I may not have four years of memories here yet, but I can say that East Campus is the reason why I came to MIT.
Personally, if I’m not in a tightly-knit community, I will withdraw completely. I will not socialize, I will not make friends, and I will become nothing more than a grade-producing machine. This was somewhat true of me through high school – I had a large group of people who I liked and who liked me, and we would all have complain about school together and go to each others’ events from time to time. However, I never had close friends. The person I was dating was the only person I really confided in – my family life had gone to hell and I didn’t really trust my classmates to care all that much about my struggles. Nobody really “knew” me.
Though I survived, I don’t want to just “survive.” I want to be happy. The thing that distinguished MIT from the nine other schools I had planned to apply to was the culture. When I stayed in East Campus for CPW, I felt like I had found my people. I hung out on Tetazoo where a friend from high school lived and I now live. I talked to my host on 4E for hours as various other upperclassmen from the hall wandered in and out of the conversation until we suddenly cooked dinner (lemon and herb fish) at 2:00am. I wandered back into the dorm to fetch a sweatshirt in the evening and was swept into an impromptu adventure.
That was just CPW, and REX and the beginning of the year have been even more overwhelmingly full of this kind of activity. What strikes me the most is the freedom of this place. Even at my family’s house, I’m not completely free to be myself. Here, everyone is free to do pretty much as they please so long as they don’t make other people uncomfortable. I feel safe here. I feel like I can wander, squinting, to my morning showers in my underwear without being hassled or judged. The people here treat me the same whether I’m wearing cargo pants and a T-shirt or a pretty dress. I can be straight. I can paint on the walls. I can question authority.
Better yet, everything is based on consent – one of my favorite things that has happened so far was when everyone paused to ask “Do you consent?” and get a positive reply in the middle of hauling someone off to the bathroom for a birthday shower. Despite this place’s various quirks, nobody is going to pressure me into doing things I don’t want to. On the other hand, the people here will push me to grow and learn in ways that classes can’t help me to grow and learn. I’ve already picked up a new climbing technique and learned how to use a few power tools, and there’s much more to come.
Though I’m adjusting to doing my own laundry, keeping in touch with my family and staying afloat in classes, there’s one thing I know for sure – I know I can tackle it because I am in East Campus. My fellow freshmen are always available to pset with me and the upperclassmen willingly volunteer advice when we’re stuck or just need a good old-fashioned life lesson. The people here are going to shape who I become, and despite the fact that they are frequently weird, I know I will be all the better for it. I hope the environment of the dorm remains conducive to that sort of a relationship.