Camp Harvard

The best lectures are stories – they’re motivated and seamless, captivate us, and intrigue us. But every great story comes to an end and this is how I perceive the end of my third year of college. It’s been an incredibly enduring as well as fulfilling ride – from ending my first summer abroad experience as a dual continent venture to rush back to begin my junior fall semester, from taking more than the average 4 classes per semester for the first time, from finishing my MCAT all the way to kicking off my junior spring with snowboarding in New Hampshire with the blockmates, to meeting alumni Sheryl Sandberg & Matt Damon, and to witnessing the boundless strength of Boston. I can’t believe another year of college has flown past me – but describing it this way makes it seem like the quick passage of time is a passive experience. I’d like to think I’m actively partaking and making the most of my undergraduate years at Harvard. (Like how Reid talks about actively making life changing decisions!)

It’s very common for students to graduate and find themselves settling down nearby Boston for real-world jobs, research, grad school and the like. For students who aren’t graduating this May, we also try to linger around campus too – whether that is to bid farewell to graduating seniors, continue pursuing public service/research projects that began during term time, or make some extra summer money with jobs through the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) like Dorm Crew, baby-sitting, bartending, etc. We love staying on campus when the weather isn’t a frigid 3 degrees and we enjoy campus even more when classes have ended.

After an entire semester of story time-lectures, I think it’s more than fair to say that all students deserve a little time to kill a few brain cells catching up on trashy television and sunbathing – all of which I really want to be guilty of as soon as possible! “Camp Harvard” (no school, just friends) is definitely a much needed, much slower pace to life that no one will ever complain about. Just imagine an ideal fantasy world where you can endlessly chill with your friends – guiltlessly too as there are no papers/psets (problem sets) to start or lectures to catch up on!

The summer after my freshman year, I stayed about 1.5 weeks after the end of the semester to work Dorm Crew which is pretty much an entirely student run business contracted by the university to clean students’ dorm rooms both during term-time and the summer in order to get rooms sleek for new/summer students and previous students (who come back for reunions!).

I hardly had time to wrap up the loose ends of my sophomore year as booked it to the airport a mere 2-3 hours after my last final, rushing home knowing that I’ll be abroad for the first time in South America (Peru and Bolivia) soon.

This year, I checked off my junior year by taking a chemistry final on the morning of the last day of final examinations; it was the worst having to pack with final preparations hanging over my head! A lot of my friends graciously helped me pack and move – I really couldn’t have packed everything on time without them!! Friends help me every year and I can’t imagine doing it without them, let alone leaving them for the summer!

The way my plans worked out this year, I’d stay on campus for about 3 days after the official move out day, then hop on a plane to Africa for the summer. Seniors do not have to abide by this move out deadline though since they stay for Senior Week and Commencement.

Senior week is planned by the senior class committee (which fellow blogger Scott is a part of!) and includes really awesome events like a trip to 6 Flags amusement park, a scavenger hunt with prizes, a Boston harbor moonlight cruise, dances/formals, and more! Staying on campus low-key for the first few days of Senior Week was a little too much foreshadowing for me, but I really needed a few days to run some errands and really prepare for my summer in Africa and South America.

One of the errands on top of my priority list was white water rafting with my blockmates 🙂 A few months ago, we bought this package deal for rafting in Northwestern Mass. IT WAS SO FUN. The weather was pretty crappy, but it was the first time I didn’t mind the rain! It didn’t rain all the way down the river (thank goodness), but it rained for a good part of it and it got a little bit chilly. The cold and being really uncomfortably damp for hours was well worth it! We took turns sitting at the front of the boat, trying to maintain balance standing on the edge of the boat, and wheelies (our boat was much more vertical by the way *brushes shoulder*) – I even got to sit on the very front of the raft while everyone rowed like crazy down a rapid (aka “riding the bull”)! It’s important to keep in mind that college is all about the opportunities you take, whether that’s from your school or nearby nature, have fun with it!! Adventure is everywhere!

I spent the next few days catching last meals with friends, lingering in the dhall (dining hall) for hours, watching movies, and (re)packing. One of the highlights from all this non-scheduled time was definitely catching lunch with my former Expos 20 preceptor!

Expos 20 (Expository Writing) is a required course for all freshmen. During the summer before coming to Harvard, admitted students all take a placement exam that sounds much more intimidating than it actually is! What I remember about the placement exam for Expos is that it’s a timed, on demand essay. There may or may not be like 2 prompts to choose from. Your placement is either in Expos 10 or Expos 20. You don’t have to take Expos 10, but you have to take Expos 20. The former is only offered in the fall while the latter is offered both in fall and spring and students are assigned to a certain semester to enroll. Straight out of high school, I’d be the first to eagerly admit my hatred for writing; but I’m not so eager to admit that now – check me out blogging!

Regardless of how averse you are to arranging letters coherently, Harvard tries to make the pain as minimal as possible by offering tons of courses with specific topics: from Family Matters and Shakespeare to Darwinian Dating and HIV/death. From a long, long list of available courses (which change from year to year), you rank your preferences and some mysterious algorithm spits out an email with your assignment. I wanted Darwinian Dating so so so so so so soooo bad. All 3 of my roommates got Darwinian Dating in the fall, but I was assigned to take it in the spring and did not get Darwinian Dating. womp womp. As a freshman, I pretty much felt like my world was ending when I had to enroll in Tales of Murder.

Little did I know that I would make such a great friend in my Tales of Murder Expos preceptor!! We’ve kept in touch ever since freshman spring (2011). To be honest, we hadn’t really spoke after the class until a year later when I emailed her saying that I looked through my Expos notes in order to outline my paper for a Bioethics course I was taking. In her quick response, she summarized some of the key points of my essays from 2 years ago and it was just like this.

Sadly enough, this past spring semester was her last semester at Harvard as she’s taking time off to write a book. I definitely wanted a (final?) goodbye so we made time to meet up and catch up. It’s kinda scary (but definitely scary-awesome!) finding friends in your teachers, but these are the great relationships this intensely academic environment fosters! When people say the people is the best part of Harvard, we’re not only talking about the students here.

 

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