Campus Life

A Frosh Out of Water

At Home Amongst Strangers

There’s something overwhelming about arriving on the MIT campus that makes me sound both apathetic and verbally primitive. “Why did you show up a week early without an FPOP or a sport to go to?” “Just ’cuz,” I said. “Why did you choose that major?” “No reason,” I responded. “What’d you have to suck the helium out of all those picnic balloons for, and why is your face turning blue??” “… I dunno,” came the reply, with me sounding and looking not unlike a Smurf shortly before losing consciousness.

I imagine it’ll be a little while longer before I find my groove to the point of being able to use a whopping three words at once. Until then, I can at least take comfort in knowing that a universal awkwardness unites the first-years for a few choice weeks, creating certain threads of commonality. The wave of hernias during the move-in process. The inability to remember names of people in an order other than that in which they were introduced. Most of all, the paralyzing paranoia that “frosh” somehow equates to “leper” in this already unusual social climate.

Upon exploration, of course, I found myself welcome virtually everywhere, that room with the ethernet cable on the doorknob notwithstanding. Driving away the fog of war from this unfamiliar map, my first few days consisted of walking around my temporary dorm, praying that I hadn’t wandered into some unauthorized locale ordinarily protected by large, heavily-armed guards. Once assured that dodging bullets was not in my immediate future, I investigated my dorm room, conveniently equipped with a smoke detector right over one of the desks. My roommate, whose home-built computer draws almost as much power as his refrigerator, will be getting that one.

After I got too settled in for my own good, I found myself desperate for human contact, an emotion in direct contradiction to my aversion to talking to strange people. I became considerably more comfortable when I realized I was no gleaming example of normality myself; that became abundantly clear when, come nightfall, I started doodling on my glow-in-the-dark T-shirt with a flashlight. Perhaps my oddities stand better next to those of my classmates than I previously supposed. Perhaps my worry that I’d be outgeeked and outnerded at every step and turn was irrational, despite being consistently outclassed in every video game I’ve played so far. After all, a lunar eclipse occurred only two weeks ago, yet imagine my surprise when only half a dozen people appeared to see it at the bright and fully functional hour of 5:30 in the morning.

Now that I think about it, MIT is not so hostile a world as I’d feared. Sure, the food’s different, the living quarters are different, the people are different, the weather’s different, and the surrounding city is different … but different is still good. At any rate, in spite of everything that’s confused and concerned me over the past week, there’s still only one thought in my mind when I step out my front door, breathe deep, and start hacking and coughing on the construction dust: “I’m home.”