Monday, August 27, 2007

Pre-School Semester Reflections

Yep, I haven't updated for a week, but updates will get more regular when I move into my permanent accommodation next Thursday, 30th August. I have been moving around San Francisco and Berkeley for the past 12 days and tomorrow is the start of a long semester ahead. 15 weeks of continuous instructional period followed by one and a half weeks of final examinations. No mid semester break or reading week in between except for a few public holidays in the middle of semester. When I share our NUS academic calender with the existing UCB students, guess what's their comments? "Won't you forget what you study earlier during the mid semester break?" Huh? The students there must be damn brilliant to make such a comment. Dun think I going to have a easy time studying in UCB though it's on a pass/fail basis for me. They are marked on a bell curve and their system is similar to NUS cos Singapore Universities adopt US education system, the GPA, general education modules, breadth modules etc. As much I would like to travel around during the weekends, I better be careful not to be overtly complacent and later cry over split milk.

Coming on exchange has been an enriching experience for me. If I am in Singapore now, guess I would be a hermit spending time with my computer, books and newspaper. I wouldn't really understand the culture and demographics of America, not forgetting Singaporeans who are very different from me - herein referring to my exchange mates. Both my roommates-to-be are NUS students from Arts and Business faculty and they are smokers, not just social smokers. They each smoke about half a pack a day, which is about 10 cigarettes, and they go clubbing almost once a week back in Singapore. Imagine my astonishment when I learn I am going to exchange with these people. However on hindsight, I learn alot from these people about street smartness. This group of young adults whom I never mixed before, the so-called cool and hippy people. My exchange guy mate, Shaun, told me these people who drinks and smokes are the high fliers or people who have the "rich" connections and these are the people who will bring you far in life. Hmm, I am not entirely convinced but there might be some truth in it. Afterall, this guy is previously from RI and RJ and his brothers who smoke, drink and party with him are fellow Rafflesians whose parents are owners or CEOs of listed companies all over the world. I always understood the importance of networking but I didn't believe I have to go through such sleazy method to get quality contacts, kind of absurd to me. Shaun told me the RI mentality is if they can't work their way to the top, they will work their way to the bottom, why get stuck in the middle. What a attitude? Kinda interesting but ironic as well. He told me he has friends who has been or are in jail for gang fighting. Their philosophy is to lead a colourful and exciting life with no regrets. They rather lead a shorter life with lots of personal milestones than a longer life with total monotony. Hmm, I would rather strike the right balance but currently I believe I am more on the self-improvement side than the networking and exploratory side. Will try to move more to the networking side to achieve the balance I need to succeed in life. All successful people are focused and they work hard to acquire the necessary skills and network in their course to achieve their goals.

Overall, I am pretty happy to meet these exchange mates and glad I made the decision to come to US for exchange, though it's at the expense of extra financial burden on myself and parents. Without Shaun's friends in US who own a car and are currently on NOC in Silicon Valley, traveling to tourist sites would be a arduous task and renting a car is expensive here though car is freaking cheap. 3000 or less and you can get a very decent 2nd hand Toyota Corolla. Though I have been in US for 12 days, I have only been to less than half the tourist attraction sites in San Francisco city as the city is just so big and extremely hilly. We have been relying on our legs and public transport to get us to those venues, so it's slow and tiring. It's amazing how they build a city in such hilly terrain but San Francisco used to be gold mining area, so guess there's where they get their money to build on such incredible landscape. Notable places we have been around San Francisco, includes Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Sausalito. Yet to visit national parks and famous landscapes and will probably do so when shuan's friends come with their car. Impossible to tour without car as public transport is tortoise slow though they have artistic and antique value like the cable car and trams.

Other than visiting tourist attractions, the rest of the time is spent mingling with international students whom we met at orientation programs. No offense to anyone but I have to say Japanese, Koreans and Thai girls are very pretty and cute. Played soccer with the international students and when I scored, the Europeans shouted, "The Korean scored". Haha, so damn funny that my Singaporean friends just burst into laughter. They just blindly label all Asians in America Koreans or Japanese as they are the majority Asians in America. Backpacker hostel is another great place to expose yourself to different people from all over the world. Just switch to another backpacker hostel because of accommodation availability and in a short space of 12 days, we shared mixed dorm room with a Danish couple, Swiss young boy of age 18, and now a white Brazilian. The Danish lady once openly change in our room in front of us and we enjoyed a free nude show. The Swiss guy is currently on a one month tour of US and he shared with us his adventures and scenic photos he had taken so far, spurring us to visit those places during our long weekend or after semester. And our current room mate, the Brazilian guy smoke weed aka marijuana, through a pipe and he offered us to try. Of course I didn't try but my exchange mates, Shaun and Brenda did and now they are lying concussed on their bed in the middle of the afternoon as I am writing this entry. The Brazilian guy even has a friend who has a tattoo on his inner lips. I have seen studs and tattoos all over other parts of the body but this was the first time I seen anybody imprinting a tattoo in their inner lips. Yucks.

Will upload the photos soon once I move into my permanent accommodation.

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