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Hogwarts isn’t the only school that is obsessed with its houses.  Harvard also believes in sorting its students into one of several houses that become ridiculously competitive with one another.  A few differences?  Hogwarts only has four houses while Harvard has twelve.  Oh yeah, and Hogwarts is a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while Harvard isn’t (though we like to believe otherwise 😉 )!

Like I was saying, due to the tight-knit nature of the houses, house competition can be fierce.  And no day showcases this competitive spirit than Housing Day.

Before I continue, I feel that I should probably fill you in on some Harvard vocabulary:

Houses – there are twelve large houses on Harvard’s campus that are comprised of living spaces for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  Each house also has a dining hall, common rooms, and a bunch of other amenities that vary per house (squash courts, gyms, climbing walls, theater spaces, movie rooms, etc.).  Houses are grouped into neighborhoods of three.  The houses (grouped by their neighborhoods) are as follows: Mather, Dunster, and Leverett; Lowell, Quincy, and Adams; Winthrop, Elliot, and Kirkland; and Currier, Cabot, and Pforzeihmer.  For a better idea of where each of these houses is, visit http://map.harvard.edu.  (Can’t find the last group of houses?? Scroll to the upper left for a ways, and you’ll see them.)

Housing lottery – the mysterious system that randomly assigns freshmen blocking groups into houses.

Blocking group – a group of up to eight freshmen that are guaranteed to be in the same house.

Linking groups – two blocking groups can “link” and they are guaranteed to be in the same neighborhood.

River Houses – the older houses that run along the Charles River and are often close to Harvard Square… unless you are in Mather or Dunster.

The Quad – the houses that when looking at the map of Harvard, you had to scroll to the far upper-left.  Don’t worry, they’re not as far as they look, shuttles run every 10 minutes, and the housing is MUCH nicer.

Blocking drama – the imbalance of emotion that can result when trying to finalize your blocking group.

River Run – the night before Housing Day when freshman visit each house.  Traditionally, students used to build boats, write the names of the houses they didn’t want on the bottom, put them in the Charles River, and burn them.  This all ended when members of the Class of 2012 came up with the smart idea to build a really BIG boat and fill it with cans of Axe body spray so that it exploded in the middle of the river (Ok, I’m not gonna lie, I find this to be awesome).  Now, Harvard Police, Cambridge Police, AND Massachusetts State Troopers line the river on River Run, so sadly this tradition has come to an end.

Housing Day – the day in which freshmen find out what house they will be in for the next three years.  This is BIG for the freshman and the upper classmen who get dressed up and run from dorm to dorm to surprise us at 8:00 am.  Festivities continue throughout the day with a celebratory reception in each house that night.

Because my roommates and I are so close, the five of us decided to block together with one other good friend who lives in Matthews – a dorm in the Yard.  I unfortunately could only catch the later part of River Run as I was busy writing a grant to fund a volunteer program I run (more on that later), but from what everyone said, it was a BLAST!

The next morning, our proctor and Peer Advising Fellows (awesome upper classmen that provide advice about anything and everything) greeted our floor with Dunkin’ Doughnuts as we all sat in wait to find out what house we were assigned.  As hoards of cheering and shouting students stormed our dorm, my room anxiously waited as each group passed by… each time putting a tick mark next to each house listed on our newspaper wall.  But finally, a loud, obnoxious group in green came roaring up the stairs and barging into our room shouting, “CURRIER! CURRIER!”

That’s right.  I’m in the Quad a.k.a. the land of the better rooms (can you say singles your sophomore year?!?!), better food, awesome parties, and really close community!  If there is one thing that Pennypacker (my current dorm – see my older post) has taught me, it is that being a little bit farther away can actually be a blessing.  You develop closer friendships and a better feeling of “home,” if only because when you go back to your room, you are leaving the hustle and bustle of the school area.

So, for those of you who find yourselves here next year, look for me on the shuttle!


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