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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

Internet is Gonna Get Me by Jess K. '10

In lieu of studying, I finally get around to answering your questions.

Last week I had my first exam, shortly to be followed by two others, and I’m happy to say that I suffer from this painful disease that seems particularly contagious at MIT – procrastination. Symptoms are particularly deadly since there are little to no signs when you’re first afflicted (mostly because you deny them), until the night before your exams hit. At this point, there’s no cure except fervent studying and the occasional swearing that you’ll do better next time (unfortunately, the illness becomes asymptomatic again and the cycle repeats). So I’m in the reading room. It’s a beautiful study room in the fifth floor of the student center that was renovated shortly before I came to MIT, where sound goes to die except for the occasional Justin Timberlake ringtone. Basic politeness isn’t even permitted:

RANDOM GUY: (enormous sneeze)
ME: Bless you!
ME: I mean.. uh.. (barely discernable whisper) bless you.

Despite the silence, though, I can never seem to focus – you know that Gloria Estefan song where she warns the rhythm is going to get you? The internet is going to get me. That’s why I’m blogging right now. (Also, My Friend Matt Cohen and I are looking up funny words i.e. pogonotrophy (beardedness).) So in order to divide my short attention span even more – ask me questions! Ask me questions. Better for you to come up with what I should write about rather than me; otherwise you’ll just end up having to read about what I did this weekend.

(In case you were actually wondering, this weekend I made chocolate-chip pancakes. They were funky-tasting, because I’d never tried the recipe before, but they had definite potential. Next time I will not use so much baking powder.) (The great thing about cooking in college is that regardless of how much you experiment with the ingredients, someone will always be around to eat it. Never underestimate the stomachs of hungry college kids.)

This entry is a bit long, and without pictures because my camera is still broken (if you guys would like to remedy that, it’s a Canon Powershot SD600 and I take PayPal donations), but I’ve quite a bit of questions to catch up on. So!

Anonymous asks: Can you also give us some info about the grocery stores, department stores to buy warm clothing, furniture like lamps, fans, refrigerators and so on around MIT area and how far away are they, how to get to these stores and so on…?

Sure, Anon (can I call you Anon? I feel like we’re already good friends). That’s a lot to cover, but I’ll do my best. Just off the top of my head:
Grocery stores: Star Market is right next to the Hotel at MIT, near Central Square, and is a good standard supermarket – it’s definitely within walking distance, but there’s a Saferide in case you overload yourself and end up buying four bags of frozen peas (what? They were on sale. Also, they make good ice packs). Another option is Whole Foods, across the Harvard Bridge and a couple streets down into Boston, which has more organic options but tends to be a little more pricey. Coming from California, I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s – there’s one past Next House near the Hyatt and a small one across the street from the Pru (sorry for these approximate directions, you can Google them if you’d like to know more). I think a study published in The Tech actually found that Trader Joe’s was somewhat cheaper on average than Star Market food, but it depends based on what you’re buying.

Department Stores: I’ve mostly shopped at CambridgeSide Galleria, which is a pretty good mall in Cambridge, and there’s even a free shuttle from Kendall Square every 20 minutes or so (it’s not too far to walk, but can be a bit heavy with bags). You can also take the green line on the T to Downtown Crossing in Boston, and if you’re looking for warm clothes there’s Filene’s Basement, Macy’s, TJ Max, and a pretty nice H&M.

Furniture: There’s a Target in Somerville – take the Red Line to Lechmere, and then I think there’s a bus from there? – if you’re looking for lamps, fans, etc. There’s also a Sears in the Galleria, where Neha and I got our fridge last year. If you want cheap and totally hip Swedish furniture, though, you can go to Ikea, which is about half an hour away by car (you’d need to rent a car; Next House rents a bus to go every fall). Plus, because it’s totally Swedish, you can have interesting conversations like this one:

MY FRIEND ALBERT: Man, this juice is so good.
ME: What is it?
MY FRIEND ALBERT: Klingon berry juice.

(He meant Lingonberry.)

Emily ponders: Just how necessary are laptops? Like when you say you’ve known people to survive for a while in Athena long is a long time?
A long time is maybe like two months, after which he (the one person I knew) caved and bought a refurbished one. Laptops are pretty necessary, because you’ll most likely need to use MATLAB at some point, whether you’re an engineering, math, or science major. There are also humanities requirements (called CI-H, or Communications Intensive in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) that expect you to write several papers per semester. If you choose to do so with on papyrus with a sharpened reed, that’s up to you, but you won’t be able to quickly find the facts you need on Wikipedia (i.e. what pogonotrophy is).

Isshak wonders: How big are the tables in the classroom ? Because my computer is the large screen 17″ type, so it’s pretty massive.
It depends on the classroom. Classes in Stata tend to have giant surfaces you sit behind, for both your writing pleasure and also in case of a major natural disaster, but the pull-out desks in the Brain and Cognitive Science building (46) are so flimsy that they’ll shatter under four sheets of binder paper. In those classes, I generally just put my computer on my lap. In most of the main classrooms (i.e. 10-250 and 54-100), the pull-out desks are both sturdy and sizeable, so I think you should be fine with a 17″ laptop; if not, they’re pull-out, so you don’t necessarily need to use them.

Isshak has a question: Jess, I had a question, could you explain to us what rush dorm really is ? Because I didn’t really understand how they place you. Do you answer questions like “I would like to have my own bedroom, near school, great view) things like that ?

The housing process really is one of the coolest parts of being an MIT freshman. During the summer, Housing sends you a booklet with a page written by each of the dorms, along with a DVD with short movies made by each of the dorms (the i3 videos, or Interactive Introduction to the Institute, can be found here). You read, and watch, and then fill out a preference sheet online with a few words about yourself (no need to re-copy your college essay; think more of a personal ad). You’re also asked if you’d prefer a single, double, triple, or quad, but while your preferences are taken into account, they don’t necessarily mean you’ll get what you want (as it’s a lottery). You get temped in a dormitory, where you live for a week (or two if you choose to do a pre-orientation program) – which is a time period called REX, or Residence Exploration, during which you’re highly encouraged to check out the other dorms available to you. After that week you fill out another preference sheet, during which you can try to lottery into another dorm or elect to stay in your current dorm. This is not the case for Next House and McCormick, which are Residence-Based Advising dorms and thus will not allow you to move out of those dorms if you pref one of them.

And now that I’ve fully blown off an entire evening of studying, I’m going to stop listening to Gloria Estefan, turn off the internet, and try to do some work. But please keep asking questions!

41 responses to “Internet is Gonna Get Me”

  1. Star says:

    I love parenthesis (BUT HATE CAPS LOCK!)

    Jess, maybe you could talk a bit about (gasp) other colleges you applied to, and why you liked / didn’t like them.

  2. Hunter '11 says:

    I say “bless you”, too, but not many seem to do it out here. At my high school, though, we used it ridiculously often – there was one teacher at my school who forbade us from saying it. “ONE GAL SNEEZES, 27/30 OF YOU SAY ‘BLESS YOU’, AND THE WHOLE CLASS IS DISRUPTED. KNOCK IT OFF!”

    I too am partial to Trader Joe’s. California, represent!

    Just to clarify, in-house depends on the dorm as well. Many dorms have hall/entry culture – at East Campus, you fill out another paper and get lotteried again. One thing is, though, you only have to move ONCE. You move in at the start of orientation, go through rush, then in-house rush, then you move again (even if you’re in the same dorm).

    And I’m just saying that because I thought we’d have to move to our permanent dorm after dorm rush but before in-house rush, but we didn’t =)

  3. Ally says:

    Hey, a couple random questions for you:

    I think I remember you mentioning being vegetarian (I could be wrong on this, maybe it was another blogger). How’s it being a vegetarian at MIT. Do you know any vegans/do you think a vegan would survive?

    On a completely unrelated note: I love the MIT culture and so much about the school, but I’m a little bit scared. I’ve always been in advanced math classes (I’ll have taken through differential equations by the time I graduate) in high school, but never at the top of the math class. I’m willing to learn more but I’m scared that I’ll be totally swamped and not understand anything at MIT. Are there people who aren’t super good at math?

  4. Evan '10 says:

    You know what’s even better than a Target in Somerville?

    The South Bay Center that’s just past the Andrew stop on the red line. You get off of the T, keep walking, go across a bridge, and you’ll find…

    Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, Home Depot, OfficeMax…err, and more! (Which is to say I can’t remember all the awesomeness that is there)

    That’s where I go for almost anything I need.

  5. Jess says:


  6. Nihar says:

    Hi Jess!
    Now that you mention it, I do have a few questions I was planning to ask you.

    To begin with, I was wondering how and where do students interact with their professors outside of class?? Are they easily approachable any time of the day?
    (cz in my high school, we tail them throughout the school until they’re cornered and then attack them with our queries;),though I think that wont be possible for someone at MIT…will it?)

    And secondly,(aa..aaaachooo!!..srry!)
    I sneeze pretty loudly so…ahem…will that affect my chances of making good friends(who’d surely consider the sporadic sniffs n honks as a distraction)??:)
    Please advise.

  7. Hawkins says:

    Jess! I have an SD600… How did you break yours?!

    I second Ally’s inquiry. I’m thinking about possibly going vegetarian, and I wonder how well that would mesh with being an MIT student.

  8. milena '11 says:

    Klingon berry?! that deserves an “lol”. seriously. But it’s true, Ikea has lingonberry EVERYTHING. I went there with my dad to buy stuff for my room and they had lingonberries galore. I’d recommend people to go to Ikea (more bang for your buck). And I get two weeks worth of groceries at Star Market/Shaw’s (including meat and veggies and everything) so grocery-shopping is not too painful.

    Oh, and I believe Fred and I asked about Phyo. Blog about Phyo!

  9. anonymous says:

    Jess, have you decided upon a major?

  10. Carmel says:

    MIT vegetarian group website: “How to Survive MIT, Cambridge and Boston as a Vegetarian”

  11. Sam says:

    Yeah, I mean, I can’t fight, so I’ll have to live in a tree or something to protest your use of parentheses. We actually met one of the tree people the other day while waiting for the bus. He was wearing a dress, which cleverly concealed a carabiner that he apparently uses to zipline from tree to tree. That would totally make getting across the athletic field way easier.

  12. Constantin says:

    You shouldn’t antagonize your ‘basic politeness.’ Think of how guilty you would feel had you not said ‘Bless you’ when you felt like saying it!

    Enough of my philosophy, now the question: How does the application fee waiver work? Do I have to wait until the letter from my school reaches the Admission Office and only then submit my application?

  13. Isshak says:

    Thanks Jess ! You cleared my doubts ! As for my PC, I think I should sell it and buy a 13″ mac book, just to be safe and still have the power (and the design!).

  14. Anonymous says:

    How many free t shirts have you gotten at Next House so far this year?

  15. ralph says:

    hey, questions for you…
    How should we intimate the colleges(not necessarily just MIT) that we’re sending in a application fee waiver request?(email and tell them?what if i don’t get a reply? Should i still go ahead and send in the request?)

    Won’t the adcom wonder about a random guy sends in a request without any prior info, about him?I might fill in the part 1 of the appl. b4 sending in the request..but what about the other colleges?common app doesn’t have a part 1….do help out..

  16. Farhad says:

    If anyone could help… What would be better for a Math with CS major, Linux, Windows, Mac, Babbage’s machine,…?
    With CS I mean computer science, not Counter-Strike smile That would be a cool major though…

  17. Sam says:


  18. Isshak says:

    But everybody loves parenthetical statements ! (and are you shouting or you forgot to put CAPS off ? it really gives another image of you ^^).

  19. Jack says:

    @ Leah,
    I am an applicant like yourself and was lucky enough to talk to my EC in my first try. I am applying RA so i didnt have any time contraints. However, i suggest calling your EC on the weekend but at a suitable hour. I called mine at 1 pm on a Sunday knowing that in Australia most people are up and active at that time of day.
    If you are applying regular action, dont get so worried as you still have 2 months to have your interview. If you are applying EA, then i suggest you send an email to Matt or Ben as that is probably the quickest methods of communication other than a phone call.
    I know you feel worried about calling him many times. If so, wait until next weekend and try again but this time call his house phone. You want to be empathetic about calling him continuously, but dont let that lead to hesitance. Remember that they volunteered to be EC and it is something they enjoy. Maybe he is neck-deep in work — give them time.

  20. Scott '10 says:

    Just so you know, it *is* possible to live without a laptop. I’ve been doing it for more than a year now, and to be honest it works out much better than I was initially expecting.

    Yes, it does mean spending a lot of time in Athena clusters. But in a way, I actually really like that. Whenever I have a final paper to write, I just hope up in an cluster until the darn thing is done–it’s much less distracting than my dorm room, and the Athena environment is (in my experience) quite conducive to hardcore tooling.

    For example, just before my 24.900 final paper was due last term, I spent three days in clusters. I’m a slow writer, so it literally took all three days–probably fifty hours in total. The trick is to switch clusters frequently as the day goes on–more than four hours in a single cluster is completely unbearable.

    So, with that in mind, here’s my unofficial guide to some of the clusters on campus:

    <li>W20-575: Largest cluster on campus by far; closest to the West Campus dorms. Generally very noisy in the early evening (before 1 am), but this tapers off as you approach 6 am. Well lit during the day: if you’re still tooling at six in the morning, come here to watch the sunrise as you work. Beware the uneven carpet.</li>
    <li>1-142: Moderate-sized cluster overlooking Killian Court. Very nice view; take advantage of this to keep your spirits up when morning arrives. Pretty active during the day; don’t expect to find a free printer here.</li>
    <li>2-032 and 2-225: These are both secret-ninja clusters. 2-032 is in an obscure basement far from the Infinite, and 2-225 is identified only by its room number scrawled next to the door in Sharpie. The printers here are almost always free.</li>
    <li>4-167: Small and generally too warm for my tastes. No windows.</li>
    <li>11-112: Four quickstations right along the Infinite. Useful for checking your mail on the way between classes, but there’s often a short line.</li>
    <li>12-182: Right off the Infinite near Cafe 4 and the funny-smelling trash chutes; probably the second-busiest cluster during the day. Three printers, though, so at least it’s better than the 56 cluster.</li>
    <li>24-618: Not an official cluster; these machines belong to ESG. If you’re part of the community, this is a very comvenient place. My current location, and where I spend a lot of my time.</li>
    <li>37-312: Well out of your way, but if you like dual-screen Windows machines this is the cluster for you. Has a very nice color LaserJet printer, if you need such a thing.</li>
    <li>38-370: Deep in EECS land, this cluster isn’t even on the charts. It’s got a broken ventilation unit in the ceiling which makes a ton of noise, so don’t try to spend much time there.</li>
    <li>56-129: The one cluster everyone uses between classes. Reasonably fast turnover, but if you find a seat immediately you’re lucky. Printers run constantly and there’s usually a bit of a wait.</li>
    <li>66-080: The closest cluster to EC and Senior House, so it’s the place we go to print out class notes at night. Reasonably empty all day, so go here instead of the 56 cluster. Quiet at night, but slowly crushes your soul as morning approaches.</li></ul>

  21. Nicole '10 says:

    Linux, always Linux, no matter what major you are. Because it’s awesome.

    Seriously, though – I’m course 6, and I dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows XP. I never ever use the Windows XP, but it’s nice to have it there just in case I need to run something that isn’t Linux-compatible (which sadly, does happen). If you haven’t bought your computer yet, I do believe that they’re selling them with Linux now, so you might as well save yourself the cost of an operating system by getting a computer that comes with Linux and then install Windows XP through MIT’s free software thing once you get the computer.*

    *I personally did the opposite – paid for Windows XP with my computer and then borrowed an Ubuntu LiveCD from the friendly people at SIPB.

  22. Farhad says:

    Is it hard to get used to Linux if you don’t have any Linux experience?

  23. Mitra says:

    Great post… Is Ankara’s delivery time still horrendous? I thought it was only worth it in person, but oh was it worth it….

  24. Sam says:

    oh man Scott, 2-032 is the greatest cluster ever. I’m so glad you brought it up in the blogs. if you ever need to print out a 40-page problem set 5 minutes before class, look no further than corfu.

  25. Anonymous says:

    The guy who does the Steve Irwin impersonation for the baker house video, is he really australian?
    If so, and if you know him, would you be able to get his email address?
    Haha go aussies!

  26. ralph says:

    can someone answer my question?

  27. leah says:

    my EC is gonna hate me, ive called him like 8 times in the past three days. i can never get ahold of him cuz he never answers his cell phone, so i always end up calling his house and having to bother his wife. i tried the email provided on myMIT but it must be out of date, or else my email got screened as junk cuz he never answered back (that was a couple weeks ago so he couldnt have just “not got around to it”).

    i need to schedule my interview, but i dont want to bug the heck out of him and his wife. any suggestions??

  28. Kayla L. says:

    I have the same problem with my EC. But I have not called him…only one email sent on the 21st. And he has not replied. My friend has said his EC in the area did not get any MIT EC info so he’s on hold…is all the NJ area EC’s in the same situation?

    And another thing – random – are there any thrift stores near the MIT campus?

  29. Kayla L. says:

    Oops. I meant to say same problem as user “leah.”

  30. AMRITA says:



  31. THE Albert says:

    Thanks for the mention Jess. I draw a big fat mark on my wall everytime you talk about me…MORE!!!

    Anywho, you neglected to mention our 7.03 shenanigans O_O!

    Cheers, I’ll see ya in the RR.

  32. oasis '11 says:

    Wow. That Athena list is amazing.

    Finding another new Athena cluster for me is just like finding an Easter Egg tucked away somewhere on campus. It’s amazing.

    There’s also an Athena cluster of around 15 computers underneath building 14 in the basement. It belongs to the Library, but appearantly people could still get in. When I discovered that (and basically that entire basement corridor), it was like REALLY finding an Easter Egg. It’s amazing how many Athena computers are tucked away at random places on campus…

  33. Michelle says:

    I’m in NJ and I’ve gotten in contact with my EC and heard back from him so it definitely isn’t a problem with everyone.

  34. Jess says:

    Ok, so I lied. You can spend forever without a computer, apparently. And I totally forgot you can run matlab on athena machines, so I guess technically you really don’t need a laptop. But how will you facebook in class??

  35. Isshak says:

    So true ! Can you believe a world without facebooking or blog stalking in the middle of 18.01 ? Impossible ! And if you don’t believe me, believe Jess !

  36. Alice says:

    I’ve been an Educational Councillor for 27 years. To Leah and Kayla, please recognize that your EC interviewer is a volunteer, who probably also has a very busy career, and could be traveling, even if they don’t have an “out of office” automatic reply (for security reasons). If you contact me 8 times in 3 days, I’m going to be very pissed off by the time I contact you. Scheduling the interview may be tops on your priority list, but it comes AFTER my paid work efforts (and usually after that rare commodity, sleep). Applicants should followup if they have not received a response from their EC in 4-7 days. We would ideally respond to you within 24-48 hours, but the reality of our worlds may not make that possible. It’s not our fault if you waited until the last day to try to reach your EC–more calls will not move you to the top of our list. Do not ask for a different EC “because they won’t respond to me” until at least 10 days has gone by after your first inquiry and at least 5 days after your second inquiry of your initial assigned EC. Amazingly, some of us don’t do email from home, so if you sent me an email at 6pm on Friday, the earliest I see it is 9:30am on Monday and it might take me til Wed.evening to find time to respond. Or maybe I have all my MIT email sent to a home email account that I only look at ON the weekend. Yall are all brilliant, the deadlines allow the EC to individually choose to deal with you late, so just avoid procrastination. We’re really nice as a group, we wouldn’t be doing interviews if we didn’t like it—what other volunteer activity that you know of is graded? We want to know if you seem like someone we’d enjoy as a lab partner or roommate, but many of us are, from a teenage perspective, older than dirt, so we don’t move as fast as you. Baby Boomers are going to be around for a long time—being able to tolerate our foibles will be a positive attribute for you.

  37. silverSurfer says:

    It seems ec’s are very important indeed! grin also, I think there is a thrift store right on mass. ave. near campus.(not the best I’ ve seen) PERPLEXED! Yes that is what i am after the girl with two first names says bless you in the library? Who is it: the savage wakeboard rider sales queen, or the caring concerned bless you girl? lol wink (i loved your summer post! did u sell lots of iphones?) However, on a serious note how does sound engineeeinq work @ mit. Is it a program you can design yourself(with the help of very wise counselors) or is it course 6 and music as a dual major? Also, does mit have a recording studio open to students, and can you take lessons(as a music major) with Berklee professors

  38. Jen! '11 says:

    I ate one of Jess’s funky pancakes! =P

    To Ralph…

    Collegeboard offers application waivers to students who qualify for the SAT waivers, which can be used at good number of colleges. Otherwise, you can just get a letter written by your school counselor or maybe family accountant saying that paying the application fee puts a financial burden on your family. I recommend you list some numbers if you can (otherwise they might wait until they see your FAFSA/CSS profile?). If you’re smart, you can distribute the collegeboard waivers and school counselor/family accountant letters among the majority of your colleges and only end up paying for a few. You’ll save your family a LOT of money (because as we all know, the whole college applying-to can get pretty freakin expensive).

    But don’t send in waivers or requests for them if your family’s relatively well off.

    Hope this helps! And good luck with the application process guys – don’t forget to breathe once and a while.

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