I went back to the land of my enemy, my mortal nemesis. Or at least, the nemesis of our school. Durham, the only team currently ranked above us on the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) point list. Only, this time, I went with open arms.
I believe I mentioned somewhere deep buried in this land of blogs that my dad had studied abroad in Durham, 40 years ago precisely. And on this 40-year anniversary, it seems only fitting that his son would make a return to the land of his old haunts and continue the Chan family tradition in (chilly) Durham, England.
I dragged along one of my fencing teammates with me. Well, not exactly dragged. Ardy is from Durham, and he was actually rather excited to get the opportunity to take a tourist around his home and reminisce about the wonderfully cute city he grew up in.
Yet again though, this weekend adventure started with some train drama. They cancelled our train. But before too long we were on a later train and made our way into an overcast day in Durham
We started out by diving headfirst into the market. We picked up some wonderful gingerbread. Gingerbread is a bit different in the UK, it is soft with hard edges, instead of being entirely soft. We also picked up some sour sweets which Ardy loved and I could barely keep in my mouth for 15 seconds.
We then proceeded to the cathedral and the castle – both very prominent sites of Harry Potter filming, and old haunts of my dad’s. We had a nice solid walkthrough and spent some time enjoying the scenery before heading to a lunch at Zapatista Burrito Bar. I’ve really been craving Mexican food for the last few weeks in Scotland, so it just had to happen.
It was a whirlwind of a day, with no time for stopping. After this, we went on a mile or so journey out to the oriental museum. This fascinating little gem held a shockingly large collection of Asian Artifacts, some of which were similar to what I’d seen in China freshman year. Then we hiked the nearby hill and got a gorgeous view of the Durham castle and cathedral. It did really pay off to have an insider with me.
And like any good day, we ended it with a Tesco meal deal and a train ride back. It had been a long day, and we had earned our rest.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!