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Yuliya K. '18

Jul 29, 2015

Ode to Freshman Days

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Miscellaneous, Academics & Research, Prepare for MIT, Life & Culture

I came to MIT a wide-eyed froshling. The sun shone brighter through campus windows. Every classroom exuded a dream glow. Every view overwhelmed the heart.

I got by on 3-5 hours of sleep then.

Soon, the lessons began. I learned to conserve clothing. Laundry Day became a special surprise and a victory over the demons of laze. It came when all my socks expired.

I’d bought too many pairs in anticipation for college. 

 

{First Sighting of the MIT Dome: making sure it's real since 2013}

The hardest thing you will do in college is wake up after a series of unfortunate events, unfinished nights, unreasonable psets.

The fight to rise will start in your subconscious. Without your say, your body will silence 1 alarm, or 5 alarms. 10 if you really fucked up.

If your subconscious doesn’t keep you down, you’ll wish it did. A tired body feels like a metric ton of cotton balls.

I have over 200 alarms pre-set on my phone.

I may need to awaken for lecture at 11:20, but sometimes 11:21 or 11:22 work just as well. When I rise at 11:22, I don’t get to wear jeans. Nice things are for the early birds.

 

The easiest thing you will do in college is do too much. Try it. On the 1st week, you only need to lift a pen and know your name to join a 100 clubs that will send you up to 1 email a day until you find “unsubscribe.”

You will want a UROP or a job. Those are tricky to balance. Which UROP will accept the uninitiated? How many hours can you commit?

Experts suggest 6 to 10 per week.

Working too much is easier than working too little. Takes the pressure off. 5 classes on your 1st semester, the hardest ones there are, will yield more value for your Pass/No Record, your tuition, and your dreams.

 

I dropped Analysis after 3 all-nighters. In October, I sought a reasonable HASS replacement. The class catalogue was a constantly open browser tab. I read all the course descriptions.

I wondered if the change of schedule meant I could obtain more money-yielding jobs. I added 1 to see how many I could handle. I subtracted 1 a week later to snooze. 2 remained.

My froshling battery, supercharged during Orientation, sent alarming signals to my body. Dangerously low. Lower. Gone. Time to find a charging station. A stress outlet.

A 4-day weekend worked like a new battery. We the students discussed the mountains of work we’d accomplish in its anticipation. 96 hours seemed vast. Not in retrospect.

Take out 36 hours for sleep. That’s 60 left. 12 for movies with friends. 12 for meals, 14 with eating out.

2 hours for 4 showers. 5 hours for river walks. Approximately 16 hours to socialize. 5 hours to waste on grooming, latest YouTube hits, and spontaneous Seven-Eleven runs.

Okay, maybe 6 or more for that. Which leaves about 5 hours for work, or about 1 pset worth of time. Not much for a 4-day classless extravaganza.

The best discovery you will make in college is what you love.

I love when a solution pops up after hours of rumination and pages of beginnings. My first time, this happened under a full moon over dorm row. I knew exactly when the hypothetical cars would collide.

I love nights when pset parties spread in the hallway at party o’clock. The continuous flow of sweet ideas merits the festive status.

I love sliding a stack of neatly completed homework into its intended slot. I love stapling the pages of psets together with a precise corner shot. I love laughing with my friends all the way home after the assignments are safely disposed.

I love consuming lungfuls of morning freshness after an all-nighter. Relief is a powerful force.

 

The coolest things you will hear in college come from professors. I love when they talk about their lives during lecture, showing off pictures of spouses and children, recalling work stories that might have changed the world.

Professor jokes are another excellent treat. Like this one:

“There were once two mathematicians in an asylum, and one of them was e^x. The other mathematician was angry at e^x, and exclaimed, ‘I’ll differentiate you!’
‘Go ahead,’ replied e^x. ‘That won’t do me any harm.’
‘Ah, but I’ll differentiate you with respect to y!’”

Pretend you’re taking Multivariable Calculus. Ready? Now think how glorious that joke sounds after learning the partial derivatives of e^x.

Sometimes professors tell jokes about Harvard. The first one comes as a shocker. The next ones amuse. Why not enjoy a learned human being making jabs at a school of other learned human beings?

Teachers often invite students for dialogue. Some lure us with cookies and tea. Others with pizza and soda. They tell stories of family and food, research and blizzards. They try to remember their students’ names and passions. We get a conversation to remember.

I could never learn from a professor I don’t know personally better than one in front of whom I spilled vanilla ice cream on a grey carpet. He told me that it happens all the time. Then he shared the latest scoop on the P vs NP Millennium Problem.

My ice cream was melting. He told me about a bet he'd made with a friend in the 1970’s. Then, he claimed that the P vs NP problem would soon be solved. It’s the 2010’s now and the coveted solution remains a mystery.

The most important lesson you will learn in college is The Value of Friendship.

I have a friend who dreams with me of a blissful life on a boat in neutral waters where we’d dance in sundresses on deck. I have one who doesn’t stop at any obstacle to attain victory in a glorious prank war. And a friend who listened to enough music last year to fill 72 days with sound.

I have friends who love sailing, cats, Sting’s “The Last Ship,” Doctor Who, space, linear algebra, running, that one crooked tree at the Esplanade, cannoli, chain-mail, medicine, oscilloscopes, performance art. Not in that order of importance.

{oscilloscope photo credit to Banti G. '17} 

I can speak continuously about the Tiny Insignificant and the Giant Important of MIT.

But the morning birds will soon sing. Unlike MIT’s birds, Ohio’s winged creations have proper sleep schedules. I hope to beat them to bed.

Outside, crickets perform a fancy serenade and 770 miles away there is a vacant room in East Campus waiting for me.

In 30 days, I will fill it as a wide-eyed sophomore.

Until then, good night.

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