As I reached the last week of a four-week data analytics program from MIT called Beaver Works Summer Institute, I was in the middle of preparing my final research project—screening mental health from vocal recordings using signals processing and machine learning—when I got a text from my friend.
So as I faced the first weekend in August, I was met with two very different ways to spend it: a final presentation marking the culmination of four weeks of data science research, or a trip with my friends to New York City, which also happened to be the site of Kendrick Lamar’s next concert. Naturally, I chose both.
The six-hour bus ride to New York was spent staring at my computer screen, fighting off the effects of motion sickness and lethargy, and struggling with bus wifi as I attempted to communicate with my team over zoom. Nevertheless, we finished our final presentation just in time for New York, and the bus ride was almost made worth it by the Korean Barbecue I shared with my friends.
The next night, on the other hand, was a haze of energy and excitement—made slightly better by the fact that my friend was treating us to dinner at Carbone and VIP access to the concert. I will admit that as I descended into the stomach of Barclays Center, I was looking forward to the dinner even more than the concert. But however good the food was—and trust me, dry aged NY steak tastes even better when you’re not paying for it—walking into the stadium felt surreal. Walking backstage past rows of computers, control panels, and cameras ready to breathe life into the show, peeking out from the black curtain to reveal a breathtaking view of the stage where Kendrick himself would be standing hours later, looking up at hundreds of rows of seating—then empty but later filled with thousands of cheering fans—the world felt surreal. Hours later, I would be jumping with my friends on the ground floor, the bass replacing my own heart beat, strobe lights flashing in my eyes, and Kendrick rapping some of my favorite songs just meters away—life felt surreal.
It was a slight shock back to reality taking the four-hour drive back home, in order to make it in time for my presentation the next morning. But despite missing the next two days of New York with my friends, despite four hours of sleep and ten hours on the road for two minutes of speaking the next day, those twenty-four hours in NYC made it all worth it.