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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

The Marks of a Student by Cami M. '23

or, let's catch up

Hi, long time no see. Well, for me it’s been a while. I’ve been silent on the blogs for about three weeks, far longer than I ever want to be away from the blogs, since I’m so accustomed to posting every week. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about this on a blogpost, but I know I have to because one of my goals for this blog in general is to be completely transparent with everyone about my MIT experience so far.

About two weeks ago, I flew home to California. If you’ve read any of my past blogposts, specifically this one, you’ll know that being home brings on some pretty rough memories. I was already stressed out by my 6.009 quiz, a quiz worth 10% of my grade, and at this point, I was still planning on taking 6.009 on grades. Unfortunately, things were made worse when my housemates decided to go apple picking without me. I was extremely upset over this. Apple picking, I know, it’s really small. But it was something I really, really wanted to do, something I had brought up in our group chat because I didn’t get to go last year but I really wanted to go this year. But the only weekend mostly everyone was free was the weekend I was gone. To make matters worse, they invited other people in my place and accommodated to their schedule over mine and that made me feel really, really shitty.

I spent the first half of my week home crying. Full body shakes and sobs as I cried into the late hours of the night. I was stressed by my classes, feeling more alone than ever because while I was at home, I kept on getting updates from group chats about apple picking, social media updates, the like. I started to mimic my senior year self, leaving group chats without warning, ignoring my friends who were reaching out to me, and diving into a state of self isolation. I knew it was stupid. Part of it came from the stress of failing my 6.009 quiz. But the other part came from this rage and anger at not being invited out, and I couldn’t figure out why it had affected me so much, why something as little as apple picking made it feel like I was useless and alone and unwanted. My mom quickly noticed something was wrong with me, and I felt guilty because she thought I was sad at being home. I knew I wasn’t being fair to my family, since I was crying at night when instead I should be celebrating the fact I was in a home with a mom and grandparents who loved me. I started to plan to leave California early, but hesitated since I didn’t want to hurt my mom and grandparents, didn’t want them thinking I was ungrateful for their presence. I explained to my mom that it wasn’t being home that made me sad, it was this apple picking thing. And with a somewhat knowing glint in her eyes, she suggested I talked to my therapist.

Back in my senior year, when the fall out was just starting, my friends had left me out of a lot of events. They started going shopping together, writing college apps together, hanging out with each other and not inviting me or notifying me of what was going on. And though it was something small, the mere fact of not being invited apple picking, furthered by my being back home in California where all that shit went down, made me feel like I was in high school all over again. That I was losing my friends all over again. PTSD, a disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD, a disorder I commonly attribute with events of violence, not some petty high school falling out. But as my therapist talked more and more, I started to understand. And I started to see. It still feels foreign to me, to think that this group of high school girls fucked me up so badly that my trauma can be triggered at something as simple as being home and missing out on event with my friends. And as I processed all of this, I switched from feeling pathetic to sad to simply just angry. They had destroyed my sense of friendships and relationships, made me so deeply untrusting that even just not being invited to something makes me enter a full state of panic. They had robbed me of future relationships and for that, I’ll never forgive them.

My therapist then pointed out a contrast between my high school friends and my current friends that grounded me, saying that my high school friends did not bother to check in or make sure I was okay, but my current ones did. And that is the difference. And that is how I can tell my reality from my trauma. And for that, I’m grateful.

After my session, I slowly started replying to the panicked texts on Messenger from my friends in the group chat I left, or the friends that saw my breakdown tweets on my Twitter. I had a lot of apologizing to do, frankly. It’s shitty to disappear out of nowhere, without warning. To ignore people for things that aren’t their fault. Once I explained everything going on to my roommates, they validated me and told me they understood and said they wished I was able to go and they even bought me caramel apples (my favorite!!!) since I wasn’t able to go. And I smiled to myself, as I reminded myself that they were different. This was not high school.

I still decided to leave for Boston early, two days before my actual flight. My mom was sad and I was really sad to leave, but I knew I had to go back to Boston to make things right.

Coming back to Boston, I’ve been able to get a handle on things. Kind of. My mental health is a far better state than usual. I’m communicating with my roommates again, no longer feeling the need to self isolate or distance myself from them, although it’s still hard to interact with people since lately I’ve been spending a lot of time alone and enjoying that alone time. And now, my focus is on 6.009. And academics. And grades.

I’ve been really wrestling lately with which class to put on PE/NE.01 Due to the pandemic, MIT granted us the ability to put one class on Pass / No Record to offset the stress that would come with a normal semester. As of now, I currently have no GPA, since I was on P/NR all of freshman fall and put on emergency grading for all my classes in the spring because of COVID. As a result, I really need to be working on building up my GPA in the off-chance I do end up applying to M.Eng,02 MIT offers a special opportunity for students to acquire a masters degree in five years rather than the traditional six for specific majors. but simultaneously, I’m not all that confident in my classes.

For context, I’m taking 6.009,03 Fundamentals of Programming 18.02,04 Multivariable Calculus 8.021,05 Physics E&M and 21G.703.06 Spanish III 18.02 and 8.021 are science GIRs.07 General Institute Requirements AKA MIT's version of geneds. The Class of 2023 has a special rule where we are allowed to put up to 3 science GIRs on P/NR. The science GIRs are: 18.01, 18.02, 7.01x, 5.11x/3.091, 8.01, and 8.02. I took 18.01, 3.091, and 8.01 in my freshman fall, meaning I had left myself with just enough PNR slots for the rest of my GIRs: 18.02, 7.01x, and 8.02.

Now if you’ll notice from my schedule, that means I have two classes automatically on P/NR PLUS the additional class from emergency grading, meaning that three out of the four classes I’m taking are on Pass/No Record.

What happens in a “usual” freshman year is that you have freshman fall on PNR and then freshman spring is on ABC/NR (meaning if you get lower than a C, it doesn’t show up on your transcript). This is MIT’s way of easing freshmen into the grading system. However, 2023s didn’t really get this opportunity to ease. Instead, we were kind of thrown into it all, taking 3, 4, maybe even 5 classes on normal grades with one PNR slot. I, however, took an easier way out and am taking the equivalent of essentially my freshman fall.

I’ve been feeling really guilty of this as a result. I sometimes wonder if I’ve been robbing myself of the essential experiences and struggles freshmen and sophomores need to go through to adjust to grades. I didn’t want to go through this semester like it was a breeze and then suddenly be hit in the face with Spring 2021 if MIT suddenly chooses to remove emergency grading (which would be…ridiculous) and I’m left on a full courseload with regular grading.

Because of this, I started to make grade calculators for all my classes to see if I should change my grading.

And, well, I have! I’ve officially petitioned to change 18.02 and 8.021 to grades (…although I did it past add date, which is not only the deadline to add classes, but the deadline to change grading from PNR to grades. Drop date is the deadline to drop classes and the deadline to change grading from grades to PNR. I was mistaken and thought Drop Date was for any grade changes…so I’m currently waiting for approval). After evaluating my performance in both classes, it seems pretty likely that I’ll do ~somewhat~ well in them, assuming I don’t slack off and keep up the pace that I’m going. Frankly, I’m really proud of myself for doing so well in 8.021 this far, especially seeing as I failed 8.02 in the spring.

But now this leads to a different thing: I’m a computer science major who has put one of her fundamental CS classes on P/NR. And I feel bad about it. For those of you who are friends with me or have read my blogposts, you’ll know that 6.009 is the worst class for me. I cry every week over this class, have had multiple breakdowns due to this class, and overall just struggle with 6.009 in a way I have never humanly struggled before.

There’s a part of me that wants to prove myself, to work hard and get that A and spend as long as it takes to get it. But there’s another part of me that knows how much 6.009 affects me mentally. And how rough this class is for me. And how much I dislike this class. So now, I’m a bit torn. I feel really guilty for keeping 6.009 on PNR. Maybe I think it’s my way of giving up. Maybe I see it as me not being good enough in computer science to succeed. I would just like to find a way to comfort myself and tell myself it’s okay not to work as hard as I think I do, especially given the circumstances, and well, being in a whole pandemic and things.

Anyway, there’s my quick check in. Sorry for the shorter blogpost. !! If !! you’d like to chat more and hang out and vibe, I’m actually one of the students that runs the @mitadmissions Instagram account and I go live every Sunday just to vibe and hang (usually after 5PM ET but there’s no set time right now) so if you’d like to hang out there, feel free.

And if you need a sign to know that you are doing good enough, here it is! I think a lesson we all need to learn (especially me…) is that it’s okay not to try your hardest 100% of the time. It’s okay to breathe a little bit, slack off here and there, and take a moment to settle yourself in again. I think, also, I need to teach myself that grades aren’t as imperative or important as I think they are. In high school, I was pretty anal about getting A’s. In my freshman year of high school, I remember looking at my first semester report card and seeing straight A’s except for an A- in calc. From there on, I promised I would only get solid A’s or higher for the rest of high school. (By the way, this is at all not required nor expected. I know plenty of people at MIT who did not have straight A’s and they are still here.)

I was doing well with that promise until second semester junior year, where I finished with a B in organic chemistry. I remember crying and crying and crying in my teacher’s classroom, even though I knew it was stupid. My teachers comforted me at first, but then gave me the reality check I desperately needed. One bad grade did not define who I was. Two bad grades will not define who I am. In fact, no amount of bad grades will ever define who we are. My teacher then reminded me that it is not our grades that define us, but how we handle the situation and how we deal with it. And I had evaluated myself in that moment, sobbing in a classroom over getting a B in organic chemistry, and realized I was not handling the situation in the most gracious way.

Does it still feel bad not to get an A? Or get that perfect GPA? Absolutely. But does it mean we are less than? Or we are not as capable or intelligent? Not at all. And so that’s what I’ve been trying to remind myself, as I stare at that little PE/NE symbol next to 6.009 on my registration. I am not lesser than for deciding to take a break. I am not weaker or dumber for struggling. I am doing what I need for me.

Happy Wednesday. Come vibe with me on live. And I have a special surprise live 11/6 with some friends.

  1. Due to the pandemic, MIT granted us the ability to put one class on Pass / No Record to offset the stress that would come with a normal semester. back to text
  2. MIT offers a special opportunity for students to acquire a masters degree in five years rather than the traditional six for specific majors. back to text
  3. Fundamentals of Programming back to text
  4. Multivariable Calculus back to text
  5. Physics E&M back to text
  6. Spanish III back to text
  7. General Institute Requirements AKA MIT's version of geneds. back to text