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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

I think I can, I think I can by Bryan

The word "student" sounds like "study." I wonder if there's a correlation.

A couple days ago, I received an email from a blog reader who asked me, “Isn’t MIT supposed to be super hard? How do you find time to have fun?”

I think this is a very interesting question to pursue.

So one thing you have not really seen too many pictures online thus far are pictures of my desk at off hours of the night or of the trail I traverse early evenings throughout the Infinite Corridor as I head to different office hours, but I promise you I, like the rest of the students at MIT, take my academics seriously.

There are also a number of I’ll say “statements” that exist out there about MIT students and how they pull all-nighters six out of seven nights a week.

Here’s what I say to that; yes, MIT is a challenging intellectual environment, but it’s not impossible and yes WE DO SLEEP.

To paint a clearer picture, I’ll provide you with a couple of examples.

Take for example, 18.02, Multivariable Calculus, a typical freshman class.

Here’s the entry from the course catalog:

Undergrad (Fall, Spring) Calculus II
Prereq: 18.01
Units: 5-0-7

Dissecting that entry, let’s look at the units.

Units: 5 – 0 – 7
The units break down as hours in class, hours in lab, hours outside of class. Hours outside of class include homework hours, hours reading, and hours studying.

Now here’s my take on all this (feel free to ask around for other opinions as well – current students reading this, please chime in)

The 5 hours in class are pretty fixed. Typically, 3 hours in class, 2 hours in recitation. The 7 is a little bit more amorphous. Some problem sets are easier than others; some weeks you have tests, some weeks you don’t.

So about that adjective that was used to describe MIT. Is MIT hard?

Yes, MIT is challenging. I can tell you when I came to MIT, I knew that this place was going to test my limits and I knew that I was going to learn more than I could imagine, but I didn’t know to what extent and with what frequency.

And you know what, it varies. Some weeks are fairly straightforward; “Here are the problems, use the equations, get the answer.”

Some weeks the problem sets live up to their names a bit more. They’re problems, and you are asked to solve them. Develop an approach, support your assumptions, and give some type of conceptual and numerical answer to this situation. Sometimes at first glance, a problem set can seem intimidating where you think to yourself you must have missed a few lectures because you have no idea where to start with Problem 1, Part A.

This is really where the fun starts. Imagine yourself one evening in a lounge with some of your friends having a “Problem Set Party.” And someone approaches the whiteboard with the marker, and there you begin to dig into the problem. Sometimes you argue. Sometimes you all get stuck. Sometimes you take a short break to watch American Idol. Sometimes, one person completely gets the problem, and then there are times you might not get it at all, and then you work through it again, and try to understand the logic used in solving the problem. I promise you; it’s actually one of the most gratifying sensations when you are able to staple your problem set together and say “I’m done.”

So how can all this be fun?

1. You never do a problem set on an empty stomach. Dominos stays open late, and La Verde’s is open 24 hours during the school week.

2. Comic relief although oftentimes unexpected always occurs.

3. You can say you did it. Professors often preface their problems with the statement that “this problem is not easy.” And then when you get that problem done, you can say to yourself in the style of Napoleon Dynamite, “SWEET.”

And what would a blog entry be without photos?

For the next two months, I’ll be highlighting the top ten (+/- 3) places on campus to study.

This week, I’m highlighting the Reading Room in the Student Center (W20).

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can always find someone studying here in the reading room…or taking a nap.

Keep in mind, this is just my take on things. I encourage you to seek out additional opinions. I think MIT is challenging, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I like the fire hose.

4 responses to “I think I can, I think I can”

  1. Dan says:

    MIT sounds so cool

  2. Timur Sahin says:

    Laura ( ) also recently posted about her experiences with psets and sleep (in 18.01, calculus 1). I recommend everyone go read that, too. smile

  3. Laura says:

    Haha, sweet, a referral!

    I was actually just going to mention that, but Timur beat me too it. *grin*

    I WAS going to add that in contrast to going to sleep after 4 AM 2 days in a row, I got TEN hours of sleep last night. That’s right. TEN.

    Like Bryan said- you win some, you lose some. =)

  4. Julian says:

    Intrigued I am. Hmmmm…