Wednesday, September 01, 2004

It has begun ...

... well, sort of.

The last couple of days were orientation for the [4] new students in my program. First day was basically an overview of the academic requirements of the program and some discussion with faculty members about what courses to take and the second day was administrative stuff [health insurance]. Impressions so far:

- Students don't get dental insurance of any sort. None whatsoever. You can't even pay extra to get it, it just doesn't exist through the school. Apparently, they looked into it and it wasn't considered "cost-effective". I guess that means you'd better hope you have no issues with your teeth while you're in school. Of course, you can't even check whether or not you have issues by going for a check-up without paying for that yourself. As a wise ex-teacher of mine would say, that's "weak-style", maybe even "extremely weak-style".
- If you go to a non MIT-medical doctor/hospital for anything except emergency care, you're going to pay for it yourself. The tricky bit is that there's no clear definition of what is considered "emergency" care [which is covered if you go somewhere other than MIT medical] vrs "urgent care" [which isn't], though I did manage to get the health services person to concede that multiple gunshot wounds to the torso probably counted as an emergency. Good to know, should I ever find myself in that unenviable position ... Now I really understand what people meant when they said Microsoft has great [health care] benefits.
- I'm definitely the fossil in the class. Two of the other people just finished up their undergraduate work and the third one graduated in 2001 and then spent 2 years working on a Master's degree. In other words, I'm at least 5 years older than all of them and 8 years ahead of them in real-world experience. I think Christina and I are going to be spending a lot of time with folks from Sloan, who tend to be much closer to our age and set of experiences, just so we don't feel like old fogies.
- It's a bit weird to be basically the same age as some of the professors on the advisory faculty committee. My first reaction is to regard them as peers, but I have to keep reminding myself that we're not really peers -- they're much further along in this arena than I am. I just hope none of the younger professors insists on protocol and that I call him/her Dr.So-and-so, because that might be a bit much for me, but I get the sense that that won't be a problem.
- Classes are going to be an interesting balancing act. Because it's an interdisciplinary program, there are lots of classes in biology, comp. sci., mathematics etc that look interesting and useful, but we have to balance taking classes with working in research labs, preparing for qualifying exams [at the end of the second year] and being a teaching assistant [which can apparently range from doing basically nothing to coming up with the homework and tests and grading them]. So, we're all in a position where we want to take a bunch of classes but don't know which ones we'll have time for, which ones are really relevant and what order to take them in. I've mostly stopped bellyaching about it -- I have a set of classes I'm comfortable with for the first semester and by the beginning of next semester I expect to have a much better idea of what I really need/should take. I'll start worrying again if by then I still feel like there are too many classes I need.

All in all, so far, so good.

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