After spending all these years walking across 77 Mass Ave, it is only natural that I should ask myself what I have learned from the Institute. The more interesting question would be to ask what I “haven’t” or “couldn’t” learn. I’ll go with “haven’t,” because it puts more weight on personal responsibility — definitely learned about that at MIT!
I’m graduating today and I still don’t know how to get shiny straight A’s and sleep and still have time for a social life (does group psetting count?). MIT, I’ve realized, is like that very hot, jealous and possessive girlfriend that will slowly but surely scare all your friends away so she can have all of you for herself. At times she might also make you feel inadequate and worthless. You hate that about her, but she keeps you hooked and addicted, indulging your fantasies and desires every so often. That is not to say she’s pure evil — there will be times when she will appreciate that you’re a part of her life and will reward you for hanging in there. Without stretching the metaphor any further, what I think I’m trying to say is that I knew what I was signing up for when I sent in my acceptance letter. I had done my research, but like every bright eyed freshman, I shrugged it off thinking “I’ll be the exception, because hey, I’ve always been one.” Little did I know that at MIT, being the exception is the rule.
MIT did not teach me to be lazy. I simply do not know how to kill time without being overridden by guilt. We’re here to “punt” and “tool;” how dare we “loaf” and “loiter”? While I do value hard work, I have come to believe that genius isn’t all a result of tooling — there is a sense of purpose in aimlessness, too. I have long wondered about finding the time to “think” or to “be,” and not just to “do.” If we’re constantly drinking from the fire hose, then when, if ever, are we going to take deliberate sips from this intoxicating fountain of youth? Constant action is dreary and sometimes even depressing. W.H. Davies’ “Leisure” could not have depicted my sentiments any better:
All that being said, there are far too many things I would have missed out on had I attended another institute. MIT taught me to be a “man,” to toughen up and deal with whatever crisis came my way. I remember freshman year when I had just failed a physics test — the first time I had ever failed anything. Needless to say, I was devastated. I decided to seek out a friend for sympathy and some advice, since he was a physics major. I wasn’t even finished venting before he pulled out a scratch piece of paper and a pen and sketched out an Atwood’s machine (pulleys and ropes). I didn’t even have to ask for help! Collaboration (and brilliance, of course) come as second nature to all my peers at MIT, and to be honest, I do not know how I would have survived all these years without them!
I have always been amazed that nobody here patronizingly tries to solve your problems for you. Instead, they point you to the incredible resources available to students. I know I’ve sought support from places like S^3 to Financial Aid, not because my friends were too busy, but because that’s what made the most sense. I could not have made it through some of my most stressful hours without their continuous support. For always being there to guide me and help me make the right decisions, I’d like to say a big “Thank you!”
At MIT, I learned to be patient, and to truly believe that “this too, shall pass.” MIT taught me the difference between arrogance and confidence and the value of humility and empathy. I learned to look beyond the little bubble of my own life, into the world that needs our help. I learned the importance of giving back, both in action and in intent. The weight of an MIT education comes with its own world of responsibility. For four full years I have witnessed faculty and students alike live and breathe the Institute’s mission — “making the world a better place.” Today, that mission is a part of who I am and more of who I would like to be.
And finally, as an economics major, at any other school I would probably have gone all my life without studying DNA replication and Maxwell’s equations! For that, and so much more, I am indebted to the ’tute.
And so, even though I’ll be graduating and leaving campus soon, a part of the Institute will always be with me wherever I am. After all, you can take the beaver out of MIT, but you simply cannot take MIT out of the beaver!