My First Ever Two (and a half) Months Living at UC. Part 1: People That Make UC

My two gigantic luggage was packed with clothes, personal accessories, and nearly everything else I had. My parents took me to the airport. Before the security check-in, I said my last goodbye to my parents. I took an 8-hour transit flight to Narita, Japan, and a 12-hour direct flight to O’Hare, Chicago. I arrived at UC at 1 am, and I settled down in my designated room for quarantine (there were still Covid travel restrictions back then). Quoted from my diary: “All too swift, I am now on my own, taking responsibility for all of the decisions I make about my academics and life”.

It has been two months since my first arrival in Cincinnati. Two months seem short, but the new experiences I have had are unparalleled. This series of blogs will walk you through my current life at UC and everything I have learned, experienced, and observed.

I. Professors

Studying in person allowed me to realize how friendly and down-to-earth my Professors were, despite their much respected academic status and the stereotypical view from society. Most of them were truly enthusiastic about their subject. I usually tried to ask my Professors questions, not exactly to seek their answers, but to find an excuse to hang around with them a bit more after class.

My Physics Professor, Dr. Esposito, loved talking about Physics, and he did not mind at all when students came to him and asked a completely irrelevant Physic problem. Right after my first class in the semester, he, another student, and I were walking in Braunstein Hall and discussing a theoretical problem in special relativity. Another time, he told us a story about his graduate school and how he met a Physics prodigy. “My classmate was Japanese. He was 16, and he earned the highest grade in my graduate class. Everyone learns differently,” said he, excitedly.

My other favorite Professor is Dr. Holland. Try searching her name on Google. I did, and I was awestruck. She had her own Wikipedia page. She was among the founding members of the Biomedical Engineering program at UC. She had thousands of citations for her previous research. Yet she was by no means condescending. She cared about the success of her students; in every lecture, she put her full energy into making sure everyone understood the materials. Therefore, she had very high expectations for us. Our written report was filled with red marks and comments, as she corrected even the smallest capitalization error. She was also very friendly. Once, our group met in a conference room right next to her office. In the middle of the meeting, she walked by and gave each of us a piece of chocolate.

My fall semester classes so far have been going on well. Most of us don’t realize how nice our Professors are until we meet them outside the class. After all, they became who they are today because they enjoy teaching students and guiding them to their success. The prefix (Dr.) in front of their name is, after all, only a prefix; what’s more important is how we build a good relationship with them.

II. International Friends

“I used to think Kazakhstan is only as big as Vietnam!” said I foolishly, when my Kazakh friend, Aruka, showed me her country on the map: it was literally 10 times bigger than Vietnam. Since my arrival on campus, I have met people from all continents around the world. On the badminton court, I met a nationally-competitive badminton Indian guy and a post-doc student from Egypt. In my International Student Ambassador team, I befriended Yasmeen, a pre-med Lebanese student, with whom I worked to manage this blog website, and all other Ambassadors from many different places in the world. In the dining hall, I came across students from Taiwan, Peru, Brazil, and more.

What I find more interesting, though, is that many of my American friends are actually second generations; their parents or grandparents are immigrants to the US. Even though their lifestyle is more or less Americanized, they add to the cultural diversity UC boasts. One of my roommates (yep, I have 6 roommates) is a second-generation Belgium-American guy; his grandparents moved to the US when his father was a young child. After my community service hour at a poetry reading group one evening, on the way back to my dorm, I talked with another volunteer at the event. Initially, I approached her because she was in my major and she was a junior; I soon found out that her parents were Iraqi.

Country Pumpkins, organized by UC International. The people you see in this photo are from the US, India, Guinea, and Uzbekistan
This is Samuel, my guy from Biomedical Engineering. He’s from Ghana. “Hey Samuel, if you’re reading this blog, we should need to have a picture that you take off your mask!”
and this is Aruka, she’s also a Biomedical Engineering student. She’s from Kazakhstan

I appreciate the cultural diversity at UC. Do not let the numbers on the Internet fool you (“70% of students at UC are white”) because the international student community here is huge. I find it very interesting, how, despite the immense cultural and geographical differences of the nationalities, we all can become a close-knit community. We share the same goal: of studying in the US and grinding our way through the fun and the hardship to earn a degree from a US university. There will be some challenges to familiarize myself with this culturally rich environment; yet, what in return are new experiences and insights from people I will never have an opportunity to meet if I never leave my country.

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