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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

nothing & everything by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23

what i did this IAP!

My freshman winter break and IAP were very nice, nothing to complain about. I got to fly home and spend two weeks with my family; I came back to campus, learned lots of different things, and had some free time. But the break felt so short, and once I was back at MIT, I was in an awkward middle spot: life wasn’t quite full enough to feel that the semester was really happening, but not so empty that I could relax and forget entirely about psets and class start times and all those responsible-person things.

This IAP, I tried something different — something I don’t think I’ve tried in I don’t know how many years. I did… nothing. (But of course, in between the kerning of those letters, everything is hiding.)

I only had a Monday exam01 I am extremely lucky, and my apologies to everyone else at the end of fall semester, and I stayed at home an extra week into January, which gave me almost four weeks with my family. Then I flew back to campus for three weeks of IAP, which I filled in exactly whichever way I desired at exactly any moment. It. Was. Glorious!

In the past few years of my life, any real breaks have been spent recuperating. And I did that, too, in the first couple weeks: slept twelve hours at a stretch at home, laid on the couch all day, caught up on the entirety of The Internet. But then, because my break wasn’t over yet, I got to learn about what it’s like to have free time when you’re not burned out. To follow my whims and have them lead me other places than my couch. To get interesting things done, and go interesting places, solely because I truly wanted to (as opposed to “ugh, I’m tired, but I need to do this/I want to want to do it/I know I’ll enjoy having done it once it’s over”). I can’t overstate how wonderful it was — like a third way of living I didn’t realize existed before this month.

Here are some of the things I did, with photos where available (although I really didn’t take enough!):

  • Stayed in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about life, for like two hours after waking up
  • Participated in the MIT Mystery Hunt (blog post to come, hopefully, but it might be a while 😅)
    A long table on which several copies of the board game Concept are laid out.
    A well plate with certain cells colored in ways that create a pixellated image of long-haired magician.
    A jigsaw puzzle with a very complicated, hand-drawn graph overlaid on it.
    A sign detailing the rules of a Harry-Potter themed activity at the Mystery Hunt.
    Various photos of puzzles and puzzle-related content
  • Toured the Green Building roof
  •  Visited the Boston Public Library with a friend, got a card and took out books, and explored the Central Branch’s incredibly beautiful 19th-century architecture
  • Actually read books! Ones I hadn’t read before!
  • Coded for fun, in languages I already knew and languages I didn’t (and also coded not-for-fun, aka for a technical interview… more on that later :3)
  • Walked around lots of parts of Boston and thought about cities
  • Cooked with friends, went places with friends, had aimless fun with friends
  • A white bowl with a spoon and chickpeas, pasta, and tomato sauce.
    My hand holding half of a hardboiled egg.
    A Trader Joe's cart, viewed from above, with lots of produce in it.
    L to R: my favorite chickpea dish; my first-ever hardboiled egg; a Trader Joe's cart full of just produce. No pics of the friends unfortunately :(
  • Started a habit of writing down something, anything every day (I am 42 days in! More to come on this if I can keep it up.)
  • Put up some things (hooks, whiteboard, etc.) that have been lying on my floor since mid-October, re-organized some shelves that have been a mess since August, and generally made my room a nicer place to be
    My new whiteboard against my light green wall. The whiteboard reads, in purple,
    The corner of my room underneath my loft. Some clothes and fairy lights are hanging on hooks attached to the loft, and the sunlight lights up my dressers in the foreground.
    My smallish and tightly packed closet. I've drawn five arrows on it showing which directions are as tightly packed as possible.
    My t-shirt drawer. The t-shirts are all nicely rolled and fit perfectly into the drawer.
    L to R: my new whiteboard lookin' snazzy!; new hooks; a closet that's fully packed on five different lines; neatly folded clothes
  • Felt many different and uniquely delightful kinds of joy, some of which I had long forgotten in the depths of a difficult semester

Now another semester is coming. I’m alternately scared and excited.

Excited because I’m always excited for a chance to learn new things; scared because last semester was just a little bit traumatizing, and although I hope that I’ve scaled back, I can’t know for sure if I’ve overcommitted myself again.

Scared because every new semester takes me closer to the unknown, to the realization that all along my choices have mattered and my future has been being shaped and now adulthood is already upon me; excited because this IAP has confirmed for me, more strongly than any of my other recent life experiences, that to be alive, and energized, and to get to experience nature and feelings and places and people, is absolutely as good as it gets. There are a lot of things I’d like to accomplish and do and see and become in the future, but even if I never get around to any of them, just living is enough.

  1. I am extremely lucky, and my apologies to everyone else back to text