Late-Night Lessons and Diaries

Picture of diverse group of students learning in a classroom.

PGS: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Ani Petrosyan, SEAS ’26, one of the PGS Correspondents, shares her experience abroad during the Spring 2024 semester. 

It’s 11 PM and instead of winding down for the night, my group project partner and I are gearing up for one of the most exciting parts of our day—meeting with our group of Chinese high school students. This unusual routine has become a valued part of our Penn Global Seminar experience, where we not only attend lectures and hear from guest speakers like the CTO of WeRide but also cross time zones and bridge continents through teaching.

Every student in our seminar is assigned to teach recitations based on our course material to these eager young minds. It’s more than just teaching; it’s a mutual exchange of ideas and perspectives. Seeing their enthusiasm and fresh takes on the concepts we discuss revitalizes our own understanding and often, our enthusiasm for the subjects.

Beyond the classroom-style recitations, each pair of Penn students collaborates with their Chinese counterparts on a specific project. My partner and I are working on a digital diary project. The concept is simple: people upload their handwritten notes, and these are transformed into a personalized digital diary, complete with images.

As an international student myself, I am particularly attuned to the challenges that come with communicating in a non-native language. From my own experiences, I’ve learned the importance of creating an environment where everyone can express themselves without fear of judgment about their language skills. This empathy has shaped our sessions, encouraging our Chinese students to share their thoughts freely, enhancing the richness of our interactions.

Navigating the project from conception to execution with the Chinese students has taught us invaluable lessons in teamwork and cross-cultural communication. Despite the late hours, our sessions are always filled with energy and innovation. The challenge of explaining complex technical things in a way that is understandable across linguistic and cultural barriers has enhanced our own comprehension and teaching skills.

As I reflect on these experiences, I am struck by how much I’ve learned—not just about technology or education, but about the power of connection and understanding. Through this seminar and project, I’ve not only contributed to others’ learning but have significantly deepened my own. The late nights, the laughs over misunderstood words, and the triumph when everything clicks— these are the defining moments that shape our collective experience. I’m eagerly looking forward to meeting our Chinese students in China soon to continue and expand upon our collaborative project.

This story was originally published on the Penn Abroad site. To learn more, follow along with the group of correspondents on their blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.