"Wow, there sure are a ton of colleges here."
I spent my summer between junior and senior years at the MOSTEC (MIT Online Science Technology and Engineering Community) week-long conference. We were to spend the week presenting our projects, tour around the Boston area, and spend good times together as a community. But for today, we were at the college fair.
“Darn it!” I thought. “I just wanted to play Super Smash Bros. in the common room!”
I let out a huge sigh.
“Well, since I'm here, I might as well see what colleges are here.”
I shuffled through the college fair list when something caught my eye.
There was a college on top of the third page, under the name "Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering..."
"Wait, only 330 undergraduates? There's no possible way."
The other colleges had numbers close to the tens of thousands, and this college only had less than 400 students?
"Well, it wouldn't hurt to check out the Olin table during the fair."
Who knew that small decision would make such a significant impact on my life?
At the table, I picked up a pamphlet and quickly read through it.
"Wait, what's this project-based curriculum?" I asked.
"Well, the curriculum at Olin is entirely project-based, experiential learning that focuses on teaching students how to learn independently and master skills they discover through practice rather than doing problem sets."
Wait, this was interesting. Weren't most of the crucial skills in my engineering life based upon learning by doing? Whether it was through making apps and websites or building and programming robots, wasn't this my philosophy? I loved it!
I kept asking questions about the research opportunities, the affordability, and the extracurriculars available. As the questions kept spilling out of my mouth, I felt a warm, cozy aura on my body. What was this familiar feeling? It was as if I were being called to this "Olin" place.
I needed to know more about Olin. Was there a possible way to learn more about Olin besides anything I could search up?
And so, I applied for Olin's MIX & Mingle fly-in program, an all-expenses-paid overnight stay to tour and learn more about Olin. I wanted to see what Olin was like, understand the culture, and experience things I could never experience if I only looked online.
Fast forward to October for the fly-in.
Even before I got onto campus, I looked out the window to see Needham, Olin's base town, in its beauty. The green pastures of plains and forest, the rivers that flowed alongside the roads, the small, cottage-based shops along Highland Ave…all of it reminded me of my hometown in Long Island.
As I walked onto Olin's campus for the first time, I looked around the Olin "O" (the open greenspace in the middle of campus) in the flesh and breathed in and said, "Yep, this is exactly what Long Island smells like. I love it."
Even though seeing the Olin "O" made me realize how small the campus was, what I took away was not its size, but how cozy the small campus made me feel. Unlike an intimidating large campus, Olin was just the right size where I could fit in and have comfort by knowing where everything was immediately.
The people at Olin were also as cozy as the campus itself. Even though everyone was older than me, they all welcomed me. We talked about life, about ourselves, played board games, and played pool, all as if we we’d been friends since day one.
It was that warm feeling again, wasn't it? The same feeling I had during the college fair at MOSTEC?
I think I figured it out. This feeling that warmed me. All the things I loved about Olin. The project-based design I crave in my education, the grassy vibrancy of suburban gardens and forest trees, the cozy feeling of a small, tight-knight community. All of it...reminded me of home.
"Hey, Dan! Here's a controller, wanna play Smash?"
I think I found it; I found my home.
Daniel Park is a first-year exploring different types of engineering with a passion for all things robot, website, and app development.