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A freshman's first impression of MIT

Dear Mom:

I finally was lucky enough to find a few extra minutes between classes, homework, problem sets, eating junk food, studying and, occasionally, sleeping. So I thought I would give you an updated report on what is going on here at MIT.

The most interesting part of MIT is its students: I cannot remember another occasion when I was confronted with a selection of people as strange and fascinating. All of them (or just about all) take their academics very seriously. It is no surprise to meet half your dorm in the kitchen at 4 am, having the traditional late midnight snack.

They certainly study hard, but they play hard as well. They are the only people I know who would wake up a whole dorm floor after they have finished studying for the night (which usually does not happen before their late midnight snack). Why? Just because a bunch of them feel like having an ice-cream party!

That may sound like fun, but I somehow object to people lecturing on the importance of ice-cream for a well-balanced diet at 4 am. But I am sure that this sort of thing happens only at the beginning of the semester. Later on even they will have to fight to get their MIT standard amount of three hours of sleep a night.

All of them are obviously brilliant; they seem even more brilliant than I ever was or ever will be. Most of them speak several languages fluently: not German, Latin and Greek as I do, but Pascal, Fortran, and Scheme.

They do not care whether you speak German because it is not important for MIT; they do not care how many computer languages you speak because a real MIT student is expected to have this sort of knowledge; but they do care if you do not know any computer language at all. That is why I, will have a tough time (at least until I can communicate in "MIT-ese.").

Mom, please do not get a wrong idea about the MIT community: people here are weird. But they are about the friendliest nerds I have met so far. There are not too many places where you can stop and start a conversation with a complete stranger. But it would not be advisable to do so if the person has a knife or other weapon in his hand, or if the time is anywhere between five of and ten after the hour, as students rush to and from classes.

Maybe it is because most students consider MIT their second home, and are willing to put some effort into making it a nice place to spend the next three or four years; or maybe they are just too special to simply tell you to get lost.

Anyway, my Chipmunk is waiting. I have not even started working on my problem set. I still have not figured out how to use the computer. Boston is nice and cold, the girls are nice and cold, and I need some new sweaters.