‘Welcome to MIT’

Lessons From Freshman Year

When I woke up one morning before the week of finals, I was appalled to discover bags under my eyes. Wailing, I clutched at the mirror and proclaimed aloud, “Look at how MIT has aged me!” When I told my friends my story, they merely looked at me, bleary-eyed, and one of them fixed me with a raccoon-ringed gaze: “Welcome to MIT.”

All rumors and myths aside, I’ve discovered that the motto “IHTFP” really could not be more suitable. I’ve had my fair share of frantic psetting at 3 a.m., trying to spit out HASS papers on the economic structure of manorial systems, but I think what carried me through was the fact that others around me faced equally daunting plights. It sounds a bit terrible, but suffering together is much more satisfying torture than suffering alone. It’s almost like one has a complete community of like-minded folks — one could even call it a support system.

There are highs and lows throughout the day and many moments that made me wonder if I had chosen MIT for purely masochistic reasons. But when I gazed at all the other 8.02 students at 9 a.m. glaring grumpily at the smart boards, I was glad that at least I was not the only masochist.

The weekend before my freshman spring finals, I was overcome by what seemed to be a taxing cold but later turned out to be bronchitis. Thinking that it was merely a severe form of the common cold, I was besieged by the most extreme symptoms — I had a congested nose, I coughed up phlegm every few minutes, and I sneezed an obscene number of times in a row. Needless to say, I was miserable.

I think that it is in our dark times that we realize who really cares about us and we discover the best about those around us. In my case, my illness only underscored the warmth of the MIT community. Friends sympathetically offered any cures that they knew — from advice on whether to take Dayquil or Tylenol Cold to offering me their own stash of Ban Lan Gen, a highly detoxifying Chinese herbal drink. After one of my roommate’s friends discovered I was sick, she sacrificed her 8.02 studying to bring me a care basket with five varieties of soup and a get-well card. It was moments like these that made me realize how closely connected the MIT community is.

During the week after finals, as I lay on my porch immersed in nothingness (an activity that is impossible to partake in during the busy times of the school year), I realized that, while I relished in my more carefree lifestyle, a part of me secretly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the MIT collegiate life. What I hope will translate from summer to fall is the ability to find time for myself and my personal hobbies. While I thoroughly enjoy the company of my friends and my psetting groups, I feel that, especially second semester freshman year, I lost a lot of my hobbies and interests. Fast paced and oft-tumultuous, MIT not only left me with few blocks of true free time, it also rendered me incapable of accomplishing much in my alone time aside from sleeping. My passion for extracurricular activities, and not necessarily school-related ones, seemed to be unsustainable given the pressures I faced. The MIT community makes admirable attempts at reaching out to students and pushing them to pursue their passions; however, it is also important to realize that these passions do not necessarily involve being in a particular club or competition, but can and should sometimes be done for the sake of only personal gratification.

After my first year, I’ve realized that, to fully immerse oneself in the MIT experience, one must immerse themselves in the community without losing one’s personal identity. Being involved is important, but doing things that make you happy is just as crucial.