Back when I was about seven I dreamed of being an astronaut. Of traveling to different planets, perhaps living in a ship for years until reaching a completely different planet and moving there. Until about two and a half months ago, I thought that was just one of my many fleeting childhood interests.
I never thought that by going to college here I would be leaving for another planet.
But that’s how it is. This is not the Earth that I knew in grade school. Not even the Earth that I knew from my magnet high school in NYC.
This is a planet of it’s own. It’s called TLM. The Land of MIT.
And its inhabitants, the Students, look like this.
Well, that isn’t entirely accurate. That’s just one specimen. If you look closely there are similarities to that species on Earth that we all know as homo sapiens. Actually, if you took one person from each of the planets and had them stand next to each other, they wouldn’t look that different at all – beyond the ordinary variations. Even the DNA tests could match up.
But The Land of MIT is a new planet altogether. And here’s a quick field guide:
– The Students at The Land of MIT have this crazy energy. It practically radiates from them, so when I see them walking across Kresge lawn or in the Infinite Corridor they glow. Seriously. You can practically see the brain waves flashing through their heads as they engage in heated conversations about anything and everything that’s out there, ranging from healthcare reform, government in China and the U.S., the 18.022 pset that’s due next week, or the two kids at the math diagnostic that were overheard whispering, “We’re going to be at the bottom of our math class!” (They’re both IMO finalists.)
– The planet itself is well equipped with space stations and rockets ready to launch. The stations are named MISTI, Go Global, D-Lab, IAP, MITPSC (Public Service Center), UROP, and many more names that just won’t fit here. But there are an incredible number of rockets leaving each station every term. Students travel to several countries, take part in countless research projects, and win grants for service projects to… typically, build stuff.
– The rockets were designed and assembled by the Students. The raw material came from the land that is usually called the University Endowment, but the students really take initiative and handle almost everything. Many study abroad experiences and UROPS are designed by the higher beings that pretend to rule over the planet (aka the faculty and the other non-student People who Plan Things), but students still create their own experiences there and just as often design their own projects abroad or in the lab.
– However, the conditions on that planet are a little hard to acclimate to. It seems that this planet has low air pressure – after a few weeks one of my friends said, “I don’t have time to breathe.” Night only falls for 4-8 hours a day, depending on the time of year – closer to 8 on the weekend and closer to 4 on the day before an extraordinarily evil pset is due. It seems like everyone has different sleep cycles here, but for me – I typically sleep from 2-3 AM and wake up at 8 or 11 AM, depending on which classes I have the next day. I’m supposedly in one of the dorms (McCormick) where people actually sleep. I don’t know if that means anything.
There is a lot in the way of support at MIT, contrary to what some might believe, but teachers will not generally hold your hand and walk you through each class. Someone who perseveres through each trial and error and is fiercely independent and driven would be well-adapted to thrive at this climate. Going to class is not enough – you have to gather rations of knowledge at office hours and find pset buddies or groups to get your work done. The Students are very cooperative.
The key is to remember that every Student at MIT was once an Earthling. And every one of them had, by the end of high school, built a rocket out of their own achievements that launched from the Earth and landed them at MIT. And if you make it in here, you did too. And, if you are ready to work hard, this is the perfect place for you to build more and bigger rockets that will take you wherever you want to go.