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highlights: high points of a virtual fall by Waly N. '24

Part 1 of a fall semester recap

After about **checks watch** 47 days of not blogging, returning to writing feels quite odd.

There have been many swirling thoughts through my head, so many things I want to blog about, but I have seemingly struggled to get them out in any tangible way. So I continually pushed blogs aside until I saw the days I had gone without blogging continue to multiply. With due time, I managed to bully myself into writing, and one of the topics that seemed to be the easiest to write about was a recap of the fall semester. In case you aren’t from MIT, just as general information, the spring semester has technically not started yet :D, so I’m not as late as I seem.01 Cutting it extremely close though

All and all, the fall semester had its ups and downs. I wanted to write a long blog about both, but I felt it would be better to compartmentalize my thoughts into two pieces. So this blog will focus on the positive aspects of the fall semester for the most part. 

Going into the fall semester, I was pretty confident. Pretty confident I would struggle. But overall, the semester was a bit smoother than the pot-hole filled ride I was expecting. Now, I won’t act like I didn’t struggle. But through it all, there were some milestones I was pretty proud of myself for. I didn’t have high hopes for doing well during my first semester, but oddly enough, the first semester gave me a little more confidence in my abilities to be a remotely decent student. 

So as a result, here are some random stats that encompass part of my first semester at the institute:

7 classes passed

Somehow, this happened :D. I passed every class I registered for despite consistently fumbling up work. This included my 4 “main” classes, ES.801 (Physics), ES.1801 (Calc), 3.091 (Chem but solid), and CMS.100 (Media Studies), and 3 discovery classes, SP.248 (Intro to NEET), 15.000 (Intro to Management), and 14.009 (Intro to Economics in Society). At the beginning of the semester, I was borderline 02 read: absolutely failing two classes after a rocky start, and it made me pretty nervous about how the semester would go. Yes, I heard it wasn’t the end of the world to NR a class, but it still felt like it would be a really bad early hiccup, especially when I was taking literally every GIR to start with. With many changes on how to study, an extreme amount of luck, randomly occurring moments of me having brain cells, and my chem class dropping the passing grade benchmark by 20%, I made it out. I feel quite fortunate to get past the rough start and still take most of the classes I want next semester.

22 psets done

Coming into MIT, the concept of a pset sounded both friendly and scary. A week to do a whole homework packet seemed like a long time, so it couldn’t be that bad? But that brought up the question of “why are they giving us so long in the first place…” It didn’t take long to realizes that psets came in different shapes and sizes. Some really gave me hell when I was working on them. But they were some of the things that I felt I learned the most from during the fall. I could put everything I learned in class into practice, which really helped me refine my skills.03 Calling my advanced BSing 'my skills' might be a stretch Besides office hours, these were probably one of the most helpful things for me to learn because my attention span during lectures was the equivalent of a peanut.

For specifics, I did 12 psets for ES.801, which was Physics Mechanics, and did 9 for ES.1801. Almost all of my physics psets were the same length, while for calculus, I had some nice ones and some absolutely monstrous ones 04 Starting one of these ones the night before is the worst lesson I have ever had that took my soul away.

198 hours spent in class (approx.)

After so many hours spent sitting on Zoom, it feels nice to quantify this number. Somedays, the hours I would spend on zoom felt like they would reach no end. And it was more draining than I would like to admit. But overall, I did enjoy being in most of my classes, especially the ESG ones, so this was well-spent time. I enjoyed the time spent working with my partners in ES.1801, the time spent being confuzzled using the explain.mit.edu whiteboard in physics, the many discussions in CMS.100 about media, and the times I spent with my camera off in every other class. Given a virtual semester, I think my class time experience was quite good. It’s important to note that I only counted class time here, not recitations and office hours, which would add a crapton of hours to this total. 

4,181 emails received this semester

I’m not sure if this one deserves to be in the “positive” aspects of this semester line-up. But I wanted to include this stat anyways. If you know me, you know I absolutely hate getting spammed with emails, though sometimes MIT ones seem to have some rather dandy information. Through emails, I learned about most student organizations and opportunities, which made the spam tolerable for the most part. Also, it seems tetazoo glounge died out a bit, and for that, I am eternally grateful :D. 

185 notes in notability

In high school, I wasn’t exactly a note-taking person. In fact, a teacher once screamed at me when I was not taking notes that it was because of kids like me she wanted to retire.05 She retired 1-2 years after I took the class. I would start taking notes early on in the year and fizzle off as time went on. When I took notes, it felt like I wasn’t learning much and was instead just being a mindless typewriter. To start off in college, I tried to take notes more frequently than I did in high school and selectively pick what seemed important to write. In the end, I wrote about 100 or so notes in notability, which isn’t amazing but an improvement, to say the least. It’s probably important to note that the 185 number counts the quizzes and psets I did in notability, so that’s why I’m saying about 100 notes.

6 blogs written

Blogging in the fall semester made many things feel pretty interesting given zoom IMO. I had to hunt for random topics and details to write about. There weren’t particularly any places I was going to that I could write about, for example, so I had to sift through my head for ideas. It helped me feel a little more creative when school life had monotonous moments. Blogging pulled me out of my comfort zone at times since I would describe myself as a relatively private person, and I think I really enjoyed that as well. I really wish I could have written more, but I think I’m content with what I did during the fall semester. I’ve admittedly faltered in the past few weeks at writing, but here’s to more productive times in the future :D

6,250 words written for CI-H (across 3 essays)

Essay writing is a mixed bag for me usually. If the topic is one I enjoy, I can’t shut up. But if it’s one I’m not fond of, it is pretty difficult for anything to come out. Luckily, CMS.100 has essays that I really loved to write. In a nutshell, our first essay was about how the pandemic has changed our technology usage. The second was a media analysis piece, and the last was a research paper about media phenomena. I think the first essay is pretty self-explanatory, but I wrote about Avatar the Last Airbender for the second one! My media analysis mainly revolved around the portrayal of abuse in Avatar and the shared/differing experiences Azula and Zuko have throughout the show. I completely blew past the page and word minimum for this essay, and it was an absolute blast. The 3rd essay was about blogging! I talked about how blogging has changed fields like journalism and how it changes the way people digest and spread information in our society. It was more difficult for me to write than the 2nd essay, but still a great experience. I couldn’t have chosen a better CI-H class, in my opinion.

5 current courseroads

Yay for being indecisive! By the end of the semester, I had 5 active roadmaps of potential major tracks. Chances are, I won’t stick to any of them. Still, it is pretty interesting to see what major/area combinations are possible and what are torture. I’m no more decided on my major than I was in my being a very confused frosh post a few months ago, but hey, being open to possibilities has to be a good thing, right?

1 semester of UROP work completed

One thing I really hoped to get to do at MIT was research, and I was really fortunate to get to start research during my first semester. I applied during the late summer and started around the beginning of the semester.

The project I was working on was related to the use of nuclear batteries (small nuclear reactors) as a clean energy source, especially in urban areas. During the fall, I learned about current energy sources being used in the Bronx, cogeneration and combined heat/power (CHP) systems, and proposed a site as a candidate for a nuclear battery installation. The site proposal dealt mainly with me exploring the environmental, social, and economic benefits of a nuclear battery installation at my chosen site. This small blurb doesn’t encompass the entirety of the work I did during the fall, but hopefully, it serves well as an overview.

2 physical projects done

I got to work on two hands-on projects in a virtual semester! One of these was my final physics project, which encompassed my partner and I working on a remote controllable car and discussing physics applications! I would say more about our mini cars, but I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.06 you might hear more about this in the future... Another of my projects was on a small scale, and it was a molding and casting project done for SP.248, an intro to NEET seminar. We had to use alja safe, clay, and plaster to copy a little wooden figurine. All the equipment needed was sent by MIT, and it was a really nice introductory, hands-on project. The projects I got to work on were highlights of the semester for me, especially since they felt so out of the ordinary given the current Zoom-filled landscape.

two figurines, one made of plaster and another made of wood

111 anime episodes watched

Yes, I’m completely breaking from the academic side of things to highlight the time I spent watching anime on completely legal sites. 

As it says in my blogger bio, if I am about to start a new show, it’s probably the best course of action to stop me. Unfortunately, no one did, and I proceeded to watch 3 shows. The first show I watched was at the beginning of the semester, and it was Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). I had been told07 threatened to watch AOT for a long time, and I finally succumbed after listening to some of the opening songs and enjoying them pretty well. I’m quite happy I watched it, as it has become one of my favorite shows, and I’m really enjoying the final season thus far. I also watched Vinland Saga, which was a show someone also recommended to me a while back that I added to my watchlist. I haven’t watched many seinen shows, and this one really was so well done in every regard. The first season is just the prologue of a longer story, so I can’t wait to see how it goes in the future. Lastly, I watched Dororo, which I got drawn to mainly because of the first OP. I think I liked the first two shows more, but it was still a very good show and storyline. If you are looking for any shows to procrastinate with, I would highly recommend any of these 3. 

These were some really enjoyable chill times, and I’m definitely happy I used some of the time I had to unwind from technology to watch shows on the same technology I used during the day.

13 exams taken and 9 actual quizzes

I made it through 13 heart attacks in one semester! Exams were tough (emphasis on tough) and stressed the heck out of me. To be fair, some of these exams were biweekly physics “quizzes,” but I refuse to call 2 hour-long assessments “quizzes.” My physics professors08 who are absolute angels would always tell us to get a good night’s sleep before a quiz, but I sadly never heeded such advice and proceeded to study till 4AM. So much time went into preparing for these assessments by absent-mindedly studying, watching youtube on panic mode, and doing practice problems till my head hurt. It feels happy to get through it all. I wasn’t sure how I would get through some weeks, but I made it, and that’s something worth celebrating, I feel. I think for the fall semester, the pressure was a bit lower than what it would generally be because it was P N R, though I was so afraid of NRing that I might have pushed myself hard at some points. To be specific, I took 3 Calculus exams, 4 Chemistry midterms and 9 quizzes, 6 Physics “quizzes.” I’m currently detoxing from Canvas, so I’m not sure if this is accurate, but I think I passed 11/13 assessments, which was far more than I hoped for in any universe.

Looking into the upcoming spring semester, I’ll probably be remembering the old days of PNR fondly. PNR most likely was the single greatest thing in my fall since it allowed me to explore new ECs, areas, and interests. I wish it could continue until next semester, but I guess it will be onto actual college with grades. Kinda a scary thought, but I’ll hope for the best starting February 16th. 

  1. Cutting it extremely close though back to text
  2. read: absolutely back to text
  3. Calling my advanced BSing 'my skills' might be a stretch back to text
  4. Starting one of these ones the night before is the worst lesson I have ever had back to text
  5. She retired 1-2 years after I took the class. back to text
  6. you might hear more about this in the future... back to text
  7. threatened back to text
  8. who are absolute angels back to text