It's my last blog post as a gappie--how weird is that? Life's been pretty smooth since my last blog, and some really cool stuff has happened. First (and most definitely foremost) I visited Campus for Candidate's Weekend #3 at the beginning of March! Got to see some old friends, and meet tons of new ones, and completely reaffirmed my belief that Olin is the coolest 75 acre strip of land in existence.
Olin - visited for CW3
My family is also in the middle of moving into a new house.... 3 blocks away from where we currently live. I would say pointless, but for the fact that our new house is beautiful, whereas the thing we live in now is a giant drafty rental. The only problem is that the entire basement needs to be renovated, so that's what I've been doing for the past week and a half; in addition to gradually moving everything I own three blocks down the street, 3 boxes at a time (that's all that will fit into my dinky little car).
New house - so pretty!
Work, my business, and classes have all been going extremely well, although I'm convinced that triple integrals in polar form are going to be the death of me. My business is still growing, and I just finished a custom stone cutting and setting job for a customer in Italy! I've also been asked by several people to teach a beginning wire wrapping workshop, so I'm working on writing a class curriculum so that I can put that together and get some more people interested in the art. There's some bittersweet news-- the jewelry store that I work at is closing in early May. Bitter because I'll be sad to see such a wonderful place go, and sweet because I'll be able to buy a bunch of great tools for exorbitantly low prices, and because I'll be out of a job just in time for me to have a summer off before I head to college!
Custom Ammolite Ring for a customer in the Springs.
Hi, I'm Jacob Stern! I've chosen to spend two gap years as a missionary.
What is a missionary?
Well, if you've ever seen a pair of guys in white shirts and ties on bikes, chances are it's us. If they start talking with a stranger about a blue book called The Book of Mormon, it's a pretty good guarantee they're a missionary. That's me on the far left.
Why did I go on a mission?
It's pretty simple. It's an expectation that all young men of our faith serve a two-year mission. I prayed to God and felt like it was the right thing to do. Now I'm here, and it's been the best decision I've ever made.
What does a missionary do?
The missionary program is a volunteer, unpaid organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called Mormons). We are assigned to an area with a language, to teach and serve the people in that region for two years. I'm currently in the California San Fernando Mission -- Spanish Speaking!
We are always assigned a companion. In other words, another 18-23 year old guy to work, study... and do everything else with. I'm with Elder Hoyt right now 24-7 until we get transferred. It's good practice learning to get along with people :)
For me, things have definitely accelerated in the past couple of months. For one thing, I've been more involved with other people from various different groups (including the other gappies - we regularly chat over Google Hangouts).
Context: Since I'm french, I was drawn a mustache, wine bottle and loaf of bread. I countered with a playing card to fool Google's facial recognition. (And before you ask, 'tampon' means 'stamp' in french)
First of all, I have deepened my interest in Cardistry (card manipulation). I recently met a couple of people in my area who share this passion. As it turns out, one of them lives near Boston and designed a deck of cards which will be on Kickstarter very soon. I met with him on my way to Candidates' Weekend (which I'll talk more about in a bit). He showed me a prototype of his deck, and we shot a quick video. Now, it's the official trailer for the Kickstarter campaing! So that's kind of neat.
Also on the topic of Cardistry: Cardistry-Con happens to be in Brooklyn this year (which is where NYU-Poly is situated). That's already an interesting coincidence, but to top it off, a good friend of mine back in Paris was randomly selected (out of about 150 people) to go to the conference, all travel expenses paid. This is a funny universe we live in.
I mentioned going to Candidates' Weekend for the class of 2019. It was a very interesting experience as a gappie. We were sort of in limbo, not quite a candidate, not quite a student. I arrived a day early, so I was able to sit in on a couple of classes - Mechanical Prototyping and Mechanical Design. Both classes revolved around a group project, in classical Olin fashion, so I sat and watched. I realized that NYU-Poly students might never do this sort of work, and certainly not as a freshman. Of course I had been told this was the case, but it was interesting to see it first hand.
I also performed at the NYU-wide talent show. Sadly I didn't win, but the experience was definitely amazing.
Finally, I'd like to wrap this sequence of posts up with what they really are about: How this gap year significantly changed my life. I've always enjoyed mathematics a lot, but I never seriously considered becoming a mathematician; robotics has always been my goal. Yet recently, it has become more and more apparent that I should not discard my passion for math so fast. This semester, I am taking both Linear Algebra and Discrete Math. Both professors independently and almost simultaneously asked if I was interested in doing research with some of the mathematics faculty. It was a bit of an awkward because, obviously, I'm enrolling at Olin next year. I had a conversation with my Discrete Math professor, and kept on asking why I wasn't a Computer Science major (which at Poly mostly means math). I have some answers but the decision is not completely clear. Therefore, it seems that I'm going to design my own major when I get to Olin, a thought I never would have had if I had gone there straight out of high school. On top of that, I have met some very interesting students, I know at least two professors from whom I could ask a letter of recommendation, and already some options in doing mathematics research. I was afraid that this gap year might go to waste and that I'd leave for Olin with nothing more than some increased knowledge of Linear Algebra and C++. I'm now confident that it was absolutely not a waste.
If you are planning to take a gap year, seriously consider going to college. Make sure your choice is very different from Olin. With the appropriate motivation, it's likely that good things will come out of it, and that your time at Olin will be that much better.
If you're a parent, hopefully you get out of these posts that a gap year is not a sign of failure. It's a very (very) good medium for opportunity. And trust me, waiting a bit to go to Olin is completely worth it.
It's a bright but gusty day at Olin. Snowbanks slowly sink in the sunshine, but the air still cuts with winter's chill. It's quiet on campus. The students and faculty are away on their spring breaks. The staff still hum along. But the quietness belies an undercurrent of tension. It's the home stretch for so many: seniors, about to complete their time at Olin; candidates, awaiting the notification that will help them choose their future; Admission staff, eagerly anticipating the official announcement of the name of our new Dean. It's been a long journey getting here, and it's hard not to feel a little nostalgic.
For Olin's graduating class of 2015, the story starts four or five years ago, in 2011 for some, 2010 for others. Twelve students graduating this year initially enrolled after taking a gap year. More joined the class after taking semesters off over the course of their time at Olin. It was a time of upheaval - due to the financial crash, the scholarship had been dialed back from full- to half-tuition. They were joining a student body that had just barely been at Olin concurrent with someone who had been at Olin concurrent with the original partners (who founded the honor code and set the culture). '06 to '09, '09 to '12, and '12 to '15. All this matters a great deal when the community is looking at them to see how you are going to contribute to the student body, though they didn't know it yet.
They arrived in the Fall of 2011, fresh-faced and eager. They were ready to, as the Honor Code they signed mandates, 'Do Something.'
Preparing to become exemplary engineering innovators who recognize needs, design solutions and engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world.
Since then, members of this class have revolutionized academic teams, founded social justice programs, earned outstanding accolades, started businesses, and led conversations that have shaped the way this college operates at every level. Without a doubt, they stepped up to the challenge of 'leaving their mark', and knocked it out of the park. Olin's buildings may have been built long before the class of 2015 arrived. But our tiny college is still very much under construction, and it's every Oliner's privilege to have an impact.
Things have gotten super busy since my last post! I'm still working at the dry cleaner, but now in addition I have lots of extra stuff too.
I recently started volunteering at my local Red Cross Blood Donation center and the Rochester Museum and Science Center on the weekends. Volunteering was something that I didn't have much time for in high school, so I wanted to use my gap year as an opportunity to start. Although it often means I have to get up early on Saturdays, I really enjoy meeting new people through these jobs, and it feels nice to know that I am helping my community in a small way.
I'm also taking a couple iof evening classes at my community college, MCC. When I decided to take classes, I wanted to choose ones that I could get something useful out of that also had nothing to do with engineering. The two courses I decided on were ASL101 (American Sign Language) and Public Speaking.
I liked the idea of taking ASL because I wanted to take a language this year. I was originally going to take French, but the level that I wanted to take was not available for the spring semester. ASL appealed to me because it is a very different kind of language than written ones. I really enjoy the immersion approach that my professor uses too. We are not allowed to speak while class is in session. Instead, we have to use signs and notes to communicate. As well as learning the language, I feel like I am learning to take myself a little less seriously because it is important to use facial expressions as well as signs to convey meaning in ASL. Some of the facial expressions feel strange or forced when you first try them, but it is important to be able to laugh at yourself if you do it wrong and to relax.
Public Speaking is probably my favorite of the two courses. I can be pretty shy, so speaking in front of a group is challenging. I get nervous and shaky when I have to present to a large group, so I decided to take this class to improve and gain confidence. I have already learned to relax more in front of a group, and I am learning a lot about the preparation and hard work that goes into presenting a great speech. The best part, however, is listening to my classmates share their stories on speech day. Their speeches range from funny to sad to inspiring, and I love listening to every single one of them.
Through public speaking, I found out about the Otis Young Motivational Speak-off, which is a speech contest held in the spring. Current and former students who took Public Speaking at MCC are able to audition for an honors competitive speaking course that prepares them for the speak-off. I auditioned recently and was offered a place in the class, so I am super excited to start! Although I would love to win, I am most looking forward to further sharpening my speaking skills. Hopefully I'll be a pro by the time I get to Olin!
Another pretty major thing is that I got to go to Candidates Weekend last month! It was so much fun! I got to meet some awesome students and candidates as well as get to hang out with a couple fellow gappies, Matthew and Duncan. I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to go and share my gap year experience. Candidates Weekend when I was a candidate was one of the best weekends I had last year, and it was just as great this year to attend as a gappie. I wish all the candidates the best of luck as letters from colleges start to come in! Visiting Olin for the weekend has made me even more impatient to go!