As you are applying to MIT, you’ll realize quickly that getting in is competitive. Competition is something a lot of us are accustomed to. We usually excel at it. For others, competition is incredibly terrifying. Even the most competitive of us feel that at times. Going into MIT, I was worried about how I would measure up to the hundreds of brilliant minds I would be meeting.
That competitiveness leaves the moment you enter the SCM Lab. The very first day, Bruce Arntzen, our director, let us know that we go through the program together as a class. The competition we faced was getting in. Now that we were there, we were a family.
To make sure that happens, our second day at MIT was spent on Thompson Island for the Outward Bound program. Outward Bound is an experienced-based learning program that focuses on leadership, teamwork, and discovery. We took an early morning boat out into Boston Harbor. (For marketing purposes, I will not reveal the exact time of this boat ride.)
The day was split into two sessions: morning and afternoon. Each student was in a different group of ten for each session. In the morning session, we were tasked with team building exercises. At first, people were hesitant to voice their opinions, but before long everyone was joining in. If someone had an idea, we fleshed it out as a team and then tried to implement it. If it didn’t work, we tried again. My team didn’t fail a challenge, because we were willing to work together. All 10 of us did end up in the most epic group hug on this small tarp for about 15 minutes (of which Bruce has plenty of pictures) as we tried to keep each other from falling off. By the end of the morning session, a real sense of community was building and many of the barriers when you first know someone were falling away.
The afternoon was spent scaling the Thompson Island Towers, a set of climbing towers meant to challenge you mentally and physically. As each student climbed, the other students belayed for them. This means that they held the other end of the rope and repeatedly locked and unlocked the safety mechanism so you could climb higher. Two days in and we had each other’s lives in our hands (in a very safe and tested environment, of course). Growing up, I never liked heights, but I was determined to make it to the top.
When it was my turn, I got almost to the top and froze. When I called to my belayer to let me down, he instead encouraged me to keep going and promised that he had me no matter what. With my team below me encouraging me and guiding me through it, I was able to make it those last few feet. That view from the top is one I’ll never forget. I know I would not have been able to do it without the support of my team.
The trip to Thompson Island was the best way we could have started the year. Over the course of 12 hours, we learned so much about each other. We learned to trust each other and to challenge each other. We are now two months into the SCM program, and the wonderful thing is that this attitude and sense of community has continued. As we enter into midterm week, we know that we can count on each other to help us study and prepare for what’s next.