We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.
During my first engineering project at the University of Kentucky, I attempted to build connections between an AR Drone and computers. Although trying to fix the existing codes was frustrating, I was amazed by how much I had learned outside the classroom – seeing technological terms for the first time, downloading C++ tutorials to learn from scratch as a coding starter, and all other pieces of the engineering puzzle had made it fun, but also made me realize how little I know in the engineering world and how exciting it had been to apply newly learned knowledge to real life experiences.
Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?
The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science appeals to me because it will allow me to explore my interests in artificial intelligence, robotics, and developing smarter computer systems. After serving underserved areas in China, I believe someday affordable robots with special skills will serve people in need, such as brain-handicapped kids who need daily accompany to develop language and social skills, the elderly who have lost essential life skills, etc. I’m particularly interested in the idea of swarms of robots and self-computing intelligence. I desire to change the world in a positive and unique way.
What attribute of your personality are you most proud of, and how has it impacted your life so far? This could be your creativity, effective leadership, sense of humor, integrity, or anything else you’d like to tell us about.
With a good sense of humor, I see life as a deck of cards – I may lose or win temporarily, yet it is each unpredictable card that adds pleasure to the overall game. Never taking myself too seriously, I thrive upon tackling seemingly formidable challenges. Whether it has been facing the “downs” during the exchange year, solving a challenging physics problem, or learning a difficult piano piece, I believe in the notion that “life likes to joke with me, and as long as I never give up trying, I’ll do fine.” This single belief has made me cherish the resilience I have gained by taking risks and overcoming challenges. Yet more importantly, possessing a good sense of humor has made all my teamwork enjoyable. Although laughter can’t make our work easier, humor can always refresh our frustrating minds and help us keep positive. “Why isn’t the liquid changing color in the tube?” “It must’ve been put into sleep by your magic!” I answered. My lab partners and I laughed. A bond among us had formed, yet we also started to focus on the lab rather than panicking. I believe humor is joking, laughter, and also an attitude towards everyday life.
Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?
“Rugged individualism” is how my father described his earlier life – getting up at 5 every morning to feed his buffaloes, picking up manures and fertilizing the farm after school and ranking 1st in his school at the same time. “Neither of my parents went far enough to graduate from elementary school, and I know the only person who can change our life conditions is me,” he told me. With the dream, my father became the first person in the entire town to earn a college degree and then a doctorate. I have been inspired to follow his path and achieve as much as I can.
Coming from a family that has fought its way out of poverty, I have experienced living in a shack and witnessing how my younger cousins struggled with poor conditions. Yet I never realized that I had the power to make an impact until I lived with my American host family last year. “Mom told me to work after high school, because we can’t afford college.” Keeping my host sister’s words in mind, this fall I met an admission officer from a state college and introduced her achievements to him. Surprisingly, she was qualified for a full scholarship! After witnessing the inequality of opportunities in less fortunate areas and seeing myself making positive changes to others’ lives, I have been determined to dedicate my life to make the world a better place, as I believe “what I do” is far more important than “who I am."
Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?
Halfway across the globe, I was the only foreign student in a nearly “all-white” school in the Midwest. Desperate as I was, I didn’t dare to speak in front of new people in my “strange accent”; learning biology terms in English was horrifying, and reading 6 pages of the U.S. History textbook literally took me two and a half hours…
Still, I never doubted this decision of becoming an exchange student. I realized there was nothing I should fear, but fear itself. As I started to overcome difficulties, I stayed after school nearly every day to ask teachers for additional help and sometimes to even challenge them with my questions and thoughts. I made sure I had a smile on my face when I walked in the school door each morning, and I tried to step out of my comfort zone and speak out. Soon as I conversed with other students, I was dumbfounded when they complained how “evil” and totalitarian China was. Sadly I found my country, although with its own rich history and rapid growth, was poorly understood. I took the challenge to create the Culture Club that was dedicated to bringing awareness of diversity to my peers and to overcoming the inherent biases and barriers that we each possess as human beings. With courage, efforts, and a positive attitude, I surprisingly formed life-long bonds with my peers, and even inspired an American friend to pursue learning Chinese and participating in a semester long exchange program in college!
I made the risky decision to become a Youth For Understanding exchange student to America, knowing that I could be randomly assigned to any state and any school. I appreciated the opportunity to take adventures in a foreign country and forge cultural understandings between two countries. I was curious about a learning environment in which learning, creativity, and hands-on experiences are more valued than just scores. While I anticipated challenges, I didn’t realize how hard it had been to immerse into a new environment. Yet with my efforts, determination, and courage, I made positive changes to my exchange life, forged life-long friendships, and left an impact in school and the local community. At the end of the year, I decided to continue my adventure by attending a local private school (I wasn’t able to stay in a public school for more than a year as an international student). Staying with a new host family and making efforts to immerse into a new study dynamic, I realized how valuable my exchange experience had been to me – it had made me a curious and courageous adventurer, eager to take advantage of any opportunity in front of me and grateful to all the challenges and people that had positively shaped my life. More importantly, I had learned a life lesson: challenges may seem invincible, but as long as I keep positive and make an effort, I have the potential to conquer any challenges in this world. Now at the threshold of graduating high school, I desire to attend MIT as the starting point of my next exiting journey which will be filled with challenges, excitement, and intense intellectual vitality, all of which will facilitate me in making my own contribution to the technological field.