With the possible exceptions of RSI and Camp Bohrmore, no experience comes closer to approximating the combination of nerdiness and summer camp than the first few weeks of term at MIT. It could be just me (it usually is), but I can’t help feeling like it’ll be a while more of eat-sleep-pset-rinse-repeat before it occurs to me that I’m here for the long haul — that I’m not in the newest of the litany of summer academic adventures that sucked the life out of my vacations, but instead that I am in the next iteration of my educational career.
I should hope at least a few others out there have recognized the similarities. Weather patterns become inexplicably freakish. Food, though often good, is usually of unspecified origin. And tragically, in spite of multiple events featuring its gooey goodness, I’ve yet to sample the snack food known as the s’more. Given the trend of frustration I’ve been having lately with healthful foods and lack of flavor, I suspect I may actually at some point end up making entire meals of the stuff.
In all seriousness, the experiences and sensations do have their parallels. You’ve just been dropped off in a new environment where you’re living communally with mostly strangers. The giddiness of escaping (or homesickness of leaving) your guardians’ stranglehold is magnified by the need to hunt and gather on your own. You travel just about everywhere on foot for fear that public transportation will take you to some alien and hostile land, like Caltech. After the initial shock, you become acclimated to your new surroundings. You manage to ask questions besides “What dorm are you in?,” “Where are you from?,” and “What’s your major?,” the a/s/l of college introductions. The qualifier “because my parents can’t stop me” settles into your vocabulary. And following much trial and error, you realize that the most foreign place that Tech Shuttle will take you is the Stata Center.
At least whenever I went to summer camp, classes generally constituted a central part of my day. Of course, MIT classes are of a completely different caliber — as are the workloads, for that matter. Twiddling with quadratic approximations and making a group PowerPoint about a fictional planet and its wildlife are two very different assignments. One requires you to work with people who don’t know you particularly well but have the same class you do, and the other requires PowerPoint.
Of course, it’s only a finite interval of time before reality comes along to bludgeon me in the brain hemisphere of its choice with the Fire Hose of Smiting, stripping away the euphoria and novelty of being on the frontier of my life to reveal a bitter world of all-nighters and procrastination.
Already I’ve forgotten to have dinner and opted instead for a bowl of cereal at two in the morning. Already “tool” has begun to take meaning as a verb, and believe me when I say that there are graphic synonyms aplenty to describe the actions exchanged between myself and my calculus homework. Already, I’ve dreamt of putting the wrong course number on my Add/Drop form, and few things are more terrifying than nightmares that, upon waking, must be proven fiction with a phone call. Looks like cabin fever has begun to take hold. Welcome, self, to MIT.