Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to email@example.com.
1) Hi Haifeng, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies?
Hi, my name is Haifeng Liu, I’m from a small city called Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) which located in Southeast China. My hometown is remarkable for its cultural and natural landscape. There are two world heritages, one is Yellow Mountain, another title is shared by two ancient villages (Xidi and Hongcun). I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Science and Technology Beijing, one of the top universities in Mining, Metallurgy, Material and the History of Science and Technology in China. One of the former presidents of my university and my institute’s founder’s uncle both graduated from Lehigh. I’m studying Archaeometallurgy, which combined archaeology and material science together. Also, I’m doing research on conservation science and traditional handicrafts. I’m now a CSC visiting scholar at Lehigh working with Prof. Notis in the Department of Material Science and Engineering.
I have two research programs now, one is my PhD program --- “Research on metallurgical ceramic used on cast iron smelting furnaces in Imperial China”, another one is a cooperative program with Lehigh University called “Comparison of metal casting methods between Pre-Columbian South America (Moche and Chimu) with early Chinese lost wax casting techniques”. Both researches are trying to find the process people create, use, change and abandon certain technique in ancient times and to understand the technological, political, economic and social reasons behind the process.
Haifeng doing an excavation at an archaeological site.
2) So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The people? Your housing?
Lehigh is a great place. I know Lehigh for a while, it was in 2010 when I attended Lehigh summer school at my university, I remembered that the first day people showed the pictures of this beautiful campus and its long history with China and USTB, I fell in love with Lehigh immediately. I’m so glad that I’m now a member of the Lehigh community. I love the campus, I’ve been to Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston college, Boston University, Northeastern, Brandeis, Brown, Yale, Columbia, NYU, UPenn, Princeton, UCLA and UC Berkeley, and I think Lehigh campus is the most beautiful, unique and traditional one among them. The only shortcoming is the neighborhood around Lehigh is not as good as those universities. My favorite building is Linderman library for its brilliant dome. Prof. Notis is an old friend of my institute and a new friend of mine, we have wonderful time on working and discussing, also we have no problem on having fun together. I know Prof. Dongning Wang since 2010, she really helped me a lot on understanding American culture and communication. Also, the staff at the Office of International Students and Scholars are always helpful and friendly. It feels like at home. I’m living close to campus square so I have a lot of chances to attend campus events. I shared the apartment with different people in the different periods, most of them are also visiting students or scholars.
3) What is your daily life like at Lehigh?
I spent nearly nine months here, and more than three months at MIT. Most of my time here is spent on analyzing data, collecting and reading literatures, and writing papers. Sometimes, I sit in several classes. I always go to the Archaeometallurgy lab to polish samples and observe the microstructure. Also, I meet with Prof. Notis and Dr. Dongning Wang to discuss questions every Tuesday and sometimes on Thursday. Every weekday at Lehigh is very full. I usually attend school events, friend’s parties, travelling to other places in PA, NY and NJ, and shopping on the weekends.
4) So in this short new journey of discovering America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you discovered or learned about the American culture
American culture is totally different from that of China and sometimes the understanding is depends on the people you met. I would like to say I feel more independent here, which means it’s not always crowded and nobody will observe you. I’ve been to several classes and even had a chance to observe classes in the middle school. I found students here are more self-centered and confident, and they always feel free to describe themselves and do things they like. It’s hard to say whether people here are more open-minded or conserved because I met people from both sides. And, I’m not sure if it’s my problem on communication, but I was trying very hard for sure.
So, language is really important. I found it’s much easier to involve in when you can speak English in a better way. What people think “strange” is because they don’t understand and they don’t want to discover what you say and what you do. I think the states don’t have the “guest culture”, so it’s your job to learn how to express and behave yourself, nobody will teach you and ignore your mistake because you are a “guest”. Also, the work and study habit in the states seems much “noise” and free style.
5) What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?
Though the food and the festivals are very different, I think it’s the people’s thought that the most difference thing among American and Chinese culture. For example, I always make a very detailed plan before go somewhere, however, I feel anxious when I travel with American students, because they don’t always plan carefully and what they say is only “don’t worry”.
Chinese people do not want to “show” themselves at any time, especially negative feelings, instead of hiding a lot of things in their mind. Here, people express them more freely and it seems that people are “simpler”. But, sometimes people express themselves so exaggerated that I feel they are so fake.
Also, many American people really have fun in the weekends and holidays, a lot of parties, travelling and games, I like the time when you really relax. But, in China, have a full sleep is the most luxurious thing in the weekends.
6) Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.
Mostly I spend two weekdays in my office and lab at USTB from 8:30am to 10:00pm, doing experiments, analyzing data, reading and writing. And, I spend another three weekdays at Peking University (I have another advisor who works there), doing the same thing. I usually have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the dinning hall. I spend most weekends with my girlfriend or other friends. When we have a gathering, we always go to a restaurant, eating and drinking a lot. Sometimes, we shop, watch movies in the theatre or sing in the KTV.
7) What are your hobbies? Interests?
I love reading history, geography books and maps. I also love travelling and climbing hills. I’ve visited 25 provinces in China (34 in total), 12 states in the states (not just passing by) and some other foreign countries. I hope my next destination will be India.
8) What kinds of adventures have you been on here in the US?
I was in Boston in the summer 2014, my friend and I went to a big lake called Winnipesaukee for the weekend. We lived in his friend’s cabin on an island and we played a game which I forget the name. Basically, it was a game that let the yacht drag you on the water, the speed was really fast and it was hard to hold the rope when the yacht turned around. Actually, I’m the one that held on for the longest time. I think it’s because I’m light and I know how to control my body using my legs.
9) What kinds of adventures have you been on in your home country?
Bungee jumping, horrible.
10) What do you miss most about your home country?
I miss my family and girlfriend, and the food a lot.
11) If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?
China is full of beauty and surprising. It depends on your available date and interests before telling you what to do. If you just have a short time and interested to see Chinese royal architecture, just pick up Beijing, you will see the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and hutong (regular streets in Ming and Qing dynasty in the capital). I lived here since 2005 and I helped to organize the 2010-2012 Lehigh summer schools at Beijing, I would like to show you around if you needed it. Also, Beijing is a city has all kinds of food, you can taste different styles from all over China.
If you are interested in classic cultural, south China is better. Jiang nan region which include Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Suzhou, Nanjing and Yangzhou are famous for their gardens and operas. My hometown (Huangshan, ancient name was Huizhou) is very nearby this region, and also has the most classic villages and culture.
If you are interested in natural landscape, I think Yunnan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Sichuan have the most exiting views. Yunnan is also a good place to observe diverse China.
If you are interested in modern China, Shanghai is a good choice. And, don’t forget take the high speed train between Beijing and Shanghai, it won’t cost you more than 100 dollars.
Except Beijing and my hometown, the best city I want to suggest is Chengdu, you can find a lot of information on line easily.
By the way, I love the TV program called “Wild China” promoted by BBC, you can find some interesting points of Chinese landscape from it.