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Freshman Diaries

‘You think you know, but you have no idea’

By Veena Ramaswamy

This is the diary of an MIT freshman. It will be a recurring column throughout the year.

It only hit me that I was in “college” when I stepped into the bathroom on my first day of orientation and found a half naked guy standing in front of me casually brushing his teeth. That was my first eye-opening experience to the freedom and independence that epitomize the college experience.

The days preceding my arrival to MIT were filled with mixed emotions. Academically, I knew it was time to move on and face greater challenges. Socially, though, I was not ready to leave behind my friends and the only community that I had known. This is the typical dilemma that many freshman face: leaving behind familiar people and places. But after completing the first week of Orientation, my desires to be back at home slowly vanished.

Orientation was a great way to get to know my fellow classmates. Although some of the activities seemed a bit juvenile, their underlying goal, to get to us know as many people as possible, was commendable. The activities began with “Welcome to MIT brunch” held by the dorms. This was an excellent way to start the Orientation because it allowed me to get to talk to the people who I’ll be living next to for the next four years.

One of the other events called “PlayFair” was fun, though a bit too long. During this activity, Orientation leaders and freshmen played a series of get-to-know-you games in Johnson Athletic Center (I can’t tell you how many times I said my name in one night). Although I was able to meet many people at the “PlayFair,” the meetings were so abrupt that all I remember is a jumble of names and not many faces.

Orientation was also filled with many free meals, which were of surprisingly decent quality. I was told by an upperclassman that if I ended up paying for a meal during Orientation, then I did something wrong. So let’s just say that there was a lot of free food to go around. There was so many opportunities for free food that I would often spot upperclassmen disguised as freshmen to get their share of the food.

One Orientation highlight was Katie Koestner’s talk about rape and sexual assault, entitled “No-Yes.” I must admit that like many of my classmates, I was not looking forward to the talk because I assumed with the level of intelligence and education of students in the MIT student body, such issues would not be a concern. Yet after listening to Koestner’s gripping talk about her own experience with rape, I began to reconsider my outlook on the subject. A lot of important issues were brought up in the discussion groups after the talk. It was comforting that many of my male classmates approached the subject with seriousness and maturity. For these reasons, I think “No-Yes” should be an annual Orientation event.

Another main event of orientation that I thought was valuable the housing adjustment lottery and floor rush. The idea of allowing a freshman to chose his or her own roommate and room is a good one that should be continued. It forced me to be very outgoing and social with everyone that I met in the first few days here, and this helped me find a roommate with whom I was compatible and make some new friends.

Orientation’s end meant only one thing: the beginning of classes. Much to my surprise, my first day of classes wasn’t all that bad. My lecturers were pretty interesting (especially Professor Sadoway, my 3.091 professor -- I can already tell that his class will be one of my favorites). Also, there wasn’t a lot of unfamiliar material thrown at me all at once, which was something I initially feared. Despite my content with my first day of classes, I was warned later that day by a very wise upperclassman, “Yeah, at first you (freshmen) think you’re kicking some MIT ass, but then when the quizzes and tests start, MIT begins to kick your ass.”

Nevertheless, I do not fear the workload that looms ahead. I will face my first semester of college with faces that are now familiar to me and a campus that has readily welcomed me. I don’t think I’ve met so many national scholars or humble people in my life. And if this is what MIT is like, I know that I’m really going to like it here.