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Journey of Growth: My Year in New York

发布时间:2024-06-06       访问量:

Today, June 7, 2023, marks 284 days since I first set foot in the United States, with only 22 remaining before I journey home.

Venturing alone into this pulsating, foreign landscape was intimidating, yet it was a curious fusion of the alien and the familiar. As time unspooled, I forged connections, fostered friendships, and savored the myriad flavors of a world that was initially so distant from my own. Every day bore witness to my evolution and growth.

First, allow me to introduce my alma mater, Teachers College, Columbia University (TC). Established as one of the official faculties of Columbia University since 1898, this graduate school, encapsulating education, health, and psychology, consistently ranks among the top US graduate schools of education. It's not only the oldest but also the largest of its kind in the United States.

I was a student of Learning Analytics, a program under TC's psychology division. This unique course combines the realms of human and machine learning. It imparts knowledge about key learning analytics and educational data mining methodologies, honing students to apply them to real-world problems across various learning environments.

TC's broad curriculum, offering over a hundred diverse programs, is one of its most commendable strengths. This versatility allows students to find interdisciplinary resonance in nearly any subject connected to education, psychology, and health. This blend of disciplines contributes to a dynamic community of approximately 5,000 students, of which about 1,500 are full-time attendees.

In comparison to other Columbia colleges, TC provides a more affordable tuition fee structure. We pay per credit, which is not only cheaper but also offers flexibility. I waslucky enough to receive a $5,000 scholarship during my tenure.

TC students enjoy the privilege of attending classes across all other colleges at Columbia. Provided we inform the professors in advance, we can sit in on any class, gaining access to all readings and assignment materials. This has been a phenomenal conduit for learning and growth.

Academic life at Columbia is intense. Professors churn through extensive content at a breakneck pace, necessitating rigorous post-class reviews. Along with individual assignments, there are group projects that underscore the application of theory to real-world problems.

Examinations follow in rapid succession – monthly tests, midterms, and finals – all designed to evaluate our agility in applying learned knowledge. Before each exam period, the library hums with the nocturnal energy of students pulling all-nighters, a ritualistic spectacle.

The Learning Analytics program comprises 32 credits, typically completed between 9 months to 2 years. My cohort was relatively small, only 25 students, most of whom were full-time. The curriculum is quite comprehensive, covering subjects like data mining, learning analytics, statistical programming, cognitive science, psychology, and social online learning.

New York City, the vibrant backdrop to Columbia, is a distinct metropolis. It accommodates seven million individuals, each weaving their own tale: Wall Street elites negotiating billion-dollar deals, homeless individuals huddled in street corners, Broadway actors taking their final bows, race car enthusiasts in Harlem, opera singers at the Met, NYPD officers at crime scenes, young lovers in Bryant Park, subway rats, hippies in Washington Square Park, tourists at the Edge observation deck, Chinese students fresh off the plane, and Fuzhou-speaking barbers in Flushing.

When unburdened by obligations, I love to meander through New York's labyrinthine streets, letting diverse architectural styles, old and new, various ethnicities and social classes, young and old, rich and poor, graze against me:

Here, I've encountered: The ragged homeless man, his lies as plentiful as the greed and scarcity reflected in his eyes; The erudite bookstore owner, her wisdom etched into every crease and line on her face; The hardworking immigrant vendor at the corner, doling out his authentic street food while his dreams of a better life simmer on a low flame; The aspiring dancer in the park, moving in rhythm with life's beat, his passion mirrored in every graceful gesture. Each of these individuals has etched a lasting impression on me, infusing my NYC journey with their tales of resilience, passion, hope, and dreams.

Every nook and cranny of this city whispers stories of determination and audacity, from the cramped apartments of struggling artists to the towering skyscrapers of successful corporations. It was within these omnipresent contrasts that I found the essence of New York: an incredible melting pot where dreams come to fruition, where life unfurls in its rawest form.

Living in a place of such contrasts, New York has been an eye-opening experience, full of profound learning and personal growth. Being able to witness and take part in this lively, diverse, and complex community has been an incomparable adventure. I have tasted cultures, experienced a broad spectrum of human emotions, navigated personal and academic challenges, and gained a deeper understanding of global perspectives.

And yet, the city is not without its shadows. The dichotomy between the city's glittering prosperity and its grim poverty is poignant. It's an urban jungle where dreams are often made at the expense of others. This harsh reality serves as a constant reminder of our shared responsibility to foster a more equitable world.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera describes the beauty of New York as a sudden wondrous poetry, an unconscious, unplanned, unintentional beauty that sprouts without seeking. The beauty of New York is unexpected. Elements that may appear somewhat ugly on their own, by chance, come together and create an astonishingly poetic scene. This is the beauty of pure happenstance. The beauty of New York is like a pleasant surprise.

As a contrast, Kundera refers to the beauty of New York as a beauty by mistake, while the beauty of Europe is a beauty by design. Indeed, Europeans could spend centuries building a cathedral. Such beauty is born out of meticulous planning, patience, and careful crafting.

In comparison, New York feels like a hobo who has picked up a pile of old clothes from the garbage, yet surprisingly manages to pull off a stylish look. The style is purely coincidental.

There are many landmarks in New York where one can reach the top. I've been to many, including the summit, Rockefeller, and so on. The last one I climbed was a high terrace called The Edge. It was in May 2023 when some MBA alumni from Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics and New York Institute of Technology came to New York to attend the graduation ceremony here, I took them on a simple tour of New York. In the chilly wind, overlooking all of Manhattan, the whole of New York was on display without reserve. Against the backdrop of the magnificent Manhattan landscape, Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind played through my headphones. I had a sudden realization, so this is what the song describes. It was the first time that I experienced New York as a host showing guests around, introducing each building, each restaurant, and every bit of history I was familiar with. In that moment, I remembered my first visit to New York as a tourist attending New York University's winter camp in January 2019. Back then, I merely grazed the surface of New York, only hearing the passionate chorus.

Regarding the hustle and struggle of various groups of people in New York, I couldn't yet fully empathize. During my second visit to New York, this time as a student, I transitioned from a tourist to a New Yorker, gradually noticing the fast food vendors from all nations under the imposing Empire State Building, the endlessly rushing, preoccupied office workers, the urban travellers seeking redemption in the city's churches only to step back out and buy cigarettes, alcohol, or stimulants. Every average person in New York, with their rich stories and humanity, constitutes this vibrant city.

Interestingly, I don't think this city has drained them. On the contrary, they seem to have successfully infused a part of themselves into New York, and in turn, took a part of New York into themselves. As I prepare to leave this city, New York has already become a part of my life journey.

Whether it's literature, poetry, or music, New York is deserving of the words and creativity devoted to it. It's worth the countless stories told by the revolving crowds, gathered around the fire in the evening, discussing their curious affection for this city. Having traveled to Philadelphia, Washington DC, San Francisco, New Haven, Boston, Maine, Kansas, Atlanta, Florida, and the Dominican Republic, my initial nervousness has morphed into composed adaptability. I've met and bid farewell to many people along the way.

The most crucial lesson I've learned abroad is to compromise when needed but to always stay true to myself. Now, at 25, I still choose to do the things I love and visit the places I want to see, whenever I have the freedom to do so. Once, I took pride in being accepted by Columbia University and used it as a measure of my worth. But now, I've learned to drive my growth and strive for a better self, not for the sake of proving my worth, but simply for the sake of becoming a better person.

I love Columbia University, and I love New York, but I no longer need them tovalidate who I am. I am enough just as I am.