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It’s the FIRST DAY of CLASSES!!!!! by Selam G. '18

A summary of the first half of the day/how I'm feeling, with many exclamation points!!!


It’s the FIRST DAY OF CLASSES and I haven’t blagged since I got back from China. Today, in order to facilitate Better Blogging Habits for AY 2017 (Academic Year 2017) I’m trying something a little different.

I normally spend a lot of time editing and crafting admissions blog posts, but today, I thought I’d just do what I normally save for tumblr, which is ramble about my thoughts and feelings until I’m done. Sometimes it turns out ok, I think. I’ve often had too much reverence for The Blogs in order to throw a post up without much editing, but now that I’m officially a junior (scary!) I figure I’ve earned some confidence in my abilities x)

First, an update!

What I Did This Summer!

This summer, I was in a different country every month. It was pretty crazy.

For the month of June, I went to China for the Masters of China Studies Visiting Scholars Program at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China (that was a lot of proper nouns). I also spent two weeks hangin out and visiting my family with my mom. I hadn’t been back to China in six years, so it was really great to see everyone/everything again. Being in Shanghai really made me feel that I could easily live and work there, which was cool. My Chinese is a lot better now, and I went out into the city just on my own a lot, to explore or visit certain places or meet up with cousins and friends.


In Shanghai, there was a Chinese characters version of The Alchemist sculpture that sits in front of the student center on MIT’s campus!

For the month of July, I continued my UROP with the Media Lab. I UROP at Mediated Matter on a giant 3D Printing/Automated Manufacturing project. Basically, we’re trying to push the upper limits of size on automated manufacturing, mostly involving 3D printing (such as, 3D printing a house).

When you’re trying to print something huge, you can’t have a regular printer, of course, because first you’d have to build a giant printer before printing, say, a house, which kind of defeats the purpose. So instead, we use a big robotic arm to “draw” the structure. Imagine squeezing toothpaste out of a toothpaste tube. First, you draw a circle with it, and then a circle on top of that, and one on top of that–eventually, you might have a cylinder. We’re trying to use an arm instead of a traditional gantry system to do that. This is a subtle difference, but a huge one. When you have a normal 3D printer, the X, Y, and Z axis movements of the printer motors correspond pretty exactly to movements in real 3D space. But when you have an arm, the motors you’re controlling are the joints of the robotic arm, so you have to do way more math to figure out where the tip of the arm is actually moving in 3D space. What’s more is that, with an arm, there can be multiple ways to get to the same point, and you have to be conscious of those when programming and designing, because otherwise everything will crash and be sad :(

Our project happened to also be hosted at Google, so I had the amazing opportunity of being out with the team in California. I hadn’t planned it at all though; the conversation went something like this:

Grad student: “Hey Selam, so we’re gonna need a lot of help with this final test print. Do you want to head out to California?”

Me: “Sure!”

Two days later, I was on a plane o__O

For the month of August, I went to Ethiopia to continue the water well project I talk about in this blog post. I’m very excited!!! We’re finally going to start actually digging this well. For those of you to lazy to read the other blog post, basically I applied to a bunch of grants around MIT so that I could work on providing a more sustainable water source to Muti, a village in Kafa, SNNPR, Ethiopia, where my father went to middle school and many of my family members still live. I will probably write another blog post about the second trip soon!

How I’m Feeling Now!

I think I’ve come back each year to MIT less and less prepared for the actual first day of classes. This year, I was involved in sorority recruitment with my sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, which I also plan to write a blag post about. It was a lot of fun, but also a ton of work, and I’ve still only been back in the country for a week. I’m feeling a little thrown into this first day of class as I’m sitting here waiting for 2.05: Thermodynamics lecture to start.


The imposter syndrome is real. Even with all the really cool things I’ve done this summer and how excited I felt about them, I’m left feeling a little like I have no applicable skills in mechanical engineering lol. I think it’s because computer science seems more discretized in the skill sets it provides: you know Java, or Python, or have taken algorithms. Since I’m not super great at theory in Mechanical Engineering, I can say I know CAD and build stuff kinda(?) I’m trying to figure out how to talk about myself (through my resume or in interviews) in a way that is Employable(TM). I do think what’s unique is that, as a 2A-CIR (Mechanical Engineering with Robotics) major, I have a background in both computer science and mechanical engineering. So I don’t know 3: I hope everything turns out ok and I have an internship by the end of the year.


Thermo lecture ended and I feel a bit better after talking to my dad. I’m excited again, although still nervous/overwhelmed/aggressively contemplating the future when it’s probably most useful to focus on the present, and, like, what I just learned in thermo lecture. Wednesday is my busiest day (from 9:30am-3:00pm with no breaks :( ) but on the first day we typically don’t have any recitations, which means I happen to be free for a couple hours. I’m now at clover to meet up with some of my DPhiE sisters and hang out before 6.042 lecture.


From left to right, Carissa G. ’19, me, and Jen S. ’18. We’re all wearing the same shirts because recruitment~ Everyone’s so cute! :3

One thing I’m really happy about for this semester is that, while I do feel less practically prepared for classes (I don’t have clothes hangers yet, still need to buy food, only got my schedule put into google calendar late last night) I do feel a lot more comfortable returning to campus than I did freshman and sophomore year. I think a big reason for that has been joining Delta Phi Epsilon as a founder and being a part of an awesome group of women. I think I’m actually a pretty social person, but I was craving more intimate and serious connections with people on campus. I did have several close friends, but I think I was also looking for a community.

Each year feels very different, even right at the start. I’m hoping that junior year won’t be too stressful and chaotic; I’m hoping I’ll land a position I want in robotics or another mechanical engineering field for the summer because I really want that experience; I’m hoping I get enough funding to finish our well project; I’m hoping I can properly manage the well construction from afar; I’m hoping I can do cool things with our UROP this semester…..


There’s a lot of things I’m hoping, and I’m nervous about them. But, it’s still good to be back. As my friend Andres S. ‘16 said when we hung out briefly in the student center yesterday (and from the perspective of someone On The Other Side of Graduation) “I missed talking to people with this kind of energy, people who are doing crazy things and who want to do crazy things. I feel like there’s no other place with people like that.”