All of us know that every transition in our lives is significant. In addition to excitement, we may feel that life becomes harder at the very beginning when we go to a new school for a higher level of education. I was overwhelmed for nearly the entire first semester since I did not reposition myself in a brand-new environment here at the University of Michigan. In other words, sometimes I had inaccurate positioning and impracticable expectations on myself.
It is not uncommon that students can underestimate or overestimate their abilities because of several reasons. One of the most important reasons is that we have not adapted to do that thing and we neglect the degree of difficulty. For instance, although we have received many years of schooling, most of us are not very familiar with the requirements and criteria of college-level courses or graduate-level courses before we start. So If some students are good at taking examinations but not writing papers, they need to leave extra time to prepare for some compulsory courses that require them to submit a final paper as the main source of the final grade. Otherwise, it is very possible that these students can be surprised that the result is not very desirable. Similarly, language as well as teaching style can inevitably influence your learning experience as international students, and you need to evaluate different factors that can be different from your former schooling for a great start.
Take myself as an example, I underestimated myself for nearly half a year. I compared myself with other students in my department, felt that I was not as good as others, and ignored the fact that I did not study education as my major when I was an undergraduate student and English is not my native language. In fact, some Ph.D. students have studied more years than me and it is reasonable that they know more background knowledge and research methods in my field. Also, 47 of 49 students in my cohort are American students and they can read and write faster than me. It made me think that I was stupid at the beginning, but eventually, I understand that it does not mean I cannot be a good researcher in the future.
At last, I find two helpful approaches to solve the problem of repositioning myself. The first one is the cognitive adjustment, and the second one is taking effective actions. With regard to cognitive adjustment, I told myself that it is clear that the admission office did not make the mistake when they decided to send me the admission letter. Then I realized that I should have reasonable expectations and give myself adequate time to adjust and succeed. What is more, it is good to think about my career plan and know that GPA or other standards cannot tell everything, I should focus on learning knowledge and skills rather than grade. In terms of taking effective actions, I find resources on campus are really helpful. Every time I was not satisfied with my writing, I made an appointment with an instructor at the Sweetland Center for Writing to help me revise the paper. In addition, I decided to keep my own schedule instead of pushing myself to study like some other students who would like to study late at night in the library.
In a nutshell, it is very important to know yourself and the university. Don’t push yourself too hard and enjoy the process of growth!
Written by Peilin Qiu
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor