Choice and the MIT lifestyle by Mollie B. '06
...because "MIT" and "student life" aren't mutually exclusive.
First, questions answered:
1. Many people wondered aloud how I was capable of doing a problem set in 45 minutes. Whoa there! I’m not that amazing (and actually I’m not sure it would have been possible even if I did happen to be amazing). Monday and Wednesday nights are usually dedicated 5.60 pset nights, so I had already worked on the pset for around 6 hours. On Thursday nights, I usually use hints obtained from my TA at Thursday recitation to revise problems or figure out problems I couldn’t do on my own. (Note that most people at MIT like to do psets in groups — it’s faster, less frustrating, and more fun. But I don’t know that many people in the class, so I do my psets on my own.)
2. Timur asked about water pressure in the dorms. I think that’s probably something that varies dorm-to-dorm, but I’m quite satisfied with water pressure in my shower. Any other bloggers care to complain/rave?
3. I should have stated this at the outset: although my “day in the life” was in fact a typical Tuesday or Thursday this semester (as in, every Tuesday/Thursday is like that), my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are a lot less crazy. This is by design — I like smushing a lot of my activities into a few days of the week, so I can enjoy my lazy days all the more. Fridays, for instance, I only have one lecture at 10 AM, then I’m free for the rest of the day.
Now, the last question, thanks to Vassko, has a more complicated answer. For those of you just tuning in, Vassko asked, “Do you guys get some time to go out into Boston, catch up with mates, go out on friday/saturday nights, or is the lifestyle mainly academia orientated?”
Now, the short answer to this question is yes, definitely. MIT students like to both “work hard and play hard”, and there’s quite an active social life on the weekends. There are about a zillion living groups at MIT, including some absurd number of fraternities; about half of freshman males pledged fraternities this fall. Parties are, of course, the standard college-issue parties with wildness and debauchery, although party themes often run to the creative — at some parties, you get a number, and people can write you messages and put them in the mailbox corresponding with your number, at others everyone gets blacklight markers and writes all over everyone else. There is a party every year which somehow involves goldfish, but for the life of me I have never been able to figure out what exactly the goldfish have to do with the party. Still, there are also the traditional toga parties and Boston Marathon parties and just plain frat parties.
Sidenote: Apparently there were several exciting Halloween parties last night and Friday night — the other cheerleaders were talking about them at practice. Isa dressed up like a bunch of grapes, while Robin dressed up like the orange Fanta girl. The only guy on the squad, Chris, dressed up like a robot, and was very disappointed when Robin visited his fraternity and failed to identify him as a robot. (Robin: “What? He just looked silver!”)
There are also the sorts of parties people tend to write about in the blogs — virgin sacrifice parties and apple parties and anything-but-clothes parties. D-entry, where I live, was thinking of having a “high school dance” party, where we’d all dress up and dance awkwardly to cheesy 80s music. I think maybe we don’t write about the drunken wildness parties in the blogs for a few reasons — 1) we’re representing MIT to all of you out there, and we don’t want you to think we’re sketchy, 2) it’s entirely possible that I’m the only over-21 student blogger, and 3) some of us just aren’t the classic frat-party type.
I, for instance, haven’t been to a frat party since early sophomore year. But that’s not a reflection on MIT student life in general… I just don’t happen to be close to a lot of guys in frats, plus some of my friends who were dating fraternity members freshman year broke up with them. So we started going to dorm parties because they were closer, and we knew more people in the dorms. Adam and I are together today as a direct result of no fewer than four dorm parties (and, in case you didn’t catch the implication, copious quantities of ethanol). True story.
But the point of all this yammering (and I’d better get to it fast, Adam’s almost done cooking dinner!) is that, as an MIT student, you get to choose several things.
1. You get to choose your living group. Each living group sends out a video to incoming freshmen, as well as a short blurb describing what the group is about. Different dorms are very different, and it’s important that you understand the range of environments available to MIT students. Often, the “nerd” groups get the most popular press, and there are people who are psyched to live in that sort of environment. But something people don’t always realize is that there are also dorms whose mascot is a red Solo cup (again, I’ll let you fill in the dots about what that implies). “Normal” means something different to every MIT student. You get to choose your own normal.
2. You get to choose how involved you want to be with school. I’ve heard some consternation recently about my workload, and how it’s a little on the crazy side. Yes. I am a double-major. I chose to be a double-major. I fully understood when I made that choice that I would be devoting much of my time to school and labwork, and that’s okay with me. If you come to MIT, you don’t have to have days like my “a day in the life”. It’s something I chose to do because I want to get into an elite PhD program and eventually become a faculty member in the extremely competitive world of academic biology. That’s more important to me than partying all the time in college; some people here don’t have those priorities, and that’s okay. You get to choose your own priorities.
Are we good now? And I’ll never again have to hear about the lack of student life at MIT?