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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

[Guest Post] Reflecting on the great memories of my freshman year by Cami M. '23

☀️ When life gives you lemons, share them with others >:) ☀️

First, I want to thank my amazing roommate-in-exile Cami for letting me write this blogpost. I love you and miss you a lot!
My name is Mariia01 Yes, my name is spelled with two 'i's because that's how it's officially translated from Ukrainian. and I am a first-year international student from Kyiv, Ukraine. I’ve recently declared my major, so now I’m officially 2A, planning to minor in Energy Studies and Theatre Arts. I wanted to share with you what makes MIT such a special place for me (hint: amazing people!). I also want to warn you that my perspective will be biased towards international students because I want to show my fellow international students and prefrosh02 gonna represent that 10% of the student body! how diverse, inclusive, and welcoming the MIT community is.

To the potential international applicants: MIT is an extremely welcoming place that accepts international students from all around the world regardless of their financial situation. MIT is need-blind towards international students, which means that MIT Admission officers look at your application and make a decision regardless of your household income, and only then calculate your expected cost of attendance. MIT is also known for its generous financial aid packages for international students. Do not let the high tuition or low admission rate discourage you from applying to MIT. This is an amazing place and if you’re still contemplating whether to apply, this is your sign. Do it!

Learn more about the admission process for international applicants here.

0. Some info about me

While I have studied in the US for two years before coming to MIT, I was still very much adapting to the new culture and life in general. I have always been a quiet type, and so I often find it difficult to make new friends. I find small talk with strangers extremely stressful, and because of my fear of saying the wrong thing, I don’t talk much unless I know a person really well. So when coming to MIT as a freshman, I was afraid of getting stuck with a small friend group and not getting to know all the amazing and smart people.

However, my experience at MIT has been more amazing than I could ever imagine. I’ve received so much support and awesome energy on campus from Day One.

I want to share my experience of being an international student at MIT and tell you about some of the most cherished friendships that I’ve developed here.

1. Orientation, FPOP

All new international students are invited on campus earlier than the rest of the incoming class. During the first week on campus, MIT organizes a lot of activities to prepare us for living in the US03 During my year, this included a lecture on cross-cultural collaboration and the introduction of the concept of 'ethnocentricity', which then became a running joke between the students. and to get to know each other before all of the craziness of FPOPs and Freshman Orientation activities. I was among the first 10 or so students to arrive on campus. So, we decided to meet up and explore the campus and Boston. There were the first students that I met on campus since I coMITted. We were all extremely excited about MIT and it was amazing to get to know that we had so much in common despite us all coming from different countries. This also was the day when I first met CJ (the blogger :D), with whom we later participated in an amazing FPOP — DEAPS Weather and Climate.

deaps fpop people on a trail

DEAPS-WC is cool

My advice to the incoming international students — try to get to know as many other students as possible during the international student orientation. You will be able to relate to these people in ways that you won’t with domestic students, and you will find support and advice during challenging times. You’re likely to end up in a variety of different clubs and classes, and you will benefit from having that network of friends all throughout the MIT community.

2. Dorm Life

Unlike most international students, I got to visit MIT during CPW. That experience was quite chaotic, but it definitely convinced me how much I enjoyed being part of the amazingly unique MIT community. Still, there’s been a lot that I didn’t know or simply didn’t understand about MIT — I couldn’t wrap my head around American sports04 Lucky for me, not many people at MIT follow sports. , I had no idea what people do in most majors (and where I would fit in), and a concept of fraternities / sororities was utterly alien to me.

During CPW, I didn’t explore dorms that much (because I was afraid of crowds and I didn’t want to intrude other people’s private living spaces – both completely unreasonable fears that I should’ve dismissed as soon as they popped up in my head). So, when the housing lottery form came out, I was essentially just starting to explore the differences between the dorms. I put Random as my first choice (because I wanted to live in a small dorm and cook for myself, but mostly because of its quirky name05 '-Where do you live?<br /> -In Random Hall.<br /> -Random?<br /> -Yeah.'<br /> Isn't it great to leave people confused? >:) Note: You should never choose your dorm just by its name. ). The day the results of the housing lottery came out, I got an email from my new roommate Cami. My first impression of Cami was: wow, she’s so extroverted, I hope we can get along.
Boy, did I underestimate how well we would get along!
Cami quickly became one of the closest people to me, and definitely by far the closest girl friend I’ve ever had. I am forever grateful that the gods of the housing lottery in Random decided to put us in one room. If you’re interested in learning more about our crazy adventures, you should read Cami’s blog posts :))

I also wanted to give a shoutout to all the frosh and upperclassmen who live on Loop. Sending love to my amazing Loop seniors: Michaye, you make delicious oatmeal cookies, you’re a good peer mentor. Emily, thanks for enjoying my cooking when you’re around and taking me to Veggie Galaxy. Talya, thanks for being a great ES.8012 and ES.8022 TA :) I also want to thank Colleen, our GRA, for her wise advice and delicious handmade dumplings. I am so sad that you all are leaving this year, but I look forward to seeing you do great things in life!

Cats of Loop are always there if you’re in desperate need of cuddles.

During orientation, I got to know people from an amazing fraternity known for their chaotic energy, coolest purple outfits, rubber duckies, squidsくコ:彡, and many more. I got to spend time in their house and I had some memorable interactions with people in the fraternity. They were extremely friendly and they made me feel welcome on campus. I enjoy seeing you guys on campus and catching up with you.
Greek and dorm life in MIT is special and everyone can find a place that they can call home. You may not be lucky from the first try, but you will find your living community at MIT.

3. Classes

I am part of ESG, a freshman learning community that is known for small group hands-on learning. Each year, it admits 50 first-year students that get to take GIRs in a small-group setting with ESG students and professors. ESG also has community lunches every Friday cooked by students for students, lots of big bean chairs for people to nap, and an active alumni network. This year, ESG celebrated its 50th anniversary and I got to act (for the first time in my life) in the ESG documentary.

The highlight of my experience in ESG were my physics classes. In the fall, I took 8.012 in ESG, a proof based mechanics class. Each week, I would spend 5 hours in class and more outside of class with the four other students in 8.012. We got along pretty well, and we would often work on psets together. Soon, we established a tradition of going to the dining hall together each week, where we’d get to know each other outside of the academic setting. In spring, we decided to take 8.022 together in ESG — the same five people, in the same room, with the same awesome professor. Because of the small class setting and hands-on labs and experiments, not only I got to learn physics in much more detail, but I also found great friends in that class.

Whenever someone wants to know about my experience in ESG, I often tell them the story that, in my opinion, highlights the best aspects of being part of ESG. This had been a particularly busy week for all of us in 8.012. A few days before the pset was due, we had to choose between getting lunch and going to the 8.012 office hours held by our professor. At the end of the class, Paola reminded us that she’s holding office hours after class, but as she saw us getting ready to leave because we had to get lunch, she convinced us to stay and and work on the pset as she made us lunch – pasta and vegetables with hummus – from the stuff she found in the ESG kitchen.
If you are in ESG, don’t expect your professors to make lunch for you, but definitely expect them to care about you wholeheartedly. You will get to know your professors and staff in ESG and you will find ESG lounge and classrooms to be your second home and safe space to study and just hang out.

mariia's 8.02 class

my 8.012 Class with The Physics Girl when she came over to hang out with us in class.

mariia's sketch of kayla

Me drawing Kayla during the last day of classes in the fall. Usually, I am the one sleeping in 18.02 (10 am is too early for me to think), but this time I decided to practice my drawing skills.

4. MTG and E33

Now, my favorite part of MIT — THEATRE. Yes, theatre has arguably been the most exciting part of this school year for me. Interestingly enough, I never appeared on stage in front of the audience during my time in theatre.

It’s fair to assume that everyone who knows me, knows how much I like to work in theatre. If we’ve ever talked, chances are that I mentioned theatre to you more than once. I don’t like acting, but I love pretty much every other aspect of theatre — lighting design, set design, building, stage painting, even sound design (Cici I am strongly considering learning how to theatre sound before you and Brandon graduate).

Before switching to chemistry and building a career in academia, my mother was a ballerina. She even got to perform in one of Europe’s most beautiful opera houses, Kyiv Opera House, when she was 16. So, when I was young, she would often take me to see operas and ballet performances. Then, I learned to appreciate the art of theatrical performance. However, the most exciting part of theatre for me has always been all the backstage stuff — I loved listening to my mother describe the daily lives of ballerinas whom we watched perform on stage and learning the technical terms that describe parts of theatre and set.
I first got to be a part of theatre production when I started studying in the US. The school that I attended in the US before coming to MIT had an absolutely unbelievable theatre department. There, I learned about the basics of carpentry, lighting and sound design, as well as some backstage jobs such as stage management. Theatre group felt like family to me and I knew that I would miss them tremendously when I go to MIT. I was also worried that I won’t be able to continue working on theatre productions. However, MIT has surprised me yet again.


Did you know that MIT has an amazing theatre department? Did you know that you can concentrate, minor, and even major in Theatre and Arts studies at MIT? Did you know that many of the professors at MTA work in world’s largest theatres and opera houses, including Broadway theatres?

During my first semester at MIT I got to know people at MTA and work as an overhire, a paid student worker, installing and striking lights for the fall show. I am also currently taking Set Design class in the same department. The most enjoyable parts of the class is designing and building set design models for that class, as well as getting to talk to the world famous set designers and playwrights.

Student Theatre Groups (primarily MTG).

Did you know that MIT has two completely student-run theatre groups (Shakespeare Ensemble and MTA)? Did you know that there, you get to design, produce, choreograph, and perform in the shows?

Each semester at MIT so far, I’ve been working at MTG on theatre production. In the fall, I was an Assistant Technical Director for A Chorus Line. In the beginning, I was thoroughly intimidated by the close-knit community of MTG, but I was immediately welcomed by the community.

One of my biggest responsibilities during the production has been building the curtain drop system. Just like many other complicated set pieces, this one would only appear at the very end of the show and would remain on stage for a total of two minutes. Just like many other expensive and laborious things in the show06 hi, matching tuxedos for the finale. , this would take an absurd amount of time and effort to make for the time it spends on stage. I would come to the last fifteen minutes of each performance to see the curtain drop. I loved my curtain drop. The curtain drop was like a child to me.

Among many instances of working on the set for A Chorus Line (see: a curtain drop), there is one time I found particularly memorable and bonding. Brandon, a Technical Director for the show, Danny, our Set Designer, and I were staying late night discussing the curtain drop and other aspects of set design. There were some expectedly unexpected technical difficulties that we were debugging, and then our conversation started to slowly deviate towards more general theatre talk that quickly transitioned to Danny praising Robert Wilson and German postmodernism07 Die Hamletmaschine: The play is constituted of scenes. The whole text is roughly nine pages long. Full text: If you’re into postmodernism in dramaturgy (do not confuse with postmodernism in art), I highly recommend that you check those out. Start with Hamletmachine and then move on to Robert Wilson’s stuff. . Danny had so much to say about Robert Wilson’s Adam’s Passion and Einstein on the Beach, as well as Heiner Mueller’s Hamletmachine.


During IAP, I was a Technical Director for The Wedding Singer. I would spend over 20, 30, 40 hours each week on the show up until our first performance. The show had a much more elaborate set and lighting plot than A Chorus Line, and I had a lot more responsibilities. I am so grateful to all of the actors, students, and alumni (!) who came to help us during the set builds, put in, and strike. It was really fun learning about past MTG and MIT, as well as listening to you all singing while you were measuring, cutting, and building, and taking apart the set. It was also my honor to choose all of the super-special-and-secret-members-only-comejoinMTGtofindoutfor yourself stories and awards. I’m not gonna say anything else about them, but you should join and find out for yourselves.


In the spring, I was a props designer until the show got postponed for an indefinite period of time. But since the show didn’t actually happen, I invite you to imagine how stunning the show would be with all the amazing cast and prod members working together to put up the amazing Cabaret.

[Announcement voice: Welcome to the MIT Musical Theatre Guild Production of Cabaret. Our presentation will begin shortly. Please, take this opportunity to silence your cellphones, as every word spoken in the next two hours are of utmost importance. In the unlikely case of an emergency, exits are located through the double doors to your right and behind the stage. Please note that loud sound effects and strobe lighting will be used at various times in this presentation, and that flash photography is not allowed during the show. Thank you for listening, and this, the most important presentation of our time, can now begin. We hope you enjoy Cabaret! ]


Thanks for coming to our show!

While I could spend hours talking about all the amazing people at MTG, there are a few of my favorite people that I wanted to talk about in this blogpost, as they not only were great theatre mentors to me, but they were also very influential to my personal growth and I cannot imagine my MIT experience without them.

Cici. You are such a special bean that taught me so much about lighting design stuff, and have been an amazing friend throughout my first year at MIT. I enjoyed hanging out in your sound and lighting booths during MTG productions, working with you in E33, and coming to see you before the shows at the Coffeehouse. Your lighting designs always surprise me with their creativity, innovation, and effective use of the limited resources. And your life advice and just your company have made my experience so. much. Better. than it would ever be. Your care for other people is amazing, and I’m always inspired by your ability to support people when they need it the most.

I don’t have a photo of you and me, so here goes a video of your lighting design

Brandon. Overall, a very interesting human being. He is also very caring and supportive, but in his own way. He is generally very good at explaining things, and he would always answer any question that you have to the best of his knowledge. He taught me a lot about lighting setup and theatre in general, and he’s always been very attentive and helpful to the people around him. He puts an enormous amount of care into the student groups and activities that he is passionate about and you can see the project bloom and grow when Brandon is involved.

Sometimes I think that Brandon knows everything about the subject as long as it involves EE. I also sometimes wonder if Brandon ever sleeps because no matter the time of the day, Brandon would reply to me within 5-20 minutes. There’s been multiple occasions when I’d text Brandon or Cici at 3:30 am and 10 minutes later we would be on the call finalizing the lighting plot or set design changes. One early morning, when I was working with E33, Brandon came to help us out. He informed us that he’d slept for a total of 30 minutes in the past 24 hours, and then proceeded to help us with a task that requires a lot of attention as if he just woke up from a very long and rejuvenation night sleep. If you think that Brandon consumes energy drinks or goes to parties, you’d be mistaken. Brandon is also very tall. This has helped us on multiple occasions in theatre and beyond. But most importantly, Brandon is just an awesome human being.

I don’t have a photo of you and me, so here goes my favorite memory from A Chorus Line. At MTG, Technical Director gets to spray paint the name of the show in the set shop.

Max. This year, I became a set shop manager for MTG and extremely honored to acquire this role from my favorite senior Max, an amazing Course 2 expert and a talented theatre nerd. At MTG, Max is known for being involved in an MTG production every single semester at MIT. She is also a Course 2A, and sometimes I am creeped out by how aligned our interests are. I might be biased, but everything that Max does is extremely fascinating and would take your breath away. I can’t wait to see all the great things that you’ll do after graduation! Thanks for giving me advice in theatre and life in general and helping me decide to declare 2A.


Max, I don’t have a picture of you and me together :’(08 I don't like taking pictures, but then I often regret it. This is one of those times. Here’s my favorite picture of you! And yes, Max has a graduation photo with Mr. Purell09 Not sponsored.

E3310 Why is it claled E33, you my ask? Is it named after a building on campus? But Mariia, there is no building called E33 on campus. Well, you can come to our info sessions or join E33 to find out:)

Did you know that you can learn from other students how to install and design lights for a variety of performances on campus and get paid for that?
E33 is a student group that rents out lighting equipment and labor to different student groups and events on campus. We also recruit and teach new students each semester the basics of lighting design and operation. E33 is arguably the most exciting and definitely one of the highest-paid on-campus jobs at MIT. Probably not so awesome if you’re afraid of heights, but still rather cool nonetheless.

4. Conclusion

While I initially wanted to write a guest post to get a shameless plug for MTG, I quickly realized that it felt much more important to share my perspective as an international student, as well as talk about the diverse MIT community (that I don’t think is advertised enough). People at MIT are very welcoming and genuine, and one can always find people, clubs, classes, activities, research opportunities that they enjoy.
While it is much harder to make friends online, I am amazed by the amount of initiatives that MIT students have started over the past month of online classes and especially during CP*. I am also extremely happy to see brave prefrosh participating in CP* activities and reaching out directly to the current MIT students to ask questions about academics, student life, and such. Despite the ongoing pandemic, I hope that we all continue to practice safe behaviour and look for the opportunities to make life a bit better for all of us.

  1. Yes, my name is spelled with two 'i's because that's how it's officially translated from Ukrainian. back to text
  2. gonna represent that 10% of the student body! back to text
  3. During my year, this included a lecture on cross-cultural collaboration and the introduction of the concept of 'ethnocentricity', which then became a running joke between the students. back to text
  4. Lucky for me, not many people at MIT follow sports. back to text
  5. '-Where do you live? - back to text
  6. hi, matching tuxedos for the finale. back to text
  7. Die Hamletmaschine: The play is constituted of scenes. The whole text is roughly nine pages long. Full text: If you’re into postmodernism in dramaturgy (do not confuse with postmodernism in art), I highly recommend that you check those out. Start with Hamletmachine and then move on to Robert Wilson’s stuff. back to text
  8. I don't like taking pictures, but then I often regret it. This is one of those times. back to text
  9. Not sponsored. back to text
  10. Why is it claled E33, you my ask? Is it named after a building on campus? But Mariia, there is no building called E33 on campus. Well, you can come to our info sessions or join E33 to find out:) back to text