Campus Life reflections

MIT, in a box

As the memories and possessions accrued, MIT gradually became home

I arrived at the Institute in August of 2009 with two suitcases, a backpack, and a lot of enthusiasm. I was eager to begin my college life — to stay up absurdly late, make friends while psetting, have a swank dorm room, be independent etc. — and I had arrived at school early to participate in my Freshman Pre-Orientation Program (FPOP), the Freshman Arts Program.

After unpacking, I remember staring at my barren room and thinking it still looked sadly empty. Envious of the cozy appearance of the seniors’ rooms on my hall, I spent much of my freshman year obsessively watching “reuse” (an email list dedicated to giving away free items) and creating what I thought was the perfect, homey room in my little single in East Campus.

During those first few months I was still baffled as to how I tricked admissions into letting me into the school in the first place. It was during that tender time that I joined The Tech and wrote my first article ­— a campus life column just like this one, but one comprised of my thoughts upon just coming to MIT as opposed to getting ready to leave it.

By that article’s publication on September 4, 2009, I had already been stunned by MIT’s diversity, impressed by the intelligence and creativity of its students, and experienced walking down the Infinite at the wee hours of the morning (something I have repeated over a thousand times since). I had just been through MIT’s incredible REX, finished my FPOP, and met some of the finest individuals I had ever encountered, many of whom I will have the pleasure of calling friends for the rest of my life.

That column expressed my shock at how students just a few years older than me were capable of such cool inventions — from the East Campus rollercoaster to a variety of homebuilt Course 6 gadgets. And today, when I walk with this wonderful crowd into Killian Court, I continue to be shocked at the ingenuity of MIT students, though now the undergraduates are all my juniors.

Four years later, my homey room probably boasts more stuff than the average 25 year old’s studio apartment. Like many of the others who will be sitting with me today, I was horrified at the collection of detritus that managed to accumulate in my room. After spending hours slogging through clutter in my room, I sent my final email to reuse, begging students to come claim things.

As I watched dozens of underclassmen come to cart away their new loot, I realized a couple of important things.

The first was that you probably shouldn’t grab everything that looks appealing on reuse, because trying to move four years worth of junk is a nightmare. The second was that many of the items I had put outside were ones I had picked up from reuse, years ago, and they had slowly become my own through time.

In the fall of 2009, I wrote that MIT 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.” I lauded MIT as a supposed “school of geniuses,” and though I did feel happy at the time, I was still beset by insecurity as a freshman and often felt I did not belong.

I was worried, but 8 semesters later I realize that MIT isn’t just for “geniuses” or any of the other stereotypes we associate with our school. I first saw MIT as something foreign — something that wasn’t for me — but the past four years have shown me otherwise. MIT is for me, it’s for all of us. It’s an incredibly special place where you can be surrounded by some of the most motivated and intelligent people on the planet, a place where you can learn from incredible faculty, and it’s a place I will miss dearly.

I’ve had my late nights, completed all of my psets, and done all but 27 of the things listed in the 101 Things to Do Before You Graduate (a poster I discovered only after dumping about 50 pounds of paper from my desk). Today I have the honor of finishing one more of them, along with the rest of the Class of 2013.

To my friends and classmates, congratulations. We’re done!