Oh hey, it’s the end of the semester already. Doesn’t time just seem to fly as you get older?

(I have yet to find any hard science that backs up this claim, but have once heard someone suggest that, as we get older, our perception of time warps because we have more experiences and time to compare to, so a day, for instance, feels much shorter compared to our longer timeline than to that of a child. Of course, there have also been adults who feel that, while the days are still the same, the years are getting shorter, and vice versa, so as usual, take these things with a grain of salt.)

Since it’s the end of the term and all, I decided that it was time for an actual blog post featuring our wonderful new freshmen, members of the Class of 2019, who basically got no exposure here all term because they were busy getting acclimated to the new environment and joining all the clubs ever and what have you. So I (metaphorically) sat down with several frosh in the building and asked them what their first semester was like.**

**Basically, I sent them a list of questions, then added flavor text to make the whole thing read more like an interview.

Yay journalism!

Hey all. Thanks for responding to my request. You can choose to answer as few or as many questions as you’d like, with whatever degree of completeness you choose. So if you want to answer half of question 2 and a quarter of question 4, that’s fine. I will be anonymizing all the answers as best I can, and randomly assigning you names from the list of Ubuntu releases.

-froshlings all nod-

Okay, cool. First question. How have you avoided starving to death so far?

Ocelot O.’19: I cook for myself nearly every meal. [Redacted] at Random cooks with me, so we can share duties, and that helps lighten the load for us. Essentially, though, we shop once a week and wing it from there. We’ll usually make a big pot of something on Saturday or Sunday that we can eat all week, and then have a few easy backups like canned soup or rice.

Meerkat M.’19: I cook a lot! Over the summer I got a meal plan, but I canceled it as soon as I got here. I’ve found cooking and baking to be great stress relievers, and I’ve made all sorts of dishes I’d never had before I got here. Plus, it’s cheaper than being on a meal plan.

Narwhal N.’19: Cooking for myself has usually ended up in results ranging from rather decent to disastrous (and let’s not talk about the time that I almost set off the fire alarm while making popcorn…), but my cooking, while simple, usually suffices. Occasionally, I do have friends willing to spare a guest swipe or two, and out of the varied events I go to, some like to provide lunch or dinner for the participants. So overall, I’ve survived…

Pangolin P.’19: I really love to cook for myself, so this hasn’t been a problem. For lunch I either pack myself a sandwich or buy food with friends at the student center. I also joined an independent living group (Epsilon Theta) and we eat many meals communally there.

Great. Random Hall (and Epsilon Theta) probably have a higher concentration of cooks than the general MIT population since we both have such nice kitchen spaces (we have kitchens on every floor and Epsilon Theta has an industrial kitchen!), so it’s no surprise that you all happen to cook for yourselves. For the non-Randomite viewers at home, MIT also has dining halls and many, many, many free food events, so for the most part, you can only starve by forgetting (or refusing) to eat.

Anyways. Something I worried about when coming to MIT was whether or not I would make any friends. What are your thoughts on the “social scene” at MIT?

OO: I am fairly nervous about talking to new people, so making friends was hard. That said, with the common bond of living together, I easily talk to nearly anyone in Random and I am very, very close to my floor. Making friends from other places is harder, but it occurs a lot through activities, like sports or band or whatever. So that’s how I bond. I would say I have more acquaintances here than I had at home, and fewer close friends.

MM: All of the people on my floor are great, and we drift to cook or pset in the kitchen a lot, so I get my socialization that way. I’ve had a hard time making friends through my classes because I have a hard time approaching new people. But I’m perfectly happy! I’m not happier here than I was in high school, but the concentration of interesting people here is a lot higher.

NN: I will always be nervous about making friends, and often times that will lead to extreme awkwardness and accidentally seeming rude. Nevertheless, trying my best to keep a friendly face and open mind has helped me learn that there are countless amounts of people willing to be a friend, or even stop and talk a little. One tactic for making friends that worked for me was going to lots of events and organizations. Sports teams, clubs, fraternities and sororities, a cappella groups, dance teams… they are all easy ways to find people who share at least one of your interests.

PP: The people here are awesome! I am so much happier with my friends than ever before. There were many events at the beginning of the semester for getting to know each other, and the opportunity to choose your dorm allows you to live with fantastic people which brings you closer together. Mostly I made friends by playing games with others at Random or ET, and through my classes at ESG (Experimental Studies Group).

Sleep is another big problem here at MIT. How much do you sleep on average, and do you try to maintain a semblance of healthy sleeping habits?

OO: I sleep at least 9 hours a night. It’s relatively easy if, like me, you avoid distractions- the internet, partying, etc. My floor is fairly quiet, but I go to bed early, so every now and then I’ll be annoyed by people talking outside.

MM: I’ve been sleeping around eight hours a night; I have a magical curse which prevents me from functioning well on less. I usually go to sleep between 10 and 11 and wake up around 7. This isn’t a normal schedule here, but I like to be up early and work or read when no one else is around. I don’t go to late events or parties, so I might be missing some socialization, but in my view the consistent lack of exhaustion is well worth it. There’s occasionally been noise from around, but I’ve not had trouble sleeping.

NN: I have actually slept more than I did in high school, due to classes starting later than usual. It might be because I simply get too tired to function otherwise, or I still feel the desire for some normalcy pulling at me…I can sleep through pretty much anything (including my blaring alarm multiple times), so noise hasn’t been an issue, but sometimes it’s been too warm in the room for me to get proper sleep.

PP: I sleep about 7-8 hours on average. I’m not really trying to maintain a good sleep schedule like I did in high school, because P/NR (Pass/No Record) — I’d rather be able to participate in fun things even if I’d normally be asleep then. I’ve noticed I’m getting sick more often because of this.

I’m actually fairly surprised by these numbers. I guess as a frosh I also slept more than I did in high school, and even as a junior I do get 7+ hours of sleep on most nights, but it always seems like people brag about how little sleep they’ve gotten, and I wonder if that’s skewed our perception of how much sleep the average student is getting.

Then again, this group is a self-selecting pool, so maybe all the sleep-deprived kids decided not to do this in favor of catching up with sleep.

On a semi-related note, everyone and their mother knows that MIT is supposed to be challenging. You’re metaphorically scaling a mountain, after all. Since coming to MIT, how have your stress levels been? Were you disappointed by your first quiz grade? How many hours, on average, do you work a week?

OO: I’ve been a bit stressed, but I came into MIT expecting my grades to take a sharp drop, so it wasn’t bad. I spend maybe 5 hours a week working? But I should spend more.

MM: My first quiz was terrible! I’m not going to tell you my grade; suffice to say it was awful. It’s been sporadic after that; some have been good, some not so much. I definitely stressed out after the bad quizzes, but other than that I’ve been fine. What I didn’t realize fast enough is that I truly need to work to do well here – in high school I was able to coast happily along without ever studying, but here I’m a lot of time on schoolwork. I’m not sure how many hours, though. And I’m not skipping classes!

NN: The credit limit has really helped me with lowering stress levels, since this results in a lot less busywork than I had in high school. I also came here expecting straight Cs and have been able to maintain that goal so far without working all the time. In fact, a lot of my first semester has been spent participating in various organizations. Although I’m definitely expecting worse grades, and if/when that happens, I am pleased with all the people and services that MIT has to help with that. Spoken in the words of a truly naïve freshman…

PP: The classes at MIT are slightly harder than I expected, but the psets take up less time than I expected. I have lots more time to hang out with friends than I ever did in high school. I’ve gotten a couple not-so-high test scores but I’m very pleased with my scores on average. I almost never skip class (I say “almost” because I missed Algebra to go to a chemistry test). I’d say I spend 3 hours/week on 5.112, 4 hours/week on 8.022, 8 hours/week on 18.701, 0 hours/week on my freshman seminar, and 3 hours/week on 14.12, for a total of 18 hours/week psetting (plus 15.5 hours/week of classes)…. not even close to the 54 credits that I’m supposedly taking.

Cool. For those of you reading from not-MIT, during the first semester at MIT all freshmen have a 54 credit limit, which allows them to take ~4 full classes and maybe a special freshman seminar class. First semester students are also on Pass/No Record, which basically means that, if they fail a class, it disappears from their record as if they hadn’t taken it. If they pass the class, it shows up only as a “Pass”, so there’s also not too much stress to do “REALLY WELL” as opposed to “JUST BARELY SCRAPED BY”.

But enough about schoolwork. When you’re not doing psets, if you’re ever not doing psets, what are you usually up to?

OO: Reading, baking, or just hanging out in the kitchen with others. I joined a band and a ballroom dance team, so those take a lot of time.

MM: I’ve done a play with the Musical Theater Guild, which was great but very time consuming! I also helped with Dance Troupe tech and joined E33, which is a student group that does lighting for other student groups (and gets paid for it!). I’ve started going to origami club meetings, which has been great! And lastly I joined the Science Fiction Society as an apprentice – I help sort and bind books for their library. When clubs aren’t happening, I’m usually reading or hanging out with other people on my floor.

PP: Square dancing, playing board and card games with friends, cooking, going to events/talks, doing house-related chores for ET, taking way too many PE classes, planning the food for study breaks at ET, lifting weights, working online for AoPS, arguing with people about math / logic puzzles…

Okay. One final meta-question, since I want to maximize the usefulness of this interview. What is one question that you wish had been asked, and what would be your answer to that question?

OO: “What is the difference between the advising options?” I know it’s a weird question, but I was SO confused. In traditional advising, you have a professor who checks up on you every now and then. You meet to approve class selection, but otherwise don’t interact much. This is good if you just don’t care too much, or you want more time. The advising seminars are an actual class, fairly low-key, that you take with your advisor and others in your advising group. They’re usually quite fun, small, and lead to a more personal relationship with your professor.

PP: “What are some things at MIT that you wish you were involved in / might join in the future?” MITOC, intramural sports teams, spinning arts club, art-related clubs in general, ESP, lightsaber dueling club, more Assassins’ Guild stuff, TAing at ESG…

MM: I can’t think of anything — sorry!

Alright. Again, thanks all for the first semester check-in. Your responses, freshly pressed, were greatly appreciated and will hopefully help freshmen (and their worried parents) for years to come.

For the one prefrosh (or parent) who may or may not be reading this right now — are there any questions you wanted our frosh to answer? What kind of information would you find useful?