May 30, 2008

Alive and Kicking

Peek-a-boo. I know it's been a long hiatus since I've last blogged... I had some database problems that took me a while to fix, and after that most my free time was occupied by exploring Stockholm or travelling (the vacation kind) every other week :P I just came back from a weekend trip to Copenhagen and I am completely in love with that city: amazing modern architecture, stylish interior designs, vibrant energy on the streets even in the wee hours of the night, random public art/sound installations throughout the city, extremely bicycle-friendly, and super friendly people. But more on my trip later. Here's some updates from the past few months I've been M.I.A.

Grad School

The biggest update is that I'll be moving to Hong Kong in the fall for grad school starting in September. I got accepted into their one-year MDes program in Interaction Design (with a scholarship to boot!)

I basically had no life in January and February as I was applying for my schools. On top of preparing my portfolio and motivation letters, the killer was applying for the Swedish schools that asked for a ridiculous amount of work: Malmö University had a hard-core design assignment (imagine doing a full CSC 318 project by yourself!), while Konstfack in Stockholm required a thesis proposal and then some. I was asked in to an interview with Konstfack in front of a panel of 5 faculty members. It was probably the most intense interview I've ever experienced, during which they grilled me on my thesis on emotionally expressive communication devices and the current/future ethical issues within the design field. The program at Konstfack is Experience Design, which encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, so they were planning to accept only one student each from a different specialization (architecture, sound/light design, interaction design, etc.) to create a small "dream team," I guess you can say.

In the end I was actually accepted into all my schools, including Parsons School of Design in NYC (however, with prestige comes ridiculously hefty debts, even after taking into consideration my scholarship offer.) The Swedish schools seemed really attractive, especially with the free tuition, but I'm not sure if I'd be happy living here in Sweden for another 2 years (especially in the winter.) Hong Kong seemed like the best choice for me since it's specialized in Interaction Design (Parsons and Konstfack are not), it's a short, yet intense, 1-year program, the expenses won't entirely break my bank account, and it'd be another interesting change of environment (perhaps I'll even improve my Cantonese too!)

Vienna and Bratislava

The day of my last deadlines for grad school apps, I jetted off to Vienna for a well-deserved break! I didn't have too many expectations of the city but when I started exploring I was absolutely amazed by the beauty and extravagance of all their historical buildings lining the streets. I visited the Mozarthaus, which was Mozart's biggest, most expensive and prestigious apartment he owned — it was also where he wrote The Marriage of Figaro, gave students piano lessons, and gave intimate performances for Hadyn and other important contemporaries. Having grown up playing piano, it was such a surreal experience for me to walk through the apartments of one of the world's greatest composers.

Of course, what would a visit to Vienna be without a night out to the symphony? My friend and I picked up last minute tickets at the Musikverein for a performance by the London Philharmonic. Aside from the fact that the last-minute ticket holders had to stand in the back the entire night (my poor legs and feet!), the performance was really nice. The next evening we attended marionette show of The Magic Flute, which was sung in German, but visually stunning nonetheless. We learned that it takes 3 years to master the art — to just make the puppet walk takes 3 months to get it right.

Since Bratislava, Slovakia is just an hour train ride from Vienna, we had made plans to make a short stop to explore the city. Coming straight from Vienna, which I was not ready to leave, I didn't really enjoy my time there. It was cute and quaint, but there was nothing really to do except to see the buildings and architecture in the Old Town. The contrast of the atmosphere of the two cities was quite surprising, given their proximity.


In Sweden we had Good Friday and Easter Monday as holidays so it was an extra long weekend... perfect for a vacation! I headed to Berlin that weekend and my first impression the first night was that I amazed with the slew of Asian restaurants everywhere, including Vietnamese (yes, I'm deprived in Stockholm!) So of course, I had to go out for a bowl of Pho and I also tried a really fun Indo-Malasian restaurant completely decked out with tropical plants and gigantic paper umbrellas... the food there was great too :)

Berlin is a fascinating city that's still quite rough around the edges. While it has an oppressive history and is filled with historical remains and sites, it has amazing modern architectural buildings, a thriving art scene, vibrant atmosphere on the streets, and so many great museums (we visited the famous Persamon Museum, the Daniel Libeskind -designed Jewish Museum, and a contemporary art museum.)

My friends and I joined the free walking tour that took us to the main historical sites like Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Hitler's Bunker (which is now just a nondescript parking lot), Berlin Wall, Book Burning Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and Humboldt University, which boasts 29 Nobel prize winners including Albert Einstein.

Hang tight... more travel summaries in later posts!

Posted by mich at 7:36 PM | dreams [0]