This may be slightly irrelevant, but I want to tell the story of my Freshman year and how I landed in East Campus.
Before arriving at MIT, I had only a slight understanding of the ‘cultural’ differences associated with the MIT dormitories. I wouldn’t have necessarily applied the word ‘culture’ to them myself, at the time. They were dormitories- a bed, a desk, a place to eat. If I was lucky, it might have a gym and a weight room, or even a ball pit or a movie theatre.
I wasn’t yet 18, and relied heavily on my parents’ own college experiences and concerns to make my campus housing decision. My parents were worried, of course. They wanted to know how I would be fed, if I would be sleeping enough, if someone would be keeping tabs on me and make sure I was doing my school work. I was not even eighteen! Feeding myself was not even an option, so a dining hall was a must. Somewhere clean and quiet was also a necessity, so I would be able to focus on my school work! My decision was such, and I landed in a brand new, recently renovated dormitory for my Freshman year.
I was happy enough. I made a friend or two around campus. I ate regular meals. I had a GRT who checked up on me often, and held weekly social events to help me meet (and really, even just remember the names of) the people that lived within my general vicinity. And then- at the end of my Freshman Fall Semester, tragedy struck. My roommate, whom I had thought of as a wonderful friend since even before our CPW, had a serious mental breakdown. She asked that, for her physical and mental well being, I not return to the dorm room or to anywhere where I might be in her presence whatsoever.
For a Freshman, barely out of high school, to suddenly lose their home, their social circle, their safe place- all with nearly no warning, it was life shattering. I didn’t know what to do. I called my parents, obviously, and turned to my GRT (who I still cannot possibly thank and respect enough for the assistance he provided during this time). I was pointed towards my housemaster, S^3, Mental Health. I turned to an incredible friend in another dormitory, who allowed me to live out of his room while I tried to work out my situation. It took over two weeks to rouse my house master to action. To be accurate, two weeks and a threatening and outraged parent email. In this time, if this friend had not stood up for me, I quite literally do not know where I would have stayed. After those two weeks and the threatening email, this house master agreed to make a vacant room in the dormitory available to me- an emergency room that is kept empty for precisely these circumstances. I still could not hazard a guess as to why it took two weeks for this room to be brought to my attention. In addition, I was given a list of all of the females in the dorm who could potentially house another room mate. I was told I could do some footwork on my own, talk to these people, and let the housing staff know when I’d decided where I’d be moving.
With the help and support of my freshman year GRT, I was able to work through this. I chose to not move in to the emergency room in the dorm, and opted to instead stay with my friend in the other dormitory.
Where did I stay for the full month of my Freshman IAP, while negotiating a new place to live? And why? East Campus. These strangers, people who I had never before met in my life, listened to me and my story and accepted me with open arms. These people took me in to their home and supported me with the love and care that I would have never expected to be shown by someone outside of my family. They put me on my feet and helped me with the bueracratic nightmare that was MIT housing.They helped me to catch up with my classwork, which extended in to IAP because of 8.01L. They hugged me when I needed it, they let me cry on their shoulders, and they talked to me about my anxiety and concerns about the future.
In four short weeks, I would have never comprehended that I would be able to find and be accepted so entirely by such a family. I found at East Campus what I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else: true friends who wanted to know me, to care for me, to help me. These people accepted me without question and supported me in a way that I had never none through official student support options. I felt comfortable going to these people with my problems, whether to talk or cry or just bake cookies and watch disney movies and forget about all of the anxiety and unhappiness for a few hours. They were, and have always since, been there for me when I’ve needed it.
Thinking about it in retrospect, it might seem crazy to an ‘outsider’ to understand how it was possible to build such strong relationships over the course of a few weeks. I can guarantee that when you’ve experienced East Campus, even just for a short period, it really does make sense. In my Freshman dorm, I could probably name everyone who live around me- if I walked by each door and read the name plates! EC was different. I easily got to know everyone. Our conversations were not, ‘Name/Year/Major’. We talked about our passions, our hobbies, our concerns and problems, and our day to day lives. We spent all of our time together. No doors were ever closed. Every aspect of our lives was a communal endeavor- we quite literally hacked, punted, and tooled together. In the same vein, when a community member needed help, we reached out as a group and family and always shared the burden of our problems. I think this, above else, was why I was able to find the help and happiness I needed while staying at EC.
At the end of my Spring Semester, I applied (and was granted) a transfer in to East Campus. I have never once regretted my decision to move in with these beautiful, intelligent, unique, and caring people, and still aspire to be the solid pillar of support for underclassmen that my EC family was able to be for me.