Taking advantage of unique MIT experiences
MIT is a unique place, full of fascinating people and experiences that you won’t have anywhere else. As students, I love to take advantage of the incredible opportunities offered by MIT. For example, it feels like a steal when I get to eat an amazing buffet of food while watching a free movie on campus, or at least when I had that opportunity in the pre-COVID era. This sort of free activity is hard to find after graduation, so I’m trying to make the most of them while I am enrolled as a student. I took these student perks for granted at my undergraduate university, but I have found that MIT has even more benefits than I initially realized. I have discovered many activities that are free or cheap and absolutely unique to MIT, from extracurricular options to academic classes and professional development. I want to highlight three specific activities because through these opportunities, I’ve made memories that will always remind me of the good times in grad school, in the midst of all the hard work.
The MIT Mystery Hunt
The MIT Mystery Hunt is the most unique experience I’ve had at MIT. The Mystery Hunt is a weekend of hundreds of puzzles ranging from fun-loving crossword-type puzzles to mind-bending metapuzzles, organized each year by the winners of the previous year’s contest. The MIT Puzzle Club puts on the annual event, and teams from around the country participate every January during the Independent Activities Period (IAP). IAP is a time without regular classes for students to engage in special activities, ranging from woodworking classes to mystery-solving tournaments, in addition to any regular research that may be expected as graduate students. This past January, I participated in the MIT Mystery Hunt for the first time on a team with friends from my department. The event was virtual this year, so I participated from my house, and our team coordinated on a Discord channel (similar to Slack or other group chat platforms). Before the start of the event, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be “smart” enough to unlock any of the clues. But the Mystery Hunt is geared toward “mystery hunters” of any level. I was able to solve several puzzles on my own; other puzzles were much more challenging and my entire team had to put our heads together to solve them.
The GSC ski trip
I couldn’t believe the deal I was getting when I signed up for the Graduate Student Council (GSC) ski trip in 2019. For about $300, I got a three-day lift ticket to Jay Peak resort, lodging in a slope-side cabin with a group of my friends, and exclusive access to an indoor water park! I can’t overstate it, the GSC ski trip is a bargain. Although this yearly event went on hold during COVID, I recommend you check it out if it is offered in future years! For the past two years with the GSC trip on hold due to COVID restrictions, my classmates and I organized our own “MIT ski trip” to relive the memories. In 2021, we did a ski weekend at Jackson Hole, and in 2022, we skied at Taos. I love that the GSC ski trip seems to have turned into a tradition that might last beyond graduation!
The Outdoors Club
The MIT Outdoors Club (MITOC) is a well-known club on campus that provides fun opportunities to get outside at incredible prices. What helps drive down the cost is that the Outdoors Club has a lot of its own gear, so you can rent it for much cheaper than investing in your own gear. This rental service is a great opportunity to try out camping or climbing before buying your own equipment. I had a blast at the Outdoors Club first-year orientation hike in the White Mountains. I love to hike, but I am not from the New England area. For me, this organized hike was a great way to get to know the surrounding scenery without having to plan my own hike in an unfamiliar mountain range. Since then, I’ve loved using the Outdoors Club discounted rental equipment. When I had a conference in the Pacific Northwest, my labmates and I decided to backpack in Olympic National Park the week before. We rented tents from MITOC which saved us a lot of money!
I don’t want to let the years go by in grad school without making long-lasting memories. MIT makes it easy to have memorable experiences by offering affordable opportunities for fun and adventure, even though budgets can be tight on a graduate student stipend. I know I will look back on these memories for years to come.
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