So the Courtyard St. Jacobs after more than a day of travelling was such a welcome site. We’ve never appreciated a hotel more. It’s part of the Courtyard Marriott chain, had really good wifi signal, comfortable beds, a great heater, great toiletries, everything was pretty much perfect.
Since getting the car and driving over, we hadn’t had a bite (it was about 10pm at this time), so we picked up two burgers from A&W near the motel on the Benjamin St stretch, just in front of the Farmer’s market (which is huge, btw).
I can’t explain how much I’ve missed sweet potato fries, and the ones from A&W are excellent, I must say. Can’t understand why they haven’t really caught on in Singapore.
(I didn’t know the fish tail palm grew in temperate countries. It looks a little washed out though, compared to the deep green ones we get in our forests)
The next morning we met up with several other prospective students for breakfast in the salon on the 3rd floor of the motel – pretty underwhelming – bread and jam, mini pains aux chocolat, which I enjoyed, juice, tea, etc. Very Continental. I wasn’t really ready to mix and socialize with other people, and can’t believe we’re going to have to start school all over again with all the mixers etc. We did talk to this one girl from Vancouver and a guy from Colorado – no matter what we tell them we’re doing, they’ll exclaim “Nice!”
“I’m doing research in cryptography right now.”
“We’re flying out to Colorado after this to visit another school.”
I wonder if they’ll respond with that if I told them I did a poop that morning.
Anyway, on the school bus to the university (how quaint!), the coordinator from the school did a roll call lol. Everyone laughed when she announced she was going to do a roll call. We got the elementary school experience we never had. The bus didn’t have those cute little STOP signs that flap out like ears whenever kids alight though, I’d have enjoyed that. The bus popped us out at the Computing building (DC? Can’t remember what it stands for) and we headed to the auditorium for some orientation. The associate dean used to teach at Cornell for 16 years! She was really nice, welcoming, and sounded JUST LIKE Michelle. Like the spitting image and voice of Michelle, only, a Michelle that is good at math haha. I really miss her, but trekking out to Nebraska seems a little far.
The coordinator also scheduled us for 9 interviews with 9 different professors, about 1/2 an hour each. Technically that was a little superfluous for me, since they already assigned a cryptographer as my advisor. He was really cute and really nice about everything, the sort of kindred spirit you can really talk to and mock stuff together with and have real conversations. I found that out later that afternoon when I met him after lunch one on one. Anyway I also found out that UWaterloo operates on the Trimester system and the Masters + PhD degrees take about 5 years to complete. 1 and 1/3 years for a Masters (4 trimesters – isn’t that weird?) and about 3++ years for the PhD, with normal progress. The C&O department is humongous! With lots of people from all disciplines converging in two floors of the math building. The math building itself is super dreary though, with no natural light (unless you’re in someone’s office), labyrinthine corridors, and even though it’s basically a square (in terms of the blue print) it’s pretty difficult to find someone’s office. Most professors brought us around. But LZ and I basically got the impression that of C&O, their strength lies more in the O than in the C part. Oh well.
While there we got an offer from Washington, and are super stoked about that. Academics are important but it seems a little too easy to get depressed in that math building. I never knew how nice Malott was until I went there. At least they’ve got little bridges linking all the disciplinarily linked buildings – like the Quantum computing lab and the stats/actuarial science building and the computing building. There’s a Tim Hortons within one of the links, so you could literally live in there. One of the professors told me that some of his students look like they don’t even have to surface above ground to get to classes – you see them in T shirts and sweatpants with no coat, no nothing.
It is frigid in Waterloo. It’s the coldest day of the coldest winter they’ve had since 1976 and all the professors made sure to inform us of that fact, that we’d be safe from this sort of weather for the next 30 years. Needless to say, a lot of us bunked off on the “campus tour” (which I took by myself and nearly froze to death) and went for the Tutte Seminar instead. I didn’t know Bill Tutte founded this department! I did my summer research at Brunel on the Tutte polynomial. There are a ton of faculty here who have links with Cornell, in addition to the associate dean. The town itself is not that different – it’s a small town, with a really popular farmer’s market, mennonite country all around, and smart people too. BUT it’s really ugly somehow, without the gorges and the manicured gardens. It’s not like they don’t have money, I’m pretty sure the department gets a ton of funding.
Before the Tutte seminar I did a little walkabout – it felt like -25degC. Colder than most anything we’d experienced in Ithaca, and I was just wearing a jumper and my winter coat. Picked up some fleece gloves today from the motel drug store before heading out to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls.
So I really wasn’t expecting this much snow at the end of February through to early March.
And as you can see the campus is pretty underwhelming compared to Cornell. You can sort of tell from the sort of pictures they choose for their prospectus as well.
The one thing you can look forward to here is maple biscuits :P And the relatively high standard of living as compared to the states.
This is all in all, a pretty good option if you are okay with the landscaping and the cold, cause the academics seem pretty strong. But we’ll get to Seattle and then decide.