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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.

[Guest Post] A Note to the Class of ‘28 by Ceri Riley '16

by Andre H. ‘24

This year, Jeremy, Nikki, and I were in charge of the Admitted Student Welcome and Closing Show—two of the flagship events of CPW. Jeremy wrote a lovely blog post to document all the behind-the-scenes work that makes these shows possible! 

At the Admitted Student Welcome, we usually invite a student leader to help set the tone for the weekend and welcome everyone to campus. Andre H. ’24 gave a great speech that was equal parts fun, wisdom, and honesty about some of the tough parts of MIT, so I asked him if he’d write up a version of it as a guest post for the blogs. And he did! 

Whether or not you’re a part of the class of 2028, I think the advice here is really valuable: wherever you go, whatever you do, remember to check in with yourself and surround yourself with good people. Anyway, enough yapping from me! The rest of this post is all Andre’s words. 

I gave a rendition of this spiel to the incoming class of 2028… still can’t believe I am about to be an alumnus.

What’s Goodie! I’m Andre Hamelberg, I’m a senior majoring in courses 10 and 18. If you aren’t familiar with your course numbers, that’s chemical engineering and mathematics. What most know me for, I was this year’s Undergraduate Association (UA) president!

As a first-year, navigating MIT can be overwhelming. There are so many clubs, activities, groups, and opportunities. My CPW & first-year experience was and will be dramatically different from all others, as mine began during the pandemic from my bedroom. Interestingly enough, MIT always finds a way, so I was still drinking from a firehose trying to figure out the things I wanted to take part in.

As I mentioned, my freshman year was completely virtual and although some of us were on campus in the spring semester, there were very many restrictions as there was still an ongoing pandemic.

Three MIT students, wearing masks, stand in front of a snowy Killian Court and the Great Dome of MIT

hanging out with my friends for the first time freshman year

Following the summer after my freshman year, my sophomore year felt like I was thrown into a fire. All these people I had only seen on Zoom were real—some were tall, some were short— but most notably I had joined my fraternity, Theta Chi, during the pandemic, and now I was living in a house I hadn’t truly seen before with people I had never met in person. I had to find classes and figure out building numbers. And all of this was on top of trying to settle into a completely new environment. 

Now, I don’t say this to scare you all, but I say this to help you recognize this is a time when you can truly explore who you are and what you want out of your MIT experience. For me, I quickly realized I chose the right community in Theta Chi. We quickly coalesced into a tight-knit community. Each night we would have dinners and I’d learn more about my brothers’ backgrounds and felt very accepted and able to share my thoughts on anything. Don’t get me started on our parties…

11 brothers of the Theta Chi fraternity are in a group photo, standing under a red banner that says "Theta Chi Owns Friday Nights"

my fraternity senior class

From there, I slowly tried to find extracurriculars I was interested in. I loved playing sports throughout high school, so after a few months of settling in, I realized that something was missing from my daily life. Funny enough, one of my best friends always joked that I’d make a great wrestler, and me being me, I decided why not try and join the wrestling team. This was another community that I found to love. Although I took some serious beatings in practice, I got better and better, but most importantly I had met a new set of friends and gained a new community that I could confide in.

A wrestling match between two men in a gymnasium, where the referee is holding up Andre's hand to announce him as the winner

my first ever wrestling tournament

With all of the things I have done at MIT, I’m most known for my role in the UA, which is our version of student government—“we work to solve the toughest campus issues by collecting student opinion and harnessing students’ problem-solving skills in creating innovative solutions.” If you haven’t seen the banana lounge yet, firstly, go check it out, but that’s the UA in action (shoutout UA Innovation)! It was definitely a huge undertaking, but I will forever be grateful to have been elected and able to serve my classmates well.

On top of the Undergraduate Association and my fraternity, I’m a part of a few other communities. Since my sophomore year, I have worked a UROP01 MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in the Doyle group. I will never be able to thank my UROP supervisor, Devashish Gokhale, enough for all his guidance and the opportunity he gave me to learn and do research under his wing. From long hours in the lab, all of our hard work culminated in our paper on multifunctional zwitterionic hydrogels for the rapid elimination of organic and inorganic micropollutants from water. Now, we have begun work to commercialize the technology, maybe one day you’ll drink water cleaned by our hydrogels.

A selfie of Andre wearing a pink beanie, headphones, a mask, and a black rubber glove. He's standing in a lab and making a peace sign at the camera.

a day in the lab

Additionally, I am part of one big family in Course X.02 Course 10 or chemical engineering  Over the years, we have become super close. A life-changing experience that I got to take part in with some of my Course X family was a Global Classroom program by MISTI Brazil-Amazonia.03 MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives We were tasked with designing sustainable packaging for a local business using our knowledge of polymers and all applicable chemical engineering knowledge from our coursework. Not only did I get to create an awesome package design, but I made lifelong friends in Manaus and will be returning this summer to do an internship with MISTI.

These are just a select few of the enriching experiences I was able to take part in. If I listed them all, this blog would never end!

More casually, you can always find me in the Z04 MIT Recreation - Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center lifting or hooping for my intramural team. You can also find me chillin’ in the Student Center catching up with friends.

The best advice I would give to you all that I wish somebody told me is to branch out as much as you can. Try new things. Meet new people. But at the end of the day, do not forget to prioritize yourself. It’s awesome to have lots of things to do but check in with yourself often and make sure you are enjoying your time. MIT is the opportunity of a lifetime and you can shape your experience into what you want it to be.

I’d encourage everyone to continue to explore more about your identity and do what makes you happy while here at MIT. I’ve loved every second here besides when psets and exams start getting tough and you all have a lot to look forward to. I am going to miss the spontaneity of life around MIT—the last-second spring break trips, the ability to walk outside my room or take a few steps outside to meet up with my closest friends—and it’s something I will forever remember.

Before I sign off, I want everyone to know that I’m always available! In the near future, if you find yourself in the Big Apple, reach out! I am always a message away. Good luck class of ‘28, I know you all will do great things!

  1. MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program back to text
  2. Course 10 or chemical engineering back to text
  3. MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives back to text
  4. MIT Recreation - Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center back to text