MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Joonho K. '20

Sep 22, 2016

A typical first semester

Posted in: Academics & Research, Life & Culture

It's 3am and I should probably be studying for my first 8.01 exam which is later today, but instead I'm blogging. [insert pass/no record joke here]

Term is in full swing: pset parties are everywhere, the Infinite is filled with excited chatter and slowly walking walls of tourists, and I haven't been to 6.0001 lecture in two weeks.

Actually, most of the past two weeks have been an ongoing stuggle with the magical concept of time management. For me to put in the maximum amount of work into all of my classes (which includes going to all the lectures, reading the textbooks, taking notes, etc...) and have time for anything else seems near impossible right now.

Life is now mostly a choice of how to spend my time the most efficiently, with 'efficiency' being heavily subjective. Example: I decided to skip 18.022 lecture on a whim to go to CVS with my friend to pick up her meds. Is skipping 18.022 generally a bad idea? Probably. But to me, that trip to CVS was arguably more valuable than any of my academic classes that day. We took a bus two miles in the wrong direction. It started pouring rain. We ran to the shelter of Kung Fu Tea while everyone inside stared at our soaking wet clothes. We shared stories about ourselves on the way and had a bonding experience that can't be quantified in lecture time or anything else.

Maybe I'm just rambling.

Here are some classes you might expect a typical freshman to take at MIT, in subjective order from difficult to manageable:


8.01 Physics I

I spent two hours on the first problem of the first problem set and wanted to cry. The second pset was a lot less painful! I thought that this would actually be my easiest class since I've taken mechanics before a bunch of times, but unless physics is really your thing you shouldn't underestimate this class.


3.091 Intro to Solid-State Chemistry

I wanted to take 5.111 but my advisor kind of steered me towards 3.091 because of the engineering bent and I don't regret it too much. I don't like chemistry that much and so far the class has been pretty harmless. Going to lecture is usually worth it since Professor Grossman is really entertaining, and on Fridays we get goodie bags full of cool things like metal samples or spectroscopes!


18.022 Multivariable Calculus

18.022 covers the same material as 18.02 but is more math/theory/proof based. I studied for the 18.02 ASE and thought I had a good shot at passing it since I'd gone through the 18.02 OCW site many times during senior year. Yeah... that didn't work out too well. (Realizing that I generally shouldn't underestimate things at MIT is a recurring theme.) But hey! The plus side is that I've seen most of the material already and as a result, 18.022 is pretty manageable for me. Also math is just really fun.


21L.004 Reading Poetry

This is my CI-H and it's exactly what the title of the course is: reading poetry. A lot of it. To be honest, I barely have the time to read everything we're assigned with respect to everything else I have to do for technical classes. Fortunately, the professor is a really nice guy and doesn't really expect us to have a super detailed analysis of all the poems we're assigned, especially if he assigned a lot that day. We're about halfway through Shakespeare's sonnets and we're starting Wordsworth and Coleridge soon ^_^

6.0001 Intro to Programming with Python

Basically this is the class I'm just getting through by translating my preexisting knowledge of Java into Python. The notes are available online, and I have an online textbook, so one day I just asked myself, "Do I really need to go to lecture?" That answer happened to be no, so I just stopped going. If you can make it work, you aren't obligated to go to class: it's working well for me! (so far)

Other things I am doing/did:

  • joined an acapella group! (coming soon to a blog post near you)
  • baked 67 chocolate chip cookies with my friends on the weekend 
  • taking squash as my PE class and it's super fun
  • playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf with my friends almost every night (coming soon to a blog post near you?)
  • learning how to do poi


MIT is no longer foriegn to me. Two days from now, I'll have spent a month here. I no longer need to look at my calendar to see what class I have, or look at my map to see which building connects into building 2.

For the past few weeks, I've been walking with one of my friends at night to Random Hall where she lives and then riding my bike back along Massachusetts Avenue, then along Memorial Drive to East Campus. When I am halfway along Memorial Drive, I pass by Killian Court. It's always quiet. There is nobody there except me, the lawn stretched out in front of me, the dome, and the stars. Sometimes I put my bike down and just sit there for a while, thinking about nothing in particular. Thinking about how nice it is here.  

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