Dear Winter

Just face it — time flies, and it’s the end of April of the year 2019. Following UWaterloo’s calendar, this also signifies the Winter 2019 term has reached the end. In the past two years, this brought me the relief of finishing yet another academic year, especially in 2017 when the internship search and academic workload have been tumultuous. Consequently, the new non-academic life style in Spring has always been something I was looking for. Now, instead of celebratory, there’s a sense of emptiness lurking in my heart. The previous anticipation of the end of the April final exam season has since been replaced by the reluctance to accept the fact that the term was really over.

Contrary to the past Winter terms, I spent my term interning in the Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. The learning curve at each research internship just got steeper each time, with this me facing a brand new challenge this time: machine learning. Amid the rewarding experience of learning something completely new, there’s always the self-doubt of where I’m working hard enough to contribute meaningfully to this internship. There were so much to be done that my coworkers actually described 4 months as too short; it’s only towards the end of the term did I feel it — I was ultimately swarmed by the ambivalence of both the excitement by the new interesting direction and opportunities the project was leading to, and the anxiety that time was running out. How I wished there were more time to work on it!

Several coding explorations filled the first half of my Winter term, ranging from algorithmic (CommuniTech Code & Win, and the Terminal AI challenge) to hackathons (Hack the Valley, Acorn Talent, and LunarHacks). Excited by the prospect of these hacking opportunities and the free weekends from the co-op terms, I turned myself into these hackathons with the intent to learn skills needed for application development. These five programming contests / activities were tinged with the nights we pulled our lethargic selves for all-nighters just to get stuff done, shivers as we were racing against the submission deadline to add our desired features, and the hilarious moments when we had to package our project as if it’s something “useful” during the pitching session. Eventually, I came to the point of deciding that I should halt these intensive exploration and focus on ML- or algorithmically-related aspects of CS. Nonetheless, the time luxury that made these explorations possible was something I would always appreciate. (Note: I travelled to Portugal as a supporter of the Waterloo’s ACM-ICPC team at the World Finals event, but I will save this to a later post I guess. 🙂 )

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One hackathon project: the image denoiser

The winter term was the first time I broke myself away from the tranquil university town (Waterloo) to a metropolitan that accommodates one-sixth of Canada’s population (Toronto). Interns event (Escape Room and Axe Throwing) by ATG aside, the vibrant Toronto atmosphere incentivized me to self-explore several places, ranging from the repeated visits to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance and the skating rinks, to several winter-exclusive events like the Light Festivals. Other times, strolling around the downtown area itself (when weather permits) or inside the Eaton centre served just in time to take a break from exhausting my brain after a day of work, or simply a gruelling Codeforces contest. Roaming around the city definitely became easier with weather turning warmer, but the winter-exclusive activities like skating and the light festivals, and the Toronto winter vibes in general, remain the moments that I wish I could live again.

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Another exploration in the term: the Illusion Museum 😛 (creds to the hangout buddy)

With a few months left in Toronto before heading back to Malaysia for vacation, I hope to seize the opportunity to relish in the urban atmosphere where the weather is welcoming enough to make people stay outdoors. Nevertheless, this winter term will most likely be one-of-a-kind experience throughout my undergraduate journey, and will therefore be deeply ingrained in my memories. 🙂

Ps: thanks to my hangout buddy (schoolmate / friend who happened to be in Toronto with me in the term) for joining me for the in-city travel, and dragging me to places in return!


2 thoughts on “Dear Winter

  1. Super proud of you!! I’m glad that you’re doing well. See you back on campus. I’ll be waiting by Laurel Lake!

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