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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

A grab bag filled with a magical camp and the Big Apple by Melis A. '08

One month of activities in one entry.

It’s official: my blogging hiatus has ended. It has been a crazy couple of weeks, filled with editing medical school applications (first drafts, second drafts, third drafts, galore!), trying to finish up my summer projects at the National Institutes of Health (I’m close, but it looks like I’ll be sticking around the lab for an extra week), presenting my research (2 poster presentations + a lab presentation), writing papers (coming soon to an MIT journal near you), working at Camp Kesem (it was a huge success, more info on it later), taking daily trips to the Au Bon Pain in the NIH Clinical Center (which I justify by the total savings of about $15 and a tree or two that I achieved by using a refillable mug), hanging out in New York City, and more. I’m really only getting slightly more sleep than I do at school and my caffeine intake is far too high, but the few breaks that I’ve had have been as glorious as the Charles River on a spring morning.

As I sit on the train from New York to DC, the fact that I’m going to be a *senior* is slowly, and painfully, sinking in. Could it really be true that I only have one year left at the Institvte? Take me back to freshman orientation, when four years seemed like an eternity and the underground route from E25 to Lobby 7 seemed just about as real as dragons and reindeer (oh wait…) Now, those tunnels are just a warm, familiar respite from freezing midnight walks from Kendall; they are a home that I share with rats the size of cats.

I have this problem where I really start to enjoy things just as they’re about to end. Maybe I just loosen up and become comfortable with my surroundings, or maybe I just forget all the bad things and reminisce endlessly about the good (my memory is funny like that.) So now that I am almost done with college, it’s time to do all the things that I should have done more often during the past three years. That means getting lost (I guess I’ll have to go out to the suburbs for that) and wandering on sidewalks for hours, having picnics by the river, playing Frisbee on Kresge lawn, doing psets on Killian Court, going to more events by the Lab for Chocolate Science, visiting Lansdowne Street, seeing the Boston Pops, and cheering/jeering at a Celtic’s game. It means inviting my professors to lunch and getting to know more of my classmates. It means doing whatever it takes to check every last box on my “101 Things To Do Before Graduating from MIT.” And, lucky for you, it also means blogging more frequently. But, you have to tell me what you want to hear. Want to hear more about my adventures in Boston or my class schedule? Ask and I shall try my darndest to answer (except for “How do I get into MIT?” I still don’t know what to say to that one.)

This past week, I tried to implement my new “carpe diem” mentality. Last Thursday, I went to Boston to attend counselor training for Camp Kesem. As I wrote in a previous entry, Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids whose parents have/had cancer. It is an opportunity these kids to forget their worries by just having fun and meeting other people who have had the same experiences. This was MIT’s first year hosting the camp, and I think that it’s safe to declare that it was a huge success. Obviously, the logistics behind establishing a camp can be quite difficult – facilities must be arranged, counselors must be interviewed and chosen, and campers must be recruited – but I think it is safe to say that our first year was a huge success. Before I go on, I would like to thank Daniel Hawkins, Diana Gallagher, and Shaye Storm for their generous donations that helped make the camp possible.

So on August 12, the day camp started, I assumed my “camp identity” of Smile (everyone makes up a name for themselves and none of the campers knew our real names. I chose my camp name because it’s an anagram of my real name and I’m almost always smiling.) I spent the next five days with sixteen other MIT students, three administrators, and thirteen campers at a beautiful facility in Rhode Island. From 7:30 am to 10:30 pm, we sang camp songs, rotated between activities (drama, arts and crafts, sports, and nature), swam in the lake (the third cleanest in Rhode Island, I was told. It turns out that there are only five lakes in Rhode Island to begin with…!), played games, ate smores, and much more. I was responsible for arts and crafts, so I sat at a picnic table nestled between the trees and beside the lake and glued, cut, and drew for about three hours a day. I’m pretty sure that I’ll never get all the glitter out of my pants and hair (pictures of Julio and Vivian ’09 doing arts and crafts below, all courtesy of Dan ‘10. Unfortunately, I can’t put up pictures of the campers.)

Some other highlights include our evening “cabin chats,” giant volleyball games (I broke the net on my first serve… though in my defense I never claimed to be athletic), meteor showers, and pie eating competitions. All of the campers were not only incredibly mature and conscientious, but also talented and hilarious. It was an experience that I think we will all remember. Hopefully next year we will have even more campers, and keep us in mind if you are interested in becoming a counselor!

After Camp Kesem, I spent a few days in New York City before heading back home. The weather was incredible and I got to indulge in three of my favorite activities- walking around, eating at cafes, and window shopping. Thanks to my gracious hosts in NYC, I got to see new parts of it like Brooklyn (including Coney Island, where I ate a Nathan’s hot dog at the original location) and the Seaport District (which looks exactly like Boston’s Faneuil Hall.) ‘Twas awesome, and now it’s time to buckle down for one last week of my summer internship.

14 responses to “A grab bag filled with a magical camp and the Big Apple”

  1. Cody Deanc says:

    This is a great post! It is awesome that you counsel at Kesem! Best of luck during your senior year. I look forward to hearing of your endeavors. As a high school sophomore, I love to hear how “college life” will be!

    Best Wishes Always, Cody

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I just had a few questions about being premed at MIT. First, will medical schools accept AP credit if you place out of 8.01? (Or, if you place out of 8.01, should you take 8.02 and another physics course?) How do you meet the physics lab requirement for med school at MIT? Will medical schools accept MITs semester of 5.11x in place of a full year of general chemistry? What about only one semester of 7.01x? Finally, I know your major made it easier, but in general, how difficult is it to meet the premed requirements if you’re taking an unflexible major?

    I know a lot of times, these questions can only be answered on a school-by-school basis, but what have you found so far? Thanks!

  3. Melis says:

    Anonymous: Regarding AP credit. Let’s take Johns Hopkins as an example, because they seem to be the most strict with course requirements.
    Math: they want one year of calculus, AP credit is acceptable if MIT gives you credit for it. Chemistry: You need to take something more than just AP chem, i.e. 5.11x + 5.310 (chem lab). Organic chemistry: 5.12 and 5.13 or 5.07/7.05 (both biochem)
    Biology: AP credit not accepted. You should take 7.01x and 7.02 (bio lab).
    Physics: AP credit can be used. 8.02 TEAL counts as a lab class.

  4. Paul '11 says:

    Amazing post, Melis – or should I say Smile? smile

    Anyway, wow. From NIH to Camp Kesem to med school applications (yikes!), sounds like a busy but fantastic summer. Thank you for blogging about Kesem…what a worthy cause. I think it’s great that there are so many ways MIT students are using their talents to serve others. It’s sort of an intimidating standard, but you’ve definitely convinced me to look into counseling at Kesem, or at the very least finding my own way to help out.

  5. I have the same problem, actually. I always start to miss things once I’m leaving. I’m just really starting to enjoy and appreciate my high school now that I’m a senior.

    Anyway, as for ideas for blog posts, I’d really like to hear what your “101 Things To Do Before Graduating from MIT” are (even if there’s not really 101 of them).

    Let’s see… What are your favorite places to hang out? Any quiet spaces you like to just go and think? And tell us about your favorite professors and why they’re your favorites and class experiences that have made you laugh.

    And pictures! Pictures are always good!

  6. Christina says:

    Yay! I have so many pictures but I don’t know where to safely/privately put them all.

    Great blog and it was so much fun counseling with you, dear Smile. See you in a week or two!

  7. Karen says:


    The “101 Things To Do Before You Graduate” is actually a list that MIT gives to the freshman.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks… So the rule of thumb seems to be, if MIT gave you AP credit, med schools accept it? Also, chem and bio labs count as the other semester to complete the year? Also, what about if you opt out of TEAL to take something like 8.022? Or if you think you want to be premed, you should probably take TEAL?

  9. Wings '11 says:

    Thanks for the update, Melis! I remember loving the idea of Camp Kesem when you wrote about it, just before it started. I’m glad it went well!

    And I too only start to REALLY enjoy something when I realize it’s coming to an end – it takes me a while to get my groove =P

  10. Hawkins '12 says:

    Awesome! Thanks for blogging about this. Paul’s right, it is a pretty intimidating standard. I don’t think I would make a very good counselor… The only anagram my name makes is denial. =P

    Hmmm, what to write about… What to do in Cambridge/Boston! I’m visiting next month, and I want to know where to go and what to do if I only have a few days. =)

    You could generate a very large list of things to do before you graduate just by finding the right publication… Break every rule in the book! I didn’t say that. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

  11. Eoin says:

    I love Nathan’s hot dogs!!!

  12. Chenyu '12 says:

    what a busy and wonderful summer you have!!!
    I am kinda scared by the sentence”I’m really only getting slightly more sleep than I do at school and my caffeine intake is far too high”…

  13. Chenyu says:

    I meant hopefully ’12…