Who is OME

Reece Rivera

Reece is a Senior in Course 6-3, Computer Science and Engineering.

Tell me about your first encounter with MIT’s OME Office?

I was part of Interphase EDGE 2012. I came in more or less used to skating by on talent, while at the same time having little confidence in being able to cut it at MIT. Interphase definitely changed that. I felt immediately like I was welcome, and I had several people who related to my position. Interphase didn’t fix all of my problems, but my first few weeks at Interphase went a long way to changing my outlook on MIT for the better. By the end of Interphase, I had grown up quite a bit, although MIT made sure I still had a ways to go.

What were your initial impressions?

At first, I thought the OME was pretty strict. It was welcoming, but somewhat intimidating. The OME had its schedule for the whole six months of Interphase 2012 planned out, and they were sticking to it. Being that I was used to just doing whatever felt natural at the time, and getting through despite poor planning, that level of focus somewhat scared me. That being said, it gave me some structure that I sorely needed as a person. At the time, I was somewhat put off by the OME getting me to leave my room and meet people. In hindsight, it’s rather funny.

Did those impressions change over time?

You see, there’s kind of a trick behind what the OME does during Interphase. The focus on scheduling is specifically made to get some sense of time management into people like me, who had pretty much none beforehand. While I didn’t like it at the time, it helped. In addition, as I found out in later years, they are strict on rules as a program because otherwise the program won’t be able to function within MIT. Finally, they are aware of the fact that not all of the “mandatory fun” they have is met with accolades from the students. However, Interphase is set up to knit you together with your peers, and in an ironic way, forcing everyone to mingle like that does make you friends, especially when you have some minor inconvenience to complain about. I think, after three years, going on four, of being with the OME, I’ve gained a bit of insight into why they do what they do, and I know, above everything else, they care about the students here at MIT. Yeah, they can be strict, yeah, they can schedule an event that’s not too popular, but everything they do is with the goal of helping their students, and at least in my case, and in my experiences, it works, even if sometimes in a roundabout way.

What programs did you take part in, and how were they helpful?

Primarily, I was a part of Interphase ’12, ’14, and ’15, the first as a student, the latter as a Residential Facilitator. In addition to Interphase, I participated in Seminar XL at various points during MIT.

I speak about Interphase over more or less this entire thing, so I’ll make this brief. Interphase helped me acclimate to MIT academically and socially. It didn’t solve all my problems, but when I got to MIT, I knew where to go if I needed help solving them.

Seminar XL is an example of one of the tools to just generally solve your problems. In this case, Seminar XL solves academic problems pertaining to a single class. For example, I just don’t understand chemistry. I don’t particularly enjoy the subject, and once combined with previously abysmal study habits, I just hated the class. The solution came in the form of a tiny sized (4 people, as I recall) recitation in addition to my regular recitation. During this time, we solved pretty much all of the general problems we may have had, from forcing starts on the problem set, to going over test taking strategies, to just working some tough problems. It was small enough that I really had to engage, and that really made the difference for chemistry.

What was your most memorable or valuable experience with OME?

So as not to be a broken record, I won’t elaborate on Interphase again. And while I loved what Seminar XL did for me, I wouldn’t say it was more valuable than just seeing people I knew, either Interphase peers or staff or students, some of which I helped teach, walk around campus. Funnily enough, this is a catch-all statement, as in my seminar XL sessions, all of my peers and staff happened to be past Interphasers, which is not usually the case, but it was here. For me, the most valuable thing I gained thanks to the OME was a network of acquaintances and friends here at MIT. Being pretty introverted, I’m usually pretty slow to build those things up, and the OME really helped me with that. A large fraction of my friends here at MIT were met, one way or another, through the OME, and for that, I am profusely grateful. In addition, there’s a special kind of satisfaction in seeing someone you taught before get through MIT.

If you had to describe OME with one word, what would it be?

hOME (as in, home, but it’s the OME, so hOME). There’s a story behind that. At the end of the Interphase 2012 Sophomore Retreat, we were split into groups to brainstorm a slogan for the OME. Our group’s slogan ended up being terrible, but our presentation involved mostly making OME-based puns and rejecting them, including hOME. Then the group after us used the slogan hOME under the dOME. My group felt horrible about it, as we unintentionally stole their thunder, but of all the slogans, that one stuck with me, both for the pun and what it meant. I’ll elaborate later, but the OME can really become a one-stop support system for anyone if you just let it be. If you have a personal, MIT related problem with something, at the very least, they can direct you to where to start solving it.

What would you want others to know about OME?

The OME is not only for some specific time, or some specific situation, or some specific people. The OME is for anyone, anytime they’re available, for almost anything. Need some advice? Walk in, say hi, and they can direct you. Having trouble in school? They’ll have some programs or help you get in touch with the right people. Feeling just generally bad? The OME will help you feel less bad, or direct you to people who can help even further. Are you literally on fire? Although I’m sure you’d get several questions on your reasoning after the fact, and I’d definitely suggest other places, I’m pretty sure the OME has a fire extinguisher nearby. The OME is really an all-purpose home, if you just let it be.

What are the OME’s best features/resources?

Having done it for three years now, I may be somewhat biased, but I would choose Interphase Edge, an OME run 7.5 week, four-class MIT semester over the summer and academic year. On one hand, its academic preparation that simultaneously makes the semester easier and frees you to get into classes you may not have thought to get into otherwise. On the other, through the hardship, whether you like it or not, Interphase creates a network of friends and acquaintances that you can talk to through the rest of your MIT career, before anyone else has had the chance to do so. When I did it, I may have grumbled about having to get out of my room over the weekend, but now, I appreciate the opportunity to get to know the other Interphasers.

If you had to pick one book or comic to take with you to a deserted island, what would it be?

I like to read, but you know what I like more? Living. Therefore I think I’d trade in my entertainment book for a survival guide, preferably as specifically tailored to my desert island as possible. If I had to choose a book for entertainment, I wouldn’t mind reading The Silmarillion one more time, as I got completely lost in it (in every sense of the word)  when I first read it. However, I’d vastly prefer living long enough to maybe make it back to my collection of books, and, given my current experience with surviving away from grocery stores or farms, I need all the help I can get. Bonus points if I can find a manual that comes with a knife, or some flint, or Bear Grylls (not a figurine or anything, the actual person).