Blog entry1: Place of Departure: Birmingham, AL, USA

Birmingham as a small city, has a population of mostly Caucasian, Africans, with a small number of other ethnic groups. Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. According to the 2010 United States Census, the city’s population was 212,237. Besides Birmingham Southern College, some other colleges in the area are Samford University and the University of Alabama (UAB). They are much bigger in population than Birmingham-Southern College.

As it’s marketed, Birmingham-Southern Campus is a beautiful campus. It’s surrounded by a forest that at night seems full of creepypasta stories waiting to happen. The lake is equipped with fish, but I think it would be frowned upon if you caught them and fried them for dinner. There are frogs as well, and small fountains of water you can hear walking around the lake. If you like to jog you could go around the lake for the scenery, it’s cooler than in the Striplin Center, and in the evenings there are only a few other joggers and other people who come for privacy and silence. As well, it’s especially beautiful in Fall, the tree leaves turn golden and from a far distance with the street lamps shining down upon them it’s like the leaves are liquid gold, and there are neat piles of them at the base of the tree. In Summer, they are populated with orange grape-like fruits, but I warn against eating them, they’re not edible as told by my friend who replied that one tasted like puke. When it rains, there’s a danger of flash floods or as I learned on the way to class when there suddenly started a harsh downpour that had me sprinting from building to building rather than directly on the outdoor path to the one building. In the summer, it’s quite warm and the sunlight’s very strong, temperatures vary from 21-30 degrees Celsius. To keep cool, there’s a milkshake/frozen yogurt machine at the convenience store. At the moment, it’s broken but will most likely be repaired. There is also an ice cream machine at the cafeteria. Most students wear short-sleeved shirts and very short shorts. There is also air conditioning that should also cool you down in classrooms and the dorms. If you’re more sensitive to cold from air conditioning, I’d recommend bringing a light jacket to classes or wearing on in the dorms. In Fall and winter, it’s cool, temperature ranging from around 1-19 degrees Celsius. Students wear a sweater and long pants. In Fall and Winter, it rains the most. For that, you should bring a raincoat or an umbrella. To also warm yourself up during winter, they have warm soup at Subway included with a sandwich and hot chocolate at the cafeteria.

For money, one of the first things I would suggest you do is sign up for a debit or credit card at a bank. If you’re an international student, then early on, one of the staff in charge of international students will take all the international students on a trip where they will help you register for a debit or credit card at a bank. If you are under 19, then you cannot register for a credit card. The merit of having a credit card is that you won’t have to wait for your financial guardian to wire you money. An obvious disadvantage is that if you will have to pay back whatever you are loaned. Don’t go overboard on the spending.

To save money, I would suggest choosing the 5-day meal plan. You can get unlimited free food from the cafeteria for 5 days of the week. I would also suggest, using your panther bucks for all your food related needs and basic necessities until they run out. The C-Store has paper plates, napkins/tissue boxes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, cleaning products (scented spray), and the like. If like me, you’re going to be studying for a long time in a school building and you easily get thirsty, there’s also water-bottle refilling water fountains in the buildings, so if you’re content with just water then you can bring a water bottle, and refill them on the way to different classes in the building.  If you’re on the 5-day meal plan, you can also just drop by the cafeteria and pick up a cup of coffee, juice, sweet tea, milk, sodas, etc.

If there is something food-related or other basic necessities that isn’t available at the C-store. Please see the below on travel.

For travel, I would suggest making friends with someone who has a car and can drive you to places. If you’re missing that kind of friend, then the school has a shuttle service on the weekends. Clothes wise and other, on some Saturdays, the shuttle can take you to The Summit. It’s a mall with clothing, toy, book and such stores. Every Sunday, from 11AM every hour until 5PM, the shuttle will take you to either Wal-Mart or Target. You can also buy clothes at Target, JC Penny, Ross, and other clothing stores around the neighborhood where Target is. For the Shuttle schedule, search “shuttle” on the BSC website. They’re fairly cheap or if you want other discounts, then you can also subscribe to the BSC page on facebook. Occasionally, someone will post a link for student discounts for clothes. If there is somewhere you want to go that is not included in the shuttle stops, there is a cab service called Yellow Cab. You can find the number for Yellow Cab by searching for it on the BSC website.

If you want to earn money, you could apply for work on the campus called “work study”. Information regarding that is also on the BSC website, search “work study”. For available work study positions, you should go to the Student Accounts Office and the secretary will direct you to the person in charge of Work Study. You could probably at the least earn around $100 dollars for one term of work. You will have to put down your bank account routing number so that they can wire you your work study income. To find out your routing number, call your bank, give them your bank information and they will tell you. Usually if you’re signed up at a big bank like Regions, the waiting times will be long. If it’s really that long, then you could probably just get Campus Police to drive you to it. Sign up early like at the beginning of the term for more available types of work study to pick from. In your Work Study, of course your employer will explain everything that you need to know. If you have a car available, then you could probably work off-campus.

If you have any other concerns, talk to your RAs. They’ve been through what you’re going through at the moment and can provide you with the answers.

For medical needs, there is a campus doctor that will treat you for free.

For homework needs, you should see Stacey Thornberry or go to the Writing Center located in the Humanities Center on the first floor, when you go through the front door, turn right. Have a subject you’re not confident in? Ask Stacey for someone to tutor you. There is tutor request form on the BSC website, search “tutor”. You’re not very strong in writing essays? Need your grammar to be checked? Or not good at organization? You can set up an appointment with someone who will help you with that. Go to the BSC website, search writing center, it will take you to the website tutortrac where you select what you want them to help you with (e.g. spelling and grammar, fleshing out ideas, organization, etc.) and their schedules are also listed. Click on an available time to schedule with them. If there are times available or you didn’t have time to schedule, you can just drop in. The writing center’s hours of operation are listed on the BSC website.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham,_Alabama

http://www.bsc.edu

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