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things that went well by Masha G. '24

reflections on my first semester

It’s almost the end of 2020, which is terrifying. And hopeful, of course, in all the things that we’d like to be able to leave behind. But at the same time, in some ways it’s too easy to for me to feel like the year just flew by in a weird sort of emptiness. It didn’t, of course. I know that. Lots of things happened, and particularly this fall (what with, you know, starting at MIT). But time just keeps going, and I’ve more or less spent the past few weeks curled up in bed reading and ignoring the outside world, so I’d like to take a moment and reconnect myself with what actually happened in my life since September. I also feel a little bad for the negativity in my previous post, though I do stand by it, so this is me trying to balance it out. And because I haven’t done nearly enough list-based posts this fall as I would have liked, I present to you a list-based post of good things that happened to me this semester. No order, because order is overrated.

  • I went to St Petersburg
    • This is definitely a big one. I could write a lot about what this meant for me, and maybe I will, later, because I’m still only figuring it out. I’m so grateful to have gotten this, though, to spend so much time in Russia in general. It’s helped to ground me, I think, and give me perspective on who I am and who I want to be. I’ve always struggled with how I should fit Russia into my identity, and I needed to experience it like this – mundane, first-hand, by myself – to be able to move forward. Not to mention, St. Petersburg in particular is a ridiculously gorgeous city, and being there and being able to go new places and see new things made me feel normal in a year that was anything but.
  • I learned to live alone and independently
    • Kind of a sub point of the above, but this was such an important and new experience. Not only did I learn to live alone in all the practical senses of the word (think laundry, cooking, having the electricity go out in my apartment…), but I also learned to live with myself. I’ve always been comfortable being alone, and here I got to experience that in some extreme version. It was nice to focus and spend time with myself, and kinda just vibe.
  • I rediscovered my interest in physics
    • My love for physics kind of flip flops every so often, because it’s just a hard subject. Before this fall, I was definitely going through a bit of a phase questioning it after a semi-traumatic experience cross-registering for an advanced physics class at my local college senior year of high school.01 The class was fine, but way above my level of math, and it wasn’t taught very well, and I was stressed and tired because fall of senior year. And then I didn’t think about physics at all for the first half of 2020, and then I got to asking myself why I would subject myself to so much math anyway. But taking 8.02202 a math-heavier version of the Institute requirement, Physics II this fall showed me that there’s a reason I’m drawn to it, after all. I love the logic, I love the feeling of understanding, I love the way the laws pf physics emerge from math. I enjoy physics, despite it being difficult, and I want to keep learning more.
  • I branched out into new interests
    • A theme this fall for me has definitely been questioning my interests, and life path, and direction. And while I feel like I haven’t really gotten all that far with figuring things out, I’m glad I was able to at least to branch out in small ways. I took exploratory classes in new fields, I read books about new subjects, I even applied to industry internships despite my fundamental instinct being to just do research forever. Here’s to moving forward.
  • I met a lot of cool people
    • Despite what I said in my previous post, or maybe in spite of it, I did meet a lot of really amazing and cool people and got to hear so many cool perspectives and experiences. Honestly, if we exchanged even ten words this semester, I appreciate you! A lot! Even virtually, I do feel as though I’m at MIT. And it’s been fun, and been better than I hoped, and it’s significant, and I’m grateful for that.
  • I started drawing again
    • I used to do a lot of art as a kid, but for the past four-five years I haven’t really been able to find the time and opportunity and motivation for it. Part of it was that I was just so busy, but part of it was also that I felt any art I made wouldn’t be good enough. But, good enough for who? It’s not like I’m trying to be a professional artist, I just happen to enjoy the process of drawing. So I’ve picked up a notebook again, and I’m just using my normal pen, so I don’t have to make a lot of decisions about materials and such. I can just sit down and spend a bit sketching, and it feels so good, and I’m so proud that I’m making a habit of it.
drawing of a building on table with tea

my sketch of the gorgeous Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg, featuring some very blue tea that reminded me of that milk from Star Wars

This is in no ways exhaustive, but just some themes that came to mind as I reflect back on my first semester. This fall flew by, actually; and I feel like it was both busy and not all at once. Probably more busy than not, though, judging by my lack of energy to do anything right now, and that’s good. I’m pleased to have been able to fill 2020 with new experiences – in the positive sense of that word. I wish all of you a happy holiday season as I go back to drinking tea in bed while staring out the window (or at my phone). I hope you, too, are able to take a break in preparation for what will hopefully be a better year.

  1. The class was fine, but way above my level of math, and it wasn’t taught very well, and I was stressed and tired because fall of senior year. back to text
  2. a math-heavier version of the Institute requirement, Physics II back to text