My Summer Experience at Columbia

    By Nathan HON   

        My name is Nathan and I will be sharing my experience in math in the course I took at Columbia University. I am from Hong Kong and I go to school at Hong Kong International School. I am currently in grade 10 and my favorite subjects are math and science. This is the first time I am writing on the LearnerThon website.

        Columbia is a school in the northern part of Manhattan in New York City, USA. It was founded in 1754 and it is an Ivy League school. It has been ranked by Crimson Education as the 5th best Ivy League university in the United States. Columbia also has a very reputable Math Program and that’s one of the reasons why I went there for summer school. I have been to New York back in 2019, but I have never been to Columbia before. It was my first time going to a summer school in New York.

        The course that I took was known as “Math in the Real World”. As the name suggests, it teaches how math can be used in real life and how it relates to other subjects. This course was taught by a math professor who is also from New York. Some of the topics include graphs, combinatorics, number theory, probability, and financial mathematics. The most interesting to me were probability and financial mathematics, as I found these topics to be useful in real life situations and easier to understand. For example, the concept of Time Value of Money is particularly meaningful as I learned that the current value of the same amount of cash is different from that of the past and the future.

        The summer camp was a 3-week-long program from Monday to Friday, 11am to 5pm. On the first day, I was confused on where I was going and was amazed at how big the campus was. This is because it is located in Manhattan, which is usually a very crowded place. The other students and I who were participating in the summer camp first went into the auditorium for an orientation, where the program leaders gave all the details about the campus, summer camp, and rules around the campus. After that, some of the students there guided me around the campus as I was told to head to the math building but had no idea where it was located. The class had around 15 students, most of whom were rising 11th and 12th graders. As a rising 10th grader, I hadn’t taken Advanced Algebra yet and was one of the youngest students in the class. Since I was the youngest and most inexperienced, I felt a little nervous going into the class.

        In addition to feeling nervous, I also had a bit of trouble understanding some of the topics. I overcame this by asking the professor questions during lunch time, which helped me to keep up with the pace of the other students. By doing this and asking questions during the class as well, I was able to improve in my “Math in the Real World” course and attain a better understanding of the topics. As I’m currently a 10th grader and taking Advanced Algebra, I realize now that this summer program gave me a sneak peek at some of the topics I am learning this year.

        Outside the classroom, I was also experiencing the people and the food of New York City like I never had before. Contradictory to what most people would think, I found the people there generally quite nice. Everywhere I went, someone smiled and told me to have a good day. On the food and drinks side, bubble tea is very popular among students in Columbia. I also enjoyed bubble tea. There was a shop on the corner of 112th Street that I went to once every three to four days. There is a wide range of food choices, including New York pizza, Shake Shack, Panda Express, and chicken noodle soup. I had never eaten at Panda Express before, but my parents suggested I try it. The first time I went there, I didn’t know what type of restaurant it was, and it took me a few minutes to understand the fast-food structure. Soon, I was going there every day for lunch. It was my favorite restaurant to visit during the summer program.

        In conclusion, I had a great summer experience at Columbia and gained a lot of knowledge about math and about New York City itself. I enjoyed learning about the different math topics that were useful in real life situations, and then also about the hidden side of New York City I had never seen before. I would recommend any fellow student to take a similar course at a university so that they might improve their math skills that can be used in their own life, gain a better understanding of their passions, and learn more about themselves. They can also have a taste of how university education and life is like.

        Next, I am looking to share something about the formation of the universe, stars and the solar system, which I learned during my favorite “Earth and Space Science” class. Please stay tuned.

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