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MIT student blogger Anthony R. '09

My Second First Week by Anthony R. '09

Quick update at the start of term.

Overall, everything’s good so far. The heavy work schedule over IAP was helpful, because now I’m fine with getting up for morning classes :-)

A couple of classes I’m paying special attention to:

21F.019: Communicating Across Cultures. The intro class to the Applied International Studies minor, taught by Lori Breslow and Bernd Widdig. Lori is the director of MIT’s Teaching & Learning Lab and Bernd is the associate director of MISTI, MIT’s international studies program. The course is held in the same room as last term’s writing class, and is held in a similar workshop/seminar format. So far, we’ve examined our own cultural identities, asking questions about the trends in everyday communication we take for granted. We’ve already written a paper — a “cultural self-assessment” about our own personal cultural backgrounds, how they have shaped who we are today, and our goals for the course. It looks like a fascinating class, and I look forward to it. A lot of reading, though. :-)

21F.302: French II. The logical follow-up to the class I took over IAP. This term’s course is taught by Cathy Culot, a native French speaker from Brussels. The first week has been all review so far, but we have a review exam tomorrow and then we’ll dive into real stuff next week. The class is held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for one hour each day. She randomly collects homework to see if we’ve been doing it… while the review stuff doesn’t count yet, she decided to collect the one sheet I hadn’t finished (oops!).

At the end of a recent class, she took us on a tour of the Language Lab in building 16 — it’s a center with all sorts of audiovisual language materials that we can use in our studies. There are even private movie rooms and studios where you can screen foreign films to hone your language skills. :-)

And then today, I met with an operations research professor in the Sloan School of Management to discuss major choices going forward. It is nice that so many esteemed faculty are so accessible with a simple drop of an email. He was very helpful and I think the next step is to talk to someone else in the department who specializes in IT.

Have you guys had any memorable international experiences, either through school or on your own? Do you hope to pursue any global interests when you come to college?

11 responses to “My Second First Week”

  1. Catherine says:

    I’ve been to Taiwan a few times, and I hope to go this summer hopefully to learn to read Mandarin so I’m not completely illiterate anymore.

    There’s this one story from the last time I was there that really sticks in my mind. See, in Taiwan, they have school every other Saturday and very short breaks so my brother and I would often be really odd out on the streets. We were also not supposed to let people know we were from the US because of all the kidnapping/ransom horror stories (apparently a lot of Taiwanese think anyone from the US is super-rich). This wasn’t a huge problem since my brother and I fit in relatively well as long as we weren’t spoken to in Taiwanese.

    Once, my mom took us out shopping and came across this cool old man who started talking to us. He was really adorable and one of his pet projects was the teaching of English in Taiwanese schools. So he said in his heavily accented English to me, “Don’t be shy – speak up!” and asked me if I knew what it meant in Mandarin. I did, and told him and he was so very impressed that I knew what “shy” meant. I thought the encounter was particularly ironic because my mom was so impressed I knew “hai sho” meant “shy.” ^^;;

  2. Tom says:

    I found this pretty amusing at the time. My son (MIT 09) and age 15 at the time were sitting at a canal-side restaurant in Leiden, NL having lunch and he ordered a Root Beer. The waitress returned shortly with a cold Heineken for him. I politely explained that we did not want the beer and my son again asked if they had Root Beer. The waitress suddenly seemed to understand our request and returned promptly and proudly explaining that in the Netherlands they call it “Ginger Ale”. It took us a minute to put it together but quickly realized how she understood that Ginger was a root and Beer is a close cousin to ale, and she deduced that what we Americans called Root Beer, was in Fact what they called Ginger Ale. Pretty smart of her I’d say.

  3. Jess says:

    So I went to Japan last summer, right? Definitely my favorite experience ever. My host family was so sweet to me, and the kids at school all treated us like celebrities (it was a group of about 20 of us). I can’t really pinpoint my favorite experience of the time, but we did go to a karaoke bar for my friend’s birthday and got gigantic melon soda floats and all sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” :D The point is though, everybody was so kind and hospitable and in general, it was amazing; I’ve never really experienced such a connection with people that completely transcended language barriers.

    I was planning on majoring in East Asian studies if I ended up somewhere other than at MIT, but I hear there’s not a bad Japanese program at MIT, so I’m probably going to look into that next year. we’ll see smile

  4. Phil says:

    My dad is an Army Officer and my mom was a travel writer for AAA Going Places, so we get a around quite a bit. Right now we are stationed in Germany which has been REALLY incredible (it’s basically a teenager’s paradise). We live on the economy too rather than in post housing, so the experience is a little more raw–something that makes it a lot more fun.
    A few years back, my mom got a writing assignment for the Galapagos Islands. AAA paid for us to fly to Ecuador and then to the Islands and then take a 7 days cruise around the most beautiful area I’ve ever seen…pretty good deal over all smile. The nice thins is that, because they wanted my mom to write something complementary (obviously), they really tried to pamper us. Making wet landings with Zodiacs and swimming with the sea lions was pretty awesome.

  5. Christina says:

    When we went to Canada, my friend Julia asked for “a cup of soup”: a phrase that, in Ohio, usually means a small bowl. The Canadians stared at her really weird, and came back with soup in a plastic disposable cup. She did not have a good time trying to drink the soup faster than the cup was melting.

    …Yeah, that’s as international as I get. Oh, this one time I went to this crazy “Boston” place and everyone says soda instead of pop…what’s that all about?

  6. Andy says:

    Relating to Christina’s comment:

    It’s so odd how we’re the only ones to call pop “pop…” Even in different parts of Ohio they call it soda, though.

    And, on topic, I’ve never really had international incidents because I’ve only been in the US and to Canada in brief stints. I do plan on at least continuing Spanish in college, though, and probably going to Spain to walk El Camino de Santiago Compostel eventually; it’s just too cool that the pilgrim trial has still been preserved and that people still walk it after all these years…

  7. Nadi says:

    My family is from Malawi, Africa. My nuclear family resides here in America. The last time I visited the rest of the family back in Malawi was my freshman year of HS. It was so much fun. Unfortunately for me, I only understand the language, my “speaking skills” lack. So whenever my mom and I would go to one of the open-air markets, she would always tell me to keep quiet so the vendors would not hike up the price once they found out I wasn’t a “true” native. I felt so bad when I didn’t respond to the vendors. . .(but we did get great deals!)

    I would like to become a medical doctor and donate my services as a Medecin Sans Frontiers/Doctor Without Borders to third-world countries, like Malawi, or areas struck by disaster.

  8. Mom08 says:

    When we went to Paris several years ago each family member chose something they wanted to do. Since I had been to Paris 30 years earlier I had seen all of the “big” stuff so I chose a venue I hadn’t seen. My boys still give me a hard time about making them tour the Paris sewers on vacation. But it was fascinating and they really enjoyed it, but I concede it was rather strange.

  9. Kamran says:

    When I was twelve years old my mother, siblings, and I went to Pakistan (my dad’s country). We stayed there for an entire year. I was hussled into the British school system and I attended a school dubbed, “American National School.” Ironically, it was not very American. Alas, I survived an entire year in sixth grade, and it was quite a lot of fun.

    It was really a maturing experience for me. There is so much you learn from visiting another country, it really is quite unbelievable.

    I’m 18 now and I’ve already sent my application to MIT. I don’t expect to get in, but I figure with my background I may have a shot. Plus, MIT fits my personality. That’s what counts.

  10. swati says:

    Have you ever heard of Olin College? It’s near Babson…
    Olin’s really small, but with a really cool engineering/entrepreneurship program, but they’ve only been around for five years. And I believe they’ve stolen a couple of MIT professors in the past
    …I’m wondering how to choose between MIT’s big reputation and Olin’s unique undergrad program

  11. Swati, my son had to make the choice between attending MIT or attending Olin last year. I would be happy to tell you more about our investigations and decisions if you contact me off-line.