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MIT blogger Elizabeth C. '13

I get by with a lot of help from my friends by Elizabeth Choe '13

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song! You just might walk out on me, though.

(You’re about to get hit with a wave of sentimentality, braces yourselves.)

I am a creature of habit. As evidenced by the facts that my roommate (from freshman year, mind you) and I lived in the same room freshman and sophomore year, will be moving back in next fall, and plan to keep it for senior year – I’m not a big fan of change. I alternate between oatmeal+banana+yogurt and peanut butter+toast+honey+banana for breakfast every morning. I go to bed around 1 am every night and wake up around 8 am every morning. I read for fun for 10 minutes every night before bed.

College, on the other hand, is all about change. I have to laugh at myself a little bit thinking about where I was two years ago – I distinctly remember telling a friend over the summer before my freshman year, “I am totally willing to forgo this summer so I can get to MIT as soon as possible. I can’t wait to get out of here.” I couldn’t have imagined all the changes that would happen in my life between then and now. I changed my lifestyle, my study habits, my idea of success, my attitude, my priorities, my values, my relationships – and I’m only halfway through college!

The hardest change I had to make was hands-down living away from my family, which was honestly not something I had anticipated being all that difficult. I’d spent summers away from my parents and little brother, Ryan, and while I missed them, I didn’t experience too much homesickness because I was so busy and caught up in camp-life. I braced myself for all of the academic challenges I was going to face at MIT, reminding myself that I very well could fail some exams, would be staying up all night to finish p-sets I didn’t know how to do, and would relish in scoring “average” at MIT. Shockingly, academics really weren’t as bad as I was expecting (but having not been the best student at my high school, my expectations were pretty low) – instead, I found myself missing forced family dinnertime (no matter how busy I was, my parents would always make me eat dinner with them and Ryan), which before had annoyed me on plenty of occasions, and the podunk central Missouri that I’d been so eager to leave. I missed the little things, like having something to come home to at the end of the day and someone to always ask me how my day was. Eating dinner with my roommate while watching reruns of The Office on Hulu was fun, but it wasn’t the same. Nothing depressed me more than to crave some of Mom’s cooking and head down to the dining hall only to find that the day’s dinner choices were so lackluster that I couldn’t even make out what they were (don’t worry, the food’s usually not that bad). Without a doubt, I still loved MIT and met some great friends, but I was rearing to bust out of Logan airport every time a break would come around, and I’d always dread returning to the sight of skyscrapers and the ‘tute’s dome once the break ended. I left MIT the day after my finals ended on both occasions freshman year, not looking back and not sorry to leave the Masochistic Institute of Technology.

Don’t worry if I’m freaking you out with all this talk of MIT not actually being a perfect utopia. I think a lot of people here can relate to this sentiment, but a lot of people would probably laugh at me for being so weaksauce – it takes some people all of two seconds to call MIT their home. As for me – I’m writing this entry a week after leaving MIT, sleep-deprived not from the stress of finals but from the stress of packing. I’ve always hated suitcases and airports for all the goodbyes they remind me of and for once this year, I hated saying bye to MIT. I was unusually sluggish, unwilling to accept the fact the year was over, that I had to leave the strangely-lovable hellhole that the rest of the world calls ‘MIT.’ Empty boxes were left strewn about my room my last night there, along with un-packed picture frames, lamps and clothes as I instead opted to goof off with my hallmates. Last year, my friends and I joked as we left, “only three more years!” but this time around, we exclaimed “only two more years” with a newfound sense of panic and gloom. I’m in a different world now, the land of humidity, tornadoes, cicada invasions, little brothers, neighborhood block parties and no p-sets.

After your four years of this place, or of any college, it won’t be the p-sets or the Nobel Laureates or the classes or the exam that you left half-blank that you’ll remember. You’ll remember Steven, who is terrible at drawing but still leaves notes of encouragement with cheesy Batman quotes under your door (“It’s always the darkest before daybreak – feel better!”). You’ll remember Sasha and Adrian, the guys you jam with when you don’t feel like doing work, and you’ll remember how you all always talked about starting a band with them without ever actually starting a band with them. You’ll remember your secret handshake with Luke. You’ll remember your roommate Sneha, who has seen you at your worst and… not worst (and still puts up with you because she’s a great roommate). You’ll remember your twin, Maita, who – regardless of how much work either of you have to do – you always talk to about your day at the end of every night. You’ll remember the freshmen who inspire you (see? Upperclassmen can be nice), the grad students you look up to, and the professors who cared about you enough to tell you they believe in you. You might even remember your bosses, because even though you’d never tell it to their face, they’re actually really awesome. You’ll remember the people.

No matter where you go, you’ll have different types of friends and different kinds of relationships with people – you’ll have the friends that you see in class, the ones you work on p-sets with. There are the people you awkwardly smile at in the Infinite Corridor because you’ve-only-met-once-during-freshman-orientation-and-does-that-merit-a-smile-or-wave-or-nod-in-the-hall?? There are the shenanigan-friends, the ones you stay up with racing desk chairs. There are your hallmates, the ones you eat dinner with (if they’re as adorable as mine), the ones you sit with at night in the lounge while you all do homework (because even though none of you are taking the same classes, at least you’ll be there for moral support!). Then there are your brothers and sisters, the ones who hold you accountable, the ones who make you better people, the ones who encourage you and the ones who are there when life gets craptastic. Don’t let me deceive you – there will be the people you can’t stand and the people you end up cussing out (and subsequently scaring the rest of your hall) because at MIT and anywhere in this world, you will meet people you don’t like. Hey, not everyone you meet can be your best friend.

When I had my MIT interview 2.5 years ago (eep!), I asked my EC about how much support he got when he was a student here. He answered, “MIT does not hold your hand. At all. But if you really want help and look for it yourself, you’ll get it.” Asking for help (or advice) is one bitter pill for an MIT student to swallow, but I definitely know that I survive this place with the help of my friends, at the very least. But before I get too sickeningly sentimental (okay, okay I know I was at the point at ‘I am a creature of habit’ -I’m only gone for a couple months, after all – and then I’ve got two whole years left!), I’ll wrap things up here. For you recent-high school graduates – as weird and difficult and frustrating as college can get, you’re in for some of the most memorable four years of your life. But don’t be in too much of a rush to get here – enjoy this summer, spend time with your friends and family. I know that that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. And once fall rolls around, maybe I won’t dread the packing and airports so much, because even though I’ll be starting another year of crazy schedules, sleepless nights and the occasional “MIT-WHAT-ARE-YOU-DOING-TO-ME??” scream, I know I’ll somehow manage to get by…

…with these goobers.

6 responses to “I get by with a lot of help from my friends”

  1. Priya '15 says:

    On the one hand I’m thinking, can’t wait for this summer to end so I can meet all the amazing people. On the other I now fear I’m going to be overcome with homesickness when I get there. Time to enjoy these last few months!

    Thanks for the post, hope you have an awesome summer too.

  2. Romaine M. says:

    This is an awesome post..thanks for the insight!

  3. Frank '15 says:

    oh boy. I’ve never spent more than a week away from home. This will be tough.
    I’ll make this summer the best yet

  4. Taylor '15 says:

    Awesome Post! You made my eyes water at the thought of leaving all of my high school friends behind. But, I’ve also never been so excited to go to school! smile

  5. Ogutu says:

    Amazing post. I really wanna meet you when I get to MIT. LOL.