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!

Easter Projects: Heat Exchanger and Bike Design

Hello, everyone! I have been busy doing my Easter term projects. So, a third year engineering student at Cambridge needs to do two projects after he/ she is done with exams. I chose bicycle design (because there are so many bikes in Cambridge!) and heat exchanger (because I took Thermodynamics, and Heat & Mass Transfer). I learnt a lot from these projects, and I had good team (thanks, team!).

The assembled heat exchanger! His name is Albert.

The heat exchanger one was quite interesting. We basically created a program on MATLAB to find the maximum heat transfer with the constraints given: 1. The mass should not exceed 1.1 kg, 2. The length should not exceed 0.5 m, 3. The inlet hot temperature is 60 degrees C, and the inlet cold temperature is 20 degrees C.

So, as you could see above, the heat exchanger of our team had 2 shell passes and 2 tube passes. The copper tubes are where the hot water is going to pass, and the cold water is passing in the shell. Actually, our team design was quite a gamble. It could transfer 20 kW, but the uncertainty was really high. In the end, the gamble did not pay off, and we ended up getting fourth place (yup, we’re group B!). It is a little bit sad, but we were still happy that we did not get the last place, haha. I know Albert (the name of our heat exchanger) worked so hard.

Final results of heat exchanger competition. Only 10.9 kW in the end.

For my bike design, I mostly did stuff on my computer. The topic was materials selection for bicycle handlebar. This time, most of my project was based on Alex Wanner’s paper about size limited, weight-minimizing design. If you have taken materials selection courses, you might be familiar with material indices to determine which materials are best for certain purposes. This time, I incorporated the maximum outer radius of handlebar, because if it’s too large, it’s going to be hard to grip. There are also two things that I need to consider: the stiffness, and the strength.

So, if I choose aluminium alloy as the reference material…

Comparison of different materials.

The rigid polymer foam, PVC, and plywood, cannot make the cutoff. This means, they cannot be used as handlebar in bicycle, because they are neither stiff nor strong. On the other hand, bamboo can be as strong as aluminium alloys, but it is not as stiff. There are several materials which can be used, for instance GFRP, but it is too heavy. The best one is CFRP, as you can see above.

So, for this project, I basically have pages of spreadsheet, so many MATLAB graphs (I’ve become quite good at plotting graphs in MATLAB, hooray!), and some readings to do.

Overall, I am glad I chose these two projects, because I learnt a lot and also made new friends in my teams. Thank you so much team-mates!

I am basically done with my third year (junior year), and I am so happy about it. I am going to India in two weeks for summer internship, and then heading home for few weeks before going back to the United States for my final year at MIT. This exchange year has been amazing so far, and I am glad I did it. Thanks for your support everyone 🙂

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.

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.

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 🙂

MIT versus Cambridge: Which One Is Better?

I have got so many questions about how MIT is different compared to University of Cambridge. There is, of course, no absolute (Indonesian: saklek) answer. I am going to try to go through different aspects of MIT and Cambridge. Then, you can decide, which school will give you the most, and the experience you want to have!
Disclaimer: I am going to talk from an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering perspective. Also, I’m a full time student at MIT, and ‘just’ an exchange student at Cambridge. So, I’m sorry if my opinion is a little bit biased. 
MIT versus Cambridge. Which one is better? PS. Thanks to Bananagrams that I got from Katie and Yee Ling, I could make this!

Recitation versus Supervision

Both MIT and Cambridge has a way to ensure that the students actually understand what is going on in class, and lecture is never enough. So, MIT has a ‘recitation’, and Cambridge has a ‘supervision’.

Recitation at MIT happens twice a week for most freshman/ sophomore classes, and only once a week for the higher level undergrads. One recitation usually has 10-15 people, again, depends on how popular the class is. We usually go through the sample questions which are similar to our problem sets, and also go over the concepts which are still confusing for most students. Outside the recitation, the teaching assistants and the professors also hold office hours. These usually run for 1-2 hours, in an open slot of time, mostly in the evening. You can go there, ask as many questions as you want, or just do your problem sets there. The problem sets, are due on a set day every week. It’s stressful, but it keeps you afloat of your materials.

In contrary, Cambridge has supervision which runs once every two weeks. You are expected to ‘attempt’ the questions on example papers, which are generally twice as long as the MIT problem sets. You usually do these all by yourself, and during the supervision, your supervisor with 1-3 other students and you will go through these. They don’t grade the example papers, so it’s entirely up to you how much you want to try/ learn. Be careful, though, the supervisors can get a little bit grumpy if you don’t attempt to do the example papers.

Continuous versus Final Assessment

As I told you above, MIT gives you weekly problem sets, and papers/ essays (for HASS classes -Humanities, Arts, and Social Science) or lab reports. You have three midterms per term, and a final exam at the end of the term. You can imagine, how a hell week at MIT feels like: 3 problem sets, 1 essay, 2 midterms, are all on 2-day span. However, this continuous assessment builds up your final grade, so if you ‘bomb’ one of your exams because you get sick, it’s totally fine!
However, most of Cambridge grades only depend on the final exam grades, which all happen at the end of the academic year. Let’s say, you take a Thermodynamics class during autumn term (or Michaelmas term in Cambridge lingo), your final exam for this module will still be on April. Crazy, right? For engineering students, we also have coursework, which is basically the labs, engineering area activity, and projects. They don’t go towards your specific module grade, though (as far as I know). So, do you understand now why most Cambridge students still study during winter/ Christmas break?

Boston versus Cambridge

Boston, is a typical American vibrant city. It is big, full of skyscrapers, really diverse, and you can find pretty much anything here! Well, MIT is actually located in Cambridge, but it is still part of Greater Boston Area. Cambridge (in England), on the other hand, is a typical little university town, although it’s the main city in Cambridgeshire. It is more relaxing, the view is more beautiful, because the university itself has stood for slightly more than 800 years.
Early spring in Boston, 2013.
In Boston, the public transportation system is quite good; there are subways, buses, and trams. You can go anywhere with these. In Cambridge, if your department/ classes are far from your college, you have to get a bicycle. The buses (especially UNI4 bus), is unreliable, and don’t always come on time because they get stuck in traffic jam. Traffic jam? In Cambridge? Yes, because the streets are really narrow in Cambridge. This is another reason why it’s more convenient to cycle. You must remember, though, because the streets are narrow, there are so many one-ways. In addition, you need to have lamps (bright white for the front, red for the back) for your bike, otherwise you will get fined!
The castle-like background! I can never get over how Cambridge University is really pretty.
One thing that is really similar in both cities: the tourists. MIT is visited by so many tourists, from east Asia especially. Cambridge tourists, on the other hand, are from Europe, Asia, and America. 

College System versus Dorm + Greek Life

Cambridge has a collegiate system, which means, that you actually belong to a college, and it determines your admission to the university. In CME students lingo, college in Cambridge is like a ‘super-dorm’. It arranges your supervision, maintains your well-being in general, and also has its own extracurricular activities (Cambridge lingo: societies, MIT lingo: clubs). There are 31 colleges in Cambridge, and of course there are ‘more prestigious’ colleges, like King’s, Trinity, or St. John’s. However, you will still take the same lectures, do the same labs, as anyone else no matter which college you are in. So, college doesn’t affect your academic experience, but maybe your Cambridge experience.
Note, you should also go to formal halls while you are in Cambridge. Some formal halls are better than the others, because of the old building where they are held (which makes it feel like Hogwarts), or because their food is super delicious. The students also need to wear a gown, which makes it even more unique.
At MIT, in freshman year, everyone should live in a dorm on campus. Because of that, students in higher years tend to stay on campus, either in a dorm or in fraternity/ sorority. I understand that the concept of Greek life (fraternity/ sorority) is really American, and I didn’t quite get it either until I came to MIT. You may have seen it in Hollywood movies, and they seem really extreme. I honestly don’t know much about this, because I’m not in any sorority.

Diverse versus Specific Subjects

MIT undergraduate is done normally in four years, while Cambridge undergraduate program is done in three years. For the Master’s degree, as far as I know, it’s two years at MIT, and one year at Cambridge. For the Ph.D. degree, as far as I know, it’s four-six years at MIT, and three years at Cambridge. Why is it shorter to study at Cambridge?
Because MIT has many requirements, to make sure that its graduates are well-rounded and well-equipped. For undergraduate, we have to take at least 8 HASS (Humanities, Arts, and Social Science) classes, and 4 of them have to satisfy CI (Communication Intensive) requirement, that consists of essays and oral presentation. That’s not enough. We also have swimming requirement. Every MIT student has to be able to swim 100 yards continuously, otherwise they will need to take a swimming class. We also need to take at least 4 quarters of physical education classes. The purpose of these is to ensure the balance between the mental and the body.
If you do engineering at Cambridge, you still have to do 4 years, but you get bachelor’s degree after 3 years and M. Eng. degree in your last year. Every engineering student (except Chemical Engineering, they have separate department for this), takes the same classes for the first two years. So, the engineers from Cambridge have deeper understanding in general subjects, than MIT engineers.

United States of America versus United Kingdom

USA as a country is more diverse, dynamics, and fast-paced than United Kingdom, which is more relaxed, beautiful, and historical. USA as a country is also really nice to travel around. Once you’re in Boston, for instance, you can hop on to a bus to New York or Washington DC. UK, is even nicer, because it’s not as big as USA, and closer to the mainland Europe. You can easily travel to Scotland, Ireland, or Wales while you are in UK. In addition, Europe has a lot to offer, there are just so many countries which are really close by!
Now, back to the question, which one is better, MIT or University of Cambridge? The different ranks online will not help, because it comes back to you and entirely depends on you. You may decide based on which program offers the best learning experience, which research group is more suitable with the field you want to pursue, or which city you want to try living in for the next few years. 
I have fallen in love with both of the universities, and I feel really lucky to be able to breathe the air in both places. Alhamdulillah.

Let me know which university you would love to study in, under the comment section below. Have a great end of year holiday, everyone! 🙂