Formal at Pembroke College

Approximately two weeks ago, my friends and I went to Pembroke College for a formal hall. It was my first and last formal hall of this term. I wish I could go to more, but as a student who relies on scholarship, I don’t have such privilege.

Pembroke was beautiful!

No, please don’t start asking me, “Did you drink the wine, Titan?”

I went there with three friends from my college: Sara, Aaminah, and Ammar. Yes, all of them are Pakistani and I am the only Indonesian, haha. Sara is doing her Master’s in Public Health, while Amna and Ammar are doing their Ph. D.’s right now. Me? I am still struggling to finish my undergraduate degree…

With Aaminah and Ammar, picture was taken by Sara.
With Sara, picture was taken by Aaminah.

The food was good, and it was really nice to catch up with my friends. I am going to miss them all in the future, after I leave Cambridge. We cook together during the weekends, because all of us are Muslims, and we (they) cannot survive a week without any meat. Our college dining hall doesn’t serve halal meat, and fish doesn’t really count. That is why we always cook together. Sohaib usually joins us, but he could not come to the formal because he had a presentation the next day. Next time, Sohaib!

Pembroke, like the other colleges at Cambridge, has a high table where the professors, master, and fellows sit down during dinner/ formal hall. My college, St. Edmund’s is fairly informal, and we don’t have such table.

It was interesting to see how the atmosphere changes when people in high table entered the hall, and during the dinner. Of course, before we started eating, we had to pray in Latin, which I did not really understand.

When the professors/ fellows are still in their high table, people couldn’t speak too loud, leave the hall, nor use their phones (including taking pictures). My sister requested me to send her some pictures of the food I ate, but I could not do it, haha.

But I got the picture of table arrangement before the dinner started.

Once the professors/ fellows left, the students were suddenly cheering. Some people had birthdays on that day, and we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ together.

I will not say that the food was the best among formal halls I have attended, but it highly depends on each person’s taste buds. The appetizer was the best, and the dessert, rice pudding, was the best I have ever tried so far. I wish the main course would be a little bit spicier, because even salt and pepper did not help much.

Before we left the hall, we had a cup of tea, with mint chocolate. It is really normal in restaurants around Cambridge (or England?) to get a mint or mint chocolate after we finish the dinner/ dessert.

Then we took a stroll around the college, and I must admit that this college is really beautiful. They even have a proper garden, and it is bright enough to sit there during full moon! So jealous.

But my phone camera is too bad to capture its beauty, sorry!

When I came back to my college, my friends asked me to join them playing some board games. Too bad, I had a supervision the next day, so I left early. Thanks everyone for coming with me to the formal!

One week left until Lent term ends. Hopefully, I will finish strong!


Halfway through Cambridge

Lent term has been great! Of course, the classes are challenging and life never gets any easier; but I am surprised by how much I can cope with it. Now, it is week 6 of Lent term in Cambridge, which means that there are only 2 weeks left before the Lent term ends.

Which means… I am halfway through Cambridge!

When I realized that, my head said, “What? So fast! I have done nothing in Cambridge, and I need to go back to MIT soon.”

No way! I fall in love with English breakfast already. Where can I get proper English breakfast in Indonesia/ the States?

Not really, haha. I personally think that I have learnt so much here. The professors and supervisors, undoubtedly are world-class. The students are really smart, and knowledgeable about different things around the world. Because of that, I always learn something new in dinner table.

Which makes me ponder…

Is that the difference between Indonesian universities and Cambridge? Because the system is more faculty-based, you only hangout with people who do the same stuff with you? Yes, there are societies/ clubs outside the classes where people across-major meet, but what makes it still really different? Or maybe, people just want to discuss school-related materials outside the classes? I don’t know. My assumptions that Cambridge is better than most Indonesian universities might be wrong, too.

Or maybe, it is because the English drinks a lot of Earl Grey? Who knows.

My CME (Cambridge-MIT Exchange) Program Director, Josh, asked me during the interview for the program, “People study individually more in Cambridge. How will you deal with that?” Honestly, I didn’t understand how it actually is until I came here. People seem to do a lot of fun things outside their rooms, but you may not realize, after the party ends, they will come back to their room, study hard, and even pull an all-nighter if necessary. People just don’t talk about how hard they are studying. Unlike the MIT students, haha.

I can never really understand English weather, though. When I went to high school in New Mexico, USA, I thought it was crazy enough to get snow on early May. I am telling you the truth, English weather is even more unpredictable, and it covers really wide range: snows, hailstones, rain, fog, ‘shallow fog’, cloudy, partly cloudy, sunny, and other types. It never hurts to dress an extra layer (or bringing umbrella/ raincoat), because the weather forecast is not really that accurate.

I am getting used to the tea tradition. My college provides free tea and coffee at certain times during the weekdays and weekend, and you can meet people during those times for casual conversation, or more serious one, like, ‘What is wrong with United States in British eyes?’

This term I’m taking four classes, besides my Spanish Lower-Intermediate: Vibration, Heat and Mass Transfer, Finite Element Methods, and Organizational Behavior (or in British English: Organisational Behaviour, haha). I was so surprised to find the methods in first three modules are somehow related to each other. Finite Element Method, has been a lifesaver for both modules, and probably many other engineering-related problems. So, if I can tell you a piece of advice on what class to take in junior/ senior year of college, I will definitely recommend Finite Element Methods. This also helps you think in 3-D, instead of 2-D, which is what the engineers need.

Besides that…

I cook more!

The flexibility that MIT gives me in terms of the way of studying is fairly limited, so I usually don’t have time to cook for myself. During the weekdays, I would eat in my dorm dining hall, and go out with some friends during weekend. Here, it is more flexible, so I cook more. Don’t ask me how it tastes, though, haha.

St. John’s during e-Luminate Festival. Sorry for the bad quality.
City Center, Cambridge.

I also ‘look outside’ more often, and take time thinking over different things when I cycle back. I also write more, haha. Yes, it is just this time it has been quite challenging to manage it, I swear.

Also, I can never get over how beautiful this town is. And how people still hold on to the tradition.

See the Overhead Projector? See the wooden chairs?
Or, how I can explore new things with my safe status of ‘exchange student’, or ask as many stupid questions as I want.
Or playing with the dough for Bioengineering Lab.

That is the reason why I start to think… Studying abroad is one thing, but being an exchange student is another thing. The pressure and expectations are different, and the whole experience is just different.

For now, I would recommend you to do an exchange, even if you are studying abroad already. Trust me on this one.


Snow in Cambridge (Finally!)

I was so happy few days ago, because it finally feels like winter in Cambridge!

Isn’t the view outside my room just lovely?

You can expect a lot of snow in northern part of England. However, Cambridge is located in the east, and people told me that it doesn’t snow much here. In the past one week, it was snowing several times, though. Not too much, but just enough to make me feel happy. Winter is cold anyway, so you might as well have snow, right?

I was jumping up and down when I woke up and looked outside my room.
Apparently, it was snowing last night. When I went to get breakfast, I saw this happy snowman. It seems that people built it around midnight.
I cycled down the road to get to Engineering Department, and King’s Chapel looks amazing.
And King’s College also looks more beautiful.

You need to be careful when you cycle, though, because it can be quite slippery. I almost hit a person and a car few days ago. It wasn’t because I cycled too fast, but my rear brake was not working. So, I got it repaired in Market Square, and now my bike feels great to ride on!

Besides that, Lent term has entered week 4, which is around middle of the term (one term in Cambridge is 8 week long). That is why you can find me disappearing slowly from this blog, haha. I am currently taking so many interesting classes: Heat and Mass Transfer, Vibration, Finite Element Methods, and Organizational Behavior. I am a little bit struggling with Heat and Mass Transfer, because I haven’t done Heat and Mass Transfer I that Cambridge engineers did in their second years. I am going to be fine, though. Hopefully, haha.

So, this is my ‘home’ for the next few weeks.

Cambridge University Engineering Department Library!

Wish me luck, please. For people who just started new term, good luck! We are gonna do well this term 🙂

Away from London, Oxford and Stonehenge

Besides visiting London, my friend (Anne) and I were also visiting Stonehenge and Oxford over our 5-day adventure in London. First thing first: check the weather forecast when you are going to Stonehenge and if the colleges in Oxford are open. Don’t be like us: coming to Stonehenge when the it was windy and raining hard, and coming to Oxford when the colleges are closed for holiday.

Nonetheless, Stonehenge was really cool!

And I’m taller than the Stonehenge!

Oxford, just like Cambridge, is filled with scholarly atmosphere. Totally feel like a world-class university!

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

Let’s start with Oxford. Yes, I can hear you screaming, “Wow, Oxford! Best university in the world!” Remember, MIT and Cambridge are also best universities in the world 🙂

One thing that I realize as soon as I step in the college-area of the town, this is a great place to study. The town is big enough to provide you with what you need, but it’s not as busy as London. Cambridge is also the same, but Oxford feels older and has more tradition.
I heard, that during the exam time, Oxford students still need to wear their gown, while Cambridge students no longer do it. I don’t know though, this morning I had a mock exam and the invigilator was wearing gown. Well, I guess I will figure this out during my real exam time on April-May.
I also heard, that there is one huge library in Oxford, filled with books from different ages. Even the copy of Magna Carta is stored in this library. Because their effort of preserving the book, back then, people were not allowed to read with candles on in the library, and there was not any heater during heater because of fire hazard. That was another reason, why the students back then wore gown anywhere, so they could stay in library although it was cold. 
Oxford colleges from far.
‘An education in intoxication’, the famous turf tavern where students grab some drinks.
The gate where people come out after exams. They bring red flowers to celebrate the end of the exam period. That is why you can see the flowers on details of the gate.
Christ Church College. Apparently, the dining hall in this college was the setting for Hogwarts’ dining hall on Harry Potter. We had to pay to get in, though.
Let’s move on to Stonehenge. You may have seen Stonehenge before… on your Windows XP desktop background.
Yep, this one. Taken from

What is Stonehenge exactly? It was built by people on 3000 BC. There are some speculations about why this was built, and people are still not sure. Look at the diagram below.


During summer solstice and winter solstice, you can see the sun is aligned with the altar stone and the heel stone. That’s why people think that Stonehenge was used as a calendar to find out about seasons, which affect their activities of farming and harvesting.

However, there’s also a circular ditch around the Stonehenge, where the archaeologists found human remnants. Therefore, people also think that Stonehenge might be a temple back then, where sick people are being healed.

Stonehenge, now.
Nonetheless, Stonehenge was a witness of change in ages. This area was also used as a military camp during World War, and this caused some parts of Stonehenge destroyed. Back then, people were also allowed to walk into the inner circle, but some irresponsible people decided to draw some graffiti on the stones. Therefore, the inner circle cannot be accessed now. 
However, there is a cool exhibition near the visitors center.
The approximate method of how the stones were brought there.
I don’t think I was strong enough. Photo credit: Anne.
So, how do we get to Oxford and Stonehenge?
There is a direct train every hour to Oxford from London Paddington Station. It takes about one hour. Oxford itself, just like Cambridge, can be explored by walking.
For Stonehenge, there is also a direct train every hour to Salisbury from London Waterloo Station. After you arrive in Salisbury, you need to find the Stonehenge tour bus, where you pay for the bus ride and also the entrance ticket. When you arrive at the Stonehenge Visitor Center, you still need to hop on to another shuttle bus that will bring you to the site. Yes, Stonehenge is in the middle of nowhere. The total time you need to get from London to the site is about 2.5 hours. You also need to remember, that Stonehenge opening hours are really limited, so make sure to check it on the website first.
When I was looking at Stonehenge, I wish Indonesia would be a bit more serious to manage our tourist sites. Make them more interesting and more (international) visitor-friendly.
On a side note, this Thursday school is going to start again. Wish me luck for Lent term!

London: My New Favorite

My Indonesian high school friend (yeah, SMAN 3 Bandung!) visited me in Cambridge a week ago. She is doing a bachelor program in Germany, and she hasn’t visited England before. So, we decided to spend a week travelling together: Cambridge, Oxford, London, and Salisbury/ Stonehenge.

Man, why is London so beautiful?

Tower Bridge. It makes me galau as well, I think Thames River has a magical power.

There are just so many things to do in London, and you can hop on to a train and go to Cambridge and Oxford for less than one hour, and Stonehenge for two hours (including the shuttle bus and the train).

Besides having a great time of reminiscing the past (and gossiping about X’s new boyfriend or Y’s new girlfriend) with Anne, we also walked and visited so many places.

First thing first, London’s Chinatown is my new favorite. They have a really good Malaysian/ Singaporean restaurant called ‘Rasa Sayang’ and ChaTime. God, yes, bubble tea! However, there’s even a better one called Cuppacha. Their matcha mousse tea with tapioca pearl is just, heavenly.

The matcha mousse is the one on the left. Why don’t they have Cuppacha in Cambridge?
Rasa Sayang’s Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik was also really good. Really, really, good.

London also has a really long story, and has witnessed different eras, kings, and how British Empire evolves. I was really fascinated by my tour guide’s explanation about the kings and queens in Britain, how unique each of them was, and how this formed what Britain is now.

Do you know how English Tea time becomes so popular? One of the kings in the past married a Portuguese princess, and the princess who became the queen of the empire brought the tea time tradition and made it really popular among the royals. Of course, if the royals are doing it, the peasants will also do it, right?

Why is British English accent is so different, and captivating? Apparently, after the use of English spreads around the world as the ‘world language’, the royals feel that they need to be distinct than the peasants. That’s how the royals started to use what is now commonly known as British accent.

I got the information above from my tour guide, by the way, haha. So, you need to see if it is correct.

Here are some iconic landmarks in London!

Trafalgar Square. There is an interesting story behind this monument. This was erected for one of war heroes that Britain has. I heard that the hero was killed in the sea, but he asked to be brought back to London. So, people used alcoholic drinks on the boat (brandy) to preserve the body.
Buckingham Palace during Guard Changing Ceremony. When the Queen is at home (at the palace), next to the UK flag, there will be a royal symbol flag as well. You can conclude that the Queen was not at home when I took this picture.
The Guard Changing Ceremony ends at St. James Palace. You can see the iconic palace guards really close!
Westminster Abbey, where the royals get married, including Prince William and Kate Middleton.
London’s Chinatown.
Piccadily Circus, which is really similar to New York City’s Times Square.
Baker Street Underground Station. You can see Sherlock Holmes’ giant sticker there.
The iconic Big Ben at night. Big Ben actually rings every 15 minutes, and at the exact hour it will ring the bells the same number of times as the time at that moment.
London Eye at night, as seen from Westminster Bridge.
New Year’s Fireworks, as spotted from behind the London Eye. This time, NYE Fireworks was ticketed for the first time, and it was sold out long time ago, and my friends and I didn’t get one. We sneaked in, and actually got a really good spot.

And in case you wanna see how it actually was, you can see the video below. Once again, I took it with my phone camera, so it’s not in a superb quality.

Hyde Park. I think it’s my new favorite park in the world. Really huge, and it’s got a nice lake in the middle.
Borough Market: a must visit if you love culinary. They have fresh fruits and veggies, as well as bread, cheese, meat, among various things. This stall, called Bread Ahead, has a particularly good doughnut. So creamy.

That was a quick recap of things to do in London. It was also my first time Airbnb-ing, and it was a really positive experience. Our host was really nice, and the room was really neat as well. It was located at the center of London, so we could easily take the Tube/ go to Underground Station (Boston lingo: Subway, the T) and explore the city.

I think, the next time I visit London, I should go to the museums (including the free ones, in Trafalgar Square), and learns deeper about this country long history.

Maybe next time, I should not be too galau when I walk down Thames, though.

Or maybe, just don’t pay attention to the couples around you.
Thanks for such a great trip, Anne!

Coming up: what is in Oxford and Stonehenge, so stay tune. Also, here is to start a new year, a song by the Buckingham Palace Guards Band. I recorded it using my phone, so I’m sorry if it’s not really clear.

Recap: Michaelmas Term

Hello, everyone! I hope you are doing well, just like me now. I thought I was not going to pull through this, but I did it, anyway. If you are having your finals now, or just having a really rough week in general, pat yourself on your back, and tell yourself, “This, too, shall pass.”

So, here is a recap from my Michaelmas term!

First: Matriculation photograph. Now, Cambridge will forever remember my face. Try to find my face! Photo by Sara S.

I have told you about my matriculation to St. Edmund’s College before, including how nice the dinner was. However, our picture of 2014 cohort was actually taken at the end of orientation week, when the weather is still super nice, and the sky was more often being blue than gray.

There are, I believe, hundreds of us. As you can see from the picture, Sara didn’t take the whole picture. There are still more people on the right and left. When I posted this picture on my Instagram, my middle school friend told me, “They all look so old!” Come on, +Muhammad Surya Nugraha, of course. I have told you that my college only accepts 21 years old or above people, as a ‘mature’ college.

It is really interesting, though, that there are many more guys than girls…

I also had my mock exam yesterday, which I prefer not to talk about it, haha.

How I study for Marketing class, basically.

Surprisingly, the exam set-up is really similar to when I was doing IB Exam at UWC. Is this a British thing? When I think about it, Cambridge is slightly more than 800 years old now, and International Baccalaureate curriculum actually originates from the UK. So, that’s understandable.

Including this string tag. It binds your question booklet, and you use it to bind your answer sheets at the end of your exam. It is supposed to be more environmentally friendly than the staples, and more binding than the paper clips.

The string tag. Source.

In addition, there is also the data book. It was not my favorite thing to look for some constants, formulas, graphs, among other things. IB Data Booklets were already quite thick to go through, but it still cannot be compared to CUED Data Books.

A whole heavy duty binder. It consists of: Mechanics, Structures, Materials, Thermofluids, Electrical and Information, Mathematics, and Guide to Units.

I know, the cover is really cute. But, it is sometimes a nightmare when you are looking for a particular formula; you know it’s there, but you cannot find it.

When I was studying for Thermodynamics, I realized something. My professor actually wrote a quote on the first page of the very first lecture handout.

Thermodynamics, from the pro perspective.

I also attended a formal hall in Fitzwilliam College, with PPI-Cambridge (Association of Indonesian Students in Cambridge) members.

PPI-Cambridge. Credit: Sabrina A.

On Halloween’s day, we also attended a formal in Downing College.

Yep, we had to wear a costume, but I refused to do so. Credit: Mas Rizki.

It was, of course, really nice to talk in Indonesian (or in English, sometimes) about most recent issues in Indonesia, and different perspectives that we have. From research work, to undergraduate life; from Syahrini to Indonesian night life; we talked about everything. I am really lucky to be able to engage in discussion with them, the soon-to-be leaders of Indonesia. It is definitely one of so many parts I am going to miss when I leave Cambridge.

Another part, of course, is the (other) new friends I make here. We are actually planning on doing a potluck tomorrow, and each of us will cook a food from our home country. Yes, my group of friends is really international this time, haha. Not a big surprise, right?

Then, of course, since it is getting really cold, I will not be able to punt until the spring comes. That means, the pictures from now on, will be gray and dark, until the new season comes. Until then, here, enjoy my first punting picture.

Thanks, Sara’s camera! It looks so good, haha.

My winter break plan? It is going to be a surprise, haha (especially if you are a SMAN 3 Bandung 2011 graduate). Otherwise, I am going to study a little bit more, preparing for my visa application, and also applying for summer internship.

Wait, visa what, Titan?
Yes, I am going to Barcelona, Spain, next spring. That’s a good news, right? I might have told you that I am taking Spanish this term. Even though I have never taken any formal Spanish class before, I am in lower intermediate level now (what’s so called a ‘fake beginner’ level). I am actually ineligible of going to Barcelona trip arranged by Language Unit of CUED, but I convinced my teacher (thanks, Sebastian!) that I am going to work hard to reach a certain level. This is important, because there are going to be lectures, visit to factories, as well as networking sessions arranged in Barcelona.
I hope it is going to go well. Then, I have more story to share with you guys.
Happy Holidays, take time off to rejuvenate, and have fun!

Birmingham: Frankfurt German Christmas Market

I really wanted to go to Pasar Seni ITB 2014 (Art Market held by my friends’ university, Bandung Institute of Technology) this Sunday. It happens every four years, and my friends this year are participating in the committee. Ami, my middle school friend, even told me, “I haven’t slept for three days, and I haven’t come home for the past one week. I even brought a sleeping bag to campus.”

So, you can imagine how much I wanna be there, right? And I had a rough week, as you can see from previous post, haha. Gawat, lama-lama ketahuan state of mind-ku berdasarkan tulisanku, haha.

I decided to go to Birmingham, to one of the biggest Christmas Market in the world, outside Germany of course (because that’s where the Christmas Market tradition comes from).

Toys! Nutcrackers! Haribo! Wine! Bratwurst! Schokolade! 

I felt like I entered a time machine (or pintu ke mana sajanya Doraemon), and went back to Germany.

Although it took me about three hours by train from Cambridge (and another three-hour train ride to go back), and the ticket was still expensive after the railcard discount, it was definitely worth it.

Merry-go-round Christmas edition.
Beautiful decoration.
And Ferris wheel, as well. At the back, there is also an outdoor ice skating rink. I’m wondering why they’re having it, because it must be really hard to maintain. Especially, since the weather is still above 10 degrees Celsius.
Frankfurt German Christmas Market. You can also see what kind of beer/ wine they have.
People drinking mulled wine, hot chocolate, or earting bratwurst/ potatoes.
The atmosphere of the market in the morning. See, how colorful it is?
My favorite: Lebkuchen (Love Cookie?). It says, “Ich liebe dich,” or “Herzlichen Gluckwunsch.” This time, they have some statements in English, like, “I love you.” I wanted to try one (since past summer), but don’t think can finish one by myself. Maybe I should find someone to buy the cookie, and share it with me, haha.
Birmingham City Library. This is really pretty, isn’t it?
There were so many things there: from arts and crafts, toys, to different types of foods which remind me of Germany. There were even some wafers from Edeka (a supermarket chain in Germany)! It was sold for 5 Pounds, though; last summer, I got it for only about 1 Euro. So expensive.
The beer/ wine glasses can be brought home, just like in a typical beer festival in Germany. I really want to get the glass, because it’s a good souvenir. But, should I just throw away the beer/ wine? Nope. Not a good idea. 
I got Kartoffeln und Champignon, (potatoes and mushrooms) with garlic sauce, which was pretty good. There were also some chocolate-covered-marshmallows, and even chocolate fountain for fondue. There were also some halal foods. Yup, one thing that I noticed when I walked around Birmingham, there were so many Muslim women who wore hijab!
I think, one thing that I haven’t seen before was tool-shaped chocolates, such as wrench, scissors, or hammer. I am wondering where this idea came from.
Another weird food that they sold there: Jack Daniel’s onion with ostrich burger. Or Baileys hot chocolate. I can never imagine how these taste like.
There were also so many cool things which you can buy as Christmas presents. Like leather gloves, or Christmas lights, but with little angels in each of the little lamp. Or maybe a sketch of Birmingham landscapes, or aromatic incense sticks.
When my friends who study in Germany tell me about how cool a Christmas Market is, I think, I can understand it now. Maybe next time, I will visit the real German Christmas Market in Germany. Also other interesting cultural things around Europe. Or around the world. I hope I will have a chance to do so, because it is just amazing to see how different or similar human beings are around the world. Don’t you think so?