So I’ve been spending some time in my hometown over Winter Break, and this time, I know it’s probably the last time that I’ll sleep in my bed before I go off and become an adult. It’s kind of strange and at the same time awesome to think that I’m actually growing up and doing my own things.
Coming back to Texas allows me to think about how my MIT experience has expanded my outlook on life and the world. But first, I think you need some context about me and my history.
I’m from “Suburbia”, Texas whereby “Suburbia” I mean for my first year of high school, I lived in one of those neighborhoods where your elementary school was one block away; your middle school was three blocks away; and your high school was maybe five or six blocks away. Since my mom was the only parent and had to work, I walked to and from school most days. I kind of cry a tear for the environment when I think about all the cars that actually made the six block trip. Almost everything was provided for us in our 55,000 resident city-within-a-city, so we rarely had to leave.
For my sophomore through senior years, I spent it at a less-exclusive high school where there were a lot more people and a lot more diversity. When senior year came, most people from my high school decided to stay in Texas for college for one reason or another. I disagreed with a lot of people about their reasons. A lot of the families I knew were deeply set in family traditions. Others wanted to go where most of their friends were going. I and a handful of other people just wanted to see what was beyond state lines and experience something new.
So I did. In late August 2003, I packed up a backpack and two duffel bags and a whole lot of boxes and moved almost 2000 miles from home. No coming home on the weekend to do laundry…that was for sure. Now the MIT environment and surroundings was a lot different then what I’d lived in before. For one, travel at MIT was primarily public transportation. (+1 for the environment). I observed that people walked a lot faster going places. And generally, I feel that the city stays up a lot later than my neighbors back at home do.
So what does this all mean. A friend who I caught up with over break said something to me and it was kind of shocking. “You’ve come back with that New England-er attitude.”
“Excuse me, what?”
So after talking it over, I see that he’d just noticed a change in me that I guess I hadn’t realized myself. Going to MIT forced me to be a lot more independent than I ever was. As the oldest child, I’ve always had responsibilities etc, but quasi-living on your own puts a different filter on it all. In high school, my mom didn’t believe in allowances. I got money when I needed it. In college, I have a set allowance, and I’ve got to handle it myself. And yes folks, Boston IS more expensive than where I come from. Unlike home where my car sits in the garage and I use it to get to A to B. My car at college rests in my closet in the form of my shoes or on a bike rack or at the bus and subway station. Moral of the story: Life is different when you go to college.
But is that such a bad thing?
I mean, college in general is going to put you in a new environment. Changes are destined to happen whether you like it or not. So I guess my piece of advice to you is not to make decisions based on where you think “change will happen the least.” I don’t think that’s going to happen in the long run. Make your decisions based off of the real things…education, opportunity, PEOPLE. I can’t say what it would have been like if I went to a large public university with most of my high school friends. I may not have ever really met as many new people as I did at MIT because I wouldn’t have had to. I also admit that I haven’t experienced the other side of it because I’ve only attended MIT, but I think the experience that I’ve been awarded in moving away and living on my own has really taught me a lot about life and people.
And a word for the parents:
I know that you get worried. I’m 21 years old, and not only do I have to call my mom every day, I pretty much have to call my grandparents every day too. They still worry for me, and I don’t think that would have changed depending on the school I attended. As a child, I realize we’re MAJOR investments, and you don’t want anything to happen to us, but keeping us near by just because it appears to be “the safer option” may not be the right idea. College is about learning, and if an education is what you want your daughter or son to get, then why not let them get an even richer one.
And as always, my blog is a discussion not just my words. So I invite comments from prospective students, parents, my friends at other schools who read this. Disagree or agree. Or just add your own 2 cents. If you have any other questions that you don’t want to post on a public forum, you can email me at bryanblogs [at] mit dot edu.
Happy New Year.