[Guest Entry from Kelsey Kennedy ’12]
When I sat down late last April in front of my computer and went through the process of telling MIT that I would, in fact, be attending their school in the fall, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. MIT is, well, MIT, right? After reading the blogs for years and visiting campus during CPW, I thought I had MIT figured out.
Not so much.
I mean, reading the blogs and all that certainly helped. There are just a few things I learned this semester that make me wish I had paid a bit more attention when I was warned about them.
1. The weather in Boston is mildly ridiculous.
And when I say “mildly ridiculous,” what I actually mean is “incredibly fickle and annoying and COLD.”
I remember my parents jokingly asking me to consider Stanford a little bit more seriously so they could visit me in a warmer locale than Boston. Unfortunately for them, I am currently sitting in my room in Simmons, and it’s about 22 degrees outside. Ultimately, weather shouldn’t make or break your decision!
When I arrived at MIT, I knew it was going to be cold. I had packed my tried-and-true winter gear (a wool coat and an insulated Carhartt jacket) that had kept me warm and toasty back home in Oregon. I remember my first night walking back to Simmons after hosting my radio show at 2:30 AM – I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to get out of the wind more in my life. While my thick, wooly pieces of outerwear had been fine at home, they don’t cut it here. There’s one reason why: wind. No matter how thick your jacket may be, or how many sweatshirts you have on, they are no match for the terrible wind that whips through Boston and Cambridge. I’m not lying when I say that the best purchase I’ve made in the last year is a wind-proof jacket from Eastern Mountain Sports. Now, I’m no longer a shivering mass of frozen-ness whenever I go outside. Moral of the story: wind-proof jackets are your friend.
2. You actually need study skills at MIT.
Okay, so this is kind of a given. I just don’t pick up on this stuff.
When I was in high school, I was able to get by without actually having to do work. At the time, it felt like I was doing a lot of homework. Looking back, I rarely used any sort of study skills. Little did I know that would come back to haunt me.
Small things add up here. Where you study can make a huge difference, for instance. At the beginning of the semester, I dutifully sat at my desk in my room, or in the study in the hall. After a while, I realized that I was not accomplishing anything – it was far too tempting to just sit and socialize. Eventually I learned that if I went to the library and worked in complete silence for several hours straight, I could actually knock out huge chunks of problem sets in one sitting. I’m not saying that this is the way to go – you certainly have to figure out what works for you. The faster you can determine that, the better off you’ll be.
3. A social life is important.
Work-play balance is actually legitimate!
I will admit up front that there were portions of this past semester where I was completely miserable. So miserable that I even uttered the word “transfer” in a phone conversation with my parents. My dad’s response was, “… make sure you schedule in some time to have fun.” At first, I didn’t really listen – I had so many p-sets to finish! After a while, I realized that my dad was on to something. Ice skating, going to the movies, and grabbing lunch or dinner were simple things I started to do with friends that made me dramatically happier. Evidence of this came in many forms: higher p-set grades, increased productivity, never uttering the word “transfer” again, and happier phone calls home. Sometimes, it’s too easy to forget that you need to be happy with life in general to be happy with your work, and MIT is a place where this effect seems to be amplified!