Harvard Summer School

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The sun is setting now, lazy afternoon light sliding through the wide-open windows of my house in Vermont. The sky is dotted with puffy clouds in the east, but a clear azul is spreading across the rest, contrasting against the beautiful rolling green mountains which surround me. With my cat on my lap and my dog at my side, begging for my zucchini fritters, I couldn’t feel any further away from Paris, where I returned from almost a week ago. I’ve transitioned back smoothly after a not-so-simple trip home, and now all I can do is reflect on my summer, soak up the last of my time in Vermont, and look forward to the oncoming academic year.

 

I have been enjoying some good food…here, at a local barn-raising

My time in Paris didn’t turn out to be how I’d expected it; not worse, per se, just different. It quickly became clear that my french wasn’t going to improve by as great a margin as I’d hoped, but in lieu of improved grammar, my conversational skills and linguistic confidence increased substantially. I also became fast friends with the city itself which, as far as urban spaces go, is spectacular. In addition, I made some incredible friends from all over the world and all over Harvard, whilst eating baguettes in a cloud of second-hand cigarette smoke. (Ech. Not going to miss that.) Now I’m not sure what I’ll be up to next summer, and where I’ll be spending my time. Perhaps Paris again? Or perhaps the countryside? Or Italia? Good thing I’ve got a few months to decide 🙂

 

In Vermont, I’ve managed to keep myself busy, despite the relaxed feeling that’s permeated my bones. Yesterday was very exciting; I went on my first riding lesson in seven years! The horse farm is in Milton, way up north, so I decided to stop by Burlington (our ‘big’ city) on the way there to do some shopping. But back to the lesson. I’m seriously considering playing polo for Harvard’s team, and I had to see whether or not I was over-romanticizing my sentiments towards the sport. So I budgeted a bit for the lessons, called up the stable, and arranged a lesson for the next day. It went very smoothly; I rode a lovely buckskin for more than an hour in the arena, cantering on my first day, as well as accidentally jumping a small hurdle. (Whoops. Don’t tell my mom.) I felt so comfortable, and I have two more lessons waiting for me before I head back to Cambridge, where I’ll be setting up my single (!) in Currier. As a former resident of Canaday, I am fully aware of the lack of architectural beauty that plagues the newer dorms, and Currier is no exception. Thus, I have decided to decorate my room fantastically (I mean it) and so all of yesterday’s shopping was geared towards the housing department. I went to two fabric stores, a craft store, some standard decorating stores, a few cheap-o stores, and returned home with all of my goodies: a bathmat, two square leopard-print/camouflage throw pillows, another smaller throw pillow, yarn, frames, and a bunch of fabric. Do not worry. The fabric will be covering those hideous throw pillows, making them absolutely gorgeous. Ah, my domestic life is flourishing. I move from stovetop to sewing machine to clothesline just like a little housewife. Except I’m designing my room. Which will win prizes and be featured in the New York Times Style Magazine, if we’re lucky.

 

This might be part of my bedroom. Yet to be decided.

As far as the less-important aspects of school go, I suppose I have to choose classes. (Please note that I am joking, as I have chosen my classes as of two months ago.) I have a few conflicts…okay, waaay more than a few, and this semester is the last one that I have before I must declare my concentration…which is still up in the air. Romance Languages and Anthropology? Visual and Environmental Studies and Anthropology? …Architecture concentration that has yet to be created? I DON’T KNOW. And the clock is ticking, so I’d better decide quickly. I am so excited to return to school, although I am totally afraid that I’ll be overwhelmed and have a rerun of my freshman fall, which was not so nice. Wish me luck, anyhow!

-Reid

 

No, that is not me.

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The last day that I was on campus as a Proctor for Harvard Summer School, a few of us went to Revere Beach, which is about a 40 minute T ride from campus (the T is what we call our subway system). Fun fact: Revere Beach is America’s first public beach! Actually, about 10 of us were supposed to go, but between real world jobs and trying to wrap things up on campus, only three of us ended up making the trek out to the shore. Meghan and Chris are both rising seniors as well, and we figured we would have one last hurrah before leaving for the last few weeks of summer. And, of course, we wanted one more opportunity to get our tans on, since that’d probably be pretty difficult to do once the semester starts in September.

The T is super easy to navigate and incredibly convenient. To be honest, I don’t get to use it as often as I’d like just because it’s so busy during the school year. However, I have several friends who try to get out to different parts of Boston and Cambridge a few times a month, and that’s something I’m going to try to do for the upcoming semester–after all, I only have two left. We arrived in Revere to find out that there was a group of 15 year olds playing incredibly loud music on a stage near the beach as part of some kind of community youth event. It wasn’t exactly the peace, quiet, and relaxation we were looking for, but I think we learned to tune it out since we all ended up taking a dip in the water at one point and then eventually falling asleep as we laid on the sand.

Meghan, Chris, and I at the beach!

As we were leaving, we noticed a super conveniently located ice cream shop right next to the T stop. What’s a beach day without ice cream? We took well over 5 minutes to decide what we were all going to order, which was especially inconsiderate seeing as there were people in line behind us. However, we were so incredibly excited and our server was really accommodating and sweet. I wish I knew what the stand was called so I could give it a plug in here, but the delicious ice cream is the only thing I remember. Yikes. Either way, the ice cream shop right next to the Revere Beach T stop is delicious and you should all go if you get a chance!

Our delicious ice cream

I’m in India for the last leg of filming for the documentary I’m co-hosting and will make sure I blog and post pictures from this trip! Back to campus at the end of the week for PAF* training, and I’m really looking forward to it. Blog again soon!

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*PAF: A Peer Advising Fellow, or “PAF,” is basically an upperclassman buddy that every first-year student is assigned to based on broad academic and extracurricular interests.

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Here I am, with less than one week remaining on campus. I leave in 6 days, and it’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end. I’ve had such a productive and “relaxed-busy” few months. I’d like to share two gems that I came across this summer. They’ve both always been around, I just never took the time to look into them.

Harvard Summer School hosts trips throughout the summer that are part of a larger series called “Discover Boston.” One of my duties as a Proctor is to chaperone several of these outings. A few weeks ago, I attended the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) for the first time. Despite growing up in Massachusetts, right on the border of New Hampshire and only a half hour driving from Boston, the MFA was one museum I had never been to. I love going to exhibits and museums. I enjoy attempting to interpret others’ art, and the quiet galleries are incredibly relaxing. I’m also usually in awe of what some people can think of. The pieces that I love the most are typically the ones that make me think or look twice…or the paintings that you just can’t help but notice because of their sheer size.

Floor-to-ceiling painting! Cool!

Floor-to-ceiling painting! Cool!

From attending the MFA, I discovered that while the fine art is beautiful, I very much enjoy contemporary art more. The MFA has a small section specifically for contemporary art, which I just couldn’t get enough of. Any museum-goer will notice simple, cool, and clever lighted signage before entering one of the galleries (see picture below). I’d highly recommend anyone to check it out. In addition, Harvard has some fantastic museums–one of my favorites is the Museum of Natural History. I’ve been once with my parents and I couldn’t help but think what a fun place it would be to take a date! Kind of nerdy, but it might be fun, no? What about the Aquarium? I think I’d have fun at either…however, I can, indeed, see it going horribly wrong.

Lighted signage before entering the MFA's Contemporary Art exhibit!

Lighted signage before entering the MFA’s Contemporary Art exhibit!

Earlier this week, my friend Beth and I got massages over at the Wellness Center. They have special student prices and the office is conveniently located in the Holyoke Center, which is right on campus. Beth has been training all summer (she’s on the Women’s Varsity Volleyball team) and I still exercise and go to the gym despite not being on the men’s team anymore. Therefore, we put a lot of physical stress on our bodies, on top of personal or mental stresses, which all contribute to even more knots or tightness in our muscles and joints. This is definitely a luxury and something we don’t do often. Actually, it was the first real massage for the both of us! However, we wanted to treat ourselves and thought we’d give it a shot. I don’t have anything to compare my massage to, but I did very much enjoy it and would definitely go back again. I think the Wellness Center is a great resource that’s underutilized by undergrads here. On the other hand, if getting a full body massage isn’t your thing, there’s also a program on campus called Stressbusters. Stressbusters is a program that trains students to give massages as volunteers on campus. They can either be booked to give massages at meetings or events, or they also hold spontaneous massage study breaks in different Houses (dorm buildings) and libraries. My favorite part about Stressbusters is that they come to Quincy House (the dorm building I live in) and give massages during Reading Period before exams start taking place.

I’m counting down the days–the final exam for my Tissue Engineering class is on Wednesday. I’m off to go study a bit, but I hope all of you are having a great first week to August. I also hope you all get a chance to catch the Olympics! There are some incredibly talented and gifted people in this world!

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I hope everyone in the States had a relaxing Fourth of July! I skipped out on the fireworks this year because of the potential rain in Boston. Regardless, Boston fireworks are pretty amazing–the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as many famous people come to perform (this year, Jennifer Hudson and the Dropkick Murphys were just two of the several featured acts). I’m almost certain that the whole event is nationally televised. A few friends of mine went to see the fireworks and told me that it had only rained for about 10 minutes, so I might have missed out, but that’s alright with me. There’s always next year!

Harvard Summer School is in full swing and the Yard is bustling with people. Annenberg Hall (which is exclusively for first-year students during the regular semester) is the only dining hall that’s open during the summer session. From experience, I’ve found that during the summer it becomes extremely crowded past 5:30 pm, so a group of us proctors have shifted our summer dining schedules. We eat dinner at 4:30 pm (i.e. as soon as Annenberg opens). We’re usually the first ones in, and often out by 5 pm. But no one has called us crazy just yet…

It isn’t just my eating habits that change over the summer–I also like studying in different settings. I’m usually in my room or in a library during the school year, but one of my favorite parts about being on campus during the summer is that I can really spend as much time as I would like studying in other places. I’ve been doing work in my favorite tea shop, Tealuxe, as well as in Starbucks (there are so many in Harvard Square, all within walking distance of each other). I love studying in cafes because it feels much more relaxed than a library. I also love people watching. However, I wouldn’t recommend studying in a coffee shop if you’re scrambling to get work done for a deadline that’s coming up. I find that the relaxed environment is most conducive to getting work done when you aren’t stressed out. Personally, I like to read in cafes, but to each his/her own, right?

Beth and Scott studying in Starbucks!

In addition to my gig as a Proctor, I’ve started working at a hospital in the Longwood Medical Area, which is a medical campus in Boston with several of the area’s best hospitals and medical facilities. Longwood is about a 20-30 minute bus ride from the College campus, and there’s a shuttle called the M2 that’s free for Harvard students. I just finished my first week, and I’ve learned an unbelievable amount already. The doctor that I’m working with is brilliant and one of the leading experts in his field. However accomplished he may be, he’s incredibly humble and passionate. I love meeting his patients because they all love him and thank him to no end. All of the other people I work with are also super nice and a lot of fun to be around…being in the hospital doesn’t feel like work. Just being in the clinic for this week has been quite the experience and is helping me realize that I can definitely see myself as a physician. I think that’s why interning somewhere is a crucial part of the learning experience before stepping onto any path after college. Volunteer and intern experience gives you a glimpse into what life would be like in a certain career, and allows you to see whether the profession may or may not be for you. So useful!

I’m off to enjoy my weekend, but should have a fun post coming up: I’m coaching the Harvard Volleyball camp starting tomorrow. I’ll keep you all updated!

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I am back on campus! But before I get into my hectic Harvard Summer School Proctor training schedule the past few days, I’d like to take a second and comment on Jeanie’s incredible post. I feel upstaged. You should read it…it’s filled with insider goodness. While I disagree with Wigglesworth being the best freshman dorm (I lived in Greenough my freshman year), I like to think that part of the reason why Jeanie had such a memorable experience was because I was one of her Peer Advising Fellows…she just forgot to mention me. A Peer Advising Fellow, or “PAF,” is basically an upperclassman buddy that every first-year student is assigned to based on broad academic and extracurricular interests. Each entryway of about 20-30 students within a dorm building has 3 or 4 PAFs who work with the Proctor to help with personal and academic advising. They also plan weekly study breaks that have lots of free food and are (supposed to be) a lot of fun. We try our best to be creative! I’m entering my third year as a PAF, and I miss Jeanie’s entryway in the Wigglet a lot. We had a lot of fun at all of our study breaks, which included some awesome themes, such as Super Bowl (nachos and wings, anyone?), holiday, and ice cream, to name a few! Free food is amazing in college. Sometimes, I attend events just for the free snacks. Student group information sessions and academic panels and open houses are just two of the several types of events that are notorious for providing delicious, free food: Boloco burritos, Finale cakes and desserts (cheesecake is my favorite), the super popular Pinocchio’s Pizza (“Noch’s” for short), etc. Wherever you end up in the world, find the free food. Don’t get me wrong, I love Annenberg and our dining hall food, but it’s nice to change it up once in a while. Also, click the link for Annenberg Hall — our dining hall looks straight out of a Harry Potter movie!

As far as Proctor training goes, we’ve been learning a lot the past few days. This is my second year as a Proctor so I’ve done all the training before, but it’s nice to get a refresher on so many things, from rules to what to do in an emergency. I’ll admit that it did get a bit monotonous at times, and the beautiful (but hot!) weather outside didn’t help to keep any of us focused. My students moved in this weekend, and I have a great group from all over the place. Harvard Summer School attracts people from over 100 different countries. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone. Let’s also hope I don’t have to bring down the iron fist…is that how the saying goes? Yikes!

This summer, I’ll be taking a course called “Tissue Engineering for Clinical Applications” that describes disease pathology, as well as latest advances in tissue engineering and prospective research ideas to treat those diseases. It’s right along the lines of my Biomedical Engineering concentration (major) and I’m excited to learn in a setting that’s more relaxed than during the school year. Now that I only have one class to focus on, I’ll be able to manage my time between my studies, working, and pursuing other interests that I’m not able to during the regular semester.

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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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Hi everyone! I realized I never posted a proper end of the year wrap up, and time just flew by while summer completely sneaked up on me. I write to you all from Incheon International Airport after spending three amazing weeks in China and South Korea. However, I’ll backtrack before explaining how I got here.

I left campus very abruptly–actually, my finish date was the earliest it’s ever been in my three years at Harvard. You see, everyone has a different final exam schedule at the end of every semester. Reading Period is the week after classes end and before final exams begin. It is a week when things on campus quiet down a bit and when I, personally, catch up with friends. Another great thing about Reading Period that I’ve found through my experience thus far is that it’s the perfect time to take a breather. While academic commitments (aside from studying, of course) slow down, many extracurricular club events and House formals occur right before or at the beginning of the week, so those are two things I always look forward to. Apart from the fun, what do students do academically during Reading Period? Some folks spend the week writing papers while others are studying for exams or collaborating on group projects…or it’s a combination of all three. How much fun you can have depends on what your workload is like. Some people have a heavier Reading Period, while others have a more difficult Final Exam Period.  For me, I love not having any scheduled classes and being able to structure my days around studying. Freshman fall, I had three exams and had no choice but to stay on campus until the very last day possible because that’s when my final was scheduled. However, the end of each semester does vary. This year, I was able to leave so early because I only had one final exam and the rest of my courses’ assessments were papers and projects that were due before the end of Reading Period.

After going home, I was incredibly busy. I was only able to spend five days there. Between spending time with my family and friends, as well as packing for my trip, the week definitely flew by. I mentioned in my last post that I would be spending part of the summer hosting a new documentary series about how different cultures affect education and studying. Myself and three other students from Harvard were chosen to travel to different countries, visiting schools and universities and interviewing students from various age groups. While the four of us got to move around together for a bit, we split off into pairs. We all started in Korea, moved to China together, and then Jenny (my partner) and I covered China more extensively as Bryan and Lilli (the other two Harvard students) left for Israel halfway through our trip. For the last three weeks, I visited many different places in China and Korea. Our traveling allowed us to observe studying and education from vastly different perspectives. For example, we visited some of the best universities in both countries, as well as tutoring academies, and even rural elementary and high schools, to name a few. As for now, we’re all heading off to do our own things for the summer. In August, Jenny and I will be traveling to India. We’ve also heard (and are really hoping) we might go to France. I never thought I’d be doing anything like this, but I’ve been really lucky and it’s been an incredible experience.

Taking promotional photos for the documentary!

Taking promotional photos for the documentary!

I’ll be home for 3 weeks before heading back to campus to proctor for Harvard Summer School and do some independent research in the undergraduate labs. I’m incredibly excited to sleep in my own bed and have some home cooked meals. Living out of a suitcase and in a hotel room for the past 3 weeks has been pretty difficult just because it’s so hard to get comfortable doing so. Next time I write, I’ll be back in the States! Also, I’ll be writing throughout the summer, so I will do my best not to bore you all!

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I can’t believe it’s already the 5th Monday of the spring semester. Have I been keeping track? No, and while I guess I could simply use a calendar and count, the 5th Monday of each semester is widely advertised on campus because it’s the “Add/Drop Deadline” for your course schedule. What this means is that students can add or drop a course anytime before this day without receiving a mark of “withdraw” on their transcripts. The typical semester here consists of taking 4 courses. However, many people decide to enroll in 5 classes for a variety of different reasons: to take an extra course they’re interested in, to fulfill extra requirements, or even just to challenge themselves even more. I mentioned in an earlier post that I put 5 courses on my study card back in January, which is essentially just a list of classes you submit to the College letting them know which classes you are taking for the semester. I write about the Add/Drop Deadline not to bore you, but because I am dropping my 5th course! I mulled over it for a very long time because I really wanted to take 5, but I realized that instead of going to that class and doing all the work for it, I’d rather invest my time into clubs that I’m in or going to the gym or something else that exercises a different part of my brain. That’s basically my excuse for saying that it didn’t end up working out.

Another thing that’s been taking up much of my time lately is summer plans. I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to be doing for a while now. There are so many opportunities–traveling, public service, studying abroad, internships, etc. and then there are all the different locations! Well, what city I’ll be in isn’t exactly my choice, but instead something that just comes with whatever program or company I end up working with. Last summer, I was in Cambridge as a General Program Proctor for Harvard Summer School, helping students adjust to life on campus for 6 weeks. I also took a computer science class and got to enjoy the city during the summer months, which was a very different experience than life here during the normal semester.

To celebrate President’s Day Weekend (we have tomorrow–Monday–off from class!), my friends and I had a pizza party in my room with delicious pizza from Pinocchio’s, which is a Harvard staple. Actually, my friend Lina brought all of the pizza from work. She supervises Unit Test grading for Economics 10, an introductory economics course, that is essentially a supplementary educational program designed to help students prepare for their Ec10 exams. Regardless, Pinocchio’s (or “Noch’s” for short) is a restaurant you definitely need to check out if you’re ever around the area!

Pizza from Noch's!

Pizza from Noch's!

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Wait, what?  Summer is almost over?  It is completely impossible for it to already be August 22.  Time has clearly played a trick on us all.  AHHHH!

Good news is, I’ve had an INCREDIBLE summer!  Bad news is, I haven’t been able to tell you all about it ‘til now…. But here I go!

Ok, so this summer I had the ridiculously, amazing opportunity to say, “Psh… summer?  Who would ever want to stop studying for three months?” and take a summer class…. In BARCELONA!

That’s right!  I went with the Harvard Summer Study Abroad to Barcelona, Spain to learn about Barcelonan art, architecture, and culture.  I got to speak all sorts of Spanish, pretend to know Catalan, eat yummy food, travel to Paris and Rome, soak up the sun on the beach… oh right, and go to class.  Of course.

When I went, I knew absolutely none of the other kids on the program.  They were all rising sophomores and juniors from Harvard, but for whatever reason I’d never met any of them.  I love meeting new people, so this didn’t bother me, but I still did not know what to expect.

It was one of the best summers of my life.

Me in front of the Sagrada Familia!

We lived in a summer student housing residence in large singles.  Not only was each single relatively big, but each had its own full bathroom and kitchenette!  Our classroom was located in the historic main building of the University of Barcelona, and we got to learn all of the ins-and-outs of the city’s super-efficient metro.   We only had class Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week, so this meant four full days every weekend to explore and travel!

In Madrid!

An average school day went as follows:

  • 9:15 – Wake up to enjoy the Residence’s complimentary breakfast of croissants, fruit, and expresso (I am now an addict).
  • 10:15 – Leave the Residence to walk to the metro station.  Wait a maximum of four minutes for the metro to arrive.  Ride to school.
  • 11:00 – 1:00 – Learn about Barcelonan history, art, architecture, and city planning.
  • 1:00 – 5:30 – SIESTA!  This means eat, sleep, explore, shop, go to the beach, do homework, etc.
  • 5:30- 8:30 – Itinerario, which was our term for class-led field trips around Barcelona to see the buildings that we had learned about in class.
  • 9:00ish – Dinner.  Because Barcelona is a pretty touristy area, the food can be expensive.  We went out to eat some, but we mostly utilized the kitchenettes in our rooms, which meant LOOK OUT WORLD!  I LEARNED TO COOK!  That’s right, I can now make eggs in every style you can possible imagine (including poached, thank you very much), and a mean orange chicken.
  • 10:30 – If we didn’t have a lot of work, a lot of the times we went out.  Barcelona has all sorts of cool things to see at night, and why would you want to miss out on such an intrinsic part of the cultural experience, right?
Beyond all of that, I also made some incredible friends, who I know I will stay close with during the next three years of my Harvard experience.

The whole group with a view of Barcelona in the background

Now that I’m home, I can’t wait to go back to school!

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Cody Dean, Government Concentrator in Mather House, Class of 2014

Veritas. Truth.  As our motto, it’s what we seek to discover and make known as a university. It isn’t tamed by mountains, impeded by deserts, nor deprived of its existence by institutions of our own creation.  Truth can solely exist and await its discovery. It is a universal language that knows no borders and serves as a foundation to our existence.  Sans the sensationalism, Harvard has proven to me that this truth exists in all places around the world and not just in Harvard Square.

Coming to Harvard from the small town of Crab Orchard in the great state of West Virginia, I thought I knew exactly what the truth was. I had preconceived idea of what the world was and how we relate with those whom are our brothers and sisters in humanity, but are distant cousins in culture.  However, looking back on that idea after my first year at Harvard, I could not have been more blinded. I had allowed my own experience to cloud my perception of the masses.

Harvard casts its net into the far reaches of our world and I have been given many opportunities to visit some of the most exciting places in that net during my first year. Over our extended winter vacation during the month of January, I took an opportunity to travel to the tiny fishing village of Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Located about an hour outside of the city of Jeddah, Thuwal is one of the many villages along the Red Sea. The town consists of the university, a local fish market and souk, and seemingly endless expanses of desert on all sides.  While there, I worked as a coordinator for the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology. A connection from a recent Harvard alumnus offered me the opportunity to experience a culture that, for many, remains a mystery.

 

Erected just three years ago, the university could be described as a fortress in the middle of a desert wasteland. While there, I worked as one of the program coordinators for the 2011 WEP. We brought in distinguished speakers from all walks of life to speak during the month long program and organized talks and symposia with topics including entrepreneurship, sustainable development, 3D animation, chemistry, and biological/marine sciences. I had the great pleasure of helping coordinate the multimillion-dollar program as well as the opportunity to meet and work beside distinguished guests such as Dr. Bengt Nordén, former chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee in Chemistry, and Maria Zuber of MIT and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I also had to opportunity to experience daily life in the Muslim culture and saw a completely different system of government at work. I was challenged and at times overwhelmed by how much I once thought I understood about world religions, culture, and government. I saw the beauty of a religion that I had once dismissed as the opponent of my own and formed connections and friendships with people that I would have never encountered had Harvard not brought us together. I quickly realized that it is far too easy to categorize people subconsciously. It has been in the instances of complete immersion that I am constantly discovering what the truth is for me.

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As I write this today, I’m sitting in a café in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I am spending the summer studying the Argentinean flavor of the Spanish language and eating my weight in the local beef as part of the Harvard Summer School in Buenos Aires. (Seriously, the things I would do for a vegetable these days are astonishing!) I was able to attend the program thanks to the generous gift from David Rockefeller SB ’36, LLD ’69 via the international experience grant named in his honor. I am spending eight weeks traveling around Argentina and learning the culture and language. We live with Argentinean host families for two months and get hands on experience of what Porteño life is truly like. We signed a firm contract to speak only in Spanish for two months and that requirement is taken quite seriously. Throughout of the program, we will travel to many of the various provinces of the country to further appreciate the rural life that exists outside Buenos Aires. The academic elements of the program have proven to be quite rigorous, but the result will mean an entire year’s worth of Spanish language credit towards my language citation at Harvard. My fluency has improved immensely throughout the summer, and we have traveled to some of the most breathtaking locations in the world.  I have been amazed by the national addiction to fútbol and the expressive passion that is deeply embedded in the Argentinean culture. The program has given me a solid understanding of both the life and literature of Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and has highlighted the music, nature, politics, and religion of the Argentines. The intersection of language and culture has been perfect for my understanding of the value of other lifestyles and I can’t recommend spending some time abroad while in college highly enough. Whether it’s having your group bus break down in the middle of the Corrientes marshlands or getting lost in the maze of streets that form Capital Federal, Argentina is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

 

 

If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to seize every opportunity and take time away from the place you know best to discover what life is like in another’s shoes. Best wishes as you continue through your high school career!

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