Vacation time!... What to do? What to do?

Opportunities for graduate students during pandemic and non-pandemic periods
Dec 2020
Andrea
D.
Integrated Design and Management

When packing my suitcases to do my Master’s in Engineering and Management at MIT, I was not just thinking about which classes I was going to take, but also about what I was going to do over the vacation period.     

Three months of summer vacation is a lot of time to travel around the world. At that time, I was not even considering an internship because I knew that I had my entire life to work, and it was a time to enjoy myself.

During my first winter vacation (a.k.a., MIT Independent Activities Period), January 2020, I had the opportunity to go to Ghana through MIT MISTI (MIT International Science & Technology Initiatives). I taught robotics and basic electronics at Wesley Girls High School, a public school four hours away from the capital of Ghana.     

It was inspiring to see the students creating electronics projects that improve the lives of others and make their day-to-day tasks easier. I am happy to have had the opportunity to inspire more girls to pursue careers in technology.

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Wesley Girls High School students presenting their smart home project

After my great experience in Ghana, I started planning my summer vacation trip to Turkey. Little did I know that COVID-19 was going to change my summer plans, and that I would finish my spring semester in Colombia, my home country. Fortunately, my summer time did not go to waste. I found many activities and opportunities at MIT for the summer period, including remote internships, access to incubators, courses, social and community work, etc.  

During the summer, I made good use of MIT resources. I participated in the MIT Thailand Action lab, a six-week consulting project with a Thai company. I had the opportunity to work with MIT Sloan and Sasin MBA students to provide recommendations on the product launch of a micro-lending app.     

I was the only non-Thai participant, connecting virtually from the opposite time zone (1 PM in Thailand is 1 AM in Colombia). Of course, I would have preferred to be there with them, share their culture, attend all the meetings personally, and eat chicken pad thai and mango sticky rice every day (my two favourite foods in the world).The customer engagement was done in English, we worked out the time difference, and I made four amazing virtual Thai friends (my consulting team).

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MIT Thailand Action Lab - MIT/Sasin team.

While at MIT, I also served as a teaching assistant for the Professional education course on Digital Transformation. I taught programming and electronics virtually to high school students in Ghana, and with the support of MIT Sandbox and DIY Delta V, I worked on my entrepreneurial project which I launched in Colombia in September 2020.

MIT has endless opportunities and resources, and it can be a bit overwhelming. It is important to focus on topics that are relevant for your career path and interests. I had a busy and online summer that I feel proud of.

I am adapting to the new normal, doing everything remotely. One year ago, I did not know Zoom, and now I do everything on it. I believe that studying, working, and networking will not be the same after the pandemic. Goodbye to my business trips and spontaneous backpacking adventures in crowded places. Hello to Zoom lifetime premium subscription, and outdoor socially-distanced adventures.