of interacting with every graduate admissions counselor and with many of the incoming graduate students from India. I have had some insightful conversations with people and have learned quite a bit about the various questions that an incoming international student has, and how answers given by someone currently at RIT helps them out.

In conclusion, I would like to say that by working different on-campus jobs the past year, I have learned a lot about some of the efforts that go in to the functioning of a university the way it does. It has been a challenge balancing work shifts with my studies, one that I have enjoyed and managed quite well. I hope this serves as a helpful read to all newcomers to RIT!

Student Banking – What you need to know

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

A bank account is essential for a student. Whether it is about getting that little bit of extra money from your parents that you need for a weekend trip, or tuition fees from your sponsor, or for managing your own salary, one always needs a bank account or two.

Major American banks like Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase are popular choices. The former has a branch located in South Town Plaza (a mile away from campus), and an ATM in the Gordon Field House. The latter has a branch located about 2 miles from campus. There is no ATM on campus however with a car, it is quite accessible. The other convenient option is Advantage Federal Credit Union bank. Its branch is located on campus and there are multiple ATMs across campus.

In Bank of America, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students under the age of 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $12 can be waived by having at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects that a minimum of $1500 be maintained in the account each day (a grace period of 60 days in the beginning). For more information regarding this and other fees, read here. 

In Chase, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students between the ages of 17 and 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $6 can be waived by having one direct deposit made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects a balance of $5000 to be maintained every day. For more information regarding this and other fees, check here.

In Advantage Federal Credit Union, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement with no restrictions on a student’s age. The fact that the branch and ATMs are located on campus make this bank quite an attractive and affordable option. However, the limitation with this is that since it is a credit union, its presence is local so there would be no ATMs if you go out of Rochester.

All banks would have the concept of a savings account as well. They are used to store money safely (cannot be withdrawn/used from a debit card) and earn interest on it. Check with the bank for the various options that they offer. Usually, you would need to make one transaction to/from the savings account to keep it active and free of any maintenance fee.

Opening an account in any of the banks is simple and fast. As an international student, on my first day in the US, it took me 20 minutes to get my account created in Bank of America. All they needed were my passport and I-20 (to ascertain that I was indeed a student). A Social Security Number is not mandatory to open the account; it can be updated in the bank once obtained later.

In my experience till now, I have found that using Bank of America is the most convenient option considering all factors since the branch is not too far to visit if need be, and an ATM is located on campus. When I am not earning enough from the on-campus job to be able to qualify for a waiver of the monthly maintenance fee, I just maintain $1500 in my account. I treat that as a safety net for emergencies.

Credit scores are an important part of a person’s life in the US. They are checked when you buy a phone plan, rent a house, buy a car, etc. As an international student, this was an alien concept to me. Credit cards, if used well, are a good way of building a good credit score. There are firms like Credit Karma which help individuals plan their credit card usage as well as possible to reflect positively on credit reports.

Applying for a credit card from Chase or Bank of America is quite straightforward although getting one may be random if one has no prior credit history. Advantage Federal Credit Union does not offer credit cards. There are some companies like Discover which offer credit cards to students on attractive offers; you would not need to open any separate bank account with them. Credit cards also offer cashback or rewards for using them. Ask your bank representative about all possible options while applying.

On-Campus and Off-Campus Housing at RIT – Choices!

by Estefany Rodriguez Rodriguez, Human Resource Development MS student

Hey! Coming to RIT and still haven’t figure out where you are going to live? I will show you some on-campus and off-campus options that might help you during this crazy time! Of course your choice will depend on your preferences of accommodation and if you will have a car or not.

RIT offers a variety of on-campus housing that range in size from one, two and four bedrooms.  If you are looking for a residential style complex, then you may want to live in Global village. This is a complex with a lot of exposure to the global community and cultural diversity. It is suite-style housing with lounges, community kitchens, meeting spaces and laundry rooms. On the other hand, University Commons offers students their own private sleep room with a common living room, kitchen, and two full bathrooms. Furthermore, RIT offers five apartments complexes. These are Colony Manor, Perkins, Racquet Club, and Riverknoll. Most of them are within walking distance to RIT, but if you don’t feel like walking, RIT also has a campus shuttle that actually takes you from the apartments to campus. This shuttle is very effective and it usually runs every 10 to 15 minutes. Information about the on-campus housing application can be found here. 

I used to live in Perkins Green and this was a really good experience for me. This is a two bedroom apartment with a very spacious living room, a full bathroom and a kitchen. I had to share the apartment with three other students, but it actually worked out really well. The bus stop was right in front of my apartment and also the laundry room, I was one of the lucky ones 😀

Now, if you are still thinking to live off-campus, there are good options too. Two of the closest ones are The Province and Park Point and the shuttle also runs inside these as well. There is also a Facebook page that I found to be soo helpful, it’s called RIT housing, sublets and roommates. Here, students post housing openings and even if they are looking for an apartment or roommate. You actually need to have a RIT email in order to join, but once you are in it’s a piece of cake!

Good luck on your search!

 

Are You Ready for Graduate School?

by Estefany Rodriguez Rodriguez, Human Resource Development MS student

Going to graduate school is a big deal and for many is a great move. It means that you want to start a new path or continue to increase vital intellectual skills to a more satisfying career. It can even increase your earning power. Grad school is a unique experience and it’s a full time job that requires you to sharpen many skills and even learn new ones.
For me, it has been a great experience, and RIT made it a better one. I have been able to learn so much more than I expected, and yes it has been a bit challenging (often), but hey! NO PAIN NO GAIN (if it applies in this context 😛 ). There are many things I wish I knew before coming to grad school, and I will share some of them with you, as well as some tips I found online.

Tip #1 
Make sure all your documents are in order before coming to campus
Can you imagine arriving to the university only to find out that your important documents are missing or incomplete? Make sure that all your student and financial aid forms are complete and on file before the semester starts. Also, remember to make an appointment with your adviser, know where the office is, and ask as many questions as you can to feel ready to start your master.

Tip #2
Research about your curriculum and professors
Familiarize yourself with your courses and professors, and if you can purchase some of the text books in advance. Also, a good advice is to plan ahead with an academic plan. Research about your curriculum and make a plan for each semester, in this way you have an idea of what are the courses you are going to take throughout your career. It is less stress when the class selection process comes.

Tip #3
Know how you work

Yes, grad school can be a lot of work and very challenging, but knowing how you work can make your life easier. I don’t know about you, but I am the queen of procrastination (not that I am proud of that but I gotta be honest). During my career here at RIT I have learned to properly schedule my agenda and try to do everything on time so I burn less neurons when stressing over late work. Also, try to understand your mind and body and have discipline once you achieve it. Find out what is the organization strategy that best fits you. In my case, I use my agenda and a white board. I write down everything that is longer term on my agenda (future homework, class activities, meetings, due dates for exams, etc.) , trust me it’s soooo helpful. Now, on my white board, I usually write what I need to do for the day and my goals for the week sometimes.
“Learn when you’re most productive and when you aren’t”

Tip #4
Focus less on grades and more on learning
WAOO! I really wish I knew this before. You know, sometimes I feel that grad life is a lot more about learning and networking than good grades. Of course you want to have good grades but you also want to make you retain the information. You are also developing relationships with individuals that will become lifetime colleagues and even friends. One of my professors once said to me to focus less on the homework, and try to go to more conferences and to network more. Take her advice guys!!

Tip # 5
Get involved! 
Think about ways to get involve outside the classroom. RIT has hundreds of clubs you can join (read more about them here,) and also sports team, and you can also join student government. This is a great way to get distracted and network and develop interpersonal skills! People are sooo nice here at RIT, and fitting in won’t be a problem.

Hope this was helpful!!
ER

Feeling adventurous for Spring Break?

by Estefany Rodriguez Rodriguez, Human Resource Development MS student

There’s nothing more stressful than planning a trip for spring break! I mean, come on, you have to fit a whole schedule of great adventures in one week, stay in the “student budget”, and making sure to have no homework pending for that week! But hey! It’s worthy, right??

For this Spring Break I am planning something epic – something different than Cancun or Bahamas. I think I’m already getting to an age where I don’t think about going to parties anymore; maybe I’m just weird, I’m only 24 LOL. Anyways, this time I want to explore a new country, a new culture, something that will expand my vision of the world. This time I have decided to go to Europe. But planning has been the most challenging part. And here’s why…

First of all, deciding where to go first and planning the logistics has been crazy. There are soooo many places to go in Europe and you just don’t know what to do first. And as we know, we only have one week! Boo! My boyfriend and I chose Paris to be our first destination, because is the city of love, every couple wants to go there! It’s every girls dream to take a picture kissing your love one with the Eifel Tower as a background. Yeah I Know so cliché, but tell me you wouldn’t do it?!

Here is a helpful list of the places you could visit in Europe http://travelblog.viator.com/top-25-things-to-do-europe/

Now let’s talk real facts, budget. As students we live in an eternal effort to fit things to small budgets, and Europe may not be so cheap. Flight tickets, hotel, tours, museums, etc., can be scary to think about.  But don’t let this overwhelm you.  For example, domestic flights in Europe are super affordable and if you book in advance you can find great deals from NY to Paris. Now, you might be concern about where you will spend the night, and I have two suggestions, Hostels and Airbnb. Hostels are very affordable, most of them have great locations, and you might have opportunity to meet people as adventurer as you are. And you probably already know about Airbnb. The advantage is that you can find comfy and welcoming houses that will make you feel like home, and the owners can guide you regarding public transportation, places to visit, and restaurants to eat.

Omelette du Fromage? Thank you Dexter for your language lessons! Language can be a problem too, and traveling can become very frustrating and difficult when you just don’t know how to ask for directions. But here’s a “yay” for technology. You can use your phone to try to translate anything you want to say or ask. Also, a lot of people know at least the basics of English so you won’t be so lost.

There’s sooo much more about traveling to Europe, or any other country. So many pros and cons, but it’s so worthy to travel and feed our adventurous spirit, and let this experiences open our minds. So go out there and enjoy your spring break! I will show you some pictures when I come back. J