Campus Life

Not All White, Still All Nerdy

MIT never seemed like a feasible option for college for me. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was something for Nobel Laureates, audio company founders, renowned architects, and Iron Man. Not for me, someone who applied to MIT without any expectation of acceptance whatsoever.

Though I’ve already been on campus for two weeks for my FPOP and for orientation, every time I walk through the Infinite I still get freaked out. It’s difficult for me to realize that this world–famous school is actually home for me now. How did I end up here? How am I even on the East Coast? Walking down Memorial Drive the other day, I was momentarily surprised when I saw a sign directing me to Boston instead of my home city — San Francisco. In addition to the major location change, it’s also difficult for me to realize that school itself is home now. As someone who has always attended day school, strolling through the halls at 1:00 a.m. feels off.

At the moment, MIT feels more like summer camp than anything else. I’ve wandered hall to hall, eating free food, shaking hands and staying up as late as I like without any responsibilities. Underneath the camp-like façade of REX, I’ve heard the whispers of upperclassmen about how orientation is a lie, but it hasn’t quite sunken in yet. Thus far, the combination of FPOPs and Orientation has been just like any summer camp, except it’s a summer camp full of incredibly smart and talented people.

I’ll admit it — due to the media and some negative input from teachers in my very liberal-artsy high school, I thought MIT was going to be nothing but nerds a la Weird Al. Happily, I was wrong. Through FAP (the Freshman Art Program FPOP) and REX, I was pleasantly surprised at just how many wonderful people attend MIT. Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve met a diverse array of people, from talented musicians and athletes to engineers who build things I cannot even fathom making.

Last Sunday, I was awed by the East Campus Pleasuredome — I couldn’t believe that the roller coaster, waterfall, and computer light setup were created entirely by people only marginally older than I am. I felt woefully useless as I watched the kids from my dorm assemble these rides. Monday, I was delighted to learn about Random Hall’s ability to teach chainmail-making classes while producing LN2 ice cream and running around on their roof with foam swords. Tuesday, I saw numerous dance troupes put the dance team at my high school to shame and then gladly teach basic dancing to such ungraceful freshmen as myself.

Rush has been a flurry of one amazing thing after another. Though I am constantly exhausted, seeing as I’m getting to bed later than ever (my floormates tell me I should get used to it), I am eager to get up in the morning to see just what MIT has in store for me. The students here have absolutely blown me away. They are an incredible group of people who are not only talented but extremely intelligent and very kind.

I’ve been warmly welcomed to all of the dorms that I’ve visited in the past week. All of the upperclassmen have been eager to show me their living space and tell me all about living at MIT. I’m quite grateful that I decided to attend a FPOP and be active during Orientation — it has really convinced me that MIT was the right choice for me. Initially, I was nervous about going to such a prestigious “school of geniuses,” but the students have been nothing but encouraging.

However, of all of the amazing things that I have witnessed in the past week, the one thing that stands out the most to me is perhaps something of a cliché. It’s one thing that my middle and high school constantly enjoyed sticking down students’ throats — diversity. Not just the diversity in race and sexual orientation that schools like to hype, but the diversity in people’s personalities, the way they dress and act. I got a taste of it at CPW, but the one thing MIT has proved to me in the past week has been that intelligence comes in many colors. Not everyone who is smart has to fit the nerd stereotype. Even though I always knew intellectually that these stereotypes were incorrect, it’s now been made clear to me on a far more visceral level. People of all sorts can be intelligent and intelligent people can do far more than just tool away on psets.

I suppose whether or not I’m up to that task remains to be seen.