16 hours of airtime, more of just sitting in airports. And well, we’re definitely not in Pasadena. Exactly where am I though?
Singapore! Specifically, the far western end. I’m starting a SURF at Nanyang Technological University on Monday. I’m staying at what they call a student hostel. It’s more or less an apartment with a roommate (my roommate is a student from China who’s a fair bit older than me but still a super awesome guy). The rooms are spacious, but the overall standard of living is probably about the same.
Onto the fun stuff. Although I’ve been here basically a day, I’ve had some AMAZING food. In Singapore they have something called hawker centres, which are more or less street food but held to higher health standards. This, as well as food courts, have been home to my first couple great eats. When I got in I had roast duck with rice and soup and some broccolini. Today I had Singapore pancakes topped with an egg and who knows what else. And I managed to find a boba store within a mile walking of the apartment. It’s worth it for boba, always. The kicker though is that I haven’t spent more than $6 SGD on a meal (about $4.50 USD). That’s a crazy thought, although a bit lucky because I don’t have the facilities to cook for myself in the apartment. And I mean. Who can complain about $2 boba??
In this process I also encountered a salmon vending machine. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but I got a good chuckle out of it at the very least.
I’ve come to realize that despite trying hardest to counteract this, I am woefully, painfully, and irreparably American. Maybe that’s a bit of a byproduct of where I’m living. Although everyone speaks English in this part of Singapore, at least in my exploration everyone prefers to speak Malay or Mandarin. Which is a bit problematic for me as the extent of my Mandarin is “I’d like the sweet and sour fish” and I can’t even say hello in Malay. Also, my accent. My accent is extraordinarily American. Someone asked me where I was from and I said “America”. They responded, “I knew that, but what state?” Joke’s on them though because they had no idea where Colorado was.
Anyways, I’m sure I’ll have some even crazier adventures to come within the next week. I think barbeque stingray is on the menu for tonight.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.