Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Stroll Around South Melbourne

Today was a beautiful spring day here in Victoria, Australia so I decided to pack a lunch and see where my Nikes could take me. I came across two historical sites. First, The Shrine of Remembrance, a tribute to the citizens of Victoria that served in WWI. Next, the world renown Royal Botanical Gardens, of which my pictures could never do justice. 

Stop by and check them out for yourself sometime.



Oh, and here’s one of the coolest restaurants in town - Ponyfish Island

Welcome to Denmark!

I've been in Denmark for nearly a week now, and I am having a blast!!! I've met so many new people and seen new areas and I can't wait to tell you all about it. But first, I should probably describe Denmark as well as Copenhagen, the municipality that I'm living in, and the college.

If I had to describe Denmark in only a few words, I'd say that Denmark is old yet clean, extremely organized, and environmentally concerned. Denmark borders with northern Germany but also consists of over 400 islands and is close to both Sweden and Norway. While it may seem like a small country, Denmark also has two autonomous constituent countries, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, so it is actually the largest country in Europe. Denmark is probably best known for its environmental concern as well as the popular building bricks called Legos (they actually have a park called Legoland where all the little setups are made out of legos).

While the mass transit system is better than most, it is somewhat expensive and can be potentially confusing for newcomers (I'll talk more about it another time after I fully understand the system myself). Because of this as well as being environmentally conscious, many people travel by bicycle. Since it is so popular, there are specific lanes next to the sidewalk that are for bicycles only. They even have stop lights for bike crossings. But if you don't know or don't follow specific rules for riding a bike (hand signals, specific lights and reflectors, etc.) you would not only annoy the Danes, but could get in serious trouble as well as even fined.

View from my window. I often see more bikes than cars.

The college that I'm attending, DTU (Technical University of Denmark), is a technical college like Clarkson, but they also offer many classes through other programs. For example, the Hellerup Language school offers classes about the Danish Language through DTU, some that I plan on taking. DTU also has many clubs to offer, and is a great way to meet other Danes.

I've had the chance to visit Copenhagen during my introduction week as well as the smaller city of Kongens Lyngby. Here are some pictures from my trip to Copenhagen:

Houses near Nørreport Station

Shopping Center of Copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace, residence of Danish Parliament

Boats docked in the Channel

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen's most famous statue (back side)

Some fellow exchange students I met during Introduction week

Classes start on Monday, but I'll be sure to explore more of this amazing place in my free time!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Day Trip to Pulau Ubin

                I’ll start with a little background. Palau Ubin is the largest offshore island in Singapore, ahead of the famous Sentosa island. While Sentosa is a tourist paradise complete with beaches, indoor skydiving, golf courses, Universal Studios and more,  Pulau Ubin is not very developed with only a few restaurants, a few houses and biking trails through the jungle wilderness.

                Our day began with a taxi ride over to the west coast then a $2 ride on a bumboat over to the island. We rented some bikes for the day and made our way to Chek Jawa. Chek Jawa is an area of the island that is composed of 6 interdependent ecosystems with a exceptional variety of animals and plants. In recent years, a boardwalk and viewing tower have been constructed so visitors can get closer to the spectacular nature site.
Bumboat that we rode over to the island
My friends and I arriving at Pulau Ubin
Our bikes for the day
Perfectly blue lake on Pulau Ubin
"fish spa"

                After visiting Chek Jawa, we biked back into “town” for a seafood lunch. Sitting right next to the ocean, we enjoyed some prawns, noodles and fried rice. The trip ended with a visit to the fish spa. This “spa” involves submerging your feet in a pool of water with fish nibbling at them to exfoliate.  It’s really strange, but it does work. Our outing ended with a ferry ride, bus ride, train ride and second bus ride back to campus.
                This is one of the things I love about Singapore; despite being a bustling city, there are areas of beautiful nature preserved and open to the public. Some of these include nature reserves, parks and the botanical gardens.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Budgeting Like An Engineer

So here’s a pet peeve of mine: Cash. 

I could guarantee that those same people who complain about the traffic on the way home from work are the one’s holding up the line at the grocery store while they trade paper and metal with the cashier. Those same folks telling their kids not to play in the dirt are the ones who insist on stashing a collection of strangers’ germs in their purses and wallets. Hypocrites! Right? They’re right up there with the kid who raises his hand at the end of class when the professor asks “Any questions?”… or those terribly ignorant people who squeeze the tube of toothpaste at the middle…

Cash is no longer a convenient form of currency. It is outdated, obsolete, and does not offer the many benefits that credit cards do. It doesn’t build your credit score, it doesn’t offer kick back money and offers, and above all, it annoys me.

That all being said, this page is not about my pet peeves and there are tips and pointers I wanted to share so here’s my segway:Many people use the excuse that only ever using cash is the simplest way to maintain a weekly budget. Though this is absolutely true I believe that this is more of an excuse to be the laziest budgeter possible. The concept of budgeting is about managing and proportioning your money. It is about understand what is going where and in what amounts. Here’s my big point - budgeting takes place before spending, not during! If your idea of budgeting is slipping X amount of dollars in your wallet at the beginning of the week and hoping you make it through, you’re going about it all wrong. Understand how much it costs to survive, and how much above surviving you prefer to live. $Surviving + $Living = Budget!

Here’s the second important point that seems obvious but must be distinguished as an entity outside of but along side your budget: Self control, though not a budget itself, determines the effectivity of your budgeting endeavors. Nothing more to say about this, as it should be quite obvious.

So here is what I’ve been doing while in Australia that might help you to 1- budget, and 2- break your addiction to (crack) cash. First thing I did when I got here was open a bank account with debit card capabilities (that describes pretty much any bank account). I decided not to apply for a credit card while over here, which may be foolish of me or not but whatever. I used it everywhere that I made a transaction and gathered receipts for each. These can be a bit annoying to deal with but not half as annoying or dirty as cash. More importantly, within three weeks I had a detailed breakdown of all of my spendings, which I then split up into necessities and everything else. I took an average of the necessary items over the three weeks and then see how much of the rest I can afford to keep. For me, in case you’re interested, I’ve found myself to be budgeting comfortably at $50/week. That’s with Melbourne grocery prices (ouch).

Now, here’s a kind of cool feature of the debit card that I’ve been using since I established my budget. Every Monday morning, I go online to my banking account and see how much of my budget remains. If it’s more than nothing, great! Fill it back up to $50 and that extra money might send me on a last minute trip to somewhere along the coast once courses are finished and before I head back home.



Here are some pictures I took around Port Melbourne on Sunday. Though it's winter here, Melbourne offers all 4 seasons in one day.

Start of Classes

            I'm currently in the middle of my second week of classes at NUS and so far they seem similar enough to classes at Clarkson with three main exceptions. First, every class has a tutorial, an extra session every week or every other week for smaller group teaching, that supplements lectures. Secondly, a heavier emphasis is placed on the final exam, with it making up 60-80% of the final grade. Third, because of this grading scheme, there is significantly less formal homework. This means that there is a higher responsibility placed on the student to stay on track with material. This is excellent for exchange students like myself who can use the free time to travel. I still plan on working throughout the semester though so I don't have to cram too much at the end. I'll let you know how the strategy plays out and which grading/work system I prefer at the end of the semester.

          The classes that I am enrolled in are:

MA3111: Complex Analysis
MA3265: Introduction to Number Theory
ME3122: Heat Transfer
SC2205: Sociology of Family

        I am most excited about my Sociology of Family class because it is a nice change from engineering/math courses. The class will cover how family is defined, marriage, gender roles, familial relationships, family disruptions, etc. It will also be very interesting to see family from an eastern perspective and compare how the aspects of family vary across cultures.

        Wish me luck with my classes!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

What about the courses?

Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, Australia

Taking a moment to write an update as my 4th week of classes awaits my preparation. Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as homework here.

So let’s talk about that foreign concept – no monotonous number plugging?... How could one ever learn in such an environment?!

It is really more of an independent structure; each course has one lecture per week, between 1 and 2 assignments due at the midpoint/end of the semester, maybe 1 or 2 labs throughout the semester, and a final exam. There is also a weekly workshop associated with each course, which is similar to a recitation period – a place to go work on assignments with a graduate student providing any necessary assistance. It is very much less problem solving based and more of a conceptual research method of learning.

This obviously has its pros and cons. The good is that you don’t have deadlines to meet every week, which means you can budget your time over the next few weeks rather than calculating how much sleep you’ll get on Sunday night in order to finish all your homework. Also, this type of learning forces you to problem solve using logic rather than having to compare to a similar example done in class - one is easier, the other is actually useful.
The bad is that your final exam is weighed quite heavily. For people who do not perform well in tests, this could be bad news. For me, I guess I will wait to see how easy these exams are and what kind of grades I get on them before I judge how I feel about this feature.

For the record, I am taking the following 4 courses:
Construction Engineering
Site Investigation & Geology
Transportation Engineering
Engineering Practice 6: Sustainable Infrastructure Design

I had originally signed up for 8, then narrowed it down to 4 once I got through orientation and was able to get a feel for the nature of the classes. As with everything else in studying abroad, preparation is key. In comparison, it is much easier to get 4 extra pre-approval forms signed a semester ahead while you're still at Clarkson than to get 1 signed from halfway around the world when one of your courses falls through.

Right now, I am going to go back to tuning my CAD skills for this Engineering Practice course. This class is awesome! We are basically designing our dream home while attempting to incorporate the passive design principals into our design. Would putting a basketball court next to the living room be acceptable? I sure hope so.



It’s a pretty cool driveway, I guess.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Welcome to Singapore

Hi everyone!

                It’s been about a week since I arrived in Singapore and I’m finally getting my feet under me. If I had to sum up my first impressions of Singapore, I would say: clean, organized, safe, hot and modern. Singapore is a city-state 85 miles north of the equator and is known for its booming economy, love of food, and excellent public transportation, among other things.
I am living in an on-campus apartment in University town (a brand new sub-campus complete with dining halls, a gym, an infinity pool and town green). Most other international students that live on campus also live in U-town, so there is always people out and about and a variety of languages to be heard.

view of U-town from my friend's room

                So far I have explored Chinatown, Little India, Sentosa Island, the Marina Bay area and some other districts. I have been getting familiar with the MRT (mass rapid transit system) and the bus system. Both of which are very organized and easy to navigate. Some things to note: it is illegal to eat or drink (even water) on the MRT, on-campus meals cost about $3 and the locals mostly speak Singlish (a blend of English, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese and other languages).

                 So without further ado, here are some pictures around NUS and the lovely city of Singapore.

Around the Faculty of Engineering

Central Library
view from the beach at Sentosa Island

The Merlion

The Singapore Flyer as seen from the Gardens on Marina Bay

Classes don't start for another week, so until then I'll be getting better acquainted with my home for the next 4 months and looking into where I want to travel with my free time. Stay tuned!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Moving In

Hello there dearest Clarkson friends,

Let me apologize right now: I'm an engineer, not a writer. I originally started a blogging at with the expectation of my mom and maybe my sister reading it. Therefore, if you're not my mom or sister, God bless you, but I'm not making any guarantees that you're going to find my content educational or entertaining. That being said, I will do my best to leave potentially useful tips somewhere in my ramblings, so help yourself to them. The best way to do this is for you to ask questions! If you're interested in spending a semester out this way or traveling in general, I'd love to weigh in on something that has direct audience interest so ask away! (I have an "Ask Me Anything" link on my Tumblr or you can comment on my posts here)

It’s been a cold and rainy Saturday, and sort of the first relaxing day after a busy week that started halfway around the world. Then again, the very fact that I’m sitting here writing indicates the kind of day it’s been.

For my first time flying on my own, things went quite smoothly. I would say that if there are more than 3 people aboard the plane that you find yourself on, then there is someone who knows the answer to most of your how-to flying questions. You just have to ask. The only real hiccup of the journey was the fact that my luggage was delayed in LA, resulting in a less preferable start to the week. Always pack a change of clothes with your carry on. Assuming you’re not the next survivor man, or just too cool to be smart (that’s me), be safe and pack it. I would also say, in hindsight, that the 25 bucks that Quantas charges to choose your seat would have been a rewarding investment, as the 16 hr flight from LA to Melbourne can be detrimental to your sanity if it’s spent jammed between two full grown men. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing: airlines should definitely start seating their passengers amidst like-aged groups. I’m just saying, that old crazy guy sitting two rows ahead next to that cute girl would have enjoyed my seat much more… What a waste. Anyways, the last I’ll say about flying is that if you ever do find yourself jammed between two dudes on an international flight, the toilet in the back is rather comfortable.

So far, Melbourne has been great! #1 golden piece of advice if you plan on coming here: be rich. I’m talking rolling in dough, dove chocolate rich. Everything here is so expensive! Beginning with the visa fees and airplane ticket to now the price of rent and food… I guess coming from a small city like Rochester it is eye opening. The cheapest meal I’ve found here is the cheeseburger meal at Hungry Jacks (the Aussie version of Burger King). It’s $5.50 with the student discount - what a bargain! Anywhere other than fast food, good luck eating under $12. Even for breakfast, I see advertisements “Long Black (American Coffee) and Toasted Sandwich - $8.80" I’ll have to show you a picture. Needless to say, ALDI’s is my new best friend over here. So far, I’ve learned to cook burgers and pasta, while brushing up on my PB&J and Ramen skills. It is slightly an overstatement, but folks here call me Chef Ramsey.

The city truly is beautiful and I’ve only explored a few miles - sorry, kilometers - out. The other exchange students are so friendly and ready to meet and make new friends. Their accents and cultures are so much cooler than mine…

And ultimately, I guess I am here to study. I’ve met a few of my professors already and am pumped to start these courses.

We’ll see how things go. I’ll let you know soon.



Here are some pictures that I took during a trek around the city on Thursday.

This is RMIT - my super hipster school.This is RMIT - my super hipster School. 

The train tracks leading away from Flinders Station with the AFL stadium beyond.

ACMI - Australian Centre for the Moving Image

The Yarra River

The State Library of Victoria

Some random parking garage

Me and some fellow exchange students during orientation