On June 14th, I began my journey to MIT. I packed all my clothes, memorabilia, and snacks for college away in my mom’s Kia Rio as the dynamic duo set off on a cross-country road-trip. I was leaving that early because I was selected as one of the seventy members of Interphase EDGE that is run through MIT’s Office of Minority Education (OME). That being said, as some people see it, I signed up for a preview of hell to replace my last carefree summer in Cape Coma.
After a week of I-95 mayhem, I walked into Maseeh Hall, where I awkwardly approached the wrong desk to check-in. I had a cartful of crap spilling over the sides, that I was desperately trying to keep from crashing down. Long story short, stuff did come crashing down… right in the lobby, making the scene I had so dreaded. It was the picture perfect start to ease my wave of nerves and angst, for what was to come.
Coming into MIT, I never really considered myself introverted. I always found myself leading conversations. However, when I arrived here, I was almost mute. As a matter of fact, one of the communications sections during Interphase EDGE made my elusive appearance into a fictional superhero of sorts because half of the people didn’t even know I was part of the cohort. The next day, my roommate Uriel, and some others came up to me saying I had to prove my existence. Over time, I came out of my shell. I started talking more, creeping in and out of the lounges in a way that was considered “eerie” by Sam, took on a “summer father” role to Fidelia, and really started to acquire some amazing friends that I see on the daily. I say all that because I know a lot of people here are like me in that sense. It is intimidating coming into this place not knowing anyone. What is great is you can bring yourself into this place socially at your own pace. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I called my mom in the beginning saying, “well y’know, I mean, I kinda talked to people,” and now, calling and describing the spontaneous soccer games that my friends and I played, or trips to Boston Burger Company I went on (which is amazing by the way).
Anyway, the program itself is a two-year academic excellence program that the Office of Minority Education (OME) runs. The largest, and most intensive, portion is during the summer before your first semester at MIT. Contrary to what one may believe from the name, the office itself is open to everyone. They truly make you feel welcome. I come from a single-parent household as a first generation college student, but there are people in the cohort from just about every social class and of every race or ethnicity. It is a unique mix that ended up being a big family in the end with an abundant sense of unity.
During the summer portion, the OME simulates a semester at MIT. You take Chemistry, Physics, Math, Communications, and even a P.E. class. I took Tsegball, and I have no regrets. It is an awesome combination of ultimate frisbee, basketball, and probably some other sports that culminate into that interesting fast-paced game. You complete the dreaded problem sets, attend class with interesting professors, take the beloved swim test, and have time to explore Boston. There even is mandatory fun! I know it sounds weird, but take my word for it, you will extremely appreciate it. It is so easy to get caught up in the world of academics that you can forget that your body needs and deserves that break to relax.
What really made Interphase EDGE such a valuable experience to me can be summed up by the word opportunity. Although the classes get you mentally prepared, the problem sets get you thinking in a collaborative manner, and the exams humble you to accept that you can always improve, the largest takeaway I got out of the program are relationships with my peers and pathways that will last long into the future. My closest friends at the moment are Uriel, my roommate, and Pedro, who lived down the hall. The UROP I started was with an interesting research scientist that taught my Chemistry 3 section, and my inspiration for applying to be a blogger came through seeing the difference that sharing one’s stories and life experiences can have on everyone involved. We had a talent show, BBQs, even a song written by one of our own, Tema, and opportunities to meet with some amazing companies like Microsoft all for FREE. What the OME has done for me to prepare for my first week here as I write this on the day-of-classes-starting eve, is such a blessing.
All that being said, I could not think of a better way of introducing myself than by highlighting the amazing experience that began at MIT even before my first class. I am going into tomorrow with a sense of comfortability and excitement in part from the great the staff of DiOnetta, Somiya, Lilen, Isabel, and Greg at the OME, and I hope that next summer you can be part of the next cohort!
Well, that was much longer than I intended my first blog post to be. I better try to sleep now. It is 10:30, and I am making a new school year’s resolution to get eight hours of sleep. Cheers to the school year!