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MIT student blogger Nisha D. '21

my semester in a word: oof by Nisha D. '21

or perhaps "oof: the party, the lifestyle"

way back when, i wrote about the mistake of a courseload that i took second semester of freshman year. it was a terrible semester and i don’t have much to show for it, except notably a fat C in 6.006, MIT’s intro to algorithms class and possibly the most important class of my major. RIP my GPA!

i’m bracing myself for another terrible semester. i keep telling myself that it probably won’t be as bad as freshman spring, but by golly, it’s gonna be pretty bad. here’s what i’m taking.

6.031 (Software Construction) – course 6’s most time consuming and soul crushing class which teaches you how to be a *good* software engineer. *good* means that your code follows strict coding standards and is readable and testable and all the adjectives that code in the real world is probably not01 unless that code happens to be written by nasa or healthtech and really can't afford to fail , and especially not in my fields of interest. i feel like it’s good to know what good code looks like, which is why i’m not completely bummed out about the class. but i am a bit bummed out anyways. pset 0, which was supposed to be a warmup, very nearly frustrated me to the point of tears. not a good sign!!11!1

6.804 (Computational Cognitive Science) – i’ve been waiting to take this class for a while and i’m really excited to finally be in it. i was a bit irritated by the first lecture because i arrived a bit late02 still early by MIT time though to the first lecture, and was redirected into the overflow room because the actual lecture hall for the class is too small??03 unclear why they can't just have the lecture in a bigger classroom... #salty and i had to watch a livestream of the lecture that had a LOT of technical difficulties. but i’m still super excited. the class goes into computational models of thinking and discusses a lot of interesting topics on how AIs use maching learning and neural networks to “think”, and what “thinking” really is as a concept. for the final project, we get to play around with (or come up with our own!) computational model and write a paper on it, which i’m excited for. the professor also told us to our faces that the class is an easy A, so that’s nice too.

6.840 (Theory of Computation) – i’m taking this class to avoid taking 6.046, the intermediate algorithms class, because i did terribly in intro to algorithms and this class seems to play to my strengths considerably more. we’re currently discussing finite automata and regex, topics that are important to computer scientists and also have a lot of cool mathematical concepts behind them. this class is definitely going to wreck me because the problem sets are really tough, but hopefully i’ll push through. i’m actually – and this is rare for me – reading the textbook for the class, and lo and behold, its super helpful. if i get a B i’ll be stoked.

6.911 and 6.912 (GEL) – i’m in the gordon engineering leadership program this year, which basically teaches you how to be an effective teammate and a good leader – at least, that’s what they say. i do agree with them that leadership is something that can be learned and improved through practice, and i definitely think that i could use some practice being a leader. i don’t think i naturally tend towards being a leader, but maybe that’s something that can be improved through practice too. GEL also gives you a bunch of chances to network with alums and recruiters, and although networking is definitely not my favorite activity, it’s definitely become less painful as i’ve done it more. i credit UPOP04 MIT's career accelerator program for sophomores which has a lot of annoying requirements a lot for this, even though at some points during the year, completing the requirements for it was a little bit like pulling teeth.

CMS.616 (Games and Culture) – i finally made it into t.l. taylor’s05 t.l. is a very respected scholar in the game studies field and she's written a bunch of books and papers that are super important to the field class by the skin of my teeth! the class is always super oversubscribed and she gives first priority to seniors06 second priority goes to juniors who are CMS majors, which is how i managed to slide in . i’m starting to gestate ideas for my CMS thesis, and i’m hoping that the material and discussions in this class will help me come up with a topic that i’m willing to spend hundreds of hours writing about. joon‘s also in it with me!

but that’s not all!!11! i do in fact still have extracurriculars to squeeze in somehow!

  • Fencing: it’s my third year fencing and i think i’ve gotten a lot better, but still not good enough to confidently07 if you don't have confidence in sabre fencing, you will probably lose right of way, and if you lose right of way, you will not get any points fence the best members of the team. i also really need to fence with contacts, because i’ve always fenced without any sort of eyewear and i realize that this may be affecting my performance :P. fencing is always a huge time commitment, but i need the exercise and i love the women’s sabre squad dearly so i’m excited for the season to start.
  • UROP: this is my third term UROPing at the Personal Robots lab in the Media Lab, and i really love the work that i’m doing – game design for a game that i’m indepently developing for a study, and interaction and activity design for an online AI education curriculum. i realized this summer that i want to move more into the design aspects of technology, and the work that i do at the Media Lab fits my interests perfectly. i’ve also been convinced that i should apply to the Media Lab for grad school. stay tuned on that.
  • East Campus government: i’m in my second term as a hall chair for first east, and try to show up to every east campus government wide meeting, especially since east campus politics are probably going to be a bit spicy and controversial this year. i like to listen to the drama as well as occasionally provide some input.
  • ABCS at Facebook: this is basically a weekly seminar? sort of thing that i got accepted to at Facebook. it gives you practice with coding challenge questions08 which i am both terrible at and terrified of , which i desperately need for the upcoming recruiting season. last year, i didn’t apply to any companies that had coding challenges because they scare me. luckily, i still got the job i wanted the most, but i don’t think that’s gonna fly this year.

classes have only been going a week, but the stress is already starting to pile up. career fair is NEXT WEEK and recruiting events have been going on since basically the first day of school. i can’t tell you how many jobs i’ve applied to already, or how many i’m going to frantically apply to in the week before career fair. and all of this is on top of many hard classes, many hours of extracurriculars, and a few hours of trying to chill out a week.

tl;dr it’s gonna be *quite* a semester. will i survive without dropping a class? i hope so, because all of these classes satisfy major requirements09 except for GEL i guess, but i really would like a job for the summer and if GEL can help me get one then i'll do anything it asks of me and i really don’t want to have to retake any of them!

wish me luck! hopefully i’ll come up for air sometime soon.

  1. unless that code happens to be written by nasa or healthtech and really can't afford to fail back to text
  2. still early by MIT time though back to text
  3. unclear why they can't just have the lecture in a bigger classroom... #salty back to text
  4. MIT's career accelerator program for sophomores which has a lot of annoying requirements back to text
  5. t.l. is a very respected scholar in the game studies field and she's written a bunch of books and papers that are super important to the field back to text
  6. second priority goes to juniors who are CMS majors, which is how i managed to slide in back to text
  7. if you don't have confidence in sabre fencing, you will probably lose right of way, and if you lose right of way, you will not get any points back to text
  8. which i am both terrible at and terrified of back to text
  9. except for GEL i guess, but i really would like a job for the summer and if GEL can help me get one then i'll do anything it asks of me back to text