On Friday, September 21st, 2012, I went back to the University of Waterloo for the opening ceremony of the new Quantum Nano Centre. It was in Waterloo that I spent five years doing my undergrad studies in nanotechnology engineering, and since my convocation in June 2010, I haven’t been back. Within the past two years, I was told that much has changed, so I took this opportunity to revisit my alma mater, on the day before my departure for Europe, ending my 3-week vacation in Canada.
I took the 7:15am Greyhound bus from downtown Toronto, but getting to the bus terminal was an adventure on its own. First of all, I assumed that at 6am, Finch buses would be pretty much empty, but I was severely wrong as the bus I hopped on to was full of sleepy people trying going to work. Then at Finch station, I took the subway southbound and made the mistake of getting off at Bloor because I thought the bus terminal was at Bay and Bloor. I asked some guy at Starbucks and was told that it was at Bay and Dundas, three major blocks down the road. Oops. Having a relatively good idea of the distance scale of downtown Toronto, I knew how far away that was, and with 15 minutes left, was I going to run for it and hope I make it, or just try to catch the next bus instead? I dashed forward down Bay but after 5 minutes realized that there was no way I’d make it. About to give up, I reached for the nearest TTC bus stop and saw on the schedule that a Bay bus was supposed to arrive in 2 minutes, so I crossed my fingers and waited for that 7:09am TTC bus. YES, IT CAME ON TIME. Even though I had to pay an extra token to get on, I arrived at the Dundas terminal at 7:11am and made it for the Greyhound bus. Yahoo!
So, note to self – make sure you know where you’re going BEFORE you actually go (has it been THAT long that I had forgotten where things are in downtown?) and don’t hate on TTC…the bus COULD actually come on time!
Alright, the bus got me to Waterloo at 8:50am, in time for the opening ceremony at 10am. Of course, aside from this ceremony itself, a greater purpose of this visit was to see my campus again and relive the best five years of my life in one day, in 2012. Here we go.
About this QNC, the construction started in 2008, if I remember correctly. Of course, it being completed in 2012 meant that three nano classes that have graduated already (including mine, which was the first ever batch) never got to use any part of it. I vaguely remember the administration telling us that the building would be done before we graduated, but I know better now than believing the words of administration. So, the appearance of the QNC is supposed to resemble that of a carbon nanotube, which I guess is depicted by those hexagonal shapes on the right. To be honest I was a little disappointed. I was actually expecting something like a cylindrical structure, that would have been cool. Unfortunately I didn’t get to tour the inside of the building; I left right after all the speeches were done at the opening ceremony to join my friend for lunch.
At 10 floors, the Dana Porter library was and still is the tallest building on campus. This building would be packed during exam season, and you’d be lucky to find a study cubicle unless you go at say 8 in the morning. I could never study in a tiny cubicle, so I didn’t go to DP all that often, but some people make it their homes when they study for exams. I don’t know how they do it, but kudos… 😉 There was an ongoing rumour that DP is continuously sinking because the engineers didn’t take into account the weight of books when they were designing the building. Uh…okay, if you say so…?
Before the QNC, a couple of new engineering buildings were completed during the last two years, namely Engineering 5 and 6 (E5 and E6). E5 is located across from DC, on the other side of the railway, and E6 is right next to the university plaza. Whoa…some serious expansion of engineering territory!
A lot of the chemical engineering professors and their groups have moved to E6, including some of my previous professors and advisors and a few classmates who decided to stay at Waterloo for grad school. I saw this awesome figure posted on someone’s window in E6 and all I could say is…MAJOR LOL! I don’t what it says in Korean, but the picture on the right speaks for itself. I really want to find out who did that…(if you don’t get the reference, it’s time to keep up with the meme.)
A view of good ol’ Davis Centre, otherwise known as DC, from the second (or third?) floor of E5. People call DC “downtown China” and MC (the Math and Computing building) “mainland China” because of all the Chinese students we have on campus…no joke. One of these two buildings is supposed to look like a motherboard of a computer when viewed from the air, and the other is supposed to look like a slide rule, but I forgot which is which. I think DC is the motherboard, and MC is the slide rule…
At some point in time I sat down near DC to chill and to people-watch. I wondered how I could have studied and lived here for five years (not literally, because I was in various cities for coop) and have so few photos of this place. There are banks of memories, for sure, but of the campus itself, photographs are certainly quite scarce in my collection. Then I looked at the students wandering on campus from here to there and thought…oh gosh, they are so small! Why do they look like high school kids? What is going on? Then I realized…it’s not that undergrads are getting younger, it’s just that I am getting older…and there is no way to deny that those days of youth are long, long gone.
It happened to be Clubs Day the day I went, where clubs and societies on campus set up booths to introduce themselves and attract new members. I remember going to Clubs Day in first year, and really only being interested in cCCF, which was the Cantonese branch of the Chinese Christian Fellowship. I would have joined others, but I was too shy back then, so I missed a lot of opportunities for expansions and networking. Here’s one whose name I really find creative – CTRL-A, Club That Really Likes Anime 😉
Here is a path to the SLC, or Student Life Centre, where people hung out during their spare time. I wondered if I really spent my undergrad days speaking in abbreviations. Almost all buildings on campus has some sort of abbreviation associated with them, and speaking in terms of them has become such a part of our daily campus lives. SLC, DC, DWE, E2, CPH, MC, EIT, ESC…
…and RCH, or Rod Coutts Hall. Ah, yes, RCH, the round building underground. Our class spent many a lectures in those dark, old classrooms learning about electrical circuits and microfabrication and macromolecules. I suppose there IS a place in the underground where you could see the sky, if you look up, right in the middle of the building…and realize there is a whole new world out there.
With that, I end my one-day visit to Waterloo. Some people say Waterloo gave them misery and pain, and for me, though misery and pain were part of the undergrad years, the Waterloo experience was so much more than that. To say that those were the best five years of my life so far is no understatement. The friendships that have been forged, the lessons that have been taught (academic or not), the sleepless nights that have been endured, the trials that have been overcome…these are all part of what made the Waterloo experience so unique and so unforgettable. I am not advocating for the school, nor am I saying you will have a less abundant experience in any other school. Yet, what I AM saying is, Waterloo has been and will remain an important part of my life, a link that cannot easily be severed. Water water water, loo loo loo!
P.S. Do we still live in days when people in engineering make fun of people in arts, AHS (applied health sciences), and environmental studies? I overheard some conversation by two guys, presumably in engineering, making fun of the above-mentioned faculties, and it sickened me to my bones. People, grow up. Engineering is NOT superior to any other faculty, and by making fun of others, you only create a reputation for engineering students as snobby and full of themselves. And you want me to be proud of being in engineering? I’d be surprised if I’m not ashamed…