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Orientation From the Dark Side

Wesley T. Chan

Freshmen: Is Orientation stressing you out? Has the hustle and bustle of choosing classes and finding a place to live caused you to start pulling your hair out? Chances are, you're not as stressed out as you think.

Quite frankly, Orientation from the other side is hell. For the students running Orientation, it's a term of MIT crammed into two short weeks. Orientation for them is like the movie Apollo 13 - but instead of being responsible for 3 astronauts, they're responsible for 1100 of you.

It's a perpetual battle against impending disaster and ill-conceived plans that explode an hour before you arrive. From fending off parents who want to spend every minute of Orientation with their kids to finding out that an impending thunderstorm is about to ruin the freshmen class picture, running Orientation is the ultimate challenge.

Being an Orientation coordinator means having to deal with everyone - deans, students, and parents - who want something done but don't want to do it themselves. It means being awoken in the middle of the night because the fire department had to shut down a freshmen dance since a rogue smoke machine set off the alarm.

Furthermore, it means that you get to stay up late taking care of the work of other people who you can't fire because they're volunteers, and not paid employees. And, because your name appears in The Tech, numerous times every day, you're the first - and only - person who gets blamed when an event goes haywire.

It's not an easy job. But it was my job last year. And now, I can't tell you how glad I am to be able to sit back on the sidelines and laugh as a new progeny of Orientation coordinators face the wrath of the heinous Orientation monster this year.

They've got a tough job ahead of them, and all I can do is snicker. Because, having been through it before, I know what they're going through. It makes me wonder why anyone would be willing to take on something that would cause them to age so quickly and prematurely.

But the answers to that question lie in the same reasons that explain why students like you are willing to come to MIT. After all, not too many sane people would be willing to face four years of all-nighters, impossible problem sets, and insane projects. MIT, after all, is hell - and it's definitely no ride in the park.

But despite all the pain and suffering this place causes, students flock here from all over the world. And amazingly enough, they're willing to fork over more than thirty thousand dollars each year to do so.

Perhaps it the challenge of MIT that drives students to come to this place. After all, who wouldn't want to stay up every night for an entire week just to solve one probability problem? Or maybe it's the brilliant faculty that MIT has, many who have prestigious awards and PhD's in how to lecture you to sleep. It could just as well be the fact that MIT can get you an astronomically high salary after you graduate. I've even heard some students mention that they came here because MIT is in the Boston area, and that was all the reason they needed to choose MIT over many of the more "easy" colleges they applied to.

Nevertheless, there is one reason that everybody probably will admit to after a bit of prodding. It's the same reason I gave last year when a freshmen, after seeing me throw my Orientation pager on the ground in disgust, asked me why I took a job that stressed me out so much. I simply told him, "I just didn't know what I was getting myself into."

Wesley Chan was one of last year's Orientation student coordinators. He lost quite a bit of hair during those two weeks, but has since grown it back.