After my most stressful week of finals yet (complete with a term philosophy paper, final project, two sit-down exams, and one take-home), I was ready for a break. I rather spontaneously decided to spend a week visiting my childhood friend, Kian, at Olin College of Engineering.

Kian (the guy in the pink shirt below), Urtaj (the guy in the blue shirt below), and I have been friends for 8+ years now. I met Kian even before I met Urtaj, on my first day of 5th grade. Ms. Gilchrist asked Kian to show me where to hang my backpack and the rest is history! Because we go to school in different states, I only get to see Kian during breaks and that too when he isn’t busy traveling with family or visiting relatives in Austin. Having finished sophomore year by the first week of May, like any good friends, Urtaj and I scheduled our trip during Kian's finals period. We left him on his last day of exams, so our timing was perfect.

The original squad: me, Kian, and Urtaj.

My goal for the trip was to relax. Rather than visiting every tourist attraction, I wanted to spend time with Kian, check-out his school, meet his friends, and casually explore Boston. I did all that and more.

I arrived on the night of a party. Kian’s 4E hallway throws events 2-3 times a semester and this was the last official gathering before Senior Week. Most of Kian’s friends lived on his hall, so I got to meet many new people. I would continue bonding with them as the week progressed. My favorite memory of my first night was long after people had left for bed. In typical college fashion, we were all up talking about life in Lucky and Nate’s room. Right before crashing for the night, we all hung on their loft. It was almost time for moving-out, so before tearing down the wood, they were curious to see if their design could hold all our weight. Olin is an engineering school after all. While hanging on those bars, even though I had only been on campus for a few hours, I felt like I was making connections.

In my opinion, building a loft is one of the coolest freedoms at Olin. At Rice, if we scratch the walls or use nails or card the doors, we get slapped with hefty fines. On the contrary, students at Olin are encouraged to use their classroom learning in the real world. They can take wood and build as they desire, so long as they take everything down once the year is over.

After taking a day off to catch up on sleep, I took the T to Cambridge. It was a special Sunday spring festival, so Harvard Square was packed with food and shops. The roads were blocked out for pedestrians and there was a cool mariachi band performing on a stage nearby. I made my way to Harvard Yard and winced as I saw tourists posing while grabbing the shoe of John Harvard’s statue (it’s peed on frequently if you didn’t know). After taking some basic photos, I started walking towards MIT. A few T stops later, I was near the harbor. There was a nice breeze and I remembered the hot and humid weather I had left behind in Houston. It was pleasant to breathe such crisp, fresh air. After stopping by the famous MIT dome, I headed back to Olin.

The famous MIT dome.

I made one more trip to the city – specifically to North End or Little Italy. I borrowed Kian’s longboard and decided to explore on 4 wheels. The streets were hilly and packed with restaurants and bakeries. After lunch, I tried a chocolate-chip cannoli and it was pretty good – though I still don’t get the hype. For the rest of the day, I boarded around the city, shopped at thrift stores, grabbed drinks at local cafes, and did my best to just take it all in.

The beautiful Boston harbor.

The rest of my days were lazy and thankfully sunny. I played a lot of frisbee (and even a 9-hole disk-golf course) and rested in outdoor hammocks. Olin’s campus is very small but colorful. While I was there, the trees were a beautiful array of reds, whites, and greens. People were picnicking and tanning on the grass and eating outside whenever possible. I constantly felt like I was part of a brochure photo-shoot.

I also wandered around Olin’s Academic Center where all classes are taught. It was finals week, so students were busy finishing their projects. I decided to embrace the hands-on engineering and clean out Kian’s longboard. I was amazed at the caliber of work around me. From complex circuitry to fully functioning boats and planes, it was hard to believe these prototypes were done by college students.

Everyone I met at Olin was amazing and friendly and so driven. I even ended up talking to some people that were going to intern in Seattle. Boston was a historic, yet lively city with a lot of culture. It lacked the urgency of New York which was refreshing. I honestly need to do this more often – just take a flight and visit friends and new cities. It's cheap, rewarding, and so much fun!