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MIT blogger Kidist A. '22

sophomore spring in hindsight by Kidist A. '22

reviewing my journal

I’ve kept an extensive weekly journal since early February as part of my new year’s resolutions. Since I didn’t blog that much during the spring, I went through my journal and picked out some of the memories and experiences that stand out to me. I present to you a brief highlight of the chaos that was sophomore spring. 

 

New Experiences

  • I got box braids for the first time. Luckily, I got my hair done by another student, so the atmosphere was calm and lax. We talked, watched some Sherlock Holmes, and had Popeyes. It took eight hours, but it was so worth it! I got so many compliments, especially because the color I got was a silver ombre color that matched my winter jacket. It was also a relief to have my hair in a protective style for a few weeks and not have to think about it. 
  • I went to Veggie Galaxy, a vegetarian restaurant on Mass Ave, for the first time. I abstain from meat and dairy foods on certain days as a form of religious fasting, so it’s really nice to find a nice vegan place even though it’s packed most of the time. I also found out that vegan scrambled eggs exist somehow. 
  • Ring Premiere01 The event where the Ring Committee unveils the design for the class brass rat happened! I called my parents afterward and cried as I explained the meaning behind the different features. My parents and I were both shocked at my tears, but I was overwhelmed with pride and joy. I love my ring, and I hope the Class of 2022 can have a Ring Delivery to celebrate at some point. 
  • I went to Tufts and Northeastern for the first time. Going to school in a city that has so many other colleges and universities is something that I now value very much even though I didn’t really consider it when deciding between colleges. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make friends and meet people from Harvard to BU to Tufts to Wellesley; there are so many wonderful people in this city. By God’s grace, my sister and I ended up going to school in the same city, and that has markedly changed my undergrad experience. One of my close friends from high school goes to school at BU, and I try to visit her at least once a semester. I don’t think this would have happened if I went to school in another city outside of maybe Atlanta, where I’m originally from. Also, I found out that Northeastern’s student center has Popeyes, and I’m jealous. Incoming and prospective students, lower your standards for dining options, especially at MIT’s student center.02 </span></span>Cafe Spice has great samosas and mango lassis though, and I've heard good things about the bullet train MIT doesn’t seem to care for current students’ pleas for better dining options in our student center (or anywhere really), so maybe they’ll listen to you guys.
  • I went out for my birthday and had an actual steak for the first time. In short, my life has changed. I didn’t know meat could taste just that good and that it could melt in your mouth like that. I can say for a fact that I thought about that steak every day for at least three weeks and now probably on a monthly or weekly basis. Just *chef’s kiss*.
  • Kathleen and I had talked about going to Simmons dining all through Fall, and we actually did it in the Spring! Most of the people that I know prefer Next dining, but after that night I think Simmons stands as the best(relatively) hands down.     
  • I wrote a check for the first time and failed miserably. I felt like such an adult and made a show of writing the check until I got an email the next day saying that I had filled it out wrong. Instead of spelling out the amount on one line, I wrote out MIT. Live and learn, I guess. 

Social Experiences 

  • I realize I go to Oath a lot. In the first few weeks of the second semester, I went there at least three times, once alone and the remainder to catch up with a friend and an advisor. I personally love Oath’s pizzas, and their pizza crusts are uncontested. Oath is great because they accept MIT dining dollars, which, at least for me, doesn’t feel like you’re actually spending your money (you most likely are, don’t be fooled).  
  • I struggled to balance different friendships. One evening, I had plans to hang out with someone, and on my way to their room, I ran into another friend who not so subtly hinted that I didn’t check up on them as often as they did to me. To mollify my ensuing guilt, I asked the friend I was originally going to meet for a thirty-minute grace period and talked to the friend I had caught in the elevator. But of course, I lost track of time, and I felt so bad for being a let-down. I remember this moment being a wake-up call to check-up on people regularly and intentionally.    
  • In late February, I had a long conversation with two other friends, and a topic we discussed was the growing concern for COVID. I remember the three of us scoffing at the idea of schools closing and virtual learning, but alas, they all came to fruition. We also talked about how weird and cool DNA is, specifically how a certain arrangement of atoms basically has the instruction for life. Isn’t that crazy?    
  • A social event that stands out is a jeopardy event that I later journaled as a metaphor for my social life. I wasn’t planning on going to the event but changed my mind later, so I arrived late. When I got there, four to six groups had already formed, and I was really hesitant to join a table because I wasn’t on time and there was at least one person I was on shaky terms with. I felt really overwhelmed and left almost immediately, and instead, I went to Harvard and spend time with my sister and other friends. I hinted at this in my friendship blog post, but I had a fallout with the group I spent most of my freshman year with. On top of that, most of my social efforts were concentrated on the black community, which is already small thus circles easily overlap. I struggled to cleanly and seamlessly branch out to other groups. I personally regret relying on the black community as my sole social community and support, and now as a junior, it feels like many groups have already been established and that it’s too late for me to join. For now, I’m focusing on fostering individual relationships.  
  • The week of March 9 was the week everything went to hell. The details of that week span over four pages in my journal, and it could be its own blog series. It started literally at the beginning of the week when Kathleen called me that Monday morning about Harvard’s sudden announcement to send students home. Everything just went downhill from there. 
  • Quarantine has made me especially cognizant and thankful for my environment.  I’m grateful that I have a safe home, stable wifi most of the time, secure access to food, and so many more blessings I need to count daily. All of these things have allowed me to have a decent virtual experience. Additionally, all my professors and TAs were understanding and flexible. 
  • I procrastinated a lot more than usual. It was incredibly hard to focus and just as easy to get distracted. Having the option to decide when to watch lectures threw me off in that when there are live lectures, I’m forced to attend and finish that lecture at a specific time. Whereas with recorded lectures, I could decide when to watch it, so I’d either put it off or take more time than the length of the video to watch it. The ability to pause and rewind lectures was a blessing and a curse because while it helped me during some moments of confusion, most of the time I was just hung up on little details that didn’t matter in the long run. Moreover, I had a hard time separating work and personal life. I felt guilty working on personal projects or taking time for self-care when I knew I had a pset I needed to work on. When I was on campus, I would work at the Rotch Library or at office hours, but now I spend most of my day in my study room, making it hard to separate work from personal life. This is also something I struggle with during my internship. 
  • I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing my sister on a daily basis. We talk, laugh, and fight. We write poems roasting each other. We keep each other up talking about mindless things. I have a little brother who I am not as close with, and this quarantine has brought us closer together. 

Academic Experiences 

  • I journaled a lot about several moments where I felt insecure and academically inferior. I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to different pset groups and that they would realize this and kick me out or something. I’ve had these thoughts for all four semesters of my MIT experience so far, but going virtual intensified those emotions. I can’t really tell why. It might be because it was harder to glean reassurance that countered my doubts such as body language through a computer screen. I really don’t know. Towards the end, I worked on psets on my own, missing out on the spirit of collaboration. When I eventually expressed my insecurities, people were so willing to help. Time and time again, I’m so floored at people’s kindness and readiness to help. In previous semesters, people have helped me finish a pset at 3 AM or even later. When I ask those people why they would help me, they’d share that they would not be where they were if it weren’t for the help they received. I’m a little hesitant to generalize this to all of MIT, but it’s easy to see this as an extension of MIT’s culture of collaboration. Now I’m even more inclined and eager to actively give back. Though even with this mindset, I still struggle to ask for help. 
  • I had many doubts about my major, 6-9,03 Computation and Cognition. This major was just released this year, and it's a combination of course 6 (EECS) and course 9 (Brain and Cognitive Sciences) and made many, many CourseRoads.04 CourseRoad is a life-saving website where you can plan the classes you want to take every semester and keep track of your major/minor requirements. Another useful website is FireHose which helps you schedule your classes for a given semester. The combination of the two concepts is a beautiful app called FireRoad. A lot of my frustration stemmed from not being technical enough and fears of not being prepared to be a career in software engineering or something of the course 6 industry nature. The former concern is mostly rooted in insecurities of not taking classes widely considered to be difficult such as more advanced math and cs classes. Sometimes it feels like I’m doing MIT on ‘easy mode’ even though the required classes for 6-9 are not easy to me even if many others might disagree. As for the latter concern, 6-9 doesn’t require some classes that I think are foundational to computer science. It’s hard to figure out what 6-9 is trying to be. Is it trying to concentrate on AI/ML? If so, it requires one class ML class, and the AI class is an elective. Is it trying to focus on brain-machine interfaces? There are few if any classes required on that topic. Obviously, I can just take classes outside of the required major classes to fulfill my desires, but it’d still be nice if the major included those things. I seriously considered switching to 6-3, which somehow meant I’d have to take fewer classes to fulfill that major’s requirements. Ultimately, I’m planning on sticking with 6-9 because I think the brain is cool, and I feel more excited to take course 9 classes than I am 6-3 classes. 

Summer

  • My summer has been relatively great considering the chaos in the world. I’m finally working on all the art projects I’ve been putting off for years. I started my internship a few weeks ago. I’m watching shows05 I just finished watching Money Heist and I've been watching the cast's interview videos to fill the void in my heart. that were on my list. I’ve been ~trying~ to keep a regular workout and sleep schedule. I’m doing things to keep me busy, productive, and fulfilled, which I can hopefully keep up all through the summer without burning out. 

Extra

I make my sister edit all my blogs. Here are some of her insightful comments and critiques.

  1. The event where the Ring Committee unveils the design for the class brass rat back to text
  2. Cafe Spice has great samosas and mango lassis though, and I've heard good things about the bullet train back to text
  3. Computation and Cognition. This major was just released this year, and it's a combination of course 6 (EECS) and course 9 (Brain and Cognitive Sciences) back to text
  4. CourseRoad is a life-saving website where you can plan the classes you want to take every semester and keep track of your major/minor requirements. Another useful website is FireHose which helps you schedule your classes for a given semester. The combination of the two concepts is a beautiful app called FireRoad. back to text
  5. I just finished watching Money Heist and I've been watching the cast's interview videos to fill the void in my heart. back to text