The following is an interview with Zhengyang Feng, an Olin exchange student from the University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute.
Zhengyang comes to Olin with a solid foundation in Computer Science and is in his senior year. His hope for studying at Olin was an experience that would challenge him, help him build new skills under project-based education, and broaden his perspective on engineering.
Tell us about how you found Olin and why you wanted to study here?
I found Olin on the list of Global Engineering 3 website – GE3 is a consortium of elite engineering colleges and universities all over the world. I knew I wanted to study in the United States, and the description of Olin was very appealing. I was also familiar with a computer science faculty member from his books.
Can you tell us a little about your university in China?
Jiao Tong University was started by the Chinese (Qing) government. “Jiao Tong” means “transportation” and it was the Department of Transportation that created the school. Joint Institute is an engineering school founded by both University of Michigan and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Can you tell us about your academic experience at Olin?
It has been very positive. I am taking mostly computer science courses. Unlike at my university, the projects are designed with the user in mind and the group work is better organized at Olin.
What about life outside the classroom? Have you felt welcome at Olin?
People have been very friendly. I really like the living accommodations – the dorm is nicer than my housing in Shanghai.
Have you done any traveling?
I have visited New York City, which is like Shanghai only bigger! I have never seen a park in a city like Central Park. I also love the diversity of food there!
What has been your favorite meal in the US?
I had oysters at one of the coolest restaurants in Boston. Neptune Oyster is located in Boston’s north end. They have big delicious lobster rolls and oysters. It’s a very popular restaurant. I also went to a good Japanese restaurant in Natick, MA.
When you think about why you came to the US to study, have you achieved what you set out to do?
Yes, my courses are what I was looking for at Olin and I think my English has greatly improved. I will be coming back to the U.S. for graduate school in August.
When you think about American culture, is there anything you find weird or hard to understand?
I don’t understand names in the United States. Names have no meaning. In China, parents combine Chinese characters to make names that express their hopes and dreams for their child’s future. And names have so many meanings [here] – one example is Washington. Washington is a last name (of a U.S. president), a street in many different cities and towns and also a state. It’s confusing!
Is there something in Chinese culture you would like to share with your fellow Olin classmates?
Monkey King is a fictional character from a very popular novel in China called The Journey to the West. I think Monkey King (whose Chinese name is 孙 悟 空 Sun Wukong) is like Superman in America. He is very famous! In this picture of him, can you find the 3 characters of his name?
Would you encourage your classmates to visit you [in Shanghai]?
Yes, definitely. I can show them all around Shanghai where I go to school and also my hometown Wuxi – a city not far from Shanghai. They will need to come for one or two weeks. I live near a large scenic lake called Tai Lake, and it’s very beautiful.
Can you find these Chinese characters in this picture of Monkey King?
孙 悟 空