This is why I’m here.

In high school I was pretty stubborn about going to some average, pretty-good-but-nothing-special college. It was a win-win plan: the security of knowing I’d  be accepted/be able to afford it, not too intense of a workload, and not feeling like the dumbest person there. The plan instantly changed the moment I stepped into Bexley Hall for the first time.

I had come to visit a friend during my junior year of high school, and he happened to live in Bexley. When I first saw it, I couldn’t understand how it was even a college dorm. Every minute, there was another surprise. You can paint the walls? Cats?! My experience in Bexley made me want to explore more of MIT, and my attraction to the East Side culture completely overrode my desire to settle for a “pretty-good-but-nothing-special” school.

I think it seemed understandable to my friends and teachers that I wanted so badly to go to MIT, but many of them could not understand why, if I was rejected, “you’ll probably get into Harvard/Princeton/Yale anyway, it’s okay” wouldn’t do. The reason I am here has nothing to do with the prestige, and while I’m certainly grateful for the opportunities and quality of education I’m receiving, that’s not what made me fall in love.

No, what made me fall in love with MIT was the culture and the atmosphere I found at EC when I spent a night there, and the supportive, tight-knit community I observed at Bexley. It was how everyone in these dorms felt comfortable wearing whatever they wanted without stares or complaints. It was the fact that a group of college students built a whole entire roller coaster for a week–knowing they would have to take it back apart after–not because they were assigned to but because they wanted to. It was the freedom students had to express themselves and to voice their opinions in front of their dormmates and on the walls of the dorms themselves.

Living at Senior House was one of the best decisions I’ve made at MIT. When I moved in, everyone was so welcoming and eager to be helpful to the whole transitioning to college process. College is a time when you discover who you are, and that can only truly be done if you’re comfortable being that person. I am proud to be part of such a creative, supportive, accepting, and individualistic community. When it’s already 3AM and I’m not even halfway through that pset, it’s my surroundings that remind me that I’ve made the right decision.

There are plenty of amazing universities out there. MIT certainly is not the only place you can receive a great education. But it was the only place I wanted to go, because I knew I’d find a home here.