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MIT blogger Ankita D. '23

culture within culture by Ankita D. '23

i moved to east campus

as a former Burton Conner resident, i had a two options in dealing with my dorm being offline due to renovation: find another dorm on campus, or move off campus.

moving off campus didn’t appeal to me since i wanted to meet new people; i was deprived of doing so in a pandemic and missed bumping into people everywhere. even though living off campus is more convenient in pretty much every way, i prioritize having a “campus experience,” so i was willing to sacrifice some personal agency for the sake of living in a building with hundreds of other people.

finding another dorm was a challenge of its own, though. Burton Conner was cook-for-yourself, and i’d frankly rather drop out than live in a meal plan dorm. i have very little experience with meal plans given that the food is mediocre and (mostly) unhealthy and the dining halls are open at strange hours. cooking for myself, on the other hand, is easy, fun, and just better for my body. woo!

with this cook-for-yourself constraint, my options were New House, MacGregor, Random Hall, and East Campus. lots of former BC residents were interested in New House, so i wasn’t sure how easy it would be for me to get in. it’s clean, nice, and has great communities, but i wasn’t entirely sure about how i would enjoy living there.

MacGregor has the reputation of being quiet, and since i wanted something more social, i didn’t spend much time considering it. i didn’t want to live in Random for a number of reasons, so i was left with East Campus. EC has dope people, cool parties, tons of culture, and a great location (it’s right next to all my classes). it also has no elevators, a weird layout, and cockroaches. yay! also, my sister Nisha lived there, so i didn’t want to deal with “oh my god are you Nisha’s sister??” for another year when i’d already experienced it my whole life.

however, seven other upperclassmen from Burton Third wanted to staple and move there with me, along with six of our ’24s. that would make for a considerable number of people from my living community in the same dorm as me, which i was very down for.

floor placements came out a few months ago—i was placed on Slugfest, which is the fourth floor of the east building (or parallel). three other Bombers01 people from burton third were placed on the same floor, and the others were all scattered across floors in the same building. i was hyped because this meant they were only a staircase away from me!

the actual move-in was a nightmare. when you own as much shit as i do, climbing three flights of stairs is no easy task. my dad helped me move in a considerable portion of my belongings a week before REX02 residential exploration started, but i left things like my mattress at my apartment. my plan was to take my sister’s mattress from her room in EC, but when i saw how decrepit it was, i decided to just bring my own. this meant that i had to rent a UHaul with a friend. both of us had way more belongings than anticipated, so our move took a full four hours of trekking up and down stairs. i was absolutely exhausted after, and we made it back to the UHaul store only two minutes before the time limit.

i knew i’d be busy with REX, so i started setting up my room immediately. i began by (poorly) painting it purple, painting a galaxy mural, and rearranging furniture to make the room more spacious. i then set up a ton of LED lights and pictures to make it feel more homey. i didn’t decorate my room in my apartment from last year until six months after i moved in, and i regret that since personalizing your room makes a huge difference.

finding how to sustain myself while living in EC took a bit of time. laundry is in the basement, which is annoying since i have to lug my hamper down four flights of stairs. the kitchen is a decent walk down the hallway, which sucks when i forget food in my room and have to run back and forth while cooking. it’s clean, well-organized, and a great space to hang out with people, though, so i’m excited for the year.

EC hall exploration03 where frosh and sophomores visit all EC halls and decide where they want to live was during the week of REX. i participated in it a bit, going from hall to hall to meet people and check out their events. i’m a junior and a transfer, so it didn’t apply to me, but it was still a great opportunity to explore EC. at the end of it, four new Bombers were placed on my floor, and nearly all of our new Bomber freshmen ended up in EC. there are now 18 of us on various halls in EC!! i’m so excited.

i love EC a lot. i love the murals that cover the halls end to end, the bizarre paintings and graffiti that adorn the bathroom walls, and the funky traditions; creative expression flourishes everywhere, and each hall contributes its own unique culture to the larger entity04 burton conner was less like this, i think. maybe this is due to my limited experiences (i did spend only a few months in BC) but the floors presented less as a unified front, so i really fuck with how ec feels like a greater community of “east campus.” of course, i love the people and how down-to-earth they are. it’s a great time.

given that there are so many people from my community in EC, i have to find a balance between sustaining my own culture and embracing new experiences in this dorm. during REX, i spent very little time in EC since i was so busy with Bomber events, which made me feel guilty about giving no time to my new hallmates. now that classes have started and things have settled down, i’ve been on hall a lot more, but i haven’t really gotten the time to bond with anyone yet since there’s a lot going on.

as an exec member of my Burton Conner community, i invest a lot of time in planning events and continuing traditions that keep the culture going. this means that i have even less mental energy to give to forming new friendships. given that EC is a dorm with so much culture, i feel terrible about not contributing much, which makes me wonder how i’d feel if i were living in a dorm with less culture. part of me wonders if people on my hall resent my lack of involvement, but i know that’s probably not the case; also, EC is slated for renovation next year, so its residents will be experiencing the exact same thing soon. i’m grateful to EC for giving my community a home and i want to help them maintain their community when they lose their dorm next year.

given all of this, i have to make a lot of decisions. for example, i chose to focus on Bomber REX instead of helping out with EC REX—this sucks because EC has the coolest REX by far (they built a fort!!). the year has just started, but i know i’m going to have to choose between EC and the Bombers quite a bit, in addition to juggling all my other friend groups. given that i gained so much from the Bombers only by committing a lot of time to them, i’m worried about whether i’ll actually have meaningful experiences in EC if i don’t give them a lot of time. and that sucks.

it’s a strange problem to have and a testament to how shitty being displaced is. i have to navigate academics and extracurriculars even though i only experienced one semester in person, go hard on the job search, juggle two living communities, and maintain friendships with people who i don’t see on a daily basis. ahhhhhh!!

the summer was so simple—you work 9 to 5 and then check out for the rest of the day. being a college student means spreading yourself thin and paying attention to dozens of things at once, often unsuccessfully. or maybe i’m just doing things wrong.

either way, i’m ecstatic that this year is in person, but worried about how on top of things i’ll be. i only have two years left year, so i want to make the most of them. i just don’t know what “making the most of things” entails.

…cue my inescapable fear of mis-optimizing. some things never change, huh.

  1. people from burton third back to text
  2. residential exploration back to text
  3. where frosh and sophomores visit all EC halls and decide where they want to live back to text
  4. burton conner was less like this, i think. maybe this is due to my limited experiences (i did spend only a few months in BC) but the floors presented less as a unified front, so i really fuck with how ec feels like a greater community back to text