Time flies when you’re having fun.
Time also flies when you are scrambling to do well in all of your classes while not losing your sanity.
It’s easy to lose track of how much time has passed when you have so many other things on your mind, and so much has happened between now and April 11th, which was the last time I posted something. Namely, the semester came to a close, I packed up all of my belongings in under 3 hrs, and flew across the country for California where I am currently lying on a colorful checkered blanket in my backyard, diligently flicking ants out of my personal space when they get a little too close.
I have decided that I will be honing my laying-motionless-on-a-sofa and stuffing-my-face-with-food skills over the one and a half weeks that I am home, and as such, I will be able to devote the appropriate attention and time to documenting some of the more interesting or noteworthy experiences that have occurred since I last appeared in any capacity on the internet. Though I do intend to write additional posts this week regarding specific things that happened this past semester, I thought I would close the year out first with this post. And so, without further ado:
Goodbye and Good Riddance: A list of things that I am happy to be parting with (and a companion list of caveats)
1. Being on the meal plan
Living in Maseeh has what I suppose could be considered the added convenience of having a dining hall on the first floor. Wow, virtually instant access to food and deliciousness right at my fingertips!
Eh, not exactly.
I’ve heard from visiting students and parents alike that in fact the quality of food at the dining halls is quite good, perhaps even worthy of an “exceeds expectations” when it comes to mass produced, cafeteria style fare, but being forced to subscribe to 12 meals a week can take its toll on any unsuspecting students’ palette. Perhaps it is the monotony of eating at the same place every night, but any excitement that the words “pizza” or “noodles” might have once conjured is gone, replaced with a begrudging acceptance. I’ll admit that I’ve been spoiled by the vast array of options available to me in California and by the home cooking that I’ve come to miss exponentially so, but for someone who derives a great deal of happiness from a well-cooked meal, I have no qualms with saying goodbye to mandatory dining plans. In fact, I’m excited to be living in Boston this summer where I will have the freedom to cook for myself and explore Cambridge and Boston.
2. Stressing about lab class (and classes in general)
Laboratory Fundamentals in Biological Engineering (20.109) was the hardest class that I took this semester. Clocking in at 15 units, the class consisted of two one-hour lectures, two four-hour wet labs, and barrels of stress-inducing assignments.
At the end of the year, we had a “party” of sorts in which the class devoured burritos and guacamole while providing feedback to the teaching staff. It was during this hour that we aired our grievances and learned that in fact our teachers had purposefully thrown us into the deep end of scientific writing with the thought that by being forced to write or fail, we would inevitably work our butts off to survive the semester.
This swim or die mentality is a fount of stress for overworked undergraduates. I can recall with uncomfortable detail the feeling of staring at an blank computer screen with facts and ideas bouncing around in my mind but with no idea how to transfer them onto paper. I’ve never written in a scientific capacity before so the flow of an abstract, a background, results, discussions, methods, figures, and a conclusion were foreign to me. We were not given many examples to go off of and each subsequent graded assignment came back colorfully awash with red corrections, suggestions, and organizational feedback.
I am not going to miss writing assignments blind, hoping that this time what I was writing would garner the approval of our communications instructors. I tried referring to online publications, but the stylistic choices were too varied, each scientist opting to include or exclude different facts or to present their methods in increasingly different manners. The only solution – and I recommend this step be followed immediately, rather than later as I only then realized – was to go to the teachers before the final assignment was due with a draft and ask for their feedback early on so that revisions could be made.
Trying to write the bulk of a thirteen page report in the last 24 hours is not strongly recommended, and in fact is most vehemently discouraged. With my second lab report due at 5pm on Monday, I settled in on Sunday night around 10pm with only an introduction and a general idea of how I wanted to go about designing my figures and writing up all results, discussions, and conclusions. I made it to 5:01 pm by the skin of my teeth, submitting my assignment on the dot, my mind skittering around like water droplets in a hot pan. But there was little time to relax as I still had a bunch of psets and an exam looming on the horizon.
It’s a rather awful coincidence that students encounter more often than we really ought to when assignments and exams from different classes collide in the same week (let’s not even mention the same day) with the resulting shower of metaphorical sparks indicative of increased stress levels, either because you’ve spent so much time planning the perfect schedule that puts you ahead of the curve, or you’ve found yourself in the rather unfortunate position of drowning in work at the last minute.
Regardless of how things play out, we get our work done, and we swear up and down that we won’t let it happen again with the innocent confidence of headstrong youth. I don’t know, maybe there are people out there who have truly mastered the art of time management, who never find themselves staring down the clock and willing it to stop, or at the very least slow down; if so, can you please become my life coach and tell me all of your secrets? I can pay you in almonds (my parents sent me a bag of almonds that I have yet to eat. They are delicious). K thanks.
Though I wax poetic about the woes of waiting until the last minute, these instances are by no means defining moments in my time here. In fact, they make up probably less than 17% of my daily life (I made that number up, but you get the point). It’s just that the horrible sinking feeling is so unpleasant, it sticks with you like an unwanted odor and reminds you to try harder next time. Leaving another semester behind means at least three carefree months devoid of lab-report-induced stresses. Hallelujah.
3. My messy room
There is a clear correlation between the messiness of ones’ room and the quantification of ones’ stress levels. This is a true life fact proven by science and math and graphs and such.
I do not like messiness. I do not. But somehow, in the second half of this semester, I found my room in a rather unpleasant state of disarray, perhaps due to my post-studying induced apathy towards any activity that involved motion. Why clean when lying in bed or sitting with friends were much more appealing options? It wasn’t until I was tasked with packing and moving all of my belongings in under three hours that I finally had to face the very monster that I had created.
Fortunately, three hours before my flight was scheduled to take me back home to California, I looked upon the bare bones furniture in my half of the room, now clean by virtue of emptiness, and breathed a sigh of relief. Good riddance to you, messy room of spring semester. I hope we never meet again.
The companion list of caveats that I promised you in the beginning:
1*. I will admit that the omelets from McCormick dining hall were the highlights of my dining experience here at MIT. Fluffy eggs, gooey cheese, and an assortment of vegetables were a morning treat that I came to look forward to on Saturdays and Sundays. However, the one thing that I will miss most about dining is the time spent with friends, eating together after tennis practice or after hours of class. Though other aspects of our schedules often clashed with the abundance of other activities, psets, or meetings, eating was an inevitable commonality and thus allowed us to forget, momentarily, about our other obligations and come together to just sit, talk, and relax.
2*. Yes, I complain about classes, especially 20.109, but even I have to admit that I gained a lot of things from the experience. Having never written in a scientific setting, the swim or sink mentality forced myself to try what worked for me and to experiment with different approaches and styles. While this was a source of unending stress during the school year when the thought of doing well in class was also at the forefront of my mind, retrospectively, I feel more confident in my ability to translate scientific data onto paper. I am by no means an expert, but the learning experience was not lost on me.
Furthermore, if it were not for the four-hour labs, I would not have had the chance to work with the coolest lab partner ever. Shout-out to Tara ’17 and that one time you pushed me in a roll-y chair all the way through the infinite! (clicking here will take you to the fabulously unfiltered world of 20.109 students and our triumphs and tribulations, conveniently recorded because we were required to write-up blog posts as an assignment).
3*. Though I won’t be missing any of the messiness, I do feel some bond to the room that I spent two semesters in and will be living in again next year. You spend enough time in one place and it starts to feel a little bit more like home. I do most of my studying in my room, not to mention a lot of my mindless internet surfing or television watching, mainly because I am too lazy to pack all of my stuff up and move to a different location, but as such, I spend a good deal of time in my room. Plus, having lived on the same floor for two years and counting, I’ve come to know the people on my floor and the awesome GRTs (not to mention their delicious weekly study breaks). Next year I’ve decided to finally take the leap and abandon the banality of blindingly white walls for the more exciting prospect of decorations and the like, so perhaps it will finally start looking a little bit more like it feels: a home away from home.