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Home Sweet College by Selam G. '18

Surviving first semester.

Wow. So this is what official blagging* is like.

It’s nice to meet you all! I’m Selam, the newest new blogger, and I’ve just joined the team this IAP. This is pretty exciting, because I have always read the admissions blogs myself, and so now I feel like I’m obligated to post something “INSIGHTFUL!” and “AMAZING!” and “UNBELIEVABLE!” and any other key adjectives you might find in a BuzzFeed headline.

(I’ll do my best.)

Since I’ve only just begun this IAP, I feel like I missed out on the period when everyone was posting about first coming/coming back to college, and all the crazy exciting things that happened then. Even so, now I have the ability to look back on all that happened and express to you a bigger picture version of it all.

I think the theme of my first semester at MIT was defining “Home”.

It’s something I didn’t really know I would have to do. It’s a lot less about moving far from the physical location that was my home, and more about the fact that college is much closer to “the real world” than I have ever been before, and it solidifies the idea of moving out and growing up and being on your own.

Academically, first semester was pretty awesome! Although it’s already been five months, I still find MIT exciting and incredible. There are so many hackathons, symposiums, talks, and interesting things here that have a very real potential for becoming something huge–or maybe even just something small and super awesome. It often seems like everyone is vibrating with untapped potential, as though epiphanies were sitting fermenting in the heads of all classmates, and maybe even–dare I say it–my own head??

But academics, of course, is not everything. It is only 50% of my life here (ok, sometimes 60% or 70%. Or 90%.)

In the beginning of this year, I suffered from a lot of homesickness (and literal sickness, which amplified my homesickness). I realized that in going to college, I had officially left something of myself behind. I felt that in gaining independence, I had lost my dependence, which was surprisingly a little sad. Dependence means relying on others, but it is also mutual– you care for others, and they care for you. In the case of family, that care is unconditional. I definitely have not completely relinquished that–I know, of course, that my family will always be there for me. But the idea of growing up and changing and moving out inherently means giving up a little of that, and being ready to support yourself.

This definitely wasn’t all bad or sad though. I greatly enjoyed independence after a while–keeping myself disciplined and taking care of myself has been both easier and more fun than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it most the first week of IAP. I didn’t have any classes yet, so I would go to the gym, come home, shower, cook breakfast, and have a leisurely meal with my roommate. I maintain a very clean space, I’ve been exercising more, and I’ve been pretty productive, too. I’m taking 6.149 (Intro to Python) and 6.117 (Electrical Engineering Lab Skills) this IAP, and they are both really fun and really intense classes. I go grocery shopping and drink lots of tea. I make time for Lord of the Rings, which I’m rereading and trying to finish.

MIT feels a lot like “Home” now, but “Home” has always been a very fluid concept for me. My extended family has always lived very far from me, in China on my mother’s side, and Ethiopia on my father’s. I love them all ten times the distance. It’s hard. Some days I honestly just wish I could move to our village in Ethiopia and just live there and farm. You’d be surprised how nice that would be. The pace of life is much slower, and much more focus is put on plants, people, fresh air, food, and coffee. Life is less complicated.

Yet, I know that especially at this time of life, it would be harder to be intellectually challenged and make a real difference there. I would never feel really productive. I realized that my duty to my family is to do well and produce amazing things, and then, maybe, one day, I’ll go to Ethiopia and make sure all the kids in our family have the same opportunities that I do.

So as long as I work toward a goal like that, home is never very far away, really. Home is what I am studying for. I carry it in my values and work, and the way I treat people. It is in part in physical things, like the honey I brought to college all the way from Kaffa, and the big, warm Ethiopian scarves that I have.

Mostly, I’ve just learned how to carry home in my soul.

 

 

* (For the proper use of “blag”, see http://xkcd.com/148/)