I’m from New Mexico, and for my entire freshman year, my parents’ home in New Mexico was “home,” MIT was “school” (or “work,” or on especially bad days “hell”) and my dormitory was “my dorm,” or occasionally, “my living group.”

My living group, when I first came to MIT, was in Burton Conner, on a floor which people often described as “very East-side.” I came to understand the term “East-side” as “giant do-it-yourself construction projects” and “full of very nice people” and “probably involves rainbow hair.”

Mid-sophomore fall, I moved to East Campus without really knowing too many of the current residents and was struck by the number of facets of East-side culture that exist which are a little less easy to describe in cute taglines that you can tell potential freshmen on campus tours.

Five different people brought me cookies when they heard that I’d suddenly moved dorms. I got an email inviting me to nightly cocoa. Kate and Tom, who were the housemasters at the time, knew my name and major and life goals and were waving at me in the Infinite before I’d even started moving boxes. East Campus is a community: the people I live with aren’t just “people I live with” — they’re my friends and a lot of times my family.

The other word I’d use to describe East-side culture is “busy,” in the most positive way possible: my friends are risk-takers who are passionate about in-room construction projects, who stay up until 4am to do spur-of-the-moment research, and who couldn’t care less about what you’re wearing or what color your hair is. I love that I can walk out of my room at 2am and find people in the lounges fiercely debating problem sets or the latest twist in Orange Is The New Black or the best way to affix a swing to the pipes running through our ceilings. If I were an admissions brochure, I’d call the environment “intellectually stimulating”.

Since I’m an East Campus resident, I call it home.