中文版 web

Latest News

【Commencement 2024】Beyond the Mountains: Sha Le's Path to Academic and Professional Success


Fourteen years ago, Sha Le, starting his junior high school, wouldn’t have imagined a future beyond the wild fields of his small hometown in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province, southwest China. Four years later, as he prepared for the college entrance exams, the path ahead remained uncertain. In 2020, after earning a Bachelor’s degree from Tianjin University and landing a job in a real estate company, he thought his academic journey was over. Yet, just one year later, he found himself back in a TJU classroom, pursuing a Master’s degree in Thermal Engineering.

Now, as a master's student at the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tianjin University, Sha Le stands once again at the crossroads of graduation and the search for his next destination. He can’t help but resonating deeply with Forrest Gump’s words: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”

The Challenging Path to Academic Success

Born to a farming family in a remote mountain village in Sichuan, Sha Le’s childhood was marked by poverty but also by a carefree spirit. “I spent most of my time exploring nature and paid little attention to my studies,” he recalls. Until the second year of junior high, his academic performance was poor, and he never considered college. However, a life-changing event in 2011 altered his trajectory.

“My grandfather’s passing was a huge blow to my family, especially to me as I grew up with him. His dying wish was for me to walk a different path from my parents, to see a world beyond our village.”

Motivated by his grandfather’s wish, Sha Le began to focus on his studies, revealing his academic potential. “Within a year, I became a top student in junior high and eventually got into one of the best high schools in the area.”

However, high school was not as smooth as he had hoped. He suffered from severe insomnia before the college entrance exam and couldn’t perform at his best. “Thanks to national policies supporting minority regions, I applied for a five-year preparatory program at Tianjin University.” In 2015, he enrolled in the university’s Department of Building Environment and Equipment Engineering. For the first time in his life, Sha walked out of the mountains of southwest China and began a new life chapter in the coastal city of Tianjin.

Overcoming Adversity to Pursue Dreams

Sha Le considers himself practical, unbothered by unrealistic dreams. Upon entering university, he set a few tangible goals.

“Firstly, I wanted to secure a decent job through my studies to provide for myself and my family. Secondly, I hoped to create social value in any way I could.”

He led a rich university life, balancing academic work and social activities. He traveled across half of China, fulfilling his grandfather’s wish to see a broader world. He joined volunteer teams and taught in remote areas multiple times. With student loans and part-time jobs, he achieved financial independence.

At the end of his undergraduate studies, he secured a job as an architectural engineer at R&F Group. “It seemed like a good choice with a clear career path,” Sha Le admits, choosing the job because it was a conventional option for his major.

However, he soon realized it wasn’t what he wanted for the rest of his life. “I felt lost about my future. This job wasn’t my dream, but what was? How could I change my path?”

“For a while, I felt lost about what to do in the future. This job is clearly not what I want. But what exactly do I want to do? How should I change my life course?”

Amid the roar of machines at the construction site, countless sleepless nights led him to the decision to return to school for a master’s degree.

It was easier said than done. The competition for graduate school was fierce, and he had little time for preparation.

“That year was incredibly challenging. I worked during the day and studied at night. To make things worse, my father fell ill, and I had to go to the hospital frequently.”

That period was a true test of endurance for Sha Le.

“I persevered. Cowardice is never in my blood.” He studied late into the night in a makeshift work shed, enduring the summer heat and winter cold with less than six hours of sleep.

“But I made it!” He couldn’t hold back his tears when he received the admission letter from Tianjin University. “It was a tough road, but I’m glad I took it.”

Every Step Counts.

In September 2021, Sha Le found himself once again seated in a classroom at Tianjin University, beginning the first class of his graduate studies.

"I remember clearly how surreal it felt during that first class," he recounted. "For a moment, I feared it was just a dream that would fade away when I woke up. But as I realized it was real, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for having a second chance to walk down a new path in life."

This time, Sha chose to major in Thermal Engineering at the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tianjin University.

"Tianjin University feels like another home to me," he said. "It's a place I long to return to whenever I'm weary from wandering outside. Here, I can recharge and set off again. The university has provided a crucial environment for the development of my increasingly mature personality. I've learned so much and experienced the greatest joys of my adulthood here."

He added that his experiences at TJU have profoundly shaped who he is today, and he wouldn't be the same without them.

Reflecting on his graduate studies, Sha Le was full of pride and a sense of fulfillment. Within three years, he participated in five major scientific research projects.

"To me, scientific research is fundamentally about promoting human prosperity and advancement. That’s why I chose thermal engineering for my graduate studies—it plays a crucial role in optimizing living environments." He explained that by improving energy efficiency, reducing environmental pollution, and enhancing indoor comfort, the major supports the creation of healthier, more sustainable living spaces. "That’s what we've been doing in our research projects."

On November 4, 2023, China's first domestically built large cruise ship, the "Adora Magic City," was officially named and delivered in Shanghai. Sha Le and his research fellows were thrilled by the news.

“Our research group built a test platform for the cooling system of the Adora Magic City. This platform was designed to be identical in capacity and function to the ship’s actual system, allowing us to optimize its design and performance.”

As the project leader, Sha Le spent half a year at the ship construction site, overseeing the completion of the system scheme design, the full set of drawings, on-site project construction, system operation testing, and design optimization.

"Thanks to my one-year work experience in the architectural industry, I was able to communicate effectively with construction workers, project managers, and even government officials. It helped me juggle many roles simultaneously."

At the end of his graduate studies, Sha figured out where his future lies. "New energy vehicles are a crucial measure to address climate change and promote green development. That means great prospects for both personal development and social welfare. For me, it’s the perfect blend of substance and passion."

Sha Le has received an offer from a leading new energy vehicle company and is ready to embark on a brand new journey.

The sense of belonging at TJU

"In the foreseeable future, I think this time I might leave the campus for good. But I’m forever grateful for my time spent here at TJU."

Sha expressed deep appreciation for the faculty and the like-minded friends he met at the university. "I was deeply moved by the dedication and perseverance of our teachers. Their influence made me realize that dedicating one's life to a cause can be incredibly fulfilling. Throughout this journey, I received the most care and help from my graduate supervisor, Associate Prof. Sun Hejiang. He taught me life philosophies that, like his character, are gentle and unassuming yet profoundly impactful."

As Sha Le prepares to graduate and take the next step in his journey, he remains inspired by his grandfather’s wish and his own unwavering resolve. “Life is unpredictable, but that’s what makes it exciting and full of possibilities. Every challenge has shaped me into who I am today, and I’m ready to embrace whatever comes next.”

From the mountains of Sichuan to the halls of Tianjin University, Sha Le has continuously pushed beyond his limits to achieve his dreams. His journey is a testament to the power of determination and resilience.

By Eva Yin