It is COLD here. I know I’ve said that before but hOh my goodness I almost froze to death on Saturday. Of course, this wasn’t helped by how I almost froze to death Friday night as well. But that was by personal choice. So, Friday, night before a fencing tournament (as it always is) I decided to do something rather bone-headed and so I found myself at the ice-skating rink for disco night. Ice-skating has long been a tradition of mine, and one that I skipped during last school year. I’m not a pro or anything, but I don’t fall over anymore, and I can somewhat skate backwards, and that’s usually good enough for any ice rink in California.
Unfortunately, though, the same doesn’t exactly hold for Edinburgh. IT seems that at least at disco night, about half the people there are hockey players. Including the little 7-year-old kids. Trust me, I almost got run over by a couple of them playing ice tag. The disco vibe was also a bit disappointing – more Edinburgh nightclub than early 2000s pop-radio (which was what we were all expecting). Either way though, the rink was amazing, the friends were amazing, and the ice skates were shockingly mediocre (in a good way) for rentals. I left without bruises or blisters, and ready to go for another round.
Only… the next round was about 4 hours away from when I got back, and it came in the form of a train to Largs. Now, where’s Largs you ask? Good question! A lot of British people wouldn’t know the answer either. Largs is a tiny town 2 hours west of Glasgow. I’ll grant you that it’s quite scenic. We saw a beautiful sunrise. But also, to see that, our train was beyond early (and actually, I missed the earliest train). Largs is also the site of the Scottish national training facility. A bit like the Olympic training center in Colorado, only Scottish and much smaller. The day of fencing was actually quite atrocious for me, but we found a lovely little ice cream shop. And we ended the evening with curry cheese chips, as any good fencing evening should.
Largs was also my last really obscure UK city trip that I’m taking for fencing this year. So, it’s a bit bittersweet. As my college fencing career will come to an end when I’m back at Caltech, this really was my last ride and it’s a bit sad. But I couldn’t have asked for anyone else to spend this season with.
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!