Blogs: Being International

A Primer for Understanding ‘Merica

My first few weeks in the USA

may 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
This blog is the continuation of my first blog where I wrote about my first few days in the USA. When I came to the USA from India to attend grad school, I had to learn many cultural norms that were very different from those at home on the other side of the planet. It was a steep learning curve,...

Back to Square One

Learning to appreciate family

APR 2019
Operations Research Center
I just came back from Shanghai a week ago. It was my first trip home since I came to MIT in the summer of 2017. It’s been over a year and a half. I saw a lot of friends and family on this trip, including my high school math teacher. He told me the story of his wife giving birth to their twin...

First Impressions of the USA

Did he just call me Mrs. Lincoln?

APR 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
I arrived in New Jersey to attend graduate school two years ago. I was mostly nervous and a little bit excited. This was the first time I had flown internationally and also the first time I had flown in an airplane! Upon arrival I was greeted by the air hostess who apologetically told us that all...

Bilingualism is a Feature, Not a Bug

Shifting perspective on my non-native English

APR 2019
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
If you are a non-native English speaker like me, have you ever felt that your English was not good enough? And worse, did you feel that your English would never be as good as a native speaker’s? I did.   My native language is Mandarin Chinese, and while I learned English growing up in China and...

Embrace rather than Escape

Culture shock in the States

MAR 2019
Chemical Engineering
There is a saying in Chinese: “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.” Embracing this old saying, I started my four-year undergrad journey in Minnesota after graduating from my high school in Beijing. I got this stamp on my passport when I first came to the...

How to Combat Homesickness

Building your village in Boston

DEC 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
It’s a small thing, ordering a coffee. Most of us do it, in some cases several times a day (or more likely several times an hour if you’re a grad student at MIT). But for an Australian international student like myself, this simple action comes with a pang of homesickness. Back home in Sydney, my...

The Risks of Speaking Up

How to win a speech competition by going meta

OCT 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Ping – a new email in my inbox. It was a reminder that I had signed up for the “MIT Can Talk” Oratory Competition, taking place tomorrow. The email window stayed open for a while, waiting patiently while I was deciding whether I still wanted to participate. I had just submitted a paper for a...

From Portugal to MIT

Learning to adapt to new time management challenges

MAY 2018
School of Engineering
I have been a visiting PhD student at MIT since February, coming from a PhD program called MIT Portugal. This is a collaboration between several Portuguese universities and MIT. Some of...

What’s the PC Term for Santa?

How we overthink issues that don't deserve the time and energy that we put into them

APRIL 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
The US is often dubbed the land of the free. As someone who was raised in the Middle East, arguably a place not as free, Americans have always seemed to me to be fiercely proud that the First Amendment of their Constitution protects the freedoms of press and of speech. Many of the Americans I have...

Hurricane María’s landfall in Cambridge

Trying to focus on graduate school despite natural disaster in my home country

APRIL 2018
Biological Engineering
Moving to a new place after spending a whole life on a small island in the Caribbean was very daunting. My expectations as a first-year graduate student in New England were not out of the ordinary. I would have to adjust to a different culture, prepare for different weather (far colder than...