Friday, September 19, 2008

I love MIT!

I just arrived for my first day at the MIT alumni conference, and completed my first walk from Kendall Square T Stop to the Student Center in quite a while, and it definitely spurred some nostalgia. Here's how it went:

First, I got off the T at the Kendall/MIT stop, thinking, "Yay, MIT". I took the stairs instead of the escalator, remembering that the stairs turn a corner, allowing you to exit facing the right direction, slightly decreasing the amount of time you'll be late to class.

Immediately, I can see the MIT Press Bookstore, above which I had some of my international studies classes, and where I went to see about doing an internship in another country. Past the bookstore, I cut through MIT Medical. (Which you basically have to do, since its a big building to walk around.) MIT Medical, the location of more than one nervous visit, either for me or for friends - like when Carvey hurt his leg, and Craig and I took him in the next day, concerned by the mysterious colors that it was turning.

When you exit, the media center is there to great you - covered in big white tiles, like a giant bathroom floor. I see the 'MIT' built into the design - if you look just right, you see it spelled out in giant letters by the pillars at the entrance and over the stairs.

On, past the media center, and down the stairs, I cross Ames street and notice that crazy building that comes to point, and also East Campus. East Campus is a dorm, made up of two buildings with a courtyard in between. East Campus was famous for being home to some of the creative, wild, and eccentric at MIT. In the beginning of the year they used to have naked pool parties in the courtyard. I never partook personally, but I do remember hearing about it during orientation, and thinking, "Wow, I really am in college now..." Suddenly, there were no rules - it was just a bunch of 18-year-olds running around, in charge of themselves.

Through a gap in the buildings, I see the Stata Center - the building of brick and metal that looks like its falling down. It opened while I was here, I helped run games of lazer tag in the basement at the official opening. I also took (and then TA-ed) the 8.02T class that drew ire from so many students. (People hated that attendance mattered, and that it was an interactive method of learning, with tabletop experiments and in-class problem solving, rather than a 300-person lecture hall...) I was in that building spring of my senior year as well, TAing the Intro to Aero/Astro course taught by Jeff Hoffman.

Ok, let's keep moving. Past the green building - the tallest building in Cambridge. (Which coincidently is not green at all - just a very normal shade of light-brown.) It's open on the first floor (so it looks like it's on stilts), and has revolving doors to get to stairs up to classrooms and offices. The story is that, when they first built it, the wind would come off the river and whip through that opening, spinning the revolving doors at light speed. They had to intall a piece of art (The Great Sail) in the courtyard to alter the air flow.

On my left is the building where Jeff took one of his IAP classes his freshman year - and also the place where he and I would find a corner to sit and chat for a few minutes before he had to go back to the house for his 24/7 participation in Help Week at his fraternity.

And then there's the building where the Concourse classroom is located - that's where I took most of my freshman classes. It's right next door to the Concourse lounge, which had a couch and a blanket that I used many times to take much-needed naps to make it through the first of my four sleep-deprived years.

Then its up the stairs and into the Infinite Corridor. The infinite corridor is the long hallway (you can see one end to the other) which connects all of MIT's main buildings. I walked down this hallway almost every day while I was here. Along the walk, I pass the Building 4 Cafe. There was a period when I used to stop there for fruit and yogurt parfait almost every day. I pass by the space that used to be the registrar's office, marked a huge dollar bill painted the size of the wall, where I used to pick up checks while working as a student researcher. It's since been turned into a lounge (thanks to direct deposit, I guess) and the dollar-bill wall has been replaced by glass.

Then I'm in Lobby 10, looking out through the glass doors at Killian Court, where we used to play ultimate frisbee with the FAP kids that were there a day early. (I used to be a counselor for the Freshman Art Preorientation Program every year.) It's also where we held graduation. Framed by the old white stone buildings, with green grass, the Charles River, and Boston in the distance, Killian is one of the nicest views on campus. Also, I know that above me is the Great Dome, now illuminated at night, which is the location of many of the famous MIT hacks. At one point, students managed to put a police car on top of it - complete with donuts on the seat.

Now I was past the half-way point in the infinite. I walk past the stairs to 10-250, one of the most famous lecture halls at MIT, where I actually never had a lecture. Though I did camp out there for the Chorallaries Bad Taste Concert a few years in a row. (That's an acapella group at MIT that puts on a concert at midnight once a year.)

Past Student Services (ah, so many forms and waiting in line!), and into Lobby 7. I've spent lots of time putting up posters here, advertising for Model United Nations, or whatever other group I was in. I helped the Intro Aero/Astro club test their parachutes, as they dropped them from the third floor. There is a cafe in the corner, which opened while I was an undergrad, and where I got coffee many mornings during my senior year.

I don't go visit now, but I know that just down the hall is building 33, home to the Aero/Astro labs and many of the classrooms. My sophomore year, I spent three hours a day, five days a week, sitting in the Unified Engineering classroom - an intense class with lecture 9am-11am daily, in which you learn about all fields of engineering in relation to aerospace. In the labs, I built airplanes, low-pressure boxes, and even 3D printed a human leg for spacesuit testing.

Out of Lobby 7, down the stairs, and across 77 Mass Ave - which I think of as the official address of MIT. I see Bexley - the dorm that has anti-rush - they try to scare potential freshman off, so that rooms in the old apartment building are not crowded, and they're pretty effective. On the right is the student center.

The Student Center has Anna's Taqueria - my favorite burrito place in the world (even better than Chipotle!). Anna's was famous even before it came to campus, and when we could get our hands on a car, we used to drive out to Brookline to get it. It moved into the student center just after my junior year, and then I ate it for lunch almost every single day my senior year - sometimes twice a day, if I was still on campus at dinner time. LaVerde's - where I've bought a million late night snacks and sandwhiches. Up on the floors above, I'd done hours of studying. And now I'm sitting in the Alpine Bagel place - which housed a wide variety of food establishments - constantly changing since I came here. At the moment, there's a Dunkin Donuts. Yay, coffee!

Kresge's out the window, opposite the MIT Chapel - surrounded by its moat. I know that dorm row is just down the street - maybe I'll make a stop over to Burton-Conner, my home for my first two years at MIT. And I'll definitely make a trek across the Harvard Bridge (ask me the story of why it's called that, even though it's right on MIT campus) over to Boston, despite the biting wind.

Alright, that was quite a long walk down memory-lane, and I've only been on campus for an hour. I'm really looking forward to the Alumni Conference!

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