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MIT student blogger Chris S. '11

I Climbed a Mountain Today by Chris S. '11

there's always gonna be another mountain!

…well, yesterday.

Phew, it’s been long without blogging! During this long hiatus, I’ve been back in Taiwan (for 3 weeks!) catching up on sleep, eating many yummy things, and completed a 3000 piece puzzle. (sadly, there’s no time for puzzlemaking in MIT usually).

Then, I returned to the States, and I’ve been happily living at Berkeley, CA, for the last 2 weeks. I’m working in Oakland, at an Asian health center there, serving as one of their summer interns. I’m really learning a lot (including more and more Cantonese words, haha – I have resolved to start learning Cantonese as soon as possible, since this is probably the most useful Asian language to know in the States, due to the amount of Cantonese immigrants).

Each day begins with the 8.40 Bart (it’s like the commuter rail in Boston) ride from Berkeley to Oakland, getting to work at 8.59. During lunch, I’m off to explore the countless restaurants, cafes, hole-in-the-walls that dot Oakland Chinatown. After work, it’s MCAT class for 3 times a week, or napping at UC Berkeley’s sunny Memorial Glade (it’s a grassy elliptical quad in front of one of their libraries and for some reason is located strategically to get maximal sunshine exposure in the afternoon =p).

In short, life is good.

Couple observations about Bay Area:

1. San Francisco Bay is really pretty. o____o
2. Asian food is so much better here (sorry Boston)
3. Why are strawberries $3.50 per box at Shaw’s (supermarket next to MIT) and $0.65 here?
4. Fisherman’s Wharf = tourist heaven,
5. It gets real cold here after the sun sets.
6. 9.75% sales tax sucks!!
7. MUNI is a really cute name for a mass-transit system.
8. I want a car.
9. I do not miss psets or exams. I’m soaking up the sun as best as I can. <3
10 If you grew up here, I envy you. =p

Yesterday was a super bright, sunny, and clear day, so I decided to head into the city and go up to Twin Peaks (otherwise known as “San Francisco’s boobies” -> according to a local, lol). Basically, they’re these dual hills on the southwestern corner of the city, and supposably there’s an impressive view of SF and the Bay during the day, and an amazing night view after sunset.

On the way there, I also visited MIssion Dolores, which is probably the most underappreciated tourist site in the city. Mission Dolores is the original Spanish mission of San Francisco, and one of 21 California missions. The original church (made out of adobe! it’s super cool inside since adobe is like natural air-conditioning) is fairly small, though it has a really cool geometric patterned ceiling that was derived from Native American designs. The adjoining basilica is huge, domey, and filled with beautiful mosaics and stain glass windows (there’s 21 panes alongside the length of the church, depicting the 21 Spanish missions and the day that they were founded). There’s also a cemetery adjoining the complex, and it really reminded me of the Boston Granary Burial Grounds…haha.

Anyone know what these flowers are called? I’m really curious!! They’re in full bloom here in Cali (you can see them in many gardens).

After about an hour on foot after leaving Mission Dolores, I made it to the main viewing area on the mountain, where there’s a big parking lot for your car if you drove up the mountain.

The Pink Triangle is preparation for the Pride Parade in the city today – it’s basically this huge pink cloth that’s set up against the mountain.

You can see Golden Gate from the top.

Click here to see the panoramic I took on top of the mountain. Sorry that the right picture is obviously darker than the left, lol -_-

After getting down from the mountain, I took the muni back to the center of the city and had great korean bbq before heading back to berkeley. Awesomeness <3

ps. I got a better grade than I thought on Orgo! By some miraculous act of God, I must have done much better than I thought on the final. Like MUCH better.

On the other hand, I got, frustratingly, a B+ for 7.02, ironically the class that I was most confident of going into the semester. (MIT grades on absolute letter grades, which means +’s and -‘s have no meaning. thus, +’s are the grades that are most frustrating to get at MIT, since it basically signifies that if you just tried a LITTLE bit harder, you’ll have had a -, and a whole 1.0 increase in GPA for that class. it goes without saying that A- is the best grade to get, since it’s the same as getting an A+ in terms of GPA, muahahaha =p)

So in the end, I guess 5.12 and 7.02 balanced themselves out, after all.

That’s MIT for ya. It’s a real mixed bag of nuts.

16 responses to “I Climbed a Mountain Today”

  1. Anonymous says:

    As is good isha. but the SAT/SAT 2 matters here. so you make sure u get an 750/800 on ur SAT 2s. I think u need 3. And for the SAT get 2200 above. I think. I dont think ud need TOEFL.

  2. Phillip says:


    How did you get to live in Cali for the summer and work? Was it an intership, workstudy, etc. and how would somebody go about doing this?

  3. Phillip '13 says:

    @isha and Anonymous

    I don’t believe that your test scores matter as much as the activies that you participate in, the difficulty of the classes that you took in school and the trend of your grades through high school (if you got a 98 in AP Calc and a 690 on your SAT Math then you will probably be ok, ha if you catch my drift). If you read Bryan Nance’s blog entries you will see this idea as something that admissions officers look for. Also speak with Quinton McArthur, he may be able to guide you as well.

  4. sanaa says:

    lucky u smile
    n 1st!!!!!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Re: #3.

    That’s why one should only buy strawberries from Haymarket.

  6. NathanArce says:

    Hahahah, someone really looking for A-s, eh?

    Great blog entry, as usual!

  7. Oci says:

    Good for you, premed!

  8. Kate says:

    Good luck with the MCAT!

  9. #2 and 3 are why I love living in the Bay Area. We’re like, the hub of Asian people. California grows almost all the fruits that most people eat, so they’re way cheaper. Massachusetts is basically a pile of infertile rocks. But the sales tax really sucks. A year ago it was “only” (heh) 8.75%. When I went home a week ago, I was really shocked.

  10. Chris says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Berkeley some time in my life. I live on the East Coast, so traveling to the West seems oh so exciting.

  11. isha says:

    im an international student, planning to get in MIT.but i have no idea about the entry requirements. like how many Az you should hav in your o level, A-level, and wats the minimum SAT score requirement.can you plz guide me?

  12. The flowers you’re curious about are Acanthus mollis, commonly known as Bear’s Breech. They bloom in late spring or early summer. You’ll find beautiful stands in Golden Gate Park this time of year. Enjoy Berkeley!

  13. Lucy says:

    Dude, you’re working in Oakland? That’s awesome. I grew up there! (This is Lucy from ESP, btw.) You should check out the Vietnamese sandwich places in Chinatown. And food places in Old Oakland. There’s a bookstore in Old Oakland called the Bookmark Bookstore. Really, really cheap second hand books. All proceeds to go the libraries. Go paddling in Lake Merritt or rent a kayak in Jack London Square. Man, wish I could be back home.

  14. Max'13 says:

    9.75% sales tax is cheap for us LA County-ers.

  15. Steph says:

    Awesome trip. I did a road trip up there (from socal) last year. Fisherman’s Whorf is definitely tourist mecca. Although….ghirardelli square is more delicious. smile

  16. Oasis '11 says:

    @ Philip –

    Yeah this summer it’s a 9-week internship in a public health center in Oakland. It’s a long story – but basically since last summer I got to visit Central America, I came back thinking that I wanted to delve more into the area of public health. An unique opportunity came up in the form of this internship, which allowed me to explore public health through the lens of the domestic underserved and underrepresented population. Since I’m going to be applying to medical school, I’m looking to explore this field in depth and find out whether this is something that I would like to go into in the future.

    Probably before the end of the summer, I’ll write up what my internship is like. smile

    @ Anonymous –

    But Haymarket strawberries aren’t 65 cents…=p

    @ CalAlum –

    Thanks! smile

    @ Lucy –

    Wow hahaha – yeah I had Vietnamese sandwich already, at 2 different places. They’re SO cheap! I went and walked around Lake Merritt (HAHA i had no idea that a lake existed so close the first week there =p). Definitely will do the rest of the things you listed before I leave :D

    @ Max –

    What’s the tax in LA County?

    @ Steph –

    Is that chocolate store really in the square?