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MIT student blogger Yuliya K. '18

Sophomore Fall Recap by Yuliya K. '18

Entropy, Research, and Other Out-of-Class Happenings

Aaand… Semester #3 is done!

I’m on the plane back home, music conjuring fantastic worlds, clouds dispersing around the flying machine. Like in the winter of my freshman year.

But life matters were really different then. In passions and world views, even music and literature choices.

Life’s entropy continues to increase. It’s a paradox: the more time I spend exploring life, the less I know what to do with said life. My career certainty is wildly oscillating. You can not compute the derivative of its function at any point. That’s how chaotic it is.

Major Evolution: Math & Physics → Philosophy & Poli Sci

Consider my major choices. Last Career Fair I proudly declared to all potential employers that I’m “planning to study Theoretical Math.” Two months later, Physics seemed alluring too. I wasn’t sure whether to declare a double major or settle with a minor.

That was the first surprising turn of events. I was (mostly) certain I would not be swayed by other major options.

Second semester freshman year, I decided to focus instead on Education. I was planning to work in the field anyway, so why not start early with a relevant degree? MIT did not have a separate Education major and so I officially declared Course 11 – Urban Studies and Planning, which had an Education sub-department. I was delighted with the choice and resigned to sit through the major’s required classes about cities. By the process of elimination, there were no appealing major options left.

And now I’m (almost) officially a double major in Course 24-1 – Philosophy and Course 17 – Political Science. By chance, I ended up taking two Political Philosophy classes this semester, one at MIT and one at Harvard. Afterwards, I wanted to take many more Philosophy classes. An unexpected turn (one I said certainly wouldn’t happen just three months ago).

Luckily, 24-1 and 17 have many intersecting requirements and offer courses cross-listed in both departments. Plus, although both departments are tiny, I will now get twice the company.

Oh, and the office of Course 24 – Linguistics and Philosophy is on the top two floors of Stata Center. The view is wonderful. Noam Chomsky has an office there, so that’s exciting too.

UROP Project: How to Fail Six Imaginary Students

In out-of-class news, I love my UROP(s). My mentors grant me both support and autonomy to explore the topics I adore.

I work on two different projects at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab (TSL), which is in turn incubating another institution, the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning. WW Academy is a really cool (future) grad school for teachers which relies on Competency-Based Learning (read more on CBL). Instead of seat time and class completion, aspiring teachers will learn through interactive challenges that combine essential skills, simulating the teaching experience in the classroom and beyond.

My first UROP project is assisting in the creation of the first of these challenges. The topic is Assessment, and my job is to create the artefact for the challenge, a “bad” test that WW Academy students (or, rather, MIT students in the trial run) would analyze and improve upon. Just as actual teachers would correct the course of their work.

Turns out, it’s harder to create a set of terrible questions and failing student’s responses than to construct a decent exam. It’s an exercise in multitasking and organization. I’m still learning the theory behind good assessments. Thankfully, my mentor is extremely knowledgeable and helpful; he has written extensively about the topic himself.

The other TSL project is research on Competency-Based Learning (CBL). I have a growing list of questions to answer, like: What are the existing forms of CBL? How do CBL institutions define “competencies”? What are the current credit-hour policies that could hinder a CBL program? How has CBL developed in the U.S. and other parts of the world? The first MIT Libraries search on the topic returned 80,000 entries. I’m working currently on reducing that number.

Tell Us about Something You Do Simply for the Pleasure of It: Youth Advocate @ Planned Parenthood

In a tangential exploration, I volunteer with a wonderful group of local students as a Youth Advocate for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Every month, we come together to learn about effective feedback and facilitation, sexual and reproductive health, intersectionality, and other essential topics. In the spring, we will leave the familiar training boardroom to deliver workshops on providing competent and inclusive care to teens and young adults. These workshops will be delivered to healthcare professionals in Planned Parenthood and possibly other similar clinics. It’s a wonderful opportunity for a worthwhile cause. Also, we get to learn and practice universal skills for the future.

By the PPLM entrance, I always pass the passionate abortion protesters. They chant, yell, and hold posters that say, among other things, “Babies are Endangered Species” and “ISIS is Us.” Once, they sang hymns in a lovely quartet.

Every time, the protesters get close and attempt to convince me out of an abortion. The Planned Parenthood volunteer smiles as she lets me in the building and I feel marginally hurt that the outside crowd does not remember me by now.

Regardless of the protests, I love the Saturdays at PPLM. The activity pushes me off campus to interact with awesome students from entirely different environments. The other Youth Advocates come from Wellesley, Harvard, UMass, and local high schools. We all come from starkly different backgrounds. And we have the most awesome discussions together.

At Home on First East

Back on my hall, I’m enjoying the upperclassman perks, one of which is living in a single. I painted it blue and yellow for joy.

Banti G. ‘17, my friend, hallmate, and 5-time blog collaborator/muse, took his room decorating efforts to a whole new level this summer and won the BostonDormContest. See how cool Banti’s room is here.

My friend Mariah ‘18 and I organize weekly hall socials as the (Social) Committee. I’ll post photographs of these soon.

Best of all, I get to bond with new residents, transfers and freshmen, as well as enjoy reunions with alumni. We continue to create amazing memories of hall events and fads (right now, it’s JOHN CENA).

Away, Away from MIT

And now I have fled MIT before the start of Finals Week. Haven’t been at my other (Ohio) home since August and now I’m excited to finally see my sister, family, and friends.

It’s been a marvelous semester. And I have an even more involved Independent Activities Period (IAP) to look forward to. IAP is the best time for adventures and new experiences, both in the icy Boston and on campus. Just look at all these exciting activities right here at MIT.

My plane has now calmed from its turbulent phase and its powerful hum is inducing me to sleep… Onwards to new adventures!


What was your Fall semester like?