Drinking from the fire hydrant


‘Studying at MIT is like drinking from a fire hydrant,’ said Jerome Wiesner, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology throughout the 1970s. I've been here on campus a while now as a ‘visiting student’ and I understand the metaphor; the working memory in my upper chamber is filling up fast. Why is MIT such a magnet for everything that breathes technology?

Flying out of Schiphol on my way to MIT, I came across a McDonald's as I passed through customs, and it was packed with somewhat overweight Americans. Having arrived here in Cambridge Mass. with all my preconceptions intact, there was actually less sign of my stereotypical American than I'd expected. No oversized pick-up trucks or middle-aged men in outdoor clothing. ‘Hi, how are you honey?’, I hear every day from the coffee waitress, but the blend permeating the pillared halls of the campus buildings is actually cultural diversity.

With its striking cultural mix, MIT has the power to draw intellectual heavyweights. Almost every day invitations land in my mail box. Among these events are a seminar on US trade relations with China, a Zoom link to a WHO-led panel discussion on the emerging Omicron variant, interviews with individuals who have graced the cover of Time magazine, a workshop teaching you how to weld your own bike, and even keynotes by Nobel Prize winners. Simply too many to mention.

In short, the relationship between engineering, people and society is held in high regard here. Perhaps at TU/e we really should be making the USE courses mandatory. After all, how great would it be if alongside your Mechanical Engineering program you could take a minor in the African Diaspora or in politics?

And that fire hydrant? MIT would not be MIT if you couldn't actually drink out of it.

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