Hatur Nuhun Cambridge!

Program pertukaran mahasiswaku berakhir juga. Dengan begitu, bulan September ini aku harus kembali ke Amerika Serikat, meneruskan kuliahku di MIT. Jika segala sesuatunya lancar, insya Allah aku akan lulus bulan Juni 2016. Sebelum kembali ke Amerika Serikat, aku akan magang di India, lalu pulang ke Indonesia untuk beberapa minggu.

Jadi, bagaimana rasanya setelah setahun (sembilan bulan, satu tahun ajaran) berada di Cambridge?

Seperti punting, mungkin. Terlihat mudah, tetapi sebenarnya tidak.

Aku salut dengan mahasiswa di sini yang mampu bertahan, berjuang keras, hingga mendapatkan gelar mereka. Satu tahun di sini, meskipun rasanya sulit, aku belajar banyak tentang berbagai hal.

Beberapa temanku bertanya, “MIT lebih sulit daripada Cambridge, bukan?” Aku hanya bisa menjawabnya dengan senyum simpul. Memoriku tentang MIT sudah mulai mengabur, mungkin ini memang saatnya untuk kembali. Tetapi, kembali ke topik mana yang lebih sulit, kedua-duanya memang sulit, tetapi berbeda. Mahasiswa Cambridge dilatih untuk bekerja dan belajar dalam sistem Cambridge, sehingga begitu mereka pergi ke MIT, MIT terasa sulit. Begitupun sebaliknya.

Sekarang pertanyaannya, sistem pendidikan mana yang lebih baik?

Entahlah. Aku berdebat panjang dengan temanku soal hal yang satu ini. Sistem ujian di akhir tahun memang melatih mahasiswa untuk retain memory longer, tapi bebannya juga sangat berat. Selain itu, sistem semester memberikan keleluasaan bagi mahasiswa untuk memilih kelas yang ingin mereka ambil.

Mungkin aku harus kembali ke UK suatu saat untuk mencari tahu soal hal ini, bukan? Hehe.

Beberapa hari terakhir, selain mulai mengepak barang-barangku, aku juga pergi ke berbagai tempat dengan temanku. Seperti foto di atas, aku mencoba punting. Hal yang mengagetkan soal punting adalah, dari luar mungkin si punter (yang mendorong perahu) terlihat mudah sekali mengemudikan perahu, tetapi sebenarnya berdiri di atas perahu itu sendiri rasanya menakutkan. Belum lagi kalau sungainya penuh dengan perahu-perahu lain, bisa jadi tabrakan. Kalau sudah begitu, aku harus siap-siap jongkok dan memegangi perahu supaya keseimbanganku tidak hilang saat perahu bergoyang keras. Temanku sempat terjatuh ke sungai saat dia menjadi punter. Karena tabrakan? Bukan. Tetapi karena pole-nya (tongkat untuk mendorong perahu) terjerat di dasar sungai yang berlumpur.

Aku juga pergi ke festival musik dengan temanku, Strawberry Fair.

Penuh dengan orang minum-inum dan merokok.

Lalu pergi makan malam bersama.

Bersama teman-teman college-ku. Betul sekali, jumlah pria di college-ku jauh lebih banyak dari jumlah wanitanya. Foto: Jeremny.
Juga bersama pejabat-pejabat PPI Cambridge. Foto: Olga.

Terima kasih untuk teman-teman yang bersedia meluangkan waktunya untuk makan bersamaku, lalu berandai-andai kalau tahun depan mereka datang ke Boston, atau aku kembali ke Cambridge. Semoga kesempatan itu benar-benar tiba, ya!

Sama seperti UWC dan MIT, tiap kali aku harus pergi saat awal musim panas, aku merasa sedih. Ketika melihat kembali seberapa banyak hal yang telah kupelajari tahun tersebut, teman baru yang sudah kudapatkan, pengalaman yang kurasakan, aku tersenyum. Hanya saja, satu koper 30 kg tidak cukup untuk menampung memori dan perasaan yang kudapatkan setahun terakhir.

 Kalau rumahku tersebar di mana-mana, kapan aku bisa merasa utuh lagi?

Hatur nuhun, Cambridge. I still cannot believe how beautiful and nice you are to me.

Ely

What is Ely? It is a city in Cambridgeshire, only 15-20 minutes away from Cambridge by train. So many people have told me that I should go to this small town, not only because it has a beautiful cathedral, but also because of its tearooms.

And it only costed 2.95 Poundsterling for the return ticket, with the railcard!

The day was really nice, although it was a bit cloudy. My first stop was the cathedral, which was about 5 minute walk from the train station. From far, I could see how beautiful the cathedral was.

It was like a castle in fairy tales. And yes, spring is at its best in England now.

The cathedral is the main attraction of Ely, and it is really important for people in Cambridgeshire. If you go in and see the chapels, many of them are dedicated for the soldiers who died in World War I and II.

The ceiling was also really impressive. Too bad, I didn’t go for the tour because I didn’t want to wait.

In the middle of cathedral, they also have an octagon tower, which I have never seen in any of cathedral I visited before. I believe it symbolizes something, do you know what is it?

The octagon tower.

After exploring the cathedral, I went to the Stained Glass Museum, which is located in second floor of the cathedral. The exhibition was really beautiful, and I learnt a lot about how to make stained glass, and how it evolves over the decades. I also read some interesting insights about the restoration work done for the churches, chapels, and cathedrals all over UK. For instance, most of the stained glass restoration works are done through companies which are family businesses. There are not many of them, so they have done a lot of work in so many significant buildings in the UK.

Then, I headed out and took a few selfies.

I know you don’t want to see my selfie, so here is the front of the cathedral.

Then, I went to the tearoom. I looked up online, and saw this particular tearoom with a really good review, Peacocks Tearoom. I ordered its breakfast tea and chocolate scones with clotted cream. Oh my goodness, I have never tried chocolate scones before!

They were served in beautiful tea set! So pretty.

They were really good, and the tearoom was full of locals. I was just there by myself, enjoying my tea, while the others are eating and chatting with their friends and families. It was a local place, not a touristy place, and was really nice. The chocolate scones was amazing, and the tea was amazingly good.

In general, I like Ely so much; it was really nice, warm, and beautiful. If you are in Cambridgeshire at some point, you should visit Ely!

Afternoon Tea in Grantchester

Last weekend, my friend, Jeremy, a PhD student in Engineering, and I decided to cycle to Grantchester, a tiny town, which is about 5.5 km from our college, or 4 km from Cambridge city center. Grantchester is famous for its tea garden. You can enjoy your afternoon tea, with scones, in the garden.

The shortest way to go there from my college was to take the narrow path in Grantchester meadows. It was such a beautiful day! There were so many yellow-white little flowers, which are the signs of spring here.

Further down the road, there are some cows chilling under the trees.

We went to the famous afternoon tea garden: The Orchard Tea Gardens.

Enjoying your afternoon tea with your family or friends. So full!

After we parked our bikes and took off our jackets (“It’s so hot! It’s not even summer yet!”), we waited in line to get our scones and tea. We chose to get fruit scones and Earl Grey tea. Jeremy got the raspberry jam, and I got the strawberry jam. I wanted to try the apricot jam, but didn’t really want to risk my first nice afternoon tea after a long time.

Yes, fruit scones and Earl Grey!

Apparently, to eat the scone, you need to divide it into two. Then, you spread the clotted cream first before putting on the jam. “The clotted cream is denser, so it sticks to the scones better. If you put the jam first, you will spoil the layer because it is less dense,” said my friend.

The jam was really nice! Each portion of jam was put into a nice glass jar. Really pretty, and more environmentally friendly, because you can recycle it.

Another thing is, the English usually put cream (or milk) into their tea. However, it is different than milk tea (or ‘teh tarik’), because you don’t put a lot of sugar into it. Nevertheless, I still put a lot of sugar into any of my tea, haha.

Later on, my other friends, Alice and Thomas joined us. We did not expect them to be there around the same time. They actually walked all the way from the city center! So impressive.

After enjoying a nice talk over tea and scones, we decided to head back because each of us still have something to do. I really want to go there for the last time before I leave England. I am going to ask my friends who are gonna be done with exam in few weeks to come with me. Then, we will enjoy a nice conversation over tea in the garden, just like what the English does.

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.

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.

Cheers!

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 🙂