Tag Archives: Travel

A few epic fails and laughing at myself

Oh hello there, it’s been a while (and welcome new grad students!).

I think I often start my blog posts by explaining/justifying how long I haven’t been writing on iMech. I don’t think that’s healthy, but it’s hard not to be apologetic about this. I’m actually in Genoa, Italy, sitting at an eloquently prepared breakfast table by myself, typing away, and feeling quite uneasy and somewhat certain that one of the ants on the table will get into my laptop and short circuit.

Yes. I know. You might be thinking “AJung, stop it. Why on earth are you online and blogging? Get out there and enjoy the city.” But no worries. I’ll be quick on this one.

My temporary room in Genoa. 🙂

I just wanted to say that the weekend before flying out on my Europe trip (which is a work trip, not a vacation by the way — trust me on this one), I had an awesome time at the Gambier island with 17 other MEGA people. That’s thanks to Dr. Sheldon Green, our department head, who generously and courageously opened up his cottage for us grad students who wanted to go an epic retreat together. We had some (long) hiking sessions and amateur yoga sessions, but that trip deserves a longer post that this one. So I will post about it later and do justice.

The reason why I am blogging right now — my toast is gradually being donated to the ants btw… hmmp! — is that I had a few epic fail moments this morning and last night.

I had been in Bielefeld, Germany all of last week, and arrived at Genoa, Italy last night to meet with collaborators of mine and to give a talk at a workshop held here. It’s my second time visiting Genoa, and luckily so because my collaborators just happen to be located at such a beautiful city. But what I had forgotten about my first trip to Genoa made me go through a series of epic fails last night. And here are a few.

1) I forgot the fact that power plugs in Italy are different from Germany/NL. But I somehow managed to find the only plug in the entire house that allows me to use my two-prong plug. Yay! I feel like I’ll run into the same problem when I go to Switzerland later this week… hmmp…

2) I did not study Italian last year. I think I tried for like one day and forgot about it because of my mad thesis writing. So I made up for it by getting a 3G plan (a.k.a. google translate on the go). 3G is working now but I still don’t know my Italian phone number. Umm… yeah I should figure that out…

3) In Germany, I sat next to a lady and a child who were sneezing like crazy and now I think I have a cold. Drinking lots of orange juice everywhere I go in order to fight the cold is fighting my bladder room to try local drinks.

4) Feeling like I’ve been away from my family/friends for too long, I skyped home. Woke up the entire family (4am in Ontario) …

Dinner at a pizzeria I discovered last night. Yum~ super thin crust pizza~

So, going through these epic fails within such a short span of time, I was reminded of the time I first moved to Vancouver. When I was trying the transit system for the first time, I was so confused as to which direction I should put the transit tickets through (I didn’t have my U-pass then). And I didn’t know where to go to get a decent dinner for the first few days, because I lacked the type of local knowledge I now take for granted. And that was just me moving from one part of Canada to another. My move from Korea to Canada was more dramatic, but that’s another story.

It’s exciting. But at the same time, it makes you sigh that day to day events are so… eventful when you are not used to the environment you’re now in. With the ambitious thought that I might travel to Genoa more often than I had imagined a few years ago, I am going to explore the city and make this place a little bit more familiar to me than it is now (I’ve already discovered a cozy pizzeria nearby and haven’t got lost yet).

For now, here is a song that’s giving me an extra energy boost right now that, I hope, might give you an extra boost too (sorry, it’s K-pop, but oh well, I’m Korean lol).

Big hugs to everyone new to Vancouver, UBC, or a new environment in general. 🙂

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P.S. By the way, I had no idea they’d give me an Italian ad on YouTube when I’m in Italy. Wow!

Getting Ready for Grad School… Part 1


AJung in 2009 taking a ferry from Osaka, Japan to Busan, Korea, before moving to Vancouver for grad school.. This was when SARS was the big no-no, and everyone in Japan were asked to wear masks, including on the ferry.

Later in May I convocated, along with my labmate Tom and fellow Mechanical Engineering students.

It was somewhat of a weird experience since, as you may know already, I am not going anywhere. The day I finished my MASc., I started my PhD. So convocation itself didn’t feel like the dramatic end of a long journey and start of a new life that so many valedictorians tend to emphasize.

To be perfectly honest with you, taking a vacation in Miami after my thesis defence was more dramatic than the convocation. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the convocation. The weather was perfectly sunny that day, so the pictures turned out nicely I think – although my sister is holding onto the pictures still… And if there’s one thing that I look forward to during UBC convocation is the cake they give out for you and your guests for free… yum…!!

Anyways, dramatic or not, convocation definitely is one of those things that puts a period at the end of your sentence. Even if you don’t attend, the fact that you receive your degree after that day just kind of puts the proper closure to things like getting your MASc or PhD.

So, now that it’s already mid-June, which means it will be September before you know it, I took a moment today to think back at those pre-grad days…

I used to look so much younger back then... This picture is from my trip to Japan in 2009. Hopefully I'll get the chance to go back one of these days? 😀

About three years ago, I had just graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours Mechatronics Engineering program. And, with my passion for roboethics and human-robot interaction, I ambitiously went to a robotics conference in Japan and toured around Korea. That was how I spent my last summer before starting grad school. That trip also led me to take on a part time job in Seoul, completely forget my birthday (seriously, I don’t even know how I managed to do that), and empty out most of the money I had saved up from my previous co-op terms.

But it was definitely worth while. It gave me a good exposure to the field of robotics, and roboethics. Some of the people I met at the conference are now my collaborators /mentors /friends within the field of robotics. More importantly, I got to spend some time with my family and my relatives. I still remember flying out to Vancouver with my sister in August of 2009. My sister had flown with me to help me settle down and to spend the last few days of my freedom with me.

I remember feeling quite anxious about my new life as a graduate student. I was thankful that I got into the program I had so wanted to get into. At the same time, everything seemed so uncertain — including what kinds of lab mates would I be working with, what courses I should be taking, whether to address my supervisors by their first names etc.

So in the next few posts, I think I will think back to those early days and share what I did during the last summer before grad school. Hopefully this will be helpful for some of you? If not, no worries. I’ll still be blabbering about these things eventually anyway. Haha… But for those of you who are prospective UBC grad students, please do feel free to ask me specific questions. I’ll try my best to write relevant/helpful posts for you.