Particle Physics, Hogwarts – the Singaporean edition, and Taiwanese affairs

At the end of July, after spending two years in London, the time of farewell parties, removing the photographs and other memorabilia from the wall and careful packing of all my assembled goods into suitcases has come again. When I applied to the National University of Singapore last year, I did not expect that leaving London and friends who became second family to me after all this time would be so difficult.

It was the very last day of July and I found myself standing at the Prague airport, few years older and yet still equally nervous like when I was leaving Czechia for the first time. The flight, including the stopover in Warsaw, lasted around eighteen hours during which I was able to undergo several sharp and highly contrasting snaps of mood from the desperate “Why am I doing this?!”, to the excited and enthusiastic “This is really happening!”.

Approaching Singapore, the nervousness gradually faded, and any other contemplation over the fact whether I have made the right decision was postponed for an indefinite time after landing at Changi Airport. Cold pragmatism once again took control (as it usually does in so many other cases when one is forced to rely solely on themselves).

The academic year at the National University of Singapore starts at the beginning of August and ends in mid-May, which means it is two months longer than the academic year at UCL. Summer holidays have therefore become an infinitely fantastic concept for me this year, especially if I consider my summer internship at High Energy Physics Department at UCL, where I helped to create a program to analyse the results of SuperNEMO experiment which studies rare neutrinoless beta-decays to determine whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles or not.

Truthfully, it has been very difficult to see all my friends enjoying their summer holidays while I had to become quickly accustomed to the Singaporean characteristic continuous assessment, challenging competitive environment and ubiquitous expectations of engaging in extensive extracurricular activities. My sleeping regime has gotten and still gets a couple of harsh kicks when I try to meet all the requirements while still trying to stay, at least partially, a social person.

To my own surprise, I found out that making friends in Singapore seems to be much easier than in London, mostly due to the specific dormitory system. It reminds the one of Hogwarts (Harry Potter). Students are assigned to so-called Houses, which become their second family, and they can collect or lose points for it. Also, at least once a week, there is a social event, whether it is a sports duel, a movie night or karaoke, and all of us are expected to participate.

It is the beginning of October when I write this article; first half of the first semester and my first exams here in Singapore are behind me. Exams in particular have been a little bit disappointing on my part even though I do not know the results yet. However, I do not despair because there are another two sets of exams still waiting for me in this semester and I know what to expect from them now.

Few days ago, I returned from my first trip during the so-called recess week (midterm holidays), because when else than now one has better opportunity to travel in Asia. I and my friends from Physics spent beautiful five days in Taiwan, exploring Taiwanese culture, getting lost in the entangled streets of Taipei and tasting local specialties. I am still surprised that no diabetes has yet announced itself after the ridiculously absurd amount of traditional bubble tea we drank. I absolutely fell in love with the friendliness and willingness of the Taiwanese, with the ever-present scooters crawling even in the narrowest streets, or with the fact that garbage trucks just randomly play Beethoven during their service.

I already know that I will definitely come back to Taiwan again; and charged with energy, I am prepared for all the NUS madness, whether it will be about the extremely warm and humid equatorial weather, or all the study matters that the second half of the first semester will consist of.

Finally, I would like to thank The Kellner Family Foundation for all the support I have received during my studies and adventures without which I would not be able to realise any of (and not only) described above. Thank you.

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