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F=-kx by Kanokwan T. '25

spring break in nova scotia, nyc, and dc

the spring force, as expressed by Hooke’s Law

This past spring quarter, I felt like a spring. Specifically, like an undamped oscillator. My days swung wildly up and down. The more I pushed myself, the greater response force I’d feel on my energy levels. Calmness remained at a distance. But, as I approached spring break, assignments finally wound down and days became less packed. My graph dampened into a steady state.

graph of a damped and undamped oscillator
graph of a damped oscillator

Nine days of spring break: what to do with them? I feel like I’ve experienced both ends of activity levels: doing all the things and doing mostly nothing. Last year, my friends and I packed our bags for a bustling East Coast adventure. This year, we went on a Canadian road trip and spent our days chilling in the woods. Here are the tales of how both of these trips came together:

2023: New York, NY and Washington, DC

Last spring, we (Asal V. ‘25, Caitlin O. ‘25, Isaac L. ‘25, and I) had an ambitiously packed schedule. Our agenda came together by reaction. During the winter, I found out through the news that the Phantom of the Opera, the longest running Broadway show of all time, was ending its 35-year run. So, we booked tickets and set on going to New York to catch the production in its final days. That was all we planned to do. But then…

A few weeks after making that decision, I got an email that I originally thought was a phishing scam but was actually a message from the White House. I think I had reason to raise an eyebrow because it requested for sensitive information like my social security number. I even forwarded it to my friends to ask if they, too, thought the email was suspicious. The email was an invitation to Washington, DC for a celebration of the team that worked on the 2020 Biden Presidential Campaign. Back then, I worked as a Community Organizing Fellow and, later on, Data Analyst for my home state of Nevada. I was really thrown off by the email because it came 2.5 years after my time on the team but, I guess, made sense because COVID-19 had finally become manageable. I was allowed to bring a few guests, so spring break made the most logistical sense. Suddenly, our group was tasked with hitting two major cities of the East Coast. 

Day 1 (3/24, Friday): Drive to New York

We (and by “we” I mean Caitlin)01 She‘s such a pro at driving. Also, Isaac wants me to add that he drove, like, 10% of it. drove from Boston to New York. I always enjoy long car rides with my friends. We blast tunes, indulge in snacks, and share stories. Some of my best laughs have happened while sitting in the back of a mini-van, slightly delirious from being in one space for such a long time. Every ride feels the same—like home. 

Day 2 (3/25, Saturday): Broadway

Our one big thing, which was the impetus for this leg of the trip, was to see Phantom of the Opera that evening. It felt like we were just filling in the rest of the day with things in anticipation of the show. We…

  1. Explored the Google store because Caitlin is a Google fanatic
  2. Bought an Apple Airtag to stow in our car because we were paranoid the car would be stolen. We were staying in the cheapest reasonable Airbnb we could find, which meant being in a sketchy neighborhood.
  3. Visited Stonewall Inn for fun
  4. Thrifted some fun clothing pieces at the Buffalo Exchange
  5. Stocked up on stationary at MUJI
  6. Saw Phantom of the Opera <3!!! Caitlin and I saw Phantom while Isaac and Asal elected to see Hamilton. Phantom was simply breathtaking.

2 women in a theater

Day 3 (3/26, Sunday): Comedy Show

We had a more-chill day after such a packed day prior. We…

  1. Ate fantastic Malaysian food
  2. Walked the High Line, which is a beautiful train track turned public walkway
  3. Tagged along with Isaac to B&H, a film store, because he needed something for his camera. There was a really cool open transportation system in the ceiling where you could put a package into a machine on one end of the store and have it transported to the other. 
  4. Naively sat in the front row of Sunday Sqool Comedy, a comedy show by Ashley Gavin (who used to work at MIT!), during which Isaac got roasted. We all had watched her TikToks and were amazed we got to see her in-person. 

Day 4 (3/27, Monday): Quintessential NYC

This was our last day in New York, so we made sure to check off quintessential New York activities. We…

  1. Ate lunch with MIT Concourse professors and staff
  2. Perused the MET
  3. Strolled Central Park
  4. Visited the 9/11 Memorial
  5. Wandered The Oculus, a mall inside the World Trade Center
  6. Had dinner in Chinatown

Then, Cait drove us to Washington, DC, we settled into our new home for a few days, and drifted off to bed. 

Day 5 (3/28, Tuesday): White House

The scheduling for our White House visit had a short, rigid time window, so the planning of this leg of the trip revolved around it. We came in aware that most museums—even the really huge ones—are free, so had a full-on museum day. We…

  1. Toured the White House. It was very cool to be able to actually walk inside after hearing about it our entire lives. It’s kinda small when you compare it to other Washington buildings.
  2. Ate breakfast at Founding Farmers DC
  3. Met up with our MIT friend Jade D. ‘25 and enjoyed the cherry blossoms. This time of year was peak bloom, so it was especially nice to see the flowers.
  4. Visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture
  5. Visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  6. Visited the Washington National Cathedral


Day 6 (3/29, Wednesday): Museums

The weather was beautiful, so we decided to spend much of this day outdoors and soak it all in. We…

  1. Visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
  2. Visited the National Gallery of Art
  3. Went paddleboarding in Tidal Basin
  4. Frolicked in tulip gardens at the Floral Library
  5. Laid in the grass in front of the Washington Monument
  6. Perused the Lincoln Monument


Day 7 (3/30, Thursday): Capitol Tour

Several months ahead of our trip, I contacted my Congressional representative to see if they could show my friends and I around. Their office kindly arranged for one of their staff members to give us a private tour, which was the centerpiece of our day. We…

  1. Toured the US Capitol, during which we also got to go inside the House Chamber!!!02 fyi no photos were allowed We didn’t realize that was part of the tour. It was surreal. My policy minor heart was pumping. Politicians that we normally only saw in news articles and videos were now right in front of us. The only thing between us and them was air. We even got to watch them vote and actually pass something. It was especially cool watching what groups they self-arranged in. I also didn’t fully understand that the house reps work together in the same big room. Like, they are working physically near their closest colleagues and fiercest opponents. We could’ve spent all day watching the chamber in action, but had to move on with our days. 
  2. Stopped by the Statue of Liberty, per Asal’s request, on our drive back to Boston.

We did so much and had so much fun but, boy, were we so tired. I’m glad we embarked on the journey together, but made a mental note to bring it down a few notches the following year. 

2024: Nova Scotia, Canada

We learned our lesson from last year. We needed to take an actual break. Instead of doing many things, we decided to do essentially nothing. This year, we were the same crew plus Malachi M. ‘25! While planning for our trip, we searched for places we could get to by car and that were more woodsy. We’re more of a “cute cabin in the foggy forest” type-of-crowd than an “island beach getaway” type-of-crowd, at least for this year. A week prior to our planning meet-up, I discovered the song You’re So Vain by Carly Simon and Malachi discovered the song Fire & Flame by The Longest Johns, both of which were respectively our first exposures to the name “Nova Scotia.” I volunteered the idea of this place and, after ruminating amongst our options, we decided to take the province on. Our group found an adorable A-frame cottage tucked in the woods and right up next to a lake. Off to Canada we went…

Day 1 (3/25, Monday): Drive to Nova Scotia

We underestimated our endurance for the long drive. Google Maps said it would take 11.5 hours but, with our food stops and border control in-between, it took us 15 hours to get there. The drive up was beautiful: wistful fog that faded into endless rows of trees, soft rain trickling down, and an orange sun that gleamed in quaint ponds. When we reached the province of Nova Scotia, I frequently turned my head to look around, only finding endless darkness trailing behind us. It was opaquely black. We were, indeed, deep in the woods. 

I kept thinking “wow, this would be a good place to get murdered right now” which, of course, did not happen. I also kept finding myself thinking happy thoughts about my friends. Despite all the cold and foreignness of the weather around us, we were safe in our little pocket of warmth. In that car was an air of comfort and love. When not singing songs or telling tales, I looked around the car and thought about reasons why I loved each individual person. I’m really thankful for my friends.

We eventually arrived around 3am,03 2am Boston time because we had a time zone shift unloaded our car, and immediately knocked out. 

Day 2 (3/26, Tuesday): Errands

Because of our late arrival, we woke up very late the next day. We felt hungry and wanted to spend most of the day in, so we went to a diner, Walmart, and headed back home. The American diner was… questionable. It was inside of a gas station and took up half of the building’s interior. I think the youngest customer aside from us was probably in their 60s. We felt somewhat watched by everyone else because we were a young, diverse group, but not in a bad way. Just an “oh that’s new” kind of way. 

At Walmart, we spent too much time searching for basic foods. The girlies who live in cook-for-yourself dorms volunteered to cook dinner: Cait for today and Asal for tomorrow. After we got all food ingredients and some firewood, we headed back home. That night, we played Tetris and Street Fighter on Isaac’s Raspberry Pi, ate Penne a la Vodka pasta prepared by Cait, and watched Nimona on an outdoor movie projector while soaking in the Airbnb jacuzzi. I slept well that night. 

Day 3 (3/27, Wednesday): Lounging Around

We planned to go out and then we didn’t.

We, once again, woke up quite late. So late that we pushed our plans to go out to Halifax, the main city in Nova Scotia, to the following day. The only “outing” we had was visiting the nearest convenience store, buying firewood, and coming back home.

campfire setting next to a lake

Day 4 (3/28, Thursday): City of Halifax

We planned to go out and then we actually did! We…

  1. Ate lunch at Gangnam Korean BBQ
  2. Visited the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
  3. Grabbed pastries from Pan e Circo per recommendation by Isaac’s cousin, who works for the city of Halifax.
  4. Tasted ciders at Bulwark Cider House & Cafe per recommendation by Ceri Riley ’16. I knew she had been to Nova Scotia before, so I asked her for recs before we embarked on our trip. Though we couldn’t pursue most of the recs because we were staying in a different area that she was in, I’m glad we were able to check off one place.
  5. Went on a nature walk at Point Pleasant
  6. Ate dinner at an Italian place
  7. Played video games at home
  8. Watched Poor Things
4 people stood around a brick monument

they look so cute 🥺

Day 5 (3/29, Friday): Drive back to MIT

I’m currently sitting in the back of the car typing this out. This morning, we checked out at 11am and headed on our route home. Our ride so far has been mostly the same as the way in, but the fog is absolutely insane. I’m impressed by Cait’s driving. The fog was so dense that, at times, we could barely see beyond a few feet in front of the car. Snow started to heavily pour down after we passed the border. We’re 4 hours from home. 


On arrival, we’ll be dropped off one-by-one at our dorms and return to our normal, academic lives. We’ll miss the time we’ve had, though we’ll still continue to see each other basically every day. Travelling has a way of bonding friends: you experience the new with the old—foreign sights with familiar people. We’ll leave this trip with stories. As the sludge of the final stretch of the semester catches up to us, I’m confident that we will, together, make it through the oscillations of this coming spring. 

  1. She‘s such a pro at driving. Also, Isaac wants me to add that he drove, like, 10% of it. back to text
  2. fyi no photos were allowed back to text
  3. 2am Boston time because we had a time zone shift back to text