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MIT student blogger Lulu L. '09

Where are you going, where have you been? (Part I) by Lulu L. '09


Part I: Academics


“You do know that MIT is unlike almost any other college in the country, right?”.


A few months ago I was cooking dinner with my boyfriend and he was telling me about his visit to UCSC. He had gone to see a friend from high school who was either a junior or a senior there and was blown away by the setting. “Absolutely beautiful,” it was exactly his kind of place, too. Full of a very wholesome, very natural beauty. Everywhere was mountains and trees and ocean and hippies. She had spent several days showing him and a few others around, introducing them to her favorite trees and caves and perches from which to view the sunset. And at night there was always something to do. Parties with friends and bonfires in true collegiate style. Wow, sounds perfect, like a movie, I said. Yeah, he thought so too, but then she said something strange. Toward the end of his visit, she’d asked, “What are you supposed to learn in college, anyhow?”

By his account she is an intelligent girl with a good head on her shoulders. She’s had a picture-perfect time at UCSC so far but couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing out on something. So she pulled him aside, at a house party I think, and said, “Do you feel like you’ve learned anything in college?” She was genuinely curious. “I don’t know if I have.”

My boyfriend’s a physics major, like me. He was my junior lab partner second semester, if you remember. He didn’t know what to say.

So he told me this, and I dropped what I was doing. “Wow, I can’t even imagine what that’s like,” I said.


I realized soon after that that wasn’t the case. I know exactly what that’s like. To miss out on something, that is. I know all about waking up in the morning to a boston day in the spring, one of those rare ones with the power to obliterate all memory of even the tough as rocks New England winter and life is just bursting out of every crack and crevice in a great green flood. On those days I’ve open my windows wide, picked out an outfit with a smile on my face, packed up my things and stepped outside in a t-shirt and my favorite skirt thinking this sun is exactly what I need so today I take the outside, round-a-bout way to the library and promise that when I’m done and there’s still sun, I’ll walk into town or maybe I’ll bike across the river, either way I need the exercise and I could use the getting away from this place. And how many days have I’ve sat until my butt was sore and finally given up at 11, or 1 or 2, with these daytime thoughts long gone from my head now stuffed full of the things my text book says and wondering, how did it get so cold out and why didn’t I bring a jacket. I look up at a black sky with a spattering of stars and I remember back to freshman year when I felt so tough and so proud that this is what I’ve become, but now at this moment, I’m cold, I’m thinking, “Man, if only I were in California.” and “I’m moving out there as soon as I graduate.”

How do you know when you have to choose? I didn’t know that I was choosing. How do you know, with things so bright and so bleak, that this is what you have to choose? I didn’t really know what I was choosing. Then how do you know you’ve made the right choice? That, there’s no question about that.

First, I imagine what it would have been like if I had missed out on 4 relaxing, beautiful years of my youth, a “4-year party”, my boyfriend called it (“You do realize MIT is unlike almost any other college in the country, right?”). That’s easy, because I have, so I know. I think about it and for the most part it amuses me, that I didn’t have this experience. It makes me a little sad, but mostly, it makes me want to take a couple years off between college and grad school (haha). Then, I try to imagine what it would have been like to have had all that, to have been carefree, to have gone out every night, to have missed out on this education.

It doesn’t even compare.

48 responses to “Where are you going, where have you been? (Part I)”

  1. RobotGrrl says:

    Why did you go to MIT if, deep down inside, you wanted to party/be in California all the time? :/

  2. Anonymous says:

    RobotGrrl, Did you even read the blog, or did you just miss the point?

  3. MIT '12 says:

    Brilliantly put.

  4. Helena says:

    Good entry Lulu! Well, if you are a MIT graduate, you will of course be very proud from all the hard work you have put in and like other bloggers said ” MIT is not easy”. So there is this feeling of satisfaction which you can’t necessarily get from other colleges. This is what you have chosen and I think you did just fine. There’s always a reason why you have chosen it. grin
    Anyways, you are graduating so have fun!

  5. Mobes '13 says:

    Woot! Fantastic entry Lulu! I assume you’re moving out to Californina for SSP. I never applied to SSP, but I have always been interested in what goes on over there and would really appreciate it if you could possibly write an entry detailing the program’s objectives and activities. And also, are you going to go to graduate school? If so, in which field do you plan to specialize?

  6. Yuki'12 says:

    Your entry was very nice. smile I’m from Southern California and I have so many friends at UCSC, USC, UCI, etc.. and I’ve always thought about what you just wrote. Thanks for a great entry. Good Luck in your future endeavors!

  7. SSP??? u mean summer science program, in California? are you going there lULU? As an assistant teacher? this is so cool. i will apply to this program next year. it’s the best summer program EVER!!!

  8. jdk says:

    It is common for college students to wonder what their college experience would have been like if they chose to attend a different college. This is particularly true once the student comes across an appealing (RE: desirable) tidbit such as College M does this, or College N is like that. While 50ÀöF winter days and watching the sun disappear beyond the Pacific may sound beautiful you have no real idea of what your life would have been like at UCSC. Maybe better, maybe not. More than likely, though, it would have been similar since it is the individual that creates that ideal college experience, not the location of the school.

    But I am sure that you more then understand that.

    All is not lost. You have the majority of your life ahead of you yet and there will be plenty of opportunity for you to experience the Land of Milk and Honey.

  9. lulu says:

    yeah i’m at Socorro, NM though. I’m headed out to SF after the gig is over at ssp smile

  10. Chris says:

    You’re writing is inspiring.

  11. Chris says:

    Wow. Huge typo. I’m embarrassed.

  12. Reena '13 says:

    Best entry ever Best entry ever <3

  13. Anonymous says:

    Dang, I wish I could have accepted SSP and gone this summer. :| I would’ve seen you in Socorro.

    I’m in Southern California, and sometimes I think that moving to the East Coast is the only thing I could ever wish to do for college, and then my friends tell me about the weather.

    But then I read this entry, and it all goes back to where it started.

  14. Vinay says:

    This is a second blog from you that I thoroughly enjoyed.

  15. Anonymous says:

    UCSC has an excellent grad program in astrophysics. And as a former UCSC undergraduate who went on to grad school at Berkeley, I can’t argue with your characterization of UCSC’s undergraduate experience. The campus is georgous, and like UC Santa Barbara, the natural distractions are enormous (the beach, redwood forests, pastoral fields, etc.)

  16. another '12 says:

    So- your friend’s friend wasn’t a chemistry/physics major at UCSC was she? Mine is and she rocks.

    Doubt is a part of the growth pattern- The light and dark rings in the pattern of your soul and mind.

    I adore MIT- but let’s honor and respect our future research partners-

  17. Kristina '13 says:

    Well put. Good luck smile

  18. lulu says:

    I guess I’m not surprised that someone eventually will take this personally. Yes, I suppose now I have to come out and say it, I hate all physics majors at every other school except MIT. I consider them so inferior I won’t even talk to them.

    UCSC is actually on top of a short list of schools I’m considering for grad. And yes, of course, excellent students come from any school. But if you are arguing that the academic-first atmosphere at both schools are comparable, then you will lose that argument. In fact, if your friend is really immersing herself in physics/chemistry at UCSC then she more than anyone will know exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about making sacrifices… since all that stuff is right in front of her face, and much farther from me. It must be much tougher. Anyways, I hope in the end you didn’t lose my point in reacting personally about your friend, and were just pointing it out as a matter of detail.

  19. lulu says:

    Actually in all honesty I thought about concealing all the details in the story, like the name of the school and the relationship of the person telling the story to me: “a school out west” and “a friend”, but I thought it was best to be blunt and risk offending someone than conceal and subvert, not really my style.

  20. Lainers '12 says:

    Thank you for this entry, Lulu. I really, earnestly hope I feel the same way at the end of four years, that missing that many perfect days is worth whatever knowledge and experience I have at the other end of MIT.

  21. Anonymous. says:

    If you go to Caltech won’t you get nice weather AND serious learningz? tongue laugh

  22. lulu says:

    Re: Caltech

    haha then you run into a whole host of other problems…

    just kidding… kind of.

  23. NathanArce says:

    Amazing entry.

  24. Spartan 117 says:

    your bf cooks very sexy

    I’d pick MIT any day over a hedonistic lifestyle or
    maybe both like IRON MAN who tada went to MIT and lived a hedonistic lifestyle.

  25. Lulu, 4 years of a reasonably good time at MIT might later afford you a piece of ocean view somewhere else. Then you’ve got to enjoy both MIT and the other so determined perfect life.

    Great entry! I am with you (as a parent). I like places such as SC and SB, but it’s not a must have for our family.

  26. lulu says:


    Some people don’t. Doubt, like someone earlier said, is a part of every choice you make, regret, though, doesn’t have to be. How to avoid that? It’s hard to say, you know? I don’t have any advice for that. I’ve been kind of lucky.

  27. yeah.

    wish I’d been good enough for that…


  28. Piper '12 says:

    I just fell in love with this entry.

    During my time off, I went to Calstate LA and visited some friends for a weekend at UC Santa Barbara. While I loved the experience of going to another school (so much so that I’m taking a class at BU this summer for the experience, though thankfully it transfers ^.^), I wouldn’t give up this place. I am more certain of that after this term than ever.

  29. CC says:

    Enjoy your time at SSP! You will have so much fun. I was at the Ojai campus last year and had one of the best summers of my life. Be prepared to stay up late though, haha raspberry

    Oh, have your fingers crossed that Socorro won’t be clouded out!

  30. Lulu, thanks for your encouraging words. As an incoming freshman, this only helped secure my mindset. I wish you the best in the SSP program! =)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Who said only MIT could bring out the best physics students and I definitely believe that it’s very shallow of you to look down upon those physics majors in other school.

  32. Juhee says:

    Hey Lulu!

    I was randomly browsing through your blog when I saw SSP Socorro mentioned.

    I’ll be there this summer for the reunion weekend! I went to Socorro last year, and I had the time of my life. I hope you have lots of fun TAing.

  33. Jess says:

    wow. i loved this.

  34. Anonymous says:

    @ Lulu,

    I don’t believe Albert Einsten attended MIT and I’m quite sure his success in physics is unmatched by even modern MIT physics grads. Your arrogance is very surprising.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Albert Einstein*

  36. lulu says:

    wow, good point. I’d forgotten about Albert Einstein.

  37. lulu says:

    thanks jess, that means a lot to me :]

  38. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps you need to take a look at this site: as it might repair your flawed logic.

  39. lulu says:

    holy moly! look at all the nobel laureates that didn’t go to MIT. I had no idea this kind of thing was possible. Thanks for showing me the light.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Sure thing lulu. It is almost always better in the light.

  41. anna says:

    mmm i really can’t express how thrilled i am that everyone comprehends subtlety around these parts

    maybe it hasn’t been said, but MITblogs commenters are really an exemplary bunch

    yes yes they are.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I want to thank the other anonymous person for making it perfectly clear to Lulu that there’re numerous of other phenomenal schools who brings out extraordinarily brilliant physics grads.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Well I just want to say that as an anthropology major at MIT I look at anthropology majors from other schools with disgust.

    When I’m outside MIT and I see someone who looks like they might be an anthropology major, I spit in both of their corneas, because they don’t have the rigorous training in anthropology that one can only get at MIT.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Why in the world would you go to MIT for anthropology?!

  45. lulu says:

    Anthropologist Anonymous-

    I don’t believe Albert Einstein went to MIT and his accomplishments in anthropology are unmatched by even any recent MIT anthropology grads. Perhaps you need to look at this site: as it might repair your flawed logic. I’m just saying this because it’s very arrogant and shallow of you to look down upon those anthropology majors at other school.

  46. lulu says:

    I want to thank Lulu for making it perfectly clear to the anthropology major that there are numerous of other phenomenal schools who brings out extraordinarily brilliant anthropology grads.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I would also like to thank lulu for the pleasant chuckle at the above post. (BTW I am the one who suggested the site to you lulu.) I wish you best of luck with your endeavors after MIT but can’t help wonder if physics students are dischouraged from going MIT grad in physics. Is this true?