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In the fall of 1997, MIT Tech Talk asked several randomly selected freshmen for their thoughts on what they might major in, what they were looking forward to at MIT and their career plans. Meghan Dufresne of the News Office recently contacted some of them to see how their views had evolved over the last four years.
Miami, FL and Puerto Rico
Prospective major: Mechanical engineering
Looking forward to: "Pass/no record. Also a seminar with Professor Rafael Bras, and volleyball and basketball."
In 10 years: "I want to be the boss at a high-tech firm back in Miami."
Degree: Mechanical engineering
What changed about your planned course of study? "I wanted to do ME since freshman year."
How have you changed? "I have become more aware of the important things in life, realized that sometimes things that may seem important now will really not mean much in the long run."
What's the most important thing you've learned here? "MIT helped me prioritize everything that needs to get done and know that no matter how much work I have to do, it always gets done. There's no point in wasting energy stressing about it."
How do you view MIT today? "I view MIT as a place that challenged me and exposed me to different cultures and different people -- a place where I truly learned the magnitude of the great things that can be accomplished and the opportunities that are available with hard work."
Prospective major: Engineering
Looking forward to: "A good education, but I still want to be socially active. I want to play intramural sports and varsity ice hockey."
In 10 years: "I'd like to see myself working, but that's as far as I can think right now."
Degree: Electrical engineering (VI-1)
What changed about your planned course of study? "I came in either Course VI or Course II, and I decided to choose VI mostly based on how my interests shaped over freshman year."
How have you changed? "I have definitely become wiser and smarter. My views of the country and the world have changed over the past four years as well as how I see myself."
What's the most important thing you've learned here? "How to survive under a great amount of stress and pressure."
How do you view MIT today? "MIT has become much more constrictive because of many outside and inside influences, but still [offers] a tremendous education."
Prospective major: Undecided
Looking forward to: "Concourse or ESG. There's more focus on the individual. Also, meeting people from all over the world."
In 10 years: "I'll be finished with my undergraduate and graduate studies and bringing what I've studied back to Jordan, so I can pass my experience on to other people."
Degree: Chemical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering.
What changed about your planned course of study? "I was thinking about management at one point, and then realized that I would like to get an engineering background. I've developed an interest in bioengineering and have pursued it by doing tissue engineering research in the Langer Laboratory."
How have you changed? "Living in the MIT community and my diverse international house, No. 6, has taught me how to be very open-minded. I learned how to see any problem from different perspectives. I see that I value time a lot more now, and realize that working hard and taking risks are some important ingredients to success."
What's the most important thing you've learned here? "MIT has taught me how to think and to appreciate people and learn from them. I've met some brilliant people here and shared a lot of good memories with them. I learned about different ways of living, different mindsets and about different religions and cultures."
How do you view MIT today? "I view MIT as the center for technology and a place where ideas are developed and turned into reality. It is the best environment to get it done!"
Prospective major: Engineering
Looking forward to: Nothing in particular; "I want to play with everything my freshman year and see what I like."
In 10 years: "I have no idea; I'm just going to wing it."
Degree: Chemical engineering
What changed about your planned course of study? "I'm getting my master's in biomedical engineering next year, and the plan is to go to medical school the year after."
How have you changed? "I've learned a lot about myself and I understand a lot more, but I haven't changed significantly. If anything, I'm more confident."
What's the most important thing you've learned here? "I've learned that I can stay up for three days straight and still function relatively well."
How do you view MIT today? "I'm glad that I decided to come here. I've made a lot of great friends and gained lots of valuable life experiences. It was hell, but I wouldn't give it back for the world."
Jean Ah Lee
Prospective major: Electrical engineering
Looking forward to: "The electrical engineering department and the city of Boston."
In 10 years: "I'll probably have finished either grad school or law school and be working in Boston or the northeast."
Degree: Electrical engineering
What changed about your planned course of study? "It stayed the same, but my career plans have changed. Four years ago, I thought I'd pursue an MS and PhD in electrical engineering and become a professor or go into law. Now my plans are to teach in Boston or New York public schools for a while (high school math), then go into education policy. I deferred my studies at Harvard Graduate School of Education for a year to work at Bose Corp. first to check out engineering before I leave it for good."
How have you changed? "I don't think I've changed that much. I've gotten four years older."
What's the most important thing you've learned here? "How to fall a million times and still get up and keep going. Never give up!"
How do you view MIT today? "Mixed feelings. Having an MIT degree opens a lot of doors, but MIT always seems to be most concerned with its image, not its students... If it had a choice between admitting the truth and standing behind its students or protecting its prestige, MIT would do the latter. The students make the campus... but the administration tends to forget that. Also MIT, perhaps more than other universities, forgets about teaching. When hiring/tenuring/firing professors, does MIT think about how good the they are as teachers, or how much money they'll bring to the university as researchers? I've learned a lot from MIT and am thankful for what it has given me but I don't feel proud about how it has handled some of its student issues."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 6, 2001.