How My MIT Interview Went
A True Story
on Jan 28, 2019
As I have said before in this blog of mine, I developed a desire to pursue my undergraduate studies abroad when I was in Starehe Institute in 2006. That year when I made up my mind to apply to MIT, my plan was to finish the diploma I was pursuing in Starehe Institute in mid-2007 and then fly to America for my undergraduate degree.
Along with sitting for SAT exams and submitting some other necessary documents, applying to MIT required that I have an interview with one of its alumni in my area. I was assigned to be interviewed by a gentleman called Eston Kimani who had graduated from MIT the previous year; in 2005, that is. Prior to the interview, I learnt from a friend who was also applying to MIT that Eston Kimani was an old boy of Starehe where I was pursuing my diploma.
When MIT assigned Eston Kimani to interview me, I contacted him via email. And through it, we arranged that we would have the interview in the evening of a date I have forgotten at Java Coffee House on Koinange Street in down-town Nairobi. He emailed me his phone number in case I needed to reach him quickly.
Back then in 2006, I had noted that I had days when I felt happy and clear-headed and other days when I felt dull and confused. Because I really wanted the day I was to be interviewed by Eston Kimani to be one of those I felt happy and clear-headed so that I could make a good impression, I went to Koinange Street a day or two before the interview to confirm the exact location of Java Coffee House.
But alas! When the time of interview reached and headed for Koinange Street, I learnt that the Java Coffee House I had visited a day or two before was not where we were to have the interview. Eston Kimani was waiting for me in another Java Coffee House. I quickly asked for its direction and arrived there five or ten minutes late.
To tell you the truth, it had been my wish to be punctual for the interview but the mix-up on which Java Coffee House on Koinange Street where we were to have the interview made me a bit late. And contrary to my wish, I didn't feel as happy and clear-headed as I would have loved to be during the interview.
Before we began the interview, a waiter of the coffee house came to ask me what I wanted for a drink of which Eston Kimani was to pay. She asked me about it using some jargon I didn't understand, like whether I wanted my coffee black or white. But I pretended to know what she was talking about. And guess what! The answers I gave led the waiter to bring me a cup of coffee without milk and sugar; it tasted awful in my mouth but I had no choice but to endure it stoically. My ignorance made me miss an opportunity to order a paid-for hot cup of cappuccino.
When the interview began, Eston Kimani asked me a number of questions most of which I have forgotten. I only remember three of them. Let me tell you of two. Only two.
The first was on the challenges we face while working in a team. I told him that it is members of a team having conflicting opinions, something I had witnessed at Starehe Institute when I co-founded an educational website with my classmates Stephen Mutevu and Kennedy Munene.
The other question I will tell you that Eston Kimani asked me is from whom I drew inspiration. I told him it was Albert Einstein, the famous particle physicist and the greatest genius who ever lived. I went ahead to explain to him why I admired Einstein. Looking back, I think it was wise of me to mention Einstein in an interview for MIT bearing in mind that the university is the world's premier institute in science, technology, engineering and math.
Aside from asking me questions, Eston Kimani also gave me an opportunity to learn more about MIT from him. One of the questions I asked him was whether people at MIT smoke and drink. He told me some do. That time, I used to view smokers and drinkers with a jaundiced eye but I have come to soften on that view after realizing that not everyone who smokes and drinks is a bad person, just like the way not everyone who goes to church is a good person.
As I continued inquiring more about MIT, Eston Kimani made it known to me that I had to be among the top students at Starehe to survive in MIT, and that every graduating student of MIT has at least three jobs waiting for him.
Oh, Eston Kimani also shared with me a little info about himself, like his exemplary score in the SAT exams. He told me he was then working for the World Bank and his plan was to work for a few years and then go back to the university to pursue an MBA. And if my memory serves me well, I recall him telling me that he was also trying to start a company.
And my dear reader, that's how my MIT interview went. I hope you have enjoyed my side of the story, have you?
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on how my MIT interview went like and are curious to know what became of my application to MIT, then I recommend that you read a story I wrote sometimes back on "My First Major Setback". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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The Careers I Will Pursue
A True Story
on Jan 15, 2019
In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that we only succeed at something we have practised for 10,000 hours. As to how Gladwell came up with that figure is something I am yet to understand. Perhaps he was trying to imitate Jesus.
You see, the apostle Peter once asked Jesus how many times we should forgive our brothers. He replied "seventy times seven times" which equals four hundred and ninety times. I think Jesus came up with that big number because he knew if we started counting the sins our brothers committed against us, we would get bored of counting by the time we reached like the 35th sin and just decide to forgive as many times as possible. Or maybe Jesus was smart enough to know that by the time we forgave our brothers for like the 52nd time, they would have already turned into good men.
Coming back to Malcom Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule of success, I tend to believe him even though I am yet to understand how he came up with that number. Ask anyone who has genuinely succeeded in any career and he will confide in you that he did spend a considerable amount of time honing his skills. You can't start playing football at age 21 and expect to play in a FIFA World Cup. That's next to impossibility as Chinua Achebe would put it. All successful footballers start playing the game earlier on in their childhood years.
Actually, in addition to the two reasons I pointed out in my previous story in this blog, Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour-rule is another reason I gave up politics because I have never had any experience in politics ever since I was a boy. Not even when I was in school.
After reflecting on my life so far, I have figured out the areas I have spent quite some time of my life working on them. They are music, farming, public-speaking and writing. Let me tell you briefly about how I came to hone my skills in those areas.
As of music, I first started playing the piano when I was nine under the tutelage of a brilliant and dedicated seminarian named Br. Peter Assenga. Then I continued honing my skills on the piano at Starehe Boys' Centre where I developed the confidence to play the instrument in front of an audience. I still do play the piano.
As of farming, I grew up in a family in which I was expected to take part in such chores as weeding, planting and harvesting beans, maize and vegetables as well as grazing, feeding and milking cows. Now that I have fallen in love with nature, I am looking forward to doing some farming when I own a piece of land, God willing.
As of public-speaking, I first gave a speech when I was ten - not to a real audience but to columns of desk in an empty classroom. I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Then I had the luck of speaking to a real audience at Starehe Boys' Centre where I gave speeches right from when I was in Form 1 to when I was in my final year in college at the school. I haven't had many opportunities to hone my public-speaking skills since I left Starehe but I am still looking forward to becoming a renowned charismatic and eloquent speaker.
As of writing, I first began penning articles for my father when I was eight. But it's only until in recent years that I have taken up writing seriously as a tool for developing mental clarity. This blog is a sufficient proof of that effort. I have come to love writing for the joy it gives me when I post in this blog a story I think is great and someone out there appreciates it.
Bill Clinton wrote in his autobiography that choosing a career is like choosing a wife from ten girlfriends; even if you choose the most beautiful and the most intelligent, there is always the pain of losing the other nine. For me, writing is all those other nine girlfriends rolled into one.
Yes, those are the talents I have developed over the years. I am therefore firmly convinced that God intended me for the tranquil pursuit of a career in music, farming, public-speaking and writing by availing for me opportunities to develop those talents and by making them my supreme delight.