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6 / New Year, New Me by Kevin S. '19

Looking back, looking forward & staying in the present

To set the mood: You and me – shallou

 

Looking back

2018 was an incredible, incredible year. I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, a foreigner in distant lands, comfortable with uncertainty as I took my life day by day, moment by moment.

2018 was a year of many firsts. My goal, though cliché, was to stay in the present, appreciate each and every moment, and take it all in. Most of the places and people I met I would likely not ever see again. But I didn’t want that to stop me from enjoying and making each and every new interaction and experience worthwhile.

I wanted to cultivate meaningful memories, people, places, sights, foods, feelings, smells, and sounds that I reflect back on when I returned to the US and to carry with me for the rest of my life. I wanted to make the most of my time abroad and appreciate all the opportunities that the new year offered.

 


WINTER

  • Packed up my life in Boston, put most in storage, and moved out of my room
  • Competed at the 2018 US Championships in San Jose, CA
  • Stayed with a host family in Germany while teaching at a high school for MISTI Global Teaching Labs, and traveled around the country
  • Spent a week with my grandparents and dad in Hong Kong and visited Taiwan
  • Wrote about my travels so far in Around the world in 30 days

SPRING

  • Moved into my new room at a dorm in Switzerland and started the semester at ETH Zürich as 1 of 6 MIT exchange students
  • Started a new series of post about studying abroad and exploring Switzerland and Europe, Swiss culture, and meeting new people:

Fig. 1: Fernweh

Fig. 2: Frühlingsgefühle

Fig. 3: La dolce vita

Fig. 4: Study with me! 

Fig. 5: Zimmer- und Wohnungsvermittlung Universität/ETH Zürich

Fig. 6: Eigenverantwortung

  • Opened a Swiss bank account
  • Made a traditional Swiss supper with a local
  • Shared experiences with my language tandem partner
  • Took a German intensive course
  • Finished 2 research projects and wrote 2 research papers
  • Did a 3 (5?) mile run through the streets of Zürich, the most I’ve ever run in my life
  • Attended two winter carnivals and even a snowman-burning event
  • Skied in the Alps
  • Hiked a lot. A lot.
  • Traveled all around Switzerland on a half-fare travel pass with free train travel after 7pm
  • Got stuck in Stuttgart returning back to Zürich because of a missed train and cancelled connection
  • Ate a lot of chocolate. Even made champaign truffles at the Lindt factory
  • Toured the Graf skate factory
  • Trained with members of the Swiss National figure skating team
  • Had a lesson with former Swiss skater and World Champion Denise Biellmann
  • Learned to cook a traditional Czech meal in Prague
  • Went to my first wine tasting in Florence
  • Toured Italy, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe, many trips taken on my own, solo-travel
  • Managed all the paperwork and registered with the Swiss authorities successfully, didn’t get kicked out of the country

SUMMER

  • Flew back to the US and started my summer internship at Microsoft in Seattle. Worked with incredibly talented engineers and networked with senior leadership
  • Picked up my second US Collegiate Champs title
  • Visited Vancouver with my mom
  • Day tripped to Portland for the first time
  • Finished my final papers and exams for my semester at ETH, and passed my courses :)
  • Turned 21, bought my first legal drink, and went to my first bar in the US

FALL

  • Started a new series for Senior year:

1 / How to MIT again?!

2 / Keep Calm and Carry On

3 / A team effort

4 / Just *breathe*

5 / The final countdown

  • Flew back to Boston and moved into an apartment with a friend
  • Returned back to the MIT firehose
  • Skated in my fourth and final Evening with Champions at Harvard
  • Had brunch with a Nobel Laureate
  • Went to my last (hopefully) career fair
  • Learned how to laser cut and 3D print
  • Witnessed MIT Henge for the first time
  • Did PaintBar for the first time
  • Competed at an intercollegiate championships in New York
  • Flew to CA and back on two separate red-eye trips for on-site interviews. Finally got to go to the beach and visit home for the first time in over a year
  • Competed at 2019 Easterns in North Carolina and qualified for the 2019 US Champs
  • Hit reset during Thanksgiving break
  • Went to the Boston Symphony for the first time
  • Performed at the MIT Winter Exhibition
  • Accepted a full-time offer
  • Wrote about studying for finals while procrastinating studying for finals: How to Finals™
  • PASSED 6.046 and bio
  • Spent a few days at home after finals
  • Returned back to Boston to cram train

Present

Since returning back to Boston, I’ve been hard at work at the rink training with my coaches and getting in shape. I skate in the morning, 2-3 hours on the ice, and then some smaller workouts and cool-down recovery in the afternoon.

After my workouts, I’ve been binging Downton Abbey and am now on the final season. I’ve been working on rebuilding my portfolio website from scratch, testing out new recipes, learning some more German, and reading some. Outside of the rink, I’ve been taking it easy, savoring the holiday break away from the firehose.

Looking forward

I’m excited for 2019. I’m competing in 2 weeks. I’m flying back to Switzerland for a week before the semester starts. I’m graduating (fingers crossed) in June. I’m starting to figure out my summer plans before I move to Seattle to start full-time work in September.

This coming semester, I only need 2 more classes plus a PE to graduate. I can finally take classes for fun, for pure interest and enjoyment, come February. But with some added freedom comes decisions. I spent 3.5 hours one evening parsing through the course catalog and figuring out what I wanted to pre-register for. I narrowed it down to 7 courses, and I’ll have to narrow that down come Reg Day.

A firehose of classes I wanted to take

What I actually preregistered for, albeit still way too many


For the new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about making a New Year’s Resolution. Last year I made it my goal to stay in the moment, to be comfortable with uncertainty and discomfort. This year I still want to continue that mindset, especially in my last and final semester here at MIT.

But I also want to focus on systems. Systems to guide my life, my habits, my routine, my lifestyle, my decisions.

So much of computer science is about systems, systems design thinking, the speed, efficiency, and capacity of different systems, about how different components network and function together.

But how about the systems that run our lives? I don’t want to obsess over results, but rather on cultivating the process, the systems that help us achieve our goals.

My dream, purpose, and mission constantly change, but I want to focus on being intentional in my day-to-day actions. That doesn’t mean I won’t  set goals for myself any longer, but I want to focus on the process of working towards them, and not just the goals itself.

The past 3.5 years at MIT, I’ve been so heavily goal-oriented, focused on getting through to the next pset or midterm, the next holiday, the next semester, landing my next internship, doing the next best thing. But I’m quickly running out of nexts, semesters to work towards, summers to look for internships.

Instead, I’m hoping to apply the systems mindset to build healthy and productive habits that will help me in all areas of my life and career.


I do have 3 overarching themes in mind for my systems reset: health, wealth, and wisdom. What better time than now, 2019, to start?

  1. Health: Having gone through so many injuries and illnesses the past year, I don’t want to take my health for granted. Applying the systems mindset, I’m paying more careful attention to my diet and workout routines, as well as my daily morning and evening routines.
  2. Wealth: I’ve recently been thinking about retirement and IRAs, and haven been reading up on the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) movement. I know, I know, I haven’t even started a full-time job yet. But I’m starting to figure out more creative ways to save more money and budget tighter. As an easy and enjoyable first step, with more time on my hands this break, I’ve been rarely eating out and cooking most of my meals.
  3. Wisdom: Once I graduate, I certainly do not want to stop learning. This year, I need to force myself to stick to a system in which I open myself up to new areas of study, but also to continue to learn about the latest research, developments, and technologies in computer science and other related fields. I want to constantly be building something, so as a first step, I want to always be working on a side project for fun. I’m starting the year off with finishing a brand new portfolio website I’m building from scratch and learning different web technologies for the first time.

I hope that gives you a sneak peek of the new approach I’m embracing in 2019. Here’s to a Happy New Year to you all, and of course, to many more blogs to come!

🥂