University of California at Berkeley 2018 summer program exchange experience
——Tianye Xia, 2016 Physics
This summer trip to Berkeley has benefited me a lot. I not only learned some courses, but also experienced the unique American culture and educational mode.
Startingwith American culture, nomatter where you are, you can see that American culture is extremely tolerant. All kinds of people, ranging from skin color, race, age, dress to physical condition, are free to walk in the streets. People are not discriminated against, or even noticed, for being unique or strange. Americans advocate freedom, and there are often marches and other appeals. As for me, Americans seem more casualwhile Asians are more undemonstrative. They can both compliment others’ skirts loudly and leave because the other doesn't understand them.
What impressed me a lot was a sense of alienation in a foreign country. In a huge and hurried stream of people, everyone seems very small. Walking on the streets of San Francisco, I could always feel a sense of ignorance. I realized that I did not belong to this country and the city. Language was the biggest problem,not just in class, but in everyday life, restaurants and supermarkets. I hadtrouble with my daily communication with others. Using translators on mobile phones was the most frequent thing. Sometimes after a long conversation, I just nodded my head with a smile, saying yes or no, while I didn't really know what the other person was talking about. That was why I felt like I couldn’t integrate in the classes, the discussion groups, or this strange country.
After coming back, I used some time to think about this. Even though it seemed to be language problems, basically speaking, the problem was on me who was not open-minded and bold enough. For example, when I communicated with a group of students, I felt that I couldn’t get myself involved in the conversation and understand what others were saying, so I didn't speak at all and I just did some simple reactions. Only those who dare to speak will get improvement. There will always be people who can listen to you patiently. As Robert said, if you don't say a word, Americans will not pay attention to you. Only you take the initiative to communicate and ask will they respond and show kindness.
Secondly, let’s talk about the American educational mode. American schoolsemphasize self-competence. Before class begins, teachers usually give students materialsrelatingto the class, which require students’ self-study. At class, the teacher will do some extension with these materials. Under normal circumstances, teachers will not talk about these materials in detail. Therefore, it is very necessary to insist on reading all the information.
Also, there are all kinds of teaching methods. Taking my astronomy class as an example, the methods of teaching are relatively simple, usually using PPT and blackboard. However, as for my earthquake class, there are maps, videos and even field tripsin addition to ordinary PPT and blackboard notes. And these materials used in class will be uploaded on the course website. Students do not have to worry about nowhere to review the information.
It isnoteworthythat American courses usually include field trip. These outdoor activities are more professional and practical than those in China. For example, in the earthquake class, students need to complete a report during the trip. Although the teacher had previously uploaded information, it was still difficult. The trip is more likely to be a learning process rather than a sightseeing. At the same time, it is also very efficient, not only making us recognize the seismic belt around Berkeley, but also letting us further understand the previous contents of courses.
In the United States, there will always be a report in the middle of the semester or at the end of the semester. Berkeley students usually use posts to talk about what the group discuss. To a certain extent, these kinds of projects need cooperation. For example, the project of the astronomy class brought together everyone's efforts, from gathering ideas, purchasing equipment to performing the experiment. Patience followed. Four of us were Chinese,it was very easy to communicate with each other,whilethe experiment failed a lot of times. Only by trying again and again could we come to the final satisfactory result.
However, as for the other class, the other members of the group were native speakers of English, and it was probably easier for them to communicate. But the cooperation in this group is very limited. In this project, I saw the strong ability of University of California at Berkeley's students. Basically, a native student did all the jobs. Probably because the local student was eager to get an A in the course, he did all the preparations before our scheduled discussion time, including the selection of reference papers, topics, most of the pictures, and the general frame of the poster. The next three hours of discussion were fully used to complete the poster. In the second day’s discussion we spent only two hours completing the summary. I felt that I almost did nothing during the project, and I still tried to understand the post when they finished. What’s more, the same local student also did all the presentation part. It was verysuccessfuland the teacher seemed very satisfied. But in fact, I was only a bystander andwas nota part of it.
In the last part I will talk about the educational facilities in the United States. There is a building for each college. Most colleges have their own library. At the same time, there are some self-study room libraries, where each room needs to be rented. Some are like classrooms, but the space is small. However, it's still enough to accommodate five or six people, and students can find all the facilities they need in the rooms. These rooms are used not only for class discussions and group discussions, but also for simulating class speaking. What’s more, there is a cafe next to each of these kind of library, making the discussion hereconvenient. Asfor the classrooms, there is not much difference between Berkeley and our university. However, classrooms in Berkeley are usually much bigger, and the equipment in each classroom runs more smoothly and seldom breaks down.
To conclude, the University of California, Berkeley, is indeed a wonderful school,fulfillingall my imaginations of a university. The 40 days here can be a rich and beautiful memory.