I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend so far! It’s the last long weekend of the semester, so make sure to relax and make it count!
Tomorrow marks the final month of classes as an undergraduate at MIT. It’s incredible how fast this semester has gone by, and the whole of these four years as well. I can’t believe that in just a little over a month, I’ll be able to call myself a college graduate.
In these waning weeks of my senior year, I’ve been trying to take the time to sit down and reflect about my overall experience here. Unfortunately, my workload has really escalated in these past couple of weeks, and I’ve been having late nights to keep up with assignments due.
Welcome to “drinking from a firehose.” The phrase is commonplace around the Institute, where everyone simultaneously celebrates and whines about all the work their classes are putting on them. This isn’t anything new, since I’ve been dealing with the time-intensiveness of the classes here at MIT for a long time now. You’ll commonly hear the phrase “I’m so ‘hosed’ this week!” around campus.
Drinking from the firehose and being ‘hosed’ are essentially one and the same thing. You’re soaked in knowledge throughout the week, and during the weekends your struggling to absorb everything you’ve learned for completing your problem sets and preparing for midterms and final exams.
It’s a nutshell of life at MIT. For me, the whole “drinking from a firehose” is something you just get used to day in and day out at the Institute. I don’t want this post to turn into a bitchfest (excuse the language) about how much my work-life balance here at MIT sucks. I’m almost done with this place anyway (or am I?).
If anything, drinking from a firehouse can be a good thing. In what case, you ask?
Being at MIT, a majority of your focus will be on STEM subjects. Your coursework for your major will take up a huge portion of your waking hours. If you’re solely interested in your major and you don’t have strong, competing interests in mastering other activities, then it’s actually perfect.
You’re spending your waking hours mastering the specific subjects that you care about. Do that for four years with little interruption and you’re on your way to becoming an expert in that field.
Wonderful right? I think MIT is naturally inclined to suiting students who are more or less focused in one specific area of work. For example, if you know in advance that you love Computer Science and would not want to spend your time doing anything else, then MIT is like a Mecca for you for the next four years.
You’re being soaked with the knowledge that you deliberately seek. If anything, that’s a perfect setup for drinking from the firehose and being hosed to your hearts content. A lot of people at MIT find themselves in this position, and MIT becomes paradise for them (#IHFTP – I have truly found paradise).
And then there are others that don’t appreciate the constant pressure of the firehouse on them. They bear it as much as they can throughout the four years, waiting for the day it ends.
And then there’s me. As a Course 16, I love what I do in aerospace engineering, especially the sub-discipline I’ve focused in, Structures & Materials. My major keeps me incredibly busy with coursework, which I am fine with and have adjusted to. Interestingly, I’ve also developed a passion for writing, and interest in coding as I’ve gone through MIT over the years.
The main drawback to drinking from the firehose is that now, I don’t really have time to spend on those other interests of mine. There’s no way I can dedicate enough time to master all three fields (engineering, coding, and writing) here at MIT with the way that the academics are run here.
Being ‘hosed’ for me takes away from my other competing interests and passions. Luckily, I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate journey here, so time will naturally open up to be great at those three skills.
I think drinking from the firehose is great in theory, but in practice, it can be detrimental if you have different passions, since you’ll only have time to focus on one skill at most. I would love to be ‘hosed’ doing the things that I love in a balanced manner, spending time between engineering, writing, and coding, but for right now and the immediate future, all my time is spent on engineering.
Which leads me to my final point – I want to keep drinking from the firehose, but I want to make sure that firehose is ‘hosing’ me down in writing, engineering, and coding, not just in any one of these areas. Spending a lot of time in those areas in a consistent manner will supercharge my career and where I want to be in the future. The high intensity of doing what you love constantly under a reasonable amount of pressure can be powerful in unlocking your growth in those areas.
I know that my dream calling of blending these three areas isn’t going to be laid out for me like a traditional career track, or that it will come to me quickly, if at all.
It’s on me to make that happen for myself.
Hosed? Sure, let’s do it. But soon, I’ll be drinking from the firehose on my own terms.