Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lake District Trip!

My room - 4 beds all to myself!
A few days before I left Manchester to return to the US, I had the privilege to go on a 3-day trip with some of the students in the Creative Technology Masters program, basically the equivalent of the ETC at the University of Salford. We spent a few days exploring the flora, fauna, and notable sites in an area of the UK known as the Lake District. Specifically, we were in Grasmere, staying in a hostel called Thorney How. The Lake District was so beautiful!

Also on this trip, I got to know the Creative Tech students and some of the things they were working on. Their projects were quite innovative, just like at the ETC! For example, one of the students is working on a game where the protagonist is an actual person in the world, being controlled remotely by another player. He's even created his own headset, complete with webcam for remote viewing of the world the "avatar" is traversing, for that purpose. I also learned about the use of the Microsoft Kinect for real-time 3D modeling. I think this in particular is quite exciting. There are so many useful applications for being able to extract this data that the Kinect comes up, especially for 3D modelers! So, not only did I get to relax and see some absolutely gorgeous scenery, but I also returned from my trip inspired and excited to delve into some new topics--I've brought quite a few ideas back with me, both for independent projects and perhaps for a future ETC pitch!
One of many stunning views!

Four months later...

After an extremely busy semester, I finally have time for more blog posts. So, my semester in Manchester, UK (Spring 2012) has ended, and over all, I would say it was a success. While our project was initially supposed to supplement a live performance, we ended up creating more of an art installation. You can check out the details of the project and my role on my website. Despite some rough patches, our team finished successfully, and learned a lot not only technology-wise (I did all of the networking for our project, with no networking knowledge to my name - quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself!), but in terms of the do's and don't's of teamwork as well. I'm excited to move forward with different projects in the future and to apply all my new knowledge!

Project stuff aside, I have absolutely loved every minute of my time here in the UK. I love the people here, the environment, the food, the accents, the countryside, and especially the shopping! This is a city and country that I could see myself living and working in permanently.

One of the things I love the most about Manchester is the food. Not just the fact that it is delicious (and not too greasy), but also the ease at which I am able to find vegetarian food. There are always vegetarian items marked on restaurant menus, and the food is in general much healthier and better quality than in the US. The shopping here is awesome too (albeit expensive) - no wonder everyone here is so fashionable!

The weather... leaves something to be desired. Eighty percent of my time in the UK, it was cold, rainy, and/or windy. The weather is my only complaint; it can make the commute to school/work downright depressing, and enduring it every day during an already stressful semester did fray the nerves a bit.

Travel in the UK was amazing - there is so much natural beauty and sprawling countryside that we just don’t see often in the US, and there are many cheap flights to other countries out of Manchester. It was nice to take a few days or a weekend off to just travel and see things.

Finally, the people. Without exception, every single person I met while in Manchester was wonderful! Everyone I met, even random people on the street, was so nice, friendly, and helpful. It was great to find the "Southern hospitality" I'm used to back in my home state, in another country! I do need to mention Ben Shirley, our advisor, specifically. He was beyond amazing, as were the other Salford faculty (eg. Fiona Broadbent, Marianne Patera). They went above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed for our project, and were really awesome and friendly to boot! I was so sad to leave, but I know I will definitely be back, if not to work, then at least to visit!