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Summers by Danny and Allan G. '20

spending three at home

We spent our last three summers at home. That’s not super common for MIT students, and probably college students in general. Many do internships, travel, stay on campus or any combination of the above.

So since our experience doesn’t seem to be as common, and this is technically our last undergraduate summer, we wanted to outline what we’ve done in each summer!

Freshman Summer

We took the summer off!

We pretty much knew throughout our freshman year that we would just take the summer off. We had anticipated feeling burnt out, and really wanted to give ourselves a break. Plus, we were still focusing on adjusting to and getting used to college life, so applying to internships or looking for summer UROPs just wasn’t really on either of our minds. And we were lucky enough to be in a position where taking the summer off and living at home was an option (we realize that is not the case for everyone), so we didn’t feel any pressure to search for summer opportunities. That summer we traveled to Israel for our cousin’s Bar Mitzvah, traveled to Moscow with our family, drew a lot, worked together to make an animated short, and worked a lot on our blogger application! Overall, we really enjoyed this summer and were very happy with our decision to take a break. We took the time to decompress from the rush of MIT, and also got the chance to build upon and learn new skills!

Sophomore Summer

We did a remote UROP and Frolicked in a VR lab

Starting in sophomore year, part of our MIT atmosphere included a rush to look for summer opportunities. Hearing about so many people’s really cool and prestigious summer plans put this kind of “pressure-desire” 01 both an external pressure (“aaa this person is doing xyz, I should also be doing xyz”) and an internal desire (“omg this person is doing xyz, wouldn’t it be so cool if I could also do xyz!”)  for us to look for jobs and to hopefully (crossing our fingers and toes) get them too. 

So throughout sophomore year, we very actively applied to Internships and UROPs…. And then got rejected from most of them. This was really our first foray into the world of resumes and cover letters. Looking back, our main mistake was applying to jobs that we were under-qualified for. This made writing cover letters difficult and, reading them back now, they were not great.

So, we were left jobless in the middle of the sophomore spring semester with only a few weeks left to find something to do before the summer, and around that time, because of said “pressure-desire,” that felt like a Bad Thing. Luckily, we got an email about UROP openings in the MIT Teaching Systems Lab. They were looking for people with visual art or animation or game-related experience, so we were immediately drawn. We both applied, both got interviews soon after, and then got the positions! This was a huge relief.

But after telling our parents about this opportunity that we had to stay on campus the whole summer working at TSL, they told us they really wanted us to be home for the summer02 Our parents, not having grown up in the US nor gone to college, don’t fully understand the college “culture” of doing summer internships or jobs. They also miss us during the school year a lot. So they didn’t see the value in us staying on campus to UROP that summer, and really didn't like the idea of us not being home. , and to ask if we can work remotely at TSL instead. At first we were reluctant to even ask TSL if working remotely was an option. Again, we felt this “pressure-desire” to be on campus during one of our summers because it felt like such a quintessential part of the MIT experience. But after being grumpy about it for a bit, we ended up compromising with our parents, and found out from TSL that working remotely was in fact an option!

That summer we made character designs, logos, and animations for various projects with the on-campus UROPs . We communicated with our supervisor and the other on-campus UROPs via skype and email, and shared our work via google drive. It all worked smoothly and we felt that we got a lot out of the experience!

Since, we did have a lot of free time on top of TSL (we were putting in about 5-10 hours per week), we also decided to reach out to professors in local universities to see if there were any projects we could potentially help out with in person. We got a positive response from one professor in Florida International University who was the head of a new VR lab there, telling us that we could “frolic” in her lab (which we found really amusing XD). We spent a lot of time troubleshooting and trying to get the HTC Vive they had in the lab to actually work. After an absurdly long time of trouble shooting, we discovered that the USB port it was plugged into was just broken. Aside from that we played around with Unity and tried to make a few scenes to view in the headset, which we were able to do after we got the headset working.

And on the side, we did art things, cooked, went on a lot of walks/power walks around our neighborhood, read some books/graphic novels, caught up on shows/movies, started going to Pilates with our mom, and saw a sea turtle!

Despite sophomore year’s job hunt stress, we actually, to our surprise, ended up with a great summer at home!

On campus, in the blur and rush of the semester, we got really caught up in the *idea* of a Summer Job. And with that, on some level, we equated being at home with failure — that the only reason we’d be at home was if we failed at finding a job.

But when that summer finally started, and we were away from the MIT bubble, we remembered why we loved our freshman summer so much. We remembered that we just really like being at home. We remembered that there is nothing wrong with *choosing* to be home. We remembered that we can still be productive, and creative, and artistic at home. We remembered that we needed to relax and recover from the year. We remembered that we just have a few summers left before graduating, before real adulthood, and it’s okay to take advantage of that.

Junior Summer

We are doing Computer Graphics Research at University of Miami

Learning from Sophomore year, this year we approached the job hunt more reasonably. Yes, we were still stressed, and yes, we still felt the “pressure-desire”, and yes, we were still really hoping to get accepted to internships because that would be really cool. But, we were not nearly as hung up on the idea that we needed an internship.

So we went through the whole process again: cover letter, resume, submit. We applied to a lot of things, but in the end didn’t get accepted to any again. However, we did make it further into the process than the previous year, and that made us happy! We learned from our unsuccessful sophomore search and applied to things that were more suited to our skills. We both got to the interview stage of a few companies, and even though we didn’t make it past that, we were still happy with our progress!

Another thing we did better this year than last was finding a back-up plan before we knew we needed one. After thoroughly enjoying two summers at home, we knew that an optimal back-up plan would be one that would let us do the same thing again. So we emailed two professors from University of Miami, and got a positive response back from one of them. We set up a meeting with him over spring break, where he explained the projects he was working on, and they all seemed really interesting to us. After this meeting we became super happy with this backup plan and really calmed down about our summer plans.

Honestly, even though this was a “back-up plan” we kind of became more excited about the work we’d be doing there, plus the prospect of being home again, than the work we would be doing in some of the internships we applied/interviewed for.

So far, this summer has been great! Our project is to add features to/refactor the code of/fix CPU and GPU implementations of a visualization tool for complicated 3D surfaces. We’ve been having bi-weekly meetings with our supervisor where we check in on our progress/get help on things we are stuck on.

On a side note, UM’s campus is really pretty and green and alive!

They also have these really comfy swingy booths!

The other days of the week, we work from home, which is awesome! Our project lets us learn by doing, which has felt rewarding when we get things right, and we feel like we’re getting prepared to hopefully take Computer Graphics next fall! Other work-unrelated activities were similar to last summer – reading, watching tv shows/anime, making art, going to pilates, walking, and cooking/baking!

So yup, those are our summers :A :D

  1. both an external pressure (“aaa this person is doing xyz, I should also be doing xyz”) and an internal desire (“omg this person is doing xyz, wouldn’t it be so cool if I could also do xyz!”) back to text
  2. Our parents, not having grown up in the US nor gone to college, don’t fully understand the college “culture” of doing summer internships or jobs. They also miss us during the school year a lot. So they didn’t see the value in us staying on campus to UROP that summer, and really didn't like the idea of us not being home. back to text