Saturday, February 25, 2012

Melbourne Summer 2012 Cube Competition

My first cube competition in Australia was a lot of fun! With around 40 competitors, it was around half the size of Princeton's competitions, but it was still pretty big! And I was the only one from the United States!

Shortly after arrival and registration.
At the scrambling table, practicing 3x3 speed-solve before the competition began.
I spent most of my time scrambling and judging for the competition, but I still got to meet lots of others during the competition. This includes some world record holders!

It's Feliks Zemdegs! He is the current world record holder for the 3x3 single (5.66) and average (7.64)! Amazing!
And Zane Carney! He solved 23 out of 25 cubes blindfolded, a world record! Australia has some really awesome cubers!
I told Feliks's father that I came all the way from California to watch his son. Needless to say, he didn't believe me. I am really glad that I got a chance to watch Felik's solves up close. I even got to judge some of them, which meant standing right next to him as he did his solves. And all the other people (competitors and spectators) would form a big crowd in front of him during each of his solves, so we all were very excited.

One of my official solves during the competition. If only I was as fast as Feliks!
Somehow I managed to win 3rd place at the Rubik's Magic event!
The competition went from 9:30am to 6:00pm. What a long day! It was certainly a lot of fun, but actually, the day wasn't over yet!

Dinner afterwards at the Melbourne Central food court to celebrate!
(A lot of images from the competitions were taken from Luke Clarke's album. Thank you Luke for being our official photographer!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

O-Week (Orientation Week)

No, school has not started yet! This week has been orientation week (or "O-week" as they call it here). Most of the activities were meant for the incoming first-year students. (Don't forget that the school starts after the Australian summer here!) Still, the study abroad students were encouraged to attend, so I went to the university every day from Monday to Friday.

I avoided events run by the university, such as "Getting the Most out of Lectures" and "Success at Uni." Instead I went mostly to events by the Student Union and the student groups affiliated with the union. Many student groups had free barbecue lunch -- in fact, there was more than one barbecue took place each day! But for me, after my first burnt veggie burger on Tuesday, I decided I would avoid the rest of the barbecues...

During the week, when I saw a long line like this around lunchtime, I knew it was for a barbecue!

I checked out all the student groups at the Student Union Clubs and Societies Expo. There were so many clubs!

The inside of this room was full...

... so some tables were set up outside too!

Some clubs sounded fun, like Chocolate Lovers Society. Despite all these clubs, I ended up signing up only for the Mathematics and Statistics Society. Why? I didn't know how much time I would have during the semester to commit to all the clubs I wanted to join. And, unlike Princeton, almost all the clubs charged a membership fee, ranging from 2 to 15 dollars! (The Maths Society was free!) This was really really surprising and stopped me from just signing up for everything like I did at Princeton.

In addition to clubs and other university organizations, there were plenty of companies trying to advertise their services. Some of them gave out (or sometimes, forced us to take) some free stuff!

My favorite event during orientation was the Food Adventure Tour, run by MUOSS (Melbourne University Overseas Student Society). It was intended to show international students some different restaurants around the city. In one afternoon, we had two main dishes and two desserts! A little too much food in too little time, but I got to meet lots of other students!

First stop: A Malaysian restaurant. I had some vegetable curry with rice!
Second stop: Frozen yogurt for dessert! (Just as I was posting this photo, I noticed the American spelling of "yogurt"!)
Third stop: An Italian restaurant. This photo makes the pizza look really big!
Fourth stop: Pancake Parlour for more dessert.
Yummy! But... I think it was a little too much food all crammed into the afternoon! Luckily I didn't have lunch before the event, and afterwards, I decided not to have dinner. (I thought of the Malaysian curry as my lunch and the pizza as my dinner!)

In the middle of all these activities, I stumbled upon an interesting sustainability awareness event at the university. The organizers had bicycles set up to generators, and we could go on and pedal for a few minutes to help provide power for the orientation activities!

Hmm... what's with all the bicycles?
They're connected to generators!
Generating electricity, and exercising at the same time! Awesome!
Now that orientation is over, I am so tired! (And scared! Classes are finally starting next week! Ahh!!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

University of Melbourne Enrolment Day and RMIT Cube Club Meeting

The 17th of February (Friday) was "Enrolment Day" (note the British spelling!) at the University of Melbourne. This meant we had to sit in auditoriums listening to people talk and talk. It probably wasn't the most exciting day, but it was pretty important. After all, it was the first day that study abroad students had to be on campus!

A presentation in the morning!

Lunch break!

A presentation in the afternoon!

We have to go back on Monday to enrol in classes. I thought that we would get this done on Enrolment Day, but I guess not...

Anyways, after the afternoon session, I made my way to RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) to attend the university's Rubik's cube club meeting. It was about a kilometer down Swantson street from Melbourne Uni.

It was nice to meet some of the cubers in Melbourne. We sat around and cubed for a while. It's been so long since I last practiced! We also discussed the competition next Saturday, which I can't wait to attend! More cubers!

When I entered the RMIT cafeteria and saw all those cubes, I knew I was in the right place!

Some of us went to a pub afterwards. I've never been to a pub before! (How did I get dragged into this?)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Melbourne Welcome Orientation Program

I've just gotten back from the Melbourne Welcome program, and I am so glad I participated. I met a lot of other study abroad/exchange students and got to try a bunch of new things!

For the four days that the program lasted, I stayed at Newman College, which is a residential college affiliated with the university.

Standing in front of the Newman College chapel. This reminds me of Princeton's chapel!
Inside, in the quad.


I got to campus Friday morning, and first got settled into my room.

(This was only my room for the duration of the program. I'm not staying here for the entire semester.)

Then we had a barbecue lunch, which included a burger! There were chicken and beef and... kangaroo! But I opted for a veggie burger.

Eating by the fountain! (There were more people to my left.)

Here are two pictures from breakfast on Saturday morning.

"So excited! I wonder what this will taste like!"
"Umm... too much saltiness for me..."

Hopefully my next attempt at Vegemite will be more successful?

Surfing at Ocean Grove Beach

We left early Sunday morning to spend the day at the beach! Part of that time included surfing! I can't quite say I was quite successful at surfing. The instructor helped me a few times, but I was never able to stand up on the surfboard while riding a wave. This means that I must return to the beach and master the technique! Although, I guess I could do that in California as well. (Isn't there a stereotype that all Californians go surfing all the time?)

I didn't take many pictures at the beach because I didn't want to get sand in my camera. Here are two, and they some important lessons:

Before heading down to the beach!
Back in my room with sunburnt ears...
The lessons are: (1) The sun in Australia is very very strong, so use lots of sunscreen! (2) Put sunscreen on everywhere, including on your ears!

I was aware of (1), so I applied sunscreen at least three times during my time at the beach. Unfortunately, I forgot about my ears. It doesn't help that they stick out the sides of my heads, completely free to catch all the rays of the sun.

I guess some other people were worse off than me, but burnt ears were bad enough for me. I had trouble sleeping that night, because my head had to lie flat on the pillow, facing up. If I turned a little to the left or right, one ear would touch the pillow and hurt.

Pokemon Snap at the Zoo!

The Melbourne Zoo reminded me of the San Francisco Zoo, which I went with my family last summer. (By "summer," I mean summer in the U.S.!) This is probably because most of the animals were the same.

I decided to entertain myself by pretending to play Pokemon Snap while I was at the zoo. (That's a video game for the Nintendo 64 where you go around and take pictures of Pokemon, and get scored by how well the pictures turned out.) So I went around and obnoxiously tried to take pictures of all the animals!

The meerkat is centered, but I lost a bunch of points for size...
Good size, but the tiger is looking away, which means I lose points for pose...
Same Pokemon bonus! Or, "same animal" I guess.
Peaceful sleeping gorilla! And it's centered, so bonus points for pose and times two for technique!
?? - This cannot be identified.
At this point, you might be bothered by the lack of kangaroos and koalas. Well, here they are!

But wait... I traveled all the way to Australia, only to find these animals in Australian zoos!? (My ignorant tourist side thought they would be all over the city!) I now have another goal: Go into the bush and find these animals in nature!

Formal Dinner

Our last dinner of the program was a formal dinner. And by formal, I mean really really formal! Yikes! I've never had anything like this before! There's a rule that the bread should be on the left? And the arrangement of the utensils is fixed?

Everyone was quite dressed up!

Some other activities

Getting ice cream while exploring the city!

Viewing the entire city from the Eureka Skydeck 88!

The Shrine of Remembrance is such a nice and peaceful place! And all the clouds make the perfect background!

Going through the laneways in Melbourne. (All the busy shops in the narrow street remind me of Taiwan!)

Some alleys in the laneways have been decorated quite extensively!


I didn't go to all the parties and late night events that the hosts organized, but I did get to try some alcohol for the first time. (But just a little bit! And guess what? It's actually legal here!)

Wine and cheese tasting during the first night. Tried out both red and white wine! (What is that kangaroo doing there?)

More wine tasting at the Queen Victoria Market.

Champagne before the formal dinner.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I've made it!

I titled this blog "Alan's Australian Adventure," but this is my first actual post in Australia! The earlier ones are just to help me get back into the habit and mood for blogging. You can pretend they are not there. (Unless you really want to read them!)

I don't have much time to say much right now because it's late Thursday night, and tomorrow, I'm leaving in the morning for a 4-day orientation program at the University of Melbourne. The program is only for study abroad and exchange students. It's also optional, but I decided that attending would be good for me, even though I think these orientation programs are quite tiring (and a bit scary).

For some reason, I haven't quite felt like taking pictures during my three days here. So, I have one (and only one) picture of myself in Melbourne... This is disappointing, but that will all change soon. I plan to take a bunch during the orientation! And if I don't, you (as in "you the reader") are free to call me a failure. (Don't ask me why I am motivating myself this way. I have no idea!) So, expect a much longer entry when I return from the orientation!

By the way, here is the picture:

Having phở soon after my arrival!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

High School Visit

During the week, I've been resting most of the time, so I've temporarily become a lazy person. I wake up a lot later than usual, and don't feel like doing much most of the time. During Friday morning, I was considering a visit to my high school. Since I left on Sunday, it would be my last chance before I headed to Australia. Part of me wanted to stay at home, but I decided to go. And it turned out to be a great experience, with some surprises too!

I went during their lunch time, and spent the entire lunch talking to Ms. Caldera, my Spanish teacher. We started off speaking in Spanish, but quickly switched to English. (kind of embarrassing...) We hadn't seen each other in over a year and a half. Maybe I changed a little over that time, because she said I looked more mature! Then my U.S. history teacher walked into the classroom and said the same thing! Yikes... visiting high school makes me feel old!

At the end of lunch, we were both leaving the classroom when we ran into another Spanish teacher, Ms. Gonzalez, who invited me to speak to her AVID class. This was a nice honor! She quieted the energetic class and introduced me and started asking me questions about my high school and college experiences. Some of the students asked questions too. I was completely unprepared but I tried to be as helpful as possible. The things I said ranged from "In high school, I focused on the activities that I enjoyed most." to "No, I do not have a girlfriend." At the end, Ms. Gonzalez told me to keep them updated on my trip to Australia, so I've found another use of this blog. (If you're reading this and you're from that class, hello!)

I also got to stop by and chat with my chemistry and physics teachers. After school, I went to the math team meeting. The American Mathematics Competitions start next week, so I watched them work on solve problems from previous years.

Our math team captain, Albert, explaining a geometry problem! (To be precise, another student solved the problem on the board, and Albert added some comments afterwards.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dinner at Sweet Tomatoes

My friend Rachel, who goes to MIT, was still around in California. And B came home for Princeton's one-week break. So naturally, we all got together and had dinner at Sweet Tomatoes! My brother went too!

The four of us at the beginning of our meal.

Me as we were about to leave. The ice cream cones are tiny! That naturally leads to a challenge: How much ice cream can you fit onto a cone?
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