032. One Down

tldr: one semester down, many more to go

Needless to say, this is not at all how I pictured my first semester of college going down. Sure, there was countless hours of studying, many midnight ramen meals, and numerous times when I went to class in pajamas. [I was planning to NOT wear pajamas to class my freshman fall, and I gotta say, a lot harder of a feat to pull off when attending class from the luxury of bed.] But of course, both with the insane COVID time period we are in and attending a school like MIT, things were changing left and right.

This semester I took four classes and a freshman advising seminar:

  • 18.100B (Real Analysis): A classic undergraduate math course. We learned about sequences, series, metric spaces, a bunch of weird stuff. In my opinion, the coolest things we learned were direct proofs for calculus. In 18.100B, there are a lot of ‘small handwavy proofs’ of why theorems in calculus make intuitive sense, but this course went into the nitty gritty of careful definitions and proofs often skipped over. All-in-all: this course can BITE ME.
    This course is meant to teach students what goes into a thorough and rigorous proof, and it damn near killed me. I spent the entirety of finals week reading Rudin over and over again, only to get a 60% on the final. But it all worked out.
  • 18.701 (Algebra 1): This was an interesting class to take alongside 18.100B. It’s so much NEW information, and it somehow both 1) makes sense and 2) is difficult? Like the best things in life I suppose. But what made it really interesting was the level of rigor compared to 18.100B. In real analysis, one problem can spend PAGES proving the continuity of a function, while in algebra I can just say “this is a composition of continuous functions so this function is continuous QED”. I spent much more time per week working on homework for this class, but in the end it felt like less work than real analysis, in a weird way.
  • 8.01 (Physics 1): This was my first ever calculus based physics class, and I can’t believe I ever studied physics differently. Many non-math people would think that calculus-based physics would be more difficult than precalc-based physics, but that is completely not the case in my opinion. When I took precalculus-physics, it felt extremely unintuitive, with just a list of formulas to apply in various cases. But those formulas come from somewhere. Once you know where those formulas come from and how to derive them, I think that the problems become a lot easier. This was a difficult, but well taught class. Nothing too much to say.
  • 24.05 (Philosophy of Religion): This class was almost as difficult as real analysis, if not harder. This class was challenging in a different way though– writing philosophically takes a different way of thinking. It is super easy to become existential and question the nature of the world around us in a never-ending-loop, but what is really difficult is trying to ANSWER one of these questions, and defending your stance to the best of your abilities.
    This semester, I wrote four papers: one on where morality comes from, one on whether or not to believe in God (using a cost-benefit analysis), one on the likelihood of the existence of a God given how unlikely it was for humanity to exist, and one on why a perfect God does not exist. [Here, perfect meaning omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.]
    These were some of the hardest papers I have ever had to write in my life, but we started asking questions I have always wondered about. Like, “where does one draw the line when it comes to religious tolerance?” and “is it moral to act religiously in a political society?”. I need to think more about what I believe to be true when it comes to these questions, but in the meantime I am just glad I am not the only one thinking about them.
  • 18.A06 (What is a Number?): This class was interestingly more philosophical than mathematical in the end. Every week, students in the seminar presented a type of ‘number’, ranging from the regular Natural Numbers, to Quarternions, Ideals, and Surreal Numbers. The last question we were asked was “Are these numbers?”. Which is a surprisingly difficult question! For instance, complex numbers are usually accepted to be numbers, and they describe rotations in a 2-dimensional plane. Similarly, quarternions describe rotations in 3-dimensional space. But for some reason, a lot of the students in the seminar felt like quarternions were not numbers! So what is the difference? Where does one draw the line? An interesting question, with no (current) concrete answer.

This class schedule was extremely exciting. On the one hand, I finally got to start exploring my academic interests, mathematically and philosophically. On the other hand, it was a challenge– one that I wanted to tackle. I have thankfully made it through to the other side WITH STRAIGHT As!!! I know it doesn’t matter– it’s Pass/No Record freshman fall, and in the end all that will be on my transcript is “P”s for Pass. I am really proud of myself. I put in the effort and I got to see it pay off.

This was also the semester where I packed two suitcases and a backpack and moved to New York with two other MIT freshmen. If you had told me a year ago that I would be doing this, I would’ve called you insane. But I did! This was mostly in part due to the COVID grant students got this year, without which I wouldn’t have had the courage to do something so financially risky. I also wanted to start exploring my independence [something I pictured would have come from moving to a college campus, but alas]. I have been to:

  • Four of the five boroughs (I plan to go visit Staten Island over IAP to complete this list)
  • Timesquare (way less exciting during COVID)
  • Rockefeller
  • FAO Schwartz
  • That HUGE Macy’s Blockstore
  • Central Park
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar (tldr: Dylan is the daughter of Ralph Lauren, she has a candy store)
  • The New York Times building
  • among many other places

I do wish that I could have gone ice skating at Rockefeller this winter, but it’s just not safe. Some other time.
One of the other nice things about being in New York this semester is that one of my high school friends is here, so I got to visit her a few times and go explore around.

Next semester will be so different. I am excited to be on campus though! Sure, I will be on a meal plan, and further away from people I knew in high school, but I will be in MASSACHUSETTS [which I can finally start spelling correctly the first time]. I have p l a n s. Most of what I want to do is Classic/Boring MIT things, like walking down the Infinite, hanging out on Killian Court, and working on PSETs on a chalkboard with others. I also want to visit all the local coffee shops and get stickers for my laptop (looking at you 1369 and Simons). In all actuality however, most of my p l a n s are fuzzy. I have never been to MIT, let alone Massachusetts. I don’t know what the local places are, but I can’t wait to find out.

Currently, my plan for next semester (in terms of classes), is to take 18.702 (Algebra 2), 18.102 (Functional Analysis, or, shortened: Fun Anal), 18.901 (Topology), 21W.022 (Autobiographies), and 8.02 (Physics 2). There was the option to take a logic class next semester, but I decided to push it off. The logic sequence is so short that it can wait a semester. For a while, I wasn’t really certain which classes I wanted to take, but this is the first schedule that makes me feel as excited, if not more, than I felt this semester. It seems like it’ll be a challenge, and I want to tackle it. Whether I succeed or I fail, I will grow, and that’s what counts right?

It feels weird that I am halfway through my freshman year? And a new round of incoming freshmen are being accepted!? Soon enough, I will have a brassrat?? It’s going by so quickly, as I was rightfully warned would happen. Holy crap. I will be on campus next semester [fingers crossed]. Til next year y’all.


Oh also? I got some new clothing? This extremely *doesn’t* matter, but I look hot as hell.

I am gay, how’d you know?

Published by Paige Bright

Hi- my name is Paige Alexandria Bright. I am a rising junior at MIT interested in mathematics and philosophy. I have been writing this blog since the beginning of COVID. Lets see where this goes.

3 thoughts on “032. One Down

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