DID YOU KNOW? The first person I met when I arrived at MIT for orientation was from Alaska.
While in Paris this weekend, Ling '07 and I went to the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried because we had an hour to kill before picking up Kendall '07 at the train station. It struck me as ironic that this huge, 100-plot cemetery is filled with French aristocrats who built giant marble and stained-glass memorials that have long since fallen into disrepair, and yet probably ninety percent of its visitors just know it as "the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried." Granted that Jim Morrison will probably also be forgotten in a hundred years, but it's kind of ironic now. This is why I'm going to be cremated when I die and have my ashes sprinkled into the soup of someone I don't like.
On our way back on the Thalys in first class (yay for Thalys summer offer!) I picked up a copy of the international edition of Newsweek, which had a headline article ranking the top 50 world universities. They had us at #7, behind Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Caltech, Berkeley, and Cambridge, and had a bunch of pictures of the Stata Center to show how innovative we are. Now, as a rule I don't really pay attention to lists like that, except the ones which consistently rank MIT undergrad as #1. My standard line at CPW is "Don't stress out too much about numbers; you're not going to go to any college, public or private, work hard for four years, and end up getting a bad education. Choosing MIT just might make the whole process a little bit easier for you." But this one got me thinking... regarless of where my college ranks on any of these lists, I'm pretty lucky. In the past seven days, I've seen both the Sistine Chapel and the Mona Lisa. And I owe a lot of that to the fact that I went to MIT.
As I've said in the past three months of blog entries, MISTI rocks and found me a summer internship in Europe in my field of study by November with minimal effort on my part. But even that didn't guarantee that I'd have any money to spend to see the Sistine Chapel and Mona Lisa once I got here. Luckily, going to MIT helped me take care of that, too.
Finding an on-campus job can be a considerable challenge at other universities. I've never, ever been very ambitious in job-hunting (may turn out to be a problem when I get out of college), and yet I've held down two to three jobs at a time pretty much since coming to MIT. And they're all really great jobs. I work desk in Burton-Conner, which basically involves pressing the "door open" button to the tune of $9.25 per hour. I took notes for this guy who broke his arm, which means heading to Copytech for 10 minutes a week and as a result getting paid $10 an hour to go to lecture. I taught SAT Prep for ESP, which was kind of embarrassing but not really hard or time-intensive. I've helped out in admissions. And I wasn't even looking for these jobs--I just stumbled upon them because there were deskworker signup forms in the lobby, or some guy raised his hand in recitation and asked for a note-taker, or one of my friends e-mailed me and said that her boss asked for some help. Basically, it's hard just to walk down the street at MIT without tripping over a new on-campus job opportunity and falling on your face.
And if you somehow manage to miss out on all of those opportunities, you could always sell your soul and become a Tech Caller.
Then there's UROP. I know that UROP is mentioned at least once every three blog entries, but you really need to realize how cool it is. Talking to some of my high school friends, getting to do undergraduate research is a pretty big deal at most colleges. At MIT, I've had two different UROPs over the past three years, and I haven't had to do anything more than send casual, informal letters of interest to three different professors. Two of them accepted me immediately and the third offered me a UROP but no money, which wasn't a good deal for me at the time. You get lab experience, you apply classroom concepts in a practical environment, you get research experience to put on your resume, you get direct contact with professors, and you either get paid $9 an hour or you get basically a free "A" and one class worth of credit per semester. There is no downside! Unless your professor is trying to kill you.
I'm pretty lucky.
Stay tuned for two pictures that encapsulate 36 hours for 3 MIT students in Paris.