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MIT student blogger Kirsten L. '15

The Other Side by Kirsten L. '15

The view from another cambridge

The grass is always greener on the other side. Or that’s what they say anyways

When I applied to the Cambridge- MIT Exchange (CME) program, I was pretty excited about the grass.

The CME program lets MIT and Cambridge University students swap places for a year (or in my case, a semester because Mechanical Engineering has a special program). The experiences are quite different at both places and listening to the stories from other MIT students who had gone abroad made me really interested in the program. They talked about how they didn’t have as much weekly work (we have homework once every two weeks for each class), ate fancy three-course meals called Formal Halls, and of course attended these huge celebrations at the end of exams called May Balls. Plus the college system (similar to Yale), each with their own colors and crest, honestly reminded me of Harry Potter (Cliche, I know…). Although leaving MIT for even a semester seemed really sad, I saw it as an opportunity to experience something new, maybe even something better.

Fast forward a couple months to Fall semester after I’d committed to studying abroad…
I don’t think I’ve ever had a more brutal fall semester than the one that hit my Junior fall.
IHTFP. All day. Every day.

Part of the problem was that I was taking this deathly combination of classes to prepare for my semester abroad. The work load from one of my lab classes was incredibly heavy since we had weekly labs/reports and also an individiual project where I needed to make 40+ cups of tea. I was taking one of the most notoriously difficult classes at MIT, 2.006 or Thermal Fluids II (think turbines, compressors, and cycles), which I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass pretty much the whole semester… Plus I was spending all my time on the only class I actually derived any joy from: 2.008, AKA yo-yos! Another part of the problem was that I don’t think I was making enough time for myself. I wasn’t sleeping enough (indeed there were many nights where I slept after my roommates and was up before them in the morning), my activities became more burdensome than fun (as a result of unanticipated circumstances), and I didn’t make time to do things that would let me relax like baking, drawing, and taking photos.

But I, like many MIT students, lived by Winston Churchill’s quote:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

And I made it through.

My three months here at Cambridge Unversity have been a much needed break from MIT. I was burned out after last semester, and I don’t know how I would’ve made it through another Spring semester (which for some reason is always the more difficult semester for me). Although I’m not as involved as Nati, I’m kind of taking this semester to do the things that I enjoy doing and recuperate.

Since I’ve been here, I got into running…

baked a ton…

and have been taking more photos!

Cambridge has been a wonderful experience so far, and my time here has helped me put my MIT experience in a new framework. I appreciate that. I’ll never take for granted the wonderfully fast, universally-available and fast wifi, the single faucets in our sink (we have separate hot and cold faucets here), and of course the incredible amount of funding for class projects, activities, and research at MIT. That’s not to say that Cambridge doesn’t also have its wonderful things as well! I enjoy that I have more time to sit and learn the material, instead of drinking through the firehose. We also have these things called supervisions, which are hour-long meetings with a grad student tp talk about the problems you worked on for the past two weeks. Our work is not graded, so there’s not too much pressure to just finish the work in time to submit things. Additionally, I’m taking a couple of courses here on materials which talk about different properties that were discovered or researched here at Cambridge University.

The city of Cambridge itself is also incredibly beautiful. But instead of boring you with more words, I figured I’d just take you along on my morning walk to the department so you can get a taste of what it’s like to study abroad at Cambridge.