Finished My Last Preliminary Actuarial Exam!

After 4 years, I finally finished all five preliminary actuarial exams and on my path to obtaining my Associate of Society of Actuaries (ASA)! I’m still waiting to find out the result of the last exam, but boy am I glad that I’m finally done! It hasn’t been easy, as each exam was highly mathematical and each took hundreds of hours to study for. Having started taken them in college, I have juggled between studying for finals, later having a full-time job, and reading thousands of pages or exam manuals.

It’s all been worth it now that I’m finished! Good thing I enjoy math and dealing with numbers, definitely wouldn’t have made it this far otherwise.

In celebration of math and numbers, here are a couple fantastic Ted Talks on math:

Math is Forever is my favorite talk on this topic. It’s humorous and fascinating. Mathematician Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón attempts to answer the question “What is math for?” He depicts the beauty of math by pointing out that the truth in math is forever.

A Love Poem for Lonely Prime Numbers is an entertaining and lovely poem by mathematician and poet Harry Baker.

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About Time

2014 has been such an eventful year. I made many international friends, graduated from college, moved to San Francisco, and started my first real job. To start off 2015 in hope of another great year, I want to write a post on one of my favorite movies.

“I just try to live every day as if I have to deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

Not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the gist is that the ability of time traveling gives Tim, the awkward ginger guy, a lot of hope in life. He was able to go back and forth and make situations “better.” After a few years of practicing his talent, Tim started to see that things actually aren’t that easy.

I love the final recipe of happiness that Tim’s father gives him: stop time traveling and live life like a normal person. Life is made of everything that happens in it–all the emotions, happy or sad; moments, picture-worthy or seemingly trivial; and the people you encounter, friends or strangers. It’s always a trade-off when you go back to “fix” things. As you change the course of life, you are always giving something else up. So don’t look back and savor every moment as it is.

The second piece of the advice from Tim’s father was to “live everyday again, almost exactly the same, the first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us from noticing how sweet the world can be; but the second time, noticing.” The gorgeous train station, the friendly smile of the cashier, poking fun at the angry boss–he saw everything with a bright heart and at the end of the day he was able to call it “a very good day actually.” That was also my favorite scene in the movie.

The final scene reminds me of how Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie describes his day if he were given one more healthy 24-hour day. It’s ordinary and peaceful, doing everyday things with people but appreciating them. When people say, “well I can’t live every day as if it was my last day cause I can’t just ditch everything and go crazy today”, I think they are getting the wrong idea.

Ever since I studied abroad in England, I started to really realize how crucial and great it is to live the moment and notice the small beauties in life. Even though it’s sometimes easy to forget that as the busy city life drags me right into the whirlpool. I try my best to be like the new Tim.

To end this post on a lighter note, here is my 2nd favorite scene. A bit stereotypical and exaggerated, but it’s hilarious!

 

Awesome MySQL Tutorial Series!

 

I have gone through Caleb’s MySQL tutorial series back in June. It’s a wonderful series. He’s very good at explaining the concepts and making them easily understandable. Caleb is also super funny; never a dull moment in his videos! Of course I’m not yet an SQL master, but I really learned a lot from these tutorials. They definitely set a solid foundation for me to continue my learning.

Technology is becoming more and more prevalent and I want to have a good understanding of the knowledge behind it. Back in college, I’ve taken courses in Matlab which I enjoyed.I wish I did a minor in Computer Science, I think I would’ve liked it. But my double major didn’t allow me the space. On the bright side, there are tons of great resources online nowadays! I did some research and stumbled upon Caleb’s channel on YouTube. And I’m very happy that I did.

I encourage everyone who’s interested in learning SQL to check out Caleb’s videos! He also has tons of tutorials on other programming-related topics. I’m planning on checking out his Python series as well. It really is free education! Thanks Caleb (:

What’s Dividing the City?

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The red zone seen on the map is Tenderloin—the neighborhood with the highest crime rate and homeless population in San Francisco. Everyone in the Bay Area knows not to walk through there at night. My roommates and I avoided it like a plague when apartment hunting. But look what’s located just to the top right of the red box. Union Square–the busiest and most attractive district of SF. The adjacency of the two districts seems odd enough on the map, but I can say after two weeks of living in the city that the contrast is only more drastic in real life.

I went to a volunteer at a senior home in Tenderloin last Sunday morning. I figured it’d be okay to go alone since it was 10 o’clock in the morning. From my apartment, I navigated between tourists and shoppers through Union Square with its usual buzz. Almost instantly, I stepped into a completely different territory. The streets were dingy and smelly; shops along the road became shaggy; homeless people were loitering in every street corner. But I could still hear the jingling bell of the cable car just down on Market Street! The dividing line was so apparent that it was as if someone physically drew the boundary. There was no transitioning area—the change from glamorous and touristy to rundown and neglected happened so quickly that I wondered if I was still in the same city that I was a minute ago.

Even in bright sunlight, Tenderloin was not somewhere I’d go alone again. I watched to make sure I didn’t step on anything unpleasant. I looked straight ahead and picked up my feet when men whistled at me from the windows above. At one point a man that seemed to have some mental issues walked towards me with extended arms until a deliveryman shooed him away. True, they were probably harmless people. But it was not the time to avoid stereotyping. I took my pepper spray out of my purse and clenched it in my hand as I power walked across the neighborhood.

Tenderloin is not the only case of harsh dividing lines in the city. When I was looking for apartments, a friend told me that “anything in SOMA past the 5th street is dangerous but before that it’s fine.” The difference one block can make. How can the neighborhoods be in such close proximity but so different in terms of poverty and crime rates? What’s the invisible hand that’s segregating and labeling the neighborhoods?

I Moved to San Francisco!

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After two months of vacation after graduation, I will finally start working full-time this upcoming Monday! I moved to San Francisco three days ago and have since then been running around like crazy. Moving is as exhausting as it is, now imagine being the first one of the three roommates to move in to an empty apartment. Then imagine doing this in downtown San Francisco where driving and finding parking are nearly impossible. It’s been a few days filled with endless to-do lists and trips after trips of dragging my life, now in the forms of suitcases and boxes, into my new place. Luckily my experience of moving five times in my four years of college has to an extent prepared me for this insanity.

But on the bright side, I will be living in the city! I still can’t believe this is happening–working full-time, supporting myself, and saying goodbye to my student years. I was in Berkeley seeing some friends today. On the BART ride back, it suddenly hit me that I was going back home. To San Francisco. It’s absolutely surreal. Looking back, the four years at Berkeley have transformed me. Now I’m moving onto a completely new chapter of my life! I can’t wait to explore the new city and see what the future has in store for me 🙂

Lastly, happy July 4th!

Photo here.

The City in a Rush–Hong Kong Trip

Although a beautifully and carefully crafted city, Hong Kong is a combination of a forest of interwoven skyscrapers and old buildings, the hot, humid, and almost suffocating air, and the never-ending massive crowds. Coming from the serene Kerama Islands, I was a bit overwhelmed by this city that seemed to be aggressively coming towards me from every angle.
Hong Kong is known as a shopping paradise. As an SF girl who’s used to big cities, I was more attracted to the narrow alleyways and local markets instead of the glamorous avenues.
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The Peak offers a panoramic view of Hong Kong, which, seen from the top, appeared to be two narrow strips of tall buildings sandwiched by the surrounding mountains and the Victoria Harbor. It seems like every inch of land has been utilized to its extreme value. It’s hard to imagine that Hong Kong used to be a small fishing town!
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A Taste of Japan–Okinawa Trip

Okinawa to Japan is like Hawaii to the US. Although a part of their respective country, they are more of their own thing–both tropical islands that attract people from all around the world. The two things I was most excited about going to Okinawa were to go to the beach and to finally try some authentic Japanese food. The trip indeed lived up to my expectations.

After exploring my options of getting to Emerald Beach from Naha, I decided to rent a car. The thing is, I had never driven on the left and it was a 5-hour drive round trip. Luckily, aside from subconsciously constantly sliding to the left, I got used to the new gig pretty fast and made it there and back in one piece!
The Emrald Beach was described perfectly by its name. The water, from near to far, was almost clear, then turquoise, finally cyan. Since it was a Thursday, the beach was pretty empty. Nothing more soothing than sitting on the sand, breathing fresh air with a slight hint of seaweed, and having an entire beach to your own.
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The food there, especially sushi, was a lot simpler than the American version. I recently developed a love for sashimi, so tummy was happy. Japanese food is on the bland side though. After 3 days I was ready to go home for some American food 😉
IMG_5417Yummy ramen
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My lovely Japanese breakfast

 

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For Food and Nature–Taiwan Trip

Taiwan was the first stop of my post-grad Asia trip. My strongest impression of Taiwan was actually the people. Everyone was friendly, pleasant, and willing to go out of their way to help you.

The food at the famous Taiwanese night markets was super interesting to say the least. I couldn’t name most of the food items. Even though I didn’t have the nerves to try everything, I loved the lights, the buzz in the crowd, and the simple joy brought by food floating between the stalls. There’s something about seeing your beef skewer sizzling on the grill while nibbling on a Taiwanese crepe that makes everything taste exponentially more delicious.market 3market 1market 2market 4Me in my natural habitat–happy with food.

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I Graduated!

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –Winnie the Pooh

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As surreal as it is, I finally graduated from UC Berkeley. The past 4 years really have flown by. It’s incredible how I started from the first day of CalSo and now I’m here. I lived up my senior year to end my college career with an exclamation mark. I studied abroad in England, backpacked around Europe, moved into the International House in Berkeley and made unforgettable memories with friends around the world.

Sometime in April, it suddenly hit me that I was about to leave college in a month. I had been too busy having fun to internalize the fact that graduation was right around the corner. The panic and near denial that came with the realization were real. Is this what a quarter-life crisis is? But there was no time to figure it out. Before I knew it, I studied for and took my last round of finals, signed my new apartment lease in San Francisco, said heart-breaking goodbyes to my friends and the beautiful campus, and finally threw my cap in the air at the commencement.

IMG_5047Now that the tears of departure were wept away, all there left is gratitude and excitement for the future. Berkeley has given me the most perfect 4 years of college experience that has transformed me. It’s so hard to bid Berkeley farewell because I’ve really loved. Andy from the Office said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Luckily I’ve always known that about my times at Berkeley.

I’ve had my time here, and I’m so stoked for the incoming students—nothing can prepare them for the experience that this campus is about to offer them! Stay awesome Berkeley. Forever a Golden Bear ❤

Last Lecture with Robert Reich

The Senior Council at UC Berkeley chooses a well-received professor every year to give the graduating class a send-off lecture. This year, the professor for my senior class is Robert Reich, a renowned professor at UC Berkeley and Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.

Humility

Professor Reich told us a story from when he interned at Governor John F. Kennedy’s office. One day, he saw Governor Kennedy walk out of his office with a bunch of important political figures. To his surprise, Governor Kennedy said to him “How are you doing, Bob?” as he walked past him. Prof. Reich could not believe that Governor Kennedy remembered his name and greeted him! This small gesture from Kennedy became such a fond memory of him that he proceeded to work for him for the next 6 months.

He advised us to always pay attention to the people around you, no matter what position they are in. Be humble, attentive, and kind.

Failures

“The test is resilience, not success of failure.”

Prof. Reich called us all “good hoop jumpers.” We had to jump through all the hoops that our teachers, parents, and the society have set in front of us in order to sit here as a graduating senior from UC Berkeley, one of the best universities in the world.

But sooner or later, we will either fail to jump through a hoop or jump through it and fall on our nose. It’s foolish to think that we won’t fail. But the key is to remember that successes and failures do not necessarily define you; resilience does. Continue reading