Merry Christmas! Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and resting and eating well. To those who are perusing these pages and have already received their early acceptance letters, my belated congratulations! To those who are still waiting or applying, best wishes! This might be a tough season, but I know you'll all find (and be found by) a school that fits you well (:
I hope this blog can give you a better idea of what life at Caltech can be like and whether or not it's something you'd like. You see, lots of schools can give you a great education, but different schools will leave you with specific perspectives and motives. Caltech was set up to be a hub for interdisciplinary research and discussion in pure science. Our community is small, which means that there's plenty of room for each person to find their own niche. I'm interested in studying medicine, but I also love that I can hang out with engineers and scientists, sing in an acappella group, meet weekly with other Christians, walk onto the school volleyball team, organize cool trips with the Caltech Y, tutor high schoolers, study abroad, give tours, and be a TA. In the meantime, other students are building an electric car, programming robots, organizing the regional Science Olympiad competition, working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory... We each have our own niches. (:
For me, I find that the beginning and end of each term has been the best time for me to invest even more in these fun things. Finals week, especially, is my favorite week of term. From the very first term at Caltech, freshmen get some take-home finals. These are test packets that are handed out on the last day of class, complete with a front page of guidelines that describe the time limit, whether or not we can take breaks, when and where to turn in the test, and what resources are available during the test (closed-book, open-book, etc.). They're called take-home finals, but really, you can take them anywhere. Freshman year, I took a physics final in the closest boba shop. Some people take them in bed or at the library. I like taking them off-campus at some of my favorite coffee shops. If you ever get a final that has no time limit and is open-everything (internet, too), then brace yourself. That means the prof knows that those resources won't really help you anyway.
This term, I only had a Japanese final (L 106) and a physiology final (Bi 145a). The Japanese final was take-home, but the physiology one was in class. Honestly, sometimes I prefer the in-class ones. Take-home finals can be kind of a trap--you can study and worry for as long as you want before you finally grit your teeth and take it, but usually they're open-book, so studying doesn't always help very much. In-class ones at least have a set date and time, and you have to go and just get it over with. Both of my finals felt pretty okay this term though (: I realized that I did learn quite a lot in these short ten weeks. That's always a good feeling.
The final that took the longest this term was the cooking class final. I've been a teaching assistant this term. The final is usually Sunday late morning to evening, so I ran to class right after I got back from church. The theme for this final was "Fantastic Beasts and How to Cook Them." We had all sorts of gnarly beasts--no familiar ingredients like chicken or beef or pork! Rather, our students faced a bucketful of dragonfruit, another bucket of lamb chops, a giant scaly fish, a sticky whole octopus, and some Buddha's hand. I hadn't even seen a Buddha's hand before that day!
The final took all afternoon, as each team of students threw together a five-course meal that showcased these ingredients for our thirty-three judges. My group presented a salad of arugula, prosciutto, goat cheese, and figs with a Buddha's hand vinaigrette; skewers of Italian-style octopus and potatoes with a light lemon sauce; soft chunks of braised fish belly served with a creamy sauce on slices of grilled bread; garlic and rosemary lamb chops, broiled with brussel sprouts and potatoes; and a dessert of panna cotta with a dragonfruit-puree syrup. It was so yum. (:
Don't come to Caltech just for the cooking class, but if you do end up coming here, I highly recommend signing up for this class!
Merry Christmas and
keep lookin' up,