Scholarship Winners

Qihan Ren: Knowing what you want makes you fearless of challenges

Self-portrait: Student major in Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute. Once studied in Ningbo Xiaoshi High School. Winner of the National Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Unwittingly, I have spent more than one year in the Joint Institute. With this experience, I’m pretty sure that it has been a right choice to study at JI. The free and international atmosphere at JI presents me endless possibilities in the future. Besides, all kinds of opportunities and challenges have made me more independent and tough.

Plan ahead — Never fight unprepared battles

In the summer of 2018, after short elation of being admitted by the Joint Insitute, I felt more confused and worried about the unknown campus life. An imminent challenge was the all-English teaching style at JI. My sense told me that the summer vacation after Gaokao should not be wasted. Therefore, I signed up for a TOEFL class, which I thought would not only improve my English skills, but also save me time of TOEFL learning in the future. The TOEFL class had a tight schedule and very heavy workload. Every day, I just switched between taking classes, practicing problem sets and remembering words. Sometimes I had to stay up until midnight just to finish my daily homework. Once in a while, when I saw my high school classmates sharing their travel photos in Moments, I would be a little envious and regretful. But it turned out that my effort was not useless. It only took me more than a week to get used to the pace of all-English teaching. Also, while many students were still struggling for TOEFL, I already got an ideal score.

Over the last year, in addition to TOEFL preparation, my participation in the Student Science, Technology and Innovation Association (SSTIA) and the Student Union, and my enrollment in the Winter Program were also planned ahead. “Knowing what to do” is seemingly simple, but it is not. I hope I can have a clearer plan for my future and achieve my goals step by step.

Down to earth — GPA is a bonus, not a goal

I have been down-to-earth in my study all the way through, and I got the first place in GPA after my freshman year. I don’t know when “good at study” and “high GPA” came to me as solid labels. But I keep reminding myself: GPA is not the point, it’s what you learned that matters. I never made a score of A as my goal because it would be tiring. Also, an A or even A+ cannot guarantee anything. Actually, when we have a very clear understanding of the knowledge, high score sometimes comes uninvited.
I have been trying to make a reasonable schedule for my campus life, in order to maintain my study quality and a good academic performance while participating in a variety of activities. I also try to be productive at all times, regarding staying up as a last resort and an excuse to be unproductive and time-wasting. Even so, there are still incidents that may upset my prearranged schedule. For example, in the course Intro to Engineering in the first semester, I devoted a huge amount of time and energy to our project, but the progress was not satisfactory. The project installation could not run properly even until the very day of the EXPO. Fortunately, my teammates and I did not give up and we finally succeeded in debugging until half an hour after the EXPO began. Thanks to this miracle, our group finally won the “Best Performance Award” of the freshman group in the EXPO.
Besides my studies, I also take an active part in extra-curricular activities. In the first semester of my freshman year, I became a volunteer of SSTIA. I was deeply attracted by the quality of “freedom, equality and innovation” of this association, and I continued to contribute my own light and heat to it. In the spring of my freshman year, I published three posts about VR in the JI Science column on the official WeChat account of SSTIA,which not only popularizes knowledge to other students, but also endows me with a deeper understanding of VR. I also participated in the preparation of the Freshman Mechanical Competition. In this process, I got familiar with many students and seniors of SSTIA, and felt a strong sense of belonging. I would assert without hesitation that the greatest harvest of my experience in SSTIA is to meet these like-minded people.
When I became a sophomore, I was fortunate to be elected as the vice chairman of SSTIA. I began to contribute to the scientific innovation of the institute at a higher level. We found that there were many laboratories in our institute, but few students knew about them. Therefore, we made it one of the goals of SSTIA to bridge between undergraduate students and research laboratories. After that, we started talking to some professors about their labs, their willingness to enroll undergraduate students, and the background knowledge needed to get on the project. These kinds of information will be good reference for undergraduate students who aim to do research in the future.

Look far into the world — Experience the cultural collision in the Winter Program

When I was in high school, I went to Aachen, the sister city of my hometown Ningbo, for study tours. Germany left me a great impression during my short stay. Therefore, when I knew there was a winter program at Technische Universitaet Berlin (TUB), I signed up without thinking twice. The courses arranged by TUB were in small class teaching. Compared with classes at home, the atmosphere in TUB was more active, with various classroom activities. Interestingly, we were taught German by German itself, and we had to understand the meaning through gestures at the beginning, which really challenged us.

During the one-month study tour in Germany, I became more independent and realized the differences between different cultures. Germans are generally precise, serious and attentive to details, which really impressed me. Once on a bus to Munich, one student sneezed without covering his nose and mouth. An elderly teacher immediately came and gave him a reminder. Little details like this, which we don’t usually pay attention to at home, have become rules to be observed by Germans.
During the Winter Program, I also made a special trip to Aachen to visit my buddy Alex, who had hosted me when I was in high school. It has been almost three years since I knew him, during which we kept in touch without interruption. I sincerely hope that the transnational friendship will always continue in the future.

There is still a long way to go in life, and we are bound to face various uncertainties and challenges in study, work and life. But I firmly believe that as long as we keep planning ahead, keep down-to-earth and look far into the world, our future will be full of opportunities and fruitful.