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Dongrui Deng: Gaining Skills Halfway Around the World

Dongrui Deng is currently a sophomore at Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, where he majors in physics. He had never been to the U.S. until after his freshman year when he was given an opportunity to study at Columbia University. Dongrui traveled across the world this summer to spend six weeks taking classes as a visiting student at Columbia’s Summer Program for undergraduates. He hoped studying at Columbia would help him achieve a successful career in science.


What attracted you to the Columbia Summer Program?

The Columbia Summer Program provided a great opportunity for me to study at a world-famous Ivy League. I really did feel like a Columbia student when I spent my six weeks there, and I am still deeply in love with Columbia’s values and culture. Also, the program mixed incoming students with visiting students. I appreciated it because I was able to interact with actual Columbia students and ask about their experiences.


Which courses did you enroll in and what skills did you learn? 

The classes were quite a challenge for me and pulled me out of my comfort zone. I took two courses. What fascinated me was that the theoretical topics were taught in combination with real world problems. In my math course, not only did I learn the different kinds of differential equations, but I also learned how these equations help solve mechanical problems and electric circuit problems. In my statistics course, the professors taught us that statistics has a wide range of applications, such as in the economic, medical, and manufacturing industries. I also learned how to use different types of software to solve differential equations, matrices, and deal with statistics models.


What role did the professors play in your Columbia experience?

Each course had a small number of students, so I got a better chance to interact more with the professors and teaching assistants. Not only was I able to ask my professors questions about the material, but I also got to find out how they understood and viewed the subject they were teaching. The professors inspired me to work harder.  


What was your most memorable experience at Columbia?

I was surprised by the diversity at Columbia. It was my first time seeing so many students from different countries in the same classroom. It was a very precious experience because people from all around the world with different backgrounds offered different points of view on the same topic, which inspired me to think more in-depth about what we were learning.


What challenges did you face?

At first, I struggled with understanding the terminology in my classes because this was my first time in the U.S. It was my discussions with other students that helped me finally become familiar and understand the difficult terms. When I finished Columbia’s Summer Program, not only was I able to understand the class discussions, but I was also able to explain difficult math and science concepts to others. I also made appointments at Columbia’s Writing Center. As an international student, English writing was an enormous challenge for me. I encountered many obstacles when I needed to write lab reports and papers. The Writing Center helped me learn more and improve on my English writing.