MIT is not about the challenges of problem sets. It’s about a community.
This means walking down the hallway to greet smiling friends, then doing homework with them and talking until too late. It’s about the way the brain revs and pushes onward through a Problem Set. The feeling exhilarates because it means forward action, and not just in classes, but in clubs, jobs, and, most importantly, around people. The fog of existence lifts to reveal a fascinating life.
I have found my perfect match, my ideal college, and now I get to grow here. The speed of the transition terrifies me, as I expected building strong connections to be difficult, and missing my family intolerable. But then I arrived in Cambridge, walked past the gorgeous murals of East Campus and the bank of the Charles river, and fell in love.
I sit now between the columns that support the mighty MIT dome. I’ve been on campus for three weeks, but still every time I pass beneath it, I shudder. For years, I had admired it from a distant country, and then a far-off state. Now I’m here, and it’s so much better than the years of fantasies.
The Infinite Corridor never disappoints either. I still have not unearthed a pattern in the numbering of its buildings. 16 flows into 26, and then 56, and once I think I’ve found a regularity, 32 appears. 4 abruptly transforms into 8, and I never know what I will find around the corner, what names I’ll read on the door, and what marvels of modern machinery will be displayed behind the glass. I am a mathematician, and I look for patterns in the world, yet I want to believe that the MIT buildings are truly random, and that this place is special and thus breaks the rules of nature. Like π.
It’s college application season, and I envision swarms of anxious seniors staying up at night over one perfect finish to the college essay. I can almost feel the shivers of the final hours before my admissions decision, growing into tremors, and exploding into a primeval scream in the moment I knew my life would never be the same. I remember also the earlier hours spent perusing college information, comparing, calculating, and scrolling through the dark void of College Confidential for a sign that I had a chance.
The college manuals will never convey what really happens here. They will state the fact that MIT’s location is urban, but not describe the intimate atmosphere of Boston at sunset, when no one looks at others, but feels them, and where the labyrinths of skyscrapers dissolve in the ocean wind. Manuals provide numbers and scores, but cannot enliven the people of MIT.
I cannot tackle that challenge either, for the students here epitomize diversity. Every day I marvel at their stories.
There is a boy on my floor from a rural area of Somalia, the first in his family to attend school, just as he resolved as a child. He will return soon to tackle the challenges of his community.
There is a also girl from Hong Kong whose face lights up when she talks about debate or aerospace engineering, and she makes me want to try it. I constantly encounter people who remind me what it’s like to love science and math, be curious about the world, and remain a true friend. Although we come from distant lands, we share a purpose and a dream.
My dorm, East Campus, never ceases to surprise. Last week an international biking champion arrived in our courtyard and jumped over six students, on a bike. Earlier I witnessed upperclassmen resting on a dorm-made disco dance floor while others fussed over the laser maze in the bathroom. Then we had an ice cream social, and the Graduate Resident Tutors of each floor competed over who served the most ice cream. Today, in a minute, we will all crowd in the kitchen for waffles and a good time, and I cannot wait to discover where the conversations will take us.
I intended for this entry to be structured and helpful, but am sporadically gushing. I want to tell so much, but where do I even start? Perhaps with the first time I greeted my roommate while stuck on the lofted bed, or the next morning when I jumped on a trapeze and did not miss. I want to share the cool morning by the Charles river and the cold night at the Boston harbor. I think of all the dorm events, and the time I left a mark on my dorm’s hall by adding to the collaborative octopus mural.
I remember also the first time I stayed up talking until 4 am even though I had an early start. When I called my parents the next day, I said, “I love it here. This is my home,” and I meant it. For four years since my move from Ukraine, I had been searching for “this.”
I found it at MIT.
Now I must rush for waffles and socialization. Then I will do math.
And I will be very very happy.