Mimi from the USA
BMS Phase I student,
BA/MA Hunter College, NY
I prepared myself to leave New York City — where I was born and raised, the place where my family and friends live, the only city I ever called home. At that point, I had seen Europe just once only a few months before for the BMS Days 2008. With a nearly blank passport and a box full of unread math textbooks, I ventured forth into the next chapter of my life.
I arrived in Berlin without speaking a word of German. I knew nearly nothing of its history or customs. I often noticed people staring at me having been the only Asian face on the train or bus. And worst of all, I was completely and utterly underprepared for what I thought would be the easiest part: the mathematics. I never realized how little I knew of my favorite subject. I felt so lost.
But I never felt alone. My fellow BMS students quickly became my best friends. We spent hours together in the libraries and cafés discussing problems. With beer in hand, we complained about the perpetually baffling German bureaucracy. We shared doubts in our futures as often as we shared words of encouragement. Together, we braved through this tough beginning.
Looking back, I know that the hardships I faced in my first several months in Germany were necessary for my current success. It took me a year before I could follow an entire lecture. But now, I even know what type of math I want to research, just in time for my qualifying exam. I am the only Phase I BMS student representative. I am also a member of the organizing committee for the “What is …?” student seminar series. Speaking German will probably take quite a bit longer, but I now live very happily and comfortably in my new home as a Berliner.
published in February 2010
Update 2015: Mimi completed Phase 1 in October 2010 with a BMS Qualifying Exam. She is now a Phase II student at TU Berlin under the supervision of Frank H. Lutz and John M. Sullivan working in computational topology. She will defend her dissertation in July 2015. From September 2015, she will be a postdoc at the University of California Davis in a joint position: a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a Krener Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics. She will be developing software for topological analysis of genomic data of breast cancer patients. She will be moving to California with her family which includes her 3-year old Berliner daughter.