amanda

1st year BEng Computing

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amanda

1st year BEng Computing

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Food or Sustenance?

I can’t cook to save my life. That was the greatest certainty I had, while stumbling confusedly from the stage in life called ‘moving out’. I’d never really needed to cook for myself (except on duke of ed over a dodgy portable oil stove) and whenever I tried, it either took FOREVER, or my mum would […]

I can’t cook to save my life. That was the greatest certainty I had, while stumbling confusedly from the stage in life called ‘moving out’. I’d never really needed to cook for myself (except on duke of ed over a dodgy portable oil stove) and whenever I tried, it either took FOREVER, or my mum would casually take over half way in an attempt to save the disaster. I mean I knew the general concept, its not rocket science, more chemistry 😛 … But, the fact remains that when I first arrived in halls I was completely clueless about food. What to buy from the supermarket? How long do things keep? What things go well together? Is bread thats slightly green on the sides still edible? In halls the rule is basically if its not rotting, give it a shot and if you’re not willing, ask around and someone else will be.

Nowadays, I avoid talking about what I eat to anyone remotely adult (usually other peoples parents and family friends) because it tends to raise eyebrows and prompt worried questions about my sanity. Mainly, its due to the completely utilitarian outlook on the idea of food. I’ve really come to enjoy cooking, but its really more of a necessity than a hobby. As a computing student i’ll present the logic thus.

Food Logic

 

I bought a blender in 3 weeks into Autumn term and its basically the best thing ever. The running joke in my hall is that I don’t eat anything that isn’t blended… not true, but I do blend stuff a lot. I have a constant supply of soy milk, bananas and frozen fruit for that purpose. Its a bit of downer at the moment, because I’ve got a cold so cold drinks all the time isn’t really that appealing, but most other times its delicious and healthy. Heres a montage of the smoothies I make.

Smoothie

those flavours … mmm

When I’m feeling particular disciplined I blend my breakfast smoothie the night before and shove it in the fridge, because I’ll never wake up in time to make anything in the morning. The smoothie with oats, is a personal breakfast fave because its kinda like cereal in a bottle 🙂 Smoothies for lunch, are quick and stress free, and then for dinner well I try not to smoothie again because … I require solids.

In terms of actual cooking, I quickly got over my initial phobia of raw meat, because well vegetables don’t keep as long, whereas meat you can freeze = less shopping. Most days I just chop up some meat stick it in a pan, salt and pepper and its ready to eat. I basically cut carbs from my diet week 5 of autumn term after the crash diet I did for a taekwondo competition and since then I’ve never really gotten my taste back for rice, pasta, bread etc. Plus most of my floor is still kinda on the ‘healthy eating vibe’ so it just seems normal. I probably have rice noodles maybe once a week, more often recently because hot soup noodle be good for the soul and hacking cough… I only recently got into cooking chicken, because it takes quite a bit longer than beef, and I need the beef for its iron content, but I guess I got bored of a diet of 4 days salmon 10 days beef. Its all pretty cheap if you look at it. I get 4 salmon fillets per shop for £6 and basically eat that 4 days in a row because it doesn’t keep. I freeze about 6 – 7 thin steaks which I get for £4.50 total and thats all the meat for the fortnight.

Then theres eggs, the saviour of all. Poached eggs, soft boiled eggs, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, omelettes. I can do them all. Poached eggs are the easiest, and very tasty so I do them a lot. Scrambled eggs have the illusion of being more filling because it takes more than 2 bites to demolish (1 gulp per poached eggs :P) and it can be interesting to scramble in other things. So far i’ve tried beans, haloumi, salmon and quorn. When I was on a stricter diet, I just ate 3 eggs for dinner or 2 + meat. But nowadays my eggs usage has slowed to a pack of 12 per fortnight.

Here are some very un-instagram worthy food pics.

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salmon w/ scrambled eggs

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Poached yolk goodness

 

I basically gave up on vegetables quite early on, apart from cucumbers I ended up throwing away more vegetables than I ate since it all went bad too fast. I either had to top up every 3 days or only ate vegetables 3 days a fortnight. Its not even like I don’t like vegetables, its just I don’t seem to have any good ways to manage it in my diet. I like to think I make up for it with my excessive fruit consumption. If theres anything my shopping partner has pointed out, its that every shop most of my basket is fruit, and my fridge is basically a fruit store. This week I bought, nectarines, grapes, peaches, a honeydew melon, watermelon 4 mangos and 10 bananas (would’ve been 15 if I was making more smoothies). If I didn’t get the watermelon as a treat, I’d have gotten apples as usual. And these are the fresh fruits, I also buy frozen mangoes, blueberries and strawberries for my smoothies. Its just so easy to pop into the fridge, grab a nectarine, apple, or peach to go. Need a refreshing post meal dessert? Grab a handful of grapes. I also have to have fruit after dinner – its a slight obsession since its basically a thing my family’s done since life on earth began.

Much has changed in my dietary habits since I first got here and had pasta for every meal. The remnants of that trend is festering in the 2 kgs of pasta I have on my untouched top shelf. In my halls, we tend to go through fads as well, everyone is suddenly into ice cream, or quorn, or cheese. And while i’m not immune to that, having so much control over what I eat, means I really should start paying a bit more attention. I’ve realised there are a lot of foods I ‘would rather not eat’ as opposed to dislike. Meaning, if you put it on a plate in front me, i’ll eat it, but if I saw it in a supermarket, I wouldn’t buy it. The only constant I have is the fruit obsession, otherwise 3 meals a day is a lost cause since I see every meal as either optional or conditional on environmental factors. I basically forget to eat a lot of the time, because cooking takes time.

However, the fun of cooking is not lost when time permits. I often cook with my hall mates and when i’m involved it usually involves sharing something culturally relevant. I got my hands on some prawn noodle paste and decided to put together my inner malaysian and make some with a friend.

noodles

this was one of the best meals ever

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we also made a lovely curry

All in all, for the most part, food as a student is a bit of chore, we accept its necessary in order to keep functioning, but would rather it not be. But from time to time, the cooking experience becomes more social, and its really quite fun to share a meal with people, cook together and discuss ‘the best way to cut up potatoes’. I was definitely overly concerned about the amount of working cooking for myself would be before coming to uni. And at first I seemed to spend all my time cooking. But once you get into a routine with it, (or lack thereof in my case) it just fades away into the background. I recommend following the logic I provided above 🙂 the gist if which is – if (hungry) {eat} 🙂

Haskell Driving Test

We had our first driving test in week 6 of our first term… it was really quite daunting, but we got a practice test a week before to get us used to the process and the test environment. Since then we’ve had another one for Java and recently we had our final Haskell driving test. […]

We had our first driving test in week 6 of our first term… it was really quite daunting, but we got a practice test a week before to get us used to the process and the test environment. Since then we’ve had another one for Java and recently we had our final Haskell driving test. The whole process has become rather routine, but driving tests as a concept are a difficult thing to get your head around as an examination method when you’re used to the pen and paper exams that access content retention we take in high school.

A driving test basically tests your practical programming skills, challenging you to solve a problem in a time pressured environment and without access to aids like Google. If you’ve done any programming at all, you’ll understand that its just not the same as a normal exam. Like a physics practical, if the experiment just isn’t giving you the results you expected that one time you do it in an exam… too bad, write the report on how much it sucks. In a practical, a lot more things can go wrong and you can never really fully ‘prepare’ for them. A lot more rides on the conditions on the day, how well you understand the problem and whether the approach you choose to take is valid or not. Thats not to say you can’t prepare for them, its more that you can’t cram for them.

The first computing course I ever did was in Sydney and the practical exams were pass or fail. Either you completed the problem and your solution passed auto-testing, or it didn’t. However, you did get several attempts with more and more time provided. Time is precious in coding, sometimes you can hack away at a problem for hours to no avail, but ultimately the more time you spend on it the closer you’re getting to the right answer. The times I’ve walked out of driving tests wishing I had more time to work on that last question or that I’d been quicker in getting out the easier functions at the beginning… ugh. At Imperial, you only get one shot, but your code is marked by a person who uses the auto testing results as an aid. There are marks given for each correct function you write, and getting a pass mark really isn’t that hard.

The general format for Haskell driving tests are that they are built up in sections. The spec sets out this elaborate structure that you’re going to build and at first you’re just overwhelmed, but the instructions are quite detailed and really guide you through what you have to do. In Part I you might write some simple functions that you can’t really see the use for, but then in Part II you start writing more complex functions that use those earlier functions, and need a better understanding of the concept we’re exploring in the test. in Part III things really start to get tricky and often theres a super hard question right at the end for the geniuses out there who want to get the last few marks. I never really make it to the last question in time, and even if I did I rarely understood the concept well enough to make a decent attempt.

What I most enjoy about the driving tests is that its not just about testing us, they are also really interesting and a good challenge. They introduce us to new concepts and what is possible with the language we’re learning. Even though I know we’ve been excessively handheld through the process, it’s still cool when the code does what its supposed to, and the cool concept we’ve been reading about actually comes to life. All the information you need to know is provided in the spec, and seriously these things can be like 15 pages long, so its a lot of reading. I did every past paper I could find and each one taught me something new and was an interesting read. It sounds geeky, but I did enjoy doing them.

All of this applies to driving tests in general, but on a personal note, Haskell is my favourite programming language out of the ones I have come across and while we didn’t really get into the more powerful things it can be used for, I’d be keen to look into any other opportunities to play around with a functional programming language, rather than the imperative ones that are more well known  (i.e. Java, C etc). I think that while the initial thought process involved with the recursive aspect to Haskell is hard to understand, its worth giving it a go, and I definitely found it very rewarding.

For now, with my final Haskell driving test over and done with, I’ll miss it, but its time to get into Java again. (and this term we’re getting into the serious stuff… apparently)

Valentine’s Day Weekend

The Valentine’s Day weekend was one of the most memorable ones I’ve had in a while, albeit getting absolutely no work done and consequently drowning in coursework the following week. On the 13th, I had tickets to see Hurts at the O2 Academy Brixton. This was my second gig in London, the first of which was […]

The Valentine’s Day weekend was one of the most memorable ones I’ve had in a while, albeit getting absolutely no work done and consequently drowning in coursework the following week. On the 13th, I had tickets to see Hurts at the O2 Academy Brixton. This was my second gig in London, the first of which was Panic at the Disco which was at the same venue.

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cuz i’m a tourist

I’ve discussed this before, but going to concerts alone requires a whole new level of shamlessness + you really really really have to like the band. But when you do it right, lose your yourself properly and rave like the shameless loner you are, its AWESOME. Seriously Hurts was the second best gig I’ve ever been to. Heres a picture.

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you should go listen to them now 🙂

On the 14th I went on my second every cross country journey since coming to England. Oxford shivered at my impending arrival 😛 lol jks… I got hella confused, missed a few trains and eventually made it. I was there to meet up with a few primary school friends from HK who I’d basically never seen since I was 11. Tbf I’d barely spoken to them since then either, but you know the power of Facebook meant we were “still in touch” and one of them invited me then one thing led to another and… teehee just kidding. Legit though, 7 years of zero contact later, I literally got on a train and hoped I’d get along with them 😛

Best Day Ever. Those guys were the bomb, it was like we’d been friends for years, but had just been remarkably oblivious to all aspects of each others lives 😛 It surprised me how fun it was, we had great chats, made bubble tea and rapidly developed some inside jokes. I guess common history has this way of bringing people together. Its usually hard for me to find others who relate to my international student, culturally confused, academically stressed and professionally undecided issues, but these guys just got it – and that was nice.

I also attended my first ever posh-as formal dinner #OxfordLife, and blended right in with my borrowed gown 😛 As ever, we then took the obligatory “reunion photo”.

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look at that fancy dining hall

Now to the surprise ending… I got back to London late Sunday night, ate some of the AMAZING fudge I bought from the Fudge Kitchen (which doesn’t have branches in London = a crime) and awoke to a coursework overload. I was in a great mood, went to all my lectures, played some squash, got ready to do some work when suddenly I was in the health centre being injected with needles and fussed over by anxious nurses and doctors. Anaphylaxis. I don’t even have any known allergies, like what are the chances. Apart from the initial shock, the rest of the story is pretty cool. Because of the severity of the allergic reaction, I had to be given an adrenaline injection which then necessitated a trip to the emergency room. In an ambulance. Which arrived, flashing blue lights and everything. I was then taken to Chelsea Westminster Hospital to continue my treatment and for further observation, I even got a cool IV line for them to inject all the drugs and fluids into. All that stuff they say about the NHS… sure it might be overloaded, but I didn’t die so i’ll take that. Thank you NHS! 😛

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its probably a bit unnatural to be this excited …

As a result of that little episode, I am now considered “at risk” of anaphylaxis and have to carry an epipen. Hopefully I’ll find out what I’m actually allergic to so I know when I might be “at risk of death” 😛 All in all, a lovely weekend!

So Many Societies?!

Going to university is all about trying something new, you go to a new place, meet new people… there’s no better opportunity to reinvent yourself, make some resolutions you might actually keep. Societies at uni are all about the effort you put in. If you don’t take part, no one is going to come after […]

Going to university is all about trying something new, you go to a new place, meet new people… there’s no better opportunity to reinvent yourself, make some resolutions you might actually keep.

Societies at uni are all about the effort you put in. If you don’t take part, no one is going to come after you, in fact no one will even care. You join a mailing list, you turn up to events that interest you and hopefully along the way you’ll meet some nice people you’ll come to call friends, and if not maybe at least you had a good time. If you don’t bother to turn up, don’t make the effort to participate, then liking their Facebook page and being on their mailing list seriously doesn’t count.

It was hard at first deciding which societies I wanted to join (more like make an effort for). I fluctuated between wanting to do absolutely everything, to pessimistically thinking nothing would fit into my hectic study schedule. At times, I’d think I wanted to pursue more sports, other times my inner thespian would prevail. Thats the thing with having options, they tend to be a bit overwhelming.

In my first 2 months of uni, I competed in a Taekwondo competition, did the lighting for a show and managed to make a tennis team. I wanted to do so much more, like make a short film, join the acapella society, go to the gym everyday… but you know what I’ll take what I’ve got so far. Did I mention that trying out for the tennis team was the scariest thing I did in freshers week. I was away from the normal environment where I play tennis, where I knew exactly where I stood and how good I was compared to others. Suddenly, I had to perform and prove myself . All that worry and I’ve played tennis since I was 3. Imagine the anxiety of joining a society for something I’d never tried before. Being a beginner may be freeing but its still terrifying, intimidating and seriously off-putting at times. I even pretended to be a beginner at Taekwondo for a whole 3 weeks, just so I could gauge the standard first. Trust me I get it. Plus, I considered trying to get into basketball, but the thought of being a terrible noob amidst seasoned ballers … kept me away (confession: I’m not proud of this, but what happened, happened).

The best thing about societies is that you can turn up for an event with a society for the first time, and sure you’ll probably know no one there, but no one will really care. No one will think you don’t belong because they all did it too at some point, been the new kid. If you make the effort and keep turning up, strange faces will become familiar and familiar will become friendly.

Sure they say society helps you make friends outside your course and your hall, but I think the most important part is that it lets us explore our interests in a completely free environment. You just have to be brave enough to step up. Screw everyone else, try something new, it’ll be worth it. (disclaimer: if it isn’t, at least you can say you lived a little right?)

Theatre Culture

When I first visited London one of the first things I noticed was the ridiculous amount of ads that plastered the walls of tube stations. As you stood on a crazy long escalator you were bombarded with things to buy, shows to see, online shopping sites to try… etc. But the thing that really interested […]

When I first visited London one of the first things I noticed was the ridiculous amount of ads that plastered the walls of tube stations. As you stood on a crazy long escalator you were bombarded with things to buy, shows to see, online shopping sites to try… etc. But the thing that really interested me were the shows.

Tube Ads

check out all those ads!

The theatre culture in London is awesome, there are a huge variety of shows from musicals, Shakespeare, the latest book adaptation, comedies and more. The musicals with never ending runs, like Billy Elliot, Lion King, Les Miserables and other ‘classics’ are more targeted at tourists who want to experience the theatre culture, rather than the ‘theatre connoisseur’ who enjoys frequenting more obscure productions. However, as a form of entertainment, theatre going is definitely considered more “classy” than most (probably because of the price of tickets) and typically attracts a certain demographic of older people. Lucky for me, this means there are a lot of offers around for students as theatres seek to encourage younger people to attend. Most shows have some kind of student discount or special ticket ranging from £5. It’s a good deal really and looking up these offers even got me cheap tickets to the sold out Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch.

In Sydney, the theatre just wasn’t popular as a form of entertainment or a ‘night out’. Ok that and not many people are fans of sitting through renditions of Shakespeare. However, now that I’ve essentially entered theatre lovers wonderland, I’m taking full advantage regardless of whether I have company. No one judges a lone theatre goer… at all. Given I do go to Imperial where I’m sure Shakespeare fans don’t really abound… I’ve become rather good at putting aside the awkwardness of going to things alone (this is not limited to theatre, I went to a concert alone too = next level loner life). Once you get past it, it’s kind of freeing in that you aren’t letting anything get in the way of what you like and enjoying yourself. Friends are an added bonus, not a necessity.

That’s another thing having mainly hall friends, you share common geography not common interests and it does seem stupid not to go to things just because no one else you know is interested. Although you could argue part of the fun is the social experience. It does really develop your ability to speak to strangers though, you may not be forming deep relationships with small talk, but you get to meet all sorts of people, which at a theatre is really quite a variety. I met another lone theatre goer at Henry IV Part I who was Canadian, lived in London and spoke fluent Russian… That’s nothing if not interesting. I even stayed for the post show talk where with the depth of their questions, I was amazed by how seriously people took these adaptations of Shakespeare. Some detail about my recent Shakespeare exploits …

King and Country Cycle

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) are putting on a series of 4 of Shakespeare’s histories: Richard II, Henry IV Part I and II, and Henry V. They are linked in terms of their chronology and share characters, but were originally written to be performed as individual plays. This is similar to another attempt to make these 4 plays a series with the BBC’s Hollow Crown adaptation starring Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston … Which I watched and really enjoyed, but having seen it live I must say the experience is very different.

The main sell of these plays for the popular audience was that David Tennant played Richard II and while tickets for Richard II sold out months in advance (seriously intense digging was necessary to procure my tickets), I was able to buy £5 student tickets to the other plays in the cycle and got great stalls seats. In recent times, British actors who have achieved success through film and television returning to theatre roles has brought mainstream media attention to productions that otherwise wouldn’t have interested the demographic of ‘crazy fans’. For example, the BBC is making a second Hollow Crown series of 4 different plays starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench and Michael Gambon. Personally, I think its a great way to introduce Shakespeare to people who wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed or have been exposed to it. Hopefully people come for the actors, and stay for the story? I’m allowed to hope.

It was also the first time I’ve experienced the ‘stage door’ aspect of theatre, where the actors come out after the show to meet their ‘fans’. For the most part, its not really that crazy, but after Richard II it was nuts. People who weren’t watching the play waited outside for hours to be at the front. I came out after the show very confused as to what was going on and joined the crowd in curiosity. 20 minutes of waiting, a crazy crush and loud screaming when David Tennant came out and frantic programme waving later, I had an autograph and a lot of paparazzi style photos. But hey, it was an experience. When Benedict Cumberbatch was in Hamlet, they had to stop doing it because the crowds were just too crazy. By contrast, there was virtually no crowd after any of the other plays in the cycle… So much for people coming to the theatre for the Shakespeare eh?

look at that long hair

look at that long hair

best photo I got

paparazzi style

Seriously, I had a hell of a good time watching people pounce about on stage in cool medieval costumes. My next Shakespearean exploit is As You Like It at the National Theatre (the first Shakespeare I’ll see not at the Barbican centre) as they have £5 student tickets and I’m also trying to find time to see Wicked, because I found a theatre project offering £5 tickets to that too! Its actually cheaper than clubbing and healthier for my liver. Woo! Now I just have to find some theatre keen buddies.

Imperial Horizons Programme

One of the major selling points of Imperial is that its specialises in science and engineering. In terms of environment, there’s no where you can go where you can be more surrounded by maths geniuses, mad inventors and generally very scientifically minded people. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the interesting personalities and generally […]

One of the major selling points of Imperial is that its specialises in science and engineering. In terms of environment, there’s no where you can go where you can be more surrounded by maths geniuses, mad inventors and generally very scientifically minded people. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the interesting personalities and generally more philosophically stimulating conversations that comes with people that study arts, but you win some, you lose some. I’ve never been one of those people firmly rooted in a love for maths and science. I loved writing essays (weird, I know), something about making an argument, and thinking about things in that totally non-sensical, non-linear liberal artsy way was compelling and freeing from the straight logic of science.

When it came to deciding what subject area to pursue at university, I was seriously torn. On one hand, in todays modern technological age, science offered the better employment prospects by far. (It’s also generally agreed to be much harder to study, #contacthours). In Australia, the university culture is much more vocational, they go to uni to get the job at the end of it, not for the intellectual pursuit. If you studied English, people asked “what are you going to use that for?” Thats what I liked more about the English uni system. It was totally acceptable to study something like English and History, and afterwards your employability was still increased because you learnt to think a certain way (if only thinking skills could be demonstrated quantitatively like maths and science).

I ended up choosing the wimpy compromise, applying to universities which offered joint majors in Computer Science and Philosophy, as well as straight computing courses. Ultimately, for reasons 80% shallow, 10% logical and 100% Imperial, I arrived here with a massive liberal arts itch to scratch. Thank god for Horizons.

The official propaganda for the programme is “The Imperial Horizons programme offers a wide range of courses for all Imperial College undergraduates. It is designed to broaden your education, inspire your creativity and enhance your professional impact. ”  They offer languages, humanities, arts business subjects in a neat bundle of 2 contact hours a week, zero commitment and no fail record. Totally voluntary and impossible to mess up. It literally screams “at least give it a try” and it works, almost everyone I knew signed up for some Horizon course or other. Some people did it for their resume… seriously theres a course called ‘Skills for Employability’, those who wanted a more ambitious resume booster  probably signed up for a language and those who were just genuinely curious did philosophy, globally challenges or a whole mirage of things that all sound fascinating. Too bad you can only pick one per term.

Let’s talk about the the drop out rate. I know people who didn’t even make it to the first class. I know people who dropped out halfway through the first class and I know people who…omg wait for it… actually stuck out the first class. So far, people who stuck it out are few and far between. Talk about commitment issues. By the way I’m still attending and proud, but then I did start the post with an extended love song to the arts. I picked French because I studied it all through high school and well its like a deep passion of mine. Tbf, my class actually didn’t diminish much, I guess we had all already committed to learning French for ages and were more motivated than the guys in the beginner class. Its actually great, I get to flex my french muscles, do some lateral thinking, research, write essays and it really doesn’t matter what grade I get.

The way I see it, if I don’t think of dropping out as an option, French is just part of my degree. Its a good distraction, a welcome break and heaps of fun. If its a chore, don’t do it. If its for your resume? Good luck making it through the term. Do it for yourself, otherwise don’t bother. The system welcomes everyone to try it, but it does nothing to keep them there. It weeds out all those who have false motives and I think its genius. Its one of the best opportunities Imperial provides and its completely up to you to advantage of it. As Shia LaBeouf says… JUST DO IT.

3 Months of Hall Living Later…

Sometimes the excitement of a new environment, new people and generally a new life can be overpowering. Its easy to be carried away in the wave of new experiences, so when an inevitable crash comes its completely unexpected and hits you much harder than normal. Speaking to my hall mates, I think the most problem we’ve all […]

Sometimes the excitement of a new environment, new people and generally a new life can be overpowering. Its easy to be carried away in the wave of new experiences, so when an inevitable crash comes its completely unexpected and hits you much harder than normal. Speaking to my hall mates, I think the most problem we’ve all been facing is loneliness. Its not as though we aren’t surrounded by friendly people, but when compared to the tight-knit friendships we all have back home or back in high school, the transcient nature of friendships at university is a whole new dynamic takes time to get used to.

2 months of living in halls later, the novelty has essentially worn off. You no longer say ‘hi’ to half your floor mates when you pass them in the kitchen, and the floor dynamic definitely has traces of smaller friendship groups. Quite simply, you can’t be bothered anymore. Hall living is like living in a heightened social atmosphere, its exhausting but you don’t really notice because you’re always there. Working out the socially acceptable level of antisocial behaviour in halls is an art.

Another thing is that you didn’t choose your floor mates, they were randomly assigned and while you have some measure of control over how close friends you want to be with them, you’re kinda stuck with them and this level of daily interaction inevitable leads to friendship of some kind or other. My closest friends at uni are undoubtably those who I also live with, most other people I meet are either casual acquaintances through a society or through my course. We don’t have as much opportunity to share experiences like, clubbing, late night chats and disastrous cooking. I really did wish I was able to make more friends outside of halls, because at least that way I’d feel like we were friends because of common interest and compatibility rather than because of common geography. Such is life.

As someone who prefers to have a few really good friends rather than many ‘sort of’ friends, the social dynamic university is really a challenge, because I rarely get the opportunity to get to know someone well enough to loosen up. To an extent, I think everyone is starting to feel the strain of having the same strained,  politely conversational relationship with people and not knowing anymore about someone apart from name, course and country of origin. In high school, you see your friends everyday, without doubt from 9 – 4 everyday, you share classes, teachers and breaks, hence opportunities to bond are abundant. In uni, there is no such certainty, if I meet you today, I may not ever see you again, let alone everyday. In this way, its easy to see how feeling lonely is a distinct possibility.

Amidst this slightly depressing take on hall living, I think that this is a temporary low that will pass as we all adapt to this new social setting. After all everyone always says university is where you make your friends for life. Friends are friends no matter how and why you meet and often the best friends are the ones you never expected to make. At uni, everyone is going through something of their own behind their room doors and they are not obliged to share it with you. As I get used to this new found freedom to choose who I want to be friends with, it seems I sacrifice the ease of making friends the claustrophobic 5 days a week at school provided. I guess you can’t always get what you want.

Internship Craze

3 months into a Computing degree and I soon realised, internships were a real obsession. Having just started learning to code properly, the prospect of trying to make a valid contribution at some major company over the summer seemed completely premature. I definitely wouldn’t have the adequate skills not to feel completely useless and I […]

3 months into a Computing degree and I soon realised, internships were a real obsession. Having just started learning to code properly, the prospect of trying to make a valid contribution at some major company over the summer seemed completely premature. I definitely wouldn’t have the adequate skills not to feel completely useless and I definitely wasn’t an intern worth paying for. Yet despite that, I was surrounded by people frantically scurrying for an internship in their first year, applying left right and centre for a position. Its a frightening environment, because if you remain idle, you suddenly feel like you’re being left behind. You question your judgement and you start to think “should I be doing that too?”

Imperial is naturally a competitive environment, everyone achieved good grades and having immense drive to get ahead might as well have been part of the entry criteria. Still, I came to university with a slightly solemn view that all the hard work I had put in for the IB, all the small sacrifices (i.e. a social life) I made to get good grades were ultimately not worth it. Looking back, I either could have achieved similar grades with less work, or I would rather have got slightly lower grades and enjoyed myself more. In fact, when I started university, I was determined to have a good time, adamant not to let studying take over my life.

They say that if you time manage well, you can always fit in what you want to do, but let’s be honest, if you’re at Imperial you’re 300% more likely to prioritise getting a first over having a good time.  So, its in the middle of this, completely bizarre atmosphere of constant achievement that I find myself wondering, what motivates all of these high achievers. Are they pursuing internships because it brings them enjoyment? Or because it brings them advancement, better career prospects, a better looking resume… You know what they say about high achievers, they were so successful at every turn, that they’re driven by fear of failure… maybe all these people are just blindly pursuing what is perceived as the ‘right’ thing to do.

Back in secondary school, when I was preparing my university applications, I couldn’t help feeling that gaining entrance to a top university was just like playing a game. How many achievements can you collect? How can you most effectively ‘demonstrate’ your interest? How can you make yourself stand out? In the world of selective entrance, you either learn to play and play well, or go home. Its no longer about being brilliant, it about how well you can to prove it, quantify it, and write essays about it. I came out of the process adequately disillusioned and totally sick of it, only to find out that at university nothing is different. The prize has simply turned into gaining entrance into ‘prestigious’ graduate schemes.

Internships help us experience the workplace, discover our interests and options in the industry and certainly I agree they are an important aspect of any vocational subject area, but I think we need to properly evaluate why we are doing them before we blindly write applications. Right now, I see them as a necessary evil, a means to embellish my resume. Yet like a hypocrite, I am able to express all the problems with this behaviour while begrudgingly partaking. Basically, I did it anyway (after all I didn’t get this far by following my heart and having a moral compass) and after spending the last 3 days writing applications for spring programmes and summer internships, I still think it nothing less than soul selling.

Bargain Night Out

When people started coming back after the Christmas break there was an inevitable rush of social behaviour as everyone caught up with each others holiday exploits and just like the first day of school after the holidays, everyone’s just happy to see their friends. A group of us decided to go take advantage of the […]

When people started coming back after the Christmas break there was an inevitable rush of social behaviour as everyone caught up with each others holiday exploits and just like the first day of school after the holidays, everyone’s just happy to see their friends. A group of us decided to go take advantage of the 2 for £10 deal at Gourmet Burger Kitchen and after hanging out in an almost empty hall with the same 3 people for 3 weeks, it was the best night out I’d had in a while. Not to mention, the food was very satisfying after months of own pathetic cooking and ‘healthy eating’.

nomnomnom

nomnomnom

Now normally, in a 2 for 1 deal, you bring a friend and you split it. When you go with 3 guys… you get 2 each, because 1 puny burger is for weaklings. Needless to say, the waiters gave us some pretty weird looks when they brought out our burgers and we claimed two each. And I’ve never felt so stuffed in my life. (at least in the last 3 months) BUT THEY WERE SO GOOD OMG.

Now that we’ve got that over with. Apart from the great food, the vibe was just chill. We were all just happy to see each other after a long break and while it was the last day of the holidays, we weren’t stressed about uni coursework yet. We didn’t have to worry about making pointless small talk like we would if we were out with uni acquaintances, we had effortless inside jokes and casual banter and it was just good fun.

Then of course we decided, we needed dessert and as poor broke students we scavenged yet another deal. We had recently bought 3 vouchers off Wowcher for the nearby gelato place Snowflake. 2 ice creams, 2 waffles with 1 topping each and 2 hot drinks all for £9 = dessert for two. We actually did split it this time, because we were hella stuffed.

I took a bite before taking the photo… oops

All of that and we didn’t even walk more than 15 minutes from halls. Ah the joys of South Kensington. Its not often that a night out with friends is worth writing about, but given the awesome deals we got for the food (#studentbudget), and the fact it was a surprisingly fun night (20 minutes picking ice cream flavours is more hilarious than it sounds?) it seemed worth sharing. Sometimes the best times are the unexpected ones, everything was super spontaneous, and given all of us could actually remember the good time we had the next morning, I’d say it was a win over the regular get smashed tradition of the ‘back to uni’ ritual.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet

When I heard mid way through 2014 that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre, I thought it a dream come true, my favourite Shakespeare play, and an amazing actor (lets be honest I’ve watched 80% of the films he’s in and I died while gibbering about Sherlock and Khan and Hawking […]

When I heard mid way through 2014 that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre, I thought it a dream come true, my favourite Shakespeare play, and an amazing actor (lets be honest I’ve watched 80% of the films he’s in and I died while gibbering about Sherlock and Khan and Hawking and … ok i’ll stop). There was just one, small, totally negligible point of interest… I lived in Sydney, Australia and certainly couldn’t afford to fly all the way to London to see it. In addition to that, I wouldn’t be sure of my acceptance to Imperial College until AFTER tickets went on sale, and if anything was guaranteed to sell out? It was this. My dreams shattered, I didn’t really think much more about it.

Come July 2015, acceptance letter in hand, I truly started plotting how to get tickets to the show. I’d conquered the geographic obstacle, I wasn’t going to let the minor fact that I didn’t have a ticket stop me from admiring Benedict on stage. I found out that the Barbican sold 30 £10 tickets for each show and all you had to do to get them was queue up outside the ticket office in the morning. Who doesn’t want to wake up 3am and stand in the freezing cold for theatre tickets. These tickets had 2 benefits, they were cheap and they were still available every single day of the show’s run. YAY. But when on earth was I going to find the time to queue? I was arriving in London just in time for university commencement and I was expecting it to be hella busy. I would do it if it was my only option, but with no friends in a new country, 3am queueing seemed a bleak prospect.

Octoboer 2015, I landed in Heathrow, moved in to halls and got a sim card… and discovered £35 tickets to special ‘student matinees’ of Hamlet. These could be booked and there were 2 of them still to come, surely these would have sold out too, its not as though cumberbatch fans were 100% teenage girls at all. I rang up the Barbican and to my surprise they were still available! OMG THE JOY. I walk into the kitchen, and with one ‘who wants to go see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet?’ I had 2 theatre buddies.

The show was the most amazing thing I’d every seen. I love theatre with a giant throbbing heart, and while I’d turned up at the show to see Benedict Cumberbatch, I loved everything from the lights, to the stage design. It was just such a cool interpretation, with slow motion, fantastically lit dream sequences, seamlessly innovative scene transitions… I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, soaking up every second. When you see a show for one actor, often you get bored when they’re not on stage, but in this case, I loved every moment, benedict or no benedict. Some people say that the effects were perhaps to extravagant for a theatre production, that it got in the way of the actors performance, and sure maybe at times, it was a bit much, but it was ambitious, dramatic and spectacular. For Shakespeare, maybe that was what kept us awake through the difficult dialogue :P, if only classrooms could have such awesome live performances, instead of boring readings.

I couldn't take pictures inside the theatre, so the programme and the tickets will have to do :)

I couldn’t take pictures inside the theatre, so the programme and the tickets will have to do 🙂

Going to see this play, was my first true appreciation of the fact that I had moved to London. One of the coolest cities in the world. It reminded me to take advantage of the all the opportunities that afforded me, to absorb the culture of theatre and art that was at times lacking in Sydney. It really was a dream come true. Its easy to take it for granted when you’re here, but I don’t intend to waste a moment of it. Sure I’m here to study, read Computing and earn a degree, but while I’m in London I’m damn well sure I also want to have fun.