I’ve decided to skip past blogging the rest of my travels before my term abroad, since this is now my 3rd week at Cambridge! Caltech has study abroad programs with 6 different universities: Cambridge, UCL (University College London), Edinburgh, École Polytechnique, DTU (Danish Technical University)/KU (Copenhagen University), and University of Melbourne.
Cambridge is really unique in that it still holds a lot of tradition, so there are various rules like not stepping on the grass and wearing a gown to formal dinners. Below is a picture of my college, Corpus Christi! It’s the second smallest college, and I matriculated with the class of incoming freshers, which was only 82 people.
I arrived a few days before Matriculation, so I spent that Friday and Saturday settling in, buying linens for my bed, shampoo, conditioner, etc, and walking around town! It’s so different from California, where I’ve lived all my life, that it was quite surreal for the first week. Not only is the architecture different, but it’s sowalkable. I love it; it’s so much more convenient and so nice to just go outside, walk for 5 minutes, and be somewhere that isn’t the middle of suburbia.
On Sunday, we had Matriculation. In the photo below, we’re all lining up, in formal wear with our gowns on, to take our group matriculation picture. During the ceremony, which is conducted partially in Latin, we sign two books – one for the University of Cambridge, and one for Corpus Christi College. Now I’m members of both institutions for life! It’s quite amazing, and I feel really lucky to be able to experience it even though I’m only here for a term :)
A slightly closer (too close) look at what a gown looks like! This was taken during our very exciting Fire Safety talk before the Matriculation ceremony. Each college has a slightly different gown. For example, we have velvet strips running down the lapel, while other colleges don’t.
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!