Embracing Green

A Second Life
by Xiaomin Chen -- October 2nd, 2013

At 4:50am, I got up. EEs know why I got up so early: To write a memo! Last night, I went to bed at 12 and slept barely 3 hours. My four-month-old son has trouble in sleeping because he is teething. His gums are sore.

This semester I am taking 17 credits. My advisor warned me that I would be burned out. Now I understand what he meant. All courses have assignments. Two courses have quizzes each week. Today (Tuesday) I have a mid-term exam, two assignments due, and three classes. Phew! What a day!

Before Nicholas School, I thought, ‘my learning ability is strong,’ since my job was to deal with information and people from various fields. Since coming here, I’ve found I was wrong. I feel exhausted every day. I’ve never learned science, economics, math and engineering in college. And I almost forgot everything I learned in my physics, chemistry, and math classes in high school.

People say when you feel stressed out, you are making progress. If that is true, then I am making a lot of progress!

From Energy and Environment, I know “joule” is unit of energy, and one quad equals 1015 Btu.

After taking Academics Writing, I want to rewrite all sentences I read that sound informal to me; I’ve become very careful with my sources when I write memos. The course touches a lot on formal/informal languages and plagiarism.

Although I still lag far behind my classmates, I’ve become fascinated with Excel. Modeling for Energy Systems teaches me how to use Scroll bar, Form Control, Solver, Macro, and a lot more fabulous tools. I didn’t know Excel is such a powerful office application.

My grades for my memos have been climbing as well. However, every time I feel I am good enough, my classmates astonish me with their hard work. A classmate said he spent 16 hours on a memo! Mine is 12 hours maximum.

Life has nothing to do with interviews any more, which I did over the past five years as a reporter. Sometimes I really miss that part of my life. However, life can be colorful as well on campus. There are numerous events. Till now, I only attended a mid-Autumn festival held by the Duke China Students & Scholars Association, and Fuqua’s Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event. I plan to get involved in more events in the coming weeks.

Everyone I met here is so nice. Duke Chinese Student and Scholar Association picked me up at the airport when I arrived. TAs and classmates are always ready to help you out with assignments. Neighbors offer free rides to grocery stores. Even the assistant dean sent me letters asking whether there is anything she can do to help.

I may not be getting much sleep here in Duke, but I’m learning a great deal and expect to explore more fun in life. You never know how many things you can do within 24 hours until you keep your eyes and ears open to embrace life like a newborn.



  1. Kevin Chang
    Oct 4, 2013

    ‘You never know how many things you can do within 24 hours until you keep your eyes and ears open to embrace life like a newborn.’ Love the sentence so much! People’s whole life is a about 90 months, each month has a about 30 days, each day we have 24 hours. You delivered and learned so much within 24 hours. Definitely you are in progress.

  2. Nicole Carlozo
    Oct 4, 2013

    Just remember, sleep is for the weak! Okay, that motto really isn’t true…but it may help you get through the semester!

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