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[guest post] from the vault: hall exchange notes by Joonho K. '20

notes from a hall exchange in 2017

in late february of 2017 me and jessica t. ’20 did a hall exchange. a hall exchange is where two people, who live on different halls and almost always on different dorms, live in each other’s rooms for several days to explore what living in that hall is like. there are semi-official programs that facilitate such transfers, but jessica and i knew each other well enough by this time and arranged the exchange ourselves. we decided we would to a joint blog post and write about our experiences, but never got to finish it.

two years later, jessica and i are neighbors at next house. instead of studying 6.857 notes like i should be or writing up the 6.033 design project preliminary report so nisha doesn’t yell at me, i scrolled down and down and down in my google drive and found the incomplete logs. reading them over, they’re such a throwback and deserve to be on the blogs, even though they’re not really finished.


agent jynnie – day 1 – feb 26

Arrived at East Campus with three bags, hoping this is enough to survive out in the wild. Thankfully was able to enter the premises undetected and without any trouble as agent june opened the door for me. The climb to 5West was not terribly laborious and was well greeted when I entered 5W.

The TV lounge had perhaps five or so people sitting on the couches watching the Oscars and agent June introduced me to Joon1 (Ree), Joon2 (Jessica), Joon3 (??), and Joon8 (Allan). On the blackboard behind the TV (which I learn was donated by a resident who won a hackathon prize from DirectTV), there is a small family tree that disintegrates into Juans upon Juans.

I was then shown my quarters for the next week, a rather spacious single with one large window opposite the door, white walls, a desk only a little smaller than my own, a bed, a rather tall bookshelf, a drawer, a sink, and a fridge. What particularly caught my attention was the high ceiling and two League of Legends posters on the wall. The quarters are most certainly comfortably sized and well-equipped.

Agent June gave me a detailed briefing as well as an overview of life and general rituals of the clan in 5W. I am to expect four-legged beasts roaming around that may occasionally drop in and lay on the floor or chase a spool of industrial string around, hall feed on Thursdays, various occasions where the clan eats communally at odd hours of the night and perhaps a special festival at the end of the week. I was tasked with joining EC-discuss and meeting various key clan members of 5W.

I decided to begin upon the latter task first, and joined the gathering for the Oscars (which I must say take terribly long) and rather enjoyed laughing and blaming Steve Harvey. We were blessed to be watching a stream in which the streamer literally quit when they messed up (#SPOILERALERT) Best Picture and La La Land did not win (and it’s not a joke!).

Afterwards I learned the codenames of Joon1, Joon2, Joon8, one cruft, and Sarah (just Sarah – I don’t know if her name is spelled this way – sumimasen), as well as met the magnificent beasts Loki and Peru.

It’s been a good night. Leaving the door open as I work on these field notes, I meet a few other clan members (Emily and unknown who passes by). The halls are oddly quiet at 2AM (perhaps I am too accustomed to hearing the League and Smash players in the night), but I look forward to exploring more tomorrow.

~ Signing Out ~

Agent Jynnie


agent june – day 2 – feb 27

next house: winding hallways, pastel monochrome walls, plain, mural-less, but a fine place to call home for a week. agent jynnie’s quarters are warm, ambient, inviting: there are four different ways to produce light in her room. a ripe banana sits on the desk. floral bed sheets, an empty fridge, a bouquet of flowers in an orange juice glass, a tiny chalkboard complements a tiny whiteboard, pictures hung up on the walls. even with a meal plan, agent jynnie’s shelves are well stocked with sustenance, moreso than mine. my quarters, in comparison, are less personal: the objects and furniture within forgoes aesthetics in favor of function. it is less spacious here, but more than enough room such that the difference in size is unnoticeable.

two east is a group whose customs and traditions i have already grown used to over the months — agent jynnie, on the other hand, has never really interacted with my home clan before, and must introduce herself to many new people. i, someone who is already fast assimilating, have already decided to immigrate someday: i hope to make the arduous trek next year. but this week, i say that i am simply a visitor, a traveler from a faraway land.

there are no beasts roaming the halls, nor are there sprawling murals, those historical expressions of individuality. there is a large chalk wall in the primary den where drawings and memes are scrawled: but the medium is implicitly temporary, something that has the power to be erased. no, what two east lacks in its exterior it more than makes up for in its inhabitants and its customs. the five-thirty dinner club is sacred, and should be respected. the stir-fry line waits for no one. the neighbor named bill enters my abode and asks me if i have determined the correct final velocity for a dust particle of mass m and charge +q released at the point (d,0) and traveling a distance s starting from rest in a vertically oriented electric dipole. i politely shake my head. his head follows suit, mutters to himself that the integration was surely correct, and disappears.

at the moment i am what mit students would call ‘hosed’ — sophomore standing giveth, and sophomore standing taketh away. at the moment, i enjoy going from moment to moment, deadline to deadline, feeling myself grow as a person, as i learn more about my major, my classes, my friends. i am inevitably tired most days, but i can usually stave this feeling off and it only manifests itself in the early morning and late at night. i wonder how long i can last before i inevitably miss a deadline and become desynchronized. but for now, i am still in balance — and i carry on.

until morrow.

agent june


agent jynnie – day 2 – feb 27

I woke up to a pristine, crisp day, the 8:15 morning streaming out from the campus courtyard. It’s quite jarring to look outside and see not New House, but the courtyard between buildings 18, 54, and 14. People meander around and I watch, feeling mildly hawkish for a good 15 minutes, before deciding to try and find sustenance.

East Campus is a “cook-for-yourself” environment, which better translates to “fend-for-yourself”. Agent June’s stores are slightly depleted, mostly made up of chocolate, potato chips, and a bag of grapes in the fridge. (I can only imagine how he has survived without scurvy for this long). I decide on a handful of grapes, and first grab is good. But upon my second reach in, I peer into the plastic box in the La Verde’s bag and notice a little white. A little fuzzy whiteness. I shut the refrigerated cold store, take a deep breath, and shoot agent june a quick message that reads:

“and yo boy you should not have been eating those grapes
they are 💯 moldy”

After I gather my wits about me (and wondering whether agent june is actually a zombie), I dispose of the grapes. I settle on astronaut food (granola bar) and a trip to Stata later.

Perhaps one of the most wondrous things about living practically on campus is I leave for class five minutes before the hour, climb six flights of stairs, and still arrive early. #Hashtag definitely not Next House things. And even though I return back from a long day, the walk back is quick.

Returning, I wanted to attempt doorsurfing, but found that 8:08pm is not a prime time to find people to meander after and instead ring in at Munroe and (thankfully) get in without issue.

I discover 5W sees more people in the evening and nearing midnight. I amble in and join a couple of clan members in the TV lounge as they discuss the hall beasts and discover that male hall beasts also have nipples. We shelve that discussion as well as literally shelving the hall beasts onto a bookshelf. I additionally learn about some prime hacking locations and carding/sliding, as well as the different stereotypes for east campus halls (see Figure 1).

Throughout wandering and sitting in agent june’s room with the door open working I meet several other clan members including my first two frosh (!!) Serena and Adriana (who do not introduce themselves to me as Joon#). It’s refreshing to be in a foreign area and the natives are highly welcoming.

Around perhaps 10pm, the NPC Emily R. tasks me with meeting another beast of 5W (which for the life of me I cannot recall his name, I think it starts with an R???). The tabby is an exquisite beast lurking under Volz’s bed and consequently I become trapped in the dungeon of Volz’s room (shoutout to ceelo who I was studying with but dealt with me being sucked away). Her room is a gorgeous mirage of artwork and space murals.

I discover that 5W is my CMS paradise as Allan and Emily passionately talk about Fox and Becky (the Ann Hunter of CMS?) and Rik and their classes and theses and I stare wide-eyed at my new idols. And I am stuck in Volz (the sagely chem major)’s dungeon for another two or three hours, leaving only to find Challenger, another beast of 5W.

As the night gets younger and I begin to think maybe I should start my psets, I return to my room and leave these logs. I have discovered the clan members to be all highly warm and welcoming, sociable and bonding over cats and psets instead of smash. I plan to examine the murals and quotes I have seen across the walls of 5W more closely tomorrow/in the future. There may also be the cookies and cheese ritual tomorrow as well. Till then.

~ Signing out ~

Agent Jynnie


agent june – day 3 – feb 28

i rolled up agent jynnie’s curtains soon after i silenced the 7:30 alarm and a brilliant wave of light flooded into the room. normally, i would curl back up into bed and mutter ‘mmph five more minutes’ but the sunlight inspired me to get up and have breakfast instead. i must admit that having a dining hall so close by almost makes breakfast viable for me (i am not a breakfast person).

agent jynnie and i exchange messages about our time in each others’ halls: it seems that jynnie has been doing some extensive research, and reading her field notes of my hall causes me to smile. as two east is quite familiar to me, it is strange to describe it in such specific detail, but i may try.

there are two major modes of entry, through the main staircase near dining or through the swipe entry near the entrance to next house. as the swipe entry is in most cases inaccessible to me, i shall describe the main staircase: to reach it, you must pass what is called the tfl lounge, which features comfy couches and a tv well-equipped with cables and a ps4. you also pass a mathematical mural and a piano, and a larger lounge area which is usually sparsely populated. due to the preparations for next act, the large expanse is occupied by a set of black.

eventually, one is able to see the main staircase, with dining to the left and a music room / fitness room on the right. going downstairs, one finds a pool table, table tennis, a large kitchen residents call the country kitchen, and the laundry room. two east is upstairs on the second floor.

there is a stark difference between the quality of infrastructure between east campus and next house: next house is new, clean, has elevators, and a warm palate. east campus, although i love to call it home, is more archaic: it is, to say the least, in need of repair. i am not sure which i prefer over the other. both, i conclude, have their respective weaknesses and strengths.

two east is not unlike fifth west: there are several lounges, one with a tv, and in essence it is one long hallway. however, two east’s hallway turns corners and twists and winds, whereas fifth west and all the other halls on east campus are linear: the entire hall can be seen from any point. sometimes, the hallway splits into two, or juts out to create small peninsulas. i will elaborate on this further on a later date.

most of today was spent composing an essay for linguistics – i argued for the preservation of endangered languages. i used agent jynnie’s remote to turn on the rgb lights, pulled up two east’s spotify playlist on shuffle, and worked quietly for several hours. afterwards, i made my way to the main lounge (a few dozen paces away) and conversed with several two east residents, many of whom i have known and become friends with prior to my stay.

at midnight, we celebrated the birthday of WILL, which involved singing a variant of ‘salsa tequila’, bennett spitting bars, and a very intentionally poor rendition of the classic happy birthday tune. german chocolate cake was subsequently served. also – apparently it is customary to wish jennifer a happy birthday on these occasions as well, although it is never actually jennifer’s birthday.

unfortunately, the rest of the week is still quite busy for me, so i will have to stop my field notes for today here. but i plan to interview a fellow next house resident in the coming days: i will update you with the transcription and let you know how this goes.

till morrow,

agent june


[end of transmission]


i guess that transcription never got updated, huh?

now is actually a good time to admit that i’m moving back to east campus next year. reading these made me happy, reminiscing about how both 2E in next house and 5W in east campus were both so different only two years ago, and now the feel of both halls have undoubtedly changed. but i miss my 2020 friends: i miss the short walks to class where i could roll out of bed and into lecture, i miss the walls, i don’t miss the five flights of stairs, i miss the seniors i’ve said goodbye to year after year while aware at the same time that i am well on my way.