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As evidenced by other posts on this blog, Harvard kids tend to love their campus houses.  Each house has its own traditions, mascots, quirks, secrets and sites of pride.  But as I begin my third year in Dunster, I can’t imagine a better place to live! Here are some reasons why the [often shortchanged] house might be better than you think:

1. Underground Passageways

Every part of Dunster is connected to every other part of Dunster through a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels. These passages are fun to investigate all year round, but when winter arrives, their value skyrockets.  As a veteran winter-phobe, I’m adept at avoiding face-to-face encounters with winter.  So when it’s snowing outside, I can actually get from my room to the vending machine, to the laundry room, to the dining hall, to the computer lab, to the Grille – all without going outside or taking off my flip-flops.

2. The Illustrious D-Hall

Dunster’s dining hall is famed across campus for it’s Harry-Potteresque interior and lovingly crafted cuisine.  It also stays open later than any other dining hall – something that many non-Dunsterites appreciate every day.

3. Location, Location!

Some [weird] people claim that Dunster is located really far away from the center of campus.  While the five-minute walk admittedly feels endless in winter, Dunster is not that remote – and it’s refreshingly far away from the fray of the Square.  The courtyard faces onto the Charles River (a beautiful sight in any light).  And Dunster is a mere block away from Petsi Pies – Cambridge’s hipster-haven, a local café with good music, greasy air and sinful pies.

4. Meese

Dunster’s mascot is the endearing, enduring Moose.  We get to wear Moose sweatshirts, wrap our necks in Moose scarves and carry around Moose steins. On Housing Days, we even don our Moose antlers en masse – and you know that’s cool.

5. The Dunster Petting Zoo 

A brand new Dunster tradition!  This past Sunday afternoon, Dunster’s student council organized an autumn Hoedown in the courtyard.  The yard was dotted with footballs, bales of hay, and picnic tables filled with donuts and candy corn.  But when I arrived on the scene, everyone was totally ignoring the Hoedown — instead, they were clustered together in the middle of the grassy lawn.  I ran over to see what was so enthralling, and I wasn’t disappointed.  It was a petting zoo of baby farm animals!  Baby ducks, baby rabbits, baby goats, baby chickens, and even a baby pig named Lydia, who reminded me of a little furry black bullet.  About forty mostly-grown Harvard students were squealing and talking in high-pitched baby voices (Awww wook at the iddy biddy piggy wif its wittle snout!)  I loved witnessing the immense transforming power of baby animals — how we all became undignified and delighted for a few minutes.

Here’s a picture of me holding an adorable baby duckling.  Apparently, the Petting Zoo/Hoedown has now been instituted as an annual tradition.  So if you live in Dunster House, or if you get assigned to Dunster one day — be glad!

Addendum: Yesterday, as you may have read elsewhere, Mark Zuckerberg made his grand reappearance at Harvard – his first official return since he left the school in 2004.  On my way to class in the afternoon, one of the campus streets was lined with multiple news trucks, reporter paraphernalia and police cars.  We asked one policeman on a motorcycle, “Is this all for Mark Zuckerberg?”  He grinned and said, “Yep, it’s all for him.  Just think, a few years ago, he was walking around this campus and no one even cared.”  He rubbed the fingers of his right hand together and smiled slyly: “You make a li’l money, and look what happens!”

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The days leading up to Spring Break are a truly insane time for Harvard students. On top of our midterms and papers, many of us are struggling to work out summer plans and funding while simultaneously trying to balance the normal workload of club meetings and problem sets. Around mid-March, however, we get a light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel: the glorious 10 day vacation that is Housing Day and Spring Break.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Harvard housing system, students are sorted at their freshman year into one of twelve upperclassmen Houses, which then becomes their home for sophomore through senior year. While the freshman housing lottery is completely random, students are able to choose who they enter the House with – a 2-8 person group known as their “blocking group”. At Harvard, Housing Day, when freshman find out what House they are assigned to, is arguably the most exciting and spirited day of the year (tied with the Harvard-Yale Game, probably), and students are known to prepare and count down to the occasion for weeks.

Dunster's Swag: Moose Antlers and T-shirts!

Dunster's Welcome Committee

Housing Day is a truly indescribable experience. Starting at 7 am, each House sends a “Welcome Team” to the yard to start delivering letters to the freshmen. With each House sending anywhere from 50-100 people are part of the their welcoming committee, this amounts to a truly enormous crowd of rowdy upperclassmen gathered in the Yard in preparation for Housing assignment announcements. At 8:30, each House starts delivering letters to dorm rooms, welcoming freshmen with screams, noisemakers, and giant House mascots. Check out this video the Crimson posted of Pforzheimer House!

Houses Waiting in the Yard

As a sophomore, Housing Day takes on a very different level of excitement. Rather than spending the morning worrying about what House you’ll be placed in, you get to run around the Yard screaming your head off with your friends from the House. Enjoying the experience from the “other side” inspires a sense of appreciation for the community that you’ve become a part of. While as a freshman, I was definitely excited about Dunster, I’m not sure I realized what an enormous part of my life the House would become. What better way to celebrate this fact than by cheering for my House for 2 hours straight! I had a sore throat for days afterwards…

For all Harvard students, the excitement of Housing Day leads straight into Spring Break – in my case, I finished my welcome committee duties around 11, went to class until 3, and then immediately hopped on an airplane bound for Spain! Needless to say, I slept through the entire 9 hour flight. For those of you interested in study abroad at Harvard, I spent the week visiting my blockmate who is spending the semester in Alicante, Spain. I couldn’t possibly explain the entire experience, but here are a few snapshots to give you guys an idea.




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