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Last year, as I sought to get my life in perspective, someone told me that yours choices after college are so hard because your whole life you were learning and increasing your areas of knowledge until after college you start whittling down you path narrower and narrower. I could immediately see why I was attracted to the secondary (also known as a “minor” in other schools) I ended up choosing, “Mind, Brain, Behavior”.

 

Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) is a track program, which means that you can take classes from a number of related (and seemingly unrelated) departments and combine those classes into a concentration (major) or secondary. There’s a few other “track programs” such as this and it is great because it allows for exploration and a widening of knowledge that a single department concentration (e.g., government, English) often doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m concentrating in government myself, but the track program is a great opportunity to take advantage of and really offers a holistic education.

 

Consider the list of MBB departments that have integrated into the track program: Computer Science, History and Science, Human Evolutionary Biology, Linguistics, Neurobiology, Philosophy, and Psychology. The research in each department tends to tie into all the others anyway, so its great to integrate them through taking a variety of classes and utilizing the knowledge in a cohesive thesis (senior project).

 

Since I only did it as a secondary, my thesis was specific instead to my concentration. MBB as an integrated track program is a honors program, so that anyone who concentrates in it is required to do a thesis. But there are a number of other great track programs at Harvard to consider as well. One of the most popular, and my roommate’s, is Social Studies (also a honors program).

 

What sounds like a middle school history course is actually a great combination of the social sciences including government, economics, and statistics, among others. For your senior thesis, you even get to come up with an individualized focus field that you can then use to write about your thesis (“Inequality in the United States;” “Development in Africa”).

 

So if you are about to make your venture into college, embrace all the opportunities you can for exploration and widening your knowledge—you may be surprised at the cohesiveness of it all.

 

Hope you all have a great week!

 

PS. I thought since I didn’t have that many cool photos to go with this week’s post, I would supply you with a random photo from my week around Cambridge. Just walk down the street in this city and you come across the best things–for example, here, two Cambridge locals (Ben & Jerry’s and B.Good) giving out free donation-based ice cream & milkshakes).

~Natalie

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Cultural Food Demonstration with FLP

One of the things I feared as I clicked the accept button to confirm my attendance at Harvard College was that I would be the odd one out at a school full of well-off families and ostentatious students. But I was happy to find that was not the case. Even from my first day upon meeting my roommate I realized students were just like me, from schools and backgrounds like me or diversely different in a great way.

 

My freshman roommate & best friend, Anita, & I [Harvard-Yale Football Game Day]

Even with the discussions of continental philosophy and solving problem sets (or, psets) over dinner, there’s a great diversity of opinion and culture. This week with the Food Literacy Project (FLP) with me and a few other house representatives put on an event with HPACE that celebrated cultural exchange. HPACE is the Harvard Program for American-Chinese Exchange and “aims to bring together top students from universities across China and Harvard students in a weeklong series of events and activities to promote mutual understanding between the students of both countries.”

 

FLP provided a typical American dish and how-to course, and HPACE did a dumpling demonstration. We ended up going with guacamole making both for ease and deliciousness but I was surprised to learn that avocados are rare in China—most students were loved to try the guacamole with chips, having never tasted avocado or tomato people except here in the U.S.

A How-To Guac’ Demonstration

The dumplings as well were equally delicious. One of my favorite things about food is the ability to bring diverse people together in conversation and to create a community. The event was about more than just food literacy, but cultural literacy and just fun. It took place at the Mather House Junior Common Room (JCR) and the people playing on the foosball table and piano provided a nice background against it all.

FLP & HPACE

After the event I headed to Clover Food Labs in Harvard Square. Clover really wants to connect to the local community, including Harvard, and so I work a there for just a few two hour shifts a week. There’s always something going on in the square, which is great and yesterday was not exception. Clover was having a launch party for one of their new vendors, a common happening featuring samples and conversation that happens for example each time a new coffee roster is featured at the store. Even though Harvard’s embedded within the city of Boston, Cambridge often feels like an exciting home away from home where you see old acquaintances at these events.

 

Tonight my friends and I are doing dinner in Cambridge at Inman Square near Harvard to celebrate my boyfriends 22nd birthday. I’m looking forward to the social outing before locking myself in the room for the next two days (midterm on Monday). After that, freedom (until finals at least…). Until then, hope you all have a great weekend!

 

~Natalie

 

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If you walked through Harvard Yard this week you would have seen groups upon groups of flip-flop-wearing, sun-dress-adorning college students relaxing on the grass and playing Frisbee in the shade. The 80-degree weather even promoted my Philosophy 97 Tutorial (environmental ethics) to be held outdoors, as many Harvard classes opted for.

 

Debates raged about immigration and the Kyoto treating as we lounged in the shade. This is my favorite time at Harvard, spring, when the stresses of classes are mingled with the soothing warmth of sunlight and playfulness that becomes evoked as students enjoy the moment. There’s a certain comfort in the coming of this season again, and reminds me of years past and the same events.

Students having a “beach party” at the Charles River sans the beach

I found myself relieving memories of academic in particular when I ran into an older teaching fellow from a favorite philosophy class of mine, Philosophy of Psychology. He told me about his dissertation work and I my thesis work, somehow feeling timid all of a sudden about my own work. Perhaps it was because I remember how far my own writing in theory has come since then, or perhaps it was odd realizing I was at the end of the time of academia.

 

As excited as I am for the real world, there’s a certain scary uncertainness to it all. There’s no obvious next step, no ever-expanding choice of options and new options to explore, but just more narrowing and narrowing. I’m in the process now of determining how to choose as I apply to jobs and fellowships. Only a short post for this mid-semester evening, but I’ll keep you updated as it turns out.

 

~Natalie

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Perhaps it is the 70-degree weather, the free (working!) espresso machine I found on the side of the road, or perhaps being in the company of friends and family, but New York City is intoxicating. While a flight to California was just out of reach, visiting my brother and his girlfriend in Brooklyn, NY was a perfect substitute, especially considering I was able to make the trip with my boyfriend and our other friend, Dan.

In case you haven’t been (or just if you’re interest to know about all the great cities you can visit easily by bus from Harvard), here’s a short whirlwind tour of NYC, Brooklyn, and beyond.

New York has great buildings…

… delicious (and beautiful) coffee…

… thiiiis many cool used book store (as does Harvard square too!)…

(PS. ^ that’s me)

… cheap thrift stores…

(as modeled by my boyfriend & legal advisor here ^)

… towering buildings…

… and towering people? (or the use of wide-angle lens cameras)…

(^ Dan & I just grew a few feet…)

One of the greatest parts about the location of Harvard (besides Boston being a fun city and Harvard Square having some of the best sandwiches around) is its closeness to other great cities to travel too—D.C., Portland Maine, and Pennsylvania have been among the ventures.

Indeed, all the time away from Harvard has given me the breath of fresh air (though being in the city, perhaps not so fresh) necessary to come back for part two of the semester. Already the Leverett House Open Email List is filled with discussions of diplomas, graduation day speakers, and job openings.

And speaking of post-grad plans, I have recently been working on my submission to the Carol K. Pfrozheimer Student Fellowship, which invites Harvard Undergraduates to take advantage of the Schlesinger Library I discussed in my last post. The Fellowship provides money for research that draws of the library’s holdings and given the amazing diversity of literature on food culture and history in Schlesinger Library, I’m putting together an application that draws together my work in political-economic anthropology and food culture, focusing on the recent artisanal movements. I believe this research would also be extremely beneficial for my final project for my American Food history course.

I’ll try to stay up to date on that process and until then, hope you guys all have a great weekend! I know I’m looking forward to this last weekend off and yet also to hanging out with my Harvard girl friends once a few of them return from their own spring break adventures in Austin, Texas as the South-By-Southwest Festival.

~Natalie

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FedEx/Kinkos, 12:17am the morning before my thesis is due

It’s official! My thesis has been turned in, despite accidental hole punching, buying the wrong binders, and picking up printouts from FedEx at midnight, it is done! I, luckily, wasn’t feeling as disheveled as I look above once I finally got my print out, but perhaps a bit delirious (though I also just really like that hat). There was even a nice ritual to turning it in, signing your name off, being congratulated, and getting a free Government tote bag.

 

To celebrate, at 5pm the day my thesis was due, the Government Department had a toast with the department staff and other students who had made it through. My only advice at the end of it all, besides choosing an advisor you can talk openly with, is to make sure you really love your topic. I know everyone says that, but it is not that you must just “like “ or “love” your topic, you must “REALLY love” it because you will get sick about reading it and writing it if not (and probably even if you do).

 

And upon finishing my midterm for my “American Food: A Global History” course, Spring break has arrived. In our last section for this course before break, we went over our final research projects for the year. I’ve been looking forward to this project all semester, as it will be the first (and hopefully not last) time I get to really utilize Harvard’s Schlesinger Library. I’ve never seen such an extensive archive on food and women (two academic subjects of my fascination), including everything from old cookbooks aboard military ships from the 1700s to the first U.S. vegetarian magazine.

Leaving my midterm I saw this beautiful ornament near the Religion Department

As I wait for that time, this week at least offers a nice break with some friends visiting and a trip to New York to see my brother. From my “American Food” class, I’ll bring along “The Jungle” (an assigned reading) for some nice company on the bus ride (besides my boyfriend, who just sleeps the whole time anyway). Hope you all are enjoying spring too if you’re near my part of the world!

Oh yeah, and as some of the other bloggers here have already mentioned, this week was housing week where freshman are sorted into their houses for next year (a la Harry Poter style minus the fancy hat) and upperclassmen in each of the houses welcome in their new housemates with social events and awesome videos. I’m in Leverett, but the Quincy Housing Day video for two years has been epic (see if you get the reference)!
~Natalie

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Inside America’s Test Kitchen

It’s crunch time. Midterm, essay, thesis due… and then a week of pure celebration also known as spring break. I’m not sure if it was thoughtful or actually unsympathetic that teachers and the Government department planned these due dates as such but I’ll go with the former.

 

Basically that means from this moment on out, for the next week I’ll be cuddled up in my bedroom and Lamont library with the continuously glowing computer light to keep me company. Yet, it’s not as bad as it sound. The myriad of other students all doing the same around me brings forth a sense of camaraderie with everyone else thinking the same, “two days until my thesis is done forever”, “six days until spring break”, and the like.

 

As a last minute push to procrastinate against the inevitable slew of work however, I journeyed earlier today with the Food Literacy Project to America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) (located in Brookline in Boston, MA). Our group and the FLP coordinator Louisa took an afternoon train to the location where ATK (the PBS cooking show) is filmed as well as the headquarters for the magazine Cook’s Illustrated and show Cook’s Country.

The Test Chef’s in action!

While I wasn’t able to grab a shot of him, we got a glimpse of ATK host Chris Kimball as we tour the location, meet and did a Q & A with some of the test chefs, and did a tasting of our own. While our tasting consisted of three varieties of dark chocolate, ATK often has to do full tastings and then recommendations of less pleasant food items on their own, such as red wine vinegar or fish sauce.

 

The whole atmosphere was ripe with enthusiasm and foodie passion, and there were delicious smells wafting from every corner. We were even able to raid their library and take home a few select cookbooks and magazines, which I’m looking forward to trying out soon.

Test #??: Wedge Salad

Indeed, it seems this whole week has been quite the foodie experience. Last night I helped film and do the sound recording for a community dinner hosted by FLP in Currier House featuring Tamar Adler and Professor Richard Wrangham, a discussion on the future of cooking. I took a freshman seminar with Professor Wrangham on human evolution and war, but it was great to have a discussion together and with other students on evolution and foodways (he wrote the book, Catching Fire). For any potential Harvard freshman, I truly recommend taking a freshman seminar if one of them piques your interest—it was a great experience to have such an intimate seminar with such a great professor as a freshman.

 

In any case, this was a great first event in a series we are starting of community dinners through FLP (“Harvard Talks Food”) to connect professors, academics, and other experts in the food industry with Harvard students as a way to build dialogue and food education. And then prior to that, I was running about a pound or so of guacamole through campus on the way to the Culinary Society’s Annual Guac’ Off (guacamole making contest)! This event is always a hit with students, but who doesn’t love guacamole, prizes, or food competitions? Local burrito restaurant Qdoba and Boloco provided delicious guac’ and queso cheese for those watching the competition.

 

All-in-all the whirlwind of a week was not much of a calm before the storm—it fact, it was quite the storm itself (the snow just continued to pile down as I attempt to ride by bike around campus yesterday). Yet the fun and education experienced made up for it.

 

Hope you have a good weekend and check-in after the “storm”!

 

~Natalie

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For better or for worse, in a week and a half my thesis will be in, done, gone, and sweet sweet spring break will be the reward! For once the description is perfect as spring seems to have come early here to Cambridge this year (almost 60 in February? Amazing–though I hate to think of what summer will bring…). This spring break I’ll be sticking around here but my friends from California will be visiting complete with tour of Boston and New York City.

As for now, the week has flown by as I really get started in this semesters extracurricular. Tonight I just held my first Food Literacy Project event in Lowell House, a Superfoods Tasting. With the sudden ’bout of sickness that seems to be transversing around campus this antioxidant filled event was just the recipe. Lowell house students and friends came by and were able to sample a variety of healthy fare including cacao nibs, spirulina, coconut water, and roobios tea.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m about to finish my second article for The Crimson today. I’m currently writing as an arts columnist about Culinary Arts in a postmodern era. You can find my first article here and another great column from a fellow writer here. It’s odd to think that The Crimson is over a hundred years old, but its the sort of place that when you walk into their headquarters to certainty feels established (in the best possible way). I’m excited to see how the column develops through-out the semester and am getting teary eyed already at the thought of this being my last semester to do extracurriculars such as these.

So in an effort to make the best of it now, I’m going to go finish the article before burying myself in the library for the weekend, hoping to emerge with a more finely edited thesis (i.e., readable). Have a great weekend!

~Natalie

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It’s the moment when you wake up and realize its still dark out that something is wrong—this happened twice in a one-day span. Don’t try this at home kids (unless you have it, but boy its rough), but when you have to wake up at 3am after a 2 hour nap to finish a paper due that morning, the next “nap” you take at 3pm may happen to turn into sleep (until 9pm). As a result, apologies for the late update.

 

Perhaps it was all the “I’ll finish it tomorrow” sentiments, but who could resist during this week of love and celebration. It began on Monday when my housemaster hosted his Open House—a great gathering in the master’s residence filled with friends, food, and fun including anything from costume parties on Halloween to pre-valentine card making as per this week. Even through the crowded residence my friends, after first greeting our housemaster, made a beeline for the Monkeybread.

 

And what is Moneybread you ask? If you have to ask, you have been missing out. The picture above describes it all, but this freshly made wonder from each Open House is basically a giant cinnamon roll. A Leverett House classic.

 

So there was that, and then there was Valentine’s Day, and a celebration with friends in the dorm. A ground meeting with the Food Literacy Project here, some planning for the Culinary Society Guacamole Festival (only weeks away!) there, and somehow its Thursday afternoon and work has just ended at 4pm. (At least there’s a delicious sandwich from Clover, my part-time job, involved).

 

In a sleepless daze that was the hours after I turned my paper in, I couldn’t help but be caught in awe as I admired the Harvard façade—yes, it was beautiful, but more it was quirky. The building for the departments represents each so well: the philosophy building—Emerson—with your large and clearly ancient armchairs, the Science Center in a shape of an—outdated—camera. And each with their own complimentary library filled the smell of old books—who doesn’t love that smell?

 

Needless to say, the paper turned out fine, and sleep is right around the corner. Have a good night!

 

~Natalie

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Inside the I-Lab

If you’re in college, Boston, New York, California, or perhaps many other places around the U.S., you may have noticed the explosion of “start-ups”. A recent article I read suggested this movement is indicative of a large economic movement. Just as over a hundred years ago marked a move towards massive industrialization and so a new boss-employee relationship from the days of the small-scale apprentice, so too may this era be marked by a move towards independent or self-starter employment from freelancing to entrepreneurship.

 

Harvard, along with other universities, has caught up to this idea and the result is spectacular: The Harvard Innovation Lab. Open from 9am to midnight every day, the I-Lab—as its known—hosts events to prospective entrepreneurs, provides space for start-ups, and offers a wealth of advice from entrepreneurs-in-residence, mentors, and other experts in the legal and investment fields.

 

Harvard Business School (across the river from Harvard Yard)

Yesterday I jumped on the Harvard shuttle across the river to the business school to check out the newly opened I-Lab. The event? Evaluating your Start-up Career. Entrepreneurship has always been a passion for me—perhaps it’s the idea of a 9 to 5 desk job, but more likely it’s the opportunity to really create something new and of value. Indeed, as a recent speaker noted, entrepreneurs are business artists.

 

The event was an hour and a half and led by two successful entrepreneurs, one who create the product of e-ink (Have a kindle or nook? It’s the screen). I was happy to find I wasn’t the only one (undergrad, Harvard Business School student, or MIT grad) wondering about how to evaluate risk or the most important key to a start-up, recruiting a great team. The wealth of resources for student entrepreneurs is fantastic and I can’t wait to see the development of the in-residence start-ups a few years down the road.

 

Speaking of start-ups, you may have remembered my mentioning the Harvard Careers in Food & Wine from over wintersession: through that I meet a great start-up company, two years started, 90+ Cellars, a wine distribution company. Today was my first day beginning an internship with them on their marketing and operations team—a fantastic opportunity for learning an industry from the very start of a company. I’m looking forward to the experience and will update soon about it. I’m looking forward to a thesis-ful weekend, but a chance to take advantage of Harvard’s new ice-skating rink on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. Hope you all have a great weekend!

 

~Natalie

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This weekend I had a birthday, and even though the week is already halfway over, I’m still feeling happy.  My friends threw a sorta-surprise birthday party at midnight, which included this groovy cake with psychedelic colors:

When I first came to Harvard as a fresh freshman, I had no idea if I would find real friends and relationships in college.  I was hoping for the best, but that first year of college is pretty socially demanding and hard to navigate, as any college-kid you know can probably confirm, and we were all more concerned with making friends than with keeping them.  During those first months of school, everyone had a ton of “friends.”  But while we were bouncing between room parties and study groups and sports practices and formals, the substance and mettle of those relationships hadn’t been tested yet.

The last three and a half years have been full of fluctuations for me.  I studied abroad in Paris last fall, and I felt like a freshman all over again when I came back to campus in the spring.  Then there are the natural ebbs and flows of friend-groups; for example, in field hockey off-seasons, I don’t see my teammates nearly as often.  Even though most of us long for relational consistency, I think that friend fluxes are a natural (and sometimes inevitable) part of life.  But on Saturday night, as I looked around at my closest friends, I felt so blessed and full to the brim.  To the casual onlooker, I was just shoveling rainbow cake into my mouth, but on the inside, I was thinking: the people in this room are all people I love.

I’m so grateful I can write that sentence before I graduate, and mean it.

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