“What do you study?”
This is the most common question I usually get when meeting new people in Denmark.The second most common question is: “What’s planetary science?”
So after saying, “Y’know… planets…” and gesturing towards the sky, there are a few surefire options for the following conversation:
So what’s your favorite constellation?
Oh! Planets! That’s like astrology, right?
What’s your opinion on Pluto?
And on rare occasion, I’ve gotten (separately): “Want to make out?” and, “Europa is my favorite planet.” (followed by a lengthy argument trying to convince me that Europa is, indeed, a planet. In the same conversation, the same dude also asked me, “Is San Francisco near California?”)
More often than I’ve expected, people have responded that they’ve always been interested in space and astronomy, but for some reason or another they haven’t pursued it. It seems like there is a pretty high general interest in the subject, but usually space studies stay in the hobby-zone because the career path is deemed too stressful, or tedious, or limited. So I really love seeing places that are meant for educating the public on the awesomeness of space!!
A few months ago,I went to the Tycho Brahe Planetarium—”Denmark’s most advanced centre for popularizing astronomy and space research and promoting knowledge on natural science” (according to them).You can imagine how ridiculously excited I was. Plus, over the summer, Casey (my boss at The Planetary Society) recommended it as one of the places I had to go in Copenhagen.
And it was great! It was pretty similar to Griffith Observatory. They had a room/exhibit about the different planets in our solar system (basic facts and history of discovery, how much you’d weigh on each, etc), and a room about astronauts and missions, and a big room for kids to see if they had “what it takes” to be an astronaut. They also had a really long timeline about the history of astronomy, with an emphasis on planetary science—which would have been really useful for both my 2012 SURF and this year’s internship at TPS.
It was SO AWESOME seeing all the shoutouts here and there to JPL and Caltech. My friend said, “You’re so funny with your patriotic nerdism.” Which I think is exactly accurate.
It was kind of a nice home-away-from-home feeling, seeing things about MSL, Kepler, and NASA. Of course while I haven’t been involved in any projects or missions (yet.. hehe), that feeling of “patriotic nerdism” was definitely there.
As part of the admission, we got to go see a 3D movie in The Space Theater, and I forgot what it was called but it was kind of a mini journey-through-the-universe sort of thing. Normally I’m not a huge fan of 3D, but it was incredible seeing planets zooming towards you, and flying through galaxies.
In the kids’ room, you could write on the walls! So of course I had to put a shoutout:
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!