Jan 25, 2018
Sketches from the Independent Activities Period
This week, I am fulfilling my dream of taking over the Admissions page with a series of six consecutive posts. I am calling the takeover Yultide (credit to the bloggers for the awesome name). Today is Yultide Day 1, and also the sequel to "Sketches from the Fall Semester."
We have Early Action adMITs now, and the circle of (admissions) life continues. The 2021s have been broken into the MIT routine. The 2022s are full of excitement and hope. As a senior blogger, I’ve gotten the privilege to interact with the new cool kids on the block. Can’t wait for the regular action folks, and this year's Pi Day video.
Wisconsin Interview and Cheese
Last week, I went to Madison, Wisconsin for an onsite interview at a healthcare software company (with travel, food, and accommodations fully covered!). I won't name the company, but I still want to talk about all the cheese. Seriously, I bought so much cheese. My favorite was marble cheese with pepperoni, but plain brick cheese was pretty good too. I also got to eat hot cheese curds at the supposedly best cheese curd place in Madison with other recruits and a company representative.
In other impressions, the company had a slide instead of stairs in one of the buildings, and D&D sword and throne room in another building. I got to stay in a hotel in downtown Madison right around the corner from the beautiful Wisconsin State Capitol. My window opened up to the hotel pool, so my sole tourist-y trip was to Target to buy a swimsuit. No regrets there: turns out, a late-night swim leads to the best sleep, so I plan to justify the purchase of the swimsuit by using the MIT pools as well—they are 10 and 2 minutes away from my room.
One last impression: the people in Wisconsin are so friendly. My taxi driver suggested that we stop at a local grocery store so I could buy some good cheese. And everyone was so nice and patient! Going back to Boston, a big city, from the Midwest always requires some adjustment. For example, you need to dishabituate to saying “excuse me.”
One of the perks of the Institute is the connections the Institute has with local STEM companies. Last week, I went to on an onsite visit at a local biopharmaceutical company with a group of students, arranged by the MIT career office. I won’t say which company, but I will say that the view of the ocean from their offices was amazing, and so was the taco lunch. On a serious note, I loved hearing about the place and being able to connect with the employees. I am very excited to apply. Events like these make me feel incredibly lucky to attend this place.
Who says MIT students aren’t cool?
My friends and I finally went to a real hip club in downtown Boston. It was louder than I expected. The DJ’s medleys weren’t particularly great, but it was still a fascinating cultural experience (I could talk at length about the gender dynamics, but this probably isn't the best place). Plus, I actually danced! We’re going again this weekend because it’s Bad Ideas weekend (more on that later) so it’s appropriate. Fun fact: Massachusetts laws prohibit the sale of alcohol after 2am (true to its Puritan roots) so everything closes early and mobs of people wander in the cold because of Lyft/Uber's ridiculous price hikes.
Queer Stand-Up Comedian Performs at MIT
In November, I received an email from [email protected] with the first line written in large bold letters: "DeAnne Smith is coming to MIT to give a live stand-up show!!!!!" Below that, the email said, "DeAnne Smith is a queer comedian. If you haven’t heard of them, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1wveGujCrI" Once I read and watched all that, I immediately forwarded the invitation to my friend with the caption "WANNA SEE THIS?" Fortunately, she did. Not only that, but a group of us converged in the kitchen, all excited about the show. And it was totally worth it. Stand-up comedy is always better live, and DeAnne Smith was amazing. Plus, they tailored their show to our audience, so I believe they learned something from us as well. Not much of a story, but I had to share it because it highlights the range of events you can attend at MIT.
A new hobby!
I have a new hobby: embroidery. It is my first actual adult hobby. Part of me is embarrassed to say the name of the activity out loud (embroidery has certain gendered connotations), though another part of me is happy that I finally have a legitimate answer to the “what’s your hobby?” question (it used to be UROPs, chilling, and blogging). I chose cross stitch because I have some experience in the craft, though back when I was a kid I couldn’t do it much in order to not to hurt my eyes so, in a way, the new hobby is a rebellion. The stuff I’ve embroidered so far has made for great gifts, and it is quite adult and cool. I defend the hobby because I am still working through my internalized "good girl embroiders" sterotype.
I have even looked into opening an Etsy shop for nerd embroidery (e.g. math cross stitch!) because I have some extra time this month. Plus, I prefer to make stuff for other people anyway. Pieces I've made so far are below. All except the motivational "just do it later" were gifts for friends and family (I am especially proud to give a friend some friendly syphillis). Credit for the "just do it later" cross stitch goes to The Oatmeal.
I think I am becoming an adult because I have started going to different stores for different foods to get the best deals, a practice that I couldn’t understand before. The extra trips are definitely worth it though, especially now that the closest supermarket to campus, StarMarket, is closing. Now I go to Trader Joe’s in Back Bay, Boston (the smallest Trader Joe’s ever; ~20 mins away by bus) for snacks and frozen food. Their prepared frozen meals are surprisingly affordable and very convenient. I go to Bfresh in Davis Square, Sommerville (~15 mins away by subway) for fresh foods, such as fish, vegetables and fruit, which are often sold at super low Ohio-level prices. Other types of food are pretty expensive at Bfresh though, as it is a pretty “hipster” place (e.g. they have a "bluebernie" kombucha on tap flavor). I go to StarMarket in Porter Square, Somerville (~15 mins away by subway) for general foods and smoothie supplies. I go to the mini-Target in Central Square, Cambridge (~5 mins away by subway, ~15 mins walking) for daily necessities such as milk or yogurt. All this isn’t really a "sketch," but I’ve had a lot of prefrosh ask me about eating at MIT, so this is a preview of the answer, more to come soon (I’ve also written about “cooking” for yourself before here).
IAP Life and Setting Records
January is IAP (Independent Activities Period) at MIT, which offers a plethora of random activities, ranging from glass-blowing to bartender training (21+ because there's actual alcohol). We've even had Charm School which, among other things, taught students the latest flirting techniques—a skill I believe is impossible to teach. Personally, I am working on my thesis, learning how to code better (for my thesis and beyond), directing and acting in The Vagina Monologues as usual, and hanging out with my friends—IAP is when MIT feels most relaxed because most people aren’t taking classes. For a month, we get to catch up on all the rest and socialization. In record-setting news, I slept for 23 hours in a row one day last week, which was intense. Fortunately, I woke up in time for the pharmaceuitcal company site visit. If I'd missed it, my MIT career account with all the job applications would've been suspended!
Update: I have fixed my sleep schedule!!! For three days, I have been sleeping at relatively normal-people hours, and feeling great. This is very exciting news.
Fall Semester Reflections
As has become “tradition,” I miss (as in, yearn for) at least two of my fall classes: 9.46 Neuroscience of Morality and 9.85 Infant and Child Development. The two offerings completely shifted the way my brain thinks about itself, and the way I perceive humanity. For example, I can now make arguments on why AI should not be feared in the way it is in the mainstream (here's why), but we should be concerned about some of artificial intelligence's current applications (e.g. using proprietary software to determine the lengths of convicts’ sentences by predicting the likelihood of their recidivism). Fun tangent: I met a prefrosh recently who was interested in AI and actually knew and loved the TED Talk by my 9.85 Infant and Childhood Cognition professor!
I also learned why humans are, indeed, special compared to non-human animals. And how human beings can be truly good, but there are also cases in which we are all driven to act immorally (see Milgram experiments overview here and a postive recent interpretation of the results here). Additionally, I learned some practical life skills, such as how to be a better human and how to raise better children.
In other academic news: for the first time, I veered dangerously close to not passing something, in this case 8.02 Physics II, which is taught in the generally despised TEAL (Technology-Enhanced Active Learning) format. In my defense, a GIR (General Institute Requirement), especially in TEAL format, was one of my lowest priorities senior year, way behind more important classes for my newly-declared minor, thesis work, job search, etc. Physics II worked out in the end, and, more importantly, I am a better human after this fall.
The Things You Learn in College
My favorite description of college is that it’s the special transitional time when you live on your own and make personal choices but don’t yet have to clean your own bathroom. With college lecture videos available freely online, the main selling point of college is now the experiences you get: living with roommates, handling your daily shit in a controlled environment, negotiating, and gaining access to important people in academia. If not for MIT, I would not have discovered my true interests, nor experimented with diverse fields from education to public health. I would not have learned how to coexist with a diverse group of people, network, do research and write better papers, thrive in a challenging environment, and travel on my own. I guess those aren’t tiny, as the title of the sketch suggests—I really don’t know what I’d do without MIT.
Going to the Movies
My friends and I saw Coco recently, and it was spectacular. Once again, Pixar was able to emotionally destroy the viewer, but not enough that we could blame the creators for emotional manipulation. If you’ve seen Coco and remember the singing to Coco scene, you can probably relate. That scene is when I started crying, and I was the last of my friends to break down. On a fun note, I saw Proud Mary starting the badass Taraji P. Henson last week and discovered a hidden foreign-language gem. A tiny scrap of dialogue heard from Russian mobsters included the phrase “we fixed their election"—a perk of knowing a foreign language.
Meta Sketch about Being a Blogger
Being a blogger is one of the coolest roles at MIT. Especially during CPW, when the prefrosh still think we’re particularly cool (though I love meeting the prefrosh regardless of their level of interest in the blogs). Bloggers get (almost) free range to write about their personal life and give advice to people in the difficult times we were once in. Plus we get t-shirts with our super-cool hand-drawn face avatars on them.
I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. And Yultide is just the start of my attempt to complete all my drafts and ideas before graduation. Feel free to propose a topic or question for the blogs—y'all make this work the best with your comments, emails, and support!