Archive for May, 2007

This is the last time…

Friday, May 25th, 2007

That’s it.  I took my last final exam for my last college class today.  And of course it had to be, erm, Ec1010b (ugh), and of course the exam was almost inconceivably long and hard.  I mean it was literally almost inconceivable – during the exam I wondered a couple of times if I had somehow become drugged or affected by heatstroke (it was about as hot as Singapore today – high 80s) because everytime I looked up it seemed 35 minutes had passed and I had only completed three points worth of questions despite working as quickly as possible.  This was a problem because there were 180 points on the three-hour exam, i.e. you had to work at a rate of one point per minute to finish in time.  In the end I completed the first 30 points in 90 minutes and the last 100 points in 40 minutes.  Awful.

But it doesn’t matter anymore.


I’ve been reflecting a lot about my Harvard experience, unsurprisingly, to fill out the many various surveys and end-of-course evaluations that accompany graduating college here, and also in preparation for Experiences, for the admissions office tours and other related projects.  I’ve already said all the harsh, critical things I’ve wanted to express about my academic, social, extracurricular, advising and residential experience (lots of appreciation to the people who listened to my rants), so I shall not repeat them.  But it must be remembered that in the end I am overwhelmingly happy, and grateful, and very, very sad to leave. 

I remember Jeff telling me last year about how he cried before we left on Tour, and now I think I will cry too.  Even just typing that makes me a little tearful. 

Ryan and I have been indulging in so much nostalgia recently.  Every day is the last day now, every time is the last time now.  The last time we’ll work HUCEP, the last time we’ll turn in blue books, the last time we’ll use Board Plus.  It’s a little heart-wrenching to think about, which may be partly why we don’t think about it much and usually don’t remember.  But then we do, and it’s a little blow. 

The last chance to say goodbye to the underclassmen, the last opportunity to take pictures, the last access to that favorite professor’s office hours…

Right now I’m finishing up my last two CUE-guide course evaluations, and I’m writing the most glowing praise I can come up with for this particular class. 

For the question “Would you recommend this class to other students, and why?”  I indicated the most positive possible response: “recommend with enthusiasm”, and then wrote in the reason:

Professor L. is one of the best professors at Harvard, no question.  She is brilliant and willing to share her wealth of scholarship and incredibly rich first-hand knowledge, yet also wonderfully down-to-earth, irrepressibly curious and eager to hear about new ideas and technology.  Professor L. is warm and interested in students and genuinely concerned with gently but firmly pushing them towards excellence in this class and all other areas of their lives.  Anyone who has the privilege of taking any class with her is blessed, and will likely remember the class as one of the most motivating, intellectually invigorating, relevant one they’ve taken.  This is what all Harvard courses should be like, so perhaps you shouldn’t take this if you don’t want most of your other classes to pale in comparison.

And then to the prompt “Please comment on this person’s teaching”, I write: 

Superb.  Almost beyond superlatives; the quality of Professor L.’s teaching is matched by only a very small, precious group of professors at Harvard or anywhere, I imagine.  What more can I say to laud her ability to put students at ease and make them feel engaged and valued despite her intimidating intellect plus her daunting scholarly AND noble (humanitarian) accomplishments?  I have never encountered such a thoughtfully and successfully designed seminar – one proof was that we never wanted to end discussions on time, and I wouldn’t be able to decide which sessions were most highly anticipated, useful or generally enjoyed, those where Professor L. lectured, those where invited guests spoke or those where fellow students presented.  Professor L.’s leadership of the class must be credited for this exceptional learning experience with quite literally never a dull moment.  I will stop only because I imagine my praise will start to be undermined by seeming to be embarrassingly effusive and hyperbolic.  But I stand by what I’ve written as my accurate and well-considered opinion.

I *heart* my professors.  Can you tell?

Coming up

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

View from the Quincy Master's Residence (8 May 2007) OR Sunset over Cambridge

It seems so unreal.  The end of the semester (in just 3 days!) will mark the end of my college career.

I feel as if I’m wasting time not thinking carefully about what I should be doing and people I should be spending time with before the opportunity slips away forever.  Already lots of underclassmen have completed their final exams, moved out and taken off to start their summer vacations, which means I won’t get to say goodbye to them.

But the truth is I don’t really know how to say goodbye to this place.  Will these four years worth of relationships and experiences all turn into a distant, hazy memory of a mirage in the years after I leave?  I don’t know, and not knowing is also scary.

I’m no longer very scared, in truth; I suppose I’ve reconciled myself to the inevitable, and I also feel some excitement for the dim promises of the future.  I’m tired of trying hard, so I’m just going to relax for a while, and see where God takes me.

UNEP Executive Director at KSG (8 May 2007) 
Achim Steiner, the new Executive Director of the UNEP spoke at the JFK Jr. Forum at the Kennedy School earlier this month (May 8th).  He is outrageously only the second speaker I’ve ever seen at this public forum, which hosts several speakers a week, from former Iran President Khatami to the current Director of the FBI to Queen Rania of Jordan.

 My first Red Sox Game! (12 May 2007)

Can you believe this was my first time at Fenway Park? Ryan was very good about explaining what was happening – the Sox trashed the Baltimore Orioles (May 12) 🙂 

PS: I got my thesis comments and final grade today.  Meh.  I thank God for the (emotional) damage control.

PPS: I got a blood titre drawn today to check if my previous Hep B immunization worked.  And I managed to pass out.  Huh?!  I will declare that I am not consciously afraid of needles or blood.  I’ve also felt faint before when having blood drawn, but this was my first full-out loss of consciousness.  Very odd.  When I woke up I didn’t realise I had fainted until I discovered that I was in a different part of the room in a different (reverse reclined) chair that I must have been carried into.  I didn’t even think to ask how long I’d been out.

Yay Terence!

Monday, May 14th, 2007

And just because I think I might never have time to blog about the past weekend’s flurry of activity (some 700 miles of driving around NYC, Boston and Cape Cod, only three-hour naps on either end, Dins and Din alums, my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park, the SIAMA end-of-year dinner), I feel compelled to record that I saw Terence in NYC!  It was a wonderful coincidence that Terence had flown in from Stanford that morning and that I happened to be (very briefly) in the city as well for Dins.

Catching up with Terence (who was very nice about having to fight jetlag and general fatigue at the end of a loooong day) was really, really nice.

The last Q-ball

Monday, May 14th, 2007

I almost cannot believe how busy I’ve been these past few weeks.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s now normal to operate on three or less hours of sleep every day for a week at a time.  And still loads of important tasks go neglected, even highly time-sensitive ones.  Not ideal.

Have also been feeling very loopy for days now, with allergy season (and the accompanying remedies) accounting for no small part.

Tonight’s formal was…  misfortunate.  For me at least.  I can actually see how it is in fact funny (i.e. tragicomic) that my bag broke soon after I left the building, and my date lost a bangle, and I broke the middle of her orchid corsage (leaving the single giant bloom unrecognisable), and they took away the chocolate fountain right before we got to it, and that the sound system experienced a glitch right when we were ready to hit the dance floor, and my right eye became irritated enough (like swollen and furiously red) that I had to remove my (permanent) contact lens which promptly got blown irrecoverably out of my hand onto the nighttime street etc. etc. 

Overall quite ill-fated, it felt.

Of course the location was lovely, and my date was a lot of fun (and a very gracious good sport), and the restaurant was a blast.  So it wasn’t without its happy, rosy moments.  If only they weren’t so regularly interrupted 🙂

Singapore, measured

Friday, May 4th, 2007

I realise that these will have been covered in the Singapore media, but hey, I’m pretty diconnected from that media.

Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey 07/08

Walking Speed 

The best of times

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

I am not ready or willing to leave the excitement, the richness of resources and the very comfortable community that I’ve grown accustomed to here.

And that’s part of why I’m so busy all the time now.  I’m rushing to enjoy the opportunities that I’ve complacently taken for granted for years now at the College, the University and the Boston area.  The photos below offer a selection of these opportunities from the last couple of days (lots more photos on Flickr):

 Brown Bag Lunch (1 May 2007)

Today I went to an open brown bag lunch discussion at the Kennedy School with Kishore Mahbubani, currently the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS (and for over a decade previously the Singapore ambassador to the UN).  The three of us seniors (Shi Ming, Xin Wei and myself) all arrived late from different places and settled for various nooks at the back of the room.

 The Sticky Bun Throw-Down (30 Apr 2007)

Another random but cool opportunity – on Monday the Food Network was filming a tangentially Harvard-related episode so whoever wanted to go to the filming could enter a lottery to go into Boston.  I made Ryan sign up with me  and while at the venue we recognised another half dozen of our friends in the crowd of about 90 Harvard affiliates.  Those were some fantastic sticky buns they made!

Here we are with the stars of the episode.  From left: Ryan, Joanne Chang (of Flour Bakery and Cafe), me, Bobby Flay (one of America’s Iron Chefs!), Tiffany.

 Old State House (30 Apr 2007)

Here I am playing tourist (after four years of living here!) right outside the Old State House in downtown Boston, which I’d never seen before.  We accidentally came across the building while walking from the filming to the Harvard Club of Boston at One Federal to Macy’s at Downtown Crossing; I’ve always loved the compact-ness of Boston.  Ryan (who took this picture) tells me that is the very balcony from which the American Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed in 1776.

I was struck by the incongruous discovery that part of the building now houses the State Street subway station (on the orange and green lines).

Can you see why I don’t want to leave?  Sigh.

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday) I will be presenting my senior honors thesis as part of the series of informal “Senior thesis desserts” (implying the free Finale desserts which will be served).  Quincy House SCR, 7pm in case you’re interested.  Which also means I now need to go and re-read my thesis for the first time in weeks and prepare some slides and speaking notes.  What an anxiety-inducing task.