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Upperclassmen at Harvard have the opportunity to be really closely involved with freshman orientation, and many sophomores, juniors, and seniors jump at the chance to help new students with their transition to the College. Whether it’s by leading a pre-orientation program (Dorm Crew, FAP, FUP, FIP, or FOP), running events during Freshman Week, or advising first years, there are a hundred different ways to get involved. Personally, I am one of a rare few (in fact, there are only three of us) to get completely submerged with all things “freshman” by participating in the trifecta of orientation opportunities: advising freshmen in Wigglesworth Hall as a Peer Advising Fellow (PAF), leading orientation activities with the Crimson Key  Society, and backpacking through New Hampshire wilderness on FOP 20. This definitely means I’ve seen a LOT of the Class of 2016 over the past two weeks, but it’s been worth it!

First Up: First-Year Outdoor Program and FOP 20 

I’ve written a lot about FOP in past posts, between my time on Steering Committee and my training trip from this past spring, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I was lucky enough to lead my last backpacking orientation trip this August and I had an absolute blast. This year we had a group of eight freshmen and I co-led with Michael, a junior from Lowell House. We were in the Pemigewassett Wilderness in New Hampshire and hiked along “the Bonds,” a series of peaks with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Aside from literally five minutes of rain, we had picture perfect weather the entire trip, which made the whole thing even more enjoyable. Leading my last trip was admittedly a little bittersweet, but I was so glad I took the chance to go out one last time before the craziness of senior year.

Senior FOP Leaders just before heading out to meet our trips!

My trip! FOP 20 in New Hampshire

Peer Advising in Wigglesworth

After two years of advising students in Matthews Hall, this year I’ve moved to Wigglesworth F to work with a group of 23 freshmen alongside two other PAFs and a new proctor. So far, the experience has been great – it seems like the entryway is already getting along super well, and it was a ton of fun getting to talk to them all during orientation. While PAFs have responsibilities throughout the course of the year (planning study breaks, holding advising meetings), our efforts are particularly focused during orientation and shopping week, during which time we’re expected to help freshmen get settled into school and talk them through picking their first classes. As a full entryway team, we had several meetings over the course of orientation to talk about life in Wigg F and what freshmen should expect out of their first few weeks of school. In addition, I’m personally assigned to work with eight freshmen, meeting with them individually and offering advice on everything from class selection to extracurriculars to roommate issues.

I got a chance to sit down with all of my advisees over the course of this weekend, and it was so nice to get to know them on a more personal level. As a senior, it’s a bit of a time warp listening to freshmen talk their way through major decisions impacting their life: whether to take top or bottom bunk, how to make the most of the activities fair, or whether or not to go to the First Chance Dance with the rest of the class. I definitely experienced many of the same questions and thoughts during my own freshman orientation, and it always “brings me back” when I’m talking to brand new students during their first few days on campus. What a great reminder of all I’ve experienced to do this right before launching into senior year!

John Harvard dressed up for Move-In Day

FWK and CKS 

In the Crimson Key world, Freshman Week (or, as we like to abbreviate it, FWK) is the biggest event of the entire year: many of us spend the weeks and months leading up to it counting down and planning in anticipation. Of course, a lot of the excitement comes from the fact that Key gets to plan and execute many of the major events that occur during orientation, including the Freshman Talent Show, First Chance Dance, and small scale social activities for the new class. While the freshmen do have to spend a lot of their time going to formal meetings and seminars on life at Harvard, they also get to attend a bunch of fun activities during Freshman Week – and Key gets the pleasure of providing this “fun”. As might be expected, there are a lot of hours required to pull off FWK, which means that it’s all hands on deck for Crimson Key members. Each of the 90 members are expected to put in a number of shifts over the course of the week, ranging from 4:45 am move-in shifts on the first day to late-night clean-ups after the freshman dance. We get to wear bright red t-shirts (yes, the same shirt all week) and enjoy the fun ourselves, though, so it makes the time well worth it.

Crimson Key members staffing the Information Tent on Move-In

FWK is also highly anticipated because it offers a rare chance for the upperclassmen from Key to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company for an entire week before classes start. Key is a group of fun, outgoing, ridiculous people, and we always do a good job of entertaining ourselves over the course of FWK – whether that be on shift, going out in the Square, or just relaxing in someone’s dorm room. Many of us refer to Freshman Week as “Camp Harvard,” a time when we all get to hang out and enjoy campus and each other without the pressures of classes or extracurriculars weighing down on us.

Senior CKS members dressed up for our Love Story movie screening

Move-In and the First Day of Class 

While I definitely have spent a LOT of time with freshmen over the past two weeks, I’ve also been busy moving myself into my own dorm room, hanging out with my roommates, and picking classes for my fall semester. We’re living on the fourth floor of Dunster this year, and while our incredible views of the river make the trek upstairs well worth it, moving all of our furniture up four flights was definitely…an adventure. A few Zipcar rentals and a hearty helping of elbow grease later, though, we managed to get our three (count them – 3) couches into our big senior common room. As far as class selection goes, I’m still definitely in the throes of shopping week – for once, I don’t have any requirements to fulfill this semester, which leaves me the challenge of finding awesome electives for this fall. It’s both exciting and a bit overwhelming to head into course shopping with little definition of what I’ll be taking, but I’m eager to see what I come up with at the end of the week!

The full blocking group at the Dunster “welcome back” cookout

Move-in struggles

And to close out the post, I’m including a photo of my roommates and me from this morning – our last first day of school!

Last First Day of School!

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I’ve only been home for a week and a half, and now I need to start packing to move back to Cambridge for the summer. Wow, time really does fly by. Before I know it, it’ll be the start of my second to last semester at Harvard. Scary!

As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be proctoring for Harvard Summer School and doing some independent research in the undergraduate labs on campus for the next seven weeks. Before all of that starts, though, I wanted to make sure I was really taking advantage of this 3-week, no commitment window. It doesn’t happen often! I was invited to speak at my community’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which was happening the day after I got back from my filming trip overseas (ouch, jetlag!). I’m sure many of you have (or had) things you were super involved with in high school. Two of my greatest passions are volleyball and public service, so I really structured my high school extracurriculars around them. In 2009 (senior year), my best friend, Madison, and I started the first Relay for Life in our community. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Relay, it’s an overnight event when teams of about 10-15 people camp out and walk around an indoor or outdoor track. The goal is to keep one representative from your team on the track at all times for the entire 24 hours. The premise behind this idea is that cancer is a disease that never sleeps, and therefore, the walkers don’t either. Fundraising occurs months and months before the actual event and Relay itself is filled with live music, games, food, and more. Each one that I’ve been to is unique in its own way; Harvard has its own Relay and it’s extremely different from my community’s event. However, it’s all for the same great cause, and at Harvard’s event, fraternities, sororities, and other student groups come out to fundraise, support, and walk. I think both are awesome. The reason why I flew back from my filming trip specifically for my community’s Relay is because this year was a special one. In just four years, we hit a total of $1 million raised. Unfortunately, the day was filled with wind and rain, but over 1,000 people still showed up to walk! It was almost like it was 80 and sunny outside. The event was truly unbelievable.

Madison and I speaking at my community's Relay for Life!

Madison and I speaking at my community's Relay for Life!

Attending Relay was the last thing on my agenda while at home, so it’s been nice to finally be in one place without anything to do. Since then, I’ve been bumming around, relaxing, working out, and soaking up boredom while it lasts. I think everyone needs a bit of “me” time after a period of hard work (i.e. my spring semester) in order to rejuvenate and reflect on your experiences. I can’t believe it’s almost over though! Two days ago, Madison and I went up to Mt. Sunapee, closer to northern New Hampshire (I live right on the border of MA and NH, right on the southeastern corner) and went on a (relatively) easy 2 mile hike. Hiking and being outdoors are some of my favorite things to do, so it was sweet getting away and being surrounded by nature for the entire morning and afternoon. For those of you who will be attending Harvard in the fall, you should consider the First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) for pre-orientation! I did a different one called Dorm Crew, and don’t regret it at all because I met some of my closest friends through it, but if I could have done more than one, FOP would have been next on my list. Caroline has written a lot about the program in previous blog posts and I know a lot of amazing people who’ve loved it. By the way, it’s her 21st birthday today!

I’m traveling to New York this weekend to see a few of my blockmates (people you choose to live with in the same dorm building after your freshman year) who are all working internships there. One reason I like college summers better than high school ones is that I’ve been lucky enough to have friends in different cities, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces when you visit somewhere new. The next time I write will be from campus, and I’m sure I’ll have something about New York or being back at Harvard to write about. Until then!

At the top of Mt. Sunapee awkwardly using self-timer!

At the top of Mt. Sunapee awkwardly using self-timer!

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I can’t believe it’s June already! Even though I finished exams way back on May 12, it’s been a pretty constant rush over the past few weeks: I transitioned from school immediately into a backpacking trip for Harvard FOP, and then have been spending the past couple of weeks starting research for my senior thesis. Here’s an update on what I’ve been up to!

Exam period was absolutely crazy for me this year: I ended up writing 75+ pages in four days (distributed across papers and take-home finals) and then had two tough exams right at the end of the week. Needless to say, I was pretty burnt out by the end of it all, and was really grateful to have the opportunity to go up to the woods on a training trip with FOP. This year, I was leading a “switch” training trip, which meant that my co-leader and I spent ten days in New Hampshire teaching trainees the art and form of FOP trip leading. Most of the time, we got to kick back and relax while the trainees practiced leading; other times, we would set up “simulations,” which gave them the opportunity to practice their outdoor medical training. “Switch” trips are half backpacking and half canoeing, and we were really lucky to have BEAUTIFUL weather while we were out on the lake. It was 75 degrees and sunny almost every day!


My trip at WFA medical training

Me and my co-leader!

Throwing up the switch "S" at sunset

Once I was out of the woods, I started transitioning into research for my senior thesis.  I think (?) I wrote about this briefly in an earlier post, but I was really fortunate to find an advisor from the Sociology department who’s allowing me to work as a research assistant for him on a study that he’s developed for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. I was able to put some questions on the bigger survey that will directly target the issues of health and healthcare that I’m looking to address in my thesis, and have gotten a lot of support in developing my question and using different research methods. It’s been really interesting to be part of the bigger project, as it’s my first time doing formal research outside of the classroom, and I think it’s been a great opportunity to get a taste of academia. Between my 3-4 weeks working as a research assistant for this summer and my 9-week summer internship for a consulting firm, I’m hoping to get a taste for different post-grad options. (It’s also terrifying to already be thinking about “post-grad options,” but that can be the subject of a different blog post)

I took my first trip to Coney Island this summer!

This coming week is going to be exciting for a couple of reasons: Wednesday is my 21st birthday, and I’ll be officially moving into my summer sublet in Cambridge this coming weekend. I also spent this past weekend celebrating my younger brother’s 16th birthday… Needless to say, there’s a lot going on around here! I’m looking forward to my last official week of summer before my internship starts!

We're turning 16 and 21 in the same week!

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So I recently found out that I will be spending the coming year at the helm of Harvard’s First‐Year Outdoor Program (known affectionately around campus as FOP) as a member of steering committee, or SC. After a couple of weeks of application and interview followed by a weekend‐long SC retreat to New Hampshire, we FINALLY had our first official SC ’11 meeting on Friday – and it felt great. I think after spending so much time thinking about FOP and how I’d like to improve the program, it’s a welcome change to be able to start implementing some of these ideas we’ve been so much about.

I determined that my two major projects this year are going to be Fundraising and Food (yes, capitals – to show how important and defining these roles are going to be over the next nine months). I was particularly excited to be assigned food, because it means that I’ll be designing the menu for next summer’s trips, testing out recipes (cooking!) this year, and surprising leader trainees on spring training trips with goodies like Nutella and Oreos packed into their group gear. The whole fundraising thing, however, is proving to be a bit scarier. We receive what are called “project reports” at the start of SC detailing what exactly is required to carry out our specific tasks, and the fundraising section is literally five times as long as most. It’s definitely a bit intimidating to think that the successful execution (or, conversely, painful flop) of this fundraising season could directly lead to changes like increased financial aid and/or gear purchases for the FOP loaner supply. It’s certainly going to be a challenge – hopefully one that teaches me a bit about non‐profit management along the way.

And while I’m on the subject of SC – attached are a couple of pictures from last weekend’s retreat.

They’re only semi‐related to our first meeting, but I couldn’t keep these beautiful views to myself. More importantly, it shows just how ridiculous we can look playing these FOP team‐building games – take a look for yourself! 

L: SC family dinner – yum!; R – one of many silly games played through the weekend

Sprinting?! I was not warned in advance.

Admittedly, this one’s not so ridiculous – gorgeous view in Lincoln, NH!

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