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A Place by Amber V. '24

happy thoughts on East Campus

The last week and some are a blur, a long, joyous drink of EC. When I read the old blogs, the ones before my time (even those written by people I know now), they glow with a sense of MIT, and particularly East Campus, which I can grasp for but never quite reach. 

I’m trying to reach it now. I’m living in it.

That glow is strongest around EC. It’s in the way people gather in the courtyard to build a giant fort, three stories tall, which overlooked the REX events. It’s in the way we dress, everyone sporting Rush T-shirts from years past; on the back of each shirt is the text THE WEAK SHALL BE EATEN. 

REX felt like CPW from 2019, when I went before I gapped, except that then I did not realize how much I would come to love EC. This time? I barely left. There was hair dyeing, which I observed but did not participate in. I swung on a rope swing and stacked milk crates while someone belayed me, as the tower of crates went nine, ten feet high. I burned my mouth at a tasting of ghost pepper sauce (I said it “wasn’t too bad” thirty seconds before it hit). We were apparently sponsored by Monster, there were flats of it in Talbot01 the main entry to EC , and that marketing worked: I’m hooked.02 and giving them free advertising on the blogs now There was a water war, waged with water balloons, spray guns, and giant buckets. I got soaked. There were the famed Rushburgers.03 normal burgers cooked on EC’s very own grills, iconic for being there every single day of Rush. I ate more cheeseburgers this week than I had all year.

That does not capture East Campus. The list of REX events give you a sense of MIT, but only that: a sense. And now that classes are starting, everyone’s focus is shifting. EC is here and I’m living in it, but it’s a little more normal. REX as a wide-eyed newbie was good and now is gone.

What makes a place? If you were plopped down in a medieval castle, you would notice the smell and the scratch of wool clothing before you tasted the food, fresh off the vine because there’s no way to store it, or saw the stars, bright and deep in an unpolluted sky.

When I was here as a high school senior, I was struck by the murals. They were bold and explosive and seemed overwhelming. I was — honestly? — off-put by how alt the culture was. I remember thinking that I would participate in it — I wanted to participate in it — and that doing so would make participating in everything outside of EC a bit harder. 

That was two years ago. I realized later on that I did want this. And honestly? It’s a breath of fresh air. As Nisha’s blog mentions, “conform to non-conformity” is graffitied on the basement walls. I am doing just that, except it’s not conforming so much as stepping into myself. This self has always been waiting. Other frosh and sophomores are exploring, too, finding sides of themselves that perhaps hadn’t emerged in the same way before.

I’m looking through my journal from early Rush and it’s an excited list of names, keeping track of the people I met and the ones I want to get to know better. Some of them I already know better than I did last week.

I’m drinking up the history, the culture of this place. It feels like a novel, and us the ragtag protagonists at the edge of a precipice, reviving traditions that may not be the same, keeping something alive through tumultuous times. Some of the people here feel like protagonists, with their uniquely curated fashions and their passions for things like fire-spinning, or making, or art. 

I’m not sure if this blog makes anything about EC more clear than it was before. Fortunately I’m just one of a long tradition of bloggers writing about EC, and perhaps, across the years, some of us got it right.

Or we haven’t, not quite, and so we’ll keep reaching.

  1. the main entry to EC back to text
  2. and giving them free advertising on the blogs now back to text
  3. normal burgers cooked on EC’s very own grills, iconic for being there every single day of Rush. I ate more cheeseburgers this week than I had all year. back to text