Seville (Naboo?)

When I go to big cities I am always a bit stressed, because there are always more things to do than I can fit into my schedule, and that makes traveling a bit unpleasant. It may seem like a good problem to have, but if I am stressed about having to see everything, doesn’t that defeat the whole point of traveling?

I am at a point in my life where I can really use some down time to reflect on recent happenings, so I intentionally picked a place that’s not quite as busy as other places I’ve been to in the past – Seville!

Not quite as popular or well-known as places like Barcelona or even Madrid, but it’s still a city with magnificent architecture, epic stories of cultural clashes and conquests, religions, and art. A lot of art.

Many famous operas were set in Seville, and they serve as testimonies to its beauty. To name a few among a dozen – Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, Barber of Seville (where the Bugs Bunny theme song came from), and Don Juan.

The city is also an enduring record of the clashes between the Moors (Muslims from North Africa) and Catholics in the 8th century, and as a result the architectural style is a unique blend of Jewish (came with the Moors), Gypsy (also came with the Moors), Muslim, and Catholic. Often in the same buildings as well, and that’s super cool!

Also, circumstances dictate that I travel by myself again, so I’m back to meeting strangers! Like last time, I’m going to number them in this post instead of giving their names – both in order to protect the innocent, and also because I am shit with names.


The hostel is nicely nestled in the middle of Santa Cruz, a labyrinth of narrow alleys that make up the medieval Jewish quarter of Seville.

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It all looks very confusing, but for some reason, I can always manage to find my way back to the hostel without a map if I just follow my instinct. Maybe my brain decided to grow some grid cells?

The hostel is a bit anti-social with everyone doing their own things (like me on my laptop typing this post…), but the decorations are interesting, and there’s free dinner!

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img_20161110_220904I love hostels with free dinners! Dinners are amazing for bringing people together and getting people to start talking. And talk we did.

Dutch girl #1 used to live in Brussels doing spreadsheets for an insurance company, but decided that’s too boring and went to live in Australia for a few months, and met Australian guy #1, and they started dating. They now travel all over the world as nomads. How cool is that?!

Belgian girl #1 also works in Brussels, and after a few moments of confusion, established that she actually works at the same insurance company that Dutch girl #1 worked at. They did not know each other.

She also speaks perfect English, despite English being her 4th language. Belgian people are amazing.

American girls #1 and #2 were from Chicago and Michigan, and they are on an exchange program, spending a semester at a university in Madrid, while teaching English for 4 euros/hour (that’s not survivable even by Spanish standards). They are doing some traveling before going back to the States, and they both speak Spanish really well! I really need to work on my Spanish. Being only bilingual is getting a bit old, when everyone I meet at hostels are at least trilingual.

Canadian guy #1 is a mechanical engineer from London, Ontario, working for General Dynamics. We mostly just geeked out and talked about mechanical engineering shit that I assume most of my readers aren’t terribly interested in, but he did tell me how a friend of his in the bio-med field mentioned to him that there’s this simple device many research labs pay thousands of $s for that he (and even I) can build in a few days for about $200, and he is going to launch a startup to take advantage of that. I don’t want to say too much about it since I’m not sure if he wants more people to know, but as an engineer, I’ve had lots and lots of people pitch their startup/project ideas to me, and I found most of them BS in some way. Not this one. This one is actually cool.

Norwegian guy #1 is a vet working in a research lab at a university in Madrid doing research in animal nutrition. I don’t remember what he works on exactly, but it’s impressive.


There are wars and power struggles in the history of every city, and while in northern/western parts of Europe the big war is usually WWII, here it happened centuries earlier – between Muslims and Catholics. This results in interesting architecture. For example, La Giralda, one of the most symbolic icons of the city used to be a minaret – a Muslim tower for prayers. Now it’s in the middle of Catedral de Sevilla – the largest Gothic cathedral in the world… which used to be a mosque.

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The cathedral itself is huge, but not really impressive otherwise. Looks like someone had a few crates more gold than they knew what to do with, and just poured it all over this place.

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The tower is amazing though!

The way up is a very very very long ramp. It’s a ramp instead of steps because the imam had to go up 5 times a day, and the imam was usually a very old guy. With a ramp he could ride a donkey up. DONKEY! UP A TOWER!!

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I am not the proud owner of a donkey, so I walked. And walked. And walked. 20 minutes later… bird’s-eye view of Seville!

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How amazing would it be if I could jump off with a paraglider or something?


To be continued… (spoiler: I did not jump)

Polyamory

You are walking on a 100-metre long trail, and there is a pebble every metre. When you encounter a pebble, you can choose to pick it up or leave it. If you pick it up, the game is over, and you get to keep the pebble. If you leave it, you cannot go back to it later.

Your goal is to get the largest pebble. What’s your optimal strategy?

This is the famous secretary problem in decision theory.


Monogamy feels a lot like the secretary problem to me – you encounter a more or less fixed number of potential partners over your relationship forming year, and you have to pick one without being able to peek ahead, and you can’t go back to potential partners you have passed over.

Does that make much sense to you? It doesn’t really to me.

Does loving a person really turn off our capability to love another person? It doesn’t for me, and judging by the number of “monogamous” people who cheat, I don’t think it’s just me.

Love is just a more intense form of friendship. We can have multiple best friends and no one has trouble understanding that. Why do we have to be so selfish with love? Why can’t we just love everyone we want to love?

Why do romantic relationships have to be formed and broken with so much deliberate effort? Why can’t they evolve organically just like friendships?

Those are questions I’ve had for many many years (in fact, I believe I wrote a blog post about this back in 2010 or something). Questions that I never found satisfactory answers to, and as a result, I mostly just refrained from dating.

Until recently, that is. I came across the concept of polyamory a few months ago, and have been reading up on it since. Everything just makes sense!

If you are not familiar with polyamory – it’s a relationship model where each person can have multiple partners, but with the knowledge and blessing of all partners involved (this is a huge over-simplification – there at least as many different kinds of poly relationships as there are mono relationships).

Is it for me? I don’t know. It makes perfect sense on paper, but I don’t know how my brain will actually react.

There’s the practical aspect as well – my friend who did give it a try didn’t find it worthwhile, due to the effort required to maintain multiple relationships. As a famous poly saying goes: “Love is infinite, but time and energy aren’t.”

In any case, if I do actually go into poly, it will probably end up being a mono-poly sort of arrangement with me on the mono side… I barely have enough time for one person!


So, what’s the solution to the secretary problem?

As it turned out, there is an elegant mathematical solution – the optimal strategy is to skip over the first n/e pebbles, and then take the first one that is bigger than all you have seen.

n is the number of candidates, and e is the base of natural logarithm (e ~= 2.72).

For example, in the case of 100 pebbles, that means you should skip over the first 100/2.72 = 37 pebbles, and then take the first one that’s bigger than all of the first 37 pebbles.

See the Wikipedia page for proof.

 

2015 in Review

I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. – Steve Jobs

2015 was about answering “yes” to that question unhealthily often. It was a good year.

I quitted my job last year to do an MSc in London, but it was mostly just an excuse to spend a year living in a new country, and ticking a few more things off my list of things to do before I die. That turned out to be a very good decision.

I am finally at a point in life where if you tell me I am going to die today, and ask me what I wish I could have done but never did, I would have to think long and hard about it.

Gliding

In the first half of the year, I finally got into gliding with the Imperial College Gliding Club. It’s something I have always wanted to do being a powered airplane pilot, and I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint. We went on quite a few trips to the local airfield (Lasham), as well as a week-long trip to Long Mynd over the Christmas holidays, where we flew an unhealthy amount, and got to try out a really cool launch method. See this post for videos and photos.

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I didn’t end up getting licensed in gliding because gliding is very time-consuming (whole days at the airfield), and unfortunately time is one of the things I don’t have a lot of… it was still amazing, though!

SCUBA Diving

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Thanks to all the fine people in the Imperial College Underwater Club, I was also able to get certified in scuba diving! It was a bit cold, but everyone in the club, especially the instructors, were absolutely amazing! It’s something I definitely plan to keep doing. Somewhere warm?

Judo

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I got orange! I probably should have gotten it a long time ago, if only I didn’t switch dojo every few months.

What’s more important though, is what I learned. I felt like I really made quite a bit of progress in my understanding of Judo this year. I am much more relaxed now when I go into a fight, and can more accurately use my opponents’ force against themselves, which is really what Judo should be about. My fighting style is now much more reactionary (that sounds like a bad thing, but it really isn’t). Instead of always initiating and trying attacks from stable positions, I am starting to be able to let the opponent attack first, recognize weaknesses in their movements or balances, before moving in to attack. That made Judo a whole lot more fun.

Still have lots and lots to learn. Looking forward to another year of Judo!

Musicals!

Imperial College subsidizes musical tickets through the Art Society, and we were able to get tickets to most West End shows for less than £30.

Living in Vancouver, I am used to only be able to watch musicals when they go on tours, and it’s often necessary to book half a year in advance. Living close to West End was really nice. I could watch pretty much anything I wanted, and only had to book a few days in advance.

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It was amazing.

Woodworking

I was in desparate need of an excuse to travel outside of my room during the thesis writing period, so I decided to join a week-long full time course on woodworking and furniture making.

It’s something I have always wanted to learn. I am into DIY and I would say I am pretty good at DIYing electronics stuff (maybe having a degree in that helped?), but I have always sucked at making mechanical stuff, so this was an attempt to fix that.

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We each built a coffee table! I was surprised how much we learned in just one week.

Can’t wait to start building more stuff!

Also, sawing wood is therapeutic.

Backpacking

There was supposed to be a graduation trip, then everyone else bailed. So I ended up going backpacking on my own. It ended up being a whole lot more fun than I ever imagined!

I took about a month to visit Lisbon, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, staying in hostels and meeting new people every day. I was a bit apprehensive at first, and wasn’t sure if travelling by myself would be a good idea, but it turned out to be probably my best decision of the year!

I wouldn’t go as far as calling it self-discovery, but I did discover a very fun way to travel, and met tons of really cool people and heard tons of really cool stories.

My travel log, if anyone is interested:

Solo Eurotrip, Prelude

Solo Eurotrip, Lisbon Part 1

Solo Eurotrip, Lisbon Part 2

Solo Eurotrip, Prague Part 1

Solo Eurotrip, Prague Part 2

Solo Eurotrip, Vienna Part 1

Solo Eurotrip, Vienna Part 2

Solo Eurotrip, Budapest

Degree, Piece of Paper, and Being (Briefly) Famous

Oh yeah, and I worked on an MSc degree on the side, and got another piece of paper.

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I also discovered my love for machine learning after taking the introductory course, and ended up doing a machine learning project for my thesis… and that’s where the fun started.

I posted my thesis on arXiv, and it was miraculously picked up by MIT Technology Review, which started my approximately 3 weeks of fame. It was reported on by quite a few tech and even mainstream media, and I started getting 10-20 emails from random strangers every day about the project, or their new hot startup. That was unexpected.

It was pretty fun in the beginning, because I am passionate about machine learning, and loved talking about the project. But over time, it became pretty consuming, when I realized I was spending 2 hours a day responding to emails.

I always thought ignoring emails is rude and that I would never do it. Then I started doing it, because there’s just no other way. I couldn’t really afford to spend hours replying to emails everyday. Wouldn’t be able to get anything else done! On the bright side, I am much faster at writing emails now. I’m sure it will be a useful skill later.

The fame left just as quickly as it had come. I was back to my normal level of emails within a few weeks. That’s good. No more feeling guilty about ignoring emails!

One good thing did come out of this whole ordeal, though – a job!

Google DeepMind

Having read a few of their papers during my research, I was really impressed by what they were doing. I didn’t apply there, though, because I thought it was way out of my league, being one of the most famous machine learning labs in the world.

One of their research scientists saw my paper on arXiv, and got me in contact with their recruiter!

We then had a series of Google Hangouts interviews with a bunch of people, including a research scientist, a PM, their research engineering lead, an engineering lead, and one of the founders!

It was a pretty gruelling process totalling to about 10 hours of Hangouts, but although they were all heavy weights in the industry, they were also all very nice and down to earth people, and I really enjoyed talking to them.

It was also a bit scary how smart they are. We talked about my project in one of the interviews with a research scientist. He hadn’t read about it before, and as soon as I am done describing it (it wasn’t a trivial project), he was able to immediately offer a few very helpful insights and things to try, and things to think about. Those are things I never thought of, and I spent a few hours a day working on the project for a few months. That was cool.

I also really enjoyed talking to the founder about more high level ideas in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Really cool insights on how they believe ML will play out in the future, about the nature of intelligence, and possible routes to achieve artificial general intelligence. I don’t think I’m allowed to disclose the details, but it was cool. How often do you get to talk to a founder of a company like DeepMind about AI for half an hour? Not very often for me!

I got an offer in the end!

Next

I didn’t originally plan on returning to the UK, but hey, I am used to making last minute decisions on where to live, and Google isn’t half bad :).

Looks like I’ll be flying back to London next week, and also shipping all my stuff over… most of which I just shipped out of London a few months ago… at least someone else is paying for the shipping this time!

I am not going to write about what I plan to do this year, because looking at my past predictions, it seems like I am terrible at making plans. I do hope it will be as exciting as this year, though!

Love of a Woman?

Who’s got time for that?! 🙂

Sidenote: I decided to try OkCupid recently at a dear friend’s suggestion. After all, I am a machine learning guy. Why not trust machine learning to solve this?

Did not work very well. I don’t like the shotgun approach, so after going through tons of profiles of potential matches, I only sent messages to 2 women. No reply. I do understand that women get a lot of messages on OkCupid, but if I have to write 10 thoughtful messages to get 1 reply… who’s got time for that?!

I am not sure why it worked well for my friend but not me. My guess is it’s because in addition to being very intelligent and humorous, she also happens to be highly conventionally attractive. I did not work as hard and was not as gifted :).

I guess that means it’s back to real world dating for me. Hopefully I’ll have more time this year? Apparently a lot of people (especially men) choose online dating because they are too shy to talk to women. I am not. I have no trouble talking to anyone. I just don’t have the time. Arghhh.

In any case, if you are interested in what a Unsuccessful Application for the Affection of Women looks like, here it is.

By the way, the OkCupid blog is very cool. Lot’s of data analysis and making inferences from data.

On Quora

How do you waste your time online?

I used to blog quite a bit, and spend a lot of time on Facebook. As you may have noticed, I am now much less active on Facebook, and my blog posts are fewer and further between.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t waste time online anymore (ha!), but I’ve found quite possibly the most productive way to waste time – on Quora!

If you haven’t already heard, Quora is essentially Yahoo Answers done right. It’s a site where people post questions, and others answer them.

The main difference between Quora and all other Q&A sites is that, Quora, for some reason, seems to attract very high quality content, unlike Yahoo Answers and Reddit (when used for Q&A). It’s either that low quality content don’t get posted, or that their machine learning systems are better than other sites’ at filtering out low quality content.

I spend about an hour on Quora everyday now for my daily doses of random knowledge. I used to read Wikipedia for that, but Quora is a little more social, and the content tend to be more casually-readable.

On Quora, your feed is personalized by “following” either people or topics. Following people means their content will show up in your feed more often (usually answers), and following topics means you get mostly unanswered questions in those topics. If you follow the right people, after a while, more or less everything on your feed will be interesting.

IMHO, the best thing about Quora and what sets it apart is the fact that many active users are experts in what they write answers on. This could mean professors (there are many), seasoned industry veterans, lawyers, doctors, or people who have their own restaurants (making them experts at running restaurants).

If you are getting started on Quora and have similar interests to mine, here are some of the people I follow. Maybe you’ll find some of them interesting, too? By the way, if you want to see their answers instead of all activities, click the “answers” link on the left.

Eva Kor – “Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate”. She was a child during the Holocaust, and was subject to medical experiments by Josef Mengele. Lot’s of very touching content on the Holocaust, Nazies, and forgiveness. Why did Eva Kor shake hands with a former Auschwitz guard?

Jimmy Wales – Founder of Wikipedia. He is actually a very active Quora user, and answers many question on the philosophies as well as day to day operations of Wikipedia (and Wikimedia Foundation).

Clayton Anderson – ex-NASA ISS Astronaut. Lots of answers on how ISS works, daily life on ISS, orbital mechanics, etc. Also, cool pictures :). What would happen to astronauts if they got detached from the ISS during EVA? Would they fall back to Earth or drift away into space?

Adriana Heguy – Professor of Pathology and genomics researcher at NYU. Answers on genomics and evolutionary biology, and biology in general. Given that eyes appear to have evolved multiple times independently through evolution, why has human-level intelligence not evolved more than once?

Robert Frost – NASA instructor. He trains astronauts! More space and ISS stuff.

Brian Bi – Competitive programmer and software engineer. And physicist. Lots of answers on C++.

Viola Yee – Generally awesome person :). I have no idea what she does for a living, but she writes a lot of good answers on a lot of different things. Mostly things to do with animals and plants. Is extracting wool harmful for sheep?

Emma Homes – Australian flight instructor. Answers on aviation, parenting, and pregnancies.

Yoshua Bengio – If you do any machine learning, he probably doesn’t need any introduction. He is one of the pioneers in deep learning. Answers on deep learning, big data, life in academia, etc.

Sergey Zubkov – Living and breathing C++ standard. He knows just about everything about C++.

You can, of course, follow me as well, and I’d be incredibly honoured :). Most of my answers are in machine learning (especially deep learning and neural nets), electronics design, CS, and aviation. I also occasionally answer questions on martial arts, chess, viola/violin, scuba diving, and a few other things.

Happy Quora-ing!

University Review: Imperial College London

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(Image courtesy of Wikipedia… does it actually snow in London?!)

So far on this blog I have reviewed books (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), musicals (1, 2, 3, 4), movies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), computer games (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), 3D printers (1), and an airplane (1).

Since it’s pretty clear that my blog is going to be reviews of all things under the sun, and that I don’t want to study for my exams, I am going to try reviewing a university – Imperial College London, where I have been spending the bulk of my time in the past few months.

This post is written from the perspective of a postgrad (MSc Advanced Computing), but because our course (*1) is incredibly small at 12 people, I’m trying to make it non-course-specific.

Campus and Surrounding Area

To be honest, the campus is quite underwhelming.

The campus consists of a few tightly packed mostly-ugly buildings in a rectangular block in the middle of South Kensington, probably the most expensive part of London (London Part II – South Kensington, Imperial College London).

The surrounding consists of museums, art galleries, consulates, and embassies. They probably also contributes to the perceived ugliness of Imperial, but I guess it’s better to be in an ugly building in a beautiful area rather than in the same building in an even uglier area that makes the buildings seem beautiful in comparison.

There is obviously no student parking, but that’s not too big of an issue since London’s full time congestion and good public transit means no one drives anyways.

There is also no subsidized accommodation at all for postgrads, which is more of a problem. We either have to pay an arm and a leg to live in a leaking hole somewhere nearby (among all the diplomats and billionaires), or pay only an arm to live somewhere 40 minutes away by tube. Fortunately my degree is only 1 year. I really feel sorry for people doing their PhD here.

Coming from a campus the size of South Kensington (yay for UBC!), it definitely takes some getting used to.

It’s nice to not have to walk between buildings in the rain, and being 20 minutes from the West End (*2) by tube almost makes up for it, but it’s still nice to have a bit of space.

The lack of space also affects non-academic facilities on campus. For example, food.

There are 3 main food places on campus – JCR, h-bar (restricted to masters and up), and SCR (PhDs and staff). The food is reasonably good and reasonably priced, but selection is very limited, and they are always crowded. We always go to h-bar because JCR food is absolutely terrible. If you are going as an undergrad… be prepared for terrible food (that you have to queue for 20 minutes to get).

There are small cafeterias in a few buildings that all sell the same things (sandwiches mostly).

Academic Facilities

This section is specific to Department of Computing for the most part.

The facilities are amazing. Imperial is a very well funded university, and it really shows in their hardware investments.

We have our very own 13000 cores cluster to play with. How awesome is that?! There is also a 32 core 512 GB RAM system we have SSH access to. It may not sound very important, but they are very convenient if your work requires high computation power. It’s very nice to be able to do a parameter optimization run in a few minutes rather than overnight. Or a large scale Monte Carlo analysis. Or something.

There is also an internal Amazon EC2-type service, for people trying to host servers, etc.

We are also very rarely out of lab machines, unlike at UBC where we have to wait 20 minutes for lab machines at peak times. The lab machines are all very well equipped with minimum 4 cores, crapload of RAM, and some have GTX 780 and Quadro/FirePro for people doing graphics or GPGPU work. All lab machines run Linux, and are all accessible over SSH, and there is a distributed task system that allows us to distribute arbitrary parallel workload to be run on spare cycles in all those machines. That’s about 1000 IvyBridge and Haswell i7 and Xeon cores, across 250 quad core nodes.

There is also a hackspace in electrical engineering building with many 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a bunch of other tools. I haven’t had time to check it out, yet.

No complaints in this department.

Teaching

Imperial is one of the top universities in the world, so we do get a fair share of famous professors. It’s nice to be taught by leaders in their respective fields, but the downside is that they are all incredibly busy, and don’t really have much time to talk to us.

You can tell that they are really making an effort to talk to students, but they just don’t have time for the most part.

Most of them are pretty good at teaching, though I have only taken 4 courses, so there is high sampling error.

Class sizes aren’t usually too bad, but there are a few very big ones (like the intro to machine learning course).

TAs are generally helpful and know what they are talking about.

Students

There is a saying that if you are not the worst programmer in an office, you are in the wrong office. It’s something I always strive for – to work with people more capable than I am, and I think I’ve found just the right place for that.

This is perhaps the biggest advantage of going to a competitive university – there are no stupid people (sorry :P).

At UBC, if you are randomly put in a group of 6, chances are there will be 2 people who have no interest at all in the subject matter and are only doing the degree because they heard it pays well (or their parents told them to), 1 person really struggling with the course and requires explaining everything 5 times, 1 person who is failing anyways and doesn’t care, and 1 other useful member of the group.

At Imperial, that just doesn’t happen. Everyone is competent enough to get into this university (though even I managed to get in, so maybe the standard is not very high after all), and most importantly, passionate about the subject matter. It’s nice to work with smart people (like our machine learning group, which is pure amazingness), where when you explain ideas to each other, you never really have to say anything twice, and everyone will actually get it. We can all brainstorm at a very fast pace, and don’t need to spend the bulk of the time keeping everyone on the same page.

Imperial has the reputation that it’s full of nerdy people. While that may be true to some extent, Imperial is also known to have very active and well funded student societies.

I am part of 6 different societies, and I find that the distinguishing quality of Imperial people is dedication. Not just dedication to academic work, but also other things in life.

People in the SCUBA diving club are dedicated to diving (they are amazing – volunteer instructors to spend hours with us in the pool, when they have their studies/research to worry about as well); people in the gliding club are dedicated to gliding – the captain wakes up at 6 on both Saturday and Sunday every weekend to take people to the airfield, and spend the whole day there; people in the archery club are dedicated to archery, and go to competitions all the time, in addition to teaching all us newbies.

No one does anything half-heartedly, and it’s mutually infectious. This is probably what I love the most about Imperial.

People definitely don’t go clubbing and such as much. I don’t care. I have never and will probably never go anyways. We usually have better things to spend our time on.

Demographics-wise, Imperial has a reputation of being full of Chinese students. Well, whoever said that have obviously never been to Vancouver.

The student population is probably about 10% Chinese, and the rest is a pretty even mix of all European countries. There seem to be quite a few people from Germany and Spain, but there are some British as well, Singaporeans, and eastern European/Russian. North America is definitely under-represented. But that’s fine, I know way too many North Americans already on the other side of the pond :). It just seems like North Americans don’t generally come to Europe for university, and British people don’t generally go to North America. North Americans are so under-represented here that we actually have a North American society.

Other Asian countries also seem to be under-represented. I haven’t met anyone from Japan or Korea, and I’ve met people from probably 15+ countries already.

It’s a much more culturally-diverse mix compared to even Vancouver, and it’s awesome! All the cool stories!

Reputation

Imperial does have a high reputation (at least outside of the US), and I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

It has been ranked anywhere from 2nd in the world to 20th in the world, depending on who you ask, and curiously, some people are quite caught up on that.

Did you know that people prefer to read magazines that rank their universities higher? Is it really surprising that British magazines all rank British universities higher, and American magazines all rank American universities higher?

They provide a few different measures, and add them together using weights drawn out of thin air, tweak them so the scores of the top universities come very close, and compare universities to second decimal places. You can tweak those things to say anything you want.

There is often an air of snobbery. People feel they are somehow superior just because they go to a university some magazine editor decides is better than another. It’s pretty annoying, but I suppose it’s unavoidable at any good university.

That’s much more prevalent among undergrads (at least the ones I talked to at society meetings and events).

I still remember one of my very first engineering lectures at UBC (that’s almost 7 years ago!). I don’t remember what course it was or which professor it was, but he said something to the effect of –

Be proud of what you do, because engineers are doing something valuable for mankind and making the world a better place… but not with the arrogance of those in the medical profession.

It’s easy to become arrogant when success seems almost too easy, and I’m sure I am arrogant at times, but it’s something I’m working to fix.

We must not fall victim to that. The day we start becoming arrogant is the day we stop learning, and engineering requires life-long learning.


*1: For my North American friends – in the UK, they use the term “course” also to refer to a degree program(me)

*2: One of the 2 biggest centres of performing arts in the world, the other being Broadway in New York. Dream for musical-goers!