On Reflection

Every January of a new year, I like to reflect on the past year. Especially now that I’m going into my last semester at MIT – yes guys, I’m graduating in June and I am all sorts of excited! – it seems like a very appropriate time to be reflecting on not just the last year but also my time here at MIT.

Is there anything I would’ve done differently?

1. Would I still have come to MIT?

Sometimes I feel really resentful of being at MIT, which I then follow up with feeling really ashamed for it – how many people dream about coming here? There have been multiple times where I have thought back to my senior year of high school and which colleges I could have gone to – I could’ve gone to McGill, probably still have had a good time without being as ridiculously stressed all the time and possibly had better job prospects just because the application pool in Canada is quite a bit smaller.

But would I have come out with as many stories and would I have been as strong and resilient as I am now? Probably not.

Was it worth it?

I don’t know.

I tell myself the friends and the connections that I have now are certainly worth it, but frankly I don’t quite know. I have endured the lowest moments of my life so far here, and it really sucked. On the other side of things, would I appreciate the sanity that my friends offered me as much had I not endured those moments?

2. Would I still have studied Architecture?

For the first three years at MIT, I never questioned my choice to study architecture. MIT has a wonderful architecture program. The majority of our professors really do care, our studios are interesting, we’re required to take classes outside of architecture design in order to have a more well rounded education. I have learned so much about iterative design and about problem solving and I have exercised my spatial reasoning ability to the max. I have been praised for my work fairly consistently and been asked to be part of the archives every studio semester, without fail. I have a ridiculous work ethic – my professor for my last studio said that often I would make life harder for myself in order to create more beautiful work – and I am efficient and organized enough to do more complex work and be part of more clubs than many of my peers and still sleep.

And yet, this past semester, I began to question that choice.

Architecture at MIT doesn’t seem very employable. Just go check out the career fair – every company is looking for course 2s (Mechanical Engineers) or course 6s (EECS). It’s disheartening, although the types of companies that come to the career fair aren’t necessarily the same as the ones I want to work for. At least, that’s what I told myself, time and time again, until this year when I actually began to look for a job so that I could, well, be employed after graduation. Since I’m looking primarily in non-Architecture fields such as UI/UX design and product design, it feels like maybe I should’ve studied something different. When I first came to MIT, I truly believed that Architecture was the only major that fit my abilities and the only one I could’ve succeeded in, but now I have no doubt that I could’ve done well in other disciplines as well.

I suppose if anything, Architecture really helped hone my self-confidence.

I think if I could do it again, I might try to double major – I formed bonds with so many people and learned so much in Architecture that I can’t imagine giving that up, but there’s still so much that I’m curious about in other disciplines that I just didn’t really have the time – or make the time – for.

I’m trying to do that now, since I’m done with studios, but I’m running out of time.

3. Would I have handled my social life differently?

To be completely honest, I don’t really have much of a social life. I don’t like to go out and I don’t like to party because I prefer the comfort and the quietude of my room. Pretty much the extent of my socializing with my friends – who I love, by the way – includes eating things, making things to eat (and then eating those things), and watching something on Hulu or Netflix. Despite my reluctance to go out and party with them, I think they still love me and appreciate me – and certainly I would not have survived MIT without them. (Thanks guys. I love you and you mean the world to me.)

I do think that some extent of my reluctance to go out with my friends was financial – I just didn’t want to spend the money – and I think if I went back I would be less hesitant to do things with them and more willing to spend the money for a nice meal or for drinks. I think I missed out on a lot of time because I was too much of a scrooge, and that’s the main thing that I’m trying to improve on this year. I have to keep telling myself that it’s okay to spend small change on small happinesses.

The other part of my social life comes from the groups I am part of on campus – my dance group, ADT, and Dramashop.

One thing for sure – I would’ve joined ADT much earlier instead of waiting until sophomore spring. I have always regretted not getting more time to spend with some of my choreographers – I have a massive girl crush on one of my choreographers my first semester, which was also the semester she graduated. It was very sad. I also have varying levels of girl crushes on most of my choreographers. I can’t help it. They’re all so cute and so talented.

Apart from that, ADT was also my solace away from the craziness of studios and Architecture. It was a place I could escape because literally no one else in ADT was Architecture Design and everyone was focused on learning the dances. There were some days at MIT where I got out of bed solely for ADT, and I couldn’t be more grateful for having a group of people like that there for me, whether they know it or not.

4. Are there any resources I didn’t take advantage of at MIT?

Yes. So many yes’s. MIT has so many resources and cool things for students to do and I really didn’t take advantage of any of it, and I regret it so much. The main resource that I should’ve taken advantage of – and didn’t – is MIT’s MISTI program.

MISTI is basically a program where you tell MIT where you want to go in the world and they find you an internship and pay for you to go there. It’s a program where you travel abroad. For free.

I know. I know! Anyone who knows me knows that I love traveling – I’ve been to 18 countries and I want to go to more and also all of them again because there’s so much more still to explore – and MISTI would’ve been perfect for me. The only problem is that, apart from Israel, I think, you have to know the language of the country, and at the time I didn’t try hard enough to figure out how to take French with my schedule. I am taking French now, and I could theoretically still do MISTI for this coming summer… but I’m kind of planning a Europe backpacking trip anyway.

5. Are there any ways you would’ve chosen to spend your free time differently?

I’ve always been a crafter and a maker. When I was little I used to collect our empty toilet paper rolls and kleenex boxes because I wanted to make things out of them – to the point where I had filled an entire cupboard with these useless boxes. My dad finally threw them out after I went to high school, and I’m pretty sure I threw a fit.

When I was in high school I picked up crocheting, and that really blossomed at MIT. Crocheting was an easy, mindless, fast project that I could do when I was too stressed out to focus, and I could make all these cute toys with them! It was a lot of fun, and I could do it in my bed. But when I spent all my free time crocheting and knitting – things I could do in my bed – I stopped painting.

I’m trying to pick it back up. I still see so many more colors in everything, and I still have an eye for color and design and layout. Skills like that, things you’re born with, you don’t lose. But I’m rusty. I’m less comfortable that I used to be with a brush and a canvas, and I’m less accurate in my sketches than I used to be. It’s depressing! I used to be fairly good and now I’m not satisfied with almost everything I paint or draw.

There isn’t really a good traditional arts program at MIT and without classes forcing me to exercise those abilities, I let them slide. Now I have to spend more time working to regain those abilities – I wish I hadn’t stopped painting in the first place, but I think it’ll be like riding a bike. A little rusty at first, but it’ll come back with some practice.

Is there anything you would’ve done differently last year or in the past few years? Let me know!

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