Musim (Badai) Salju

Setelah IAP yang luar biasa, spring semester akhirnya resmi dimulai. Saat post ini di-publish, resmi sudah satu minggu sejak semester keduaku sebagai seorang mahasiswa S2 dimulai.

Musim dingin tahun lalu benar-benar mild, bahkan the Institvte (a.k.a. MIT) tidak menggunakan jatah snow day-nya sama sekali. Tetapi tahun ini berbeda. Apalagi setelah musim dingin tahun 2014-2015 aku kabur ke Inggris, tepatnya University of Cambridge, untuk pertukaran mahasiswa. Sudah sekian lama aku tidak merasakan badai salju sebenar-benarnya badai.

Hingga tiba hari Kamis minggu kemarin.

Pelajaran pertama: kalau kampus ditutup karena badai salju, jangan sekali-kali nekat berangkat ke kampus.
Pelajaran pertama: kalau kampus ditutup karena badai salju, jangan sekali-kali nekat berangkat ke kampus.

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Why Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers?

I spent a week in Gothenburg, Sweden, because me, along with 6 other people, won Chalmers Global Challenge this year (as I have told you before, here). You might wonder, how different is the education system in Sweden (specifically, Chalmers), in comparison to American education system?

I was wondering about the same thing, too…

Hint: there is a (great) balance between work and life. Chalmers, also has a great number of international students!

Continue reading “Why Gothenburg, Sweden and Chalmers?”

Musim Semi Washington DC: Sakura! (+Kuis Berhadiah Kartu Pos)

Beberapa hari yang lalu, aku sempat bolos kuliah (jangan ditiru, ya) untuk mengurusi beberapa hal soal visa di Washington DC. Tiba-tiba aku ingat, “Oh ya, Tom Lamberth (kepala program wilderness di UWC) dulu pernah memberikan kartu pos dengan National Mall berlatarkan pohon sakura.”

Kurang lebih seperti ini. National Mallnya jadi kelihatan kecil, bukan?

Lalu, aku berpikir, kalau aku booking tiket pesawatnya berangkat lebih pagi dan pulang lebih malam, mungkin aku sempat jalan-jalan ke tempat yang banyak sakuranya!

Continue reading “Musim Semi Washington DC: Sakura! (+Kuis Berhadiah Kartu Pos)”

Spring Break: DLab Project di Kolombia (1)

Reading time: 3-4 minutes
Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Bagian keduanya bisa dibaca di sini

Seperti yang pernah aku ceritakan di sini, akhirnya spring break kali ini aku habiskan di Kolombia, di sekitar Bogota, untuk bekerja dalam project yang kulakukan di kelas Development Lab-ku semester ini: membantu petani serbuk sari dari lebah. Dua minggu sebelumnya, aku sempat deg-degan karena pasporku masih di Kedubes Swedia, untung dikembalikan secepatnya, via FedEx. Maafkan mahasiswi buang-buang uang untuk FedEx seperti aku, ya Allah.

Sejujurnya, aku tak punya banyak ‘waktu transisi’ untuk mempersiapkan keberangkatanku ke Kolombia ini. Tiga hari terakhir sebelum berangkat, aku sibuk dengan graduate school open house Mechanical Engineering Department di MIT. Bahkan karenanya, aku harus bolos banyak kelas, dan merasa kelelalahan luar biasa karena ‘bersosialisasi’ seharian penuh. Packing pun kulakukan seadanya, secepatnya. Satu hal yang kulupakan: check-in online. Akibatnya, di dua penerbangan yang penuh turbulensi, aku dapat tempat duduk paling belakang, di ekor pesawat, dan guncangannya benar-benar terasa. Badanku pun tak enak sepanjang perjalanan. Maklum, sejak kecil aku sering mabuk kendaraan.

Bienvenidos a Colombia!

Tetapi, akhirnya kami tiba dengan selamat di Bogota, Kolombia. Cobaan tak berhenti di situ, karena aku harus ‘berurusan’ dengan petugas imigrasi. Dua teman setimku dan satu mentorku yang berkewarganegaraan Amerika Serikat, tidak mengalami kesulitan yang berarti saat melewati imigrasi. Aku sempat merasa tak enak karena akhirnya teman-temanku terpaksa menunggu di imigrasi selama lebih dari 30 menit.

Ketiba tiba di tempat tinggal kami untuk seminggu ke depan, aku merasakan sesuatu yang familiar: tempat ini mirip kos-kosan di Indonesia! Ada banyak kamar, dapur, dan ruang nongkrong. Wi-Fi-nya pun relatif kencang.

Akhirnya tempat ini kami gunakan sebagai ‘bengkel’ sementara.

Selain itu, kami pun sempat menjelajah ke berbagai tempat di sekitar Bogota, termasuk short trip ke Zipacon, Cachipay, dan La Mesa. Di tempat-tempat tersebut, kami mewawancarai para petani lebah, untuk mengetahui lebih baik permasalahan apa yang mereka punya dalam mengeringkan serbuk sari dari lebah. Katanya, pollen ini baik untuk nutrisi tubuh, dan laku keras di sini.

“Mana ratu lebahnya? Mana?”

Ternyata, lebah yang mereka gunakan di sini sedikit berbeda dengan lebah madu kebanyakan. Spesiesnya beda, sehingga lebah-lebah di sini menghasilkan lebih banyak pollen daripada madu. Menariknya lagi, ada sekitar dua tipe sarang lebah yang mereka gunakan. Jika lebah madu, biasanya sarang lebahnya vertikal, sarang lebah pollen ini horizontal; bahkan bambu pun bisa digunakan!

Kalau kamu melihat foto di atas, mungkin kamu akan terkaget-kaget sendiri. “Mengapa orang-orang ini tidak mengenakan pakaian pengaman saat bermain dengan lebah?” Ternyata, lebah pollen ini tidak menyengat dan ukurannya lebih kecil dibandingkan dengan lebah madu.

Lebahnya kecil-kecil bukan?

Di jalan pulang, sayangnya, mobil kami sempat mogok, mungkin karena pergi naik turun gunung seharian penuh. Pipa airnya bocor, dan kami harus ‘mengoperasi’ mobil sedikit hingga kami kembali ke tempat yang lebih banyak penduduknya untuk mencari spareparts.

Kami yang rata-rata enjinir dari MIT, tidak membantu banyak, dan membiarkan bapak-bapak mengambil alih, haha.

Meskipun sebagian besar waktu kami gunakan untuk mengerjakan prototipe untuk mesin pengering pollen, kami pun sempat berjalan-jalan sedikit ke tempat-tempat penting di sekitar Bogota.

Salah satunya, adalah sejarah penting dari negara ini: Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, pemimpin populis yang dibunuh dengan ditembak di salah satu sudut jalan di Kota Bogota, ketika dia berkampanye untuk menjadi presiden. Kemudian, setelah dia terbunuh, banyak orang yang merasa sedih, dan mulai menentang pemerintah. Kabarnya, kelompok penentang ini masih ada hingga sekarang; padahal Jorge dibunuh tahun 1948!

Sudut kota tempat Jorge terbunuh, yang dipenuhi dengan plakat dan tanda penghormatan padanya.

Hal lain yang benar-benar kusuka dari kota ini adalah sisi artistiknya. Tidak ada bagian dari kota yang tidak dipenuhi dengan mural dan lukisan dinding yang menarik. Isinya beragam: mulai dari protes terhadap pemerintah, dukungan terhadap salah satu dari film Superman vs. Batman, atau tentang kehidupan sehari-hari dan simbol kultur masyarakat sekitar.

Kalau yang ini? Bar yang menyediakan LSD?

Jika kamu penasaran dengan apa yang timku lakukan selama seminggu ini, foto yang satu ini mungkin bisa merangkum semuanya.

Prototipe kesekian mesin pengering pollen.

Jadi, dari mesin ini, ada tiga bagian penting: ember besar berwarna putih yang berputar karena didorong oleh motor (tempat pollen dikeringkan), lalu air pump yang menyedot udara agar masuk ke dalam ember besar, dan heating element, yang berupa coil dengan resistansi tinggi, sehingga menjadi sangat panas ketika listrik mengalir.

Sementara ini, kami sudah mencoba heating element yang ada di air pump itu sendiri (yang dicomot dari mesin pengering tangan/ hand dryer), atau dengan coil untuk stove top dari kompor listrik. Sayang sekali, karena keduanya melibatkan proses memanaskan logam, maka efisiensinya sangat rendah. Ada yang punya ide hal lain yang bisa kami coba?

Community partner kami sudah mencoba berbagai cara, termasuk mengeringkan pollen dengan lemari es yang dimodifikasi sehingga mengalirkan udara hangat ke dalamnya. Sayangnya, heat flow di dalam lemari esnya sendiri kurang baik, sehingga tidak semua bagian di dalam lemari es terkena udara hangat tersebut.

Berikut ini foto tim kami di bengkel tempat kami mencoba prototipe mesin pengering dari lemari es, yang terletak di Technopark-nya Bogota. ‘Bengkel’ ini bisa diakses siapapun untuk mengerjakan project masing-masing! Dana yang dikucurkan hingga jutaan USD untuk membangun dan menjalankan tempat itu mampu membuat masyarakat Bogota, terutama mereka yang duduk di bangku sekolah dan universitas, berpikir lebih kreatif dan melakukan riset. Kapan ya di Indonesia punya tempat seperti ini?

Foto tim kami yang bekerja dalam project bee pollen dryer!
Bogota’s very own makerspace! Beautiful place. I want to have a space like this in Indonesia that is accessible by everyone!


Masih ada banyak cerita dari Kolombia. Ini hari terakhirku ada di kota ini, dan sebentar lagi aku harus mengecek hasil tes prototipe kami. Besok aku akan terbang kembali ke Boston. Doakan ya teman-teman, semoga semua lancar. Salam dari Bogota! Tunggu blogpost keduanya, ya!

Exam Period at Cambridge

Hello, everyone! I know that I haven’t kept up with my blog for a while. There is a lot going on, in my life, especially. Another significant thing that happened in my life for the past two weeks: third year exam at Cambridge.

Apparently, exams at Cambridge happen during Easter term, and they cover materials from the whole year. Yes, there is no midterm at Cambridge, so large percentage (almost 100%?) of final grades of your courses depends on these two weeks.

So, I was locking myself in my room, and having video calls with family and friends. I realized that the exams were coming up, about two weeks before, when I got back from Barcelona. “How am I supposed to learn all these 8 modules in the next two weeks?” I managed it. Don’t ask me how. I still sleep properly, eat properly, and have occasional hangouts with my friends.

Like having karaoke with PPI (Indonesian Students Association) at Cambridge. Photo was taken from Shinta’s phone.

Having an exam at the end of the year like this makes me realize that I have learnt a lot of things. I also drew some connections between the subjects, for instance how FEM (Finite Element Methods) can be done in Vibration and Heat and Mass Transfer (other two courses I took this year). Although it was hard to study properly for each of them, because sometimes I had three exams in 30 hours, I pulled it through. I am done with my third year exams at Cambridge!

Taking exams around this time is considered to be early. So many of my friends still haven’t taken their exams until the beginning of June, and they still have lectures, supervisions, and so on. They have started freaking out, just like me at the end of Lent term. Now I can talk and try to reassure them, that they are going to be fine. Just like me, now, haha.

Just as expected, exams at Cambridge felt (a little bit) more intimidating than exams at MIT. The proctors (or invigilators, British lingo) at Cambridge wear their gowns in the exam room. There is also a 50 Pound fine if your cell phone goes off during the exam period. God knows how many times I checked my phone to make sure that it was silent before I left it in my bag at the back of the room. Cambridge also has its special examination room, where everyone takes the exam. Well, at least that’s what I believe, haha. When the results come out, they are put up in front of Senate House, so you can see what everyone’s scores are.

Perk of being an exchange student: my name will be taken off the class list, yes! So, no one can see what my score is, except myself, my DOS, my advisor at MIT, and my program coordinators.

So, what is next?

I am going to do projects in the next 5 weeks. They are Heat Exchanger and Bicycle Design. I think they are going to be really fun, and I will learn a lot from these. I promise to update you more about these projects as the time goes on. I think it will be a great one to blog about, without being too technical about it (gear ratio, sun-annulus-carrier, deep groove ball bearing, and other things).

Can I also tell you something else?

I was going through a hard time in the past one-two months. Things did not go so well for me, and they went unexpectedly off-track. It was not only an exam period at Cambridge, but also within myself.

Come on, Titan, what is so hard about your life? You study abroad, at MIT, and now you are in Cambridge. You see things that other people don’t see, you experience things that other people can only dream about.

That is exactly the point. I was not grateful of what I have. I realized that when life got so rough, that all I could think of was having back my life the week before.

When something like that happens to you, just remember that the earth rotates. It is not always dark like at night, because the day will come and the sun will shine. You just need to endure it, and patiently work as hard as before. Even at night, you can see the moon and the stars: people who matter the most to you, will always be there to help you. So, I want to thank everyone for your prayers, helps, hugs, loves, and supports during my hard times. I really appreciate them, and I feel really lucky to receive them from you. Thank you so much.

Now, spring almost ends, but can I just show you one last picture from Cambridge spring?

Cherry blossom tree near St. John’s.

I spotted this cherry blossom at its peak of blooming when I got back from my Marketing exam. It was so beautiful, that I stopped my bike, and walked around this tree to observe its little details. Yup, by now, you should know that I do so many random things. It is just one of them.

It does not only give me extra strength, but also happiness. Like an instant big smile. I hope this picture does the same effect to you.

Lastly, happy late spring. I should go to Grantchester to get my nice afternoon tea, before I leave England in few weeks. Good luck everyone who is facing the end of term, or academic year. You will do it well, just like a year ago.

Exchange-ception: Barcelona, Spain

I might have told you before that I took Lower Intermediate Spanish class in Michaelmas and Lent terms at Cambridge. Because of that, I signed up for the exchange trip organized by Language Unit of Engineering Department here. 


I did not know how much improvement one week could make to my Spanish (especially, listening) ability.

Yeah Cambridge engineering students in Barcelona! The background was Camp Nou, the stadium for FC Barcelona, but I’m sorry you cannot see it.
The whole trip did not start really well. On my way from the airport to the hostel, I lost my wallet (which I strongly believe, it was actually stolen, considering how my daypack was opened). It was on the same day as derby match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Camp Nou, and the metro was packed with people, so I could not move around.

However, Barcelona was such a lovely city, that I fell in love with in the end.

The food was super amazing!

OMG. The best paella I have ever tried in my life. I usually don’t like squid/ calamari, but this time I just love it, combined with clams, mussels, and prawns.
Fresh smoothies, with weird combinations. My friends’ favorite is ‘coco y mora’, or coconut and blueberry. My favorite is banana, chocolate, and coconut. Super yummy!
Empanadas! Most of the fillings are vegetarian-friendly.
Giant Chupa Chups. I was really tempted to get one, but how am I going to finish it anyway?
Gelato Mango! It was just what I needed when the weather reached above 20 degrees C. It reminded me so much of Germany last summer, where I spent every single euro I had on gelato.
Really good seafood. I got a three-course meal in a restaurant next to the sea, which cost me just 11 euros! Amazing, right? 

Engineering Department of Cambridge University works with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, and we had several lectures, lab tours, and visits with them. It was such an amazing opportunity to hear from the professors directly (in Spanish), on their current research project.


Visit to the Supercomputing Center in Barcelona. Such a strange place. They put the supercomputer in a church, and plays hymn. 
Clean room visit to Institut de Bioengiyeria de Catalunya.
Nuclear reactor simulation.
Learning how the old water distribution worked in Barcelona, at Museu Agbar de Les Aigues.
A visit to Tramvia (literal meaning: Tramway), the tram system in Barcelona.
I also had a great host, Sonia, who is a chemical engineering student. She is going to come to Cambridge on late April, and I am excited to show her Cambridge.

Barcelona is also famous with… its world-renowned architecture, mostly done by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi is so famous with his strong-naturalist/ modernist architecture work. He liked to put natural components in his work.

Casa Batllo. You can see right away how unique this building is.
Park Guell part, which used to be Gaudi’s house for a little while.

La Sagrada Familia. It was such an amazing experience to enter this basilica, because it was totally different than any of basilicas I had ever visited before. This cathedral is still an ongoing project, after more than 100 years. They put so much detail into it, and everything is carefully hand-crafted.
Besides Gaudi’s works, there are also amazing places around Barcelona.

Don’t forget to hike up the Placa Espanya when you come here.
And hike up the Park Guell to see the view of Barcelona from above (and see La Sagrada Familia + its cranes!).
Beautiful (and relatively warm) beach in Europe.
The Cathedral of Barcelona.
Parc de la Ciutadella.
Port Vell.
I will definitely recommend you to visit this place before you die. Brace yourself though, it’s a favorite destination for couples. Coming from Asia, where PDA (Public Display of Affection) is not really common, it can make you feel awkward a little bit (or even lonely, haha).

Even though it was a short exchange, but I learnt so much from the people around me. One thing to note, they prefer to speak in Catalan than Spanish in Barcelona. So, another bonus: you can get exposure to another language at the same time.

Adios, Barcelona! I will see you soon.