We arrived at the University of Chicago on July 31th, and were welcomed by green fields and blue sky. It was both weird and fantastic that the sun shone so bright but the breeze was comfortable, nothing like the burning sun in Shanghai. The temperature was comfortable and it remained that way for the following three weeks. I really hoped explore the campus, but had to save it for the later, since we needed to check in and get settled as soon as possible with the help from Jeremy, the RA.
The dormitory was big and clean with a pretty good view of the school. I could see countless Gothic buildings with scarlet roofs pointing right to the sky. The beds were soft, and definitely anyone could have a good night sleep in such a good place.
Our classes began the next day. I picked Statistics Models and Methods as well as Academic English. Statistics was not an easy subject to learn. It was all about how to analyze all the data from an experiment which involved a certain number of samples and judging whether they were supposed to be rejected. It also taught us how to get a convincing result even if the original data was not from a normal distribution. The teacher judged us according to our performance on the exams, quizzes, and homework. Homework involved team work and each member of the team got the same grade; quizzes assigned at random at the beginning of class and there were five quizzes in total; exams included a mid-term and a final, which I thought was the most difficult part, since you have to prepare for the final exam almost immediately after you finished the mid-term exam.
Although the course was not easy, I did learn a lot during it. I got to know how to collect data during an experiment, how to select the correct way to find the quantiles or means of a set of data under different circumstances, and how to reject a wrong hypothesis.
On the contrary, Academic English was much easier and more interesting. The teacher was a funny, middle-aged American man whose wife was from Shanghai. It was not like any English class I had taken before, as this course did not require us to write any exercises. Instead, all we need to do was finish some fascinating tasks he gave us and do some presentations in the last two classes.
The first task we got was exploring the campus by visiting some places he assigned and taking some photos. At first, we thought it was light, but we got it wrong. Actually, the campus was very large and the buildings there were similar, so there was no way to find so many buildings in a short time. It took me almost a whole afternoon to find just three buildings along with one statue. Though exhausting, we still enjoyed the process of searching for the unknown.
Then came the second task: neighborhood project. We were asked to explore a neighborhood in Chicago in groups of two and find something we had never seen before. My group picked Wicker Park, which was a place full of artistic atmosphere. We could see murals everywhere about everything from politics to normal people’s daily life, from the most prosperous avenue to the corner that nobody cares about. There were also shops selling fantastic hand-made hats, shoes and soap, making the whole place look like the backdrop of some old, romantic film. We also had some interviews among local people who were all super nice.
The final task asked us to explore Reddit, which was quite like a forum where you could post or comment. We were supposed to post at least one question and comment on a few questions posted by others. This one was not as interesting as the former ones, but was more challenging and helped us form a deep understanding about American culture: what Americans think, how they behave and how they organize their words.
The Statistics class taught me how to deal with numbers and the English class taught us how to handle words. Both of them are vital to our academic progress and understanding of the culture. I liked these two classes very much.
The work was not very light at all, yet we still had some time for relaxing. I visited some museums like the Industry Museum and also went shopping in the outlet stores. I took Uber mostly but also tried the trains in Chicago. I saw the wide blue sky near the Michigan Lake many times but also, by chance, encountered a vast expense of pink sky decorated with pink cotton candy-like clouds on a platform at dusk. There were always things for you to explore as long as you brought your heart.
I’ve now left the University of Chicago, but its strong academic atmosphere, the city’s unique scenery, and the super-nice people were all unforgettable.
--- by Huang Jingxian, School of Information Science and Technology