This is the key to another world-one year experience from an international Columbia College Chicago student

My name is Elaine and I am an exchange student from China. I have been a student worker in Scientists for Tomorrow (SFT) for one year. Now it is time for me to say goodbye to this nice family and I want to tell you the story between me and SFT. Actually working in SFT was not in my plan. One day an associate professor, Marcelo Caplan came to International Student Office and asked, “is there anyone want to work with us? ” I raised my hands without hesitation, then as you expect, I was here.

Although I was not mentor, the teaching way of SFT totally changed my opinion about education. In SFT, faculty and staff would teach students the principle first, and make them use these principles to do invention. Children would have a space and time to do the science work under professional instruction. As a student who has received 15 years of Chinese spoon-feed and examination-oriented education, I had never experienced this kind of hands-on activities. The goal of teaching is to inspire us not to push. I just want to say that the teenagers are so lucky to have well-designed program.

In some sense, SFT changed myself too. Everyone had enough freedom to do their job and any creative work would be respected. My job here was to shoot and edit the activity video. In China, I could only do what my boss told me to do and I was like a working machine. But here, Marcelo told me that I was an artist not a worker, which was totally different from China. There was no stereotype and everyone enjoyed their creative work. Then I began to think about my life. I could do whatever I want instead of being told to do something. During winter and spring break, I went to Peru and Morroco without knowing any words about Spanish and French. It was a big challenge, but it was worth. And I learnt the real meaning of “freedom.”

Studying abroad was lonely but people in SFT made me feel at home. They were so kind and eager to help me. At first my English speaking was not so good, but Evelyn Oropeza, Coordinator of Community Engagement at Columbia College Chicago, still listened to me carefully every time. Martin Bayang, a film student and my video partner, would help me whenever I had problem about editing. Dave Morton, Director of Visualization Lab, and Marcelo Caplan would give me suggestion when I finished one video. I was so lucky to have these people standing by me and working together. Before I came to America I was introverted and did not like to talk to people, now I prefer talking with people all around the world. When I was Morroco, I made a local friend on the first day and he told me about Islam culture the whole night. In my last day of travelling, he invited me to attend a local wedding and I witnessed the real Morroco, which was the best part about travelling.

Two semester is too short for me to stay with these lovely people. I have learned how to talk to people, enjoyed my own life and how education looked like. I will remember the time in SFT forever. What I want to say is, you will not regret to join STF.

My local friend Ismeil and Me, 2017 in Morroco



Martin Bayang and Me worked on 2016 Community Partners Meeting