Sherry L. Deckman, Senior Resident Tutor and Sophomore Advising Coordinator, Adams House
Okay, to call myself an “undergrad” is a bit of an exaggeration—given that when I was an actual undergrad the internet was just gaining popularity and it was possible to have a decent social life without having a cell phone, let alone a “smart” phone. However, through Harvard’s unique college house system wherein graduate students live among and advise undergraduates, I have had a chance to do some of the undergrad experience over again.
One of the most important lessons that I’ve taken away from this time is about the power of play. It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling of constantly needing to do school work or to devote oneself to extracurricular and leadership activities. But, now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience undergraduate life for the second time, I can assure you that while we’re all here at Harvard to work hard and to learn, play is an important part of that process. The lessons learned outside of the classroom from your neighbors and peers might even be the most valuable that you take with you from your four years here.
You’ve probably heard this sort of thing before, maybe from your parents or older siblings. And, you may be thinking that this all sounds fine in theory, but still be wondering how you can actually go about applying this idea to your Harvard experience. I suggest pushing yourself in two ways:
1) Do something you never thought you’d do (at least once a semester); and
2) Do it with someone you’d never thought you’d do it with.
For me, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this has involved lots of costumes! I can assure you that costumes were sadly lacking from my first four undergraduate years and have truly enriched this one.
Here I am donning formalwear and a tricorne hat with some Adams juniors at our House dinner to celebrate Harvard’s 375th anniversary this past year.
In this photo, I’m posing with our Adams House Master and the House Committee Co-chair, at a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the House Masters’ residence. Everyone wore colonial garb and we had a parade around the block with a fife and drum band. For those of us with neither a fife nor a drum, we played gold-colored kazoos.
While this may seem a bit silly and nonsensical even, by letting our guards down and forgetting about classroom stresses and work obligations, through laughing and playing, we at Adams House come to know each other on a deeper level and forge close bonds. It may also be due to the whimsical nature of some of these interactions that we are emboldened to make connections with people we never imagined we’d connect with. I mean, it’s hard to take yourself—or anyone else for that matter—too seriously when you’re wearing a 12-inch tall wig and playing a kazoo.
These boisterous times can turn into long conversations after study breaks, like this one in my Resident Tutor suite:
And these conversations turn into friendships that can transcend your time at Harvard.
Here I am at our Adams House champagne toast for graduating seniors in May with some students who came from across the U.S. and the world and became friends here at Harvard.
Not everyone has this amazing opportunity to have a second undergraduate experience. So, remember to make the most of your time at Harvard by doing things you never knew you were capable of and meet someone you never could have met if not for this shared undergraduate experience. You will learn so much about yourself and the world. And, if you ever need to borrow some costumes, just visit us at Adams House!