Last Friday we had TEDx at Caltech (x = independently organized event). TEDx is basically a day long conference with lots of short (under 20 minute) speaker presentations that are designed to inspire you to think about new things. The theme for this conference was “The Brain,” which was great for me because I think neurology is really cool. I like TED talks a lot because almost all the talks that I’ve seen have some sort of innovative component to them. Whether the talk is about an interesting social theory or an on-the-edge-of-science technology, it gets my mind going about different concepts and increases my perspective on the world. They’re like a library of ideas on video, and they’re awesome.
Right after TEDx I left for Big Bear for my house’s annual ski trip. I LOVE ski trip because it entails almost everything fun I love. Relaxing by a fire, time with all your friends, being outside in the fresh air, and an adventure sport. I just picked up snowboarding on my first Caltech ski trip, and I have to say I’m hooked. It’s pretty cool how much fun you can have with a piece of wood strapped to your feet. It’s also really beautiful up there. Big Bear mountain is right by a lake, and all the mountains were snowcapped. Star gazing is way better away from the city lights, although I didn’t get to do as much of that on this particular ski trip. All the houses have ski trip and their subsidized pretty nicely so people can afford to go. It cost me $45 to stay for 3 nights. I know it’s not cheap because I pay a hefty tuition… but I might as well take advantage of these opportunities, right?
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!