My First Long Solo Journey
(Part 1 – Leaving Taiwan)
In August of 1957 I received the visa from the American Embassy in Taipei, Taiwan to come to the US to pursue graduate study at the University of Maryland. I had just received my Bachelor of Science degree from the Physics department of National Taiwan University (NTU) in June of the same year.
During our senior year, many of us co-ed seniors had written numerous letters to American universities to apply for assistantship or fellowship in their graduate school. If a person majored in Engineering or Science and had adequate grades, the chance of getting an assistantship was quite good, for the American universities had begun to recognize the quality of the students from Taiwan. Also, the universities needed more cheap manpower to grade the papers and to help with the laboratory classes. (Unfortunately, liberal art majors had almost no chance of receiving any financial assistance from American universities.)
The application procedure consisted of providing the universities with four years of academic transcript records and two to three letters of recommendation from the professors.
Now a confession: All the recommendation letters to American universities were composed by the students themselves and their professors simply signed them. One thing that students had to watch for was that identical or similar letters did not go to the same department of the same university. There were many beautifully written recommendation letters flying around the seniors, all extremely impressive with every student sounding both smart and hardworking.
Luckily, NTU did consist of the cream of the crop of all college students at that time. The words in the recommendation letters might have tended towards exaggeration, but the students were indeed above average.
On the other hand, the quality of the faculty was quite uneven; some were utterly unqualified as college professors, especially in the science and engineering fields. Their knowledge was at least ten years or even up to thirty years behind its time.
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