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It has been a good minute since my last post, so I am really excited to check in and update you on my status this summer.   I didn’t have the chance to share my summer plans with you all before I went on hiatus in the spring, but I am happy to share that I am spending the summer in Cambridge and working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau until August.  I could not be happier with my decision to stay close to campus.  Cambridge is my home away from my real home (Fairfax, Virginia) so for me, Summer 2012 is all about embracing the familiar.

Embracing the familiar is a far cry from last year’s summer break.  Instead of staying close to home or on-campus, last summer I participated in the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Program in Barcelona.  It was my first time spending any substantial amount of time in Europe, and I am so appreciative of the experience.  Even though it was a Harvard program, I met a lot of new people and formed lasting friendships.  As a group, we really took advantage of our weekends and used the time outside of class to travel.  I experienced a lot of previously unfamiliar cities (Madrid, Granada, and Seville to name a few) and took in some truly amazing sights.  Just as importantly, I became more comfortable communicating in Spanish in the classroom, and the street signs and side conversations throughout the city served as my (brief and superficial) introduction to Catalan.  All in all, last summer was a stimulating adventure.  Looking back on it now, I would not change a thing, but leading up to this summer I was definitely looking forward to something different.

The Barcelona Program on the last day of class

That being said, living in on-campus for the summer does not mean that I am not experiencing new things.  As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past, during the school year I live in Pforzheimer House, which is one of the three houses that are located in the Radcliffe Quad.  As a Quadling, I am used to having some distance between my home and the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square and the center of campus, but this summer I’m getting a taste of life on the (Charles) River.  I have summer housing in Adams House, and right now, I am loving the convenience.  I can walk out of my room and have a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee in my hand in less than 5 minutes.  The Quad commute is not as big of a deal during the school year, but during the summer the central location of Adams saves me from the oppressive heat and humidity.

From the Quad to the River

As I am writing this entry, I am realizing that even though I am in Cambridge at the moment, elements of my Barcelona Summer are still present.  At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), part of my work is to serve as a translator for Spanish-speaking clients.  The lectures and assignments for the course I took in Barcelona were entirely in Spanish, and I am not sure that I would feel comfortable in this position, if I didn’t have last summer’s experience to assure me of my capability.  On top of that, I met my summer roommate, Tessa, when I was in Barcelona last summer.  Tessa wasn’t in the same program as me, but she was working in a lab in the city so we got to know each other really well.  Tessa and I are also in the Crimson Key Society together, but we became good friends in Barcelona.  In the name of platitudes, I guess you could say that the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.  No need to roll your eyes at me, because I already beat you to it.

 

Me and Tessa in Gerona last summer

Nothing concludes a post like a cheesy saying, so that’s all I have to say for today.  I hope that everyone is looking forward to a relaxing Fourth of July!

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Hello friends!

Yes, it is I, after a very long sabbatical from writing, back to report to you about my life.

So wow, a lot has happened, but rather than bore you with a drawn-out narrative of the stressful end to my sophomore year (papers, papers, papers, Finals, Finals, Finals, PACK UP, MOVE OUT, OMG STORAGE IS CLOSING IN 30 MIN! AHHHHHH), I will share with you a few vignettes from my summer so far.  I have had some incredible experiences – some big and some small and meaningful.  But they foreshadow what I hope to be an amazing summer!

Before I launch into it, I’d just like to say that finishing my sophomore year has been a strange experience — I’M HALFWAY THROUGH COLLEGE!  What is this supposed to mean?  Do I even know what I want to do in life?  Am I ready to graduate in another two years?  Did I do enough with the two I just had?

As I contemplate all of these feelings, Bon Jovi’s song “Living On a Prayer” Living on a Prayer comes to mind, and that’s where I got the name of this post.

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

In celebration of being done with all of our final exams, my roommates and I treated ourselves to buying tickets to a RedSox game.  I had never been to a RedSox game before and one of my roommates had never been to any baseball game before so this was a big event.

It was a wonderfully warm summer night, and the Boston fans were out in full force.  The Sox were playing the Indians, but not a single Cleveland fan could be spotted (I mean, they would have to be pretty brave).  My roommates and I arrived at a packed T-station, sporting all of the RedSox paraphernalia we could find.  Thrilled by the combined sentiments of being done with finals, of being at a Sox game, and of finding great seats even though we had paid for standing room-only tickets, we were giddy as we dug into our cracker jacks and hot dogs.

One of my roommates and me at the RedSox Game!

But in the moments after the ballpark had stood up to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” I admit, the happy feelings began to falter a bit.  Our sophomore year was over!  We were now halfway through our college experience.  We weren’t going to see each other for an entire three months.  And in just another two years, we would be separated by wherever life took us.  Everything just seemed so scary!

And so, embarrassingly, we had one of those girly, sentimental moments – right there, in the middle of Fenway Park.  A few tears may or may not have been shed.  And I don’t regret it one bit.  In fact, I think it’ll be one of the moments I remember most fondly when I do eventually graduate and look back at my college experience.  Because I was there, surrounded by my closest friends. Together we had grown to be new people, together we would continue to change during the next two years, and eventually together we would face the world.  And it wouldn’t be so scary so long as we had each other.

And that might be the corniest thing I have ever written.

But I mean it.

 

So freaking Patriotic

I went home for a week around Memorial Day, which is a big deal in the town of Sewickley, PA.  We host a huge parade in which every pee-wee baseball team, every Girl Scout troop, every high school band member from every high school around, every greyhound dog owner (don’t ask…), every vintage car owner, and every firefighter troop and its trucks, not to mention every veteran from every war (including reenactments of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars) march, jog, trot, play, and drive through the town.  In addition, the middle school’s Clown Club always provides alternative modes of transportation to its members such as unicycles and pogo sticks.

Not only is Memorial Day a big deal to our town, but it’s also a big deal to my family.  My dad is a Gulf War I veteran and we’re all very proud of it.  My dad will usually organize a group or fellow-vets to march in the parade and host a barbecue at our house afterward.  This year, the town asked my dad to give the public address at the post-parade commemorative ceremony.

As my dad stood in his dress blue speaking about the heroism of those who fight to defend our freedom, I felt so proud and so loved surrounded by my family and my community.   It’s a feeling that I sometimes forget when I’m at Harvard, hustling and bustling from one activity to another.

My sister, my dad, and me after my dad’s speech on Memorial Day!

But as I watched the parade march by, the same parade I had been watching every Memorial Day since I can remember, and as I was feeling this great sense of family and community, I couldn’t help but also feel a sense of separation.  Less and less do I feel like Sewickley is my home, and more and more do I feel like its part of a very loving past.  It wasn’t a sad feeling, just a different feeling, one that I accepted.  I had been living at Harvard the past two years, Harvard was my home now.  And well, I guess that’s what you get after you finish your sophomore year.

My sides hurt from Cartwheels and Laughing

During the summer, when most Harvard students are off campus exploring the world, the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) suspends its normal programming and starts up twelve summer camps for low-income kids around Cambridge and Boston.  These twelve camps constitute PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP).  Like everything else at PBHA, SUP is student-run, so I am working this summer on what we call Fulltime SUPport (get it?).  I like to tell people that the job is a combination of administrative work and manual labor.

We hauled 60 chairs from the Harvard Recycling Center to our Mission Hill Summer Program camp site for their classrooms. It was a 97 degree day. In the background is one of my friends cheering when we finished!

SUP is a great community of awesome students working together to change the lives of elementary and middle school students.  But beyond that, it’s a great community of friends.  We live in the Radcliffe Quad in Cabot House, and in the evenings, after camp is done for the day, we use the Quad to play soccer, run around and have fun.

This summer, I have compiled a short bucket list of things I would like to accomplish.  One of these things is to be able to do a cartwheel.  Now, I know this is a basic part of many people’s growing up, but somehow between my never-ending stages of gangly awkwardness, I never could quite get there.  I remember when I was probably three or so, my mother signed me up for a Gymnastics course, and at the end of the class while all the kids performed cartwheels and summersaults to the “Ooooo”s and “Ahhhh”s of their parents, my only contribution to the performance was a Donkey-kick… in which my teacher had to grab my legs and kick them up for me.

Yes, clearly I am gymnastically-talented.  So finally, at the age of 20, I am determined to accomplish this great feat.

With the help of a few good SUP friends, I practiced on the Quad Lawn for about an hour, slowly progressing, but never quite getting it.  By the time it started getting dark, I was sore all over from trying to propel my legs through the air (don’t laugh…) and from laughing with my friends at each of my awkward crashes to the ground.

I haven’t accomplished a full cartwheel yet, but it was a great evening, one I shared with close friends as we looked forward to what the summer would offer us.

And that’s all I have for now!  As you can see, I have some pretty mixed feelings about beginning the second half of my college experience.  A large part of me is screaming, “I don’t want to grow up!!!” while all the while, I keep looking around and seeing the ways I already have.  It’s a funny thing.  But you guys get to witness the whole process.  Should be interesting to look back and read all of these entries in two years.

Cheers!

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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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As I sit here writing this piece, I can’t believe how much has happened in the world this past year. Osama Bin Laden was assassinated, Harry Potter finally triumphed over arch nemesis Lord Voldemort, and Rebecca Black became an infamous internet sensation with her single “Friday”. Not to mention the turmoil regarding European Debt and revolutions in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia.  

My 2011 may not have been as life-altering at the global level but it has been one of the most interesting years of my life. At the beginning of 2011, I was a senior in high school and had just committed to Harvard to play tennis. With college applications behind me, I was able to engage in school activities and events that I couldn’t before. My goal for my last semester in high school was to make it the most memorable semester of high school. I attended Monte Vista pep rallies, went to Senior Ball, and was able to end high school on a high note. To me, high school was a great experience, but I would be naive to think that everyone enjoyed their high school experience. For those high school students on both ends, no matter how great your high school experience is, college is better. Long gone are the days where students are comparing grades, and you have to take subjects that don’t interest you. College is a time for exploration and journeys one can only imagine. Seniors, don’t stress out if you aren’t accepted into your dream school. Each college offers a unique education that is invaluable in many ways. I know college decisions seem like everything in the moment, but the most important thing in the long run is to find a school that is a perfect fit.

For myself, I couldn’t have imagined a better first semester in college. Looking back, I never imagined I would have had the opportunity to do half the things I have done first semester.  It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in high school, but looking back it makes much more sense.

While it is always sad to be at the end of one year, it seems that 2011 was just a small taste of what 2012 will bring. While it is safe to assume we won’t be visiting nearby galaxies, 2012 looks to be a year when the human race will push the boundaries further than they’ve stretched before. It is impossible to predict what may happen in 2012, but whatever happens trust that your dots will connect in the future. Good luck seniors, and Happy New Years to all!

Timeline of my 2011:

My three sisters (Sona, Sheena, Sabina) and I are hanging out and playing Wii.

With my best high school friend, Logan, and AP Calculus teacher (Mrs. Shackelford)

Playing tennis with long-time childhood friends

Harvard Men’s Tennis Coaches (Dave Fish & Andrew Rueb),Uncle Tara, and I at Freshmen Move-in

Eating at Annenberg (our freshman dining hall)

Upasna and I are studying economics

Connor, Sietse, Brennan, and I are playing bughouse chess

 

Stella and I rejoicing after taking our math final exams!

Back home for the holidays!

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After spending a lovely few days in Vermont for Thanksgiving, I returned to campus today. This is what I have learned: I miss a lot of aspects of my old life, but I also am glad to be in this new environment; in fact, my life at Harvard is easier in some ways! Here are some mini-lists, interspersed with some recent photography!

 

Things I miss:

1. Fresh _____ (food, towels, air, sheets, silverware, etc.) There is nothing like the clean air of Vermont, and living in a city is quite the contrast. While my lungs miss the fresh air, my skin misses the fresh sheets and towels. This could easily be solved by increasing the frequency of my laundry runs, and has been ameliorated by the smuggling of ANOTHER towel from home to my dorm room. Laundry is normally not my top priority, but I’m not lazy enough to have it done by Harvard Student Agencies (although that’s offered, for those of you who are repulsed by dirty clothes). As for food and silverware, this is another problem that I could probably solve. Although Annenberg is very good for the number of people it serves, I miss the fresh veggies and fruits that my mom would bring home every day. Shaw’s is just a short trip by T, and I technically could go out and purchase some delicacies for my fresh food fix. (For silverware, please see ‘laundry’ above.)

 

2. My old friends!

This is not Harvard’s fault; it is just part of growing up. I had to start a new life at college, and that means losing a lot of contact with my friends, who are at colleges such as Middlebury, Denver, and Queens or living and working across the country. I miss them a TON, especially my lovely friends Tucker and Georgie, who happen to be chillin’ on the  West Coast. This problem, too, will be solved by J-term: FLYING TO LAX!

 

3. Driving!

It’s really, really fun to drive on dirt roads. If you’ve never done it before, you’re missing out.

 

4. My family

Okay, so I miss my mom. And my dad. And my stepdad, my sister, my half-sister, my dog, and my cat. But video chatting on iChat is the best! It was awesome catching up with them all over Thanksgiving break, as well as an extension of this family in the form of cousins, uncles, and aunts.

 

5. Vermont itself!

I hail from the best state in the Union, no doubt. We have maple syrup, cider, and leaves: you know that. We also have COWS, TREES, MOUNTAINS, FLANNEL, TRACTORS, MY HOUSE, MUD SEASON, STICK SEASON, 6 MONTHS OF WINTER, THE ONLY CAPITAL WITHOUT A MCDONALDS, THE BEST SWIMMING HOLES, GORGEOUS RIVERS AND LAKES, AND NOT THAT MANY PEOPLE!!! Maybe you can tell that ILOVERMONT.

 

Things I Don’t Really Miss That Much:

1. Driving

Okay, so it may be slightly contradictory, but driving isn’t always the best. Not paying for gas, worrying about speeding tickets or about where you’re going to stay the night in poor weather is very pleasing. As much as cars are fun, they are also a pain and a drain (of cash), and I’d rather be outside walking in the cold air than trying to drive with these crazy Boston drivers!

 

2. Living at Home

Don’t get me wrong: I have the best house in the entire world, the best family I could ever ask for, and live in the best state. Here at Harvard, though, I don’t have to cook my own meals, do my dishes, worry about making a fire when I get home (yay heating!), share the dessert, feed the dog, or drive an hour to find a town! The Boston area is incredible; there’s everything you need, from British candy at Cardullo’s, to hot-pot in Chinatown… it’s really the perfect city for me, and not too overwhelming for a country girl.

 

3. The Endless Winter

I am a huge snowboarding/skiing enthusiast. Vermont is a great place to do both of those things, but by the time March rolls around, it’s getting a little old. The temperate climate of Cambridge (comparatively, to Northern New England) is really, really nice. For example: there was 6 inches of packing snow in Vermont over break, and it was about 35 degrees most of the time. In Cambridge, there is no snow, it’s around 48 degrees, and spring comes a lot earlier. Way to go, Massachusetts! I really dig this weather!

 

4. My Old Classes

Though my four courses may or may not be kicking my butt right now, they’re waaaay better than the eight I had to take in high school. Having a bajillion courses to choose from is something very novel to me, so I spend a preposterous amount of my free time drooling over all of my options. (Yes, I have already decided on my second-semester courses, but that remains a surprise until I finalize my schedule!) Harvard is great because you can take any class you want to and be guaranteed an incredible professor, as long as you check the handy-dandy Q guide (rating system) to see just what you’d be getting yourself into. There’s nothing quite like the level of academics here, and I sure am glad to have access to all this learnin’!

 

5. Wondering Just What To Do Tonight…

I am now at college, where the number of people in my class exceeds the number of people in my town. Therefore, there are plenty of things going on, which can be seen here. Examples of my week ahead: Eleganza (a fashion show) fundraiser, OppsKroks jam (super great a cappella groups), band rehearsal, Little Shop of Horrors, and House Formals. There is no way to become bored here! One would truly have to try in order to do nothing.

 

 

So that’s it! School’s great, home’s great, but they each’ve their own pros and cons. I am very excited to go home after finals, but I think I’ll be even more excited to come back to start second semester. (Yes, this is a little premature….) Check out some of my photos of Vermont!

 

Vermont over Thanksgiving

 

 

Snowy Snowy Porch

 

 

Cider Making! Yummmmm

 

 

Hockey vs Dartmouth!

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During my freshman year, I NEVER went home.  I just loved Harvard too much.  I remember the first time I went home was for Thanksgiving – a whole four days – and it felt like the longest 5,760 minutes of my life (not that I was counting).  I wanted to be “back in the Pack” (or my freshman dorm Pennypacker) in my amazing room with all of my friends, and I never wanted to leave.  The five weeks of J-term seemed like five lifetimes (I returned to campus early to take cooking courses), and by the time Spring Break rolled around, I was desperately looking for other options.

My dad and I at a Pittsburgh Penguins game during last Spring Break

Now before you start thinking I have a terrible home life, I must assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth.  I am the oldest of five children, and no one in the world gives me more love and acceptance and happiness than my parents and those kids.  No matter what I am doing, I can always count on six fans that think I am the greatest thing since cooked meat.

Which is probably why after a year of seeing my family only intermittently, I came home from Barcelona and realized, “Hey wait.  I actually miss these people a lot.”  So when my mom called me a week ago and asked if I could fly home for a few days this weekend, my ready response was, “um… YES!”

So here I am in Pittsburgh on a Saturday night playing homebody, and taking a break from studying for midterms to write to you guys.  This morning, I was awoken by my two brothers jumping on me at the unnatural hour of 9:30 am, and I spent the majority of the day studying and catching up with my sisters.  This time last year I would probably be crying and texting my friends back at Harvard wondering what I was missing and what crazy adventures they were up to.  But right now, I don’t even know where my phone is (oh great… 24 hours at home, and I’ve already lost my phone), and I feel just dandy having had a fantastic home cooked meal.

When I left home for college a year ago, my greatest fear was not “will I be able to make friends?” or “what if the dining hall food is awful?” or “what if I come back to my dorm to find my roommates sticking a voodoo doll of me with a pin?”  My greatest fear was “what if after I leave, I come home and find that I can no longer integrate myself into my family?  What if my youngest brother who is 10 years younger than I am grows up feeling like I was never a part of his life?  What will happen when my sister starts Middle School, or my other sister gets her license, or my brother loses his first tooth, and I’m not there to be apart of it?”  Once I arrived at Harvard, I got so wrapped up in what I was doing, I momentarily forgot about these worries.

The truth is all of these things do happen.  It’s not like my family has stopped functioning because I’m not there – my sister still goes to school without me to drive her and my brothers still play hockey without me in the stands.  But what I have learned is that it’s not so hard to re-integrate yourself back into the family life.  The time you spend with your family just becomes that much more valuable.

Because life is so busy and exciting at Harvard, I don’t know when I’ll next be able to sneak away for a weekend at home (or if I’ll want to).  But I have really enjoyed my weekend home (which is all I was going to write before I started going off about family this and family that, and this post got so long).

Hope everyone else is having a great weekend!

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