I still remember getting the long-awaited letter in the mail, the letter that would seal the fate of my freshman year, the letter that contained the names of my freshmen roommates. I had been waiting in anticipation all summer long. What would they be like? How many would I have? Would the housing gods at Harvard even read the rooming application that had caused me so much angst last spring?
But when I finally got the letter, I couldn’t help but feel that the event was a tad anticlimactic. After all, the only thing it contained were names, names of four girls from different areas of the country and the name of our dorm: Pennypacker.
“Pennypacker?” I thought. “What kind of name is Pennypacker?”
I immediately asked Google to give some insight into this strangely named dorm. The results were not comforting. Pennypacker was the farthest-reaching freshman dorm, situated three blocks from Harvard Yard, and had had a historical scabies infestation only a few years before. Great…
Facebook, on the other hand, delivered more promising results. My roommates all seemed very friendly. I immediately friended all of them and initiated a “Roomie Message Thread!!!!” in which we shared novel-length biographies about ourselves and decided who would contribute what to our room.
On move-in day, I didn’t know what to expect.
Now, a month and a half into the school year, I can confidently say that I live in the best dorm on campus. The community fostered in my dorm is unrivaled, partially due to geographic location, but mostly due to the dynamics in the dorm itself. First, it is a widely acknowledged rumor that those On High purposefully place the most social people in Pennypacker due to its secluded nature away from the Yard. While I am not sure this is true, as I have found many freshmen in different dorms to be social, Pennypacker is definitely packed (note the pun) with social people. Second, the fact that Pennypacker is slightly farther away means that we avoid tourists desperate to snag photos with Harvard students (I mean, I know I’m a celebrity, but sometimes enough is enough) and the noise of the cars and buses and street performers in Cambridge, which lends itself to excellent Sunday morning sleep-ins. But most important, every room in Pennypacker opens onto a central stairwell, and most of the students leave their suite doors open, inviting others to stop in, study, get to know each other… and, of course, procrastinate.
While I am obviously very happy with my dorm, I think this happiness is reflective of the wide range of students that populate Harvard as a whole. I came to Harvard buying the stereotype of introverted, socially inept students who ruthlessly compete with each other for the top spot in the class as they step on each other to further their future careers. I have yet to find a single person to fit this model. People here are smart, sure, but in a nonchalant way, and they are focused more on learning than on showing what they already know. And as I am reminded every night as I sit in my common room in Pennypacker, they all come from different backgrounds, are good at different things, and have different stories to share.