Freshman Guide to the Chamber of Secrets

Compiled By: Yong-Hui Ethan Goh, Jessica Chang, Hubert Huang

Table of Contents:

   Before Leaving

  1. Visa Issues
  2. The Blue Book
  3. Flight Routing
  4. Item Checklist
  5. Textbooks


  1. Getting here
  2. Important Errands
  3. Smaller Errands

   Settling In

  1. Room Furnishings
  2. Classroom Stuff
  3. Additional Errands

   Miscellaneous Info

  1. Class Recommendations
  2. Duke Security
  3. Places to Eat

Before Leaving


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The Blue Book

The Duke Blue Book contains almost all the information you need to know for matriculation and immersing yourself in the Duke Community. The following information will help you filter through the annoying marketing gimmicks Duke tries to throw at you (after all, they are a profitable organization), and provide clarification on things that the Blue Book did not do well in previous years.

  1. Dining plan - The freshman dining plan consists of two parts - the regular board plan at the Marketplace, and approximately 350 USD of Food Points (depending on the one you choose). It's recommended that you pick the cheapest option (Plan G?) because they only differ in the number of Food Points you have, which is extremely easily to add using DukePass. The board plan gives you with 12 meals at the Marketplace per week, 5 breakfast or lunch swipes (valid only Mon-Fri), and 7 dinner swipes. So you might be wondering about breakfast/lunch on Saturday and Sunday - that's right, you're not covered if you eat your meals regularly. For those who regularly eat 3 meals a day, this might come as a shock, but... good luck. You will also soon discover that the Weekend Brunch at the Marketplace is probably the best meal they serve, and it's definitely something you don't want to miss out on. However, if you happened to have missed one of your weekday dinners, you are permitted to use them for weekend brunch. If you plan well, or go to two clubs a week that provide free food, you will be a happy person. Finally, Marketplace swipes do not rollover to the next week (a new week is started every Monday).
  2. Duke Card - The Duke Card is really a nickname for the Duke Credit Card/Access Card/Magical Card of Awesomeness. With this card, you can access all academic buildings, buy food, take tests (it has your ID number on it which is required in your academic endeavors), rent a bike, borrow library books... etc - the list goes on. The Blue Book will give you the option of creating a FLEX account, and really, it shouldn't be an option, but an absolute necessity. The FLEX account essentially turns your Duke Card in a campus credit card, which you can use to pay for laundry, shop at campus stores, or give donations to Duke Charities or something. Essentially, with the FLEX account you would never need to carry cash with you.
  3. Bookbagging and Registration - This is perhaps the most stressful activity you can engage in over the Summer - if you take it seriously that is, which all of you should. Duke will give you two windows, the Bookbagging window and the Registration window. Bookbagging is the time when you're allowed to fiddle around with your schedule for next year, but not actually register yet. Login to ACES and add all the courses and time slots you want to take (just spam, its fine), and then mess around with the features to see which setup you like best. After you're satisfied, you now have to pray that you have an early registration window so you can get first picks. There are 3 registration windows, of which you're assigned "randomly" the first time. Don't start freaking out if you get 3rd window, the system is fair such that everyone will get an equal number of 1st 2nd and 3rd registration windows, plus YHG personally believes that having 3rd window the first semester is arguably the best for the future. To maximize your chances to get the classes you want, make sure you camp next to the register button on aces right before your window opens. After you click register, after an insane amount of lag, DO NOT RELAX JUST YET - there is another page that you have to CLICK "REGISTER" AGAIN. The system will tell you if you registered successfully or not. If it's all good, relax. Else, panic and start reworking your schedule til it does work. May the force be with you.

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Item Checklist

Based on previous experiences from upper classmen, below are lists of things that one should or should not bring to Duke. International students should try to travel light - with ever increasing oil prices, airlines are sticklers about their baggage weight policies (~23kg/50pounds for economy class), and no one wants to pay those fees. In the end, if you're feeling rich, or traveling with your entire family, then feel free to bring as many things as you wish - but be sure to include the important ones listed below!

Important Items:

  1. Passport, Visa (I-20 if needed) - Without this you cant even make it to Duke.
  2. Airplane Ticket - As Above.
  3. Laptop/Desktop - In the information age, you're essentially a cripple without one of these.
  4. School Transcript - Just in case something horrible goes wrong and Duke didn't register your AP/IB Credit.
  5. Photo ID - Taiwan License, Passport-sized photos will definitely come in handy, so bring some of those too.

Personal Stuff:

  1. Summer Clothes - Durham has 4-seasons, in summer it can get in the high 30s Celcius. The first month at Duke will be relatively hot, be prepared for several blanketless nights.
  2. Winter Clothes - In the winter, Duke can get relatively chilly, around 0-5 degree Celcius. It DOES snow occassionally, but don't count on getting any snow days.
  3. Tolietries - Toothbrush, toothpaste to survive the first week before you make a trip to Target.
  4. Alarm Clock/Time Piece - Whatever your prefered method of getting yourself to wake up in the morning. Cellphone is fine too.
  5. Cellphone - If you cannot stand having a "lousy" phone that lacks SIM cards, you can bring your own phone but you must get the AT&T carrier (they'll ask you if your phone is "unlocked" - which means you can change the SIM card - for a phone from Asia this answer is always "yes". -_____-||) . Verizon operates on CDMA, which requires them to provide you with their customized phones. Verizon has "better" reception on Duke Campus, but AT&T is definitely manageble, all other providers... suck.
  6. Stationary - Your favorite japanese mecahnical pencils, pencil lead, japanese erasers (these make a whole world of difference), pilot pens, ball point pens, colorful gel glitter pens, 3 hole punch (TW is cheaper). All other items such as notebooks, binders, rulers, staplers, can be found in the Super Target nearby.
  7. Bookbag - Or your prefered method of carrying your stuff to class.
  8. Graphing Calc - Ti-89s would be useful for engineering or math homework.
  9. Umbrella - As NC is on the East coast, it rains often enough that having an umbrella in your bag would save you from heavenly tears.
  10. Taiwan Food - With time you will realize how awesome Taiwan food is compared to the states, and if you're of those Epicureans, you might consider bringing some of your favorite snacks. (e.g Cup Noodles, Sha Cha Sauce...etc)

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From previous experience, buying textbooks in Taiwan has been found to be significantly cheaper than in the US. Textbooks, frankly, are absolutely overpriced in the States, and thus, this portion of the guide was created out of spite in effort to fight the US monopolic textbook market. Anyway... on with business.

After finding out which textbooks you need next semester from the Duke Textbook Store, check Taiwan's Apex Bookstores, Einstein Books, or other such textbook stores in Taiwan. However, if you're flying international, remember to check your baggage weight, as textbooks can be rather heavy. Also, you can search Gigapedia to see if an electronic copy exists. Then you can be awesome and hog an E-print station and print the entire textbook out.

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Arrival in Durham

Getting here:

Freshmen move into campus a week earlier than upperclassmen. However, if you choose to attend the international orientation, you're given the option to move a day or two earlier than everyone else. In a way, this makes move in less of a hassle (no rush and traffic), but you'll have to pay for the extra days that you stay (~$30/night?).

If you arrive at Duke slightly earlier, there are several hotels to stay in around the Durham/Chapel Hill area. One of these includes the Millennium Hotel or the University Inn, however, go online to check for prices and the best deal suitable for you. If you're cabbing directly from the airport (e.g no car rental/by yourself), you can take a cab to Duke University East Campus (Freshman Dorms). Taxiontime (919-493-5050, ) charges a flat rate of $25 to Duke (Compared to the usual 30+ on meter). Dont forget to add a 10-15% tip! Be sure to check the office hours of East RLHS before you arrive, as they might not be open after 7 pm at night.

Important Errands:

  1. Bank Account - Money makes the go world round. The two main banks in NC are Wachovia or Bank of America. BoA is more widespread in America, and Wachovia is relatively limited to the South. One thing to keep in mind is that BoA only has an ATM in the Bryan Center, whereas Wachovia has ATMs on both East and West Campus. To create a bank account, you'll need: 1. Valid Photo ID (Passport, Visa) and 2. Addresses (Permanent home address + and Dorm/PO Box address). Ask the bank staff about what accounts you should create, or what other students usually do. Choose the one best suited for your needs.
  2. Credit Card - While you're at it, if you don't have a sub-card from your parents, you can try to get a Student credit card from BoA. However, recent credit crunches have proved it difficult in obtaining these rare jewels.
  3. Cellphone - There are only two service providers that provides decent reception on Duke campus - AT&T and Verizon. It is to be noted that every other service provider will lead you to great distress and numerous phoneless nights. With that out of the way, the key differences between AT&T and Verizon is their network. AT&T runs on the GSM network (SIM cards), and Verizon uses CMDA (no SIM cards). Essentially, if you choose Verizon, you'll be given a Verizon-specific phone upon signing up. However, if you are vehemently against the archaic phone models in the US (they're like 10 years behind Asia), and intend to use your own phone, only AT&T will allow you to do that. They'll ask you whether your phone is "unlocked", in which, after you stare at them in confusion about their terminology, discover that it means that you can change the SIM Card in your phone, and after pausing to digest the absurdity of that question, promptly answer "yes" (they probably won't believe you and will try to themselves). Regarding the plans, the one with the least number of minutes is probably most suitable; you probably won't be doing a lot of calling (however, circumstances differ). However, youngsters nowadays do text a lot, and if you're feeling rich, feel free to get unlimited texting for like 20 USD, otherwise, it would be advisable to get at least 200 (minimum - 5 USD).

    You can actually sign up with the Verizon/AT&T representatives at Duke during orientation, or go to the stores at Southpoint Mall/NorthGate Mall/Super Target where there might be shorter lines. Another possibility is to get together with a few people and get a Family plan, which reduces the monthly fees by a significant amount. If you don't sign a 2-year contract of sorts, you can start the Family Plan after the school year starts.

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Smaller Errands:

  1. Personal Effects - Additional toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash ...etc and sorts can be bought at the Super Target nearby. If you're here by yourself, Duke's International House makes biweekly trips there, you might want to stop by their office and find out when they go. A quicker alternative would be to go to Dollar General off East Campus, which is within walking distance. Remember to get shampoo and soap!

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Settling In:

Room Furnishing:

  1. Necessities - These bigger items are not readily avaiablle at Dollar General... you'd want to make a trip to Super Target for these.
    1. Bedsheets
    2. Pillows
    3. Pillowcases
    4. Laundry Hamper
    5. Desk Lamp
    6. Fan
    7. Extension Cord/Surge Protector
    8. Alarm Clock
    9. Towels
    10. Toiletries
  2. Additionals - Before you get any of the following, you might want to contact your roommate (if you haven't already done so) and see whether they'll be bringing them.
    1. Refrigerator- Can be bought from Super Target for a cheap price.
    2. Microwave - Can also be bought from Super Target cheaply.
    3. DO NOT RENT FROM COLLEGESTUFF (mentioned in the Bluebook), the rental prices for "used" appliances are even more expensive than buying new ones yourself!
    4. Small Whiteboard - For people to leave messages for your door. You may choose to go ghetto with blank paper.
    5. Whiteboard Markers - In case some go missing/stolen.
    6. Bookcase/Shelf - For organizational purposes if you have a lot of stuff.
    7. Tupperware - With the buffet at the Marketplace, these containers might score you that extra midnight snack that you need to get through the night. Use at your own discretion.
    8. TV - A nice convienient distraction if you want it. But remember, there are TVs in the common rooms, which is a good place to chill and hang out.
    9. Posters - Room decorations if you like them. Make sure you put them up non-destructively (easily removable poster stickers), else you might run into problems when you check out of your room.
  3. More Randoms - Not super necessary, but nice to have!
    • Food/Snacks
    • Pre-Paid Calling Card
    • Hand held Vacuum
    • Brita (water filter)
    • Body Mirror
    • Hangers
    • Digital Camera
    • Bathrobe
    • Iron
    • Plastic Utensils
    • Liquid Dish Soap
    • Ethernet Cable
    • Hair Dryer
    • Laundry Detergent
    • Flashlight
    • Facial Tissues
    • Area Rugs
    • Shower Caddy

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Classroom Stuff:

  1. Medium for Notetaking - Notebooks, Looseleaf paper, or Laptop, whichever your preferred method. You will defintely want this in your academic endeavors.
  2. Writing Instrument - If you haven't brought your own already, you can stock up on them in Super Target. Dont expect the quality to be top-notch.
  3. Correction Instrument - Correction ink (white-out), eraser, or the plain old "scratch-out" (not recommended).
  4. Graphing Calculator - For math and engineering classes mainly, these sacred objects will be the icon of worship for the duration of the class.
  5. Organizational Equipment - Binders, Folders, Brute Force (shove in bag along with the other pile of papers)... The choice is yours.
  6. Textbooks - If you haven't bought them from Taiwan already, go on Marketplace or Ebay's and check out the prices there. You can ship it to your PO Box, which you should have been notified of through email, and pick it up from beneath the Marketplace. As a last resort, you can always go to the Duke Textbook Store in the Bryan Center but the prices can be rather atrocious.
  7. Classroom Locations - There'll probably be a tour of campus with your First-year Advisor Counselor during orientation week, however if you want to get ahead of the game and figure out the fastest way to go between classes, feel free to do so.

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Additional Errands:

  1. AP/IB/Transfer Credits - If for some reason Duke didn't process your Credits, or if you have a special circumstance, go to the the Duke registrar's office with your transcript and certificates and ask them for help. For the list of acceptable credits, take a look at your Blue Book.
  2. Add/Drop Period - If you're unsatisfied with your current schedule and seek to improve it, you still have 2 weeks of the add/drop period to do so on ACES. Make full use of this flexibility.
  3. Touring Duke Campus - One's parents should stop by the Sarah P. Duke Gardens for a nice floral treat.

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Miscellaenous Info:

Class Recommendations

Below is a general guideline to what people usually take their first semester at Duke. University is a time to explore your academic interests, so it's a good idea to branch out and get a taste of new fields. On the other hand, if you know exactly what you want to do later in life, it is recommended that you plan early to reduce the number of "wasted credits" that you take, so you can cram as many major courses as you can.

  1. Engineers (no Focus):
    1. EGR 53 (mandatory) - As an Engineer, this is the first class that everyone has to take.
    2. Math 31/32/103 - Depending on whether you have AP credit or not, you should definitely try to clear your math as soon as possible.
    3. Chem/Phys - Again, it might be a good idea to start on these requirements to open up new pathways in the future.
    4. WR20/SSH - Honestly, numerous first-hand accounts point to the fact that your WR20 course will most likely be more of a pain in the butt rather than a course you enjoy. It might be a wise idea to take a class with a professor that grades easily though the topic might sound "flavorless".

      On the other hand, if you're taking an SSH class, this is the time for you to branch out and experience other subjects. Popular subjects include Economics, Psychology, or even Foriegn Language. However, in many cases, history, cultural anthropology, art history...etc might also prove interesting.
  2. Engineers (Focus): Although this might be a rather informationally biased fact to mention, some upperclassmen have resented their decision to engage in Focus as it was viewed as "wasted credits" that didn't count towards graduation requirements. However, others have viewed focus as a "different experience" from traditional college courses, and is a good way to expand your horizons and make new friends. Depending on your goals in University, the choice is yours.
    1. WR20/SSH/EGR 53- If you're not assigned to take WR20 this semester, it might be a good idea to take EGR 53. Some people choose to take this course in the Spring, however, it might be preferable to embark your long journey of clearing all the pre-req engineering courses.
    2. Math/Chem/Phys - Depending on what AP credit you have, you should try to clear the courses that have the longest progression. (often math, but for pre-med, chemistry)
    3. Focus- As part of the Focus requirements.
    4. Focus- As part of the Focus requirements.

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Duke Security

As one might have read, Duke doesn't have the best relationship with the surrounding Durham neighbourhood, and compared to Taiwan, crime is something to be aware of. There are occassional reports of robberies, break-ins, stabbings (O_O), in areas surrounding campus. There is no need for a bullet-proof vest but taking minor precautions would be safer than sorry. East and West campus are generally very safe. However, you should still lock your room while away and do not leave your valuables unattended, as there have been cases of theft within dormitories and in libraries. When off-campus (Central Campus and Erwin Road), one should not walk around alone after dark (or in broad daylight for that matter). One should travel in groups or get some form of motorized transport.

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Places to Eat

Fast Food :

  • Cookout - Great fast food. The cookout tray is a great deal if you are hungry, but Cookout is famous for their cheap milkshakes in almost every flavor.
  • Nosh - Healthy, fresh café that has great salads and sandwiches.
  • Cosmic Catina - If you want cheap food, late at night, check out Cosmic. It's in a sketchy place, but the food is delicious.

9th Street :

  • Mad Hatters - Walking distance from East Campus, Mad Hatters has free wireless internet and great breakfast and lunch items, although it is on the pricier side.
  • Bali Hai - Bali Hai is like a Mongolian grill. You pay for a bowl, and you stuff the bowl with as much raw food as you can, and then they cook it for you.
  • Elmo's Diner - Elmo’s serves diner food (pancakes, sandwiches, salads etc…), but there is usually a wait, so get there early on the weekends.
  • Ox and Rabbit - If you want to try some unique milkshakes, this is an excellent place to go.
  • Whole Foods - You may not think to go here, but the salad bar is amazing, and they have gelato...yumm.

BrightLeaf :

  • Torerro's - Mexican food is pretty popular...and at Torerro's you get 20% off if you show your Duke ID when you pay. They don't ask you for it, so remember to show it.
  • Mt. Fuji - If you are craving Japanese food, then this might be your best option. It's much better than the sushi at Trinity Cafe.

Other Awesome Places in Durham/Chapel Hill:

  • Twisted Noodle - If you like Thai food, this is the place to go.
  • Mellow Mushroom - You can customize a pizza to have anything and everything you want.
  • Bullock's Barbecue - Bullocks is world famous for their Southern Barbeque. It's about as authentic as it gets.
  • Erwin Square - To the North of Campus, this plaza has a TGIF, Firehouse Subs, Chipotle, and many more.

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