After a long day of class or research in lab, there is no better feeling than walking across campus to soccer practice. The stress of the day melts away as I step onto the field. Finally, I am able to clear my head and to connect to the present.
We pull on our cleats and start to warm-up, the conversation starts to wander across topics from Messi’s goal in the Barcelona game to the state of research in our labs, including celebrating Nobel Prizes and commiserating on failed experiments. This isn’t like any team that I’ve played on before.
In my first year at MIT, I was determined to do well in my difficult classes. I cut out all the “distracting” extracurricular activities from my schedule. Far from a distraction, these activities actually provided my life with a structure. Without this, my sleep schedule began to reverse. Living like an owl, I would work on problem sets until dawn, fall asleep as the sun rose, and have lunch for breakfast. While I was able to sustain this life for weeks and months at a time, in the long term, the toll on my well being would have been great. Fortunately, shortly after falling into this routine, I decided to join MIT FC, the soccer club. The team provided me with an outlet to decompress in the evenings, nudged me onto a good sleep schedule, and, most importantly, helped me stay in shape. This was especially hard for me to manage when I spend the day mentally active but physically sedentary.
A complaint I often hear from friends is that graduate student life can be isolating. It’s often tempting to keep your head down and focus on that next line of code or equation in a research paper. That’s why I think it’s important to stop what you’re doing a couple times a week and smell the proverbial roses. Student organizations of which MIT has many like club soccer can be the perfect outlet for this type of activity. Moreover, they can help you make friends with people that you wouldn’t have otherwise met in your day-to-day work bubble. Having a fixed time where you set aside work, and socialize even for just a couple hours a week can do wonders for your happiness as a student.
It's a crisp, sunny New England fall morning. The score is 1-1 and we're playing in a must-win game with minutes to go. I receive the ball on the wing, feint one way and go the other. I send in a cross. The flight of the ball takes it past the keeper, and my teammate volleys it into the empty net. We're in dreamland.
I've made a lot of memories in grad school but that moment is up there with the best of them.