THURSDAY, April 12
Woke up to the smell of smoke coming from the East Campus courtyard grill. A traditional email to EC residents confirmed that rush-burger-making season had begun: “girlllz r hot eom.” Rush burgers are high on my favorite burger list (and trust me, I am almost a local burger expert), but they are only made during CPW, REX (Residential Exploration for freshmen in the fall), and Bad Ideas Weekend. I associate rush burgers with my first time in the EC courtyard, when I dyed my hair in sparkling red and decided this place was home. I associate them also with my second CPW, as an EC resident, when a friend with a rainbow-colored beard told me the wisdom behind making rush burgers, up to the perfect amount of seasoning. Rush burgers come with happy times. “Grilz are hot eom” ... “grillllzzz are hot eom” … “GRILZ R HOT EOM”
Panic! At The Disco was playing to accompany the courtyard fun, which was nice to wake up to. Although the CPW theme for EC this year was cyberpunk, I heard PATD quite a bit this weekend. In previous years, I’ve been woken by everything from Fall Out Boy to the Soviet anthem. Both acceptable options.
Next up, I had to clean my room asap because both my prefrosh were coming soon. I tried to game the system this year by stating on the hosting form that I can host up to 2 prefrosh, so I’d get at least 1. But then I got 2… I also realized, when I blew up the air mattress, that I don’t actually have space for 2 prefrosh, so I had to come up with some clever options for “prefrosh tetris.” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though, I have friends who can probably help host. It would be extremely awkward for the prefrosh to sleep at awkward angles to each other while I sprawled on my full-sized bed.
The weather machine was working great, almost unbelievably so. After months of intermittent warmth, we got what finally felt like spring. Even the magnolias in the courtyard bloomed! Which made me especially happy because, for the past two years, it rained heavily through all of CPW. East Campus even had to move rush burger grilling indoors. Last year, I spent a whole CPW evening cleaning the grease-covered pans left over from a day of grilling burgers for hundreds of people and never washing the pans. It was rough, but I got to do it with friends. I have never removed that much grease off something, but trust me, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the grease go.
Awkwardly, I showed my two prefrosh around First East, my floor. Curious hall cats ran into my room as soon as it opened. Some passing 1e residents told my visitors how wonderful and wholesome our hall is, and it reminded me how grateful I am to live in a community where everyone is so happy to live also.
Next up was soundcheck for the CPW Admitted Student Welcome, where I was giving a “guide to CPW” mini-speech. I composed the speech mostly in the shower, where inspiration often strikes. I’d never written down what I was going to say before, but then again, neither have I spoken in front of 1200 people.
Afterwards, I met up with a non-MIT friend and told him how festive campus felt with the prefrosh around. “It’s like a student holiday!” I said, “We all get to see MIT through the prefrosh’ eyes, and it looks like a place of wonders and magic.”
Back on campus, at the CPW Admitted Student Welcome, I tried to disguise my senior-ity by wearing the CPW prefrosh nametag. I brought the paper all the way from Ohio after spring break. It was almost the same as the 2018 tag, except with a little rainbow stripe at the bottom to match the MIT Admissions website color scheme (but for the purposes of the Welcome, I pretended it was an LGBTQ+ Pride stripe). I even went with my prefrosh (as in, the one I was hosting) to make the "disguise" more authentic. Unfortunately, many people already knew me as a blogger and adMIT webcast person. So the “going incognito” plan didn’t work out great, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Last chance to wear that nametag!
Five minutes into the Welcome, I got very sick, and it wasn’t even my turn yet. “Why are you nervous?” my prefrosh asked, “We’re all cool here.” To me, speaking in front of a 1,000 cool people still seemed pretty rough. Scenes from all the movies where the student vomits or just runs off stage during a speech started flashing in front of my eyes. I challenged myself to quietly recite the speech during the student performances—I could at least ensure I didn’t forget it all—and I seemed to be ready.
Then, Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill '86 told us some very nerdy jokes and some fun facts about the Class of 2022. I remember that the Class had a lot of Emilys, and people who enjoyed volunteering, and adMITs from California. Students groaned at some of the jokes and laughed at others. Still, only at MIT would nerdy jokes get that positive a reception. I loved it.
When it was my turn to speak, I felt like a piece of wood hobbling to the stage. “Assume power stance,” I told myself, but really it felt like I was a manequin made out of metal. I was later told I looked “poised,” and that might have been the best compliment I’ve ever received, given my self-perception. Also, a prefrosh in the crowd said, “We love you, Yuliya” after the speech, so I’d say the night was a success. When I was a prefrosh, blogger Anastassia B. ‘16 was the student speaker, and my first thought after she finished was, “How can I do this?” This year, I found out. I got to give CPW advice during the opening speech! Such an incredible and useful opportunity. Really, I loved it too much to say enough.
After the opening, I lingered to talk to some dedicated blog readers, to whom I am always grateful! Then went back to EC with another prefrosh while answering her questions. Already I’d had more conversations with prefrosh than all of last CPW, and I was loving it.
Back on hall, my friends and I worked and talked in the lounge, as is customary on a Thursday, pre-Friday-deadline night. After getting a sufficient amount of work done, we ordered food and talked about everything from underactuated robotics and pendulums to marriage and sexuality (we’re not just STEM nerds here!). A prefrosh who couldn’t sleep came out to talk to us and fit seamlessly into the conversation. She even inspired my new piercing goal, already contributing to the community! I love how easily MIT accepts new people into the fold.
FRIDAY the 13th
Thank you again, weather machine! Though, unfortunately, as soon as it gets warm outside, my room gets toasty (the one negative of living on the first floor is the network of hot pipes underneath). Praise my free window AC, left by a graduating neighbor!
First thought of the day: having a roommate is odd. How did I have one my freshman year? Last night, I had to prepare for bed in advance because my prefrosh went to sleep before I did, and I had to crawl back quietly, in the dark. This morning, I couldn’t set my the usual 20+ alarms. I woke up briefly when she did and had to talk to a person right away. It was actually quite… healthy. Maybe my sleep schedule wouldn’t be so erratic if I had a roommate (then again, my freshman roommate’s schedule was even more erratic than mine). Don’t know how I’d fare as a long-term host, but for now, I love it.
The morning was regular MIT time. I finished up a reading response and article presentation for 9.24 Disorders and Diseases of the Nervous System (~10 sentence reading responses are due every week, the presentations are twice a semester). Later, in the three-hour 9.24 seminar, I felt like I was in class on a holiday because the CPW atmosphere was so light and festive. Fortunately, we had a pretty great speaker for the week, who talked about the mind-boggling modern options for treating epilepsy and brain tumors, and even showed us a video or a real brain surgery. The speaker was our professor’s son, rather than the usual world-famous expert in the field. I loved it though—famous people are great, but their presentations can't compare with authentic burns from the professor’s resident surgeon son.
After a quick post-lecture shower, I had a check-in meeting about graduation requirements, because even during CPW, graduating looms near. On the way back, it hit me that all the excited prefrosh have four years of MIT ahead of them. And that was truly scary. I couldn’t do that, not at this point. Thank every possible deity that I'm not a high school senior.
To get my mind off all that, I went to CPWACC (pronounced “kuh-pwak”, CPW A Capella Concert), one of my favorite events when I was a prefrosh. Back then, I had not been exposed to a capella, at least not outside of Pitch Perfect (and, let’s be real, that level of singing and choreography is not real college a capella, nor everyone is approximately the same body size in college). As usual, I loved all 10 a capella groups, each representing a different approach to a capella. We have cultural, religious, parody, mash-up, medley, and “regular” a capella groups. And all of the groups have a lot of fun together, with none of the pressure or competitiveness that groups may face in other colleges (e.g. that college in Pitch Perfect). If you’ve never heard a capella before, check it out!
At CPWACC, I also got to wear my blogger shirt! Friday of CPW is the only day of the year where I can, or really am required, to wear a shirt with my face on it—blogging is truly the best activity on campus. In fact, it is varsity blogging, which is also something the shirt says, on the back.
The tee was required for the annual Meet the Bloggers event, where we all stood around small tables and ate delicious pie with the prefrosh. This year, the pie was especially amazing, with flavors such as dark chocolate cherry. The pie was the least notable part about the event, however, as MtB is the only chance to meet our readers and know we’re not writing into the void (the number of comments on the blogs has been declining lately, and we’ve even lost our trolls, or rather one famous Admissions troll, m_quinn). MtB is also a chance for us to socialize with each other and bond as a blogger group (after all, we are a varsity team).
Two years ago, I remember meeting Allan and Danny G. ‘20 at MtB. They were so thrilled to meet us, I found their excitement contagious. I went home that night with a renewed blogging purpose. I was thrilled to be able to help admit them as full-time bloggers.
Now the cycle of blogger life continues. I met some amazing new prefrosh this year that I really hope apply to blog. Please do: it’s an amazing opportunity, and such a great community. Being able to talk to readers via email and in person at Meet the Bloggers is so rewarding—never have I said more genuine “thank yous” than this weekend. Thank you, readers and listeners!!!
Back on hall, I was ready to plop down on the lounge couch and interact with zero more prefrosh. But at midnight, a hall resident got hungry and decided to go out for food, so I joined. We took another upperclassman and two prefrosh with us—the adMITs’ first late-night college food run! Afterwards, we led them on a mini-tour of the Student Center, home base for a lot of clubs and student activities. The current students were heavily involved in the campus community, so we got to show them several administrative offices of prominentn groups such as SIPB (MIT's volunteer student computing group, improving computing at MIT since 1969), ESP (creators of Splash, Spark, FIREHOSE!, and other great educational programs), and LSC (the group that brings “quality entertainment” to campus, such as old and new films and famous speakers). The latter group’s office was pretty much a museum, so we mingled for a while, with the upperclassmen telling stories of past traditions and adventures. I shared, and I learned.
The late-night “food trip” reinforced my pride in the MIT community. Even when people are extremely busy, and mid-April is certainly not an easy time, they are willing to offer support and are happy to share the magic of the Institute. The 700+ events do not even show the extent of MIT’s commitment to welcoming the new class—there are always wonderful late-night tours like this one that aren’t on the schedule.
Last full day! Whew. I don’t know how the prefrosh do four of these. I'd only helped out with a couple of events, and I was already exhausted, in a good way. Only one more major event lay ahead —the Activities Fair (or Activities Midway, as current students know it). At the Activities Fair, MIT’s 500+ clubs and organizations showcase their work and recruit new students. The campus ice rink gets filled with small table booths, with some space on the side for student group performances.
This year, I was at the Fair on behalf of a group called The F-Word, formerly known as Stop Our Silence (I’ve blogged about it here). For the past 15 years, SOS (now The F-Word) has put on the annual Vagina Monologues production, which has been the highlight of my past three winters (see here and here). Now, we are expanding the group to host more events, raise money for local organizations, such as the Cambridge Women’s Center and Planned Parenthood, and support worthwhile causes at rallies and off-campus fundraisers. Next week, for example, we’re hosting an open mic as part of the programming for MIT’s annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We’re the intersectional feminist group on campus.
Here’s our mission statement/description: The F-Word aims to bring out underrepresented students’ voices on topics like gender, sexuality, consent, and their connections with culture, religion, and the MIT experience. We also put on the yearly production of the Vagina Monologues! We are looking for writers, performers, and activists to join us and host plays, workshops, speakers, advocacy events, etc. People of all identities and beliefs are welcome!
Helping out with an Activities Fair booth mostly entails talking (or attempting to talk to) everyone who passes by. It’s a very useful experience—you have to learn to deal with rejection and awkward eye contact, and occasionally disapproving looks from parents because your group’s name is, well, different (though, to be fair, I’ve also gotten some super positive responses from parents!). Ultimately, though, the experience is fulfilling, because the group supports such an important cause.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and talked to us! I hope you will consider working with us as performers, writers, organizers, or just curious visitors peeking out of the comfort zone. As I’ve written before, being in The Vagina Monologues has been one of my most helpful college experiences, giving me everything from concrete skills like public speaking to softer skills such as leadership, directing, teamwork, and so much more. It’s not easy to participate in a show with a title like The Vagina Monologues, and that’s part of what makes it such a valuable experience. Now The F-Word will allows us to be in the learning zone throughout the year.
Being able to explore booths at the Activities Fair (and the Academic Expo on CPW Friday) is perhaps the one thing I miss about being a prefrosh. I can now only go to the Fair for one group. Though, admittedly, I still always get shaved ice with delicious toppings from the MIT ATS (Association of Taiwanese Students). It’s my fourth year getting the ice, and I am not even ashamed—it is that delicious. If you’re a prefrosh, check out ATS events next year! They do free dinners, care packages, and a range of other events (recruiting students on their behalf makes me feel a little better about eating all that delicious shaved ice, which I still do not regret).
After the Midway, it was host-prefrosh question time! The host-prefrosh bond at MIT is a special one. My host turned out to be one of the coolest people I’ve met at MIT, and also part of the cast and director crew in The Vagina Monologues, but I feel like I forever remained her prefrosh. Prefrosh zone is real, but it’s still great to have a mentor even before you come to campus. My host calmed quite a few of my fears during my stay (including, importantly, fear of the Biology GIR).
I was delighted that my prefrosh this year had questions. I hosted my freshman and sophomore years, but never got to play a mentor role. This time was different, and I hope I was even a little bit helpful. A huge thank you to D.V. ‘22 for being an awesome roommate and also to the Admissions office for creating such a great algorithm for hosting assignments!
After a long and fascinating conversation with my prefrosh (it wasn’t just her questions and my answers!), I left campus. For me, CPW was over, and I could only wonder how the prefrosh could maintain their youthful energy for all four days. I did three majors events and I was exhausted (again, in a good way). I'd tried talking to some prefrosh in the East Campus courtyard while getting a rush burger, but quickly realized I could think of nothing to say.
So I got groceries and a Five Guys burger in Boston and walked slowly back to the subway stop. It was nice to be back in the real world, not the festive CPW version of MIT, although it did bring back all my temporarily repressed worries about school work and graduating—a sort of cold shower of a trip. Back on hall, I officially decided that it was the end of my CPW—you will not find an entry for CPW Sunday.
I’m glad I was most involved with CPW in my senior year. Although I didn’t realize it, being involved was on my senior bucket list all along. Last year, I didn’t do enough. This year, I was completely satisfied.
I hope I could help at least one prefrosh. And I hope all prefrosh comMITted after this weekend.
BONUS: Is CPW Representative of MIT?
On a final note, I’ve gotten several questions along the lines of, “Is CPW representative of MIT?” After this weekend, I can definitely say, “yes.” Of course, MIT isn’t a constant parade of liquid nitrogen ice cream and student performances, but the intensity of CPW is pretty comparable to the ongoing intensity of MIT.
I do not envy you, Class of 2022, for spending the next four years studying here. But I do recommend that you comMIT if you appreciated the intensity, but even more so, if you connected with the atmosphere of this place. For all of the prefrosh I’ve talked to, this seems to be true. Once you get a feel of what MIT is truly like, and if your gut is telling you that the feeling is good, comMIT. The Institute will be a great fit for you.
Are you a prefrosh or parent who came to CPW? Share your favorite experiences, in pictures, videos, memes, or words, in the comments below! I’d love to hear what the weekend was like for you!