MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Selam G. '18

Dec 11, 2017

What’s in My Bag?

Posted in: Miscellaneous

They say you can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their bag. Or the clothes they’re wearing, or the things they buy. Of course, this always carries that “judging a book by its cover” risk, but it is at least true that most people have a degree of choice in what they purchase or acquire, and that sometimes those choices reflects on their own personalities.

This is in part why one of my favorite websites this year has been New York Magazine’s The Strategist. The Strategist is essentially a sort of shopping advice blog, with article titles like “Deals of the Week” and “Best Shower Caddies on Amazon”. I started reading it because of some link I clicked (probably on facebook) that was a description of someone’s favorite bag, and I thought it was fascinating how wrapped inside that description was actually a love story. They somehow manage to blend really heartfelt anecdotes and funny stories into writing about “Best Vacuums 2017″ or sales around the internet. I read this just to read this (and occasionally I have found good shopping advice, like this skincare doc which helped jump-start my now almost-as-crazy skincare routine). I also really like this article I recently read about the best pair of black men’s sneakers, where toward the end the author waxes philosophical (and as you can see, I read the articles whether they’re actually relevant to my life/things I would actually buy or not!) 

So I thought today I’d do a fun post about what’s in my bag (and on my person).

The Bag



On the daily, I carry around an Osprey Cyber Day pack which I absolutely adore. I’ve had it since sophomore year--except actually, since Osprey has one of the best lifetime guarantees I’d ever seen, I used to have an older model that I recently got replaced with this one due to some wear on the back netting. So, I basically got a brand new backpack for the cost of shipping heh~ they’re expensive, but at this point I definitely think it was worth it, since I essentially have a quality backpack for life now. It also has an MIT Mechanical engineering carabiner on it--I got this when I first declared Course 2 as my major!

Top Pocket



This is the pocket where I end up shoving everything small I have on hand when I’m in a rush, and where everything that doesn’t fit into my pockets goes.



From left to right: a logitech mouse, eye drops, some hi-chews, Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb, L’Oreal Infallible Lip Paint in 326: “Sultry Sangria”, Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning lip balm, a hair clip, a USB to USB-C adapter, a micro-USB to USB-A cable, a metric ruler from Muji (15 centimeters), a 1cm^3 cuvet, and some M4 nuts and bolts.

I like this photo because there’s all these incredibly feminine items (I am definitely a lip girl btw, any other color on my face is too much work ^^;) and then like random stuff I use for being a mechanical engineer. The mouse is for when I need to CAD, the ruler is for drawing and measuring small stuff, the cuvet is a part for my team project in 2.75: Medical device design, and the nuts and bolts I was cutting down with a hacksaw earlier for my 2.74 final project.

Front Pocket



This is the pocket where things go when I bother to organize my backpack and move stuff from the top pocket into here. Since it’s close to finals I’m less organized and there’s less stuff in here...

From left to right: hand sanitizer, two sharpie highlighters, two doses of Dayquil (but like the generic-brand version), a black 0.38mm G2 pen, and a Surface pen for my laptop.

Pretty self explanatory. I will say, 0.38mm G2 pens are the only things I write with. I buy them in bulk. It all started in high school debate when I had to take notes really fast during other people’s speeches, and this was what The Strategist might call the “status” pen--all the debaters coveted G2s (nerdy, I know...). I really like the control of such a fine point. I also stopped using pencil in college--most of the stuff I actually have to physically write is math, and then the equations/logic I write out covers up entire pages, so if I make a mistake it’s often easiest to just toss or cross out the whole page and move on instead of erasing--even on exams. Point being, I’m definitely not using pen because I’m “confident”, which is sometimes what people will say. The real reason I ended up switching over completely is that, sometimes the places I take exams (like Walker Memorial or big lecture halls) are not very well lit on cloudy days or evening exams, so it’s a lot easier to simply see black ink instead of pencil when I’m writing. I do sometimes keep white-out on hand as well.

Bottom Pocket

From left to right: Origins “Make a Difference” hand cream, a Dewalt multi tool, charging cable for my laptop, a Sonos branded portable battery that I got from career fair, pill bottle (of ibuprofen), a charging brick, a chocolate chip Clif bar.

Also some feminine-ish items mixed in with things like my multi tool. Would not recommend the hand cream, overpriced for what it does, any Nivea or Vaseline cream is just as good. It was a random, desperate purchase when I ran out of hand cream, and if you are going to splurge on a nice one I would recommend L’Occitane instead. I have very dry skin, so I always keep something on hand (haha, get it...) especially since between eczema, winter, and the hazards of a machine shop, I often end up with chapped blisters or cuts if I’m not well moisturized.

I got my multi tool after seeing how useful it was for my UROP supervisor, a masters student at the media lab. I learned a lot of basic life things from him that I’m grateful for, including that every career engineer should themselves own basic tools, as often you can get nicer ones than your school/business/institution will have on hand. A multi tool is a simple, affordable addition with a lot of benefit, since it has, well, multiple tools. It’s saved me from running around MIT asking for a simple screwdriver or pliers many times--not to mention it’s useful for fixing things at home, too. My supervisor had a really nice, expensive-ish one; this DeWalt one was around $20 and works well enough for me!

Main Pocket

The BIG one!


From left to right: case with my Bose QC30 noise canceling earbuds inside, a ziploc bag half full of almonds, Benton’s Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream (a moisturizer), my wallet (a gift from my dear mom <3), Tony Moly My Sunny Perfecting Sun Block, Etude House Sunprise SPF50, and my Bose water bottle (other stuff in the background not kept in this pocket). and skincare seem to be a theme here xD. Granola bars are my busy-day hunger fix, for when I just need to eat something and keep going. I interned at Bose, which was when I acquired the water bottle (an intern gift) and the headphones (which I bought myself). The noise cancellation is really nice--I can work in crowded environments a lot easier now. And, having been an intern, it’s cool to use something you’ve seen the insides of! :) I’ve always been into Korean/asian beauty products, which are also popular in China (where my mom’s from), but this summer I got serious about skincare. I’ve been much more diligent about sunscreen (yay!) which is why there’s two here--the Tony Moly one is running out, and my friend Dora T. ‘18 kindly got me the Etude House one as a secret santa present. The Benton moisturizer was one I got for my face but didn’t like enough, so now I just use it for my hands/to re-apply throughout the day. All of these are korean brands and very affordable. Maybe I should do a blog post about skincare too....

BONUS: What’s in my wallet



My wallet has the obvious: credit/debit cards, CO drivers license, Costco card (absolutely indispensable!!!!!), a zipcard (I’ve used this to drive to pick up food for events and to Rhode Island over the summer). There are also some receipts: to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Kung Fu Tea (a boba place). Yes, I know, not very healthy--it’s the end of the semester ok. At this point, I’ve accepted that my health will be a sine wave, with a period of three months, where the local minimums are the end of the semester and the local maximums are the middle of IAP and summer.

A couple fun items include: an alligator temporary tattoo. I think my friend Sarah A. ‘18 gave this to me after a museum trip? Also, a fortune cookie fortune that I always forget I put in my wallet, but conveniently seems to show up when I need it: “I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it.” The culty MIT soup card--they got rid of this!!! So sad!!! Such a good deal!!! $12 for five large soups!!! I still have one soup punch left...hopefully I can still use it...

Lastly, my AP Physics membership card from high school that has made it from wallet to wallet, and outlived multiple debit and ID cards. This was given to me by the beloved Mr. Stefan Kern, my high school physics teacher. AP Physics C was probably the single high school class I’ve taken that was most like a college course, complete with horrible exam averages (68% once I think lol) and a ton of homework. But I learned so much!! Which is why I still have the card on hand--despite the fact that I probably can’t explain Maxwell’s equations to you very well anymore ^^; I spend too much time on the mechanics side of physics these days...

Inner Pocket

This is a pocket inside the main pocket.


From left to right: feminine hygiene products, a cactus card (also given to me by Dora, with the sunscreen~), a coupon for Darwin’s (a cafe in Cambridge), a moleskine A5 notebook, and a pencil bag.

I keep a lot of the cards people give me, and they all eventually get pasted into a big scrapbook that I have. The pencil bag is special, too--my aunt Askale gave this to me, and she embroidered the flower bush and chicken on the front herself~

I (loosely) use the bullet journal method as a planner. Similar to my obsessiveness over the exact kind of pen I use, I’m also picky about the notebook paper and size that I use for my bullet journal--for class notes, I now exclusively take all notes on my Surfacebook laptop, which I can write by hand on. I’m aware moleskines are kind of over-hyped, and I’m thinking of switching over to a traveler’s notebook, which I view as sturdier and more environmentally friendly. But, I still plan to use high-quality paper, which limits the bleed-through of the G2 pens I use, and I prefer A5 because the size is very portable but still big enough to fit my life in it. I also love the little pocket inside the notebook--I’m the treasurer for Chinese Students’ Club and handle some finances for Ethiopian Eritrean Students’ Association and reimbursements for my project classes (we often buy parts ourselves and get reimbursed later), so, it’s nice to have a place to keep receipts and the like.

Funnily enough, as I’ve progressed through college, I’ve needed hand-written notes for class less and less--my project-based course have a lot less paper, labs, or homework, and a lot more CAD, coding, analysis, ordering parts, and putting everything together. Most notes I have now are meeting notes that I type on my computer, and occasional lecture notes.

Laptop Pocket


The pocket designed for your laptop. 




This pocket doesn’t have much in it--my laptop (a Microsoft Surface Book) and a folder. Inside the folder are some more receipts (again, in my multiple treasury postions I forever have other people’s receipts on hand), a printed chapter of 《红楼梦》or, in English, Dream of the Red Chamber, for my Chinese literature class at Harvard that just ended, and some blank printer paper. I do a lot of my design drawings on blank printer paper, and then scan them with my phone. I never like to keep much stuff on hand in general--I try to be as minimalist as possible, including with paper. That’s partly why I quite like my laptop--with its handwritten note features, I have quite enjoyed getting rid of the weight of notebooks. I do have to have paper to do math, though--it’s just not the same, so I’ll also use printer paper to do my “thinking”, which involves scribbling everywhere and scratching a lot of things out, and then write my final flow of equations and answer out nicely before submitting homework.

My laptop has exactly two stickers on it--“Blog or Die”, a lovely one that echoe made for the bloggers <3 and a wholesome depiction of the This is Fine dog. I like this one because the flames look a lot more like fireplace flames, and the dog looks actually cozy instead of dead inside as in the meme itself (lol), which makes me feel like, even when everything comes crashing down around you, you can always find a way to have some peace, and a cup of tea. That sticker was given to me by Petey (yay!).

My folder has a sticker that says “MIT Panhellenic Association” and a sticker of a bird with an aviator hat and jetpack, created by the artistic Terran W. ‘18. You will find his stickers in unexpected places all over campus~

Jacket Pocket:

Here are some things I keep on my person.



Usually, I just have my phone in my pocket, or more lip balm (dry skin, sigh...) Today my Bose Soundsport headphones were in there too (this was also an intern gift). My phone is the Pixel 2, proudly emblazoned with another “blog or die” sticker (this is partly a reminder to blog pasted on all my electronic devices...) I have a Spigen case on it that can hold two cards, a feature I need because I used to just use those 3M stick-on pockets I got for free from career or activity fairs, but they would get gross around the edges and fall off (I think because my old phone had a curved back). I constantly need to access these two ID cards. I tap into buildings/labs or pay for bus/T fare with the MIT one, and I have to show an ID to ride the Harvard shuttle to class with the Harvard one (I only have this because I cross-registered). The real Harvard student ID (this is a “participant” ID) looks much different, I was kind of sad that this was so simple it almost looks fake, like I could print one at home xD


Hardware I usually have on. Pretty much all my jewelry has a story of some kind behind it.


Unless I’m in a rush in the morning and forget, I almost always have on my steel 2018 class ring, which I got as a sophomore (as all MIT sophomores do!) and a silver rosary ring that my aunt Askale gave to me. She is my dad’s older sister, and a Catholic nun, constantly traveling between the city and countryside of Ethiopia, or even to Rome and France, but rarely to the US. She acquired this a long time ago in France, and gave it to me about a year ago as a sort of coming-of-age present. Askale is an important mentor and female figure in my life--my Dumbledore and my Gandalf, someone who always seems to be wiser than everyone else I know, and always knows the right thing to do. It’s always nice to have reminders of the people I love most nearby <3

Speaking of which, the first concert I ever went to was Saint Motel opening for Lydia at the Marquees Theater in Denver. I went with one of my best friends, Christine L. ‘18 at Georgetown. I’d never listened to Lydia so we were definitely there for Saint Motel. They’re more popular now, but at the time they were definitely smaller. After the show, we went up to one of the band members, Dak.

“So, how did you guys like Lydia?”

“Actually, uhh...we came here to see you guys!”

“WOW!! Really???”

He was so touched that he gave us both a hug, and also, this pin, which is now forever affixed to my denim jacket.

Writing this post as a sort of expose on myself was the whole intention, but I’m surprised by the end how much my stuff really does represent myself and my daily activities--from the lip treatments to the literal nuts and bolts to the planner to the water bottle to the multi tool. It's definitely changed over the years too...what's in your bag??

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