"Those who have the blessing of being able to participate in international education will come to truly experience what it means to broaden their scope of the world."
As an electrical engineering student, Tammy Chang was keen to gain some research experience as she explored the option of pursuing a Ph.D. A summer program offered by the UCLA-Peking University Joint Research Institute in Science and Engineering (JRI) gave her an opportunity to not only log some hours in a laboratory, but it allowed her to log those hours more than 6,000 miles away.
“I never expected that I would be able to spend time abroad, but this scholarship combined the opportunity to do research with spending time overseas, which made it very appealing to me,” says Chang, who went to Peking University (PKU) with a dozen other UCLA students, whose majors include civil engineering; physiological science; chemistry and biochemistry; computer science; and molecular, cell and developmental biology.
The students lived in PKU’s international dorm and worked with faculty and graduate students on research projects jointly designed by their advisors at PKU and UCLA. They also participated in four-hour Chinese classes every week and took part in various sightseeing tours in and around Beijing on weekends.
Born and raised in California, Chang’s parents came to the U.S. from Taiwan, and her grandparents were from China. “As a result, I was in a sometimes peculiar position in Beijing because I did not entirely come across as fully ‘American’ from the perspective of many Chinese,” says Chang.“Nevertheless, it was ultimately this same Chinese background that allowed me to communicate and relate to the students and locals on a very personal level, in a way that I believe was very unique.”
As part of the 10-week JRI Summer Exchange Program, Chang worked with a research group advancing China's next generation 4G network. In addition, she worked independently on a Voice-over-IP scheduling algorithm. She also completed lab work with graduate students who were involved in other projects and assisted a PKU graduate student in the publication of his paper on a sensor application for seamless wireless handover on high-speed trains.
“Experiencing life as a research student in Beijing was memorable in every interaction, whether with professors, students, strangers or local friends,” says Chang. ” It was in these interactions that I truly came to understand the different background, lifestyle and mindset of the Chinese people. It is these relationships that I treasure the most.”
Now back in Westwood, she says her memories of playing badminton with PKU students in Bejing’s Olympic stadium, eating authentic Chinese meals in the school cafeterias, watching Transformers in Chinese in the campus theater, hearing her professors belt out tunes in a karaoke bar and participating in a weekend conference will be treasured forever.
“Before last summer, the expanse of my thoughts was limited to California — specifically Los Angeles. There were limitations to my ability to relate to people around me with strong cultural Chinese background, whether it was my roommates, classmates, friends or family. Now, my thoughts have been broadened beyond Los Angeles and extend to an entirely different culture on the other side of the world. Those who have the blessing of being able to participate in international education will come to truly experience what it means to broaden their scope of the world.”
The JRI is the first joint research institute between any UC campus and an overseas university. Founded in 2009, its goal is to train future science and engineering leaders who will have global perspective and to promote joint collaborative research. Also, to secure joint funding and facilitate technology transfer of collaborate research results.
Click here for the 2012 Summer Exchange Program.