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MIT staff blogger Kim Hunter '86

Finals Week…A Different View by Kim Hunter '86

...Or why I got up way too early this morning...

My alarm went off at 5:30 am today…I am not now, nor have I ever been, a “morning person”. When I was a child my mother used to start the day by singing to me, “Good morning to you, good morning to you.” I hated it, because all I wanted to do at that moment was go back to sleep. I still have that same feeling many mornings when the alarm goes off. Unfortunately, I can’t pull the blankets back over my head and go back to sleep. But this morning it was different. When the alarm went off I dutifully got up and headed for the kitchen.

Last fall I moved into the MIT Alpha Phi sorority house with 60 MIT undergraduate woman as the Residential Advisor (RA). When I was an undergrad, sororities were just beginning to find their place at MIT so there were no women living in sorority houses although there were women living in one of several independent living groups. I lived in Baker House, often referred to in those days as the largest fraternity on campus, but without the ties of sisterhood that bind the women I now live with on our campus. According to the job description,

RAs serve as mentors, role models, guides, and resources for the students who live in the 36 fraternities, sororities and independent living groups

and play a similar role to that of the Graduate Residence Tutor (GRT) in the dormitories. We’re there to offer advice, make sure there is soda in the pop machine and occasionally figure out why the toilet is overflowing. I’ve done all of those things this year, and more, and have loved every minute of it.

I’ve really had a good time living in the house this year. I have dinner whenever possible with the residents of the house enjoying the chance to hear about their classes, what professors they like the best, and which exams were the hardest as well as the last movie they saw. I ride the shuttle bus with them in the morning and Saferide at night but I like it best when the “girls” wave at me in the “infinite corridor” or in the Student Center. I look forward each evening to when I get to take a break and go down to the tv room and watch Gossip Girl, Gray’s Anatomy, or an old episode of Friends enjoying the chance to spend a few minutes of downtime enjoying a snack (raw cookie dough from the freezer is my favorite). Everyone in the house has truly made me feel like a part of the family this year! But what impresses me the most is the way the girls work together. Responsibility for the house is shared by all and everyone is expected to do their part. A typical Saturday may require doing a bit of housework before settling in for a day of studying but will generally end with a group going out to get some dinner and then going to a movie or campus party. The fact that the girls live, study, play and eat together helps them to create bonds that will last a lifetime.

So that now brings me back to why I got up so early today. “Study breaks” are also a part of my “job” and mine tend to be more of the breakfast variety. Each semester during finals week I get up extra early for two mornings and make sure that there is a hot breakfast ready before the residents of the house go off to an exam or back to their studies. I love breakfast myself, and like it even better when someone else makes it. Plus, my mother always told me I needed a good breakfast to start the day. I guess this is my way of carrying on that tradition.

A colleague asked me the other day how I liked living in the house and I responded very quickly that it had surpassed all my expectations. Will I be returning for another year, you might ask. In truth, I wouldn’t miss it for the world! And yes, I’ll be making breakfast during finals week…

21 responses to “Finals Week…A Different View”

  1. Hi Kim!!
    You probably don’t remember me but I met you at San Diego when you, Brown and Yale came for an admissions information session. I was the asian/australian sitting at the front.
    Well I’ve just finished APs and most of my finals so reading about how you make breakfast for the MIT students reminds me of how my mum made me mine last week. Is it difficult to join a sorority at MIT? and can you join one starting freshman year? I never thought I would join one but reading your entry has sparked my interest.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Su Park

  2. Shiv says:

    Second!!!

    Thats so amazingly nice of you to make breakfast!!!

  3. JLAB '13 says:

    Do RAs in other dorms and places do the same kind of work you do? Or are you just super-dedicated? smile

    Also, I had a quick question about final grade reporting. I’m a US Citizen spending a year abroad studying at a non-American based school system. I don’t think I have to report my grades for that. But I’m also taking courses online through my state’s virtual school system that are analogous to regular high school classes. Do I have to report those?

  4. Chris Praley says:

    What percentage, if you could make an estimate, of students belong to fraternities/sororities?

  5. JL says:

    Hey Kim, I recently got my E3 card and was wondering what all the stuff at the bottom meant (CRK, MCB, etc).

    Thanks!

  6. Deeni says:

    I was actually eating my breakfast as I read this blog – breakfast which my mother made for me specially to keep my head cool during the exam I have today (A levels). Wow, this really goes to show that I might feel at home at MIT after all.

  7. Kevin '12 says:

    @Chris Praley

    About half of the guys at MIT join fraternities and about a quarter of the girls at MIT join sororities.

    That said, don’t worry about it too much. MIT fraternities are quite different from your stereotypical fraternity.

  8. '12 says:

    @ Chris
    54% of men and 34% of women are Greek, which makes a little less than half the school. Greek life is a pretty big force on campus. A lot of Greek students are really involved on campus in leadership positions, and a lot of the big service events that go on during the year are put on by fraternities and sororities. You also make really awesome friends who make MIT so much more fun. It’s definitely something too look into when you get to campus.

  9. '12 says:

    @ Chris
    54% of men and 34% of women are Greek, which makes a little less than half the school. Greek life is a pretty big force on campus. A lot of Greek students are really involved on campus in leadership positions, and a lot of the big service events that go on during the year are put on by fraternities and sororities. You also make really awesome friends who make MIT so much more fun. It’s definitely something to look into when you get to campus.

  10. Rita Jou says:

    Hi Kim! What a wonderful update. I’m so happy that you have enjoyed this past year living at Alpha Phi. You are really a blessing and your expertise, profound kindness, and wonderful spirit are all very much appreciated. Enjoy the rest of the semester and I look forward to touching base again this summer. Best, Rita

  11. Jennifer says:

    So glad you are enjoying the Alpha Phi environment. I was an Alpha Phi before we got a house. You are right! These friendships last a lifetime.

  12. Alice says:

    MIT’s Greek system has for a century been some of the least “greek” anywhere. There’s a history of MIT chapters being the first to break all kinds of barriers: first Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist member, first black or asian, first coed frat, etc. Many of those “firsts” occurred as far back as the 1930s and 1940s! Some of those firsts have caused the MIT chapters to lose their national affiliations, but I’m not aware of any of the frats backing down when their choices were challenged. The main reason MIT frats and sororities have national linkages is to get low interest mortgages and to have access to the national organizations’ scholarship funds (from which MIT students often garner more than their statistical share because their grades are better). The non-dorm living groups tend to develop MUCH closer long time friendships, because members of each year’s pledge class are invited by their upperclass members to join after they’ve been “investigated” and determined to fit with the group. Dorms housing is by lottery based on frosh preferences from reading glossy marketing materials and attending brief parties. So the selection process is much less personal, and often based on “externals”—-newest renovation, perceived best food, etc. And the “how soon can I get a single” folks are least likely to bond for life. I’m a dorm person and keep up with maybe 3 MIT friends. Some of the frat rats are still close enough that they will fly cross country to attend the wedding of a granddaughter of their frat friends. That’s a truly lifetime bond.

  13. Being class of ’54 not much of my experience is reflected in today’s Tech, but I just wanted add my voice to the benefits of Greek life on campus.

    I am certain that I would have never gotten through the freshman year without the help (coaching and tutoring) and encouragement of the brothers at Sigma Nu.

    Though much has changed, I’m sure mutual support is still a big part of the lifeview at the Institute.

    Grateful brother

  14. @ Alice-

    Eh, SOME of the dorm floors/entries/units are fairly tight. I spent my years on Third East, graduating three point three decades ago. I still stay in close touch with about a dozen of my fellow Tetazoa, and could likely pick another dozen out of a Police line-up. I gave / received lots of camaraderie and emotional support from the floor, and I’d bet many dorm denizens could make similar claims.

    That said, there’s no question that the frats and sororities are close-knit, and that you WILL forge lifelong friendships living there; yet don’t write off the dorms!

  15. I agree with Lee. I was also a dorm person, but being an international student, my community was with the other international students, of which there were about 100 a year back then. We have lots of great memories of putting on the best parties on campus, international fairs, Talbot house, and knowing all the best places to get the most authentic ethnic food in Boston. Many of my best friends are now in Asia and we still love having fun together on the rare occasions when someone travels to our city to visit. I think that there will be many opportunities at MIT to build all sorts of communities, be them frats/sororities, student government, or other common interests.

  16. Laura says:

    I lived in a dorm all 4 years and I have kept up with a LOT of my MIT friends, including my husband whom I met there (even though he lived in a different dorm).

  17. Kim '86 says:

    @Sparky: Of course I remember you. That was a great trip! Some of your questions have been answered but for the rest, most students will join fraternities or sororities in their freshman year but they can’t live there until they are sophomores.

    @JLAB ’13: All RAs will interact different with their house but the key is that we live there because we enjoy it and try to work to benefit those who live there. For your other question, you’ll want to provide us with info on any classes you take, online or otherwise.

    @JL: It’s data entry “stuff” and not very important in the “grand scheme.” On the whole, E3 cards are not all that helpful beyond the part that says, “Admitted.” grin

    @All: As you can see from the comments of ECs above, everyone ultimately appreciates the system they decide to live in and builds a community of friends that works for them. Some will tell you they were closer friends with their lab partners than their roommates but for others it is the exact opposite. I still have a great relationship with both. Ultimately, it works out in the end. My brother enjoyed living in a fraternity but the dorm was the choice for me at the time. Now I can say I’ve had the best of both worlds and have lived in a dorm and a sorority house!

  18. hopeful'14 says:

    Kim, I was wondering if I am admitted and then my gpa drops in the last term, will it affect the decision? or are the decisions final? thank you smile

  19. clubpenguin says:

    I’m so happy that you have enjoyed this past year living at Alpha Phi. You are really a blessing and your expertise, profound kindness, and wonderful spirit are all very much appreciated.