I’ve been back on campus for about a month and a half now, and it’s been about what I expected: seeing friends, going to class, psetting… all the classics! I was only a ten-minute walk away during the summer, and I came onto campus almost every day anyway. But it felt official to move back into my dorm <3 , with all my possessions crammed into two suitcases and a million tote bags, Jenga-ed into the trunk of my roommate’s parents’ car. The morning of August 20th, I carted my things up to my room on the third floor, rearranged the two sets of closet/bed/desk, and halfheartedly unpacked t-shirts before going out for Korean food with friends. Immediately, the rush of MIT swept me up; from the 21st to 25th, I was an First-Year Pre-Orientation Program counselor for the First-Year Arts Program alongside fellow bloggers Teresa J. ’26, Fatima A. ’25, and Jebby B. ’25 (full joint post on that coming soon). As quickly as the wave came, it was gone, and I was left to plod my way through a weird liminal 1.5 weeks during which I really had nothing in particular to do. Then, the start of school: countless syllabi, new Goodnotes folders, and fresh resolution to stay on top of everything.
I remember being a freshman this time last year! It was all excitement and anxiety and joy, everything jumbled up together, all extreme highs and lows. Every little decision and activity felt monumental and life-changing; I had to go to that info session, I had to meet new people, I had to go on exciting College Adventures™. I had to slump over in the Maseeh 3 bathroom at 4AM and cry for no specific reason, traitor tears leaking through my fingers onto waxy floor tiles. It feels almost like a dream now. Nothing was what I expected, probably because I went in with no expectations at all.
This time around, though, I find myself reveling in the stability. It’s strange realizing that I know things about this institution now, like when the cafe in a popular library/study space on campus closes, or the best times to grab food from dining halls to avoid the post-class rushes, or where all the vending machines for face masks and CLIF bars are. I also know more things about myself now, like how I like my bed to be as close to the ground as possible, or that I’m a mid-day showerer (not morning nor night), or how to sense when my social battery is gasping and close to empty. They’re all little things, but they add up quickly.
So this blog is a collection of those observations: some things I learned freshman year about myself, some things I’m doing differently now, and some things I still need to figure out, slowly, but surely.
I’d forgotten to spend time with myself last year
And I explicitly say with, because I think there’s a difference between just being alone and intentionally spending time with myself. Last year, I quickly realized that it was possible to be around other people for almost every waking hour, whether I was “working” in the student center for hours, eating dinner, walking to Target, or even going to the short for the Zesiger Center, our central athletics facility/gym . In the beginning, I thought that this was amazing. If I was going to do something anyway or wanted to go to an event, why not invite someone else along—two is greater than one, right?
What I didn’t realize was that, in the process, I forgot to do things for myself, by myself, and with myself: going for a walk, decluttering my closet, playing a video game in my room. All the hangouts and trips and events last year were new and exhilarating, and I met so many wonderful people; yet, despite interacting with more people in a day than I would in a week of high school, I felt strange pangs of loneliness more often than ever. I wrestled with this sense of isolation and alienation a lot, particularly during first semester; part of it stemmed from trying to find the communities at MIT that I fit into, but another reason was that I never took time to just sit down; time for myself to think, to reset, to stop sprinting from class to club to friend to event and just exist for a while.
Now, I’m learning to say no to social events without needing a particular reason, to realize when my social battery is running out, and to be intentional about spending time doing things alone, especially off-campus. Everyone is different and has varying levels of social stamina, but at least for me, I need those bits of alone time to truly feel like myself.
I love art!!!
I’m currently writing a separate post all about art and creativity and making things, but the TL;DR is that art is so cool (!!) and this semester, I want to produce more and better creative work than I did last year. To that end, I’m making commitments that will force me to make things regularly, including taking three art classes ( Artistic Experimentation , Intro to Photography , and Drawing for Designers ) and leading a spread for MIT's undergraduate fashion/design publication .
maintaining friendships is hard
I feel like before, I didn’t have to think as consciously about my friendships. My high school friends and I were friends because we went to the same school for ten years; we had the same schedules and the same classes, and we ate lunch together every single day. Things are different here! Coming in, I had the same anxieties as everyone else about making friends and finding community. At least in the first semester, I found that it was actually pretty easy to meet new people—everyone was eager to introduce themselves, whether it was at an event, in class, or even in the elevator. However, the hard part was actually maintaining and deepening those friendships; if I didn’t share a class, club, or living group with someone, it was very possible that I wouldn’t see them for months on end. It was strange (and obvious in hindsight) realizing that I had to be more intentional about reaching out to people to hang out, and that the deeper connections weren’t just going to form themselves. But I think the extra thought required made it all more meaningful and worth it.
there actually, truly, is no right way to do things
alternate title: I can’t have everything :(
I think I’m always asking myself if I’m doing things right. I don’t know what right means, but somewhere in my brain there’s this idea that there is a correct way to do college (and life in general): a neat, orderly plan that considers all possible factors and spits out the optimal solution for fun, happiness, success, productivity, and fulfillment. It asks: is this the best way to spend my time? Should I be doing something else right now? How are other people approaching it? Am I doing it the way I should be?
When I got to MIT, I was told over and over again that everyone’s college experience is different, but I don’t think I really internalized that until this past summer, when I had time to reflect on my freshman year. It’s hard not to compare yourself to the best of everyone else; I want to be everything and do everything and have everything, whether it’s an impressive four-year a tool for planning out the classes we want to take each semester or cool personal projects or a unique personal style or a packed social calendar. There’s this feeling that if it is possible, it should be done, and that with the right concoction of Google Calendar, sleep deprivation, and #grindset, anything is possible. And for some people, maybe that’s true! I don’t think it’s bad to be ambitious. For me, however, this mentality manifested itself as overcommitment, neglect of my physical and mental health, and the constant feeling that I was treading frantic water, at risk of slipping under at any moment—all experiences that I think many of my classmates can relate to.
I’m learning this year how to make tradeoffs and sacrifices, and to hone in on fewer priorities; I know now that trying to do everything is just setting myself up for disappointment. Yet instead of feeling regret for all that I’m setting aside, I feel freer to focus more completely on what I am keeping, and not like I’m stretching myself in every direction. It’s a nice feeling :-).
I spent last year in constant oscillation between highs and lows; learning a lot, but always spinning about, in motion. Now, everything is a lot steadier; I have a clearer idea of what’s going on and what I’m doing, and how things may change in the future. So—lots to learn and work on, for sure, but I’ll take it all in stride, and I’m very excited for the rest of the semester!
- my dorm <3 back to text ↑
- First-Year Pre-Orientation Program back to text ↑
- a popular library/study space on campus back to text ↑
- student center back to text ↑
- short for the Zesiger Center, our central athletics facility/gym back to text ↑
- Artistic Experimentation back to text ↑
- Intro to Photography back to text ↑
- Drawing for Designers back to text ↑
- MIT's undergraduate fashion/design publication back to text ↑
- a tool for planning out the classes we want to take each semester back to text ↑