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four weeks in the life by Paolo A. '21

a google calendar time capsule

I was taking a look at my calendar for next week, and I thought that it looked utterly barren. (Thanks, quarantine.) So I thought of something fun to do — go through (approximately) the same week every year that I’ve been at MIT, take a look at my Google Calendar, and give some commentary about the things that I am (or was) up to. Without further ado:

2021

february 2021 google calendar

Yeah, uh. There’s not exactly much going on here. Some things on my calendar of note (aka, all of the things on my calendar):

  • Science Bowl: we have a weekly meeting on Sundays to help plan our competitions! With our regional happening in a couple of weeks, there’s a lot of work to get done…

  • ESP Retreat: Every semester, ESP has a retreat to talk about the direction of our club and other high-level issues that are hard to address in the middle of the semester and running programs. These retreats (which usually happen in-person, but is virtual at the moment because of the pandemic) are a great way to spend dedicated time thinking about ESP and to bond with other members of our club. One of my best memories at MIT was heading outside at 2AM my sophomore fall retreat and seeing shooting stars for the first time because we’d gone hundreds of miles from any cities.
  • Meeting with Parag: Dr. Parag Pathak is going to supervise my thesis about the lottery that assigns students to classes at ESP programs! I’m super excited to have him as a thesis advisor because he’s done some incredible work in helping to improve both NYC and Boston’s school assignment systems. It’s still very much in the works, but I hope to talk more about my work and the process of (independent) research soon!

  • Jeopardy!: I’ve started watching the show every weekday and keeping track of my Coryat scores and how I do in different categories. It’s helping me identify my weak areas, some of which I already knew, like films and TV and culture.

To be clear, I am busy doing things right now. They include:

  • Working on my thesis: I’m having trouble with implementing code to access data for my thesis right now. It’s involved multiple reinstalls of Python and virtual machines and code that stopped being supported years ago, which is a struggle because I am not a course 6. Ack.

  • Writing blogs: aka, what I’m doing right now!

  • Preparing to TA: I’m TAing 14.02 this semester, which is super exciting! I love teaching, and am spending some time reviewing the content before we get into the semester.

  • More science bowl work: There’s a lot of emails to be sent and things to be coordinated…

  • Relaxing: With the semester starting so soon (under 2 weeks now, aaaaaa) I need to take some time to relax and recuperate before getting into the swing of things. Speaking of which…

  • Deciding on my classes: It’s my final semester, and I’m still not exactly sure what I’ll be taking. Oops.

Anyways, that’s enough about the very empty week that’s coming up for me. Moving back in time…

2020

february 2020 google calendar

Ooh, a much busier schedule. Some highlights:

  • Classes: You might note that there were classes this time last year. This is because MIT delayed the 2021 spring semester 2 weeks to avoid move-in happening during winter, a worse time for COVID. This specific week in 2020 was also the week that I decided to drop 21H.102, American History since 1865 (evidenced by its presence on my Tuesday schedule, but not Thursday), because my semester was way too busy.

  • Will you be my ESP Valentine?: In 2020, I continued a tradition started in 2019 where ESP members went to Texas Roadhouse on Valentines’ Day. Not for an actual Valentines’ Day celebration, though. From our email announcement about the event:

    Last year, Evan and I invited ESP to follow our hearts (and stomachs) on a bread-with-cinnamon-butter-filled-Valentines’ Day01 seriously i want texas roadhouse bread so bad i should look up how to make it by going to Texas Roadhouse. It’s time for us all to renew our vows of love (for delicious bread) by heading back.

    Seriosuly, the bread is so good.

  • Burchard: Last year, I participated in the Burchard Scholar program at MIT, which “brings together distinguished members of the faculty and promising MIT sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, or social sciences”. In-person, Burchard brought us all to a restaurant in Cambridge to eat yummy food and hear a seminar or other presentation by a member of the MIT faculty. Unfortunately, these dinners didn’t last too much longer (with COVID kicking us off a month later), but I enjoyed them while they lasted.

  • Science Bowl Buzzer Pickup: For Science Bowl, we needed to lug 24 boxes of buzzers and equipment from the MIT SeaGrant office (who help with the Blue Lobster Bowl — we work with them closely!) to Next House in preparation for our regional happening a few weeks later. This involved packing an Uber XL to the brim with these boxes, unloading them into my room, and stacking them in my dorm room to the ceiling so that I could still move around a little bit. Good times.

  • Rehearsal: Before we all got kicked off last semester, I was a part of Next Act, a fully student-run musical put on in Next’s Lobby! We were rehearsing Shrek, until, well, you know. It was fun while it lasted c:

  • AlphaStar meetup: I taught for AlphaStar Math Camps (and their offshoots) for a few years in high school and college, and loved it — it helped spark my love of education and teaching that continues today. One of the organizers, Dr. Ali Gurel, always brings a few teams to MIT for HMMT, a math competition run by students at MIT and Harvard, and holds a meetup for alumni and staff from their programs. I always try to stop by to say hi to Dr. Ali and other people that I’ve worked with c:

2019

february 2019 google calendar

Oh man, look at all of the colors.02 if you couldn’t tell, my favorite color is orange. i have loved it since i was a very very smol child and will never stop. orange is my main google calendar color and many secondary ones, too

  • More classes! Probably the biggest highlight here is SUP 427, Analyzing Education Policy, a class that I cross-registered at Harvard for! This class was run out of Harvard Kennedy School, and also the Harvard Ed School, and also the Harvard Economics department. This was one of my favorite classes that I’ve taken, and I still find myself referencing some of my notes and papers we read.

  • Texas Roadhouse: Part 1 of the annual tradition that I hope continues after leaving MIT. The bread is just so good. If you disagree, I regret to inform03 on second thought, there is no regret. i am overjoyed to inform you about how wrong you are you that you are wrong.

    screenshot of tweet: "my biggest flaw is eating 27 texas roadhouse rolls before the actual meal comes out."

    is this not the most relatable thing ever

  • Ring Premiere: Every class year at MIT has its own class ring designed by people in that year, nicknamed the Brass Rat. There’s been a lot written about this before, so I’ll defer to the bloggers of the past here c:

  • Lots of random hanging out with friends: There’s dinner with someone (IDK who with … if I’m friends with you IRL please check your calendars to see if it was you!), Haydn, Janice, Linda, Jenna, and also lots of impromptu hanging out that didn’t end up on my calendar. I’m so bad at doing these hangouts virtually — but trying to be better this semester.

  • Group work / psetting: MIT students spend a lot of time working with other people on assignments, and it is wonderful. Part of the joy of MIT is being able to work with people to figure out tough pset problems together. I love it.

  • Chair meeting: In 2019, I was one of ESP’s chairs (alongside Sarah W. ‘21), helping to think about the club at a high level and support all of our program directors and operations. We had weekly meetings (at many different places around campus, in this case, the upper floors of 66) to think about how ESP as a whole was doing.

2018

february 2018 google calendar

And now back all the way to my freshman year.

  • Cluedumps: You may have seen a million “cluedumps” in green throughout all of these calendars. As semesters and programs get underway, ESP holds cluedumps where newly elected directors, officers, and subdirectors04 people who are in charge of a smaller part of a program, such as teacher check-in or class supplies or ordering food are told about their position by people who have held it in the past. They’re a way that ESP helps knowledge transfer from one generation to the next so that in the future, people can help ESP function even better. I only went to one of these (walk-ins, which I did the previous semester), but they’re all on my calendar because ESP has a shared calendar with all ESP events.

  • Teacher Orientations: Also for ESP,05 by now have you figured out that i like esp and have done many things for it lol and love it very many I was one of the Directors of Teaching Resources (DoTR), which runs teacher orientations for first-time teachers for programs. As I mentioned earlier, I love education and teaching, and this was one of the first ways I followed that passion at MIT.

  • Bid Dinner: Back in the day, I strongly considered joining a fraternity at MIT. In the fall of my freshman year, I ended up not receiving a bid offer from a fraternity that I went to many events for, a rejection that definitely got me down for a while. In the spring, a different frat offered me a bid, but I ended up turning it down for reasons that I don’t actually remember all that much. Many of my friends at MIT have really enjoyed the fraternities that they’ve joined, and found good friends with them. At the same time, know that there are also many people at MIT who haven’t, and have still found close friends and social groups elsewhere c:

  • Classes: Spring 2018 was my “major exploration” semester, taking classes in 4 different departments. One of the highlights was 2.00B, Toy Product Design, where teams of 4-5 design a toy from scratch. I was on Team Hippo, which designed Light Splat, which is best described as a combination of laser tag and IRL Splatoon.

  • Archery PE: This was the second PE class that I took, and also a part of the Pirate License sequence.06 i’ll never finish because i need sailing and covid has kicked us off campus so RIP MIT awards students an official “Pirate License” if they take PE classes in Archery, Sailing, Fencing, and Rifle/Pistol. We also granted Matt Damon an honorary Pirate License07 update, 2/6/21: turns out this idea stemmed from one of my friends, Marianne O. ’19, along with one of her friends Sarah F. ’19! they came up with the idea at like 2am, looked up who they needed to talk to to make it happen, found out that Eric Grimson, 6.01 lecturer, was chair of the commencement committee, went up to ask him a question after lecture, and he said “huh, we haven’t thought about that” and a few months later it happened! for his role in The Martian (a very nerdy movie and book you should all read!).


Welp, we’re already at my freshman year. Hard to believe that first one was 3 years ago. Hope you enjoyed looking at a time capsule of my MIT experience via my Google Calendar c:

  1. seriously i want texas roadhouse bread so bad i should look up how to make it back to text
  2. if you couldn’t tell, my favorite color is orange. i have loved it since i was a very very smol child and will never stop. orange is my main google calendar color and many secondary ones, too back to text
  3. on second thought, there is no regret. i am overjoyed to inform you about how wrong you are back to text
  4. people who are in charge of a smaller part of a program, such as teacher check-in or class supplies or ordering food back to text
  5. by now have you figured out that i like esp and have done many things for it lol and love it very many back to text
  6. i’ll never finish because i need sailing and covid has kicked us off campus so RIP back to text
  7. update, 2/6/21: turns out this idea stemmed from one of my friends, Marianne O. ’19, along with one of her friends Sarah F. ’19! they came up with the idea at like 2am, looked up who they needed to talk to to make it happen, found out that Eric Grimson, 6.01 lecturer, was chair of the commencement committee, went up to ask him a question after lecture, and he said “huh, we haven’t thought about that” and a few months later it happened! back to text