Personal Statement
Applicant: XXX (Peking University)    Program: Urban Planning (MIT)

“A lady has come first!” my teacher of Urban Social Geography announced. “The best research for the course project goes to Miss XXX xx, a lady who has done outstanding research with her paper ‘Study on the Use of the Fitness Facilities for Urban Young Women in Beijing from a Feminist Perspective’.”

Amid the warm applauses of my fellow students, I felt extremely proud of the research achievement I made. By choosing a meaningful, human-oriented topic which focused on the social behavior of the weaker sex, whose means and scope of mobility is restricted in using fitness facilities, I have taken their income level, personal security and family members into full consideration in my qualitative research. I visited dozens of fitness centers where I conducted in-depth interviews and I also consulted much technical literature, with the conclusion that urban planners should pattern leisure and fitness facilities within the close vicinity of the residences or workplaces of urban young women. With its unique insights on the internal mechanisms of the composition of different urban functional spaces and its special concern with the human value of a less privileged social group, my paper has been put into A Collection of Outstanding Papers in Urban Social Geography of Peking University, which is to be published by Science Publishing House early next year.

For me, “Lady First” is not only a personal philosophy but also an intellectual discipline, spurring myself to always strive for the highest level of excellence, yet with uniqueness in judgment, perspectives and contributions. As a future woman urban planner, by uniquely uncovering an inadequacy in the existing urban planning, I have demonstrated an important feature of my intellectual capacity and a full potential to make valuable contributions to our society through unique and insightful research.

As a matte of fact, I have consistently informed my academic and research undertaking with this “Lady First” conviction. Early last year, as team leader and sole woman member, I led five male members carrying out a screening survey concerning the road grid points in the XXX area. On a particular day, I stood on the isle in the middle of a busy main street from 7 o’clock in the morning till 7 o’clock in the evening, recoding the two-way traffic volume for a period of 12 hours with a chronograph. Although extremely monotonous, the task was crucial in that only the most accurate statistics could provide valid information for the latter-stage design. With my strong sense of responsibility, I decided that I should accomplish the job myself.

Then, for a whole week, we surveyed every street and lane within a diameter of 2.4 kilometers, collecting all the useful information about key buildings, place names and addresses, singling out those grid points that would be most misleading to vehicles and pedestrians and we completed the entire survey project much in advance, but with high quality. In January 20XX, new signposts for all those places we survey were put into use. Our survey was part of the on-going city-wide infrastructure development that Beijing is carrying out in anticipation for the 2008 Olympic Games. Through this experience, I realized how my knowledge and skills in urban planning contribute to major national and international events like the Olympic Games.

Throughout the five-year undergraduate study, I have evolved a unique interpretation of this “Lady First” philosophy. For me, it is a constant reminder of self-motivation. In the ivory tower of the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University (arguably the best university in China), where the best young talents of the country concentrate, I have always told myself to fight for the best, both in academic study and in academic research. To my satisfaction, I have delivered on the promise that I have made to myself. With the overall GPA and major GPA reaching 3.51 and 3.52 respectively, I am ranked among top few students in the entire college.

In addition to my superb ability to apprehend academic issues and my intense interest in the major, my well-defined academic objectives and effective learning strategies are also the major reasons for me to achieve such an exceptional performance. The competitive and active study environment at Peking University has significantly stimulated my potential in my area of specialization. By doing rigorous coursework in a whole gamut of challenging subjects ranging from “Principles of Urban Master Planning”, “Urban Road System and Transportation Planning”, “Urban Social Geography”, to research with computer-aided software including AutoCAD, GIS, TransCAD and SPSS, I have gained a fundamental understanding of urban planning as an academic discipline and am ready for fruitful research.

In my pursuit to practice my “Lady First” philosophy, I have had the unique experience of participating in two key research projects sponsored by the State Natural Science Research Fund. The first is “The Spatial Characteristics and Decision-Making Processes of Residents’ Shopping Behavior in Beijing.” In the second and third year, by reading many relevant papers, I became interested in a statistical research on the shopping behavior and using SPSS to analyze the inherent relationship between the basic properties of individuals and their shopping behavior. Then, by exploiting the spatial information analytical software GIS to visualize the spatial characteristics of the residents’ shopping behavior.

However, the inaccuracy of the data and the failure to locate on the electronic map threatened that GIS analysis had to be abandoned. It seemed that the basic properties of the individuals could only include such variable as the sex, occupation, income level and their impact on the shopping frequency, destination, and the selection of shopping companions. However, I persevered. I did an internship at the Planning Department of the State Transportation Ministry and gained knowledge about the principles and methodologies of transportation engineers. In addition, I self-studied TransCAD software to compensate for the inadequacies of my analytical expertise. As a result, I came up with a most successful piece of research work.

As my research capacity matured, I have participated in a more recent project—“Interactive Mechanism Study between Chinese Urban Space and Resident Behavior in Transitional Periods,” led by my advisor Prof. XX XXX. I have been involved in a key procedure in Stage One, questionnaire design, whose aim is to collect address information of various destinations that lead to the geo-coding in GIS software analysis. I must optimize all the items in the questionnaire so as to develop a cogent and efficient questionnaire processing and coding system. Toward this goal, I improved the conventional sampling pattern to include investigations concerning the residents’ shopping and entertainment practices and localities. In this way, we can expect to obtain a panorama of the routine behavior of residents with which to comprehensively evaluate the effect produced by social-economic characteristics, family constraints, and urban spatial structure on the daily activities of the inhabitants.

At present, I am undertaking my thesis, which is an extension of the first of those two research projects. Specifically, my thesis will focus on “the Study of the Spatial Differences of the Transportation Behavior of Beijing Residents in Their Shopping Practices in CBD.” My research will probe into the disparities between the ideal shopping schedules and actual shopping schedules o the residents. So far, I have completed the positioning of the coordinates of the target residential areas under investigation on the electronic maps by means of the GIS. By calculating the shortest paths, I have obtained data concerning the optimal paths and schedule of the residents’ transportation. My advisor has commented on my thesis outline as “yet another major progress on the part of Miss XX in terms of her research caliber. With her accumulated research practices, she has expanded her initial research and has included the latest western methodologies and innovative findings into her own project. I have every reason to believe that Miss XX, with her consistent scholarly spirit, will come up with an excellent thesis. ”

Now, having developed sound academic and research foundations, I am equipped for a more challenging academic endeavor in the form of a Ph.D. program at MIT. I expect to learn the most advanced concepts and methodologies in urban planning, which can only be offered by such a world-class university as MIT. Undoubtedly, as a developing country that is undergoing rapid urbanization, China will have much to learn from the successes and lessons of the United States. On the other hand, China has its unique circumstances and problems which call for unique solutions. All those are the issues that I wish to explore with my prospective instructors and supervisor.

Among the four areas of specialization of Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) of MIT, I am most interested in the International Development Group, which also cuts across three interdisciplinary studies in urban GIS, transportation, and regional planning. Considering my past research practices, I would like to focus on urban information systems (UIS). I am most fascinated by the diversity of the diversity of the student body and by the wide range of national, international, and ethnic/cultural origins and a variety of professional backgrounds in all our programs. In addition, students can develop interdisciplinary approaches by choosing electives from such departments of economics, civil engineering, policy studies and architecture. This is perfectly geared to my learning and research needs as an undergraduate with a strong academic and research backgrounds and initiatives.

Inherently, my “Lady First” philosophy itself incorporates a strong goal orientation and a drive toward innovative research as an emerging woman urban planner. I am in possession of perseverance and commitment, an indomitable will in the face of difficulties and challenges, the indefatigable determination to persist on the verge of a potential failure, I am well prepared for an arduous yet exciting academic odyssey that lies ahead. As usual, I will forge along with my “Lady First” philosophy, which is and will continue to be my lifelong impetus.




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