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what I did this semester by Gloria Z. '26

in broad strokes!

Compared to the previous, this semester was less tumultuous, more of a steady rush of things-to-do rather than a series of breathless waves. It helped that I got an early start, having stayed in Boston during the summer as well and moving into my dorm as soon as I was able. Overall, I have few complaints about how everything went, save the laments that come up at the end of every semester: learning more from my classes, exercising more, being more on top of things, etc. But I think I did the best I could, all things considered. So, then–what actually happened?


1) I went to class (more)

I took 5 classes this semester, three technicals and two studios. They are as follows:

  • 8.02 – Physics II
  • 2.004 – Dynamics and Control II
  • 6.1210 – Introduction to Algorithms
  • 4.341 – Introduction to Photography and Related Media
  • 4.301 – Introduction to Artistic Experimentation

I also shopped 21M.601 – Drawing for Designers for a couple weeks, but I was very much not built for 7-10PM classes.


8.02 – Physics II

8.02 is a GIR01 General Institute Requirement, aka a class every student has to take , and it is (from the course description) an introduction to electromagnetism and electrostatics. I don’t have much to say about this class… I did indeed learn some physics.

2.004 – Dynamics and Control II

Despite its name, 2.004 mainly focuses on the control part; its precursor, 2.003 Dynamics and Control I, centers instead on dynamics. This was my favorite class this semester, for a variety of reasons: I really enjoyed the professor’s lecturing style, we had hands-on lab sections where we got to see the theory in action, and I had a great pset group (we had taken 2.003 together as well).

two hands, each holding silver utility knifes with "MIT 2.004" engraved on them

2.004-themed utility knifes!

At a high level, 2.004 introduces the analysis and control of open and closed-loop feedback systems. A guiding problem is that of regulating the temperature of a room. If we want to be at 67°F but our room is currently at 70°, cold air has to be pumped in. But how much, and for how long? Too much—we overshoot and get too cold; too little—we take forever to reach 67°. Do we want to prioritize system speed, stability, energy consumption, or some other factor? 2.004 introduces techniques to answer these questions.

6.006 – Introduction to Algorithms

6.006 was my earliest class, so my attendance for it unfortunately dwindled to near zero by week three. Despite this, I actually really enjoyed the content of the class, mostly gleaned from reading lecture notes. There was much less coding than I expected, and most of our problem sets consisted of writing out descriptions of algorithms and proving that they worked.

4.341 – Introduction to Photography and Related Media

I wrote a bit about 4.341 and 4.301 in my previous blog art things #1, but in summary, 4.341 was bisected into two units on digital and film photography. For the first half, we completed various shooting exercises (e.g. using long exposure). For the second half, we learned the whole process of shooting film and developing it ourselves in the darkroom. The night before our final film deadline, several classmates and I spent an unfortunate all-nighter in the red-lit enlarging room, swirling pieces of printing paper around in tubs of chemicals until our fingertips were dry and gummy to the touch.

Due to the nature of photography, completing assignments for 4.341 often meant going somewhere and doing something that wasn’t staring at my laptop screen. I found myself walking down Newbury Street asking strangers if I could take their picture, waking up at 7AM to shoot pigeons at Revere Beach, and hunting for cool lighting in the Media Lab in the middle of the night. The class made for a welcome break from my technicals, and I really liked all the other students in my section!

picture of a girl in a darkly lit corridor with a box on her head

photoshoot with a box we found

4.301 – Introduction to Artistic Experimentation

In 4.301, we worked through a series of different mediums—printmaking, ceramics, sound art, and weaving—with overarching themes of addressing climate, land, and water issues. There was more of a fine arts emphasis, which I really liked, as my previous 4B02 Art and Design department classes were much more design-oriented. We also went on a couple field trips to learn about climate initiatives and textiles!

I kind of wish I had put more effort into my projects in this class; I didn’t develop many of them fully for lack of time, and as a result I can’t say I’m very proud of everything I made (some of it still unfinished). Despite that, though, it was a lovely class, with a wonderful professor and TA.

a picture of a 1' cube made with wooden dowels and clear acrylic plates. inside the cube, white tulle suspends and wraps around several curvilinear ceramic shapes.

one of said unfinished projects, a sculpture about wind and ruins


2) I made stuff

I made a lot more art this semester and I’m very happy about that! I mostly made 2D work, but I also started learning 3D techniques (ceramics!), which I’m excited to continue with. 

In 2023, I slowly registered just how important art is to me, and how it’s soaked into every aspect of my life. I think I have always considered myself an artist first and everything else second, but this semester I became much more cognizant of this fact and its implications. I felt an increasing dissonance between my love for art and a self-imposed pressure to create things–but not just things, good things that are worth people’s attention and have something substantial to say. I like the things I make, but I’m also constantly frustrated with my lack of output and improvement, especially compared to the amazing artists I follow online (which is obviously unfair; they are either students at art schools or professionals whose jobs are to make art). I’m trying to remedy this relationship; I want to keep a certain level of pressure to push myself to get better, but I also want to give more grace to my work, my ideas, and my ego. MIT can be a difficult environment to be creative in, to say the least. I want to make well researched, large-scale work, but I also want to retain the childlike feeling of smearing pastel across newsprint, which is, I think, the soul of art in the first place: the rub of charcoal on skin, the choke of woven fibers, the pungence of turpentine. So all that to say I want to simultaneously make more and care less, however that manifests.

More tangibly, my goals for next semester include getting better at ceramics, doing more figure drawing/painting, designing and printing a zine, and making an installation! :)


3) I lifted

My biggest goal this semester was to go to the gym consistently, and I think I more or less hit it. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually improve that much in terms of how much I could lift; my workouts weren’t always very focused or at the optimal time of day for energy, and I definitely did not get enough protein most days. Despite that, though, the mental and physical benefits of having a daily gym routine more than made up for it, and I always left the Z in a better mood than when I entered. I upgraded my gym gear too, which felt very serious and professional: I got lifting straps (straps that wrap around your wrist and a dumbbell) since my grip strength was starting to become a limiting factor, started taking preworkout, and tried various brands of protein shakes. And I got my first pull-up!! 😎

I also tried to get into running this semester, with the initial target of training for a 5K with my friend. The training we did do, but we didn’t end up running the actual race day-of, due to sickness and cold weather. Trust, though… it WILL happen next semester 🤞. I’m pretty ambivalent about running as compared to lifting; I like the post-run endorphins, but I can’t run for long enough to reach a runner’s high, and I think I’m too much of an iPad baby anyway. I realized part of the reason I like lifting is because I can look at my phone between sets, and I can make each workout a little unique by incorporating new exercises, doing movements with a different tempo, or focusing on separate muscle groups. Maybe this says something about my brain and dopamine/novelty addiction or something like that… but for now I will not think about it too much and just keep trying to get swole.

a pink kirby plush with buff arms on a table

how I’m trying to be in 2024


4) I also… (rapid fire round, in the spirit of kano and jessica‘s recent blogs)

  • became a blogger!
  • was a counselor for FAP (first-year arts program) alongside jebby, fatima, and head counselor teresa

canvases taped to the wall with various animal art on it

  • went to four concerts: The Strokes (my top artist!), Boygenius (on my birthday!), The 1975, and Slaughter Beach, Dog
  • joined then deaffiliated from a sorority (the people were lovely, I just didn’t have time :P)
  • took too many naps on the building N52 couch
  • sold things at the MIT craft fair
picture of a table with a white tablecloth covered in art prints, stickers, and ceramics

our wares! animal crossing stickers/prints/store signs by teresa. ceramics/fish stickers/other prints by me

  • became a mentor for Metropolis
  • bounced around Boston with my high school friends during thanksgiving break
picture of two girls facing away from the camera, taking pictures with their phones. in the background is a path covered with fallen leaves, with large yellow and green trees lining the path.

so fall, so new england

  • watched the entire Scott Pilgrim anime in one day (release day 🙏)
  • dyed my hair bright orange
a picture of a girl taking a mirror selfie, wearing a blue dress. her hair is bright orange under the lights

it’s really bright under white light

  • went to my first housewarming party
  • attended a friendsgiving potluck with so so many delicious dishes

    a picture of a table covered with plates of food. the food includes a charcuterie board, pie, pots of pasta and bakes, potstickers, egg tarts, tiramisu, and mushrooms.

    this was only half of the table

  • and saw many beautiful sunsets!
a picture of a brilliant yellow/blue sunset behind a large white building and a tree


So that’s it, then, or as much as I remember. There’s so much more that happened, little breaths of sweet autumn air or a conversation that lasted far beyond its last sentence, but those moments are less tangible, better lived than written about, at least for now. 


ok happy new year have a good rest of break ciao!

  1. General Institute Requirement, aka a class every student has to take back to text
  2. Art and Design department back to text