I’ve now been studying at UT and living in Austin for a whole year. I cannot help reminiscing about the beginning of the spring semester 2014, when things happening on me in the other half of the world appeared to have been new, unfamiliar, and sometimes hard to handle.
I was looking down from the window of a small interstate airplane. Texas’s land is mainly of dark yellow and dark green color. It was in January; nevertheless I seemed to still feel the heat waves hanging over near this vastness. “Is this indeed the city the soil I will abide in for the next one and a half year before graduation from college? Will I possibly like it?” I was murmuring inside. Texas was too sparse, big, and “barren” to a student who had a fairly long living and academic stay in cities like DC and California. “Anyway, this is my choice and the optimal choice at that moment.”
I was anxious about my life in a new environment. Life exposed his complex and various sides to me which are no longer restricted to grades but issues like which apartment is ideal to pick for next semester, what to buy to cook for meals, how to self protect when I’m in potential danger because of walking homebound alone from the library at midnight, how to make friends who have implicit differences of outlooks from me and have explicit differences of languages used for communication…… Some part of me was so uneasy about all the miscellaneous things popping up everyday that I was so discreet of tackling them down one by one: I moved twice in two months from the west of city of Austin to the east and finally to an apartment near school…… I was on my own at a young age of 19. I like this sentence: “the quickest way of learning new skills is by expanding your comfort zone.”
In the first semester, I met kind and friendly peers and seniors who greatly helped me smoothly transit to regular life. I encountered a great but disputable existence in this world because of whose love I have received selfless love and care from strangers and have been trying to output equivalent attendance to others. I got a 4.0 GPA in the first semester and got an offer from a NGO to campaign for water conservation nationwide. I got an offer to study abroad in Botswana for a month during summer under the department of geography. I knew about a well known and very kind and approachable professor at UT in geophysics– Sergey Fomel and attended his software workshop at Rice University. During summer, I worked in the research team of Columbia University in the department of political science, surveyed the spanish people living in Austin, and used these data to test several hypotheses. However, what I did not do very well was the three summer courses: US government/ Texas History/ US History. The possible reasons are: 1. it was during summer when I was on the one hand part time working and on the other hand studying. What I should enhance is the skill of not only handling multiple tasks but more importantly dealing with them in a way as perfect as expected. 2. I thought it was not relevant to my interest and not taken at UT but the Austin Community College and after a long semester I felt tired. What I should improve is, first my sense of responsibility– to myself and also to my parents’ money and second my respect to knowledge– no matter where it was imparted to me I should treat it as equal and the same. 3. No close friends around or friends are travelling around to places I want to visit as well. What I should avoid is the negative emotions invoked my others’ happiness gained from doing things I desire to do– If I long to travel, then I should make plans and learn to travel safely on my own, and second I should learn to have fun even when I’m alone in a new environment, to drive out the unhappiness/isolation– I should utilize the internet to check out the recent events happening or are going to happen in town, so on and so forth.
During the second semester at UT, I took five classes composed of four math and one cs class and simultaneously I was auditing Professor Sergey’s class. I had my first research project, small as it was, with my mentor Sona through the Directed Reading Program at math department and did my presentation in 15 mins in front of my peers and professors. I got an interview with Dell on the position of Software Engineer. I got an interview as a tutor at Sanger Learning Center. I got an interview as an Outreach Assistant at Sanger Learning Center. I got to the second round of membership of Texas Undergraduate Computational Finance. I got 4 As for four of my classes and one B+ for Probability. I applied for Math Honors Program. I registered Austin Half Marathon in this February.
What I have not done perfect are as follows:
1. I made several attempts to read Professor Sergey’s papers and was hoping to get started my undergraduate research with him, but I hadn’t got any improvement about my independent research.
2. I was auditing the class but I was not able to take the final of the class.
3. I failed all the interview I got, and didn’t get up to go to the Outreach Assistant interview in the morning.
4. I was kind of slacking off during the first half of the probability class, so even though I was ranked pretty high in the final accumulative exam, I was able to pull up my grades all by one exam.
5. I was not running or working out regularly as expected.
How to improve:
1. Since now I’m pretty sure what my interest is, geophysics, I should focus the majority of my time and energy on it instead of hitting on too wide a field from Software Development to Sociology. The more you input the more you output.
2. I should lay down myself and do not be too self conscious– Don’t put too much attention on the result and thus be afraid of failure.
3. I should talk to Sergey more about what I’m concerned about, what I did not understand, and how to work for him, and his standards for phds. I should cherish this great resources. I may go to Pickle once every two weeks to talk with him.
4. Refining my resume and my interview skills. Getting as many interviews as I can through websites like Indeed/Linkedin– Remember, I’m young, and I’ve got nothing to lose.
5. Learn to quickly adapt to classes of different styles and forms. Don’t find excuse of laziness. Keep up the good work from the beginning to the end.
6. To merge regular work-out as part of my life.
However unsatisfied I am about my own life, I still thank life for bringing different interesting and respectful people in my life. Jun Zheng was a tough guy who came from a farmers’ background and was truly totally on his own ever since his university life; now he is a L2 student at UT Law School particularly studying the law of Intellectual Property. Heidi Zhang, now applying for UT grad program, graduated from the same high school as I did and has had a energy loaded and adventure fueled life on the wicked trails among mountains and woods. Lyra Hao was a Phd student at Stanford now in Geophysics; she is a free spirit trespassing the majority land of the world and catching countless wonderful moments by her professional level photography skills. Paul and Judith are an old but young couple who taught me how to face the twists and turns of life and who infuse me the peacefulness/composure. (CONTINUED)
Now I’m in China with my parents. I was not peaceful here. I can only regain the peacefulness, short it might be, there at UT where some part of me, be it the heart or seoul is on the way to the truth and freedom of life, as time never stops for my regret and idleness.