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MIT blogger Elizabeth C. '13

On Being a n00b at MIT by Elizabeth Choe '13

Guilty as charged.

You may have heard people say, “I’m not _______ enough to go to MIT.” You may have even uttered a version of it yourself. For me – in high school – I was definitely of the “I’m not technology-oriented enough to go to MIT” mind-set. And last time I checked, this was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not the Massachusetts Institute of Totally-Fun-Times (although I’m working on getting that changed).

Let me preface this story even more by saying that there are many ways in which I am a “typical MIT student” (if such a thing even exists!) – for starters, check out the shirt I’m wearing today:

(After taking 8.02 last year, I FINALLY understand what it all means!)

But in many ways, I’m really not your “typical MIT student” (if such a thing even exists!) (actually, can I just shorten this phrase to NYTMITSISATEE?), because, well, I’m a n00b.* As in, I-can’t-solve-a-Rubik’s-cube n00b. As in, I’m-bad-at-arithmetic n00b. As in, the-only-computer-games-I’ve-played-are-Frogger-and-Oregon-Trail n00b. As in, the-only-programming-experience-I-have-is-using-the-“Store”-function-on-my-TI-83 n00b.

I have my special little place at MIT and I’m definitely not the only computer n00b here, but as a course 20 (biological engineering for those who just tuned in) kid, I have to take this *one certain class* to fulfill my major requirement… 6.00, or Introduction to Computer Science and Programming. That’s right, folks, in addition to English and Latin, I’m adding a third language to my database this semester (and by database, I mean my brain) – PYTHON. As you can probably imagine, I was terrified of starting this class.

Turns out, this is shaping up to be my favorite class of the semester. Why?

1. I have an awesome professor. And by awesome, I don’t mean just “Oh, he’s so funny” or “Oh, he’s so adorable” (although, Professor Guttag – if you’re reading this, I DO think you are funny and adorable! Don’t be too creeped out if I try to hug you at the end of the semester). This guy’s lectures are stream-lined, organized and engaging. Check out the Open Course Ware site for the class. He has designed this class to teach n00bs like me how to program.**

2. Turns out programming is a lot like cooking, which I am a fan of. Writing good code is very much like writing a good recipe: you have to list your ingredients (defining input and state variables) and write directions that are sequentially executed (write your commands). Sometimes you get directions like “Add flour until the mixture cannot hold anymore” (iterations) and sometimes you get little pictures throughout your recipe to check to make sure you’re doing the right thing (using print commands to debug). And at the end of the day, you can have your code and eat it, too. (Wait, that came out wrong…but I thought the cake was a lie…?)

3. There is nothing more satisfying (besides maybe a scoop of Toscanini’s ice cream) than to run code and have it work. These p-sets get downright mean from what I’ve heard, but if/when they work, it is SO freaking gratifying.

4. I’m taking the class with this guy:

(I call this one, “Proof That The Admissions Staff Is Creeped Out By Me.”) Look familiar? It’s Chris Peterson! He’s auditing 6.00, but I think we all know that he just signed up for it so he could watch me draw things during class:

In short, don’t be scared away by what MIT/MIT students appear to be. It’s nice here. Most of the time.

* (Internet slang, pejorative) A beginner, someone lacking skill, or someone who uses beginner tactics.
* Okay, in about a week, I forsee myself calling this class heartless and cold, throwing inexperienced students like me to fend for themselves in the scary world of the Python shell. But so far, I love this class.

19 responses to “On Being a n00b at MIT”

  1. Ruslan'15 says:

    Ehm… Nice and funny))

  2. Jessica says:

    BEST post since the beginning of the MIT school year!

  3. Emad '14 says:

    I think the people down at admissions can at least partially substantiate the claim that you’re a creeper :p

  4. Kim '12 says:

    Oh, I would never call 6.00 “heartless and cold, throwing inexperienced students like me to fend for themselves in the scary world of the Python shell”.

    That honor, my friend, goes to 6.02.

    For a 12 unit, 1/2 Institute LAB class, each 6.02 lab eats up about 18 hours of my week, yet 2 hours of lecture and 2 hours of recitation a week.

    I seriously think that 6.02 should be an 18 or 24 unit subject, because the workload of that class does not reflect what the class is worth.

    Enjoy 6.00! Maybe you will find a knack for Course 6-3?

    -Kim, MIT 2012

  5. “And at the end of the day, you can have your code and eat it, too. (Wait, that came out wrong…but I thought the cake was a lie…?)”
    wow, that came out so perfectly!

  6. Anonymous says:

    you’re my new favorite blogger! smile

  7. You may say you’re not a typical MIT student. But you sure do have a “typical MIT T-shirt” on. I have noticed that people at MIT do love to use formulas, symbols and numbers almost every where!

  8. Are those your drawings? And during class?

  9. OOOPS!! I did see that you’ve drawn them during class……which is AMAZING!!!!I too am not Tech-oriented enough for MIT. But I do think there might be something for me there too.
    P.S. I might wear something like your T-shirt if I do come there and I really really want to come!

  10. Anonymous says:

    i love smart people who “pretend” to be dumb

  11. zuney says:

    i…need…that…shirt!! Where d’you get it?
    Quote is now on my facebook.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Your post just TOTALLY made my day!!! I was starting to have doubts about applying because i’m not your “typical MIT Applicant” (if such a thing even exists!)(:P),now i’m ready to hopefully become a noob; in short, best post so far.

  13. Justin says:

    HAHA at your prof’s quotes. =) WOOHHO I love how you write! yay!

  14. @Emad: Oh what, you too??
    @MIT Applicant (’15?): I’m glad someone noticed. I was pretty proud of myself for that one, not gonna lie.
    @Kim ’12: Fair enough. But I seriously had absolutely no programming experience going into this. Except Mathematica. But does that even count?
    @Anonymous 2: Who said I was pretending to be dumb? Trust me. When it comes to computers, I really am a technopeasant. And who says being a noob is equivalent to being dumb? raspberry
    @zuney: They sell them at the COOP, MIT’s bookstore. It’s simultaneously the geekiest and awesomest article of clothing I own. Come visit MIT and get one! They might also sell them on their website…?

  15. Banerjee says:

    Your t-shirt is brilliant =)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I really want to go to MIT but it is hard to tell people that because the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “That’s impossible.” MIT students are my heros!

  17. Ruslan A. says:

    I love your style of taking notes! Have fun in Python!

  18. Dolapo says:

    nyc write up, MIT or nt, u hav a fun sense of humor, dont let it die or be buried unda so much maths.
    lov MIT, but stil scared of the whole app tingi, nyhow enjoy…

  19. Emily says:

    your handwriting is impeccable! please post more topics that can conveniently include some of your notes and pictures =)