Hey readers :).

I hope you’re doing well. Apologies for the short length of this post—it’s my second draft, because I was really struggling with tone in my first. A series of moments this week.

First, my deepest sympathies to the communities affected by the bombings. I think Wellesley says it best—they addressed on their first draft many points that were only make clear to me by the diverse members of the community here.

Coming Together as a Community

To:       The Wellesley College Community

From:  Adele Wolfson, Interim Dean of Students

Date:   November 15, 2015

We are all deeply saddened, shocked, and impacted by the recent violence throughout the world.

Following the attacks in Paris and Beirut, many members of the community have asked about the wellbeing of our students there.  Our Director of International Study has been in touch with all of our students studying in Paris, and they are all accounted for and safe, as are any students studying elsewhere who were on holidays in Paris.  (We do not currently have any students studying in Beirut.) Parents have been sent a message with this assurance. We have also been in touch with all of our students studying abroad to keep them updated.

We have contacted students on our campus from France to offer our support and services; there are no current students from Lebanon. The student leaders of Slater are opening the Center this evening at 6 pm as a place of community and comfort, members of ORSL and Counseling will be on hand. A wider campus event is being planned for later this week. Additionally, the Guild of Carillonneurs will be offering carillon concerts, beginning today at 3:20 p.m.

Our sympathies are with the people of France and Lebanon, especially those most directly affected by the attacks. Our thoughts are also with members of the Muslim community, in France and elsewhere, who have been subjected to mindless hatred in the wake of the attacks.

The events of the last few weeks—whether terrorist attacks, continued examples of institutional racism, acts of war, or natural disasters—serve as reminders that Wellesley is not separate from the world.  We can and must continue to build a more perfect community here, but cannot shut out what is happening elsewhere. We all bring our concerns into the classroom, residence halls, and workplace, and these impinge into our work even when we think they will not. I urge faculty and staff to remember that students are also carrying the burden of these events and to support them as much as you can.

by Veronica Brandstrader on November 15, 2015

It was beautiful this morning on the water. It’s been too windy to row for the past week, so it was special to be with the eight members of NW1 (novice women’s boat 1) at 7:15am this morning. We rowed as a whole crew for the first time, all eight of pushing the boat forward rather than paddling along by halves, and it was slightly terrifying but went well. I sit in the stroke seat, which means I’m responsible for setting the pace of seven other people. I so rarely take responsibility for others that I existed in a state of focused worry. It’s good for me, I think.

I’d emailed all of the computational labs I was interested in, save two: the most theoretical and thus most terrifying. This weekend I just went for it, and one of them responded immediately: I had an interview with him the next day. I should have prepared more, read more papers. I wish I could avoid accidentally insulting people due to ignorance. (And respond immediately to off-the-cuff jokes and other idealistic goals). That was the worst point, though, and I feel like I’m still in his good graces. There are so many things to balance, in an interview… how intuitively good you are at reading people, how well you can do with the preparation you have, how much time to prepare in general when balanced with everything going on, how much you know about the domain to start. They’re some of the most complex interactions I’ve seen, and the most important. I suppose interviews, like everything, will get better with hard work and practice.

I was told I was calm and also energetic today. I was also laughed out of the house for pronouncing “muesli” like “Israeli”. “They’re a ‘u’ and an ‘e’ in there!” I insisted illogically. Europeans—calling oatmeal “porridge”, inventing muesli as a cross between oatmeal and granola, the lot of us not being able to define what makes granola granola anyway…

(I was also antsy at the lunch table today, and was standing up instead of sitting down. “Assimilate!” my lab mates howled at me. They’ve got good handle on how to manage me.)

My dad commented on my blog last week, saying that it reminded him to think of what was meaningful in his life. My friend’s mother commented on my graduate school personal statement by telling me that I have so much to offer. April, my rowing coach, crouched down next to me and said, “Sit up straight. Keep calm.” Poly comes and checks on me every day in lab. I have wonderful people in my life.

I had a productive weekend! There’s nothing like a productive weekend. Hours and hours and results to show for it. I have so much left to do though…

I met Stephanie and Shri for scones and tea. There were some horror stories shared about going one’s own way rather than managing surrounding people appropriately. Talk about how to pick your battles, about de-stressing in life.

I’d been complaining to my lab mate Lizzie about being kind of low energy for the past two weeks. I’ve felt stressed for no good reason—just a lot to do, and feeling stuck in some specific situations. She told me she hadn’t noticed it at all, and that I must have a high baseline. Today was the first day I’ve feel consistently upbeat for the entire day though—and that’s from my talk with Stephanie and Shri. Keep calm, pick your battles— the world’ll spin better if you focus on the essentials.

“And he was a Rhodes Scholar,” Selen said, and we both inserted the shaking-the-head “of course” laughter. “Well, I think presidents should be excessively impressive,” I mentioned, “out of the realm of us lesser mortals.” We paused for a minute. “Um, kind of like where we are now? In Cambridge?”

Sometimes I’m biking along the streets here and I think: really, Monica? You’re studying here? In the minutia it feels so normal; in perspective I can’t imagine how the fates and people in my world aligned.

Thank you for all of the people who write stories in the world.

I wrote a diversity statement for graduate school. This is the equivalent of a personal statement for medical school: we write about the obstacles we have overcome. My experiences are so minor compared to everyone else’s. I’d like to share it anyway, sometime. Remind me about being a woman in a male-dominated classroom, since all the minor issues are the major issues on a much smaller scale :).

Have I mentioned I love what I do? I love my field, I love how people formulate ideas about the world? I love how I can read papers and understand how people think. I can know how they write and how they interpret ideas. Scientific papers are opinion pieces too—they express a set of beliefs about the world and a way to approach them. I love thinking about how we organize our observations and how we develop our internal structures of the world; I love the fact that one can make a career out of studying the algorithms of the mind. How lucky am I that I get to study this? That a society exists that supports this, that we’re so fascinating to study, that we can be here to study ourselves?

That’s all I’ve got, readers. Hope it’s shaping up to be a good week for you, and thanks as always for taking the time :).




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