A 2-hour workshop for students from a variety of academic disciplines to get to know each other and develop new ideas together.

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Background

Carnegie Mellon University has an incredible community of scholars — scientists and artists, builders and theorists, historians and futurists, and many more in-between — who push boundaries of knowledge in a variety of academic fields. This multidisciplinary landscape creates unique opportunities for collaboration, which is manifested in the broad range of inter-departmental faculty appointments and research centers.

While interdisciplinary is a highlighted feature of CMU, there exist many barriers for students in the beginning of their academic journey to pursue intellectual curiosity across different schools and departments. For undergraduates who are absorbed by their demanding major requirements, it is not always easy to cross paths with students in other disciplines and have meaningful collaborations with them. For those who do venture into interdisciplinary majors, there is often a sense of in-betweenness — being stuck between academic silos, not feeling supported and comfortable in any individual community. …

“When one remembers in an adopted language, there is a dividing line in that remembrance. What came before could be someone else’s life; it might as well be fiction.” — Yiyun Li

In the spring of 2018, I spent a week in a hospital. I was not allowed to use my phone, so conveniently I did not inform my family of the news. After a few days’ persuasion from my ward-mates, I decided to give my mother a call. A nurse took me to an office and gave me my phone. Cracked screen. Many unread messages. Already anxious, I initiated a voice call with my parents on WeChat. She picked up. “喂,妈妈。” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, a shield was erected between me and the nurse watching over me, who is American and couldn’t understand what I was saying. This shield only protected me from one side. On the other side, I was left bare with my own voice speaking in my mother tongue. I heard myself telling my mom what I was supposed to tell: I was admitted to a hospital because of mental condition. I was okay. The school officials knew. I was being smart about it and I would be out soon. Piecing these words together in Chinese and pushing them out of my throat gave me a visceral discomfort. …

This blogpost stems from my personal experience and a few friends’ anecdotes. It is not intended to represent any universal experience, of international students or any other group.

In winter 2018, I went out for dinner with my friends G and L. We were all international students in the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. L came from Beijing just like me, while G was from Taipei. At school, we have little chance to speak Chinese, so we appreciated times like this where we could talk in the language we grew up speaking.

We went to a small Chinese restaurant right off campus. The waiters greeted us in Chinese right off the bat. We sat down and started chatting away. The conversation almost inevitably went to the topic of post-graduation plans. L was in her last semester at the university. I was a Junior, and G was in his second to last year in the graduate program. It was about time for us to start making specific plans for our future as well. With a Drama degree, the obvious place to search for jobs is in theater. But, the competition for jobs in this field is extremely fierce. For international students like us, the scope is even more limited because of our numerous visa restrictions. …

About

Joyce Wang 王心怡

haello. 胆小社畜. joycewang.me

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