Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Journey So Far

Leaves are falling again and its officially reflection and emo time everybody. So yeah, my journey so far -- so good? Lots of twists and turns, unexpected surprises and decisions but I am content with the current state of things. 

I am going to be enrolled in Spring 2016 as a masters student in UMN Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. Right now, I am working in the lab with good ol’ Experimental Research on particle-fluid Interaction in ChAnnel flow (ERICA) (I know it's lame that's what happens when you make the acronym before the name), my baby and my future thesis and the source of my undoing. I know every nut and bolt of ERICA more than I know myself. Still, real world physics gets in the way sometimes and quoting Mark Watney, I just gotta science the shit out of this. Still a pretty neat setup with some pretty neat results recently, still have to work on her more to get decent results worthy of APS, worthy of JFM papers and other cool shit that I can add to my Google Scholar to be like the pros. 

Probably come as a surprise to some of my friends, since for a few months I was all like 'hell yeah Florida’ and stuff. Done with the winter, done with the undergraduate degree and ready to make a supersonic man out of me. Turns out Florida was worse than I thought, and wasn’t a good place for me to spend my next five years as well. Supersonic is nice, but when work is done and I head home on my bike, there is nothing else to do except the internets and the little park by my place, I feel so empty inside. Turns out when I chose my school the first time round, I picked a pretty sweet spot and I wanna go back to it now. I played my get-out-of-jail-free card, a lucky combination of not signing a lease and having the flexibility of OPT allowed me flee back to my underground lab of AEM, glorious gopher tunnels and six months of winter. 'I would rather have the cold than a sickening humid heat' was my motto as I head home, well I survived three winters so far so it's just gonna be same old. Same old campus, same old restaurants but I am just glad to be back. 

As my rejections rolled in from Caltech, UTAustin and the other snazzy schools that were too good for me and my kind, another loss that still never really hit me is when grandma passed away in March, the 16th day after CNY 2015. I was there when she got sick, over the winter break when Luci and I went back after 1.5 years of absence so far, but her death never really registered with me to be honest. Sometimes I dream about her, weirdly realistic and much alive. Even the cousins as well, they appear in my dream in the 2012 version although I definitely have seen them in their updated 2015 version complete with puberty patches and y-u-so-tall-now heights. Being away from all these when it happened is just another reminder about how things can pan out when you halfway around the world. To this day, I'm still grateful that I decided to go home for winter break. It was really done on a whim, bought my tickets two months before when the prices are not that cheap, but compared to being able to take care of grandma in the hospital for that one afternoon (she was at home most of the time), the money is nothing. 

Solar car is racing across Australia now, too bad I pulled out last year almost this time ago. I still think it was a great program and I had a lot of fun doing it, but last year it was killing me and my soul and did no other good to me. It was time to move on, it was hard as giving up solar car means giving up some of my best credentials in extracurriculars in UMN as well as (kinda) changing my career path. After acknowledging that I would never get a (good) full-time job with a Bachelors in Aero, grad school seemed like an attractive option, and pulling out of solar car and focusing on research definitely swung my trajectory towards grad school. Although still jealous seeing the team racing across Australia on an experience of their lifetime, once probably is enough for me. 

Again lessons learnt from this summer, there has to be a middle ground and there is life out of work no matter how glorious your day job is. My journey remains on academic grounds for now, dreaming of papers and publications, occasionally dreading the system and wanting to get out to the 'real world', p.s. academic research is just as real as 'industry' gets, the only thing fake about academia is the many A's they give students thanks to partial credits and grade inflation. Well the students took such a big loan to pay for school they damn want their professors to give more A's to them. 

This semester-long holiday is good at times, boring most times, thinking of getting a game console or joining nanowrimo next month, trying to use this valuable time well so I don't regret it come next year. 2015 is a long year so far, so much to say, so much to write, two more months and hopefully many good times ahead.