何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)


American Youth on US College Life (5) – response to questions 精选

已有 7980 次阅读 2009-11-12 04:50 |系统分类:教学心得

See notes added 11/16/09 on foreign undergraduate students in the US below
 COMMENT BY A READER: “Thanks, Daniel & Prof. Ho. After reading this article (http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=266505) I find my Tofel writings are really awful. College is the place where people share wisdom, so is the blog. Well, I’m curious that if you have a whole plan for your college study and the later life when you leave the college. As we’re often asked to layout a long-term programme, I wonder if you have already had one, and what about the average American students,do they always have a clear idea about college? Since speaking out and sticking to a planning is so difficult, it’s quite easy to get confused and tired of study. How to come out of confusion?”
FROM DANIEL: Ahahaha. I would say that you need not worry, I doubt anyone has any idea of what they want to do for their future. Most American students change their major in college at least once. Indeed, that is what college is for, to find out what you want to do, what you like doing. Right now I am currently not attending college. I attended Drexel in Philadelphia for two years but eventually decided that I wanted to be a writer. Drexel is more of an engineering and sciences school so I left Drexel and am currently searching for a new school that better meets my interests.
I know it can seem like everyone else has it planned out. Especially in Asian culture, there is a very strict “life plan” that many parents seem to lay out for their children. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel any shame that Drexel did not work out. I did not perform to the best of my ability and my grades suffered. I got F’s in some classes. The lowest grade. It was disappointing, and Asian culture places a lot on education. I felt that by failing my education I was failing my life. I am the oldest grandson, but the first to go to a school that was not Ivy League or of similar rank. My parents went to Harvard and Princeton, as did my aunts and uncles. And of course you are all aware of how smart my grandfather is. Sometimes I think, “What the hell am I doing?” I hate math. Asians are supposed to be good at math and studying. But writing is something that I enjoy more than anything else. That is why I asked for suggestions and comments, because even writing here for my grandfather’s blog is more enjoyable than most math or science classes I have taken.
So here I am. I am not in college right now (see note added below 11/12/09). No doubt all my friends are currently in their junior year of college. At best, I will be a year behind them maybe more. My grades from Drexel do not represent me to the best of my ability. They are a disappointment. In a long way to answer your question, I don’t know. I do not know how to come out of the confusion. But I think it is something that most people deal with. Few are those who are blessed with knowing exactly what they want to major in college and what they want to have as a job. And fortunately colleges realize this. Most colleges do not make you declare your major until your sophomore year or even later. And even then people still switch. It is always disappointing when something does not work out. But at least you found out what you don’t want to do. I love writing. I have no idea if that will provide me with any stable career in the future, but it is something I have decided to pursue.
By the way, lest anyone be wary of this advice because of what they now know about me, or because I am American born, or half Korean, or whatever, I will tell you this fact. My uncle, Professor Ho’s son is very smart. He went to Harvard. He got a PHD in Physics from Stanford. Both are top tier schools. What is he doing now? He is running his own company. It has nothing to do with physics. In truth, he tells me that if he could do it again, he would not have gone for the PHD in Stanford. There you have it. Someone who’s major had nothing at all to do with their current job. And last I spoke to him he is happy. He is doing well. He is his own boss so the hours are to his liking. He lives in a very nice neighborhood in California with his wife and two children and a dog. In a time when the economy is in dire straights, his company is actually doing quite well. His life is wildly more successful than most people in the world could dream, he has a healthy family, a house, a car, a job.
It is strange and confusing not to know what you want to do with your life. It seems childhood was only yesterday and today we are now being called upon to decide how to be for the rest of our life. We could spend hours looking at our friends, our family, comparing ourselves to them and how they seem to have all figured out. But that is not productive. I do compare myself to others, even though I know it will get me nowhere. I can’t help it, I am human. All humans compare themselves to others. But you should know that you are you and nobody else. The path you choose is one that is suited for you. Basically, if you are unsure of what you want to do in your life, then take solace in the fact that many people are in the same situation. That is, in my mind, what college is for. It is the time to discover who you are and what you like and what you want to do for a job. These answers will not come easily nor quickly.
I apologize to you and anyone else reading this blog if this did not answer your question. No, I know for a fact it did not answer the question of “How to come out of the confusion?” I do not know. I am in the same place. But then again, you are all talented and intelligent people. You would have to be, in order to read my grandfather’s writings. Somehow, I think you will be OK. And hey, if you ever want to talk, then feel free to post. My grandfather updates me with new comments and I check the blog fairly often. I would be happy to know if you figured something out. I could do with some tips myself.
[NOTE ADDED BY YU CHI HO: I am proud of this piece from my grandson’s heart. If hindsight of 50+ years means anything, here is my answer to questions raised by Daniel and the reader. While laying out a pre-conceived plan for life is good and useful, it is not necessary nor sufficient. Sure I was told to go into science and technology when I was young because that was the conventional Chinese wisdom at the time. However, my path in S&T had many twists and turns, miss-steps and lucky breaks (read my recent blog article on how I got my life time job). What I am doing now are things I learned in the past five years. It has very little to do with what I did in college, which is not the same as I did in graduate school, which in turn differs from what  I did to get tenure at Harvard, and ultimately un-correlated with what I was doing before official retirement. Blogging on science net never entered my mind until 2.5 years ago. But I am now confidant if needed, I can earn a living as a professional blogger. And these different turns in career have always been true for my entire life. The important thing is (and I have said this before several times) to practice self-examination and reflection based on new information received continuously (say every six months). And you will do all right. This is the very principle of decision and control via feedback and what professionally I do to earn a living. In this globalized world, there are opportunities to live a rich, satisfying, and examined life anywhere. (Note I said “rich” which does not mean “wealthy”.) One need not become obsessed with divining the future. The important thing is to have passion in what you are doing. Read Daniel’s fourth and fifth paragraphs “ By the way . . . easily nor quickly” carefully, they contain wisdom far beyond his age.
note added 11/12/09 Furthermore, taking a year or semester off in the middle of college years is quite common in the US. The student generally works at an entry level job and takes time to figure out what he really wants to do and to learn about real life.]
Note added 11/16/09
The New York Times (11/16, A13, Lewin) reports, "American universities are enrolling a new wave of Chinese undergraduates, according to the annual Open Doors report. While India was, for the eighth consecutive year, the leading country of origin for international students - sending 103,260 students, a 9 percent increase over the previous year -- China is rapidly catching up, sending 98,510 last year, a 21 percent increase. ... Over all, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 8 percent to an all-time high of 671,616 in the 2008-9 academic year -- the largest percentage increase in more than 25 years, according to the report."
        The Chronicle of Higher Education (11/16, Fischer) reports, however, that "the rosy data highlighted in the annual 'Open Doors' report may obscure some potentially worrisome trends." For example, while "graduate programs typically rely more on international students, enrollment grew far more strongly at the undergraduate level, where the number of students jumped 11 percent, than at the graduate level, where enrollments climbed a little more than 2 percent." Additionally, "the increase in students pursuing undergraduate studies was largely dependent on enrollment from China, which shot up by 60 percent." The data also do not "reflect the impact of the global economic downturn, which could affect both students' ability to pay for college and the financial assistance American institutions provide."
        Inside Higher Ed (11/16, Jaschik) reports that, in order "to prevent or minimize enrollment decreases, 57 percent of campuses reported that they took special steps this year to help with recruitment," including "new staff or staff time devoted to international recruitment, new funding for international recruitment travel, and new funding for marketing efforts." USA Today (11/16, Marklein) also reports the story.
        Top Destination Countries Competing For Foreign Students. The Chronicle of Education (11/16, Labi) reports that "top destination countries," which include Canada, the UK and Australia, "are all reporting relatively robust international enrollments this fall" despite various "bumps in the road," including visa issues and "public-relations woes." And, "from government efforts at damage control to individual institutional outreach, these destination countries are working hard to keep pace in the race for global talent." According to the Chronicle, "this all-hands-on-deck approach to international student recruitment typifies the pragmatism that even the most popular destination institutions and countries must embrace to retain their edge."


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