If you’re coming in to Harvard College as a math/science kid, there’s one prominent aspect that sucks and I’m going to warn you now so you can mentally prepare. Your finals will always be last. Most likely you’ll be the one on campus studying until your brain almost overheats as you bid your non-math/science friends farewell during Reading Period (the week before Final Exam Week when classes end officially) and as seniors celebrate their last week of avoiding real life.
It’s only fair if I weigh the benefits of late exams too. Non-math/science students basically don’t receive their earned Reading Period because it’s more of a Writing Period for them. They’re forced to crank out ridiculous amounts of pages revolving around their profound, revolutionary theories that will change life as we know it – all meanwhile the math/science concentrators hibernate their brains, enjoy the abundant spring formals, and naturally pity their peer writers.
There are definitely some hefty pros and cons to both sides. You may find peace of mind in the fact that every student has their academically rough times eventually. One struggle that unites us all simultaneously, however, is moving.
Most students will remember Move In day as the glorious day they met their freshman year roommates, settled into their first dorm room ever, and even perhaps had their first appeteaser of genuine independence. All students will try to forget the anti-glories concomitant to Move Out days.
Unlike most other universities, Harvard is awesome about providing (free!) storage for students during the summer. All upperclassmen Houses (dorms) have their own storage areas (i.e. squash courts in their basements, music rooms not used during the summer, etc.) for everything from clothes, bikes to furniture. Generally, the biggest move you’ll make as an undergraduate follows your freshman year as you move your belongings from the Freshman Yard to your respective upperclassman House. Students get 12 stickers that are mandatory to tag your belongings so storage is limited in a sense. Storage is also first come, first served, depending on space availability, but I’ve never heard of this being a problem. If you live within a certain mile radius, however, you don’t get these convenient storage privileges. Also, the hours of access to storage are pretty limited. Rooms with supervisors are open for business about 6 hours a day around Final Exam week and no one gets access to these rooms until a few days before the fall semester begins. The storage system isn’t flawless – I’ve heard of basements flooding during the summer or students losing their items – but life definitely would be way worse if it didn’t exist!
This past Saturday, I had my last final exam during the 2nd to last possible final exam slot. Although I spent the week optimistically thinking “at least it’s not the last final,” I also (over)optimistically bought a flight home 3 hours after my last final. After a few days in the Gutman library (where there was free coffee and tea compliments of the Dean!!!!), I decided I would study in my room and take study breaks to pack. Initially, this system worked pretty well because my hate for packing would accumulate rapidly and I would actually want to study more. I clearly studied too much since my packing was (maybe) half way done as I was walking into my last final.
I ran home after my physics final to finish packing so I could catch my flight in 3 hours. I really, really hate to say it, but it was an impossible feat. I nearly threw everything in boxes while trying to strategically pack for my European/Latin American summer, frantically struggled to tape them shut, and struggled even harder to fight the nearing mental break down I felt creeping up as the countdown to my flight’s take-off ticked louder and louder! Most stressful situation of my life. Thank goodness I’ve met some of the greatest people of my life during my 2 years as an undergraduate. Some of the best and most altruistic friends literally came to my rescue as they fought the packing tape out of my hands and ushered me out the door to catch my flight home. They reassured me that my things will be packed, stored, and ready for me come September. I can never thank them enough!!!!!! Seriously though, if any of you need an organ, hit me up!!
My motivation for writing this blog post was to use my venting as a mechanism of informing future/prospective students of some non-academic tasks that are intrinsic to Harvard. But I’m extra glad I can hit two birds with one blog because for everyone out there who devoutly believes Harvard is a strictly selfish and cut-throat environment, you’re wrong. While moving my belongings, my friends got all nasty sweaty as their biceps and lower backs screeched in pain when they know they’re not really benefitting from helping me out – besides from all the baked goods I will deliver to them weekly from now on. Helping me out isn’t a resume booster, it’s not going to help them land their next internship – in fact, this unidentified shout out may even be their best reciprocation – yet, they still helped me not only because I really needed it, but because they wanted to! Awww, my friends are truly the best and the people I’ve met at Harvard have definitely defined my happiest experiences.
Although I categorize my friends back home as my “high school friends,” I’ve known most of them since middle school and our friendships have most definitely solidified throughout the decade we’ve spent together. It’s crazy to acknowledge that my friendships in college are just as great when it’s only been ~2 years or less, but living with your friends is probably the most efficient catalyst.