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What Should I Do Next Semester? by Qiaochu Y. '12

i'm making a list and checking it twice

Okay, so I'm sort of cheating – I already wrote this post on my math blog, but I thought it would be interesting to write it again for a different audience and see a different set of responses. 

Here's the deal: I'm having a pretty boring semester academically. After spending a year at Cambridge taking amazing classes that didn't fulfill any graduation requirements, every single class I'm taking right now is a class I absolutely need to graduate. (I won't bore you with the list.) Fortunately, that's it; after this semester, I'll be done. I am graduating in February. I will be spending the Spring semester at MIT but not taking any classes. How awesome is that? I know someone else who did exactly this, and he had the time of his life. 

I fully intend to have the time of my life too. But I need your help! What are some awesome things I could be doing?

We spend so much time on these blogs telling you about all the awesome things we're doing, but if you're prospective MIT students, shouldn't you have something to say about all the awesome things you're doing (and that I could be doing too)? Help me out here! Here's some basic stuff I've thought of so far:

  • Math blogging. (I've been neglecting this for grad school applications.)
  • Learning me a Haskell for great good.
  • Learning to cook. 
  • Learning to swim, for real. (I passed the swim class but I can't really do anything except a terrible backstroke.)
  • Learning to play the harmonica. 

Not bad, but it could use a little more awesome. What do you have that's better?

The only mild constraint I'll add is that I don't currently want to do anything that requires that I be any particular place, including MIT, on a regular basis (so I'm leaning away from a UROP, but if someone can convince me that that's the best use of my time I'll think about it), so I can travel for long periods of time if I want. I mean, when am I going to get this kind of freedom again? 

18 responses to “What Should I Do Next Semester?”

  1. p says:

    thru-hike the Appalachian trail! I’ve wanted to do this for a while, so you should do it so that I may do it vicariously through you.

  2. DanielG says:

    “Learning to swim for real” is a good goal, but it lacks awesomeness. To add that little extra, change it to, “Complete the 100m butterfly”. Complete it under 80 seconds for extra credit.

    Now that is a goal which, if you make it in one summer, you can be proud of. Yes, it is, as the expression goes, a “suckfest” (I threw up in my mouth and had to swallow it back down when I did it competitively last), but once you recover from the dizziness and nausea, the feeling of completing it can’t be described.

  3. Muna says:

    Go SKYDIVING!
    and BUNGEE JUMPING!
    and try WALKING ON WATER!

    learn how to speak ARABIC! *good luck with this..and if u need any help..i’m here for u
    learn how to make PIZZA! *i’ll be the food critic
    learn how to play the VIOLIN.. or the SAXOPHONE!

    let me know how these work out for you!

    good luck and take advantage of this time of your life! you’ll never get this chance ever again!

  4. Covi says:

    Get a Kindle and read read read.

  5. ibvtnz says:

    Work on your favorite unsolved problem!

    (Favorite turns out to be the really tough ones though)

  6. Michael Perrone says:

    Learn to play an instrument well enough to just improv jam with friends. That was the best part about my summer.

  7. Brent says:

    Do something like Thoreau. I’d love to spend two weeks alone in the wild.

  8. Austin says:

    If camping doesn’t seem awesome enough, try backpacking.

    I once went on a six-day backpacking trip with some close friends. The hiking wasn’t too difficult, but the scenery and experiences were unforgettable.

  9. Sebyll says:

    learn about the history of music, listen the greatest operas and get to know composers , learn solfège..Music is scale-free, rhytmicit and tonality change shows scale-free statics..from bach/mozart.. till the beatles, and so on.. makes you scale free. It shows self- similarity as a fractal..My recommondation is to play, enjoy, and learn more about the sense of beauty , learn more about yourself. What could it be more essential than – when you hold your degree from the best education inst. on planet Earth- get ready for experiences in job market, to discover who you really are, and cosider about what is important to you in future and what you gonna do with the education, the knowledge you own.

    ps:( * Voss and Clarke 1975 ) , I thought maybe some data would convince you smile

  10. Pete says:

    Make a giant slip-n-slide (that’s my current plan for next summer).

    Whatever the other items in the list, at the top of it add “Actually do everything on this list.” I find that too often I make great plans and don’t follow through, so that’s my personal goal, and hopefully is yours too.

  11. Tom says:

    If you’re the athletic type, start training for something! It’s a wonderful feeling; hard work will always translate into success in physical activity. Something as basic as running is one of a handful of traits that humans can improve with simple repetition. The learning curve is generous and with diligence, you can be in the best shape of your life! After all, everybody wants to look good for the grad school ladies.

  12. Nolan Meghrouni-Brown says:

    Get your Pirate’s license!

  13. Erin says:

    Try SCUBA Diving! (: Diving is so fun and relaxing. I love it. It’s a great way to meet new awesome people and a great excuse to travel around to a ton of beautiful dive sites destinations! It’s like easy swimming with an added bonus of experiencing unique wildlife. Try a Discover SCUBA course at a local dive shop, and if you enjoy it you can get certified and invest in your own gear. Anyway, have fun, whatever you decide to do! (:

  14. andrea says:

    How about hard core hiking in the National Parks? Grand Canyon, Utah slot canyons, (Spooky Gulch), Half Dome at Yosemite, spelunking in Wind Cave- there are hundreds more!! Just another of way of getting smarter.
    Have fun!

  15. Josh says:

    Go Geocaching!!!!! It’s essentially a GPS coordinated global scavenger hunt. It’s probably one of the most fun things to do when you’re bored.

    http://www.geocaching.com/

    Set up a competition with your friends to see who can find the most caches over a weekend/month/time period and bet on which team will win!

    Enjoy :D

  16. rfong'12 says:

    let’s work on sub-20! also, do you want to teach me enough category theory that i can get a decent understanding of monads?

  17. Thanks for the suggestions so far, everybody! Rachel, I am way too lazy to work on sub-20, but I can probably talk you through monads as I understand them if you have some spare time.

  18. Dade Murphy says:

    HACK THE PLANET! HACK THE PLANEEET!