Saturday, September 29, 2007

Being a Freshman Again

Pictures to come when I get my computer working. There's just too much that I want to write about. Here's part of what happened today.

Fresher's week started today at Cambridge. These poor kids only get 3 days of orientation unlike a whole week at MIT. I'm invited to all their activities but it feels so strange to go through this process again. "Hi. I'm Lucy. What's your name?... What are you studying?.... Oh, I'm studying Engineering." I'm definitely not as hyped up about all of this as I was two years ago.

So a few more people moved into K Block (the mansion that I'm staying in). There was a Meet and Greet at 2pm. We're assigned college parents and siblings (kinda like Big Sis/Lil Sis at McCormick). I'm not sure if I have one since I'm not really a first year. Some people were able to meet theirs. There are about 100 freshers at Caius College and all of us, along with some second and third years went to eat at the Dining Hall this evening.

Dinner was pretty cool. We all sat down at these long tables in this big hall with pictures of famous people and stained glass windows. There were waiters and waitresses all lined up in the back. Once we all sat down, they swooped down on us with a fruit salad. As soon as we finished, we were served the main course which was chicken today. There were plates of broccoli, salad, and potatoes that we passed around. And as soon as we were done with that, we were given a choice of fruit or cake. I had this strawberry yogurt mousee thing. So dinner was pretty good. They were pretty efficient. Of course I could've eaten faster had I not have to wait to be served but it was nice to be able to chat with the people sitting next to me. I was sitting across from these three guys who were really funny.

After dinner, we went to the bar for a little while to wait for the dining people to clean up the tables. We went back up and had a "speed dating" session. Since we were sitting at long tables, one side of the table stayed put while the other side moved every 3 minutes or so. We wrote our names, major, and where we're staying on a sticky note and then proceeded to get to know the person across from us. I met a lot of economists. It was really fun except that it was so loud in the Hall that we had to shout. My throat still hurts.

So dinner is going to be interesting. We have to get there at either 6:20 or 7:00pm though, I think. Otherwise it won't really work right if we're late. I think the actual dinners are half an hour long and they can only be so efficient if they just go down the aisle and plop food down in front of us. I think this is a bit annoying but I'll probably just get used to it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Classes at Cambridge

Yalu said my last blog entry was lame. So instead of having things in chronological order like I was thinking about, I'll just write in categories. Here's an entry on classes.

I got talked in to taking more classes. Engineering students at Cambridge take 5 classes per term (for the first 2 terms) in their 3rd year. Since they're not allowed to take classes outside the department, these are all technical classes. Well, in the 3rd and 4th years, they can take a language class in the Engineering Language Unit as a module (class). But either way, I've never taken so many technical classes in one term before so I had planned to take only 3 per term for a total of 6 technical classes and then take 2 languages (Chinese and German). [Part of my blogspot decided to revert to German again, not sure why] Anyhow, we (Course 1 people) only need to take 4 classes at Cambridge to keep up with the MIT requirements. So we decided to take extra classes for fun. We're getting the chance to take so much more engineering classes. I mean, I guess Course 1 is designed so that you get to take electives in your senior year but with all these HASS requirements, I don't feel like we get as much engineering at all.

So I've chosen 8 technical classes that I wanted to take. Mahalia and Stella are both taking 10. We're assigned a Student Coordinator since we're exchange students and he was happy that I was taking less than 10. Whatever. I want to learn these languages and not kill myself with engineering stuff. A rough guide is 1.5 Cambridge class = 1 MIT class.

Now these classes are only 2 hours a week. So I'm taking 6 classes a term. That's only 12 hours of lecture time per week. So far I have no classes on Mondays and barely anything on Wednesdays and Fridays. But of course there's more. I will have one 1 hour supervision per class every 2 weeks. That's in comparision to 2 hours of recitation per class at MIT per week (for Course 1). And I have one 2-4 hour lab per class (so 4 classes = ~8 hours of lab total per term), compared to 4 hours of lab per week at MIT. And then there's the Engineering Area Activity which is 2 and a half days. And for 4 weeks in the Easter term, we have engineering projects where we go and build bridges or something like that. So I guess the Engineering Area Activity and the projects make up for all the lab hours at MIT?

Sorry if all of this was confusing. It certainly was for me. Long story short, I have a lot more free time during the term than I would have had at MIT. Yet I'm somehow learning more... interesting. We'll see how this goes.


So it's Day 3 at Cambridge and I'm still haven't unpacked yet. Been running around the past few days trying to get stuff done. Will write more later. I won't have internet in my room until at least Monday. My room's super big by the way.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Going off to Cambridge

There was a farewell dinner earlier tonight for the MIT students going off to Cambridge. The current Cambridge students at MIT and past CME students were also invited to the dinner. Everything was really informal and they setup tables by Colleges. Our exchanges from Cambridge and past CME students kindly answered all our questions about life at the other Cambridge. It seems like for a lot of people, it was an "even" exchange, meaning if a Cambridge student studying Biology from Queens College came over, there is an MIT student studying Biology going over to Queens. That's not the case for me or any of the Course 1 people though.

I met Chris from Gonville and Caius College. He's an Econ major and is trading places with Ross. Rebecca (I met her the other day at the course 1 pizza thing) also came to the dinner. So between the two of them and eavesdropping on other people's conversations, I found out some very interesting things. Apparently at Caius, the difference between the first and second sitting at dinner is just the gowns. The food is exactly the same. In other colleges, the food is usually better at the second sitting (and costs more too, I think). The food itself is not that great but since they force you to buy dinner tickets and so many of them, most people eat at the dining hall. So it's a great place to socialize and make friends.

Chris said that he applied for CME for the American experience. There are people who came for the MIT experience but he wants to travel around and see America. A lot of these Cambridge students have already been to Cape Cod, New York, and other nearby places. The exchange rate is in their favor, I guess. They say that they really miss the weekday night life at Cambridge. MIT students tool too much and don't really DO anything during the week. Sure they'll hang out and such for a few hours but they tool during the evening whereas people in Cambridge go to bars or around town at night. The drinking age is 18 over there, not 21.

After being the last ones to leave the dinner, I came back and packed some more. I lifted one of my bags and was shocked at how heavy it was. American Airlines only allows 50lbs so I was worried. I took it down to the basement and weighted it. It turned out to be 53lbs. I switched things around and got the bag down to 48.5lbs. The other bag, however, is now hovering around 50lbs. I'm kind of worried but there's not much I can do at the moment. I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Hopefully, they have a scale before the counter and I can shift things around if I had to.

Did I mention they're getting a bus to take us to Logan? Yeah, isn't that nice? I was worried about having to lug two 50lb bags all over Boston but now there's a bus taking us to Logan and a bus picking us up from Heathrow. I don't know how I would manage otherwise.

I changed the time on this blog to GMT. And on my Google Calendar. It looks strange now because other people's schedules are now at weird times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back at MIT

I'm back at MIT, sitting in Yalu's room, on her couch. Yalu's been trying to do work while Mike and I keep distracting her. Poor Yalu...

There was an accident inside the tunnels this morning. I was on the Silver Line and as we approached the toll plaza, there were cars on each side of us stopping and backing up. I thought I was going crazy. I had never seen cars trying to back up so far before. We ended up just sitting there for a 40 minutes idling and not being able to do anything. I made it to Yalu's room just before she had to leave for her 10am class.

I took a 2 hour nap and then went to the career fair. The fair was not very productive as far as career-seeking went. But I got a lot of cool stuff. Then I ate a whole thing of teriyaki chicken and bobba milk tea. The chicken was good but the bobba was not. The bubbles were too big for the straw and they kept getting stuck. That ruined my meal.

Then I picked up my passport (with the UK visa in it!!!) from the Study Aboard office. I met Jen Cook. Very nice person. I signed up for a UPOP exit interview and then headed to meet Professor Wilson. I convinced him that it made sense for me to take 2 languages because to take 8 technical classes would kill me.

He arranged a pizza gathering of current and past CME students. Mahalia had to go somewhere so it was me, Vicky (who went to Cambridge last year), and Ian and Rebecca who are the students from Cambridge. Apparently, Course 1 students who went over haven't been doing too well but no one really fails any classes. Phew!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


So this summer I expanded my collection of stamps by... a lot. I got 100 Greek Stamps for 10 Euros and 100 DDR stamps for 5 Euros. I was going to stop there but on the very last weekend, I came across a HUGE box of stamps for 5 Euros. Couldn't resist and got it. That was probably the best choice I made all summer.

I think the box of stamps used to belong to a stamp collector. Because there were soooo many different stamps and they are all in excellent condition. Not only did I get a variety of German stamps (DDR, Deutsche Bundespost, Deutsche Bundespost Berlin, Deutsch Post, etc.), I got stamps from all seven continents and an excellent bunch of US stamps too. The US stamps were so awesome because they're mostly from the 60s and 70s and I don't have any of those. Half of them even say "U.S. Postage" instead of "USA" on them.

I even have stamps from the "Freie Stadt Danzig". This place doesn't even exist anymore! Not as an independent city-state anyhow. It's now a part of Poland.

So I spend about 3-4 days sorting these stamps out. Now they're all in binders or nice neat bags. More than half of them are still in bags separated by country. I think I would make a lot of money if I ever have the time to sort everything out and sell them. My mom says she'll help me once she retires. =)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Elmer's White Glue

I just finished making a model of the windmill at San Souci. I got the kit when I was there the first time and had put it off until now to make it. I started the project trying all types of glues but settled on good old Elmer's white glue. It's just paper so this glue worked amazingly well. It took me about 4-5 hours today and probably 6-8 hours total. I don't know why I do these things. Before I leave home, I have to get my stamp collection in order and make a scrapbook of my summer.

I listened to an audio version of Dracula while finishing the model. I borrowed Dracula from the library but got a version with all these footnotes on the bottom. They really annoying because I always end up reading them and the writing is not as good as Bram Stoker's. Anyway, here are pictures of the windmill: unfinished, finished (2), and the real thing.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Full Serving of Vegetables

Ingredients: tomato juice from concentrate, reconstituted vegetable juice blend (water and concentrated juices of carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, spinach), salt, vitamin C, flavoring, citric acid.

Those are the ingredients of V8. It's day 5 of having no lower wisdom teeth and I still can't eat properly. All I've been eating is rice porridge, yogurt, chocolate chip cookies melted in milk, and ice cream. So I thought I'd get some veggies in me today. Anyway, I need to get better fast if I want to check off all the items on the list below.

Oh and my cat's been mad at me. I haven't been feeding him grass or playing with him like I used to ever since last Thursday. So every time he sees me, he goes crazy and attacks me. You know how people always holds their cute little dogs and are like, "It's okay, he/she doesn't bite." Well, not so with my cat. This one bites!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Foods that I want to eat before I go to Europe again

Jamba Juice
Vietnamese Sandwich
Thai and Taro Teas
KFC (it just taste different over there)
Burger King's onion rings (this too)
In & Out
Peet's Coffee
Beef and Squid Jerky
Anna's Breakfast Burrito and Orange Juice
Taco from a Taco Truck
Tomato+egg+pork gooey, soupy thing that my parents make
Alasksan salmon
A bento box

I've had some of these since I got back but can't hurt to eat them again!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wisdom Teeth

I got my two lower wisdom teeth taken out yesterday and now I'm groggy from painkillers and drinking porridge from a straw. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Took less time than a root canal.

Yesterday was a very productive day. I went to my dentist to get my teeth washed, then returned some library books, opened a HSBC bank account, ate food, bought some Peets coffee and mailed them to my coworkers at DB along with a nice card. Not so productive after the wisdom teeth extraction but whatever.

The oral surgeon recommended taking out all 4. But my upper ones aren't pushing against the molars next to them (like my lower ones are) and are still under the gums. So I was reluctant. And then we found out that my insurance doesn't have enough money since I did a couple of fillings in March. My dentist wants to help me replace all the old mercury fillings with new white ones. So we ended up taking out only the two lower ones.

I've never had so much anesthetic pumped into me before. My flesh under my fingernails turned blue and cold. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating really fast. Not that I was scared or anything. I mean, I've gotten a root canal and teeth taken out that had long roots. The actual surgery was really fast. Less than half an hour. I later found out that one of the nurse is the wife of a math teacher at Oakland High. I've never had her husband as a teacher but she's heard of me.

The anesthetic went away after 6 hours. Can't really talk and my jaw refuses to open up. Dizzy from the painkillers but otherwise, I'm fine. And as always the left side of my jaw is more swollen than the right.

UK Visa

I just got this email from the UK consulate in New York:

"Your application has been approved and the visa has been issued."

Yay! Finally. Now let's hope that FedEx can handle a delivery to the Study Aboard Office.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gonville and Caius College

I finally found out which college I'll be in while at Cambridge! They finally decided to tell me something! Woot! Unfortunately, the helpful, informative emails stops here. The email that I've been waiting all summer long for consists of:

"This is to confirm that Lucy Wu, who will be studying in Cambridge as part of the CME, will be based at Gonville & Caius College and not at Clare College, as initially announced."

I never even got this initial announcement about being at Clare College. Sigh. I don't know how much housing or food would cost, which of the 3 Caius (pronounced Keys) dorms I'll be in, or anything of any importance. Instead I get lectures after lectures about the lecture styles at Cambridge. Thank you. As if that's more important than getting the visa that lets me pass immigrant. Right now my passport is probably floating around somewhere between California and New York.

Well on a lighter note, Ross is also going to be at Gonville & Caius. He even has a description of the college on his blog. Actually he's probably in the Bay Area right now as well. He's just not answering his emails.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Monterey Bay Aquarium

After the Mystery Spot, we continued driving south and go to Monterey about an hour later. It was around 1pm by this time and we were all hungry. We had planned to go to Bubba Gumps for dinner but decided to go for lunch instead. They made us wait nearly an hour but it was Bubba Gumps. It's a restaurant based on Forest Gump. See the "Run Forest Run" sign? There's also a "Stop Forest Stop" sign to stop the waiter. I wish I had shown my family this movie before we went. I think they would've appreciated everything more.

But it was a good meal anyway. Apparently soda is free too. But of course my brother got this icee thing that had lights on the bottom and costs more than a kids meal. We got 3 things and shared. We were all stuffed at the end and didn't even finished the mashed potatoes.

We walked over to the aquarium. We decided to go because one of my high school teachers had given me two tickets for this place. And since we had wanted to go last year and the adult tickets are $25 each, we decided to take advantage of these tickets. My brother got the kids price ($10 off) and I got the student price ($2 off -- huh? why do they even have a student price?).

I led my family straight to the jellyfish exhibit. They were really impressed. If my dad hadn't told us to keep on moving, I think we would've spent the whole time just trying to get through this one exhibit! The rest of the aquarium was really cool too. I think my family really enjoyed it. This is my 3rd time there so it's not quite as exciting for me but the jellyfish are still cool no matter how many times you see them. I mean, just look at them!

We were all really tired by the end of the day. But it was good. We haven't done a family trip in a long time. I think the last time we went somewhere as a family was when they drove me down to Caltech for a summer thing. That was 4 years ago. And I think this is the first time that my whole family went out to an American restaurant. My dad said it's only his 2nd time. I don't think my mom was very impressed by this. Somehow my dad also missed out on all my scholarship dinners and my mom got to eat at all the fancy places with me. Heh. Gotta remember to do this more often with my family.

Mystery Spot

My family went on a family trip this past weekend because of the long weekend. We decided to go to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot and then the Monterey Bay Aquarium. So on Sunday morning, we piled into the car along with some drinks and snacks and started driving south to Santa Cruz.

The Mystery Spot is not some carnival type thing. It's an actual gravitational anomaly. No one knows what's actually going on. There's basically a spot on a hill where gravity works funny. Someone tried to built a shack on top of this hill and it slid down, stopping right in the center of the Mystery Spot. Everything about this shack looks slanted. You cannot stand straight. Here's a picture of my brother inside the house. He is not standing like this on purpose. I should've taken a picture of the whole group of people, all standing slanted at the same angle. It felt weird too. My mom got dizzy.

Our tour guide put this piece of wood near the window of the shack. It looked really slanted but the liquid level didn't think so. And when she rolled a ball "down" the piece of wood, it rolled for a while and then came back "up". It was sooo weird.

Here's a picture of a pendulum tilted at the same angle. When you push it towards the corner of the house, it swings easily. But when you try to push it the other way, it gets heavier and harder to push. AND when it swings, it gains momentum when it goes towards the corner and actually starts hitting the wall after a few swings. I don't think that's supposed to happen!!

It was worth the $5 per person and guided tour. I wish they let us stay longer but I guess it was a busy day.