Campus & Community

The daily life of a first-year

Caitlin Beirne feels ‘super thrilled’ despite unconventional start to College

5 min read
Caitlin Beirne.

Photos by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Caitlin Beirne is living in Mather House as a first-year, “super thrilled and thankful” to be on campus this semester. The Long Island native plans to concentrate in Theater, Dance & Media and is part of the dual-degree program with Berklee College of Music. She is also a cadet in Air Force ROTC at MIT. Beirne kept a journal for two days in October to give the Gazette a glimpse of campus life in these strange, uncertain, and sometimes wonderful times.


7 a.m.

About three times per week, I wake up at 6:45 a.m., for my Air Force ROTC workout. Due to COVID-19, our physical training (PT) looks a little different than normal. We have the option of attending synchronous Zoom workouts or completing them on our own. I normally do my own or do it (socially distant!) with fellow cadets. Each week, we have a different PT assignment. This week is cardio and a mock Air Force fitness assessment. This morning, I did the cardio workout, and it felt so great to get up and move after a long weekend! On Tuesdays, we also have “Aerospace Studies” (AS100) and “Leadership Lab” (LLAB) at MIT. AS100 is a virtual classroom course for first-years, where we learn about the history of the military, mission of the Air Force, professionalism, and how to begin our journeys toward commissioning as military officers. LLAB is a hands-on, interactive, online course where upperclassmen cadets teach and lead us and sophomore cadets in leadership activities, military briefings, Air Force drill, and more.

9:30 a.m.

College dining is definitely different during COVID-19 times. For meals, I go to Mather dining hall to pick up my food. Food is served in prepackaged and individual containers. We have a few options for entrees, salads/soups, sides, snacks, drinks, and desserts. The HUDS staff works so hard to make sure we have delicious food, and I am very grateful. Today, I ate cereal with milk for breakfast, grilled chicken with fruit, yogurt, and applesauce for lunch, and I finished the night off with some chicken parmesan. I also had some pretzels and fruit for snacks. The dining plan here is unlimited, so we are allowed to take food back to our rooms for snacks later.

5 p.m.

I am a member of University Choir, or UChoir! We rehearse once per week and work on material for our virtual Christmas carols! We learn the carols during Zoom rehearsals, then each member records their part on our own and sends them to the director. I sing soprano and am currently working on recording [Mark A.] Miller’s “Christ is Born” and [Daniel] Pinkham’s “Evergreen.” Our director and members of a tech team collaborate and work to assemble each choir member’s recordings! I am so excited to see the final product at Christmas.

10:20 p.m.

There is still theater happening during the pandemic! I am currently in a Zoom production of “Jack and the Beanstalk: A Musical Adventure”! It is a musical written by Julia Riew ’21 (with orchestrations by undergrad Ian Chan ’22), directed by Rebecca Aparicio and is being produced by The A.R.T. I am so thrilled to be playing the Storyteller, a musical enchantress who is the ultimate ruler of Storyland. We have rehearsals five days per week (hours vary depending on the day) and are recording a cast album and the musical in the coming weeks! This family show will be aired around Thanksgiving.

Caitlin Beirne.
A cardio workout is often part of the morning routine.


10:30 a.m.

This year, I am studying Arabic. So far, I am really enjoying the online course. It is amazing to see how much my classmates, and I know after just a few short weeks. The class meets each day for an hour, and we speak, write, listen, and read in Arabic. We are currently learning about family, origin, and description. It is very interesting to learn this language and about a new culture!

3 p.m.

I am taking a freshman seminar called “Skin, Our Largest, Hottest, and Coolest Organ: From Cancer to Cosmetics.” My freshman seminar is taught by Dr. David Fisher [Edward Wigglesworth Professor of Dermatology, Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School], and each week we learn about a different topic related to the skin. My peers and I do research before class and present on our assigned topics. This week I presented on the different forms of hair loss and their symptoms, causes, and effects.


I go to bed around midnight every night after finishing homework and participating in my extracurricular activities. Right before bed, I organize myself for the next day of classes and events. I love staying organized with my colored pens and planner, and I spend a few minutes on my phone catching up with my friends before I get a good night’s sleep.