Friday, September 14

Reflections: SMIT US West Coast Study Tour

Selected photos of the trip @ my Friendster profile

03-12 September 2007 ~ San Francisco/San Jose/Los Angeles

"Seen Hollywood; the sunsets in LA" goes a phrase in Singapore's recent National Day Parade 2007 theme song, "There's No Place I'd Rather Be". For me, it's "been there, done that".

If I could find a single word to describe this trip, it would be "indescribable". The trip was so much more than just a study tour - it was a cultural exchange, a foreign insight, and a holiday all rolled into one. Having been in the States 9 weeks shortly before this trip (on the East Coast in Boston, MA however, for a summer program @ MIT), it made me miss the States even more after this brief one week on the West Coast in sunny California. Moreover, the friendships we forged among us and the good times we had together will forever - I believe - be etched as dear memories in our hearts.

3 Sep. I henceforth begin my chronological breakdown of the trip. We landed in San Francisco and had a Chinese dinner at a restaurant before checking in at Courtyard Marriott (Oyster Point) Hotel. No one really ate much due as we were weary after the long flight from Singapore (transiting in Taipei). Like our tour guide Louie had warned us, we would wake up at about 4am in the morning due to the jet lag; which most of us not surprisingly did.

4 Sep. The morning was spent at the University of San Francisco (USF), a Jesuit institution. We got our first taste of the San Francisco landscape and climate, as we passed through hilly roads and swathes of fog. (Did I mention that I love the weather in the States?) We went for the customary tour of the campus, the highlight of which was St. Ignatius Church, with its stunning interior murals and architecture. Lunch was the traditional Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl at the famous Pier 39 of Fisherman's Wharf. It is really a must-see tourist destination with its boulevard of shops, restaurants, and even a Hard Rock Cafe! Next, we stopped by the one-way Lombard Street, also known as the "World's Crookedest Street". It slithered around so much like a snake and was at such a steep angle that vehicles had to brake while slowly making their way down. The view of the city of San Francisco from the top, however, was breathtaking and worth all that effort to climb up. Later, we went shopping at Union Square, famous for its many top-label department stores (the likes of Burberry, Nike, LV, and many more). We then rode past Chinatown on our way to the absolutely-incredulously-amazing Golden Gate Bridge, which I managed to traverse to its mid-point before having to return back due to a lack of time (as is common during tours, where schedules are tight). We had a final stop at Twin Peak for a poignant sunset view of the city beneath us. As the chilly winds and golden sunset engulfed my senses, I felt a moment of peace inside me and understood why some hail San Francisco as the best city of the States.

5 Sep. We visited Stanford University in the morning - it's ranked 4th in the 2007 edition of the U.S. News and World Report undergraduate college rankings, “America’s Best Colleges”. Did I mention the HUGE campus? Stanford occupies a total of 8,180 acres in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties! Later on, we dropped by the Intel Museum where we were enlightened on processors and technology with their interactive exhibits. The evening was spent at the Plug & Play Tech Center (NUS Overseas College) in Silicon Valley, where we had several talks by creative entrepreneurs and met NUS students on their overseas attachment here over dinner.

6 Sep. The larger part of the day was spent at West Valley College, where we got to sit in for lessons to find out how similar/different our education system was from theirs. It turned out to be similar; they were very practical-oriented too. My DMAT juniors and I also got the chance to take a peek at the school's music department and their well-equipped TV studio. It was a pity there was not enough time for us to perform several community songs and present about Singaporean life to our American counterparts; but we did perform for the rest of our tour group, to much applause. =) Then it was off to Apple HQ - OMG OMG I visited the Mothership! We were given a formal introduction to their company as well as some of their latest products like the iPhone, the new iMac and the upcoming OS Leopard. At the Company Store, we got bargains when we were gratefully granted staff discounts of 15% off.

7 Sep. THE DAY I LAUGHED THE MOST (YET) - This day is significant for me; I never laughed so much in one day in my life before. Thank you all =) It really destressed me. I treasure those happy times of joy, laughter, games and forfeits on the bus as we made our long journey from San Jose to Los Angeles. We played Bluff, Murderer, and many other silly games and got so high over the forfeits! And to think that I did most of the forfeits, most of which involved - intriguingly - my bright orange travel pillow and the bus PA system. =.= I went up once with the travel pillow strung over my head and had to say, "Joanne, you're so cute!" LOL... and there was Kok How with the pillow on his head moshing along to the Gatsby theme song - TOTALLY HILARIOUS! =D And what a fuss we made over Jia Bao - our cherished...... broom on the bus. Yes, how hilarious was that! A broomstick and dustpan on the bus with the brand "Jia Bao". ROLFMAO! Haha... we eventually reached the famous 17-Mile Drive, a scenic chain of roads where we got off at several points to enjoy Mother Nature at her best. We caught seals, seagulls, otters, and the Lone Cypress standing on its own so forlorn at the edge of a cliff where it had stood for over 250 years. We also drooled over the stunning views and the architecture of the MILLIONAIRE homes that we passed by. Who wouldn't want to live in that utopia?

8 Sep. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS!! Woohoo! We spent a whole day of fun there going for live shows and rides. There was Jurassic Park's wet plunge, the Revenge of the Mummy indoor coaster, and the spooky Haunted House. We met characters like Scooby, Spongebob, the intelligent-replying Donkey (from Shrek) and later went for the highlight of the day, the Universal Studios Tour, where our tram passed through real movie sets and really got into the scene with all the real-life effects: experiencing a fire in a subway station, being flooded all around with water, and watching dancing cars from Too Fast Too Furious - Tokyo Drift - with their pyrotechnic effects and all. Of course, it was all preplanned, but the effects were so realistic. As they say, "Entertainment is Universal". The day really passed too fast and soon it was time to go back and rest for the next day at...

9 Sep. ...DISNEYLAND!!! Every child's fantasy, it is surely as they name it, "the happiest place on Earth". This Disneyland in Anaheim was way larger than the one I had been to last year in Hong Kong. I "turned" into a child again as I went for the rides; all those characters that had grown up with me in the storybooks and cartoons were REAL - for once - in the magical Disneyland. Later, I enjoyed their Parade of a Million Dreams - Ratatouille, Snow White, Beauty & the Beast, Simba & Friends, the Little Mermaid; you name it, they were all there. And after a shopping spree and going around collecting souvenir pennies, the magic of the day had worn out and it was time to go back. =(

10 Sep. Our final day in the States. I was so sad that I emo-ed on the back seat of the bus for most of the journey. OK, well, it wasn't that bad (at least I didn't cry - and you go "OMIGOSH! Have I ever seen Edwin CRY before?"). But I must tell you that I can get quite emo at times - you just don't see it. I can make myself cry if I so wish to. Anyway, we visited two rival universities in the area, the private University of South California (USC) and the public University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Of course, each had nasty things to say about each other, and we were told the silly pranks each school did on their rival's campus. UCLA once displaced the USC mascot Tommy Trojan's sword and placed it on his _____ (you-know-what, stars with a P) and had USC go so ga-ga over it that they placed a 24-hour surveillance camera to guard their dear Tommy Trojan. =) And USC got back at UCLA when they poured a whole lot of dye and detergent powder into UCLA's dear Inverted Fountain, causing chaos as a soap-sudded fountain overflowed into the plaza, dying the bricks pink. ROLFMAO! We later spent some time shopping/eating at the Hollywood & Highland Center and explored a tiny bit of the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Alas, it was time to go off before we knew it, and our final Chinese dinner at a nearby hotel restaurant preceded our flight back home.

12 Sep. Back in Singapore at noon. Home, sweet home and yet dearly missed memories of a wonderful time in the States. The week passed so fast; I was enjoying the company of all my friends. They say that "all good things come to an end". Do they? The trip has ended, but the friendship has just begun. Never in my history of undergoing "student tours" (to Japan, Hong Kong, or even recently in Boston), have I had the privilege and pleasure of being with such a wonderful group of people. Maybe it helped that all of us were from the same department in school (SMIT - School of Media & Info-Comm Technology); but you could really contrast the change between when we first met as strangers during a meeting days before the trip, and after the trip ended. We even ended up creating a whimsical "family" out of ourselves; our grandparents being the two lecturers that accompanied us, a Mommy and a Daddy, among others. You people really, truly made my day (or should I say, "week"), and for that, THANK YOU. =)


Blogger ybother said...

hey, i am one of the guy from NOC. I also created tagxe!

8:32 am, October 13, 2007  

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