Campus Life vivian’s reflections

Love for the Charles River

the river that runs in my veins

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The Charles River on May 13th, 2023.
Vivian Hir–The Tech
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Sunrise at Harvard Bridge on January 19th, 2022.
Vivian Hir–The Tech
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Sunrise at Harvard Bridge on November 19th, 2023.
Vivian Hir–The Tech

If I had to choose my favorite thing about MIT, it would be the scenery around MIT’s campus. Although some buildings on our campus may not be aesthetically pleasing, overall MIT’s campus is quite special. Consider MIT’s proximity to the Charles River, which we take for granted at times. 

Some of us use Memorial Drive or Killian Court to get to daily classes. Finding a spot to enjoy the view of the river and the Boston skyline is as simple as sitting in Hayden Library or looking out the big windows in Lobby 10. Despite the stressful life that comes from having many assignments, just appreciating my natural surroundings is enough to make me feel grateful for being at MIT. 

For me, the first thought that comes to mind when I think of thankfulness isn’t necessarily about attending a prestigious university with famous professors and leading research. Rather, thankfulness is what I notice around me, whether it is peaceful sailboats on the Charles River or the blue water that shimmers on a sunny day. 

When I see the amazing scene in front of me, I first pause, take a deep breath, and then simply do nothing but savor the moment. I also experience this wonderful feeling on my runs along the Esplanade, focusing on what I like about the present: the fall colors, sunlight shining through the leaves, the pleasant breeze that is just right. 

My feelings of gratitude for MIT this semester may come from liking my classes more than the previous semesters. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I gained perspective while being abroad this summer, realizing that I am fortunate to live in a place with such a stunning backdrop; few people get to see this type of landscape in their everyday lives. 

I mean, where else will I get to see this spectacular view every day? While I acknowledge that I have had some of my lowest lows at MIT, I am honestly going to miss this place. I am sure that the places I will go after MIT have their unique treasures, but for some reason, the Charles River holds a special place in my heart. I have only been here for two years, but I already have accumulated an abundance of memories that I will treasure in the years to come. 

I still remember my first sunrise from the Harvard Bridge on a cold winter day in my freshman year during IAP. The entire sky was a blend of red, pink, and purple, vibrant colors that amazed me and took my breath away. I wondered how many sunrises I missed out on from not waking up early. 

My last sunrise was just as meaningful as the first one, but in a different way. Standing alone at Harvard Bridge on a Sunday morning in November, I watched the sunrise for over ten minutes. I first saw warm hues of yellow and orange at the horizon, which then slowly changed and expanded until they brightened the entire sky and overtook the traces of darkness. 

Besides the astonishing riverscape, what made this memory so enduring were the ripples. Observing the river’s ripples so closely was like seeing the river with a new pair of eyes. Despite the ever-changing grooves, there was a sense of calmness and stillness, the whole thing feeling cyclical. 

Focusing on the ripples’ rhythmic movements with such intensity made me enter a Zen state of mind, a sensation that I rarely experienced in my life. The mindfulness exercise reminded me of how my body needs more silence and solitude instead of more sound and company. 

My fond memories of the Charles River not only revolve around the awe-inspiring setting, but also the time I spent with others there — sailing with other orientation leaders, showing my friend from Duke the Boston skyline at night, the list goes on. But the memory that stands out the most is that fine afternoon in mid-May with my first date.

We first went to the Hokusai exhibition in the MFA, then ate a late lunch at the charming Café Sauvage. After our meal, we walked across the Harvard Bridge, enjoying the warm 70-degree weather and how blue the sky was, with wisps of clouds in the background. After crossing the bridge, we kept walking along Memorial Drive until I suggested we sit together on a green bench to admire the view. 

But deep down, my purpose was to confess my feelings for him. I said what I wanted to say, and he confessed in return. What followed was one of the most intimate and deep conversations of my life. Looking back, the memory feels like a movie, the two of us being vulnerable, revealing our true thoughts with the Charles River in the background.

I can’t wait to have more experiences like these in the future, from watching more sunsets to seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July. Sometimes, however, I worry about how I’ll get through the much more difficult and busier semester ahead of me. Would my gratitude for where I am, or my gratitude in general, be enough to carry me through hard times? I don’t know. 

What I can do, however, is make an active effort to cherish the small things in life that are sometimes overlooked, from the gorgeous sunsets to the warmth of French House dinners. Doing so will remind me that despite how difficult life can be, some aspects of life are undeniably beautiful and still worth living for. Because with every sunrise, there is the opportunity to start the new day better than before.