Spring Break

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The Goodyear

Hello everyone!
Now that we’ve made it to 2013, I can congratulate you on surviving the apocalypse and, if you’re a prospective student, finishing your application to Harvard. I can congratulate myself on a great first semester of sophomore year (it’s helped my GPA a bit) and can now re-cap the months past, as I’ve distanced myself from them in both time and location (although Vermont isn’t that far away and a handful of weeks isn’t really that long). So fasten your seat-belts and prepare yourself for the highlights (and lowlights) of Fall 2012.
1. Going to see Joss Stone was definitely one of the best musical experiences of my entire life. She is a super talented soul singer, for those of you who are unaware; you can check her out here. (Did I mention she was beautiful?) I went with my really close friend, Leah, who shares a similar passion for music (we are in both The Opportunes and The Nostalgics together) and is a senior at the College. I’m hoping to continue performing with her next year, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Also, my awesome dad got me an Epiphone guitar with pickups, which means that I can plug into an amp and have kick-ass singer/songwriter sessions. Watch out, Boston, here I come.

Joss at the House of Blues! (Credit to Leah and her phone)

2. The two retreats, for The Nostalgics and The Opportunes, were super awesome. As much as I love Harvard, it is great to get away from the bustling feel of Cambridge and focus on my friends and music. Second semester will mean a Nostalgics tour in Vermont (actually in a few days, right before the semester begins) and a Spring Break tour with The Opps (wherever I can find…being tour manager is not a simple position and we’re jivin’ for Jamaica), not to mention a retreat for Photo (oops, Multimedia) of the Crimson. I’m so excited!! (Also my photo friend Allie came back from her semester abroad in Cuba, which means we’ll be again reunited come January 28.)

Nostalgics

 

Opps!

 

3. Watching “Sweeney Todd” and photographing various events on campus, including the women’s hockey game when they crushed Russia 4-1. I am always amazed by our theater department (yes, we have ~75 student-run productions annually and they are absolutely killer), our arts on campus (check out the OFA for some of the speakers and performers who come by), and our sports (in which I will be participating come spring…wut wut intramural crew). There’s always something happening, and it’s always more interesting than sitting in your room.

4. Twerking Working all year long! The Admissions Office is a great place to work, as a blogger and tour guide, and various other paid jobs are always available (The Crimson!). I don’t know if I can work more next semester, as I want to take more classes, which leads me to…

Secret Insider View into The Crimson Photolounge…I swear it’s work!

5. …Classes! My anthropology class was super good, and I wrote a really interesting paper on the public school lunch program, which is a field in which I could definitely focus. Next semester, I have to take at least 2 anthro classes, as it took me until midway through the semester to decide on my concentration [major]. My awesome tutor (read:advisor) helped me out a ton during the complicated time of narrowing my academic interests, although I didn’t have to try that hard, as joint concentrations are easy to apply for and aren’t too hard to complete. I’ll also be taking a lot of music classes (2 or 3?) and a Gen-Ed to fulfill my graduation requirements.  Heeeere we go!
So those were the good, and alongside the bad, they shaped me into someone who is really happy to say that she goes to Harvard. Although my next semester will be shifted away from singing, music will be taking up a lot of my academic life, and I can’t wait to spend more time with the photography board of The Harvard Crimson, our daily newspaper. I also am thinking of joining the design board to expand a little bit more, and will hopefully be doing intramural crew come spring.
In the meantime, I have a lot of interesting spring semester classes that I’m considering, the responsibility of finding a resort to host my a Cappella group, The Harvard Opportunes, and will need to focus a lot on continuing to change my diet and lifestyle to accomodate my acid reflux. Oh, and today I start a 10-day songwriting challenge, which is led by the Optional Wintersession Activities Week (otherwise known as Wintersession, similar to J-term at other schools). It’s going to be really fun, and the first prompt is our favorite Harvard memory, so I’ll keep you all posted on that one!

Time to get back to my phone calls with Jamaica before I pick up my sister this afternoon. Happy 2013, everyone.

Peace
-Reid

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This spring break, the Harvard Men’s Tennis Team left the chilly Boston weather and heading to the sunny beaches of San Diego to compete in the Hilton Mission Valley Spring Classic. This was an 8-team tournament that spanned three days. The tournament didn’t start until the Thursday of spring break, so we had five days to adjust to the outdoor conditions.  At Harvard, we had been playing, predominately indoors since October, so it was nice to play outdoors again.

After the weekend of practice, we took Monday off and had the unique opportunity to visit the Coronado Naval Base. This was an interesting experience, as we were given a tour of the facility and an overview of the different equipment they use.  They also showed us different carriers and helicopters they had.  At the end of the trip, we had the opportunity to take part in a flight simulation. The flight simulation mimicked flying a real helicopter. While I ruled out any hope of being a pilot when I crashed my plane in the first five seconds, this was a great experience.

 

 

The Harvard Men's Tennis Team at the Naval Base in San Diego

 

 

Teammates and me inside the flight simulator


After Monday, for the next three days, we prepared and trained for the tournament.  In our first match of the tournament, we played UC Irvine. After a very suspenseful doubles point that went our way, we headed into the singles matches. While the team support is always great, I was really happy I had some family support during my singles match.  My parents and sister were able to make it down from the Bay Area to watch us play!  It was great to have my family and teammates there cheering me on. Our team secured five of the six singles sets to win the match 6-1.

Due to bad weather, the coaches changed the schedule for the end of the tournament. The semifinals and finals of the tournament were moved to the same day, and the format was altered. With four courts, we played the singles sets first and determined that the doubles would only be played if the match had not been decided. In the semifinals, we played San Diego State.  We were able to pull out wins at the no. 2, 4, and 6 positions to tie the match at 3-3.  Since the match was tied after the singles, we played the doubles point.  After some intense and very close doubles matches, we were able to pull away for a 4-3 win.

In the championship match, we played the #16 nationally-ranked home team, University of San Diego. Playing at night underneath the lights, the singles matches went first.  I played at the no 4 position, and the crowd was right on the edge of my court. My match consisted of many long rallies, and after an hour and a half, I was able to close out a straight set win.  Fellow teammates, Christo Schultz, Henry Steer, and Alex Steinroeder also pulled out singles victories to help the Crimson earn a 4-2 victory and clinch the championship!

 

In the championship match against University of San Diego


While it was hard to leave the wonderful weather and sunny beaches, it was great to return to college life in Cambridge.  Over the past few weeks, there have been many interesting events at Harvard. One of the events I attended was Holi.  Holi is a Hindu religious holiday and is also known as the Festival of Colors.  People celebrate by throwing scented colored powder at each other to mark the end of the winter season and the start of the spring season. On campus, the Harvard South Asian Association hosted a lunch where we played traditional Indian games and enjoyed a wide array of Indian food.  After the lunch we headed to the Winthrop House courtyard, where we were supplied with colored powder, and we proceeded to engage in a very chaotic battle, filled with color, shouting, and many great new memories.

 

Holi celebrations outside Winthrop House


After coming back from spring break, the weeks flew by even faster than normal.  My schedule has been pretty busy with school work and tennis, and now with final exams.  I honestly can’t believe this year is almost over.  Thanks for reading this blog!

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Perhaps it is the 70-degree weather, the free (working!) espresso machine I found on the side of the road, or perhaps being in the company of friends and family, but New York City is intoxicating. While a flight to California was just out of reach, visiting my brother and his girlfriend in Brooklyn, NY was a perfect substitute, especially considering I was able to make the trip with my boyfriend and our other friend, Dan.

In case you haven’t been (or just if you’re interest to know about all the great cities you can visit easily by bus from Harvard), here’s a short whirlwind tour of NYC, Brooklyn, and beyond.

New York has great buildings…

… delicious (and beautiful) coffee…

… thiiiis many cool used book store (as does Harvard square too!)…

(PS. ^ that’s me)

… cheap thrift stores…

(as modeled by my boyfriend & legal advisor here ^)

… towering buildings…

… and towering people? (or the use of wide-angle lens cameras)…

(^ Dan & I just grew a few feet…)

One of the greatest parts about the location of Harvard (besides Boston being a fun city and Harvard Square having some of the best sandwiches around) is its closeness to other great cities to travel too—D.C., Portland Maine, and Pennsylvania have been among the ventures.

Indeed, all the time away from Harvard has given me the breath of fresh air (though being in the city, perhaps not so fresh) necessary to come back for part two of the semester. Already the Leverett House Open Email List is filled with discussions of diplomas, graduation day speakers, and job openings.

And speaking of post-grad plans, I have recently been working on my submission to the Carol K. Pfrozheimer Student Fellowship, which invites Harvard Undergraduates to take advantage of the Schlesinger Library I discussed in my last post. The Fellowship provides money for research that draws of the library’s holdings and given the amazing diversity of literature on food culture and history in Schlesinger Library, I’m putting together an application that draws together my work in political-economic anthropology and food culture, focusing on the recent artisanal movements. I believe this research would also be extremely beneficial for my final project for my American Food history course.

I’ll try to stay up to date on that process and until then, hope you guys all have a great weekend! I know I’m looking forward to this last weekend off and yet also to hanging out with my Harvard girl friends once a few of them return from their own spring break adventures in Austin, Texas as the South-By-Southwest Festival.

~Natalie

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Hello!

Sorry this post is coming a few (umm…almost 12) hours later than normal, but here’s one anyways! While my friends are jetsetting or tanning in Bermuda/Cayman Islands/Mexico, I am just chillin’ (literally, look at the title) with my family and friends back home. In no way am I complaining; Vermont is totally awesome, and I absolutely love it here in March. (Plus, I was in LA over winter break, so that was enough sun to hold me over until the summahtime.) For those of you who are flatlanders (anyone not from Vermont, Northern New Hampshire or Upstate New York), you may not know that Vermont has more than four seasons. We have six, in fact: Spring, Summer, Fall, Stick Season, Winter, and Mud Season, in which we happen to be right now! Though people say you can’t wear white after Labor day, I say you can’t wear white during Mud Season; aptly named for its lovely driving conditions on our dirt roads, this span of a few weeks prepares you for spring by making you readjust your outfits and cars. (You’ll need a realignment on top of taking off your snow tires once May rolls around.) I’ve avoided nice clothing, donned my Muck Boots, and only driven my truck, because the roads are really bad, and you don’t want to bottom out on the ruts and ruin your car!

Luckily, the weather has been pretty nice. It’s been sunny, and today I did all of my French homework for the next few weeks outside on one of our Adirondack chairs and watched my goofy dog, Posey, attempt to catch a squeaky chipmunk as it hid in our stone wall. Here are a few prime photos from the little escapade, which hopefully will bring a smile to your face.

Also, I cut my hair today! Yay! Actually, my really good friend’s mom cut it for FREE, and she owns a salon so it was all professional and such! I also have done a lot of online shopping and research on DIY projects that I can do to create an EPIC dorm room next year…seriously, it’s going to be insane. Prepare yourselves. Think: awesome lighting and headboard.

So, back to Academia: there are a few things that I can assess, as this is the middle of the semester and I probably should crack down around now…not like I haven’t been, but I have to decide my concentration by next November, so I should at least decide whether or not I like my courses. And so I shall, right now, ranking my courses with some numbers, but mostly judgment…just like Flyby’s housing ranking. (Sadly, I won’t make a cool graphic.)

1. Italian Acd: Intensive Italian

This class is totally awesome. My prof (TF, actually) is incredible, and it’s her first semester teaching…ever! She’s wonderful, the camaraderie in my class is top-notch (we had an Italian party the other night where we made pasta carbonara and spoke Italian to one another), and we have learned so much. After having only taken 2 months of Italian, from knowing nothing, I now can form the future tense, both past tenses, and the present, not to mention all the vocab and culture we’ve picked up! Soon we’ll be covering the subjunctive and conditional…yippee! Overall, this class is an A+, which mightn’t be reflected in my final grade, but we’ll see (:

2. Freshman Seminar: Pressing the Page

This class is also totally awesome. The only reason it comes in second place is because I don’t have it every day at 10 am (we only meet for 2 hrs mon/wed), and so I think it hasn’t really been properly tested in the long-term, early-morning scheme of things, like Italian has. My prof is, again, incredible, and Adams’s Bow and Arrow Press is both historical and efficient, creating some gorgeous art. The only reason I’m bummed about  getting housed into Currier is that I’ll be rather far away from the press, but luckily (or unluckily) The Crimson is right next to Adams, so I’ll be spending a lot of my time in that area, anyways! I have no qualms about this course, and really love being able to show my creativity through another outlet (for credit, nonetheless). In conclusion, this class is an A; the only thing that stops it from being perfect is the lack of adequate time to create as much art as I’d like!

Okay, this is where it gets kind of tricky, as I only have 4 courses….so it’s not like the fourth spot is the worst spot, but rather, it is simply the last one, which doesn’t make it bad.

3. Expos 20: Contemporary Theatre

Two things I really like: theatre and writing. Sadly, I don’t like writing about theater all that much; I’d rather perform, and creative writing/poetry is my forté, not analytical writing. But, it’s Expos, and most people complain a lot about their courses. Mine is pretty interesting, and covers risqué topics, so it’s never boring during class…it’s just when I get in front of my computer and try to write my 6 page essay about something I’m not interested in…that’s when it gets pretty difficult. I do, however, want to be a better writer, and I trust that this course will help me to become more apt with my words. Overall, I’d give this course a B, which is probably higher than my current grade.

4. French 50: Liberty and Culture (or something)

J’adore le français, alors c’est un peu étrange que je n’aime pas ce course beaucoup. Also, I’ll be going to Paris this summer (hopefully), which might lend some insight about my sentiments towards French culture. (I love it.) This class is interesting, and our workbook clarifies the complexities of French grammar (which is honestly so ridiculous sometimes…SO MANY EXCEPTIONS), but it feels like a lecture, even though there are only 15 people in it. Language courses should be more interactive, at least for me, and this isn’t very interactive. Still, I am heavily considering a concentration in Romance Languages and Literatures, or at least Francophone studies, so I can’t dislike this class too much (: Final grade? B-. It’s not in the C range, because it is definitely above average, as all courses at Harvard are!

Soooo, that’s all for now. Time to go:

a) bake a cake?

b) clean my lil’ room?

c) record a new song?

You choose.

Until next time,

-Reid

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During this week, the majority of Harvard students are on Spring Break; but I’m a rebel so I’m on Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

Making it big on the front cover

The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) sponsors a handful of trips during Spring Break that offer a harmonious combination of F U N and productivity. As a freshman last year, I participated in the New York City (NYC) trip and a week with upperclassmen premedical students visiting medical schools was enough to catalyze my decision to pursue the medical path. Last year’s Spring Break was so meaningful to me that I was quite determined to return as a director of the trip. I’ve spent a large portion of my sophomore year co-directing and organizing the trip which makes this Spring Break extremely rewarding.

Although the week is only half over, I feel like we’ve accomplished so much! Ten other premedical students and I have been conquering NYC by storm – volunteering with nonprofit organizations and visiting medical schools.

We’re working with God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD), an altruistic organization that preps and delivers love-infused, nutritious meals to the ill around the New York (and New Jersey!) area. Approximately 4,200 meals go out everyday which constantly shocks the whole group because the organization is able to accomplish their lofty goals with such limited volunteers! We’ve already volunteered with multiple aspects of their organization, whether that’s in the kitchen, delivering food, or handling paperwork. Their friendly and benevolent staff definitely foster a great atmosphere to work in!

Sanitation first!

The other volunteers are always interesting to interact with since GLWD has a relatively smaller reputation so most of their volunteers have a personal connection with the organization. Today was a special day at GLWD, however, that sparked our New York City celebrity streak! We got to meet the humble Jamar Rogers, a contestant on NBC’s hit show The Voice, who was so kind and happy to return to his GLWD community.

Star struck squared (#alliterationwin)

Speaking of celebrities, in the midst of one of our GLWD shifts, we received word that Jeremy Lin was eating lunch right down the street! In a frenzied teenage girl panic, I raced to the restaurant to stare at the back of his head as he ate lunch and managed to snap:

Everyone on this trip is so thankful that GLWD allowed us to help out, even if it’s just for the week! We’ve learned and realized so much through volunteering at this organization. Typically premedical students are focused on immersing themselves in a hospital environment to expose ourselves to the environment we strive to succeed in. Yet, working at GLWD proved to be a refreshing experience as it enlightened us with a refined definition of health – letting us perceive it from a unique perspective. Most of us crave medical school with the end goal that we’ll be able to provide a better lifestyle through personal interactions with our patients. GLWD is exactly this, but in the context of the kitchen rather than the resplendent luminance of a hospital. Concomitant to this realization comes a stirring sense of excitement for our academic future!

Our futures have become more tangible through connections with recent Harvard alumni who have generously offered to give us tours of their respective NYC medical schools.

Two Harvard College alumni met us on Madison Avenue for an informal tour and Q&A of Mt. Sinai Medical School. Although we were initially disappointed that Admission Officers respectfully declined our request for an official meeting, it was a great advantage, in retrospect, to have Harvard alumni show us around and speak in Harvard acronyms like “proctor” (resident adviser) and “section” (small group discussion sections outside of lecture) as well as tell us what they specifically did in their undergraduates years that they found most helpful/applicable in graduate school.

The Annenberg of Mt. Sinai (not limited to freshman nor a cafeteria!)

Both previous Harvard College students seemed genuinely happy in the midst of their second year of medical school – an attribute us undergraduates didn’t expect with negative misconceptions of the rigors of graduate school!

Two more generous Harvard College alumni and current Columbia Medical School first years met us to show us around the campus. It was a top-down tour as we started on the roof and they swept us away with a breathtaking skyline of New York City.

The roof of Columbia Medical School's Bard Building

The theme of the day was how great the Pass/Fail system is because the first 1.5 years of Columbia Med follow this more relaxed system. The students loved how this grading style developed a community between the ~160 students of a class to the point where wonderfully organized, color-coded study guides were freely emailed out to share! It also gave students time to frolic outside the library to enjoy the nearby Times Square, performing in theatre, or watching free symphony style shows on “Musical Mondays.” Needless to say, we’re all determined to bring this laid back grading style to Harvard College!

I personally believe that the gloomy hesitation looming around committing to medical school stems from the negative connotations of studying in a competitive, cut-throat environment. I’m confident enough to speak on behalf of the group, however, and say that we were deeply comforted in the fact that these medical students had happy and balanced lives; continued reassurance was also provided by the fact that all our tour guides so far were also Harvard College undergraduates because this made it easier for us to picture ourselves in their shoes and being happy in medical school.

 

Major themes: Harvard Alumni & Celebrities (not mutually exclusive)

Snaps to Academic clarity & Spring weather!!

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FedEx/Kinkos, 12:17am the morning before my thesis is due

It’s official! My thesis has been turned in, despite accidental hole punching, buying the wrong binders, and picking up printouts from FedEx at midnight, it is done! I, luckily, wasn’t feeling as disheveled as I look above once I finally got my print out, but perhaps a bit delirious (though I also just really like that hat). There was even a nice ritual to turning it in, signing your name off, being congratulated, and getting a free Government tote bag.

 

To celebrate, at 5pm the day my thesis was due, the Government Department had a toast with the department staff and other students who had made it through. My only advice at the end of it all, besides choosing an advisor you can talk openly with, is to make sure you really love your topic. I know everyone says that, but it is not that you must just “like “ or “love” your topic, you must “REALLY love” it because you will get sick about reading it and writing it if not (and probably even if you do).

 

And upon finishing my midterm for my “American Food: A Global History” course, Spring break has arrived. In our last section for this course before break, we went over our final research projects for the year. I’ve been looking forward to this project all semester, as it will be the first (and hopefully not last) time I get to really utilize Harvard’s Schlesinger Library. I’ve never seen such an extensive archive on food and women (two academic subjects of my fascination), including everything from old cookbooks aboard military ships from the 1700s to the first U.S. vegetarian magazine.

Leaving my midterm I saw this beautiful ornament near the Religion Department

As I wait for that time, this week at least offers a nice break with some friends visiting and a trip to New York to see my brother. From my “American Food” class, I’ll bring along “The Jungle” (an assigned reading) for some nice company on the bus ride (besides my boyfriend, who just sleeps the whole time anyway). Hope you all are enjoying spring too if you’re near my part of the world!

Oh yeah, and as some of the other bloggers here have already mentioned, this week was housing week where freshman are sorted into their houses for next year (a la Harry Poter style minus the fancy hat) and upperclassmen in each of the houses welcome in their new housemates with social events and awesome videos. I’m in Leverett, but the Quincy Housing Day video for two years has been epic (see if you get the reference)!
~Natalie

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Inside America’s Test Kitchen

It’s crunch time. Midterm, essay, thesis due… and then a week of pure celebration also known as spring break. I’m not sure if it was thoughtful or actually unsympathetic that teachers and the Government department planned these due dates as such but I’ll go with the former.

 

Basically that means from this moment on out, for the next week I’ll be cuddled up in my bedroom and Lamont library with the continuously glowing computer light to keep me company. Yet, it’s not as bad as it sound. The myriad of other students all doing the same around me brings forth a sense of camaraderie with everyone else thinking the same, “two days until my thesis is done forever”, “six days until spring break”, and the like.

 

As a last minute push to procrastinate against the inevitable slew of work however, I journeyed earlier today with the Food Literacy Project to America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) (located in Brookline in Boston, MA). Our group and the FLP coordinator Louisa took an afternoon train to the location where ATK (the PBS cooking show) is filmed as well as the headquarters for the magazine Cook’s Illustrated and show Cook’s Country.

The Test Chef’s in action!

While I wasn’t able to grab a shot of him, we got a glimpse of ATK host Chris Kimball as we tour the location, meet and did a Q & A with some of the test chefs, and did a tasting of our own. While our tasting consisted of three varieties of dark chocolate, ATK often has to do full tastings and then recommendations of less pleasant food items on their own, such as red wine vinegar or fish sauce.

 

The whole atmosphere was ripe with enthusiasm and foodie passion, and there were delicious smells wafting from every corner. We were even able to raid their library and take home a few select cookbooks and magazines, which I’m looking forward to trying out soon.

Test #??: Wedge Salad

Indeed, it seems this whole week has been quite the foodie experience. Last night I helped film and do the sound recording for a community dinner hosted by FLP in Currier House featuring Tamar Adler and Professor Richard Wrangham, a discussion on the future of cooking. I took a freshman seminar with Professor Wrangham on human evolution and war, but it was great to have a discussion together and with other students on evolution and foodways (he wrote the book, Catching Fire). For any potential Harvard freshman, I truly recommend taking a freshman seminar if one of them piques your interest—it was a great experience to have such an intimate seminar with such a great professor as a freshman.

 

In any case, this was a great first event in a series we are starting of community dinners through FLP (“Harvard Talks Food”) to connect professors, academics, and other experts in the food industry with Harvard students as a way to build dialogue and food education. And then prior to that, I was running about a pound or so of guacamole through campus on the way to the Culinary Society’s Annual Guac’ Off (guacamole making contest)! This event is always a hit with students, but who doesn’t love guacamole, prizes, or food competitions? Local burrito restaurant Qdoba and Boloco provided delicious guac’ and queso cheese for those watching the competition.

 

All-in-all the whirlwind of a week was not much of a calm before the storm—it fact, it was quite the storm itself (the snow just continued to pile down as I attempt to ride by bike around campus yesterday). Yet the fun and education experienced made up for it.

 

Hope you have a good weekend and check-in after the “storm”!

 

~Natalie

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One thing I didn’t expect coming to Harvard are the number of international opportunities, generally funded by the university or other means, that allow students to explore the world. This spring break, I traveled to Dubai for an academic, cultural, and social exchange conference through the Harvard College in Asia Program (HCAP). Over the week I saw and learned about the United Arab Emirates, but more importantly, I made a really close group of friends from both Harvard and abroad.

The HCAP experience is a set of seven conferences that take place at Harvard and across Asia with all expenses paid except airfare. Each February, nearly 50 students from the top universities in their country come to Harvard for a week-long conference Harvard students put on for them. After a few lectures in the morning, we show the students Boston and give them an introduction to American culture. Then, over spring break, approximately 70 Harvard students split into six groups to visit one of the six partner universities over spring break. We aim to make the conferences accessible to all by having all expenses covered while abroad and by helping students gain university funding for the flight if they are unable to pay. This year, we partnered with schools in Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Mumbai, Seoul, and Tokyo.

Participating in HCAP and this trip to Dubai have been experiences I could never have imaged I doing just three years ago as a high schooler. My trip to Dubai took myself and ten other Harvard students abroad. We visited with high profile speakers such as the US Consulate General to the UAE to a leader in the push for opening medical tourism facilities in Dubai in order to learn about healthcare in the the region, the theme of this year’s conference. But after the academic portion of the conference, the American University of Dubai students took us for sightseeing, to the beach, and to their favorite hang-out spots. From the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest man-made structure, to hidden gems like an Indian street food restaurant, we saw all aspects of Dubai and gained a thorough appreciation of the locals’ propensity for setting world records. The students were frank about life there, both about the  opportunities they’ve had in Dubai as well as the darker side of the city with workers living in harsh conditions to enable the emirate’s quick growth.

Spending nearly every waking hour with both my Harvard peers and having my life saved from crazy drivers by the Dubai students served as an effective formula to create strong bonds. Indeed, the relationships I built on previous HCAP trips I took to Singapore and Tokyo persist. I’ve received emails asking for a place to stay from my friends abroad, and I know if I ever travel through Asia, I  have a bed waiting for me. These bonds have become even stronger in the past; HCAP’s first president eventually married a student he met while at the conference abroad. While I may never have that strong of a bond with the students abroad or even see some of them again (except possibly through Facebook), they have challenged me to think deeper, question assumptions, and peer outside my American paradigm for viewing the world.

Here are some photos from the trip:

HCAP on Jumeirah Beach

Spelling HCAP on Jumeirah Beach

 

The view from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest man-made structure

The view from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest man-made structure

Taking a break from the desert safari through the sand dunes outside Dubai

Taking a break from the desert safari through the sand dunes outside Dubai

Taking a camel ride after the safari.

Taking a camel ride after the safari

Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which honors the popular founder of the UAE

Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the eighth largest mosque in the world, which honors the popular founder of the UAE

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The days leading up to Spring Break are a truly insane time for Harvard students. On top of our midterms and papers, many of us are struggling to work out summer plans and funding while simultaneously trying to balance the normal workload of club meetings and problem sets. Around mid-March, however, we get a light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel: the glorious 10 day vacation that is Housing Day and Spring Break.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Harvard housing system, students are sorted at their freshman year into one of twelve upperclassmen Houses, which then becomes their home for sophomore through senior year. While the freshman housing lottery is completely random, students are able to choose who they enter the House with – a 2-8 person group known as their “blocking group”. At Harvard, Housing Day, when freshman find out what House they are assigned to, is arguably the most exciting and spirited day of the year (tied with the Harvard-Yale Game, probably), and students are known to prepare and count down to the occasion for weeks.

Dunster's Swag: Moose Antlers and T-shirts!

Dunster's Welcome Committee

Housing Day is a truly indescribable experience. Starting at 7 am, each House sends a “Welcome Team” to the yard to start delivering letters to the freshmen. With each House sending anywhere from 50-100 people are part of the their welcoming committee, this amounts to a truly enormous crowd of rowdy upperclassmen gathered in the Yard in preparation for Housing assignment announcements. At 8:30, each House starts delivering letters to dorm rooms, welcoming freshmen with screams, noisemakers, and giant House mascots. Check out this video the Crimson posted of Pforzheimer House!

Houses Waiting in the Yard

As a sophomore, Housing Day takes on a very different level of excitement. Rather than spending the morning worrying about what House you’ll be placed in, you get to run around the Yard screaming your head off with your friends from the House. Enjoying the experience from the “other side” inspires a sense of appreciation for the community that you’ve become a part of. While as a freshman, I was definitely excited about Dunster, I’m not sure I realized what an enormous part of my life the House would become. What better way to celebrate this fact than by cheering for my House for 2 hours straight! I had a sore throat for days afterwards…

For all Harvard students, the excitement of Housing Day leads straight into Spring Break – in my case, I finished my welcome committee duties around 11, went to class until 3, and then immediately hopped on an airplane bound for Spain! Needless to say, I slept through the entire 9 hour flight. For those of you interested in study abroad at Harvard, I spent the week visiting my blockmate who is spending the semester in Alicante, Spain. I couldn’t possibly explain the entire experience, but here are a few snapshots to give you guys an idea.

 

Barcelona

Alicante

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