As we approach the end of our trip, I realize exactly how much reality has changed. The past five days have been a dream—a swirl of sleep-deprived, late-night conversation, desert walks (with sand, with mud, with microbes); solar panels, construction, palaces galore; power points, young innovators, old money makers, microphones, questions, answers?
My legs are scratched, I’ve lost my voice, and my eyes are tired, but my mind is thriving. The colors, the patterns, the facial expressions; people’s mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, and curiosities—is this what I’m supposed to think about? I have been an anthropologist, a linguist, a philosopher, a logician, a physicist, an engineer, a political debater, a reporter, a representative. I’ve realized that there is no “supposed to think;” these thoughts and the duties that come along with them are inseparable. It is all entangled in some web that someday I hope to be able to navigate. At least somewhat. For us, dealing with clean energy means dealing with oil, and dealing with oil means dealing with the Middle East. So by taking on engineering clean energy, we’ve also taken on the responsibility of learning cultures, languages, and different governments.
As always with trips like this one, there is as much internal reflection (as an individual, and as a group) as there is external exploration. I’ve bridged the gap (if only a few times) between freshman and upper-classman, freshman and TA, freshman and professor (freshman and world?). I don’t want to say Terrascope is a family (because that’s sappy and cliché and generally a very idealized view of the situation), but I will say we are a community, and a pretty darn strong one at that. We have resources, man-power and collaboration. We have common interests (yes, we love the earth) and conflicting view-points. Most of all, we’ve learned (really I should say “I’ve learned” but for the sake of parallelism of my sentence structure, and in favor of broad generalizations, I’ll say “we’ve learned”) that together we are more than when we are apart.
Particularly, I’ve learned something very valuable about what distinguishes MIT (one of many distinctions): though we are nerdy and socially strange (not necessarily awkward), we can (or are learning) to laugh at ourselves, to embrace our unusualities and use them to our advantage. I’ve learned some of the power behind the three letters I adopted one year ago, only half-knowing what I was committing to. I have begun to experience the power, the opportunity, the progress that is associated with MIT.
So I’d like to start from the bottom and work my way up the tree of people that made this happen. First, my peers. As freshman, if we hadn’t worked ourselves senseless first semester (thank god for pass/no record), we wouldn’t be here. Our lovely UTFs, wonderful TAs, your support was invaluable. Sam Bowring, however, deserves a standing ovation. I don’t think any of us realized what an amazing trip we were going on until we were here. I still don’t know how to properly thank you. Thank you for making freshman year worthwhile, for spending time getting funding for our trip, and for loving geology, because visiting the mudflats yesterday was awesome! Thank you to the Massiah Foundation who generously sponsored us on our trip here, and Thank you to MIT for believing that such a program is worthwhile. As the institute considers budget cuts, I can’t help but wonder if Terrascope’s funding will get cut, but until I have my own income, I’m afraid all I can do is hope.
Now, it’s back to the old (really not that old to me), relatively chilly Cambridge, to the routine of MIT that I’m just getting used to. It’s silly to get sentimental about such a short trip, but it was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s journey.