Phoebe Piercy – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Phoebe received an unconditional offer to study Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the world’s number one ranked university.

The overseas uni support from Truro School has been unbelievable, the attention given to each individual’s application is extremely detailed and personal, allowing you to work closely together with Lucy Jupp to ensure, not only that your application meets the requirements and personality of the country you’re applying to, but also that it showcases you as well as possible. Mrs Jupp went beyond what was expected of her, calling up MIT, the university I was applying to, to organise them coming to University fairs and also to talk to them about my application. We had regular meetings or email updates to ensure the application was on track and everything was being done on time. She was always on hand to help with all the forms and complicated application requirements of the American system, replying to any email queries extremely quickly, even over the weekend, making the process so much more manageable and straightforward. I cannot thank her enough. I would go as far as to say that, thanks to Lucy Jupp and the one-on-one support, the overseas uni support at Truro School must be one of the strongest in the country.

First Semester at MIT

My first few days at MIT have been absolutely incredible! First we had our International orientation, which was a lot of lectures about immigration documents, banking etc. Not the most exciting, but useful, and I made a lot of my friends during that period! I then did a Product Design FPOP (Freshman Pre-Orientation Programme, run by upperclassmen). We designed products for the dorm room and made them, as well as learning product design techniques and touring Boston’s design firms. Again a great place for meeting people, and the upperclassman students running it have kept in touch and been an amazing resource and friendly faces around campus. The best part of that was being given an old printer and told to take it apart and make a tea infuser of our own design. We took out the motors and other bits and pieces we could find and rewired them with a switch to make ours!

We designed products for the dorm room and made them, as well as learning product design techniques and touring Boston’s design firms.

Then came REX, Residential Experience Week. Basically every dorm threw events to convince you that you wanted to live there. There were events such as hair dyeing (the underneath layers of my hair are currently turquoise), water wars, liquid nitrogen truffle making, and, of course, parties every evening. One party at an unconventional dorm called East Campus featured fairground rides and a massive fort with swings, towers, wobbly bridges, rope climbing etc., that the EC residents had built themselves (ignoring the fact that part of it broke from everyone jumping up and down on the dancefloor on the lower level).

One party at an unconventional dorm called East Campus featured fairground rides and a massive fort with swings, towers, wobbly bridges, rope climbing etc., that the EC residents had built themselves.

We are now going into RUSH, where the frats and sororities hold events and recruitment. I have made so many friends, both ones I’ve met before and new ones, and I’ve learnt so much from them already. A crash course in Arabic, discussing politics with someone from Israel/Palestine, the Texan delicacy of ‘honey butter chicken biscuits’ are just a few! I’ve met people I can stay up until 2am with, just talking to about anything and everything, I have gone to bed at 4am most nights (last night I thought: “I’ll have an early night, I’ll go to bed at 1am”, so my idea of an early night has definitely changed!) and have had one of the best times of my life so far! Classes start on Wednesday, so then the hard part will begin! This semester I’m doing Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, a Philosophy class, and a self-defence class.

Second Semester at MIT

First semester down, in the middle of ‘IAP’ and MIT still feels as exciting and dynamic as ever. One of the things I’m finding hardest about this place is deciding what I want to spend my time on, because there is a definite limit to the number of things you can do. From sports teams to music to drama to rocket team and, of course, all the classes you’re taking, there’s very little room for relaxation. That’s why we have this period called “Independent Activities Period”, or IAP for short. IAP spans the month of January, and is basically an optional month of University, where they limit the number of classes you can take and offer more varied, ‘fun’ classes, as a way to ensure students aren’t just taking classes for the sake of graduation, but also take classes purely because they’re interested, encouraging the idea of learning for the sake of learning. Some people decide to stay at home for IAP, others come back to College and a lot do overseas programmes for the month, for example a friend of mine is teaching in Mexico for IAP. I’m taking it as a chance to spend more time on drama and the arts, and to learn programming. I’m also taking a Zumba class and joining the sail team next semester. IAP is also characterised by the onset of extreme cold and snow. The type of cold that forbids even thinking about baring your hands as you walk, and has your legs numb by the time you get to class, the cold penetrating even through your jeans. This also means, however, that t-shirt snowball fights are the best way to spend a quality 5 minutes messing around with your wingmates, before the cold drives everyone back inside.

One of the most incredible things I’ve found here is the people. For a highly competitive University, I have met very few people who are competitive with anyone other than themselves. There is a real view that everyone deserves to be here and, if someone is struggling with something, it’s not that they’re less intelligent or less capable than anyone else, it’s just that they either have less experience, or their strength lies elsewhere and they just need more time. Often the person who has all the chemistry answers might be the one turning to their friend for math(s?) help, etc etc. Everyone knows that MIT is hard, and, rather than that pushing us to outdo each other, it seems to bring us together more. There is no stigma attached to asking friends for help, and no judgement from the person lending a hand, and that is the true magic of MIT.

There is no stigma attached to asking friends for help, and no judgement from the person lending a hand, and that is the true magic of MIT.

Of course the other side I’ve been exploring is that of ‘Greek life’, or fraternities and sororities. For those who don’t know, these are essentially nationwide societies, most of them all male or all female, which act as living groups, contact networks and, as I’ve found, often lead to some of your tightest friendships. I am now a full member of the co-ed fraternity of Delta Psi. Our MIT chapter is locally known as ‘Number 6’, for historical reasons, and we are predominantly International students. I came to MIT with no intention of joining any fraternity or sorority, but, during the first week of semester, when all the frats hold events (known as ‘Rush’), I enjoyed hanging out with the members so much that, when they offered me a bid, I decided to take it. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever and cannot imagine being at MIT without my No.6 family.

One thing I’ve had a few questions about, is the coveted ‘MIT Pirate Certificate’. MIT has a PE requirement, which means you must take 4 PE classes over your four years. Most of us, however, end up taking at least one PE class every semester, as they’re great fun and a great way to destress and give your brain something different to do. PE options range from broomball (essentially sliding on ice in shoes with a broom) to climbing to skiing and snowboarding. The four most popular classes however, are archery, pistol shooting, sailing and fencing. Why? Because complete these four and you will become a certified MIT Pirate. I have pistol shooting and archery to go.

The four most popular classes however, are archery, pistol shooting, sailing and fencing. Why? Because complete these four and you will become a certified MIT Pirate.

As I said, there are so many opportunities at this place that it’s easy to neglect about the academic side, something that is especially important considering that, in America, every homework (known as psets or problem sets) and every midterm exam counts towards your final graduation grade, so you can’t slack for even a week of the four month non-stop semesters. It is a common occurrence to realise your 10-hour problem set is due tomorrow and you haven’t even started. That’s ok though, time runs differently at University, right? Night time is not necessarily a time to sleep, unless sleeping at night fits your schedule best. It’s due at 9:00am? No problem, its only 11:00pm. Tea/coffee? Check. Whiteboards? Check. Friends in the same boat? Check. Time to get started!