# mid semester check-in by Fatima A. '25

all about my classes

I originally registered for 60 units of classes this semester:

- 18.701: Algebra I
- 18.404: Theory of Computation
- 18.905: Algebraic Topology I
- 6.006(6.1210): Introduction to Algorithms
- 21W.771: Advanced Poetry Workshop

After meeting with my advisor, we agreed that I would take three of the four technical classes I had picked out or put one of them on Listener. I registered full time for all four, half convinced I would drop the class I liked the least but mostly because I wanted to take all of these classes. 6.006 was my droppable class. I was skeptical because I don’t like big class sizes and I did not have a great experience in 6.009(6.1010),01 Fundamentals of Programming the only other computer science class I have taken at MIT. Still, I thought because it is an algorithms class, I would enjoy it more than 6.009.

In the time between registration and now, I also added Undergraduate Teaching Seminar02 a class for first time teaching assistants in ESG(the Experimental Study Group, a first year learning community). I am TAing Differential Equations this semester, so I have to take the seminar and Undergraduate Practice Opportunity Program.03 a career development program for sophomores to help with resume writing, applying to internships, etc. and provide a framework of support

It turned out that three of the classes had problem sets due every two weeks, but on the same Thursday. 18.701 has weekly problem sets due midnight on Wednesdays so every other week, I had 4 problem sets due in a 24 hour period. Every time, I planned to schedule my time well and every time, I failed.

I had not been particularly enjoying the way 6.006 is taught and was seriously considering dropping it. At brunch on Saturday last week, I decided I would put 6.006 on Listener. One of the main motivations was that I didn’t think I knew too many people taking that class and I didn’t like the way the office hours were structured either. The last time I went, there weren’t enough TAs for the number of people there and I wasn’t able to get any help or ask any of the questions I had. But when Feli X. ’25 told me she was also in the class, I was motivated again to not drop it. I worked on the problem set due that week with some friends and got about two thirds of it.

That Thursday, after coming back from DormCon GBM,04 Dormitory Council. DormCon is to all dorms what dorm exec is to a single dorm. Every other week, we have General Body Meetings where all the dorm presidents give updates. I dropped the class to Listener. In the moment, it was very painful. I haven’t dropped a real class at MIT before and it was definitely not my hardest class this semester. It was just the only one I could’ve afforded to drop right now and I knew I had to drop something to make space for the other classes that I am taking which are more difficult and time consuming.

I still plan to go to recitations because I really like our recitation leader and I have been learning a lot more in recitations than the lectures.

Here are my rambling thoughts on all the full time classes I am actively taking right now.

**I. 18.701: Algebra I**

This is the one class that I somewhat have to take. It is only offered in the fall and is one of the first classes in algebra so it is a prerequisite for a lot of other classes I want to take.

The only group theory05 read: barely any I have seen before is in 18.90106 Introduction to Topology so I only knew the barebone definitions covered in the first three classes. Because I have only seen algebra as a tool for topology, it is interesting to look deeper into the actual algebra and gaining intuition for that.

The professor is a great instructor and the lectures are reasonably clear. He occasionally gives applications of the concepts we are studying in non-mathematical contexts. Sometimes, this means a tangent about relativity or quasicrystals and other times, it means talking about none pizza with left beef. He also cares deeply about the students and is answering questions at all hours.

But, the problem sets are insane. There are weekly problem sets that have anywhere from 8 to 11 problems, some with subparts and all the problems are very difficult. At least for someone who is doing algebra for the first time, which is exactly the expected audience for an Algebra I class, the problem sets are very, very time consuming and overwhelming.

**II. 18.905: Algebraic Topology I**

The instructor who is teaching the class is the same professor who taught me 18.901. He teaches really well, takes reasonable breaks for questions, is willing to meet outside of class and is very understanding if you are falling behind and need some extra time.

I hope to do more Algebraic Topology and this is a great foundational class for that. The content is complex and takes some getting used to but the pace is well calibrated so it is still very enjoyable.

One of the great conversations I had this week while working on the problem set for this class with Misheel O. ’25 was whether tea is homotopic07 two topological spaces are homotopic if there is a continuous way to deform one into the other to water. The consensus is it is not, but there was disagreement in whether you could say the quotient of tea by the actual tea leaves08 you could try to identify all the tea into one point or one particle of tea. Misheel thinks this would give you 'a black hole of tea.' I think the density doesn't matter, at least topologically. is water or not.

**III. 18.404: Theory of Computation**

The instructor for this class is also really good! He goes over the content slowly and relatively clearly. I have not had to interact with him much outside of class though. The recitations are very helpful. We go over some problems related to the content covered in class, which helps when solving the problem sets.

The content for this class is also interesting. I have not done anything related to theory of computation before and pretty much everything is new to me so the slow pace of the class works great for me.

**IV. 21W.771: Advanced Poetry Workshop**

I took 21W.76209 Poetry Workshop last semester so I knew I wanted to take this class at some point. There are a bunch of people I already know from poetry workshop and the summer poetry workshop Alan Z. ’23 organized so it has been very fun seeing more of their work.

During the first class, the professor made us translate a poem from Japanese essentially based on the ~vibes~ of a poetry reading. The funny thing is nearly everyone got the tone right. She also gave us half an hour to go somewhere outside and write some tankas10 a Japanese poetry form, slightly longer than a haiku, with 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern that threaded our surroundings into some old Chinese tankas. It’s great!

There is more focused and detailed criticism in this class than in poetry workshop which I find very helpful. It helps to come detached from your work so you can consider everyone’s thoughts more objectively but that is obviously hard to do.

- Fundamentals of Programming back to text ↑
- a class for first time teaching assistants in ESG(the Experimental Study Group, a first year learning community). I am TAing Differential Equations this semester, so I have to take the seminar back to text ↑
- a career development program for sophomores to help with resume writing, applying to internships, etc. and provide a framework of support back to text ↑
- Dormitory Council. DormCon is to all dorms what dorm exec is to a single dorm. Every other week, we have General Body Meetings where all the dorm presidents give updates. back to text ↑
- read: barely any back to text ↑
- Introduction to Topology back to text ↑
- two topological spaces are homotopic if there is a continuous way to deform one into the other back to text ↑
- you could try to identify all the tea into one point or one particle of tea. Misheel thinks this would give you 'a black hole of tea.' I think the density doesn't matter, at least topologically. back to text ↑
- Poetry Workshop back to text ↑
- a Japanese poetry form, slightly longer than a haiku, with 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern back to text ↑