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MIT student blogger Veronica M. '22

i am overwhelmed. by Veronica M. '22

what happens when a pandemic, recession, racial reckoning and recruitment season join forces?

I expected junior fall as a course 6 to be a challenging semester even in normal times, from anecdotal accounts. In these ‘unprecedented times’,  I’m finding that it’s exponentially worse.

It gets more exacting as an international student. Recruiting season feels like a make-or-break moment- the last chance you have to make use of your CPT before you graduate by getting an internship at a firm that would be likely to extend a return offer after you graduate, and hopefully sponsor your H1B visa.

All my classes are on Zoom (or Whoosh for 6.031). Content-wise, all my classes are actually really interesting. I never thought I would enjoy 6.031 as much as I do, even though it’s slowly draining the life out of me. So many readings, labs, code reviews, java tutor exercises to do, such little time to do it all. 6.036– who knew ML was all math? I dropped 6.002 (What was I trying to do, taking 39 CS units of virtual class?) and added 7.012 (Intro to Bio) instead (“GIR!! I’ve done five of these now, I’m pretty sure I can breeze through this one” *Frantically googles ‘What is an allele’ at 2 am, six hours before pset is due*)

21M.294 (Popular Music of the World), where I got to present a piece from my current most favorite artiste in the first week of class (Jorja Smith😍), where we watch Shakira and Cardi B music videos during class, and from which I leave feeling like I just came from a chat with my friends about their spotify playlists other than actually having attended a class. If I could take 21M.294 over and over again, I would.

Superday at a finance firm- ten interviews in line. I honestly didn’t think I would get through those two days. I sell myself short in interviews- I freak out over things that I’ve seen before, and I’m always dissecting every word I say before it comes out of my mouth, trying to second-guess what my interviewers want to hear. I did get through this Superday. All my interviewers seemed more interested in getting to know me- personally- other than my resume, or my classes or projects. I actually ended up talking about my freshman imposter syndrome with one of my interviewers, and in reply she shared her experience as an international student at Stanford- somehow we wound up talking about my blog and she promised to check it out (hello if you’re reading this!). So overall, a (surprisingly?) good day. 

Then I look at my newsfeed, and find out the US government has spent it’s day thinking up ways to make life for international students even more difficult. Great. My friend (also international) calls me and swears she’s moving to Canada (she stocks up and hibernates when the weather goes a degree below 60F, so I don’t know how she’s going to survive any further north, but ok).

The other day, I made a Target run to get eggs (about two minute’s walk from my apartment) and on my way back, ran into the biggest protest I have ever seen on Mass Ave. It was days after Breonna Taylor’s killers failed to be charged. Up until that moment, I had been conveniently swiping past mentions of Breonna Taylor on my newsfeed, in an effort to preserve my mental state, to skirt the emotional fatigue and the crushing helplessness that would be inevitable if I dwelled too much on her story. In that moment, that weight of injustice crushed down on me, and I watched those people protesting, marching down the street, in tears. Knowing that they were fighting for a black woman- me- to say that she mattered- that I mattered. Knowing that the pragmatist and pessimist in me were now in agreement- believing that injustice is what this country, and indeed society, is built on, and accepting that this is what it will continue to be built on, and there was very little I could do about it.

My one lifeline in all of this- I am now steps away from my favorite restaurant, India Pavilion, and through numerous Ubereats gift cards from coffee chats and club events, I am quickly getting friendlier and friendlier with the attendants at the restaurant, and I get the feeling they know exactly what I’m going to order when I walk in (it’s the same every time). Thank you, India Pavilion, for that generously-portioned shahi paneer and chicken pakora at the end of a long day❤️ (I am not, in fact, being paid to advertise, but maybe I should be!)

Everyone says that this is not a normal time, that we are living at the confluence of a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and an economic recession, and that we should cut ourselves some slack for that reason. But life isn’t cutting me any slack. Pandemic or not, there is simply too much at stake. There is no room for error, not if I hope to achieve even the bare minimum of what’s on my to-do list, and I’m not even trying to set the world on fire- I’m just trying to get by. I can’t afford to slip up, even a little bit. It’s overwhelming.