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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

And sometimes why? by Sam M. '07

A reality check on the state of my MIT blogging.

DID YOU KNOW? There is a free-food at mit dot edu mailing list, just for people who are interested in scavenging for free food in random locations at MIT?

For those of you just joining me, you might be wondering why my site is advertised as and yet consists pretty much entirely of pictures of me standing in front of various European landmarks.

Well, here’s why.

So I got to MIT three years ago and I found out that pretty much everybody is bilingual. No, really. A lot of people just seem to know another language because their parents or grandparents spoke it around the house. Also, a lot of upperclassmen are interested in foreign countries like Japan and China, so they end up taking those languages at MIT. But then you also find random people from Ohio or Utah or something who are fluent in Spanish or French or Italian for no apparent reason. David, my freshman year roommate, was a Mexican who went to school in Brazil. He spoke perfect (if sometimes profane) English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and also French (just for fun).

So sometime over the next two years, I decided that if I didn’t learn a foreign language, I would be an utter failure as a person. I was losing my tenuous grasp of high school Spanish day by day, and all I had really known to begin with was “I went to the mall and bought a pretty shirt.” So, in my fifth semester at MIT, I enrolled in German I. My high school math teacher had told me that every scientist should know German in order to be able to read international journals, and I am easily influenced by casual suggestions from other people.

Language classes at MIT meet, in general, four days a week for one hour per day. Depending on the semester, there is usually a 9 AM option and an afternoon option. Since only 32 classes at MIT out of over 1000 start before 10 AM, it’s usually not too difficult to fit a language class into your already busy schedule. I have had the fortune of taking at least one 9 AM class every semester since I got to MIT.

On the third or fourth day of class, Dr. Sigrid Berka came in, wearing boots, as she nearly always does. She explained the MISTI MIT-Germany Program to us. She said that there was a super-special information session that afternoon where previous program participants would tell us all about their internships, and there would also be free pizza (ding!). I had really wanted to check out industry work this summer–I had spent the past two working on UROPs at MIT, and while that’s a great opportunity too, I didn’t want to become too strictly focused on academics. Also, free plus pizza equals crazy delicious.

At the meeting, speakers who had worked in Germany last summer told us all about the many, many European countries they had visited and how wonderful Germany was. Afterwards, I set up a meeting with Dr. Berka and told her that I was a chemical engineer. She immediately gave me the names of 4 companies to apply to (BASF, Altana Pharma, Merck, and Bayer), and told me to hand in my resume, cover letters, and faculty recommendations as soon as possible. With Mitra’s help, I wrote some passable cover letters (in English) that night, and applied in early November. Two weeks later, I was celebrating that one wonderful day when I got accepted. Having summer plans 5 months in advance of most of the rest of MIT is really a beautiful thing.

Now, my credentials are okay, but the real reason that I got accepted is probably that Dr. Berka is awesome at her job, which is basically just making connections between German companies and finding internships for people. Yesterday, she was even at Bayer to work out a partnership such that even more MIT students could find internships (there are 3 this year). Out of about 100 MISTI interns abroad this term, more than 50 are in Germany. Other countries in which you can find internships include Spain, Italy, France, China, Japan, India, and Mexico. The countries require various levels of fluency–Germany required two semesters, which I had, while India doesn’t need any.

Now that I’m in Germany, I’m applying the “enjoy the power and beauty of your youth” concept and attempting to see every single city in Western Europe in the space of 12 weekends plus 6 vacation days. So, between my other MIT friends here and I, we’re seeing K√ґln, Koblenz, Mainz, Stuttgart, Nice, Munich, Bonn, Berlin, Barcelona, D√Љsseldorf, Brussels, Zurich, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Paris, London, and God help me I want to get to Montreux, Switzerland. Unexpectedly, we also made tons of friends in our dorm and try to hang out with them all the time, too. It’s a shame that I can only be here for 3 months, because the environment at home–living in a dorm with young people from dozens of different countries–really rocks also.

So, that’s what this summer’s blogging has to do with MIT. I’m in Europe through the MISTI program, practicing my German and visiting as many cities as humanly possible by spending my entire summer salary and maybe dipping into reserves that I earned as a deskworker in Burton-Conner or in my turkey-oil alchemy UROP. Basically, MIT rocks, Dr. Sigrid Berka rocks, Germany rocks, it rocks to be Sam M***** at this point in time, and I want to show you with this blog how awesome my summer is because of MIT. I’ll tell you all about MIT student life when I get back to Boston in September and resume my life as an MIT student.

Until then, I can acknowledge some of your comments, too… if you commented recently with a query or intriguing statement, I went back and responded to it!

7 responses to “And sometimes why?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr Pibb and Redvines equals crazy delicious.

    I have noticed your affinity for that video. smile

  2. Jared says:

    Aww… no Vienna? You should definitely try and hit Vienna if you have a weekend. It’s an absolutely stunning city.


  3. Dinyar says:

    yay for vienna! (this comes from me as a very unbiased citizen of said city.. :D )

  4. Nicole says:

    Wow, I had a math teacher that told me the same exact thing. And like you, I signed up for German because of it – unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented me from ever actually taking the class, so still to this day I do not even speak a word of Deutch. But I do like Farin Urlaub’s music (despite the fact that I have no clue what he’s saying). ^_^

  5. Dinyar says:

    Nicole: Yeah, I enjoy his music as well and some of the lyrics are quite amusing.. :D

    Sam: I just realized you had non-MIT people in your blogroll – yay for fafblog! And by the way: Ann’s blog doesn’t exist anymore and David’s is linked to an old adress.

  6. Mike says:

    What are you thinking about doing for grad school?

  7. Sam says:

    Anonymous — Hey now, I’ll kill your dog for fun, so don’t push me.

    Jared — NO! Unfortunately, I really wanted to get into Vienna, or at least Salzburg, to see some kind of musical performance, but it just got put in the bottom drawer during our planning stages.

    Nicole — Well, I will seek out his music, but I think my Deutsch is so poor that I will have no idea what he is saying either. But I understood “Warum bist du…?” in this German rap song the other day.

    Dinyar — Yes, thank Shana for introducing me to fafblog. I actually hadn’t updated or even thought about that template in almost a year, so thanks for reminding me! You get two gold stars.

    Mike — For this comment you got your own entry, and a congressional medal of freedom.