The first half semester came to an end in a blink of an eye and with it the celebratory spirit of spring break filled the mind of UIUC students, including those from MSTM. The line ‘Where are you going this spring break?’ kept on repeating like a broken record. For a few selected students of MSTM, spring break was already planned a few months ahead for a special visit to San Francisco and the world famous Silicon Valley.
On Sunday 3/17/2013, the San Francisco group started the trip early in the morning. With a tight schedule at hand, I left the house at 2.30AM (you read that right) to meet my friends at Wohler Hall for the bus to Midway Airport. As soon as I arrived, I joined others, who share the same excitement for the trip despite the early hour. There was a kind of unexplainable adventurous atmosphere about the trip especially with the expectation of illustrious technology center in Silicon Valley.
With invigorated spirits after sleeping soundly during the flight, the group walked out of the airplane. As soon as we went out of the arrival lounge, the warmth sun of California greeted us. The soft spring breeze and clear sapphire sky welcomes our arrival in the Golden State. It was a nice change of scenery given the late Illinois winter. With a deep sigh of satisfaction, we went straight to our charter bus to Marriot Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf.
I am certain that the short bus trip to our bus hotel etched good memories for the group. For many international students, this was the first trip to West Coast. The friendly atmosphere of San Francisco especially the majestic Bay Bridge left us in awe. At one point on the trip, Professor Jeff Kurtz, our trip leader, pointed out one small island in the middle of the sea where the infamous Alcatraz prison was located. For me personally, going back to San Francisco is a moment of nostalgia of the good old community college days. No matter what is the reason, I have to say San Francisco knows how to impress!
Our short trip ended with our arrival at the hotel, Marriot at Fisherman’s Wharf. While the hotel itself is wonderful, I have to praise MSTM administrators for choosing Fisherman’s Wharf as our place of stay because there are so many places we can go along the Pier. We were excited to explore the pier and have a relaxing walk along the seaside. Since Sunday is free activity day, a couple of friends and I went straight to Ghirardelli Square, a town square dedicated to the famous chocolate brand. Located in one of the hottest tourism spots in San Francisco, this square provides jolly ambience and prides itself in serving one of the best chocolate desserts and beverages.
After a quick tour, the group went for lunch to satisfy our seafood crave, which the Pier is famous for. After the refreshing and satisfying lunch, we went ahead to walk along the Pier, with the Golden Gate Bridge as our destination. The pier was bustling with people of myriad activities. The atmosphere is so relaxing and free, which helped us to release the tension from our early morning trip. Many of us cannot help but to take pictures to preserve the beautiful San Francisco city.
The walk towards Golden Gate Bridge turned out to be pretty exhausting. Little did my group know that we were taking the long route along the sandy beach. However, we did not mind because of the beautiful scenery. The tapestry of Pier gradually changed to the uphill stride to the Golden Gate Park, just a short distance before the Golden Gate Bridge. During the walk, we found many exhibits that explain the architecture of the bridge to prevent it from overturning due to strong wind. The exhibits prove that the Golden Gate Bridge is a model of excellence in both science and art.
From the Golden Gate trip, we headed to Little Italy for dinner. After consulting Yelp, we decided to dine on a cozy Italian restaurant that serves excellent seafood dinner in family style. It was a unique experience for me personally since this is the first time I had seafood pasta in family style setting.
I was very happy that the MSTM does not only provide me the chance to visit my old city, but also allowed me to get closer to my friends in the program and gain new experiences. In a few years, I might not remember what I ate at the Italian restaurant or the wind breeze in the Pier, but I will definitely remember the laughter that I shared with my friends in this trip. I am really looking forward for the trip to the companies and I will keep you updated!