19 April 2008

Pre-Pre-CPW Stuff

Okay. So I'm not going to lie - this blog is going to talk about more than just my adventures at MIT's 2008 Campus Preview Weekend. I was back in the northeast for a whole week, and while CPW is BY FAR the most exciting portion of the trip, I can't just leave things unblogged.

For those of you not familiar with my regular (well, somewhat regular) blog, I'm not really used to large cities. I live in a town with a population of 1500 and we don't even have a stoplight. My graduating class is at about 59 kids, and there are only about 350 max at my high school. And it's a public school (people thought I went to a small private school... until I mentioned the dropout rate... apparently kids don't drop out of private schools?). I live in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and I go to Portland all the time. But Portland is nothing compared to the bustling metropolis of Boston. So, needless to say, I was in for some serious culture shock and I was so nervous to be spending a week back there.

I know the posts are kind of long, and I apologize for that. It's just so hard to be brief about such an amazing experience!

Pictures are up now, too! It's truly wonderful...


Wednesday: Fight hyperventilating!

My dad is completely awesome and somehow managed to get us seats on a fabulous nonstop flight from Portland (PDX) to Logan (BOS) on Alaskan. It was awesome. Not so awesome: the flight left at 7:00 AM. Luckily, my trips back to Kentucky and Indiana for FFA's National Convention have prepared me well, and I was able to pull an all-nighter packing and be somewhat lucid when we drove to the airport at 4 in the freaking morning.

The flight itself was rather uneventful. There was a screaming toddler in front of us - not so much fun there. And I did that whole annoying fade in-and-out of sleep thing that I cannot stand. I was pretty sad because I accomplished ZERO on part of the Communications plan for an upcoming FFA contest. The only thing I managed to do was keep myself from vomiting everywhere and hyperventilating. I was so unbelievably scared. Terrified beyond all belief. I was kind of nervous on the flight because I was really unsure of what to expect, and as soon as Boston came into view through the window I about died. It was so big! I could hardly stay in my seat. I was so nervous (and it's making me nervous just thinking about how nervous I was). I've done a lot of things that I've been nervous about. A speech in front of 1000 people on a topic I was clueless about, a national level Sales contest, singing in the fall musical my freshman year - but I've never been as nervous as I was when we started the descent into Boston.

When we finally landed and I had sort of stopped shaking, my dad and I decided that we should drive around Boston and Cambridge in our shiny rental car. I really wanted to drive by MIT before CPW to calm my nerves a bit. BAD IDEA.

First Lesson Learned: People there don't know how to drive.
No, really. No offense if you drive like the people in Boston, but it's just pure insanity compared to drivers in Oregon. You have to be a very aggressive driver and the people can smell your fear. If you hesitate, you're doomed. I feel really bad for my dad who had to navigate through that mess. Oh, and people don't use crosswalks! There's a joke about Oregonians - that they will wait on a deserted street corner in the rain, just for the light to change so they can cross the street. Not always true, but a good generalization. Not even remotely close in Boston.

Despite the craziness that was the city streets, I am so glad I got a quick preview of MIT. I wasn't as nervous the next day...

Thursday: Let the Adventures Begin!

We took the T from Braintree, where we had stayed Wednesday night, to the MIT stop. Emerging from the wonderfulness that is the T, my dad and I found ourselves on the MIT campus. I fought the urge to freak out and called my host, Tayina, because I had no clue where we were in respect to everything else on campus. Luckily, she's amazing at giving directions and soon I was checking my luggage in at the Student Center. Registration went smoothly - I was informed by one person that I was in the perfect state with my last name (it's Kennedy) which I thought was pretty funny. The folder I was given was chock-full of amazing things, like a TechCash card preloaded with $20.12 (clever, no?) and a Bible. No, not the kind with religious writings. It was the kind with a schedule. Just like what we get at FFA Conventions! It was a rather fat booklet, and there were fifty million things to do, as well as a handy map.

While I was trying to figure out just what was contained in that magical booklet, my dad pointed out that my friend Tess was over at the registration booth! I ran over and kind of attacked her (sorry about that!) because I was so excited. Tess was talking to an admissions staff member, and I just kind of hung out for a second. And that's when I realized that it was Macgregor, who had called my house about CPW travel stuff, and I guess he had read my application too! I was rather excited and introduced myself. He was shocked to learn that Tess and I knew each other from a Society for Range Management conference, and he then informed me that pictures of sheep, goats and pigs had been taped to my file. Which I think is awesome. He also informed me that I had a nickname in the admissions office (do they really have time for that?). After assuring him that I had far worse nicknames than anything they could come up with, I learned that I am known as "Goat Girl." (Sidenote: this really isn't all that random - I've shown a goat a fair before and it was on my application)

Tess headed over to Simmons with her host, and I went to Burton-Connor to meet my host. Burton-Connor was... interesting. I don't know if I like the whole suite-setup. My host had a Spanish class, and I hate Spanish, so I decided to wander around campus for a little while. I lugged my suitcase and sleeping bag over to BC and then found my dad again. We wandered around, I tried to stop impending hyperventilation and then we went to our financial aid appointment. Pretty much, the financial aid people at MIT are amazing. I still don't even have an estimate of what my family's going to have to fork over for an MIT education, but they were so nice and helpful!


Things discovered when wandering around campus:
-The "In case of zombie attack..." hack (Just a quick note: That is one wimpy chainsaw.)
-The apple tree descended from Newton's famed apple tree
-Stata Center!
After a dinner at my host's sorority, and the CPW Opening Welcome, more fun followed!
At the CPW Festival, we had a miniature Oregon-party. Stephen, Brian and I all met in person, which was neat. After sitting and chatting for a while, the exploration of campus began.

It was decided that a trip to the awesome Engineering Library (blogged about here by Snively) was in order. Unfortunately, it was closed. Here's a picture of Stephen to prove it:
Mostly, we just wandered around the hallways and I just learned a bajillion things I didn't know about MIT from Stephen. It was highly educational.

Here are some of the things we came across:
-The Toy Lab! We couldn't really see inside though...
-Lots of Liguid Nitrogen! And I mean lots. You could hardly walk down a hallway without seeing at least five tanks of the stuff.
-Many labs with radioactive materials warnings!
-A giant slide rule on the wall in Stata! I was pretty much a fan.

Friday: I might not die at MIT!

I started off the day at the President's Welcome and Keynote Speech by Amy Smith from the Mechanical Engineering Department. It was pretty much amazing. Then again, I love speeches and people that can actually deliver a speech well... Amy Smith's speech was amazing. I was so happy when she started talking about agriculture in the beginning, and I actually knew one of the statistics she brought up! She had been asking the audience for guesses on statistics for things like the number of tractors per 1000 people in a variety of countries, as well as several other categories. Eventually, she got to statistics about the percentage of the population involved in agriculture. That was definitely me up in the back that yelled 1.8 when she got to the US. They had apparently rounded up to 2% but I was close. It made me happy. Agriculture at MIT! Yea!

After a quick bagel and chai latte (unfortunately, it was probably the worst chai latte I've ever had...) I met up with Tess and her host's roommate and we went over to Stata for a physics class. I was way too shocked at the setup of this classroom to think of taking a picture, but it was amazing! There were projectors and computers and whiteboards and cameras and physics demos everywhere! I really suck at physics, but I was able to (sort of) follow along. I think if I had been taking the class from the beginning of the year I would have actually understood what was going on... Then we were off to the Differential Equations class. That was an exciting class. I also managed to keep up to a certain extent (I had no idea what they were doing but I could figure out where things went and apply basic logic to the gibberish on the board) and the "Haynes Miller Bingo" sheets were simply brilliant. By the end of class, he was asking for a truce because so many people were shouting out "Bingo" every time he switched chalk colors.

At 2:00 I met up with my dad and we went to the Parliamentary Debate Team Demo Round. It was horrifying. First, it's set up completely differently from how we do things in FFA. 180 degrees different. Second, is that the commonly accepted speaking style? They said "like" A LOT. Maybe I'm just used to formal FFA speeches. Even so, I really want to do debate next year. I think it'll be the closest I'll get to the rush of Extemp Speaking and they have events pretty much every weekend. More competitive public speaking! My favorite!
After a quick stop at the Academic fair and the Civil and Environmental Engineering reception, I headed over to the Parsons Lab for my UROP tour. They're doing a lot of things with cnidarians, which I was really excited about because we just finished up a unit on cnidarians in my zoology class. I also really scared the kid in the banana costume that was there - I told him all about how Cavendish bananas are at risk of extinction. The look of shock on his face was priceless. I then hoofed it over to the Interphase information session. I've decided that I might not need it as much as I thought, and that it would require me to show up late because of my trip to Scotland anyway.

I had another dinner at a sorority, and then it was off to Meet the Bloggers! MTB was pretty chaotic, especially during the picture-taking.The funniest part for me had to be when I went over and talked to Snively. During the RD-admit telethon, Snively called my house and we had a conversation about how I might end up going to Oregon State instead of MIT. Snively sounded like he was having a heart attack. So, at MTB I introduced myself to Snively and informed him that I was, in fact, going to be at MIT in the fall. He was very excited and gave me a massive hug. Then someone else, whose name I cannot remember, gave me a massive hug, too. It was mildly awkward, but very very amusing.

As soon as MTB winded down, it was time for a certain fruity tour. Tess, Stephen and I headed over to Lobby 7 at 10:00, just like we had been ordered to by a million and two people. We met a wonderful some wonderful people named Jack Florey and were subsequently led on an interesting/citrus-y tour of campus. Oh, and I just have to say, it is a small world. Those wood ladders we used at one point were probably milled in my hometown. I didn't notice on the way up, but on the way down I recognized the little H inside the log - Hampton's logo. The wood could have even come from my family's farm. It was kind of awesome. We had some donuts afterward and then decided that sleeping was not a bad idea...

Saturday: A day of epic proportions.

I actually woke up at a normal time according to Tess - 10 AM. We headed into Boston with her host to go shopping. Dress shopping at Anthropolgie and then shopping at the mall, which is called the Pru (a.k.a. the Prudential Center. I guess it's just called the Pru...?). After hiking across the Harvard Bridge, we hit the Coop (pronounced like a chicken coop... not co-op like it would be called in Oregon... weird!) and then we headed over to Simmons. We sat in their ball pit for forever and assured everyone on the dorm tours that passed by that it was, indeed, rather comfortable.

Then it was time for the closing ceremony/variety show. The a capella groups were amazing, and so was the juggling guy! Well, truth be told, all the acts were amazing. My dad was very impressed that the students actually had time to do other things, which was awesome because he was not such a huge fan of me wanting to pursue extracurriculars while at MIT. After the entertainment, Tess and I explored the athletic center for a little while. We didn't find the shiny new parts of the building, but we did find the squash courts!

We then decided that some dorm exploration was needed. We stepped inside Bexley, and decided that we didn't like it within about 5 seconds. On to the next one! Next was Baker. I wasn't sure about Baker, but we poked around on the different floors and I have to say that I think that's where I'd like to live at MIT. We stopped in at a couple of the other buildings on Dorm Row, but we both decided that we liked Baker and Simmons the most.

As we were walking back toward Baker, we noticed that all of the lights were flashing inside the building's windows. At first, I thought it was a hack or something (you never know!) but then we deduced that the fire alarm was going off. Soon, fire trucks and lots of people were out in front.
We met up with Stephen and wandered over to the Student Center. We sat in the lobby area for a good three hours (or maybe longer? I have no idea..) with some awesome kids from Kentucky. It was then time for more exploration of campus!

We found that video art installation (I forget which building it was in) and watched it 50 million times just so we could laugh at the Rick Astley video that played after the Onion-peeling video played three or four times. Then we explored part of the tunnel system and ended up in the Ford building (building 19). Their benches may look uncomfortable, but those wavy things are awesome. At this point it was about 4:30 AM. West coast kids for the win! We headed back over to Burton-Connor when Baker's fire alarm went off again. It was kind of amusing to watch a lot of zombie-like people pour out of Baker while the housing staff tried to figure out why the drill hadn't been turned off.

It was a lot of fun wandering around MIT at 5 AM - I'm not going to lie. Except Stephen missed his flight the next morning. Sorry, Stephen! :(

Sunday: Do I really have to leave?

It was so depressing to have to leave MIT. Really really really depressing. I know I'll be there in August, but I really didn't want to leave and go back home. I'd rather be there NOW.

My final day at MIT was spent packing my things, checking out and getting coffee. Oh, and I had to try not to buy everything in the Coop (I could have worn something with MIT on it head-to-toe!) so that the whole world would know that I was going to MIT.

Things I Learned at MIT:
1. People actually care about baseball in New England.
This is rare in the Northwest. Really rare. It was strange.

2. People use umbrellas.
Also rare where I'm from. It was drizzling at one point and I saw a whole campus tour group using umbrellas. I was sitting out in front of the Student Center without a hood or umbrella. It made me laugh a tiny bit...

3. La Verde's salad bar is amazing.
They have baby spinach leaves! Yea!

4. I really really really want to go to MIT.
I am so excited now (I mean, I was before, but now it's off the charts) and August seems a century away. It's going to be amazing!

I learned a lot more than all of that, but this is really just what I remembered.

And of course, the obligatory picture in front of the big dome... With my usual cup of coffee.--

Luckily I was able to sleep on the way to Connecticut in the afternoon. My dad had some business down in New London (Yes! The city involved in the Eminent Domain case that made it to the Supreme Court!) and I was out like a light before we even got out of Massachusetts.
This is what they call a beach in Connecticut. It was pretty crappy. Freakin' New London.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesay: Sickness strikes.

My dad and I visited the Lizzie Borden house in Fall Rivers, MA which was pretty awesome, and then we drove over to Cape Cod. In my opinion, the Oregon coast is much more picturesque and interesting. Maybe it's better in the summer... Oh, and we also went to Plymouth, MA but we couldn't see the famous rock. Mildly depressing, I know.
Wow, that is one tilted picture. Oh well, I'm way too lazy to fix it right now...

I was so sick! I just stayed in bed for a majority of the day, trying to fight the horrible fever I had. I then got to tour an aircraft parts shop and I saw their awesome plasma-ceramic machine. It was pretty sweet. Mostly, I was just horrifically sick and in pain.

Whoo! Another MIT drive-by! Traffic was once again crazy so we couldn't stop. So, off to the airport it was for several hours of waiting and another nonstop back home!

Post-Post-CPW Stuff

Overall, my CPW experience was amazing. I didn't do a million of the things in the Bible, but I was really happy with my laid-back CPW. I was so incredibly nervous, and by the end of the weekend I knew I had found my new home. Having to leave on Sunday was sad - I can't imagine having to leave four years from now. The culture, the people and the campus just felt right.

I'll still be a little nervous come August when I pack up my things and make the journey back east. But, I will also be excited beyond measure. CPW was definitely worth the stress, the nerves, and the mountain of homework that I now have to make up for the week of school that I missed!