《Under the tree canopy: My visionary journey》 | studychina.chinaservicesinfo.com

《Under the tree canopy: My visionary journey》

By LAILATUL FAIZAH chinadaily.com.cn Updated : 2023-12-10

Nationality: Indonesia
University:South China Normal University

Beneath the tree canopy's soft light, I'd often pause on my way to South China Normal University. These trees, though far from my Indonesian roots, cradled stories of my transformative journey.

Tree canopy near the School of Psychology [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

It all began with an unexpected acknowledgment. While trying to grasp the nuances of the Chinese language, I found myself in a lecture hall, listening intently to Professor Meng, a respected figure in the world of vision research, a Chinese-American scholar with distinguished degrees from Princeton and MIT. That day, Professor Meng, with a kind twinkle in his eyes, suddenly called out, "Everyone, please introduce yourself one by one here in the podium. Including Lili." That simple gesture and that he mentioned my name among many, made me feel seen and valued. When he posed the question to everyone, "What is psychology?" I confidently responded with its traditional definition, "Psychology is the science of studying behaviour, be it human or non-human." He concurred but also introduced me to a broader perspective: "The science of the mind". After hearing that new definition, a spark was lit within me. A year later, fueled by that very spark, I approached him about joining MengLab. His approval filled me with a mix of exhilaration and gratitude.

My initiation into MengLab was unforgettable. Although I'd heard the desks were all occupied, a kind-hearted senior unexpectedly presented me with an NFT key. This high-tech token did more than just unlock the door—it symbolized my induction into a realm of uncharted discovery. This seemingly simple gesture deeply resonated with me, emphasizing that as I embarked on this journey, I was surrounded by a supportive community.

The Hi-Tech NFT key to my study room [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In the first three semesters, psychology courses in Chinese and prepping a defence proposal challenged me deeply. Yet, whenever doubt arose, The Professor or peers were there to guide. Their faith in me, an international student, was both trust and affirmation. Motivated by this and my own aspirations, I charted my research path. I actually wasn't confident I'd pass the proposal defence. Surprisingly, a committee of four experts in cognitive psychology approved my defence proposal.

Switching to cognitive psychology was like resetting my compass. My ideas often evolved, sometimes radically, even after the proposal defence. Through all this, yet, Professor Meng, with his infinite patience and trust, steered me through my storm of doubts, teaching me the value of perseverance and focus on my research direction.

I learn the EEG experiment from my peers. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Beyond academics, Professor Meng showcased humility and warmth in surprising ways. Despite his impressive credentials, he'd invite us into his home. There, amidst bouts of video games and shared meals, we celebrated our friends' research achievements and birthdays. These gatherings weren't just about festivities but embodied the spirit of community and mutual respect.

While my journey is deeply rooted in academia, it's the everyday moments that truly capture its essence. Sharing knowledge, meals, laughter and tear, mutual trust, and the bonds we're forging form the heart of my experience. My Chinese peers, radiating warmth with their genuine smiles and unwavering integrity, transcend the bond of mere friendship. In our shared language, we affectionately address each other as 师兄 (elder brother student), 师弟 (younger brother student), 师姐 (elder sister student), and 师妹 (younger sister student), fortifying the sentiment that we are, in every sense, a family.

The campus too has its stories. My study room is a haven, where knowledge is pursued and camaraderie is felt. The tree-lined road outside is my sanctuary, a place for reflection and dreaming.

My study room [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Among the myriad experiences, it's the simple daily gestures that resonate most deeply. Every time I enter both the university’s south gate and the school of psychology gate, the security guards greet me with a heartfelt wave. And every time I leave, they're there again, offering a reassuring wave that anchors my sense of belonging. Their consistent gestures, day in and day out, serve as a poignant reminder of the warm community I've become a part of.

The tree canopy after entering the south gate [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

From my initial days as an eager international student, my journey at South China Normal University has been enlightening and transformative. Now, as I approach the final stretch of my academic journey here and look forward to my graduation, I'm filled with gratitude. I think of Professor Meng's kind gestures, the warm-hearted lab mates, and the consistent waves of the security guards, both of which have made me feel so welcomed and valued. I silently vow that, in the future, I will extend the same warmth and recognition to my students, ensuring they too feel cherished. Under the protective shade of the tree canopy, I take a moment to reflect on my journey, anticipating the day I'll share my experiences and learnings with the world.

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