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MIT blogger Rona W. '21

i’m studying abroad this semester by Rona W. '23

hello europe

Yes, you read that title right. I’m going to be studying abroad this semester! For real!

Okay, sadly, it’s a remote program, because *gestures wildly at the state of the world*.

Last semester, I took a non-credit class through Budapest Semesters in Mathematics. Here’s a photo of me in class.

me sitting outside

Budapest looks weirdly similar to MIT?

It was over Zoom, and there were three other students, all American. It was a lot of fun! So I ended up applying to Math in Moscow, which is usually held in-person in Russia. This semester, classes will run from early February (starting tomorrow) to mid-May, and they will be all online.

Through this program, I’ll be taking abstract algebra, complex analysis, topology, and differential equations for-credit. Here’s why I decided to do this:

  1. Introductory math classes at MIT don’t always work for me. I had a wonderful experience in 18.100A, Real Analysis, but didn’t enjoy 18.06, Linear Algebra. Last spring, I tried taking 18.901, Topology, but the first class was…interesting. Due to some technical mix-up, the vast majority of the class (40-ish people) ended up in one room, waiting for the professor. A half-hour past when class was supposed to start, we realized the professor had gone to another classroom and had been lecturing to three students for the past thirty minutes. We all went to that room, only for a department admin to ask us to all return to the original classroom. It wasn’t a strong start, and I didn’t end up taking that class. Meanwhile, MIT’s versions of abstract algebra (18.701) and differential equations (18.03) have over a hundred students each, although there are substitutions with fewer kids. I prefer smaller classes, and I liked that Math in Moscow had classes with less than ten students. My abstract algebra course is actually a reading class, which means I’ll watch pre-recorded lectures and then meet with a professor once a week to discuss the material one-on-one. I’m hoping this will motivate me to actually watch the lectures in a timely fashion and come up with insightful questions.
  2. I would rather enjoy my time at MIT in-person. I only took one class last semester, and I’m pushing my graduation date back so I don’t spend my senior year on Zoom. I wanted to take some time away from MIT and find something else to do, so I can be on campus next year, fingers crossed.
  3. It made more sense financially. Real talk: without financial aid, MIT tuition for one semester is $26,000+ USD for a full class load. I took one class last semester because MIT gave everyone a rebate, so it cost $5,000 (as opposed to the usual $10,000 for twelve credits), plus I got to live on-campus (which I couldn’t do without being registered academically). Since I don’t get the most out of Zoom university, I didn’t want to pay $26,000 for the spring semester. Math in Moscow is $4,500 USD for a full class load, and the credits apply to my transcript. I wanted to save my money for in-person classes.
  4. I am still technically an enrolled MIT student. If I completely took the semester off and went on leave, I wouldn’t be able to do things that are important to me, such as serving on CUP (Committee on the Undergraduate Program), doing research, or applying to certain summer grants. Or blogging!

But of course, this isn’t for everyone. Some of my friends are finishing up their senior years on Zoom, and that’s totally reasonable too.

I’ll also be auditing a Harvard class, Memory in Asian American Literature. I’ve never taken any class focused on Asian diaspora, so given that my creative writing almost always engages with themes of Asian diaspora and memory, I’m super excited for this one.

It’s unfortunate that I won’t actually get to visit Russia, but here’s to the new semester!