As if someone flipped a switch, this year’s unnaturally warm autumn has abruptly given way to winter. It’s the cold air stinging my airway, how it’s always dark out after my last class of the day, that tells me autumn has already breathed its dying breaths.
I’m an course 6 (EECS) has a nice program that allows you to work towards your Masters of Engineering concurrently with finishing your bachelor's degree. student now. People have told me that “being an MEng student is literally the chillest thing ever.” For the most part, that’s a stinking load of BS. I still feel like I never have enough time for all the things I want to do.
In a way, things do feel a bit lighter though. I’m only taking two classes (WGS.245: Queer Literature & 2.737 Mechatronics) instead of my usual four or five. My other academic commitments are to work on my research and to to be a teaching assistant a class, both of which I’m really enjoying. I’m busy, but I finally have room to breathe.
Or maybe, I’m finally carving out the space to breathe. Being in nature has been sooo good for me this past summer, so I’ve been trying to frolic in the Great Outdoors whenever I can.
- I spent a weekend at the WildFire Flow Arts Retreat and learned how to contacting fire directly onto your skin in an artful way essentially spitting lamp oil at a torch and I already know a decent amount of fire spinning through MIT Spinning Arts, but there are always new techniques to learn! fire WildFire and MIT Spinning Arts take safety very seriously; don't try any of those at home :) in the middle of nowhere Connecticut. In my mind, Connecticut has always been the liminal space between Boston and NYC. Now I associate Connecticut with fire loving hippies and friendship and community.
- Dormcon organized an apple picking trip and of course I had to go. I don’t even love apples. They’re just okay. It’s really all for the opportunity to frolic amongst fruit bearing trees and partake in what’s probably the most stereotypical New England fall activity. Winnie, Tiffany and I bought matching fruit beanies (strawberry, blueberry, orange respectively) off of Depop specifically for the occasion so that we could be fruits picking fruits.
- In general, I’ve been trying to get my butt outside if I’m feeling down. Even if I don’t have the time or energy to go somewhere that’s actually naturey, walking to Star Market or biking down the Southwest Corridor lifts my mood.
Living off campus has also created a much needed layer of separation from MIT. That’s also made it easier to breathe.
I really miss East Campus though. The activation energy needed to hang out with my friends has increased tenfold. I can’t just bump into them on the way to the kitchen or head down a flight of stairs to check if they’re around. I miss the “it’s 3am but I’m hungry,” the “so am I,” and finally the “haha what if we made noodles and banana bread?”
Now I have to message my friends and remember to message them back and Google Calendar a time to meet up. I am genuinely bad at remembering to message people back within one business day. I miss having most of my friends at an arm’s reach.
It’s always a great time when I do catch up with them though, whether due to meticulously planning GCal events or serendipity. Our conversations tend to circle around the terrifying prospect of becoming old by undergrad standards.
I feel like I’ve become … domestic. My life is so quiet nowadays.
Right? Like I’m no longer the spontaneous spring chicken that I once was. I go to bed by midnight and wake up early to take advantage of the daylight. I mealprep. Dude, I’m so boring.
Maybe we’re just prioritizing taking care of ourselves more.
Maybe we’re just growing up.
Growing up and being not boring are obviously not mutually exclusive, but there’s a clear trend amongst my friends and I towards craving a stability of some sorts, both in the present and the future. We talk about our immediate post grad plans and longer term goals and loftiest dreams. Our conversations are grounded with a newfound sense of self assuredness. Our words seem lighter.
We’ve wrestled with feeling lost and uncertain throughout much of our time here at MIT, but we’ve all emerged with something to look forward to. There’s still a ton I don’t have the answers for, like whether to stay at MIT for a PhD, how to convince other people to take me more seriously in workplace environments, how to sound confident when I only know a medium amount of something, versus needing to know a lot about something before I can speak definitely about it…
We may not have it all figured out yet, but we’re definitely figuring it out. And that’s what matters.
I caught up with my past UROP mentors recently, both of whom have moved on from MIT. It’s always nice catching up with old mentors, as kind of a reminder that there are extremely cool people out there who care deeply about my growth.
My relationship with my new advisor and my new lab is pretty good, I have a lot of freedom to work on things that excite me, and I’m really enjoying TA’ing even though the idea of receiving student evaluations is so nervewracking and haunts me daily. But explaining something wrong isn’t the end all be all, and I’m TA’ing to help students learn, not to boost my evaluations…
Wow, sounds like things are going great!
I get caught up in the small stuff sometimes, but I suddenly realize that the things that matter are actually going well!
I had worked on characterizing the inner workings of generative image models in my past UROP, essentially making complicated AI models less of a black box. This was before stable diffusion and GenAI became the hottest buzzwords of the tech world. One of my mentors talked about diverging from image models and moving onto large language models as his primary research focus.
Well, I’m also doing something different. Lately I’ve been designing the hardware and mechanical parts of diagnostic devices that my lab wants to build. We’re trying to make that stuff more accessible to smaller clinics and other healthcare settings with fewer resources. Also one of our postdocs builds optical systems and I’m hoping to pick up some of that from her.
I breathe in.
Anyways I don’t do much deep learning nowadays. Sorry, I guess I really veered off the track.
Audrey, you didn’t veer off the track, this is your track! This is the stuff that makes the world a better place.
I breathe out. I’m grateful for my mentor telling me that.
It’s been simultaneously forever and a heartbeat ago that my friends and I started MIT on zoom during the cursed fall of 2020, and now we’re seniors. Even if this winter is cold and bitter, something in the air tells me that there will be enough heartwarming moments to get me through it. It’s also the last winter before my friends and I disperse. We’ll be leaves drifting out into the world, carried by winds blowing in multiple directions.
- course 6 (EECS) has a nice program that allows you to work towards your Masters of Engineering concurrently with finishing your bachelor's degree. back to text ↑
- to be a teaching assistant back to text ↑
- contacting fire directly onto your skin in an artful way back to text ↑
- essentially spitting lamp oil at a torch back to text ↑
- I already know a decent amount of fire spinning through MIT Spinning Arts, but there are always new techniques to learn! back to text ↑
- WildFire and MIT Spinning Arts take safety very seriously; don't try any of those at home :) back to text ↑