Week 8: My Challenge
This summer, I really wanted a challenge. I wanted to do something I had never done before, and so… I ended up in Germany. I had never learned in German before, had little to no knowledge of German culture, and couldn’t even tell you which city I was going to be living in. I wasn’t going to Europe as part of a program, and really just had no idea what was ahead of me. I remember sitting on the plane, a few hours before departure, and all I kept asking myself was “what have I gotten myself into?”
Two and a half months later, I’m sitting in the comfort of my own home, reflecting on my time in Germany, the times I stayed late in the lab analyzing data, the times my coworkers and I laughed and talked over jumbo cocktail drinks until midnight, and the times I spent traveling around Europe with just my loyal red backpack and a folded map. So what was a challenge for me?
stay, I would feel like I was getting the hang of buying food before the stores closed and gathering data for my experiments without forgetting a step, but every day there was always something that I hadn’t learned. I didn’t know that the side street got to my lab a little faster than my usual route. I didn’t know that the cashier was asking me whether or not I wanted a receipt. I didn’t know that turning off my monitor didn’t really affect my light-dark experiments. There was a lot that I didn’t know.
Just a couple of short anecdotes:
Every Monday at lab, we have presentations; on my very first Monday I learned that apparently one doesn’t clap after a presentation; rather you’re supposed to knock on the table, a sound that when done by everyone in the room makes a solid
resonating applause, much more august than the clapping I was used to. These things I learned fast.
In my experiments, it wasn’t until my last week in Germany, that I realized that I hadn’t fully understood how to calibrate the position of the laser. I had seen it done before, but when I needed to do it on my own, I wasn’t entirely sure how to turn the knob to get what I wanted. Some things you just don’t learn fast enough.
Overall though, it was the mistakes and challenges that made the most lasting impact. I am really grateful to the lab for giving me the attention I needed but also giving me the chance to work individually and to design my own experiments. If not for the trust that they put in me in using their lab and the risks I took on my travels throughout Europe, I wouldn’t be sitting here today with such a different perspective on physics research and world cultures.
About the Blogger
Pin-Wen Wang is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Harvard (class of 2014). This summer Pin-WenPin-Wen will be studying light’s affect/effect on Nanoparticles at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. When she's not trying to figure out why there are so many e's in "engineer", Pin-Wen likes to play frisbee, cook, and try new foods from all over the world. Her favorite color is orange, and it's unlikely you'll forget that when you see her walking across Harvard Yard in the winter with her bright orange puffer jacket.