Friday, September 28, 2007

Are You a Freshman?

So once again I'm slacking with the content... Sorry, readers! I really do love you. But I have been extremely busy the past couple of weeks and for my own personal sanity I took the weekend off from everything and went climbing at the other end of the state. I'm behind on everything from laundry and blogging to making appointments and replacing my cell phone. That said, I now give you day two of my visit to MIT! =)

I woke up and went with Paul to his first class of the day, 8.012 (Physics). I had forgotten how much I actually liked Physics, and I actually understood what was going on during the entire lecture! I was lost on a couple formulas and some of the math, but I knew what was happening. There's no way to describe just how encouraging that was! I might just make it through freshman year after all.

Next stop was the career fair! Wow. I had never been to anything remotely like this before. There were a few hundred booths set up in the Johnson Athletic Center - booths belonging to companies like Google, Firefox, IBM, 3M, General Motors, NVIDIA, etc. (no, Microsoft does not make the list of cool companies that impress me). All these companies were recruiting MIT students, which meant there was an abundance of free stuff! I suppose I wasn't technically allowed to be there at all - owing to the fact that I'm not a student yet - but I never liked following rules anyway.

NOTE: Walk quickly and look like you know what you're doing - you'll be surprised what you can get away with. ;)

My presence prompted some interesting questions, the most common of which was, "Are you a freshman...?" What a simple question, right? Not for me... I must have answered this question (in one form or another) a hundred times during my visit, explaining my deferral of enrollment and trying hard not to induce further questions by mentioning that I'm in the Navy.

All this deferral talk was making me feel a bit estranged, so I was very glad to receive a call from Vicky '12, a fellow defer! She was about to have lunch, so we hurried away from the crowd of companies to join her in the student center. On our way there we met someone who knew Paul (big surprise), so the four of us ate together. Vicky had to get back to work (she interns at InvenTeams), so I walked and talked with her on the way and then started to make my way back to the hotel.

Having never walked through Cambridge before, I had no idea where I was going. While getting un-lost I took this awesome picture of the Boston skyline from the Longfellow Bridge. =)

Once I found my way to the hotel I met Melisa (my acquired mother) for a second round of lunch. We talked about our fun times in Boston so far, and I explained the theory behind my secret plan for hacking the number of hours in a day (it's a secret because I'm still doing the research; as soon as I have a firm grasp on things, I'll tell you all everything). She and Dad were going to a banquet dinner that night, so I went to explore the CambridgeSide Galleria for a few hours (it was just across the street from the hotel).

We all returned to the hotel at about the same time and went down to the hotel restaurant for a late dinner (I ate - they sat with me). I was tired and sleep soon sequestered me, but little did I know that the next day would prove to be the biggest adventure yet...!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Institvte

I returned Saturday from my first-ever visit to MIT! After doing some laundry (ok, a lot), catching up on some blog reading, stalking some Facebook, catching up on work, answering some e-mail, and otherwise building suspense for this entry, I'm finally ready to recount my exciting experience in demonstrative detail. =) My story, like all good MIT stories, begins at night.

I arrived at BOS on Tuesday shortly after 10pm. At this point I had the option of getting to know Boston's public transportation system - taking multiple subway lines and walking a few blocks to the hotel and probably getting lost at least once in the process - or taking a taxi. For efficiency's sake (a valid reason to do just about anything) I had crammed my belongings (minus liquids, and minus flashing LEDs that look absolutely nothing like a bomb) into a carry-on bag and a backpack. This abundance of luggage, plus my utter lack of subway knowledge, encouraged me to take a taxi.

Arriving at the hotel, I met my dad and acquired mother (I don't like the word "step-mom"), quickly repacked, and started in on sleep. Despite my random, restless thoughts about the days ahead, I fell asleep quickly. This was possibly the result of the Navy forcing me to wake up at 0400 every morning and myself refusing to go to bed at a decent hour. =O

The next morning at 0830 we took a free shuttle van from the hotel to the MIT campus and stood for a moment on Massachusetts Ave, taking it all in.

Our first stop was the Admissions Reception Center in room 10-100, where we received a warm welcome and plenty of reading material. I called Paul, and he stopped by before class so we could finally meet in person. As it turns out, Paul is not a forty year old man from Wyoming. =)

We were the only people at the morning information session, which became pleasantly informal for this reason. I was already admitted, and I had already decided on MIT as my top choice, so there weren't many questions left to be answered. Most of our concerns centered around financial aid, and for those we were taken immediately to someone in the SFS office. During the information session was the first time I heard the words, "Oh, you're that Hawkins!" which took me by surprise. I'm a regular reader and commentator of the blogs on the admissions web site, but I had no idea how many people actually read those things!

Next on the schedule was the campus tour. We waited for our guide in lobby 7.

Ann, our amazing tour guide, took us all over the campus, walking backwards 95% of the time.

She spoke of people and places, of hacks and history, and she walked backwards. The parents were impressed and amused, and hopefully began to see some of the wonderful aspects of MIT that make it so much more than just a great engineering school. We didn't go to any of the dorms; they're all so unique that seeing one or two really doesn't give an accurate impression of the rest.

We had some time between the campus tour and the EECS tour, so we ate lunch at the Stata Center...

...and we went to a lecture! Yay, my first MIT lecture, 6.041 (Probabilistic Systems Analysis)! The professor was excited to have visitors; he approached us before he began, introduced himself, and invited us to talk with him after the lecture. It was the fifth lecture in the course, so I didn't follow every detail, but I wasn't totally lost either. (yay!) It made me believe that, given the other four lectures, I could probably hold my own in the course.

Next on the schedule was the EECS tour. I met Anne Hunter, the undergraduate administrator for the EECS department, and was surprised to learn that she too recognized my name from the blogs! We were taken on a tour of Course VI labs and classrooms, and we learned a bit about what it's like to be an EECS student. I didn't take any pictures because almost everywhere we went there were people working. =)

At this point we were finished with the schedule. It was time to visit the COOP! I purchased the requisite MIT hoodie and a t-shirt for my sister. My dad bought a t-shirt too, which he proudly wore to his meeting the next day (he was actually in Boston on a business trip, so we modified his plans to include a campus visit)! We could have spent much longer in the COOP, but Paul called and said he was meeting up with Ben Jones (widely known as the mastermind behind the MIT Admissions web site) in a few minutes if we would like to stop by. So we crashed Ben's meeting with the newly chosen bloggers and finally met him in person! Ben remembered me from the blogs, and even told me I was famous. What?!

It was getting close to dinner time, so we walked to Kendall Square for some food. We sat and talked about the day's events, and they walked back towards the hotel. I walked back towards Mass Ave., knowing that the day was nowhere near over. I met up with Paul again and we ate burritos at Anna's in the student center. He showed me his dorm, Simmons, and his fraternity's house (PKS).

On the way back toward campus, we saw the safe ride shuttle and ran to catch it. Someone asked how I knew Paul, and Paul said, "We met online." This met with a good laugh and was retold more than once during the rest of my stay. =)

Once we returned to Simmons, it was time for a PSET party! I tagged along, wanting to see how the process worked (I've never really done homework as a group before). It was pretty chaotic and very cool. I'm actually looking forward to that part of being an MIT student. I love collaborating with other people, and there are precious few groups of people with whom you can use engineering language and be understood.

At about 0300 we finally left the "party". Paul not only offered to let me stay in his room, he slept on the floor and left me the bed! I'm not used to people being this hospitable - I thought for a moment I was back in Tennessee. And so ended the first day of my visit, in true MIT fashion, in the middle of the night.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Radio Shack

When it occurred to me that I would finally have the opportunity to take some pictures of MIT during my upcoming campus visit, I came to the conclusion that my trusty old camera - the sluggish and bulky Nikon Coolpix 4200 - was just not going to cut it. Don't worry, it will not go quietly into the night... My dad has not yet entered the age of new-fangled digital picture-taking contraptions, and he seems to think my old camera will be a great (read: free) way to get himself started. What will take its place in my photo sharing arsenal, you ask? Check this out.

When was the last time you found the cheapest price for an item at Radio Shack? Believe it or not, that's where I found this camera - for $50 cheaper than everywhere else I had looked. Google, FTW! After calling the store to verify that this epic event was not just my imagination, I sped away in the car to make my purchase. Halfway there, I realized that in my excitement and disbelief I had forgotten my shoes. I turned around, grabbed some flip-flops from the house, and took off once more, arriving at Radio Shack before closing time and leaving - for the first time - feeling like I hadn't been ripped off.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hello, World

I am a professional procrastinator. I maintain that chivalry is not dead. I spend too much time on the internet. I recently returned to Mountain Dew after a lengthy caffeine fast. I climb rocks, trees, and anything I'm not supposed to. I am addicted to education. I eat ice cream from the carton. I judge you when you use poor grammar.

I think the glass is half full if it has just been poured into and half empty if it has just been poured out of.

I like to help people, even when I'm already over-committed. I believe sarcasm to be the highest form of humor known to man. I have more books than I can realistically read, but I want more. I think Anchorman is the funniest movie in the history of the world. I have a secret plan to hack the number of hours in a day.

I believe that in pleasure and pain, in passion and tedium, in bravery and doubt, lies the beauty and simplicity of life.

I'm from Tennessee, and I miss it dearly. I currently belong to the US Navy, and next fall I'll be a student at MIT! Next week will be my first visit to the campus, and I plan to share my adventures with you here. Now that you know who I am, feel free to introduce yourself!