So one of the questions that I am frequently asked my prospective students, people from home, and the like is: “How do you feel like you fit in at MIT?”
This is a question that often times arises surrounding the topic of affirmative action in college admissions; however, I’ll say right now, we’re not going there. What I do want to focus on is how in an undergraduate population of approximately four thousand people from all walks of life that such a mixture of people works.
So, how do I feel like I fit in?
As far as my ethnicity goes, personally, this has always been a really big challenge for me. This would best be explained by describing to you how a typical Thanksgiving dinner at my house. If you were to dine with me and my family, you might get confused and think you were at an international buffet. Now, I’m not sure how I break down percentage-wise, but I’m part Senegalese, Nigerian, Scottish, Puerto Rican, Panamanian, etc. You get the idea. So it’s hard for me to often answer the question about how I fit in ethnically at MIT. I’ve never really felt out of place, or awkward, but given my background of coming from a family where three languages could be spoken in the house at one instance in time, I think this is somewhat expected of me.
I think one thing that always seems to comfort people when they’re in a new place like MIT is having people that somehow reflect or resemble them in some shape or form, and I think students find that here. There are a lot of cultural affinity groups not only for those students of the particular culture, but also students who are interested in learning more about a specific culture as well. You find people who know what platano maduros are or people who know how to bhangra. The same goes for religion.
As far as the rest of me goes, I think that yes we all really fit in here at MIT. I really think the bottom line is this. MIT is a very unique amalgam of genius, wit, humor, creativity, culture, and diversity. I will admit that sometimes it takes a while to get accustomed to different dialects from across the world. One of my best friends at MIT is from Minnesota, and they have a different way than me of pronouncing words like “root” and “bag,” but then again, I sometimes find myself saying “y’all.” The people here are all really interesting each with their own story to share about who they are, and what they enjoy doing. Similar to my experience, you might end up living in a quad your freshman year where you have roommates who come from Michigan, Florida, and Virginia who all plan on majoring in different departments, all with different sleeping schedules, and all different reasons why they chose MIT. It’s really hard to typify what it’s like being here in a few short words or even words at all because it’s this strange sensation you get when you’re here.
When you stroll down the Infinite on your way to class with a friend and you find out something about them that is completely new that just leaves you somewhat floored and amazed to be in a class with them. MIT prides itself in being full of culture and full of diverse thoughts, and they should be. In my opinion, the people here are truly the life blood of the Institute. Without the people, this school would just be four walls and a ceiling (I’m not sure if the Stata Center could be explained in such simple terms).
So in short, what I wanted to describe to you was my perspective on the student climate here. With so many different communities and places to live, you are sure to find people who share things in common with you albeit tastes in food, favorite reality TV show, to something so simple as what time you like to go to sleep.