Jesse’s Blog

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It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, I was in a different country, time zone, and hemisphere. Up until college, I had only known California and small, poor parts of Mexico (where my family is originally from) but now I am enjoying the culture, language, and beaches of Brazil!

I am currently participating in a Harvard Summer Study Abroad Program that gives me the opportunity of studying- and experiencing- three very unique cities of Brazil: Sao Paulo, Paraty, and Rio de Janeiro. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I’m excited to say that not only has my Portuguese improved, my familiarity with Latin America has also deepened. Seeing the similarities and differences between the Brazilian culture and my Mexican-American culture allows me to appreciate just how beautiful- and diverse- Latin America really is.

One of the most enjoyable ways in which I have been able to see these cultural distinctions is through the music. For example, I knew about and was excited for Samba before traveling to Brazil but what I fell in love with was the genre of music known as “Sertanejo.” Growing up with a family who loves to play, dance and sing “Banda” music (also known as “Rancheras” and closely linked with Mariachi music), my ears were automatically drawn to Sertanejo. I like to think of “Sertanejo” and “Banda” as cultural counterparts. They are very similar in style but the individual nuances among them make each one as enjoyable as the other. They are actually considerably different in style as well as dance even though the sound is very similar which makes learning that much more exciting! I love to dance and so I am determined to master the Dance of Sertanejo called “Forro” before I leave Brazil. What better way to understand a culture if not through the arts?

Being in Brazil has already been an eye-opening experience and is something I never thought I’d be able to do. I can already tell that this will be a life and perspective-changing experience. I am grateful to be immersed in the culture and am very excited to be working alongside Harvard teachers everyday in class. This program has it all! Great experiences, great teachers, and a great location. I’ll be very sad when it comes time to leave this beautiful country.

I will also be chronicling my experiences in Brazil through a video blog. Below is the introduction to the journey!

I will also have videos about my experiences in China and Spain, which are coming after Brazil! I am excited to see the world through a new lens. These Harvard programs will definitely provide exciting adventures. I hope you tune in!

To learn more about the MANY Harvard Study Abroad Programs, check out the Office of International Programs website at:

I can’t believe this year is already over! It flew by way too fast and I’m already missing my Friends and the East Coast.

Looking back on the last few weeks of hours in the Library studying for Finals and writing paper after paper, I can’t believe I made it through. Although the challenging coursework and academic rigor of Harvard can sometimes feel like a bit much, you are not in it alone. There are dedicated staff and teachers ready to help you reach that next level that the challenging academics are meant to help you get to.

Having finished the first 2 years of my college career, I feel smarter, stronger, and ready for whatever life can throw at me. A big part of this growth that I have experienced is due to the dedication of the people I was working with so closely.

For example, in preparation for my Portuguese Final Exam, my teacher, Max, had an extended schedule of Office Hours for extra help and clarification of the subject material. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish so it can sometimes be confusing for a native Spanish speaker like me. Thanks to Max’s help though, I was more prepared for the exam than ever!

Raphi, my Economics teacher, was also an ENORMOUS help throughout the year and in preparation for my Final Exam. He was always ready to meet with his students and the way he helped you understand the subject material was PHENOMENAL. He definitely made Economic models and concepts seem a lot easier than they first appeared.

Also, my Statistics Professor, Professor Harrington, was always ready to meet with his students. In preparation for a Final Project, my group and I reached out to him for help and he was ready with great advice and tips on how to make our project better. He even stayed a few extra hours to help out the rest of the student groups asking for his help.

What’s amazing about all of this is that although my teachers had an incredible amount of other responsibilities such as Doctoral Programs and Research work, they still made the time to help out the students they were working with. Their dedication to their students made me want to work harder and made the course load that much more manageable. Harvard challenges you- But it doesn’t leave you out to do it alone.

The teachers you work with at Harvard are amazing individuals who care about who they are teaching. They enjoy helping their students and they have helped me make it through. They are experts in their fields and I am grateful to have worked with them.

Wow… I’m already halfway through college… Can’t wait to see how much more I grow throughout the rest of my Harvard adventures! I’ll be sure to keep you all posted!

As the year winds down to a close and students throughout campus start to buckle down in the Harvard libraries, we start to realize- “Wow. In a few weeks, the Seniors this year are going to graduate.” And with that, we think about how this could be our last chance to spend time with them and to ask them for advice on excelling at Harvard. The Seniors have so much wisdom to pass on!

You see, a span of 4 years provides a lot of opportunities for growth and the experiences the Seniors have had serve as great learning tools for us younger kids. Especially with many of us trying to find our place in college and trying to take the culture shock head on, the advice of the Senior class is invaluable. Luckily, the Latino community at Harvard holds an annual Latino Senior Dinner hosted by Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA and Fuerza Latina. It’s the perfect opportunity to get one last chance for all of us to get together in solidarity and celebrate the graduation of the Senior Latinos.

At the dinner, we have delicious food from all over Latin-America and we get the chance to speak about the Seniors and the impact they have had on our undergraduate career as classmates, mentors, and friends. The Seniors also have their chance to share the lessons they’ve learned about appreciating each other and about living life to its fullest potential. Things can sometimes get a little emotional… The especially bold Seniors also share some of their most embarrassing moments and their funniest stories of their undergraduate career.

This event is definitely one of my favorites of the whole year. It’s a time where we can all gather and reminisce, smile, laugh -and sometimes cry together. It’s amazing to me that in just 2 years, I’ll be alongside my fellow Class of 2013 Latinos sharing our pieces of advice and embarrassing moments… Luckily, there’s still time.

Until then, Congratulations to the Harvard College Class of 2011! It was an honor to get to know you and to learn with you. Can’t wait to see all the amazing things you all accomplish.

And to provide some visuals, Check out these pictures from the Dinner!

The Latino Gentlemen at Senior Dinner


The Latina Ladies at Senior Dinner


There are Latinos at Harvard?? Yup! There sure are. And just like the other many cultures on campus, we have something special to offer the community. One of the biggest opportunities we have on campus to do just that is through a showcase of Latin Arts called Presencia Latina!

Presencia Latina is made up of various student groups and performances from the Harvard and Boston community ready to show off their skills and share their talents! From acts ranging from Mariachi to Spoken Word to Latin Dance, Presencia Latina is definitely the culmination of Latin arts. And what I think is the best part of the entire show is the fact that you don’t have to be Latino to take part in it!

All of the performance groups had a diverse make-up of students. You see, College is the time to explore new things and learn to appreciate the many ways of life this world offers and I’m happy that everyone has the chance to appreciate the many cultures of the world through these different modes of art. Presencia Latina does a great job of making this possible.

This is the 9th year of Presencia Latina and I was definitely excited for the show! I am honored to be be given the opportunity to host such a big event. I knew I’d better be ready!! If you want to check out the ways I prepared for the show and to see how the show went, check out this video!

I can’t believe this semester has flown by so fast! So many great events and amazing opportunities have riddled these past few weeks.

Remember the event on Gang Violence I mentioned? It went great! We had an amazing turn out and we received lots of great feedback! Also, the things I learned from the experience helped me get a better understanding of ways to more effectively organize events.

This was all possible because of the organizations on campus, which are led by students, that were interested in creating more awareness on the issue of Gang Violence. The Harvard Foundation, especially, was a great resource that helped us put together such a big event. [The Harvard Foundation is an organization on campus that aims to improve intercultural and race relations.] Also, a VERY big thank you to Adams House Staff and House Masters! Their support really helped jumpstart the idea.

You know, that’s what I’ve learned to appreciate about Harvard- they definitely offer the resources needed to help make whatever you dream up a reality. The Professors, Staff, and most of all- students, are all so eager to support you in whatever you want to do. As long as you show that you care about something, they’ll show you that they support you and help you find ways to take action.

If you want to take a look at how things were going right at the start of the event, check out this video!

One of the things that I love the most about Harvard is the freedom you have to do what you’re passionate about. Whatever issue, topic, idea you feel is important to you and the community, you have the ability and the resources to bring that topic to life for your peers, faculty, and administrators.

As long as you have the passion, there will always be a way for you to turn that passion into a reality.

Speaking of ways to express your passion, this weekend was jam-packed with just that. Culture, Public Service, Music, Arts, and more Public Service. What more could you ask for?

Real quick recap of some of the big events:

Thursday, RAZA held a Cesar Chavez Day Celebration with fantastic Pupusas (a traditional Salvadorean Dish), the very impressive Professor Doris Sommer, who spoke about Teatro Campesino (a form of performance that Migrant Farm Workers used to spread various messages to those working the fields), and a special performance by Harvard’s very own Mariachi Veritas. The food was delicious, the professor was insightful, and the music (as usual) was especially on point. I love it.

And Friday, The Black Student’s Association (BSA) had a public service event where Harvard students interacted with Boston middle schoolers from Edwards Middle School and talked to them about the importance of college. The kids were stupendous! I was able to connect with them and we were able to share stories about our backgrounds, which seemed to intertwine so much. I always love talking to future first-generation college students. Shout out one more time to the BSA for the opportunity & to Adrienne Smallwood, BSA President, who moderated the student panel!

And Speaking of Mariachi Veritas, they had one of their amazing concerts on Saturday night, which blew the crowd away. They had great guest performers from Brown University, Dartmouth College, and a very special group of high school students from Texas who were PHENOMENAL. Shout out to my Phi Iota Alpha brothers, Jesus-Mario Luevano & Ricardo Robledo for holding it down on stage with Mariachi Veritas!

Now, Sunday- (I know this is a lot of events but this is a typical weekend at Harvard), I am happy to let you guys know that I will be hosting the 9th annual Presencia Latina- a Harvard Latin Arts Showcase. We had rehearsal yesterday for the Show that will be taking place this Friday, April 15. I am so excited! We have a very HOT lineup of impressive performances! I’ll definitely be covering that with a video! Be ready! && Much love to my stunning co-host Pratyusha!

And now, today. I am just now getting back to my room after a very special event that I was helping organize on “How to End Gang Violence in America.”

We filled the room- the 10 or so pizzas were gone in literally 3-5 minutes, and we were able to have a very successful and enlightening event.

What’s your passion? Whether it’s your culture, your love for music and the arts, public service, or all of the above, be sure that you can share it (or find it) here.

There are definitely more details coming soon! I have an “Economics 10” midterm on Wednesday, which I am cracking down on, so I’m going to handle that first. But until then, check out the video I made for the event tonight!

Harvard students and Harvard Voices. Enjoy!

My, oh my, what an amazing couple of weeks its been! Even though Exams, Papers, and Class have been priority number one (and trust me, they’ve kept me BUSY), the plethora of events and school get-togethers have served for much needed study breaks and chances to rest my brain. Harvard definitely puts it through a workout.

One of the AMAZING events that I was able to attend was Cultural Rhythms. It’s an event, hosted by the Harvard Foundation, where the Harvard community is able to celebrate the diversity of its student body through a showcase of cultural performances. From traditional Mexican Mariachi music to African Dance to Martial Arts to Spoken Word, these performances are a chance for the students of Harvard to demonstrate their many talents that transcend cultural lines.

You see, you don’t have to be Mexican to play in the Mariachi and you don’t have to be African to participate in African dance- the beauty of these student organizations is that they are open to all who are willing to appreciate the many aspects of these cultural traditions and art. It’s an excellent venue for student expression and a great way to recognize the many talents of Harvard students.

Another aspect of Cultural Rhythms is the annual “Artist of the Year” that the Harvard Foundation honors at this event. And Guess who the Artist of the Year was this year…

A person whose beauty is only transcended by her passion for activism, musical artist Shakira was honored with being the Harvard Foundation’s 2011 Artist of the Year. And I got to meet her.

When the time came for Shakira to arrive, I was, of course, calm and collected but I’m not going to lie, as soon as she walked in that door, I was beaming and had trouble sitting still. She was amazing. Thank you, Harvard.

Take a look at how the day went! See how the Luncheon started off, see clips from the Show, and check out how the FOOD FESTIVAL was like by watching the video below! Enjoy!

My Sophomore Spring is going great! It’s been moving extra fast because there are so many things going on but the balance between my academics, extracurriculars, and work is something that I’m getting better and better at with time. It feels good knowing that this semester has already been jam-packed with unforgettable memories- and I’m not even halfway through yet!

One experience that’s especially made an impact on me is my participation in the Harvard College in Asia Program or (HCAP). It’s a program that brings together students from Harvard and students from Asia in a set of exchange conferences between the Harvard campus and the campuses of some of the top universities in Asia. (There’s more information in the video below)

Through the conference, I was able to make friends from around the world, listen to their perspectives, and learn from their culture. I was even able to learn more about global healthcare, which was the focus of the HCAP conference this year. It was definitely an opportunity for personal growth. There’s just so many ways to do that here.

It feels great knowing that all the hard work paid off. Being a part of the HCAP team and sharing the international experience with the delegates is definitely going to be an amazing experience to look back on. I can’t wait to go to the second half of the conference in Asia! You see, the Harvard HCAP team is divided into delegations, each going to a different university in Asia for a conference hosted by a group of the international HCAP delegates. Where am I going to go? I’m lucky enough to be going to Japan! I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan and because of HCAP, I finally have the opportunity to do so. I still can’t believe that next month, I’ll be on the other side of the world… Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to tell you guys all about it! In the mean time, check out this video to find out more about how the beginning of Sophomore Spring and the HCAP conference went!

There’s a heavy snowfall going on in Cambridge and Boston right now so it’s pretty chilly. My friends who grew up with snow every year are passive but for me, one of the most amazing parts about being on the east coast is the snow. I’m from San Diego so the winters I’m used to include T-shirts and occasionally putting on a hoodie. Harvard gave me a change of pace, it gave me a new environment and a chance for a new experience. When I first decided to leave the west coast, my friends asked me, “Why would you leave the constant sunshine and palm trees?”

For whatever reason, I thought that experiencing a different climate would help me broaden my perspective and even help me understand the white Christmases I’ve seen in classic holiday movies.

Because I decided to go to the east coast, I got the chance to make a snow angel, make a snowman, and even make my roommate bow down to me in a snowball fight haha. And the scenery, provided by the antique buildings, huge libraries, and the Harvard statue in the Yard, definitely makes those memories that much better.

Remember how I mentioned going to Denver for an internship? Well, one of the teachers I was staying with (Harvard Class of 2009), surprised me with an opportunity to go snowboarding for the first time! If you want to see how it went and how well I learned to “shred the gnar,” check out this video!

I’m finally back at Harvard and am pumped up for round 2 of sophomore year! I have come back extra energized this semester because I had a chance to see such amazing potential in a group of students while working at my internship in Denver, Colorado. I had the privilege of working with West Denver Prep, a network of charter schools whose student body is 90% Latino and 94% Free/Reduced Lunch. Seeing the students strive for college reminded me of just how important college is and how lucky I am to go to a school like Harvard.

The internship was posted on Harvard’s Office of Career Services’ “Crimson Careers” website and when I saw it, I knew it would be an amazing way to spend my “winter break” (a.k.a. January Term or J-term for short). I was able to connect with the students really well and also learn about the administrative aspects necessary to keep a school running in tip-top shape (West Denver Prep is rated as the #1 Public School in Denver!).

I am very happy I heard about this opportunity and am glad to know that opportunities like these are plentiful here at Harvard. There are so many options to choose from when wondering how to spend your breaks such as internships, trips abroad, and job shadowing. And there’s even a supportive community of faculty members to help you choose the right one for you.

I’m very happy I was able to find such a great fit for me. I loved being able to show the students that I too come from a similar background and made it to college. I hope I was able to encourage them to continue to work hard as West Denver Prep is already doing such a great job of that already.

Overall, my stay in Denver was very well spent. I’m definitely happy that I was able to take part in such an amazing opportunity. The thought of how hard the students work at West Denver Prep will definitely help keep me motivated throughout this semester.

If you want to see how the first week of my internship went, check out the video below! More videos are coming soon so be ready!

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