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Cluj-Napoca 2003

From 25 July - 1 August 2003 I was in Cluj-Napoca, Romania for the 2003 International Mathematics Competition, organised jointly by the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, and University College London. It was basically a competition for undergraduate mathematician doing really hard mathematics problems, whose competitors are usually from the Eastern Bloc who had been previously trained and entered for a much larger and prestigious competition for high-school students. Naturally, my team from Warwick (David Fletcher, Nathaniel Christopher and Christopher Brereton) and I naturally had no chance. But we hadn't come to take part in a geeky maths comp, especially because it was paid for entirely by the Mathematics Institute:

After a little wander around Bucharest (the illegal taxi ride to the station was rather scary), we went to Cluj-Napoca by rapide train (which the Lonely Planet guidebook says isn't rapid at all) and was surprised that it was relatively pretty (especially the University). After a tiring walk and climb to the residences in 30C heat it was time to settle in very stark accommodation. The competition consisted for two 5-hour (yes, five hour) exams on Saturday and Sunday, which on the latter I saw a Romanian wedding from the window.

I should be in this photo in the top left (yellow circle and arrow) of students doing the exam, but I had gone for a toilet break, leaving Fluffy the penguin and Bebbodoo bear to fill the void. Notice some people are wearing identical cream tee-shirts (yukky colour) with the competition logo on - extreme geek alert - they wore them as soon as they got them in the welcome pack. After gaining a mediocre score of 32 / 200, most of the competitors (except Chris, drank and overslept) went to the excursion to Turda Gorge (Cheile Turzii), which was quite a good outing, except I had ripped my shorts slipping on a wet rock.

Overall, I had a jolly good time there, especially as it was first trip to a foreign country without any member of my family and almost got home to Leicester by myself until I found out that my National Express bus ticket could not get me home the day I arrived at Heathrow, and I couldn't afford a train ticket (I realised afterwards I had in my possession $50). The ripped shorts were also fully refunded at Matalan after only a week's wear.