Thanks to Cuiying Honors College for supporting me to attend the summer school at the University of California, Berkeley. I would like to share some of my valuable experiences in Berkeley.
According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, a ranking of academic impact and productivity, in 2013 Berkeley was the 3rd most productive university in the world behind only Harvard and Stanford. There must be a great deal of pressure on Berkeley students. However, I did not see much stress expressed on people’s faces, but found everyone seemed very happy instead. This could be seen by the fact that strangers would greet each other with a smile when they meet in the street. Such friendly smiles made me overwhelmed at first, because I was not expecting to receive smiles from total strangers, and I had no idea how to respond to them. Then I thought I should give a warm smile back so as to pass on the happiness to people around me. However I found it difficult to immediately change my expression from one of no feeling to one of delight. Actually, I will usually smile when I really feel happy. What I found in Berkeley is that people always seem happy and are enjoying their lives!
Berkeley Kite Festival
Students Enjoy their Study!
Studying in UC Berkeley is really hard, no kidding! In my first class, the professor uploaded a paper on Dropbox, and said, “This is your first homework. It’s just one paper, so cheer up and enjoy your day!” So I thought I would enjoy it until I opened that file, which was 25 pages, in English of course! I have never read such a long paper in just one night, even in Chinese. What is more, this was the only time that I had to read just one paper; that is, from then on, each night I had to read at least two papers of that length and also one chapter from the textbook.
I was exhausted and dying while the other Berkeley students were still alive. I knew that I was disadvantaged by the language barrier, but I may not have been able to stand that amount of reading even in Chinese. When I talked to one of my classmates about it, he told me that he was also tired, but he thinks of it as his choice and doesn’t have any regrets, because the gain is worth the pain. When I asked him what he wants to gain, I thought he might answer that he wants to get a good grade, graduate, get a job and make money, as most Chinese students would say. However, he just wanted to know how we evolved, and about how the scientists are studying evolution. He said he feels surprised and thrilled when he learns or discovers new things.
I was astonished. The reason why he studies is that he wants to learn things. His study goal is to know more about the things which he is curious about. So when he is learning, or finishes those readings, he tends to feel content because he has reached his goal. This is different from me and many other Chinese students, who tend to set high or even unreachable goals, thus making ourselves much unnecessary pressure. We often ignore the primary advantage of learning and always want to gain more additional benefits that are far more than we paid for. Obviously, we often don’t get what we desired, and cannot fulfil our goals, so we feel it is not worth spending our energy on studying; we feel exhausted, and most importantly, we are not happy!
From that conversation I realised how I can become happy and enjoy my life. Nevertheless, it is always difficult to change thought patterns, but I am trying, and I feel better now.
Scientists enjoy research and teaching.
There are 71 Noble Laureates in UC Berkeley faculty and alumni in total. When attending a lecture given by two Physics Nobel Prize winners, I was moved by their devotion and modesty. The first was ninety-year-old Charles Townes who won the Physics Noble Prize in 1964. He showed me what an old man can do for society. Although he can only walk with the assistance of walking aids, cannot speak very clearly and his lecture was not engaging at all, yet we all respected him, because we were inspired by his good spirit. The second was Douglas Osheroff, a humorous and humble scientist. The first greeting and the closing words from Douglas were “Jintian tianqi zhen hao” and “xie xie” in Chinese, which means” It’s a nice day today” and “Thank you” in English. Chinese seems popular in California, and I was so happy when a Nobel Laureate spoke Chinese. Interestingly, I didn’t even know he was a Nobel Laureate until he finished talking. This was partly because I didn’t completely understand when someone introduced him, and also because it seemed they did’t put much emphasis on the prizes or honors that a person has gained, but emphasised instead the great things he did and his contribution to the world. What they really care about is what a person has done and contributed but not what a person has gained. I admire this!
Everyone Enjoys Volunteering
The lecture I just mentioned and that delivered by Noble Laureates is not an academic lecture, but a volunteer mobilization meeting, which is to call people do something helpful to the world water crisis. There are lots of big volunteer organizations like this inviting famous and influential people to give lectures in order to gather more normal people to contribute, and they really did.
There were also countless small volunteer organisations that were always willing to help others. I lived in accommodation provided by the Fu-You Association, which is a volunteer group that provides very cheap rental houses and interesting activities to Chinese visitors. I would like to show my gratitude to Ms. Chen and Mr. Ma in Lanzhou University for finding such a perfect place for me to live. People in Fu-You really helped me a lot. Volunteers would take visitors to market for shopping every week, organise trips around San Francisco and provide anything they could do to satisfy your needs. I love them!
People at Berkeley do volunteer work not limited by specific organisations. I enjoyed a free, voluntary guide from my classmate. I told him I’d like to have some sightseeing around Berkeley, but wasn’t sure where I should go. Then he offered to take me to San Francisco and he acted as a volunteer guide interpreting the cultures and traditions of the U.S. for the whole trip.
Kaveh and his family guide me around Pier 39
In those six weeks at UC Berkeley, I may not have learned so much knowledge, but I learned to enjoy my life and to help others. These things make me feel rich and happy! I still have a long way to go to keep up with other Berkeley students’ pace and efficiency, but at least I am going in the right direction and am trying to get there!