Editor’s Note: Krin Muangsiri, known as “Ken” to his classmates, is a sophomore student from Thailand at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute (UM-SJTU JI, JI hereafter). The following story about Krin unfolds, revealing his unwavering dedication to the study of mechanical engineering and his diverse endeavors outside the classroom. Through his lens, we witness the fusion of academic excellence with cultural exploration, showcasing the transformative power of international education.

From Bangkok to Shanghai: A pursuit of excellence

To Krin Muangsiri, who secured a prestigious first-class scholarship to fuel his aspirations of overseas study, his journey to JI from Bangkok to Shanghai in 2022 was not merely a quest for education but a deliberate choice to immerse himself in an international melting pot while embracing the rich cultural tapestry of China.

“I chose to study at JI because I wanted to pursue my education in China while still being part of an international community. JI was my top choice because of its diverse international community and strong engineering curriculum. Additionally, being located in Shanghai was an added bonus. The city’s bustling atmosphere provides me with the opportunity to immerse myself in Chinese culture and language while pursuing my academic goals,” Krin shares.

A dynamic and fulfilling JI experience

Krin’s academic voyage at JI has been marked by rigorous courses, fueling his passion for Mechanical Engineering under the mentorship of esteemed professors like Dr. Shane Johnson. One standout experience was his team’s VG100 final project, where they innovated the “Integrated Honeycomb Structural Fuse for Construction Hats,” earning recognition of a Best Performance Award at the 2023 Design Expo of the joint institute.

Krin receives the design expo award from Professor Johnson.

“The courses I took at JI were definitely more rigorous than I had imagined, pushing me to my limits of discipline and perseverance,” Krin remarks. “My favorite course in my freshman year was VG100-Introduction to Engineering with Professor Shane Johnson. It was my first introduction to mechanical engineering, where I learned to 3D model using CAD software, 3D print, and conduct impact testing using load cells, among other skills.”

He also engages in independent research with Professor Johnson and sophomore student Weijie Soo, working on custom foot braces for patients with flat feet and Achilles tendinitis. “This research delves deep into the world of soft robotics and advanced manufacturing. Beyond the mechanical aspect, I gain hands-on experience in building and debugging electrical circuits. Additionally, I utilize C++ to construct a user-friendly GUI to control the entire system.”

Outside of academics, Krin is actively involved in various extracurricular activities. As Vice President of the JI International Student Association (ISA), he leads a team to organize various social and cultural events like Thanksgiving and Game Night, aiming to foster strong relationships among students from different batches and diverse backgrounds. As a member of the SJTU Men’s Volleyball Team, he spends 10 hours a week practicing with his Chinese teammates to enhance his volleyball skills as well as his Mandarin proficiency level.

Krin Muangsiri takes a photo with ISA members during a Thanksgiving event.

To Krin, his life on the spacious SJTU Minhang campus has been fulfilling. “During a typical day, I have classes in the morning and afternoon. Afterwards, I like to refresh my mind by exercising, such as playing volleyball or tennis, or going to the gym. At night, I usually study at the Yu Liming Student Center to finish my homework or work on my research project in the Graduate Research Labs on the second floor of the Long Bin Building.”

Krin plays volleyball for SJTU in a match held on campus.

He also enjoys his life out of campus in Shanghai and other parts of China. “I think Shanghai is more international than other provinces in China, you can see a lot more foreigners walking around. What impressed me the most is how many Chinese accents and dialects I have encountered through my time of traveling around China. It gave me a sense of how big China is and how culturally diverse each region is.”

Krin at the Tianzhu Mountain in Anhui Province

Krin at a ski resort in Harbin of Heilongjiang Province

Lessons for journey of growth

However, Krin’s journey as an international student hasn’t been devoid of challenges. He candidly acknowledges the hurdles posed by language and cultural barriers, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and cultural immersion.

“My main challenge is communicating with Chinese students due to language barriers,” Krin admits. “I’ve found it difficult to form close friendships with them, mainly because of my limited fluency in Mandarin.”

Amidst Shanghai’s dynamic environment, Krin Muangsiri’s journey continues—a testament to the opportunities available to those who embrace diverse experiences. “An important lesson I learned from studying here is the importance of prioritization. I now understand the value of choosing only a few activities at a time and dedicating myself fully to excel in them,” he said.

Looking ahead, the Thai student who plans to work in Shanghai after graduation offers valuable insights to prospective international students, emphasizing the significance of hard work in addition to language acquisition and cultural assimilation. “I would advise them to be ready for hard work and tears when they come to the SJTU campus. The late nights spent on lab reports might not seem worthwhile at first, but they help build confidence. You’ll see that pushing yourself can lead to achieving more than you thought possible.”