Out of school for a year, I was not sure if I could fit in classes, choosing a lab, doing research, and settling down in a new country all at once when I started graduate school in the fall. So, when the option on the acceptance letter said that I could join over the summer instead, I was more than excited. Interestingly, an early start comes along with a different set of experiences.
Horrors of Housing
My search for a summer sublet was challenging. More difficult was the fact that I was trying to coordinate across time zones on international calls from India. Ultimately, I landed a place at 70 Amherst St, infamous as Senior Haus. Thanks to the MIT Sublicense Centre for helping to make that happen.
But even before housing could hound me, there was another factor to be taken care of - funding. This is the way it works. Over the summer, you join a lab and are not on Departmental Fellowship, so the Professor who you want to work with must be willing to pay you as a Research Assistant for the 3 odd months of Summer. I was lucky on this front since I had been in touch with my professor since the Visit Weekend and had been planning for my arrival in Boston in June since early March.
Protocols and Paperwork
This particular set of proceedings made me think how blessed I was to arrive early. From setting up a bank account, mobile connection, Social Security, I-9, driver’s license, W-2, and so many other things, I was having a workout running from one office to another for almost a week. Once they were done, there were other formalities, like required training for lab work, safety training, and some other assorted trainings to top it off.
I just don’t know how I could have done them over the school year.
Sailing in the Sunset
I lived on Memorial Drive, right across from the MIT Sailing Club. On a random detour to see what they had to offer, I realized I could learn sailing and get my own pass and take out a Tech Dingy. So, one Sunday, I woke up at 9 am, with the sun already high in the sky, dipped myself in sunscreen, and set off to learn how to sail on the Charles. That was one hell of an experience!
WholeFoods and Free Food
While Whole Foods made sure that my fridge was full, it was MIT’s free food that kept me well-fed during lab hours. I could often rush at an email notification and grab left-overs from a gourmet luncheon or a pizza party. Sometimes, I was even spoilt for choice.
Organizing my own Orientation
Being early here, I could volunteer to be on the Orientation Committee and help in organizing my own orientation. This was a unique start and exposed me to the student-led administration at MIT. Apart from the discussion on orientation, I was given much-needed advice on navigating through graduate school life at MIT.
I am glad that I could start early, and settle down well before the classes start. I will fondly recollect the Summer of ’18 as one of my favorite times at MIT. Starting graduate school early has its own benefits and prepares you for a gradual climb rather than a smack in the face.