Friday, June 27, 2008

On long term things

Today I went out to lunch with some people from the civil and highway group. Apparently a few of them go out to lunch every Friday. They're all pretty young and cool people. We went to a diner that had a big sign outside that said $7.50 for steak and eggs. One of the guys were really enthusiastic about this and wanted other people to order this. I think 3 or 4 of us ended up ordering this. He ordered some turkey thing himself.

Anyway, onto more important things. The guy that promoted the steak and eggs also promoted the company to me. Maybe he just likes talking.. Anyhow, apparently a lot of the interns turn full-time after they graduate. I think all but one or two of the people who went out to lunch today were former interns. There were 7 of us. One of them worked at the Honolulu office as an intern and has now been working full time at the San Francisco office for 3 months. They said that it's pretty easy if I wanted to work for another PB office. Which is one of the reasons why I really liked this company in the first place. They have offices all over the US and overseas. In Europe they have lots of UK offices, a Dubai office, and plenty of Asia offices too. It's not as easy going overseas, I don't think. Right now, I work for PB Americas.

Thinking about all of this feels really weird to me. Especially since this whole past year I've been running around and not staying at one place for less than 3 months. Everything felt (and was) so temporary. I tried to imagine myself working at the office as a full-time employee and it was just so hard. It seemed kind of boring actually. I don't know if I want to work there permanently. Actually, it's more like I can't imagine myself working anywhere permanently.

Do I want to settle down in some city, go to work everyday, come back to some apartment, cook dinner, do random stuff, shower, sleep, and then do it all again the next day? Part of it seems okay. It would be nice to work on some parts of some projects, maybe volunteer somewhere, and just be a part of some community. But I'm so afraid that I would just watch the months and years go by, never getting around to doing some things and never fully doing other things. I guess I've done a lot this past year, got a taste of being a "global citizen", and just started to realize just how small (not big) the world is. And just when I've realized that I can actually go see the 7 wonders of the world, learn about other cultures, see new things, it feels like it's all coming to an end.

I've still got a year or two before I start working as a permanent employee somewhere. But if I want, I can work for PB. I can tell them I want to keep working for them after I graduate and I would have a job, position, cubicle, computer, etc. waiting for me. And I would become like my coworkers, forever talking about that vacation where they're going to somewhere for a week. Their week-long vacations just seem so trivial and meaningless after having lived in two countries this past year. Sorry if I sound arrogant but that's just how I feel about it. These thoughts have been bothering me this whole week. I don't know... I'm secretly dreading that conversation that I'm bound to have with my supervisor at the end of the internship about whether or not I will come back the next summer. I mean, hopefully, the invitation will come. I just wish I know what my answer would be.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another week

Week one at work is almost over! Man, only 8 weeks left. And I feel like I haven't really started yet. I think this is mostly due to the fact that my supervisor is not going to be in until next week. And when he gets in, he's going to have a ton of stuff to do so probably won't have any time for me...

This summer feels very short. Feels like I'm counting down to when I'll go back to MIT already. Part of me really wants to learn more at my internship. Get to know more people, do more important stuff, etc. But part of me really wants to be back at MIT. I know, there's no good food, it's not relaxing, and won't get much sleep. But still, having been away for a year makes me appreciate it so much more. I miss it a lot.

Those summer goals that I wrote about earlier? Haven't made much progress on any of them. I've discovered that I really don't have much time after I get back from work. I eat dinner, then check email, shower, take care of random stuff, and then have 2 hours max of doing my own stuff. Being at home, I have a lot less time to do stuff. Have to chat with parents, play with brother, entertain the cat, even dinner takes more time. I haven't even started on Book 3 of the 2001: A Space Odyssey series yet, even though I borrowed it from the library. Too sad.

Other news: I just ordered a few things from amazon including study books for the GRE and FE/EIT (licensing exam for engineers). So now I need to treasure the next few days because I still have an excuse as to why I'm not studying for these things. haha.

I should also post an entry in the MIT admissions blogs. Maybe a summary of the year. Don't know. Last night I had 2 separate dreams about Cam. One of them I dreamed that I was with a group of Cambridge engineers doing a project. We biked around, did the required stuff, and then biked to this big building by a lake where they used to take exams. In the next dream, two of my friends came to visit me. I was living in this big house on the second floor. It was raining so we didn't go out and just hung out inside the house. When they left, I really regretted not showing them around Cambridge. I felt that they came all this way (from America) and didn't even get to tour the city. So maybe I secretly miss Cambridge? It's strange because I usually don't remember my dreams. They would fly away when I try to remember them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

First Day at Work

Not much remarkable happened. There was a sign at reception with my name and welcome on top. There was another new hire in another group and we both got there at the same time.

I have my own cubicle. The office building is not a rectangle and therefore very confusing. I got totally lost once and haven't managed to find the supply room again. Not sure if it's the whole office but people in my group just seem to do their own thing. People don't eat lunch together or anything. The supervisor and the HR person for new hires are both out so they got one of the guys in the group to help me out with things. He's been working full time for a year and showed me around, introduced me to people, and helped me out with general stuff. We even went out to lunch together along with another new hire who started 2 weeks ago. He said that he didn't get a welcome lunch and that at his last company, there would be welcome lunches, goodbye lunches, and parties to celebrate random things at 3pm all the time. I half expected that too. I say half since the supervisor is out.

It feels kind of strange to be working at an American office again. I had a really good supervisor at my first internship. She and my other coworkers were especially kind also because I was in high school. I guess my group there didn't eat together either but there were plenty of group lunches for special occasions. But one of the other groups had a weekly group lunch where they all went out to eat on Thursdays. In Germany, I expected things to be foreign since I couldn't understand anyone. But my officemates were very nice people and they all sat together for lunch. I really like this sitting together for lunch thing. I mean, when else would you get to know people? Meetings?

Only other thing I noticed was that there was a lot of Chinese people. I hear people speaking Chinese around the office all the time. There are good handful of people with other accents. I wonder if they're transfers from the international offices. I should find out.

Anyway, as an effort to get to know the people in my group, I think I'll go around and say good morning and goodbye to everyone everyday. My officemates in Germany did this and I think it's really cool. Oh yeah, people in this office come in really early. One of the guys says he comes in at 6:30am and he's the earliest. The other people come in between 7-9am. I think I'll go at 8am.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Books and Summer

Yesterday, my brother and I went to the library and we both borrowed a stack of books each. I really miss not being able to do this during the school year. Just too busy to be reading about random things that I find on a shelf. I just finished reading a graphic novel called "American Born Chinese" and a biography called "Tuesdays with Morrie". Both are extremely well written and I would highly recommend them.

The graphic novel is very funny. The author managed to deal with serious issues with a cool sense of humor.

Tuesdays with Morrie is about a sociology professor who was dying from ALS (a disease that slowly paralyzes your body). It is written by one of his former students who flew over every Tuesday during the last few months of the professor's illness and they talked about how people should live their lives. The professor was an extremely optimistic person and I thought the book was amazing.

Anyhow, the next books on my list are linguistics stuff. I hope they're interesting. The main library in Oakland doesn't seem to have much on the subject. I mean, it has a decent amount on language. It's got its own corner. I didn't managed to find a good Learn Spanish kit (book + audio) this time around. I did managed to get the Michel Thomas course for German, which I think I might already have. Anyway, I might try that out with my brother. I think he might be more interested in a computer program though. You know, one that is designed for kids and lets you earn points, play games, etc.

So yeah, lots of stuff I want to accomplish this summer. I have about 9.5 weeks at home so need to get moving. This list includes:

- Learn a language with brother
- read some linguistics books
- study for and (take?) GRE
- research into grad school and scholarships/fellowships
- study for FE/EIT exam
- Teach brother to use Alice (computer program that lets you make 3D animations by "writing" Java)
- Keep up with Chinese (Chinesepod?)

Arg.. this list is probably incomplete and there's too much on it already!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


It's very hot here. I'm very tired from the jet lag. Didn't get to sleep a whole lot on the flight. They were very slow with the food again. My mom commented on how slow people do things in England. I agree. In Germany, they're so fast with checking out your groceries, that you have to dash to the other side of the cash register. Anyhow, I watched Jumper. I was very amused by the description by Virgin Atlantic. The first line said, "This is not about a humble sweatshirt" or something close to that. In British English, a sweatshirt/hoodie is commonly called a jumper. I had half imagined the main character to be always wearing a sweatshirt. Anyhow, I just thought the description was very funny. I also watched Persepolis, which was a lot more serious than Jumper. I really liked it. I think I'll read the book as well as other literature about that part of the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paris Subway Stations with Character 3

I was very amused by the "for... keep going straight" signs in the Paris Metro. Instead of an arrow pointing up, they have an arrow pointing down. I think that's the first time I've seen that. I've only seen ones that point up. The first time I saw this sign, it took me a few seconds. I even instinctively looked for some place to go down. I remember my 10th grade English teacher told us an arguement she had with some French person about how to describe something in French. I'm not too sure what it was but I think it had something do to with describing something how deep the water level is. In English we say "20 meters below (the sea level)" and "20,000 leagues under the sea" while in French they use the word "above" as in the water is above the point of reference. I remembered thinking this was very intersting. My teacher said that she believes strongly that language (way of expression) gives you a lot of insight into a culture.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Paris Subway Stations with Character 2

The bejewled entrance to Palais Royal Metro stop.

Huge mosaic and mosaic signatures inside a subway station.

Choose your speed! You can go at 9km/hr! Unfortunately, when I was there, it wasn't going at 9km/hr. Maybe it only does during rush hour. I went there just to ride on it too! So sad.
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Paris Subway Stations with Character

I really like these signs for the Metro. They're only at some stataions. I think they're really cool.

When you're walking up from a metro station and you look up, it seems like there's a big bug thing looking down at you.
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Cool Pics from Paris 2

Cool sheep on skewers! One day I want a garden where I can grow my own veggies and compose my organics... Then I'll need stuff like this. What better way to scare away snails than sheep and other snails on skewers!

Green chicken. Just thought it looked interesting...

The actual clothing didn't seem all that seductive to me.

I thought the picture with the pyramid was cute. Exit = going back out to big pyramid.
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Cool Pics from Paris

Center of Paris! Outside of Notre Dame.
A thumb at La Defense.

And the next day, I saw 4 fingers. Wonder if they're related pieces of art...

Isn't this sign cute? Looking at all my pictures from traveling, I've found that I don't really care too much about sights. I mean, other people have taken pictures of all the important sights anyway. I can just google and get great pictures of the Eiffle Tower. But signs for plugging in your electric car says so much more about French society and how many other people do you think takes pictures like that when touring Paris?

Monday, June 16, 2008


I've discovered (during my week in Paris) that I have the hardest time pronouncing French. Such strange stuff. I really had no clue how to say anything.

Anyhow, I have a grand plan of making my brother learn a foreign language with me over the summer. This way, I have some motivation. Haven't actually chosen a language yet. My brother seems vaguely interested. Lately, he's been saying no to everything so I'm not too sure what he actually thinks. His "no"s are more like "count me out unless you can come up with a convincing argument." I'll probably stick to Spanish since it is more useful. Then again, he'll probably take Spanish in high school so maybe we should go for something different? Don't know. It'll be interesting. I bet he will learn much faster than I will.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Parents and London

I think I subscribe to too many blogs. I have no time to read them these days and they just keep piling up. They're all very interesting of course. Anyway, after spending 5 full days in Paris, I got back to England on the Eurostar and met up with my parents and brother. It took me about an hour to get from London St. Pancras/Kings Cross to Heathrow. It only cost 2 pounds! That's really cool considering how expensive it is to get from Heathrow to Cambridge on National Express.

Anyhow, we got back to Cambridge and once parents settled down a little, we walked around Cambridge a little. I visited Sainsburys 3 times that day to get various food items. That night we had quiche, cornish pasty, and ramen for dinner. I don't think my parents were very impressed by the quiche and cornish pasty but on the other hand I think they were too tired to care much.

We went off to London today. This was not what I had planned. I wanted to spend the day in Cambridge so that it's easier to come back to rest and such. I also didn't want to spend a weekend in London because it would be crowded and some underground lines undergo renovations during the weekends. But this also means that we'll be spending a weekday in Cambridge and I don't mind since you can't get anything done around here on Sundays.

We did a lot of walking today. We walked all the way from Chinatown to Big Ben, crossed the bridge, went around the river, and all the way to Tower Bridge. This took us 5, 6 hours and we were all very tired at the end of it. We ate dinner back in Cambridge at Dojos. The food wasn't too great this time. Too tired to write in more detail... More interesting stuff later, I promise.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paris, short entry

So I handed in my last report that I have to write on Friday and pretty much went straight to the train station. I felt like I couldn't leave Cambridge any faster. I had an adventure getting to Amsterdam to meet up with Yalu and friends. It started with the shabby 1 car train to Harwich (pronounced hair-wich), the creepy scenry on the way, and then finding out that I bought a ticket to go from Holland to Harwich and not Harwich to Holland. Luckily (I really felt like the luckiest person in the world this time), someone had cancelled a few minutes ago and I got their cabin. The ship was full. I will post things about Amsterdam probably after I get home and get pictures from everyone.

Right now I'm sitting in Yalu's apartment in Paris. I've managed to explore lots of Paris in these few days. I met a couple of girls who are on a europe trip and have been hanging out with them a lot. They're friends of Mahalia, so not total strangers. We met a week ago in while they were touring England.

Surprisingly, even with all this walking, I haven't gotten sore. But just feel very tired. Anyhow, more posts later, probably after I get back to the States.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Stayed up until 5am this morning finishing up two reports. But they're finished and turned in. So I'm finally, officially done with all the academic stuff at Cambridge! Wow...

Leave for Amsterdam soon.. yup. =)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Meeting Cambridge Engineers

This post is about something that is a bit lame on my part. I've realized that I haven't really met any Cambridge engineers, especially 3rd years, until these past few weeks. This is primarily due to the fact that there are 2 other people from MIT in the exchange who are doing civil engineering: Mahalia and Stella. We sit together during lecture, usually have supervisions together, work together, etc. Well, I noticed this at the end of last term when I did the Engineering Area Activity. So at Cambridge, the engineers take general engineering classes for their first two years and then specialize during their 3rd and 4th years. And each engineering area has its own Engineering Area Activity (EAA), usually in the form of many labs. The EAA for civil engineering is surveying, which takes place over few continuous days after the end of classes.

So Mahalia and Stella decided that surveying sounded really boring and not meaningful so they chose to do the EAA for mechanical engineering instead. So I got to the first lecture of surveying and the instructor informs us that we have to be in groups of 2 or 3. I look around and see that everyone already knows each other, has friends, and forms groups really easily. I realized that I didn't know anyone so I just asked to join the 2 people who happened to be sitting in front of me. And now for the 3rd year projects that are due this Friday (ahh!!), the same thing happened. Mahalia and Stella chose to do different projects and I end up sitting in rooms with people that I don't know...

But luckily, my first project is a group project where the professor split us up into groups (by alphabetical order). So I started to spend a lot of time with people in my group and their friends. There are only about 20 something people in both of my projects and everyone already knows each other. These are people I've seen all year but never really made the effort to get to know them. They also already know that I'm from MIT but never got around to talking to me either. Anyway, this whole thing is just kinda sad but at least I got to know a few of them now. In fact, I'm spending so much time with them that I've almost started talking like them. Almost, as in, the use of words like "I've got..", "surely", "literally", and other things that I can't think of at the moment. Don't worry, still can't bring myself to do the whole accent thing.

Not too sure what the whole point of this post is, other than to procrastinate from writing my reports. I guess on one hand, I'm really glad I did this exchange with a program, had MIT people all around, many of whom I got to know a lot better (and bonded with). But on the other hand, there's enough of us that it's too much of a safety net and I didn't have to reach out and find friends. I remember during freshman orientation, everyone was really eager to reach out and meet different people because none of us had any friends. That sounds a little desperate but it's the truth. We didn't have know anyone, didn't have friends, so we made the effort to get to know other people.

So I guess the lesson here is to consciously reach out, network, and get to know people whenever I'm dumped into a new area. MIT-CME people don't count because they didn't become friends through a conscious effort. We sort of just bonded because we were all sharing a similar experience. Like I said, this realization is really lame...

Monday, June 2, 2008

An update

Last week was really hectic. Physically and mentally exhausted by the end of it. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the bulk of my surveying project happened. We were split up into 3 people teams and were each responsible for surveying and mapping out the Coe Fen behind the engineering department. It rained a lot the weekend before and we were wet as soon as we stepped out into the fens. The grasses are all as high as my knee, sometimes my waist. It was muddy so we were all wet from our knees downwards. It's really uncomfortable to be working when your feet are totally wet. By Thursday, my shoes smelled pretty bad with swamp water. I dumped everything that went outside into the washing machine.

Actually, I wasn't out in the fens for very long on Wednesday because of my Chinese exams. The listening exam was in the morning. We started a little late because one of the students showed up late. And then as soon as he got there, the power went out. This is very bad since this exam depends on us listening to things recorded on the computer. Luckily, the power came back pretty quickly. I think I did pretty okay on this part. In the afternoon, I had my oral exam. This did not go as well as I thought it would. The topic was money. This was the one topic that I didn't revise. So sad. I managed to make coherent sentences but I feel like I kept saying the same stuff over and over again. I think I improved a lot from last October but it could've been better. And I thought it would be more like a conversation but it was more like a scholarship interview instead. Anyhow, after the exam, I helped my group with surveying and then went to meet Yalu.

Yalu's flight came on Wednesday and one of our friends, Maria, went to the bus station to meet her. She let Yalu stay with her until I was done with my projects. I'm really glad since I don't know how I was supposed to be doing 3 things at once. Anyway, I had to meet up with my project groups the next day so I gave Yalu a map and sent her off to the Fitzwilliam museum. Mahalia also had some friends visiting so Mahalia gave all of them a tour of Cambridge in the afternoon. I also got really lucky here (Thursday). Not only was I able to find some company for Yalu, my surveying group had a really easy job that afternoon. Tuesday and Wednesday, it was wet and sprinkled a little. But on Thursday, it poured. It was raining so hard that the instructor felt sorry for us and got us all candy bars. It was that bad. My group had the easy job and was able to finish in 2 hours instead of 4 or 5 hours that was required for the other jobs.

On Friday, I worked with my group on some design stuff in the morning and then went off to London with Yalu. I feel kinda bad about this but we did get a lot of stuff done that Friday morning. And I did a lot of the calculations. Anyhow, we left at around 1pm along with another friend, Yaoyao, who had to go to the Japanese embassy to get a visa for working there this summer. Yalu and I walked along the Thames River and saw most of the touristy sights in about 3 hours. We met up with Yaoyao who spent the whole time sorting out her visa stuff and the three of us walked around some more, ate dinner in Chinatown, and got back to Cambridge at nearly midnight. This was one exhausting day.

On Saturday, Yalu and I went on a tour that took us to Avebury, Stonehenge, and Salisbury. This tour group operates from Cambridge and takes overseas tourists around sites in England. I didn't know it was meant for overseas tourists. But the price was pretty reasonable. Anyway, we saw a lot of stones in Avebury and Stonehenge. There were stone circles in Avebury that predates the Stonehenge. Everything was built to astronomical events. I found that pretty impressive. We always think that we're more advance than people who lived thousands of years ago but they figured out where to put the stones and moved these things without the help of machinery.

On Sunday, Yalu and I went to London again. We took the bus this time and walked around Buckingham Palace and attempted to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. There were so much people! I was more impressed by the amount of people who turned up to watch this than the ceremony itself. Granted, we didn't see much of the ceremony but still. After this, we just walked around some more and chatted until it was time for Yalu to go to Heathrow and catch her flight to Paris.

On the way back, I took the bus again. The driver didn't let anyone sit in the front seat behind him and was really rude about it. One lady tried to sit there and he yelled at her to find another seat. She was like, "I always sit in the front." and the driver just shouted "No!" She was too surprised to argue and just found another seat. Then a few stops later, a man tried to sit there and he and the driver got into an argument. The driver grabbed his ticket and tried to take his bag. Neither of them spoke English very well but the whole thing was pretty clear. The only explanation the driver gave was that he wanted the seat for his stuff. He even turned off the engine and just sat there, expecting the man to give up. The rest of the passengers shouted at the driver to keep driving. Another passenger walked up and tried to get the driver to keep driving and threatened to call the company. The driver seemed unconcerned and was like "No one is in the office today. Sunday." Anyhow, he drove on after a while. I filed a complaint against him on the National Express website. This is another reason why I prefer the trains over the bus. You have to deal with these bus drivers. Most of the time, they're really nice but sometimes they're just down right mean and rude.