It's always surprising, and sometimes slightly uncomfortable, to rediscover that feeling of having nothing, in particular, to do over a long break. I usually respond by making lists of things I've been wanting to do but haven't been able to. Right now that list includes quite a few books to read and a mandate to myself to write this post, among other things. What usually ends up occupying my time is sleep and spending time with friends and family.
The end of the semester is always busy. Here are a few things that took more of my time than others:
Hip hop dancing. Ten other students and I did a Passionate Pursuit in hip hop dance this semester. Passionate Pursuits can get up to 3 non-degree credit hours and a certain amount of funding from the school. Our Passionate Pursuit was 1 credit hour and involved an hour-long lesson each week from a hip hop instructor/student at Babson College, as well as additional practice on our own or in a group. We spent most of the time learning choreography to parts of three different hip hop songs of our choosing. At the end of the semester, we performed at an event called Night of Passion (specifically for Passionate Pursuits to show off what they had been working on). A lot of time near the end was devoted to practicing the choreography, coming up with outfit ideas for the performance, creating transitions between the songs, and helping each other with particular moves. None of us had specifically learned hip hop dancing before. The performance went well--we had fun, at least, and I think the audience was surprised to see it.
Exams and final deliverables. Two of my classes--Probability & Statistics and Dynamics--had timed, in-class final exams. Studying for and worrying about these tests took much time and energy the last couple of weeks of class. Another one of my classes--Transport Phenomena--had the option of either a final exam or a final portfolio. I chose to do the portfolio, which consisted of pulling together all my graded assignments for that class and fixing mistakes, connecting them to the course measurable outcomes, and reflecting on what had been easy, difficult, and what I would have done differently.
Expo. Short for Olin Exposition, a multiple-day event during which students make a poster or give a presentation on something they've worked on during the semester. [There are usually other parts to Expo, such as informal presentations and in the spring, SCOPE Expo, but I won't go into those now]. We also dress up for our presentations, which is always interesting at a usually overly-casually-dressed college. For this Expo, I chose to make a poster on the topic of one of my Nonlinear Dynamics & Chaos papers, which analyzed the nonlinear dynamics of a simple model of an artificial neural network. I had enjoyed making the connections between the subjects covered in class and neuralnets.
I'm already looking forward to next semester, both as a chance to improve my study habits and because of the classes I'll be taking: User-Oriented Collaborative Design (UOCD), a requisite sophomore design class; Mechanics of Solids & Structures, a requisite MechE class; and Materials Science/Stuff of History, a really awesome integrated MatSci/History experience.