Me and my papa at commencement!

Graduating from MIT was bittersweet.

To be honest, I was kind of expecting myself to cry. I cried like a baby during my high school graduation, so why would graduating from MIT be any different? I guess the difference was that I wasn’t totally mentally ready to leave high school when I left – but I was pretty mentally ready to leave MIT.

The morning of graduation, Renee, the course administrator for course 4 (Architecture) had all of us fill out questionnaires about the architecture major at MIT. The first question: “What do you think the strengths of the program are?” Sandwiched between Rosa and Sonya, we looked back and forth at each other trying to come up with things to say.

I ended up answering question 2 first. Weaknesses of the program were much easier to list. The extreme focus on traditional studios. The debilitating studio culture that came with it. The lack of progress in the program, technologically speaking, to keep up with the progress of time. The lack of information about the major and about next steps for someone with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. The lack of time given to incoming freshmen to explore their options before having to be tied down to one major for the next three years.

Am I a little bit bitter?

Yes. Yes I am.

Honestly, this past year has been the best time at MIT, regardless of the stress of job searching and finishing school and the potential of entering adulthood. I was finally no longer tied down by studios and I didn’t have to spend so much energy just figuring out when I was going to sleep and if I could take the classes I actually wanted to take. I was able to take courses and work on projects that were new and exciting and not architecture, and I am so, so proud of the work that I have done in the past two semesters, more so than I am of any of my studio projects.

And that sucks. I have taken five studios. I liked my projects in those studios, but I don’t remember ever feeling as passionate and excited throughout an entire project as I have with my augmented reality project in my Tangible Interactions class, or my Perfect Pitch card game in my Game Design for Education class.

I genuinely forgot how excited I could be about learning new things and figuring things out until this past year.

And yet, as Matt Damon said during his speech at our commencement on Friday, “how lucky you are — and how lucky we are — that you’re here, and you’re you.”

Because there is no sweet without any bitter, and yes, I am lucky to have gone through MIT with the people I have done it with.

Because despite the bitterness I feel towards the architecture program, I cannot imagine what my MIT experience would’ve been like without meeting architecture professors like Ryan Murphy, who once told me my ideas were “so dumb they were brilliant”, or John Ochsendorf, who apparently still has a doodle I did of him (daydreaming about vaults, no less) in class one day that I don’t recall drawing, or Terry Knight, who let me cry to her during class time out of stress and frustration. I have had some pretty poor professors, but I have also had the pleasure of interacting with and knowing some of the most incredible, caring, brilliant professors at MIT. The tiny size of the architecture program allows for professors to really get to know and befriend their students, a luxury that isn’t afforded to MIT students in many other majors.

Because despite my dislike for the debilitating studio culture that is certainly not a MIT-centric problem, nothing helps form connections with your peers like spending more than 12 hours minimum per week with them, cooped up in the same space, making sure everyone actually remembers to eat and sleep, reminding each other that despite what it seems there are more important things than finishing a line drawing of a section or a plan.

Because I made friends, hopefully life-long ones, who checked in on me and forced me to eat food – whether it was by buying or cooking it for me – when my mouth was so ridden with canker sores that it was physically painful to even think about chewing. I survived, with much cajoling from those friends, for many months on pretty much just soup. And ice cream.

Because despite the fact that my dance group was often the only reason I managed to get out of bed for many days in many weeks during my time at MIT, I am forever grateful that I had that family of support – something that I know for a fact some students at MIT never found for themselves, and MIT and the world will forever miss and hurt from their loss.

And because I know, despite everything, if I were given a time machine and the opportunity to do it over again, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Except maybe I’d join ADT a little bit earlier, and maybe I’d try harder to take classes outside of architecture a little bit sooner than my senior year. Maybe I’d even double major. Who knows.

Also, maybe I’d waste less time on taking random HASS classes that I didn’t really enjoy and that ended up being rather useless to me and to my grades and to my graduation requirements.

So thank you, MIT, despite everything that I didn’t enjoy, because for me, the positives outweigh the negatives. At the very least, I learned more about my work ethic and my creativity and my capability to learn and create new things even when I don’t have the prior knowledge or skills to create what I want. At the very least, I learned that when I am pushed to my extremes – especially mentally – I will still survive.

Thank you to my dance group, for keeping me sane and giving me a space to relieve my stress. I’ve already written you guys a love letter, so you already know.

Thank you to my professors, especially Lorena and Ryan and John and Terry and Meejin, who taught me and helped ground me and always offered a listening ear. Despite what I perceive as the shortcomings of the architecture department, the people in the department were what made the experience valuable for me.

Our little architecture family, all lined up and sitting in the second row ready
to graduate!

Thank you to my fellow course 4s, who helped keep me sane and hopefully I helped keep sane as well during long nights in studios.

Rosa and I are so ready.
Thank you to Rosa, my favorite of our little architecture bunch, who never failed to check in on me and who let me cry on her shoulder more times than I care to count. We had the best sleepovers, eating popcorn and bonding over knitting because we are complete grandmas and complaining about everything under the sun. 
Ready for our next adventure in New York City!
Thank you to Caitlin, one of the first people I met at MIT and one of my favorite people ever, who continues to be a grounding force for me. You have let me cry to you so many times and invited me into your room and your life and I couldn’t be more thankful. Moving out with you into an apartment was one of the best decisions I ever made, and we bonded over our weirdnesses and over our ridiculous love for food. Thank you for always feeding me and taking care of me, even though you never had to. Also, you give the best head scratches.
This lady is completely ridiculous and also adorable and my favorite, if only
for all the dog snaps she sends me when she’s home.

Thank you to Julie (and by extension, the rest of the Beastie crew) for giving me another home. Your couches are all ridiculously comfortable and you were my safe space when I felt overwhelmed with all my architecture work. Our weekly tv show date nights and your weekly check-ins helped get me through some of my lowest points during our junior year. When I left MacGregor I lost people who I thought were my friends, but I gained you guys as another family instead, and I wouldn’t trade that in for the world.

Even if you guys made fun of me literally all the time for being a baby. I’m finally 21 now, you can’t do that anymore!

I did it. We did it. I couldn’t have done it without all of you. And guess what, guys — the rat can finally stop shitting on us and start shitting on the world.