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A head-and-shoulders illustrated portrait of Ceri Riley. She is smiling with her mouth closed, has light skin, and long light pink hair.

My Last First Month by Ceri Riley '16

Because I procrastinated too long to say 'day' or 'week'

Thoughts on September:

Me, now that it’s October:

It feels weird to be a senior.

It feels weird to be a senior while excited freshmen are just beginning their MIT journey and everyone is asking “what are your plans for next year???” and I internally scream “I DON’T KNOW” but manage to smile and say “um, maybe taking a gap year before applying to grad school or possibly working if I find a cool company who wants to hire me.”

A whole month of school has already passed, people suited up for the Fall Career Fair and are interviewing with companies, classes are settling into a rhythm, the pumpkin takeover is underway, and I am nowhere closer to having an answer. This Monday I put on a nice sweater and got my photo taken for the yearbook. For my senior quote, I submitted: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I hope they publish it.

These days, I spend about half my time off MIT campus and am only 3 units above the credit cutoff to be considered a full-time student. I’m busy, but also happier than I’ve been in a while. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m not ‘MIT’ enough to blog anymore, because I’ve spent the last year extracting myself from student clubs and responsibilities so that I have the energy to dip my toes into this mysterious ‘Real World.’

I also know that it’s a silly excuse. And that what I’m more worried about is letting my whirlwind of stressful thoughts spill over into blogs and vlogs. So, this is a warmup post, a mixture of self-aware rambling and MIT things to exercise my Internet writing muscles. Here’s what I’m doing this semester:


7.30AB – Fundamentals of Ecology

i.e. everything I’ve ever wanted in a biology class here, focusing on how organisms relate to each other and their environment instead of laboring over details about cellular/molecular processes. While I understand the value of learning about all the biochemical mechanisms that keep us alive, especially when it comes to medicine/research/etc., it’s no longer my cup of tea. Also we get to grow microorganisms in mud and water from the Charles River – how cool is that?

CMS.307 – Critical Worldbuilding

i.e. Junot Diaz reveals the lifeblood of stories and gives us the tools and vocabulary to dissect them ourselves. We’ve only had a month of class and it feels vaguely like I’ve emerged from The Matrix. My perspective on storytelling has been so radically honed in the past year (first by comic book writing, now by this) and I’m able to look at media through a more thoughtful/critical/informed lens. Several friends (and bloggers) have said this is one of the best classes they’ve taken at MIT. They’re not wrong.

21M.851 – Drawing for Designers

i.e. figure drawing for free (as opposed to the Student Art Association classes which, while appealing, are too expensive for me to justify registering) with a fantastic costume designer as a teacher. I don’t know if it’s offered regularly, but it’s welcoming of students of every skill level – from people who have taken many art classes to those who have never touched a charcoal stick before. Art is taken seriously, and I can feel my observation/drawing skills improving every week.


7.20 – Human Physiology

i.e. the first time I’ve dropped a class at MIT because 1) the amount of information presented (both in lecture and in pages upon pages of practice questions) was overwhelming, 2) that information was deeply uninteresting to me (I think this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ of MIT molecular/cellular biology classes for me), and 3) I fear I might be doing too much this semester and dropping this class made me feel relieved instead of guilty (which is weird for me because guilt is a default emotional reaction).


MITx Biology UROP

i.e. continuing to work with the wonderful MITx Biology team (who taught my summer class a year ago) on Part 2 of 7.28x, MIT’s Molecular Biology Massive Open Online Course or MOOC. I’ve talked about my work a little bit in a vlog, although not with too much detail. Right now, I’m helping record/animate/produce Deep Dive videos on topics like Reaction Rates and Protein Motifs to supplement the lecture videos. Figuring out how to teach molecular biology is, for some reason, far more interesting than just learning it.

NOVA Digital Team Internship

i.e. on Wednesdays and Fridays I take a bus to the WGBH (PBS) offices and work on episodes of Gross Science (you can even see me in the credits in a couple videos) and short-form videos for the NOVA website. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a ‘Real Job’ where I have an ID card and my own cubicle with a computer and a not-horrible commute. Plus everyone’s been incredibly welcoming despite me being the youngest person there.


Monstress Internship

i.e. Marjorie Liu (my professor from comic book writing last Fall) is releasing a new comic called Monstress (the first issue comes out November 4th) and she invited me to help out! My tasks range from research to brainstorming promotion ideas to administrative stuff, and I’ve been learning so much about the comic publishing process and getting sneak peeks along the way. She’s amazing, the story and art and lettering are incredible, and everyone should definitely read the series.

MIT+K12 Videos

i.e. even though I’m not technically a Multimedia Fellow anymore, I’ll still help Elizabeth out this semester with little projects like #askMIT videos once in a while. I love the style of videos she produces, so getting to play around with hosting or editing or PA-ing or animating is always fun.


Kickboxing PE

i.e. I have way too many PE credits but need to be motivated to exercise, and 3 friends are in the class with me. Mostly we just jump and punch and kick and laugh a lot, so it’s a pretty swell break on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.


i.e. even though I don’t want to do anything medicine-related with my life, I enjoy being able to help people out with bits of medical advice and first aid supplies. I was the Residential Director for MacGregor last year, but realized how much I dislike scheduling meetings and planning dorm-wide events. Just helping is so much better.

So, mostly I’m trying to figure out how to put my voice into everything I do, whether it’s videos or art or writing or physically talking (where I am most prone to mumbling and second-guessing my thoughts). For many years I focused on everything but myself, like school or other people or how to chameleon in various social situations.

I have a lot of work ahead of me. But things are good, I think.