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Surviving the Right Decision

Guest Column
Philippe Larochelle

The first hour I arrived at MIT during this blitzkrieg the Institute has chosen to call orientation, I was quite convinced that everything around here was engineered to intimidate me as much as possible and put me, as a freshman, into my proper place. That is, curled up into a frightened little ball in the corner of a dark room.

I quickly learned that I had failed my online freshman essay evaluation (as had everyone else I talked to), that I was being thrown into a small single-turned-double in one of the less desirable dorms on campus, and that it seemed everywhere I went there were Greco-Roman pillars of the size usually reserved for temples frequented by Greco-Roman gods. I suppose I felt like a mouse that had taken up residence in a dog house.

Like the mouse, I had two main concerns: first, how was I possibly supposed to make use of this huge place I was in; second, what would happen when the owner of this place came back and realized I didn’t belong. In the mouse’s case, rip its tiny head off.

My angst and worry towards my upcoming tenure at MIT lasted over the next couple of days. Fortunately it did begin to subside, partly through the words of the staff, upperclassmen and orientation leaders, but mostly by figuring out that a lot of people here were just as concerned, if not as scared, as I was.

My misgivings lasted throughout international orientation (I’m from Montreal, if my name didn’t give it away), but by the time the real orientation, welcoming dinner and convocation speeches rolled around, I really began to feel as though perhaps I did belong here. Maybe it was all those speeches about the quality of admissions staff and the willingness of the faculty that actually did get to me. I started to feel as if MIT is really a place where the people who wanted to get something done could really go out and do it and that everyone who got admitted here really did have the ability and opportunity to follow any path they wanted.

When I finally gathered up the courage to congratulate President Vest for his opening address, he actually gave me a sincere thank you, rather than the expected subtle nod, and when I approached a faculty member about a UROP, he told me I could simply schedule an appointment with a rather famous professor who I thought would have been totally inaccessible.

Killian Kickoff has now come and gone and we are well into what most people have told me may very well be my best couple of days at MIT. The whole idea of a rush seems very good in principle, allowing us to choose what corner of MIT (or away from MIT) we can spend our time in, but, in practicality, it’s impossible to get a true picture of each dorm and FSILG during a three day period.

In reality, where we will choose to pass our college years will most likely be determined by whether or not we strike up an interesting conversation at one of the few ILG’s or dorms we find the time to visit. That being said, I think rush is a wonderful experience and very well may be the last chance we get to exploit upperclassmen for our own materialistic and culinary enjoyment. I’ve made a game of figuring out whether it is possible to have steak and lobster for every single meal.

Although this turnaround in my attitude may paint me as an optimist, I still do have a number of concerns about the future, as I think any rational person would. I’m sure that all-nighters and IHTFP will play into my four years here, but, overall, I feel that the Class of 2003 and I will do all right in the long run. Maybe choosing the beaver over the ivy wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Philippe Larochelle is a member of the Class of 2003.