I can’t believe that it is the end of my first term here at Imperial College. Time did not exactly fly by the way I envisioned it to be. For these few months, I feel as if I have been continually waiting for something to come/ happen. Perhaps I was waiting to become busy with school work like the other people around me; perhaps I was waiting for a crazy adventure to swing by; perhaps I was waiting for myself to finally settle into a routine. Whatever I was waiting for certainly has not happened yet but even so, I think I had a pretty great time in the first term. In London, I have experienced things that I have never experienced before and I am certainly grateful for that. Previously, I have only been to church once in Singapore but over here in London, I have stepped into churches numerous times because I was curious to know more about churches in Europe. Initially, I found the ceremony really odd. Why do everyone have to speak/ stand/ sit as the booklet says? Does this quiet obedience bring us closer to God? But now I think I have gotten used to it. Well, it does not mean that I have become more religious here, I think I am as free thinking as I have been all these while. My guiding principle is still the same: I rather help people in need directly than to pray for them.
Speaking about helping people, I think I have been trying to help people around me a lot more than I used to do back in Singapore. I guess I had the luxury of time to do that and this is definitely more meaningful than sight-seeing. I proofread and amended a friend’s journal article, I fed the people around me and I supported my friends at an art exhibition and several concerts. I certainly had a good time! The last time I went to support someone’s performance was 6 years ago at Esplanade…Even though I will certainly be busier next term (or at least I hope so), I want to continue to support my friends.
I have never watched a musical before in my life but here in London, I have already seen 4 musicals with different groups of people. I enjoy watching musicals even though sometimes I do not understand what the performers are singing. It is amazing how the stage could be transformed into so many forms and it is even more amazing how everyone on stage is able to remember their lines and movements for the entire 2 1/2 hours! It is pretty incredible I think.
Another thing that is definitely new for me here in London is the university culture. Imperial College is a rather unusual experience for me. On one hand, I am not used to the way things are done here. I am not used to how lecturers don’t seem to be interested in teaching us – they pack so much content into one lesson and they tend to mumble at the end of their sentences. For instance, this guy said, “There are many enzymes involved in DNA replication, such as helicases…” No one in the class could hear what he said after “helicases” and for me, this is pretty annoying. I am also not used to how we have to take a lot of initiative here. I have to approach the supervisors, I have to set my own deadline for the draft and I have to decide on the date I want to start work in the lab. It is not difficult for me but the whole thing just doesn’t feel quite right. It feels as if I am enrolled in Imperial College but I am actually self-learning. On the other hand, Imperial College feels pretty familiar as well, probably because of its high proportion of Asians. I know I should not leave my belongings unattended in London but somehow when I find myself surrounded by Asians in the library, I feel a sense of security and I leave my things unattended for a short period of time.
One thing that I noticed about the people around me in both Imperial College and Lee Abbey London is that they are all realists. People are focused on getting something, perhaps forming networks, applying for PhDs and improving their employability etc. In particular, it is pretty strange for me that my classmates who are applying for PhDs want a career in academia/ industry. Back in Singapore, most people apply for PhDs either because they don’t know what they want to do next or because PhD is something that they want to achieve. We probably have very different perceptions of science and research.
It is pretty strange for me to see familiar faces here in an unfamiliar city. I have my brother whom I try to meet every fortnight. It is always nice to sit down for a meal, talk about our lives (usually he speaks more than me) and complain about London (the Singaporean past-time). Sometimes after we have said our goodbyes, I wonder if we have made the right choice to come here. Londoners are polite people but they are actually very cold towards one another. It is pretty evident in the supermarkets – there are those self-service machines and in fact, customers prefer using these machines to going to the cashiers. I must say people in Rugby certainly feel a lot warmer than the people in London. Maybe it is a city thing. Food here in London is bad and over-priced. I no longer look forward to meal times the way I used to back in Singapore. I eat here because I am hungry. It is really terrible, I mean London is such a developed city, why don’t the people here choose to eat better food? On the other hand, because London is made up of people from all over the world, I feel as if I belong here. I no longer feel like I am a stranger in this city. Apart from my brother, I have Yudi – my “grandma” from the good old days in Crescent Girls’ School. I have met her twice so far and it is always nice to practise some Mandarin! I am always so happy when she is beside me. 🙂 There is Laia as well, I have seen her 4 times so far. I must say, I have special feelings towards her because she was the first person I met when I came to London. I remember us walking from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace and back to Trafalgar Square. I was really amazed that she could remember a conversation we had 2 years ago. It was great fun when I visited her in Hull as well, I remember the Comedy Night, the impromptu karaoke session and the night out. Fun times we shared together, I can’t wait to see her again.
Of course, the craziest, most unexpected thing that happened to me here is that I got a Cypriot boyfriend. Demetris is a great guy, he is kind, serious and funny. He is my greatest joy here in London but the source of my greatest worry too. I love it when he is beside me even though we are doing different things, I love it when we eat together and I love it when we read together. But the thing is I have been alone for a pretty long time and I am not used to having another person in my life. I am still trying to understand him, I think it will work.