One of my most successful graduate students at Dartmouth was Anny Zhang. She was a Masters in Engineering Management student and is curretly a new employee at Indium Corp. I thought readers might appreciate her perspective on life in the US. Following are her answers to some of my questions.
Dr. Ron What were some of the things that most surprised you about coming to the US?
Anny: There are many things here that are totally different from that in China. As regards to education at Dartmouth, I think that the close relationship between the students and professors in Thayer School of Engineerng impressed me most.
Huge classes, less interactive communications in class, and hard to contact professors generally are common in Chinese universities, as the student/professor ratio in China is very high. While in Dartmouth, professors are just like our "friends". Whenever we have some questions, it is easy for us to consult professors directly personally. I think the low student/professor ratio at Dartmouth is great for us students to learn directly from the professors.
DR: What about differences in learning approaches between China and the US
Anny: "Rather than giving you a fish, it is better to teach you how to fish". In China, I think we were closer to giving students "fish". In US, I can feel that professors know how to guide us to think individually, accomplish the project via teamwork, and achieve the goal.
This is the same case at Indium Corp. Currently, I am on a six month training program. People here are supportive and also great mentors. They not only help me to acquire more skills and knowledge in this field, but also direct me how to think and do things more effectively and efficiently.
These are all great experiences for me, which make me more inter-cultured.
DR: OK, you said many nice things about your US experiences, are there any disappointments?
Anny: Yup&As I grew up in south China, Guangzhou, where the climate is about the same as that of Florida, it took me some time to adjust to the cold, snowy, and super dry atmosphere in the New England area. Another thing that I am not quite used to is the "high fat, high calorie" food in US. Though I love ice-cream and chocolate in US, yet it is very easy to gain weight if I do not watch my diet. I miss the delicious Cantonese food very much.
DR: Anny having "gone through the ropes" here in the US yourself, what advice would you give to other Chinese students coming to the US for an education and a job?
Anny: Thanks for your compliment! Actually, it is not easy for Chinese students to find a balance between the "American life" and the deep rooted Chinese culture in our hearts. It is hard to acclimate in the very beginning when you come to US. My personal advice is:
First, "When you are in Rome, do as the Roman's do". Learning about the American culture/life/rules, is the first and most important step before someone can adjust himself/herself to this society. It is better to try out some new things rather than having a "resistant" feeling for everything before you try. Try to get used to the totally different language/culture/customs as soon as possible, especially the way that Americans think/do things, will do great benefits for your future life in US.
Second, make friends with Americans and people from other countries. Lots of American people are very nice, especially people in small towns. Try to talk with your American friends, and you can learn more about almost everything in every field. Lots of them are local experts about their community. Their local knowledge is extremely helpful. Sometime, try to hang out with people from other countries, too. It is always a better way and a faster way to know about a country via talking with people from there, than just reading a book.
Third, keep close relationships with your Chinese friends in US. It is not only because it is a human instinct that "birds of a feather flock together", but also because that "we are in the same boat". Nobody can understand your "homesick" feeling better than your Chinese friends around you; Nobody can share your US stories better than your Chinese friends, who probably have lots of same stories as you do; Nobody can help you out better when you are in trouble than your Chinese friends here, as they understand how you feel and what you need.
All in all, though it is not so easy for Chinese students and young professionals to get used to this totally different society, it is not a nightmare. Try to adjust yourself to this "new world". The sooner you "melt into" this "melting pot", the better for your life/education here. You will find also have lots of fun.
Best Wishes to Anny as she starts here career!