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Now and Then and Maybe Later by Krystal L. '17

Tying up loose ends and weathering the calm before the storm we call "Fall Semester"

Note: This post will be updated at irregular intervals today, Saturday, August 30 whenever the words decide to magically appear on my Word processor. Let’s call it a “Time Experiment” and pretend we know what we’re doing.

12:45pm – In which I decide to write a poem because I don’t feel like writing prose right now

Sitting in a Chair

(A poem about sitting in a chair in Hayden Library. Although arguably, it’s just a bunch of sentences I split up at random places. Semantics.)

This green armchair,
Is so awesome.
Ten out of ten would sit in it again.
And since Hayden is so,
Right now, I think I shall sit here indefinitely.

I can see the sailboats on the Charles from the window,
And all the people walking,
And running,
And biking,
Down Memorial Drive.
Sometimes I see squirrels too.
I like squirrels.

With Spotify playing in both ears,
The freedom of a lazy Saturday,
And the warm glow of waning summer sun,
I feel like I could sit in this library forever.

Except it closes at 6pm,
So I’d probably get kicked out.

Musical suggestions that I dug out of my old/new Spotify playlists. If you are also sitting in a green armchair, you should play these songs and we can be twins across the space-time continuum: Dark Blue – Jack’s Mannequin, Ways to Go – Grouplove, Really Don’t Care – Demi Lovato, One Night – Matthew Koma, So it Goes – Opus Orange.

2:42pm – In which I look back on my summer UROP in Boston

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent my last summer here in Boston working two different research positions: clinical research at Tufts Medical Center and bench research at a lab here on campus. Having never been exposed to research of any kind before, I wanted to use this summer to experience both types and to learn as much as I could in the three months I had.

Last year, I was worried and apprehensive about joining a lab for the first time. I thought, “Wow, so many people have already had lab experience in high school, how on earth will I be able to get a UROP?” Thankfully, there is already an excellent guide to getting your first UROP that I unfortunately overlooked my first time around: Instead, clueless and confused, I asked for advice from upperclassmen who had had UROPs and attended a few UROP question and answer panels before deciding that I was going to take the leap, look into some of the awesome labs here at MIT, and start emailing people until I found someone willing to let me in.

I think it’s important to consider the fact that MIT is a research institution. That means not only is the sheer number of labs and the topics that are delved into impressive, but research is interwoven into the very fabric of MIT’s culture. According to the 2014 MIT Facts website, 88 percent of the student population will have participated in a UROP at some point in their academic career here. Both the importance of research and the importance of educating the next generation of researchers are two things that are valued by faculty and students alike. While I can’t speak for the accessibility of research positions at other universities, the degree to which labs here are open to discussion and the possibility of accepting an undergraduate into their team is encouraging.

Yes, that includes inexperienced freshmen with little more to offer than dedication and a desire to learn.

Keep in mind, of course, that not every lab will have positions open or the means to support another team member. Having the chance to get that coveted position in the lab of your dreams isn’t a right, but rather something that must be earned. You’ll have to prepare a resume, be persistent, and be prepared to answer any questions they throw your way, be they about your previous experience, or simply why you are interested in their field of research.

For me, I started out by emailing the head of the lab and expressing my interest in their subject matter. When there was no response, I took an upperclassmen’s advice and emailed a graduate student directly. On some lab websites, they include a little blurb about each graduate student’s specific research project and goals and I combed through quite a few of these before finding one that really piqued my interests. I had been told that since most UROPs work more directly with the graduate students anyway, and since the professors were usually extremely busy, I’d have a greater chance of getting a response. Lucky for me, the graduate student responded and we scheduled a brief interview for later that week.

The interview was very casual and since I was a freshman with no lab experience, she mostly wanted to know what my motivations were for joining the lab, what I hoped to gain, and what kind of commitment I would be able to make.

That was in the spring. I ended up continuing my position into the summer, having been given an individual project to work on, and I just had my last day two Fridays ago.

It was sad to say goodbye to the lab that had graciously taken me in over the summer, but I’ll always remember the experience and everything that I have learned.

With the summer skidding to a halt and classes starting just four short days later, it’s time to put on our adventuring goggles (I’m referring to the metaphorical kind, but real goggles are cool too. I only have swimming goggles for when I flail around in the pool, but you can use whatever kind you want) and look foward to the new year!

6:08pm – In which I reminisce about summertime Sundays and SoWa

Weekends were really the only time I had to go adventuring in Boston so I tried my best to explore as many nooks and crannies of the city as I could. I visited Chinatown, Boston Common, North End, South End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, and even went all the way out to Brookline on occasion. In an effort to see as much as I could, I was hesitant to revisit places unless I had a very good reason.

One such place that my roommates and I frequented multiple times was the SoWa Open Market. As the website explains, SoWa stands for South of Washington, referring to Washington Avenue and its location in the South End. Part art market, part farmer’s market, part food truck mecca, SoWa, which took place every Sunday from 10am-4pm, was somewhere with so much variety, it was hard to get tired of it.

The morning trek from our apartment took about 30 minutes, but it was a welcome walk before we devoured crepes, pizza, sandwiches, noodles, or whatever struck our fancy that day. After eating our fill, we would sometimes meander through the adjacent farmers’ market, a great big lot with countless white tents set up, protecting whatever fruits, vegetables, or food products that local vendors had brought with them from the relentless sun.

On the other side of the farmer’s market is the art and vintage wares market. A similar set-up, as far as white tents go, revealed amazing works of arts and crafts from burlap sack art to handmade soaps and candles. I’m the kind of person who likes to walk through grocery stores and just look at all the things lining the shelves. I have yet to figure out why I am entertained by boxes of instant rice or bags of squiggly pretzel chips, but regardless of my motivations, the inviting stalls with smiling vendors displaying their art and wares are quite clearly a step above the soup aisle at the supermarket.

We found this guy at SoWa one weekend and thought his stuff was hilarious:

Who doesn’t like zombies and penguins?

Sunday 12:36am – In which I expound on the joys of returning and the trials and tribulations of orientation week for the already-oriented

[In my defense, I had this mostly written at 9:32pm but I had an ambulance call while on shift for MIT-EMS. But I suppose the times are entirely irrelevant anyway. On with the show!]

I officially moved back into Maseeh Sunday, August 24 even though general move-in date for upperclassmen is today because I had early return for tennis preseason. Coincidentally, Sunday was also the start of freshmen orientation.

In 2013 I started my year off with FUP (Freshman Urban Program) which meant by the time orientation rolled around, I was exhausted but felt like I had a pretty good grasp of what was going on. The events themselves all blur together, most likely because not only was I attending orientation events and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but I also had tennis preseason. I’m not entirely sure how much information I managed to retain during all of the scheduled events, but I do remember the undercurrent of excitement and anticipation that was bubbling just beneath the surface. Would the classes be as difficult as some people made them out to be? Would I like the subjects I was taking? Would the psets make my brain explode? All valid questions. As I eased into the semester on pass/no record, I found the answers to most of the concerns that had been whizzing around the back of my mind and discovered a rhythm of homework, exams, and extracurricular activities that is becoming more and more familiar.

This year, being a sophomore, orientation week was no longer jam packed with activities and informational tidbits being lobbed at my head. Instead, I had only tennis preseason to worry about. With practice twice a day in the mornings and afternoons, I feel like a squeezy tube of jelly. However, despite how much my muscles are still aching, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of contentment.

I feel like I’m finally back where I belong, being with people that bring a smile to my face, doing things that make me happy, and feeling excited for a new semester of classes to begin. I have yet to meet the new freshmen on my floor in Maseeh, but I was thrilled to meet the new freshmen on the tennis team and welcome them into the family with open arms. It was a little strange at first, no longer being the new kid on the block, but this new role, of being someone that has been through it all before, someone that can hopefully pass on whatever scraps of knowledge they have gained from those before even them, is one that I am eager to take on. I know I’m still learning and groping my way through the maelstrom of the MIT fire hose, but hey, let’s all do it together, right?

During the times I wasn’t on the tennis court this week, I was finishing up my clinical research project at Tufts Medical Center, which involved a rather inconvenient 30 minute commute into Boston but was entirely necessary. I have been working with for three months now and as the project nears its end, I intend to follow through with it even into the school year. Hopefully my class schedule will work in my favor, but for now, I’ll just have to wait until after registration day to find out.

This week has been an interesting segue from a summer of research into a semester of lectures and exams, though some might say it had a few too many nights of aimless dawdling. While I will admit that it certainly had a few too many peanut butter and almond cocoa butter sandwiches (I didn’t realize there was such a thing as too much of a delicious breakfast sandwich. Apparently there is), I think this week has been a necessary reprieve before things start picking up again around campus.