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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

Work Hard, Play Hard by Jess K. '10

MIT students actually have lives, occasionally.

Sila queries: How good are the social departments at MIT? And, at the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I have to ask: do people always talk about science at MIT? I mean, obviously it IS the institute of “technology”, but are people socially aware,m for example? Are there people strongly interested in the arts, politics and literature?
Irena similiarly queries: I’m a little concerned about MIT’s degree of toughness…is it possible, once one has established effective study habits, to maintain decent grades with time to do other things besides study? And I got the impression (somehow) that despite the scary workload, you guys find some fun/enjoyment in the work and what you’re learning. Is that true? (I dearly hope it is…)

Let me start off by saying this is probably one of my favorite questions. I get it fairly often, and I’d say it’s pretty valid since MIT students have this reputation of never going outside, never talking to other people, and never showering. This is definitely not the case – as a matter of fact, I do shower. Daily. (If that’s not enough for you, I also wash my hands.)

At this moment I’m sitting at my kitchen table feeling every butt muscle I never wanted to know I had, having just got back from two amazing days of skiing in New Hampshire – a bunch of the ESG kids took a weekend away to fall down a 3-mile trail. So not only do we get outside, we get out of MIT pretty often! Going to school here is really convenient in that we actually have a campus, since we’re not directly in the city, but if you walk across one short bridge you’re right in Boston. Or you could, y’know, take a three-and-a-half hour car ride to New Hampshire to ski down a 4,000 foot mountain. Your call!

A few days before the trip, MIT Heartsafe, MIT ARCTAN (American Red Cross Team And Network) and MIT-EMS teamed up to teach around a hundred MIT students and affiliates CPR in three short hours – on a Thursday night. Thursday nights are pretty notorious for having a pretty intense workload – there was an 18.03 test, a 7.013 (ESG) test, and a 5.12 problem set all the next day – and yet we still had a turnout of about a hundred MIT students coming to learn and teach CPR and AED use.

(Mark was our EMT instructor who we spent eight hours every day with over IAP. He was a pretty amazing artist, if you’ll recall.)

CPR is an incredibly important procedure – early CPR and defibrillation can increase the chance of survival of someone in cardiac arrest by more than 50% – and many who need CPR don’t get it. MIT was the first university in the nation to be named a Heartsafe Community for having several public access AEDs available, as well as having a significant percentage of its community CPR certified. We upheld our status by holding our second annual mass CPR class, an almost entirely student-run event: we had student instructors, mostly our EMTs, as well as student volunteers running around teaching people how to save a life. The Fray couldn’t’ve done any better. (Wow, I’m really pulling out the bad pop song references, aren’t I?)

So I said that I really enjoy this question – and I do, to an extent. I enjoy defying stereotypes. But it continues to confuse me as to how people can continue to believe that MIT students are completely one-dimensional, unhappy geeks who have no idea how to interact socially. We do other things than problem sets, actually. We have cheerleaders and fraternity guys as much as we have UA representatives and econ majors; we have people who run the Boston Marathon and play field hockey and ride trains. We have physicist photographers and radio show hosts. We also have awkward Asian girls who design t-shirts for CPR classes.

(Did I miss anybody?)

The fact of the matter is, MIT students can’t be defined by any one steretype, and it’s a mistake to make one-sided assumptions without experiencing it for yourself. The last documented time I answered this question, I wrote that the best thing you could do would be to come here and see what we’re like. And that’s still true- to understand the balance MIT students have crafted between work and play (and sleep), you shouldn’t have to take my word for it. Come and visit us this weekend! We’ll even have Tim the Beaver here to greet you.

19 responses to “Work Hard, Play Hard”

  1. Snively says:

    Actually, I love the t-shirts, very nice.

    Mad ups for JKim.

  2. Hi

    please write someting about a day in ur routine life in high school and now in MIT>

    I wanna try and understand how much work you put in to come to a place like MIT and also how much work you have to do to stay at MIT.

    Ankit Chandra
    Gaborone, Botswana

  3. Ben says:

    Uh oh…

    You violated Sam‘s rule about Tim The Beaver: never publish evidence that there’s a human inside. According to him, it’s like telling a 4-year-old that Santa is fake.

    Sam’s gonna come after you.

  4. Kari says:

    I’m a CPR instructor. “saving lives since 2005!”
    I’ll definitely do it at MIT. Especially if I get to wear such a rad tee.

  5. Joey '10 says:

    JESS YOUR BLOG IS AWWWEESSOOOMMMEEE!!! (hehe I had to do it here and on facebook! hehe)

    oh, and you’re awesome too!

  6. *eye twitches* Tim the beaver isn’t real… o_o jk, hmmm but what’s with this talk about Santa?

    Interesting post, lol, glad to see some people can ski, the whole pizza, French fry thing never worked for me. As for breaking down MIT stereotypes, I love watching people’s faces when I tell them about MIT’s athletic department, they’re usually like, “MIT has sports? Oh, like chess and advanced math?”. -_-‘ Oh well. Awesome T-Shirt btw.

  7. Nina says:

    At pika we are all very socially aware (!!). We love the environment and dye our hair and embrace liberal democracy and BAKE COOKIES FOR EVERYONE. Ahem. :D

    … oh, and I found this telegram on the ground that looks like it must have dropped from your backpack or something:


  8. Sila says:

    Thanks Jess!!! That really helped a lot. I… I… I love you!!!!
    and as long as there are students like you desining shirts for CPR classes, i think this world will be alright =)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey Jess!

    First of all I LOVE reading your blogs. I was wondering if you could give us a blog on deciding majors…since you might be going through that yourself soon? I’m a little shaky myself on deciding majors, so I would love to hear someone else’s view.

  10. Amirah says:

    Your blog is Your blog is <3! It’s on my live bookmarks, along with Lulu’s. I love reading this, so keep on writing =)

  11. Michael says:

    Awesome blog.

    I have a question though, is MIT a pretty liberal school? I know it is Boston and all, but I have heard rumors that MIT is pretty conservative. I am okay either way but I am interested to see where the campus politics lay. Also, is MIT really politically active?

    Thanks for any help.


  12. Paul ('11) says:

    Hey Mike,

    I think that’s a really good question…and I’m kind of interested in hearing some of the bloggers’ views on that as well. But, given that there are over 4,000 undergrads at MIT, from so many different backgrounds, I’d be sort of surprised if there’s one overarching “label” anyone could apply to MIT…

  13. Monica says:

    that’s so cool! the last time i tried to ski, i almost killed myself ( i fell off the lift, haha), but it looks like you guys had a lot of fun. and i love the tshirts too:)

  14. debbie says:

    haha CPR & mountains = thumbs up.

    that sounds like really cool stuff.

  15. Kari says:

    Good question.
    I second that.

  16. Monica says:

    hey jess, i was wondering if you ever miss korean food at college. my mom is always saying that once i leave for school, i’m going to miss her cooking (she makes the best kimchigigae, and soojebee, lol).

  17. Matt says:

    I’ve got to say, I LOVE your blog (this coming from one who normally shuns such static forms of medium) wink Please don’t stop! I love having more reasons to go to MIT!