Hungry for knowledge (and bananas)

Hungry for knowledge (and bananas)

Hungry for knowledge (and bananas)

Discovering what makes MIT so unique

December 6, 2023 | Jennifer S.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

I have officially been a student at MIT for a month, and in that time, I have juggled the role of an environmental researcher, new Boston tourist, and campus explorer, all while adjusting to the life of a first-year graduate student. Journey with me as I discover the hidden “quirks” of MIT that help foster the welcoming and collaborative environment that is my new home.

Going bananas

One of the first “quirks” of MIT I heard about from current students was the Banana Lounge: a room with a seemingly infinite supply of bananas that, since its opening in 2018, has distributed more than a quarter million bananas to students (I am eating one now as I write and have two more in my kitchen). Luckily, it was not hard to track down the location of the Banana Lounge my first time on campus – I simply followed the dozens of banana-carrying students until I found a bright yellow room with banana art on its walls and a line out the door. While the Banana Lounge can be a major source of hallway traffic, it is also a place of music, laughter, and commotion from students discussing their work and enjoying a quick midday snack. I always look forward to my daily (sometimes twice a day) stop at the Banana Lounge with friends on the way to class.

Jennifer S. and friends pose, smiling, as they hold bananas in the banana lounge.

Going once, twice… free!

While wondering how to decorate my living room, I found the Student Lending Art Program: a program created by the MIT List Visual Arts Center that allows participants to take home a contemporary art piece to display for the academic year.  Not only was I surprised to find that there were hundreds of works of art to choose from, but I was also excited to learn that the program was free and accessible to all students. After stopping by the arts center to examine dozens of pieces of modern art, I selected a canvas of the British band Roxy Music, which will be proudly displayed in my living room for all visitors and rock lovers to admire until the end of April.

The framed art piece, which features a photo print of a vintage photo print that has been crinkled and folded, but is now stretched out for the viewer to see. Six band members pose, facing the camera, some smiling and others staring down the photographer.

Let’s get connected

As someone who uses Google Maps to cross the street, I was in a state of panic the first time I attempted to walk by myself to Building 1 and somehow found myself wandering around Building 3, then Building 7, and then somehow Building 33. As it turns out, a majority of the MIT buildings on the eastern side of campus are connected through a system of aboveground and belowground walkways. (It is even rumored that using the walkway shortcuts can shave a year off your PhD.) The interconnected walkways are beneficial for several reasons: along with promoting collaboration between the various departments stationed in different buildings, they are also useful for traveling between classes during the cold winter months, when the weather outdoors is less than inviting. 

What time is it?

There have been many notable innovations conceived at MIT, but one of the school’s greatest innovations surely has to be the reinvention of time. During the first week of the semester, I was quick to discover “MIT time”: the term coined for the tendency for classes, meetings, and presentations to begin at least five minutes after their scheduled start times. As a new (and directionally challenged) student, MIT time alleviated much of the stress that came with finding my classrooms and navigating campus. And even after MIT time has passed and classes have begun, the professors are always welcoming to newcomers. To me, MIT time is a reminder that at the end of the day, we are all human, and despite our flaws, we are just striving to perform our best.

Wait… there’s even more food?

College campuses are widely known for their many offerings of free food – an attempt to lure students out of their dorm rooms and out into the world of club sports and campus events. However, what surprised me when I arrived at MIT is simply the quantity of free food the school has to offer. I cannot seem to walk into a club interest meeting or departmental workshop without leaving with a full stomach and a container of leftovers. In fact, the lure of free food is such a sought after commodity that there is even a mailing list to students with daily updates on the locations and types of food available. (I tend to consider myself an opportunist when seizing free food: in fact, I’ve been on campus for weeks and have only bought groceries once.) Want to know the easiest way to bond with new friends or roommates? Wander around campus during the middle of the day and hunt for free pizza, burritos, or barbeque; you’ll enjoy both good food and good conversation.

I have only been living in Cambridge for a few weeks so far, but I can already attest that MIT’s campus is as unique as its student body. While the pressure of being a graduate student is undeniably difficult, the supportive atmosphere that MIT offers has motivated me to push myself academically and to form new connections. Now, onto the next challenge: searching for tomorrow’s free lunch.

Share this post:

« Back to Blog