I grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, an unassuming city with lovely people but not much to do.
Now that I’ve been living in Cambridge for the past few months, Nashua conjures images of flatness and tranquility, of quiet car rides punctuated only by the soft hum of the engine as trees flow endlessly past the window, of loneliness and stagnancy and wistfulness. It occupies my thoughts as a mere figment of my past; when I think of the light filtering through the pink curtains of my bedroom in the morning, of the cold, sunny walks to and from the bus stop, and of the evenings I’d spend splayed across my couch with a book, I feel as if I’m enveloped in an impalpable childlike innocence that convinces me that I spent only my younger years in Nashua, that I’ve actually been at MIT for most of my life.
As a friend so accurately stated, it feels like I’ve been here both for only a week and for years. On the last day of classes, we stood in the places we were three months ago, during one of my floor’s residential exploration, a period during orientation where students determine where they want to live by going to a ton of crazy events, most of which are structured around F R E E F O O D events, which was when I entered my floor’s lounge for the first time.
“It felt so much bigger back then,” my friend remarked as his eyes scanned across the room. I nodded, filing through images of REX in my head, wondering if the room seemed smaller because it had been filled with the memories I had made there since then.
The seemingly brief yet memory-saturated period I’ve spent on campus brings me to wonder how much I’ve grown throughout my first semester. I don’t feel like I’ve become much more independent— I’ve had a few opportunities to live alone during my trips abroad in summer, so adjusting to being away from home ended as soon as I unpacked my suitcase in August (also, my parents visit me so much that I barely feel like I’m living away from home anyway). My work ethic, if anything, deteriorated over the course of the semester due to P/NR, so I’m a long way away from becoming the capable student I envisioned myself being in college.
But I certainly have changed. I entered my first serious relationship which isn’t really advised, but… and as a result understand my emotions and needs better. I’ve learned how to deal with unproductive feelings in a healthier way and to not blindly reject others when I’m dissatisfied with myself, and have put into practice the act of talking through my emotions with people I care about instead of indulging in self-destructive thoughts. Also, I got involved in exec teams for organizations and initiatives I’m passionate about—gone are the days of adopting roles in random high school clubs for the sake of involvement. I’ve learned to focus on the people and things I really care about and go about life exactly how I want to.
P/NR was wonderful. I discovered and pursued activities I’m interested in, forged bonds with people I love, and experienced the liberation of being able to explore the innumerable opportunities available on campus without having to worry about getting perfect grades. I definitely walked the slashed line between P and NR—I put minimal effort into all my classes and walked out of my finals as soon as I was sure I got what I needed to pass.
*screams in “i have GRADES now”*
Having the ability to slack off on assignments was beneficial, though. This semester, I took a serious coding class for the first time, and found that I really enjoyed it. Being able to figure out problems was more fulfilling than I could’ve imagined, and the fact that I could stop working on psets i don’t think i finished a single one in its entirety helped free me from quite a bit of stress and tedium, which I’m thankful for. #justpnrthings
I survived one semester of classes (as low as the bar for passing was), of forming and maintaining friendships with dozens of people, of trying things for the first time and exploring my interests more deeply than I ever have before, of navigating complex situations and deconstructing my emotions to better my relationships. And I’m really, really happy.
I’ve moved only 45 minutes away from home, but everything, including me, has changed. I knew this would happen, but I didn’t expect it to this quickly; if I was able to do so many things and grow close to so many people in such a short period of time, what will things be like in seven semesters, or even at the end of this academic year?
I’m excited, hopeful, and ready to embrace whatever comes next; I’m surrounded by people I cherish deeply and have found lots of things to appreciate about life at MIT.
Rest in pieces, P/NR. I hope you treat the Class of 2024 well.
IAP, I’m coming for you :)
- "residential exploration, a period during orientation where students determine where they want to live by going to a ton of crazy events, most of which are structured around F R E E F O O D back to text ↑
- "which isn’t really advised, but… back to text ↑
- "i don’t think i finished a single one in its entirety back to text ↑