A Transition with very little to complain about

Story by

Ankita

From

India

Major/Field

Business Studies

Level

Graduate

I came to USA to pursue my higher studies in Information Systems. Having studied in India for over 17 years, it was blatant that moving to a new country will demand adjustments. While it was quite upsetting initially, owing to the fact that I was overwhelmed and missed home to pieces, it all eventually seems worthwhile and amazing.

The first extremely exciting thing was the tailor made course structure that felt just right for me. I had an option to choose courses from different departments as long as they all were logical with respect to my course. In India, we follow a fixed pattern of studies. You are required to study and accomplish grades for the subjects given to you. Choosing out of a set of provided courses was never an option. That said, the concept of choosing and registering was new to me. The idea of Core and Fundamental subjects was so different.

At first, I was in a big mess because I had no idea about the fact that class registrations have due dates and they fill up due to limited seats. I hadn’t done any form of registrations before I got here. I thought it was assumed I’ll be allotted a class and subject! After having visited the University a couple of times with all the emails that confused me; I figured I was late with my registrations. Classes were full and my University portal displayed all the courses as ‘Closed’. You could imagine my anxiety now. New place, new academic culture and I have no classes to go to! However, my International Students Department and respective professors helped and guided me through the entire process and now I have the subjects that I desired and in fact am loving the same.

Now, let’s discuss the grading system here, which was quite a change. I was used to attending lectures, studying, learning the theory and giving exams. The university and professors here don’t primarily focus on marks! They’re more inclined to testing your knowledge through practical studies. Class room studies become so much more light and entertaining when you have some creative brainstorming and constant interaction going on. But, this is how I feel now. The initial one month seemed like a nightmare! I found myself with sleepless nights, trying to fish for industry experts, fetching requirements and generating project work through client requests. I thought it’s all about studying and getting marks, but I was so wrong! I was doing research, speaking to industry experts, surveying and concluding my project work!
It took me some time to let it all sink in and understand that this is what I’m required to do and now I consider myself lucky to have gotten used to the drill because this is how real time jobs work.

Some issues I faced were the jargons and pronunciations used here. For example database rows and records are addressed as ‘Tuples’ here, while in India we’d just call them rows. This however is so trivial compared to things like the class size, independent studies under a professor and the concept of On-Campus jobs!

Back in the Indian system, the class is about a hundred students. You can’t really blame the instructor for the neglected attention being paid to half the class. Whilst here, the professor knows exactly what you’re doing and whether or not you’re keeping up! Further, there’s no concept of fetching for On-Campus jobs and Teaching Assistantships (TA). Here, I saw how students worked hard in order to get a job or work under a professor. At first I didn’t figure out how to go about acquiring one. But it wasn’t long until I, got a job on campus. It involved so much running around but in the end, worked out well with immense satisfaction.

On-campus jobs, independent studies under a professor and working with project members from different parts of the world has given me immense exposure and the ability to deal with people. This has resulted in transforming me into a confident and mature individual which brought out the part of me I never thought I possessed.

Learning never stops and till date I’m only getting to know more about this amazing academic system and it’s associated opportunities.

Learning to Change

Story by

Yin Gao

From

China

Major/Field

Medicine

Level

Undergraduate

Learning to change and adapt to a new environment has been very important to me.

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of changing. As a child, my life lacked change because my grandma raised me until I was four years old. As well known, elders seek of stability and peace. So when my parents wanted to pick me home, I was so frightened of the new life because I had already gotten used to live under my grandma’s protection.

However, as I grew up, I learned to accept differences, surprises and challenges. Due to various reasons, I transferred to four schools when I was in primary school. As I constantly moved, I had to connect with strange people and faced changes everyday. This unique experience in primary school gave me the ability to face changes, adapt to new environments, and quickly change. Now, I am using my ability to adapt in order to make the biggest move in my life so far, which is coming to a university in the US.

When I was new here in the US, there were so many challenges. The biggest challenge was that it was the first time for me to choose the classes and arrange my own schedule. I thought it was an important and necessary opportunity to think about what I want to be in the future. To be honest, I had no idea about my future because I was used to learning whatever my teachers taught me without asking “why” I should learn in China. It was now the time for me to change my old learning style. I got support from others when I needed, but I started making my own career decisions. For instance, even though my English was not fluent, I met with the college advisor and after a long discussion, I decided my major preliminarily. After I went back home, I did some research online on the career prospects of my major. Finally, I ensured my major and the first semester schedule. Now, I am studying hard for my future career and I am happy about it.

Being able to change and getting along with new people and environment helps me to be a better student in the US. As a Chinese student, I used to be nervous with my teachers because teachers treated students like parents did. I was afraid of talking with them, even asking academic questions. However, when I came to the US, professors treated me like friends. When I asked questions, they never questioned whether I pay enough attention in the class. Instead, they answered my questions patiently and encouraged me to ask more. I made friends with my chemistry tutor. He not only helped me with my study, but also helped me in my life. In study, he shared with me his learning experiences to help me to understand the knowledge. In life, he showed me American culture. He also encouraged me to talk more with him for practicing my spoken English. Now, I am teaching him Mandarin and helping him to apply for an opportunity in China. We are making progress together.

Change is necessary for fitting into the new leaning environment. The learning environment in American school is really different from Chinese school. American students like discussing ideas with others; however, Chinese students prefer to study alone. Last semester, I took a college class about leadership. When professors gave time to discuss with the classmate, I ignored him and started the project on my own. When I handed in my project, I was a little complacent because the topic was so easy for me. However, my professor did not give me a good grade. He indicated that my idea was old, personal and without creativity. He suggested me to be one of the class, not to be the only one in the class. I took his advice and changed my working style. I really got the inspiration from the discussion and understood the project better. After that, I got better grade. At the meantime, I learnt to change my unbefitting studying style in a different learning environment.

Change also helps me to get through some challenges which beyond the academic life. When I moved in my on-campus dorm, my roommate was a very nice American girl. She always started a new chat with me; however, I only replied a few word to her. Little by little, she thought I was not a friendly person. Then, she seldom talked with me and never asked me to go shopping with her again. Actually, I would like to talk with her; however, the truth was I was a shy girl and it became hard for me to make friends. I knew if I did not change my personality, I would be a pathetic person who had no friends in the entire college life. I regained the courage that I used to have in my primary school to help me change. I encouraged myself to talk to my roommate first, and explained the reason I did not talk a lot with her. Fortunately, she understood my problem. After that, she always invited me to her family and introduced her friends to me. Gradually, I made lots of friends and we helped each other in both life and study. Now, my personality has totally changed. Change makes me to be more easy-going and friendly.

No matter whether it is in China or in the US, no matter if it is in primary school or in college, I believe learning to change is a useful ability. Gaining an ability needs to be practiced again and again. All the challenges I faced in school provided me a wonderful strength that I can be calm when I face changes.

After I came to the US, all the changes I faced gave me a chance to practice this useful ability. Learning to change gives me strength to be able to handle different relationships correctly, solve different problems independently and adapt to a new environment quickly.

Now, I am not the little girl who wanted to live under grandma’s protection any more. I am eager for changes now because changes help me to develop emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Thanks to all the changes I faced before, I continue to make progress in my academic career.

English Writing Skill

Story by

Alex Lee

From

Taiwan

Major/Field

Business Studies

Level

Undergraduate

I didn’t like to learn English when I studied in my home country, Taiwan, because I never had a chance to speak English. One day I suddenly told my parents that I wanted to go to the United States to study. My parents were shock because I didn’t like English since I was little. The reason I decided to go to the United States was I realized English was very important, and I hope I can force myself to learn if I need to speak English every day. Therefore, I came to Stony Brook.

The first class I took in Stony Brook University was ESL. In the ESL class I had learned reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. After a semester, I graduated from the ESL, and I felt much more confident about my reading, listening and speaking skills. The only skill that I was worried about was writing skill. I had a hard time learning English writing skill because it is totally different than Chinese writing skill. Chinese’s writing style gives more freedom than English. Chinese essays didn’t have to be clear about thesis statements, topic sentences, and body paragraphs, etc. Moreover, the biggest difference between Chinese and English essay is Chinese essay can leave an ambiguous ending, and make the readers think what the real meaning is of the article. Nevertheless, this is not allowed in English writing. In English writing, everything has to be very detail and clear. This differences made me had a hard time when I first learning how to writing an essay.

However, my writing skill had dramatically improved after I took writing class in the winter break. In the winter break, both professor and students had more time than regular semester because we only had one class. During the winter break I went to my professor’s office hour twice a week. Office hour was very helpful because you can ask your professor any kind of question, and he will do his best to explain to you, and that really help to improve your writing skill. Not only that, I also went to writing center to ask graduate students edited my essays for grammatically problem. By editing my essay with bot my professor and graduate students, I had more clearly about the structure of English writing skill. Finally, I got an A in my writing class, and that not only gave me more confident but also made me feel the effort was worth it.