student organizations

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As I mentioned last week when I was describing my course schedule for the semester, I’m taking more independent classes this term. These less structured courses are a new experience in my academic career and I’m nervous-excited as I venture into this personally new unknown. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage my time and work well enough to not go crazy come November.

One of the two of my more independent classes is GHHP 91r (Global Health and Health Policy Supervised Reading and Research). The goal of the class is to write a mini-thesis on a topic of choice under the supervision of a faculty adviser who is there to help focus my topic as well as grade me at the end of the term. I’ve (tentatively) chosen to continue my topic from the summer when I was performing clinical trials about maternal health and nutrition (vitamin A/iron supplementation during pregnancy within malaria-endemic regions). However, I’ve been unable to secure an adviser as of yet. I’ve been emailing and meeting with people like crazy and I have (false?) confidence that I’ll find an adviser eventually, but this process has been much more difficult than I anticipated and thus, I have been a bit discouraged.

Good thing this discouragement doesn’t carry over from classes to my extracurricular activities! This week of school has been focused on my “work” outside of the classroom.

In my search for a global health adviser, I was directed to a Harvard initiative about raising awareness about malaria. There’s actually a competition open to all Harvard affiliates and I’ve gathered 3 of my friends to form a team with me and enter. When I first perused the article and found out about the competition, I definitely thought it was cool, but something I would never enter due to no time/thinking I would never win. However, I still attended their informational session and ran into some friends there. We threw around the idea of forming a team and I’ve been super determined to enter with a great idea. We don’t have any ideas yet though — but we’ve been having a blast trying to come up with some! Okay, so most of our meeting time is spent joking around and relaying stories, but the few serious minutes we had were pretty productive. We’ve scheduled a meeting with the head of Malaria No More and intend to schedule many more with professors and whatnot.

I’ve not only never entered into a contest of this sort, but also wouldn’t have seen myself doing something like this. I’m getting really excited about my team though since we come from many backgrounds (life sciences, economics, education, computer science), it’s been really useful to bounce ideas off of each other!

This Defeating Malaria contest is definitely more of an academic extracurricular. However, I’m also involved with the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) which is an umbrella organization running a bunch of programs geared towards public service and volunteering in the community. Mentoring was a huge part of my high school years; I mentored elementary students afterschool all throughout high school. When I moved across the country for college, I knew I wanted to continue mentoring and the opportunity to mentor the heavy immigrant population in Dorchester was perfect because it would also help keep my Vietnamese language ability alive.

I joined the Teen sector of the BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) program during my freshman fall and started directing the program the following year. At the beginning of each semester, PBHA programs like BRYE work diligently to recruit student volunteers. I spent a lot of time this week interviewing applicants. I’ve also stressed the importance of recruting mentees this year so I’ve been calling a lot of families in Dorchester and utilizing my proficiency in both Vietnamese and Spanish. BRYE has truly been the best application of my language abilities and I love it!

One more “extracurricular” that I’ve tacked onto my schedule for my senior year has been trying to find something to do post-graduation. My plan is medical school, but not immediately. I’m hoping to fill in my gap year(s?) with something related to the medical field and hopefully this different insight will help me become a better practicing doctor when the time comes! Besides from looking into research fellowships, I’ve also been on the job hunt for healthcare consulting/tech firms. I’ve never actually sought out a job before and this whole process of networking and interviewing has been intimidating! I had a phone interview with a healthcare software company this week and apparently that went well enough so that I’m at the next stage of their hiring process: a skills assessment. It’s essentially an online logic test from what I gather. There will be a proctor just sort of watching me as I take this 2 hour test, but I won’t be able to see the proctor! I’ve never done anything like this and I’m nervous – probably more nervous than what’s good for me. I’m taking this logic test this week and just don’t know what to do with myself since I feel like I can’t prepare for it…

So I’ve been trying to relax. I’m a senior and I’m not currently active in the medical school application cycle. There are endless reasons why I should be having a great time…and I may or may not be exploiting them. However, the ticking clock ticks louder senior year because time is definitely running out to do everything I want to do! But one step at a time right?

One thing I’ve always wanted to do was to get money to throw a party. Thanks, Harvard! There’s a student run group on campus called Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisors (DAPA) and they give out grants every week to students who apply for funding. I decided I wanted to host a party revolving around guacamole and although I requested $40, I received a good $20 for guacamole and everyone was so impressed. It was the best. I definitely want to continue taking advantage of this resource to feed all my small cravings 🙂

I sort of have this problem where even when I’m full, I won’t stop eating. It’s the worst. I’m just glad I have an affinity for exercising to counter my bad habits. I have my third Boston Half Marathon coming up in three weeks and have been experiencing anxiety about it for the past three months. I don’t ever feel ready for long races! But around the end of every September, there’s a community 5k event called the Brian Honan. It’s an amazing event, full of community and spirit! Harvard also sponsors a huge group of runners at the event so registration is free for us! Today was my third Brian Honan as well as my best 5k time! A huge group got together for the event and some of us even jogged back together with a stop at the football stadiums to run up a few stairs before heading over to brunch. Today was just overall an amazing day! It was downpouring at 6am in the morning but the sun was out and the day was beautiful by noon when the race started!

In the summer of 2012, we were all in Barcelona together. In the fall of 2013, we’re still running happy at the Brian Honan 🙂

It’s been a great week, but I need to stop ignoring my classes. Midterms are coming up…what?! Midterms are definitely the sneakiest thing in college.

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Wow! It’s been such a whirlwind of a week!! That’s literally (due to this nasty, rainy weather lately) and mentally (midterm season!)


Happy October everyone! This month marks our one month of school. If you ask any non-freshman student, we’ll tell you that it simultaneously feels like we JUST started school and that we’ve been here forever. Many things are still relatively new – we’re still getting the hang of balancing our new combination of assignments as well as establishing an organization and studying method curtailed to this semester’s classes – however, academia has been a critical part of our lives for so long that these activities seem second nature to us.

I had my first midterm of the semester this past Wednesday night so I’ve spent the majority of my free time preparing for my first of three exams for Math 18 (i.e. going over class notes, class worksheets, homework, and additional practice problems). Normally, midterm tests are held during scheduled class times, but math exams, for whatever reason, are typically held during the evening. My midterm was scheduled for 6-7:30pm but I had my Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding 50: Literature and Medicine section from 5-6pm. There are strict attendance policies for my Lit & Med class (they’ll deduct from your grade if your absent!), but know that flexibility indeed exists within the rigid structure of Harvard. I emailed my TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow – essentially the same as a TA at most other schools) a few weeks before my math midterm asking for permission to either leave early or to attend a different section for the week of my math exam. She allowed me to leave a few minutes early which was probably the best part of having a math exam!

Despite all my extensive review for the math exam, I didn’t really know what to expect and was somewhat nervous going into the test. It’s a new class this semester, so there are no reputations like “exams are tricky” or “exams are essentially the practice tests” to help build your expectations. I felt pretty good during the test though and felt even better after it – because it was over!

I immediately felt the post-midterm laziness (that I’m still suffering from)! I spent the rest of the night talking to friends, catching up on my comedy television shows and getting excited for my sorority’s fall formal.

It feels like I haven’t been academically productive in a while, but I can tell you about the productivity in other aspects of my life!

In preparation for the Boston Half Marathon 2012, I’ve been trying to run longer and longer runs. Thank goodness I have the Charles River and the Esplanade to run along, but on certain days, ~10 miles can feel like much more even with my pumping iTunes beats. One of my best friends (who I traveled Europe with this past summer!) is currently training and fundraising for the Boston Marathon 2013 by making an extra effort to run all throughout Boston. I took advantage of her creative routes by running with her into Chinatown where an elementary was holding a fair with cotton candy, photobooths and carmelized popcorn!

We even met (and danced with) Pooh Bear!

This long run throughout downtown Boston and eventually ending up in Chinatown made the time pass by very quickly. I love when (physical) productivity effortlessly blends in with new, fun experiences! I’m definitely looking forward to being more adventurous on my runs by being more willing to deviate from the riverbanks. Next weekend, I’ll be running the Boston Half Marathon for my second time. I’m feeling pressure to beat my time last year but I think this is only possible if the rain gods have some mercy and cancel the predicted rainy forecast!

Another long term project I’ve been involved with since my freshman fall semester is called BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) Teen. This is a program I direct through PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), essentially the central hub of public service work on campus. The teen program runs once a week, on Saturdays, at a Vietnamese Community Center located in Dorchester, where (recently) immigrated students gather to work on homework, supplementary lessons we’ve created, arts & crafts, and we often strive for field trips to museums/Harvard’s campus. This is my second year directing the program and I feel like this year will be easier than last, not only because my previous experiences will help me solve future problems with much more skill, but we’ve received a lot of generous financial assistance to run the program this year.

At the end of the 2012 spring semester, I applied to the Presidential Public Service Fund (PPSF) grant to alleviate some of BRYE Teen’s accumulated deficit – a heavy burden that started before I became a director. Luckily, BRYE Teen received this generous grant as with a handful of several other programs (see the university’s generosity here!). PBHA partnered with Dean Evelynn Hammonds for a reward reception where program directors gave a short summary of their programs’ goals in exchange for a hefty and generous check.

Presidential Public Service Fund grant reception with Dean Evelynn Hammonds

It’s so rare (and difficult!) to unite 20+ PBHA program directors and hear about their passionate work so it was really a beautiful event to attend. I know that my program, BRYE Teen, would have great difficulties running without these funds so all my volunteers and participants are eternally grateful for this financial support and encouragement!

Needless to say, it’s been a phenomenal week! There are no classes held on Columbus Day, so the long weekend is looking extra marvelous. I don’t have any midterms this coming week, so I’m looking forward to doing some learning without intensive pressure!


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The end of every summer leaves me incredulous that my favorite season has passed by – and always too quickly! However, this summer, I’m even more shocked by how much I traveled in a whirlwind of 3 months. I feel like I gave the jet-setting Pitt-Jolie family a run for their money!!

Packing was the story of my summer!

In summary, I kicked off the summer by returning to my roots in Southern California with 2 incredible weeks at home. I was surrounded by the warmth and love of the constantly beautiful weather, but more importantly my family and friends. This home base was precisely what I needed before jumping on my first international solo flight to Europe. In a slur of YOLO moments last spring semester, my two sorority sisters and I planned a 2 week, fun-intensive Eurotrip to explore Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Barcelona and visit Harvard Summer School Programs along the way. After experiencing my Advanced Placement European History (a class I took sophomore year of high school) textbook in person, I boarded my plane to Lima, Peru where I participated in an 8 week program by the David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies Summer Internship Program (DRCLAS SIP). Living with a family homestay, interning at a private clinic, and learning Spanish off the streets was the best way to prepare me to travel South America on my own. My next main destination was Bolivia, but I took a week to travel through Peru on my own to slowly and inexpensively make my way to Bolivia where I would meet with several other Harvard peers.

During my freshman fall semester, I quickly realized that the world is enormous, but I wanted to be involved with all of it. It’s difficult to think of global issues and international ideas during high school when it seems like your life will either make it or break it by college decisions. However, the undergraduates at Harvard are very globally-minded and I happily absorbed this perspective which catalyzed me to pursue a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. If I were to accredit this pursuit to one source, it would be Refresh Bolivia.

Refresh Bolivia (RB) is a student group on campus, initiated one year before my enrollment at the college. My absolute favorite aspect of RB is that we put actions behind our words and research. Implementing plans is likely to be the most difficult step in every procedure, but the members of RB are determined and flexible enough to find a way. Essentially, we research Bolivian communities and clean water projects during the year and execute them during the summer. I wasn’t able to travel to Bolivia last summer so I definitely wanted to join the team this summer!

The team enjoying desserts on our half-day off! YUM

 The RB team stayed with a family in Cochabamba that mainly hosts volunteers. We had three simultaneous projects this summer, two of them being more labor intensive. RB built relations with an organization along the lines of a school district called UAINAS where we funded educational books directed towards personal hygiene like washing your hands regularly. In the future, RB is looking forward to giving presentations on sanitation routines to the children! In addition to this project, RB set ambitious goals of building water tanks in two different communities – Maria Auxiliadora and Alto Miraflores. These two communities are located about an hour outside of the city, are lucky to have electricity, and have water trucks that come by (hopefully) daily in order for the people to obtain safe drinking/cooking water. One of the water tanks would be above ground and the other would be below ground.


Living abroad – even if it’s just for a few weeks – allows you to wrap your mind around so many different perspectives that I honestly don’t think anyone could genuinely understand unless they experience it first hand. I had a few nights when I didn’t have electricity in Peru and didn’t mind it too much. On the other hand, the water shortage in Bolivia is a whole different story. Water tanks are very common in Bolivia which means that people have a limited amount of water to use at any given time. There were a few days when the water tank ran empty at our homestay which meant that people couldn’t shower, we couldn’t wash our dishes nor brush our teeth or have a cup of tea! This made our mission in Bolivia much more real and meaningful and personally, I appreciate so much more every time I turn on any faucet or even flush!

Water trucks usually come daily, but are not that reliable. Imagine going even one day without water!

Although it hardly rains, this is a collection of rain water that the community utilizes for quick showers and laundry.

So proud of our hole!

We were unable to finish the water tank below ground because as we were digging a hole in the dirt, the dirt quickly turned into rocks. This project, however, is part of a larger, on going project and will be eventually completed. RB can’t wait to see the progress next summer and continue our work in the community!

The concrete water tank above ground was finished and the team couldn’t have felt anymore accomplished!







One of the main obstacles for RB is to build relations with the communities we work in. Since they are normally at least semi-isolated, the community members can be very mistrusting and skeptical of people who do not live there. Yet these obstacles made the work even more rewarding than they would be on their own, regardless of how cliche and corny that sounds!

My Spanish abilities skyrocketed in Peru and surprisingly continued to progress in Bolivia. I couldn’t believe I was attending successful business meetings conducted entirely in Spanish and I’m pretty sure the community members had a hard time believing this too! I can’t think of many moments where I’ve been prouder of myself. The whole process of building relationships with the community leaders from the ground up was phenomenal, especially because I definitely could not have accomplished this during any other time in my life. Harvard has equipped me both academically and financially through my Spanish and Global Health classes as well as the generous David Rockefeller International Experience grant to make a difference in Bolivia and hopefully more locations in the future. *knocks on wood


I had two goals this summer: 1) Stay alive and 2) Improve my Spanish. I confidently put a fat check mark next to them both. Do I feel accomplished? Yes – but mostly because I accomplished a goal that I didn’t know I had. I am completely refreshed and ready for school!!

I have a theory that all good things in life are bittersweet – one of them being the end of a summer break. It’s a given that I’m always excited to regularly see my friends, but the thought of school, exams, and the like are usually a damper. I haven’t been this excited for the academic rigors of school…in a while. I’m literally thinking of reading from a coursepack and taking notes on crisp printer paper and giggling from over-excitement! Disclaimer: I’ll probably take this wholeheartedly back during midterm season which runs from the third/fourth week of the semester until Reading Period.

But for now, my peppiness about school has radiated my new dorm room! Tuesday was the first day of class and the first week of every semester is termed “Shopping Week” because students get to try out any class before officially committing to it on paper. As a junior, I’m pretty much done with large concentration/premed requirements so I have a grand selection of upper level Neurobiology classes to take. This means I’m shopping about 15 classes and more than half of them happen at the same time. I’m going to have a better idea of what my schedule looks like hopefully by the end of this weekend so I’ll blog about my Shopping Week experiences soon!

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Sorry I’m not going to provide mathematical evidence supporting String Theory; instead, I’m going to scandalously skim the social scene at Harvard College.

There’s an enormous misconception that Harvard is awkwardly social, if not antisocial. Personally, I strongly disagree, unless my own idiosyncrasies have blurred my perception of what is socially acceptable. I shamelessly admit, however, that before arriving at Harvard, I worried that students wouldn’t be able to distinguish the fun concomitant to studying/learning with the fun concomitant to all things non-academic. I feared that all my conversations would revolve around academia and that my needs for discussing the Kardashians would never be satisfied. But let it be known that my experiences at Harvard have not only exceeded my expectations academically, but also have satiated my celebrity gossiping desires. (Most of the time) we’re just normal people who love to dive into books as much as social events – and this even applies to those who live(d) in Massachusetts Hall where only a handful of hand-picked freshmen live, rumored to be the best of the best and the creamiest of the cream of the crop!

I’ll defend the claim that some of the best things are simply stumbled upon – that’s how I found Theta (Kappa Alpha Theta), the first Greek-letter fraternity for women (and at Harvard!). Some of my pre-college friends were surprised that I was rushing Greek life freshman spring semester, but it made perfect sense to me! During the later years of my high school career, I became actively involved with the scholarship program Distinguished Young Women of America (formerly known as America’s Junior Miss) and I quickly became obsessed with this community of beautiful, driven girls. A paralleling community was definitely lacking my first semester of college, especially after coxswaining for the men’s heavyweight crew team. I was definitely in need of a community where I could more closely relate (and boy bash) with, which drove me into rushing the Greek scene.


Finding Theta, Thinking Theta & Loving Theta


There are three sororities as Harvard (although Harvard doesn’t technically acknowledge single gender groups): Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta), Delta Gamma (DG), and Kappa Kappa Gamma (Kappa). After a hectic and crazy fun week of rush, I pledged loyalty to Theta and have never looked back!! I’m obsessed with these girls because I can rely on them for everything from wisdom and support to humor and dance choreography! Granted sisterhood is a part of every sorority, I chose Theta because I specifically felt that Thetas weren’t only involved all around campus and the Boston community, but they were leaders in the activities they were involved in – leading Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) volunteer programs, Women’s Leadership Conferences, and so SO much more!! Joining Theta has made me feel more connected to both a new community of strong, young women and the Harvard community itself because by staying up to date with their lives, I’m more informed of Harvard’s plethora of opportunities. Theta is what catalyzed my interests in my secondary of Global Health and Health Policy as well as pushed me to race in my first (and definitely not last) half marathon!! My sorority sisters definitely have an extremely influential role in my major life decisions and I hope that it stays this way because with their guidance, I’m more comfortable with taking risks and challenging myself. Don’t take this post as an enormous shameless plug for Greek life at Harvard or any other university because it may not be your personal cup of tea – I guess what I’m trying to say is that your interests and activities in high school may translate into unexpected ones in college so don’t be too weary of giving a chance to things you were once opposed to.

Some girls who have Thought Theta

This week is Rush Week for the sororities so it’s my first time on the “other” side of rush. I’m having an absolute BLAST getting to know my sisters better and I’m so excited for our new members to become a part of this family as well!

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Normally, I have pretty good weekends. Sometimes it rains, which I like (but not whilst parading around Cambridge); sometimes I have a huge exam at 8:30 AM on Monday (cough cough…LPSA); and frequently there are fun fiestas to be attended. However, this was the best weekend I have had in a long time. Why, you may ask? Read on!


Thursday Night:

We didn’t have school on Friday, due to Veteran’s Day. So, I didn’t have to wake up for my 9 AM class!  (Fun fact: you may think waking up at 8 is fantastic in high school, as I did, but in college it seems that nobody goes to bed until 3 and everyone wakes up at 10 and I am cursed. Though most people [my roommates] do follow that schedule [as I do on Tues/Thurs mornings], I am pretty lucky to wake up at 9 so I’ll stop whining.) Also, it was FACULTY DINNER, which is an incredible experience. Da ‘Berg is officially transformed into The Great Hall and HUDS prepares an extravagant meal to impress our profs, TAs, proctors, and the like. Although I like Annenberg a lot, I hold no deep feelings of love for it except for during Faculty Dinner! My lab partner and I invited our lab TF, Greg, and dressed to impress before gorging ourselves on mushroom ravioli, some meat thing (is it obvious that I’m a vegetarian?), roasted root veggies, and cake. Carrot cake, chocolate raspberry cake, cheese cake…. Yummmm. Knowing the food would never again be this exquisite, I ate way too much and stumbled out of Memorial Hall with a rather large stomach. It was worth it, by the way.

After that, I went to the IRC semiformal with my roommate, Rachel, as her plus-one. She is some spiffy chair for H-MUN (Harvard Model United Nations), whereas I know nothing about this political smorgasbord. Luckily, we mostly danced. After going to the penthouse of the Cambridge Hyatt (here’s a lovely image) via taxi, we danced the night away until the wee hours of the morning. (Actually, I ended up splitting a cab with some people and leaving at 10:30, in preparation for Friday.) When I thought it couldn’t get any better, along came Friday.


Friday in the Lighter Hours

After parting ways with my cozy, cozy bed at 10:30 on Friday morning, I suddenly remembered that my AWESOME band (The Nostalgics) was scheduled to record our Holiday album from noon to six that day. Really, my email alerted me about this, in addition to telling me about a sweet deal at B. Good, this incredible burger joint near the Holyoke Center. UC Restaurants offers great savings on restaurants on some Fridays, so I went down and got 20% off of my mango shake and West-side veggie burger. After eating my second great meal of the weekend with three of my bandmates, I walked to the Quad and entered my favorite building on campus, the SOCH. (I’m not really sure if it’s my favorite building, but it’s very underused and underrepresented, so I have adopted it.) Some fancy event was happening, which is a rarity at this unfrequented 50,000 square feet of space, so we went up to the PentHouse where the recording studio is. Due to a recording malfunction, our recording session soon morphed into a practice session, with some fantastic originals coming together, as well as “All I Want For Christmas,” everyone’s favorite x-mas song. After figuring out some rippin’ horn lines and baller vocal backgrounds, we felt satisfied and packed up to go. Sadly, we got locked into the Emergency Stairwell, which we did not know was alarmed until we were inside. However, one guitarist had left early and saved us from a sure death, and we celebrated life at Pfoho dining hall, eating another fantastic meal, though I soon learned this was not good Chinese food. Expecting to not eat again, my chipmunk-storage complex switched on and I filled up on tofu and mini-corn. Little did I know, this was not the end of my Asian experience.


Friday Night

On the shuttle back to the yard, one of my band-mates asked me to go to Chinatown with him in celebration of a friend’s birthday. Although I was full and had little desire to eat, the draw of novelty appealed to me, so I immediately accepted. After taking the T to Park Street, we made our way to Hot Pot Buffet, whose two floors were, to our dismay, completely full. The walk was in vain, I feared. However, my friend was a lot more innovative, and decided we’d go to the Harvard Club of Boston. It’s really lovely, I soon found out, and is full of history, much like its namesake. In the Library, there’s a gorgeous pool table and loads of reunion books, dating back to 1900. My grandfather, whom I never had the chance to meet, went to Harvard for undergraduate and medical school (I think). I quickly (slowly) calculated his year of graduation, found the 10th anniversary book, and read about his life. My mom was just two years old when he wrote the report! This discovery really threw me for a turn, and I was flooded with thanks; perhaps a little premature, but we’re all really lucky to be studying here, and to be part of this history that, for me, binds me to my unknown ancestors.


Saturday Day

After again having a tearful departure from my bed, I set out on another lovely escapade. I walked down to Blodgett pool, which is across the river, and took pictures of our men’s swimming and diving team for the Crimson. My freshman class really shone, with Michael Mosca setting a school record in diving in his first meet and the freshman swimmers securing 1st place for Harvard. Here’s a photo:


Then, what did I do? More photo!!!! (FUN) I claimed a really amazing pitch (story) for FM, which is the Crimson’s magazine. What is this amazing pitch? Is the suspense killing you? Well, I will ruin the surprise– I GOT TO TAKE PICTURES OF GUACAMOLE!! Yes, that is right, I spent my entire afternoon sampling and photographing the delicious mush. More good food! My writer and I went to Chipotle, Qdoba, Boloco, Felipe’s, and Border Cafe. The last two were by far the best, which is good, because they are local restaurants, unlike the 3 other chains. Here’s a picture:

¡Guacamole Olé!




Saturday Night:

I continued in the spirit of photography as the sun set, presenting my photo essay to other compers (comp=competitor, but it’s no longer competitive, just an anachronism) at The Crimson.

Then, I sprinted to Holden Chapel, which is a beautiful and tiny space hidden in the Yard. The Speak Out Loud club was hosting a Poetry Slam, which is basically a spoken-word competition. (Think rap battle minus the hip-hop tracks, plus scores.) Eleven poets slammed their AMAZING poems, and I was lucky enough to compete against them. The place was totally humming with energy, as the crowd really participates in poetry through pounding their feet, clapping, and encouraging the poets as they perform. The first round, we slammed a 3 minute poem each, and mine was a story about a cabin I love in Vermont. The next round was the lightning round, where we’d slam a 1 minute poem, and I slammed about my love for poetry. Our scores were added up, and the top 8 moved on to the final round after a brief intermission. My jaw dropped as I found out I’d moved on; I thought those incredible poets had me beat for sure. We had another 3 minutes to get the highest score we could (which is a 30); the top 5 scoring poets became Harvard’s Poetry Slam Team! I slammed about coffee (as a metaphor for something else), and LOVED it, because the packed audience was awesome. At the end, we all lined up and five names were read. I’ll be competing in April at CUPSI along with my four other team-mates! More updates on this soon, and if you want to know more about poetry slams, here’s a great link. (To hear some awesome slam, here’s another.)

I went out and celebrated with my friends afterwards, and caught up on all my work on Sunday.


This weekend, I’m not going to Harvard-Yale; instead, I’m going to visit my grandparents and have a pre-Thanksgiving with them! Then, I’m covering the Tail of the Charles (men’s crew invitational) on Saturday, so I’m really excited to see what this new weekend brings!


All the best,



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Hey everybody!  As summer is coming to an end, and a new school year is on the verge of beginning, I thought I would take this time to reflect on my freshman year and the new sophomore year to come.

So to start, freshman year… wow.  That’s really the word that sums it up the best: wow.  Going into the year, I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I mean, sure, I thought maybe I would get some cool roommates, make some new friends, take some fun courses, learn some stuff, but I never could have foreseen the nine months ahead.

During my first year at Harvard, I met some of the most talented, hard-working, charismatic, brilliant, and interesting people I have ever encountered.  There were kids who already had patents under their names, kids who had made speeches in front of thousands of people, kids who had organized huge charity events that raised thousands of dollars, kids (*cough, cough* my roommate) who could wake up at three in the morning with only six hours before a paper was due and speed write twelve pages that still earned them A’s.

I know you’re probably thinking, well, what do you expect?  It IS Harvard, after all.  And I suppose you’d be right.  But the thing that struck me was how down to earth everyone was.  I arrived on campus knowing that I would meet extraordinary students with extraordinary talents and achievements, and feeling pretty inadequate.  I mean, the thing I was most proud of was being the Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook.  But the cool thing about going to a school with a less than 6% acceptance rate is that there is a level of respect, especially among freshmen, for even getting in.  Everyone’s reasoning is that if you got into Harvard, then there must be something truly special about you.  And it was really awesome to spend long nights my freshman year in Annenberg dining hall listening to people’s stories and learning about what makes them who they are.

Me loving my freshman year at Harvard!

Beyond that, I never expected to make some of the best friends of my life, join a sorority, head a volunteer organization, write a blog on my life that people actually want to read, and all of the other things I’ve gotten myself into.  Freshman year blew my expectations out of the water, and I hope sophomore year will do the same.   To answer a commenter’s question from a few months ago – how have I best utilized the amazing school I go to and made sure to not take for granted the amazing opportunities I’ve been given – I’d have to say that I have tried to get to know a new person everyday, to learn something new about the people I already know, and to find a new way to care about those who surround me.  This world is made up of the people in it.  Each person has a story.  Each person is the way he/she is because of a sequence of events that have been linked together to form the chain of his/ her life.  And I think it is important to listen to and care about the people we meet, whether they are on or off of Harvard’s campus.  It is through listening to other people that I learn the most about the world and life in it.  Everyone deserves to be heard.  And that is what I hope to continue to do as I start my sophomore year!

Thoughts on my sophomore year:

  • What will my concentration be???? AHHHHH!
  • Will I enjoy living all the way in the quad?
  • I need to find a job…
  • Where do I buy a bike?
  • I’m so, so, so excited to be back and to see everyone!
  • Oops!  I’d better unpack!

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Managing 350 performers for four sold-out performances of four hour each? I would have said this was impossible a month ago, but my job as producer for the past couple weeks has been to provide some organization to, Ghungroo, the largest student-run production on campus.

Ghungroo is an annual cultural show held in early March by the Harvard South Asian Association. For me, the show extends far beyond the dances, skits, and music acts that make up the show. Rather, the show is the largest moment where our student organization builds the community of students excited about South Asian culture, performance, and pushing the limits of what they thought they would be able to do. Over half of the students are of non-South Asian descent and the vast majority have never danced before. After the performance, many students stay close to their peers in their dances. On the final night of the performance, nearly a hundred alumni from the show’s generation-long history return to cheer on the current performances.

Producing a show of this scale is a major feet. Apart from booking spaces, coordinating rehearsals, managing our technical and production staff with the help of our amazing directors Alethia, Jeff, and Sharmila, and selling over 1000 tickets, we’re maintaining a full course load and (ideally) still getting sleep and seeing our friends. But while we put in hundreds of hours over the month, I gained the confidence to mange people and play a critical part in creating something far larger than what I could do by myself. Harvard is great at showing its students that if they put their mind to something, it’s pretty tough to reach their limits; I have to say this definitely applies here. But as with any student activity, the best part is definitely meeting the other students and making friendships that far outlast the show.

Like any show, the most exciting day is the actual performance. Ghungroo is known for its colorful costumes, intricate set, and exorbitant energy:

The "Bollywood Oldies" dance

The "Bollywood Oldies" dance

The "Nepali" dance

The "Nepali" dance

The glow-in-the-dark moon seen on the set during a filler by a dancer wielding glow sticks.

The glow-in-the-dark moon seen on the set during a filler by a dancer wielding glow sticks.

Lastly, sorry for the my lull in writing. With Ghungroo now over, I should hopefully have more time to provide updates on the blog. Next up: an update on my spring break trip to Dubai with the Harvard College in Asia Program exchange conference.

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Sorry for not posting in the past few weeks! I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m involved with a club on campus called HUBSS – the Harvard Undergraduate Biological Sciences Society. My official role is the co-Career Coordinator, which means I am in charge of organizing events like visits from life sciences companies and career panels. However, the entire board (which is largely composed of my blocking group!) works together to organize a lot of our events, including our recent Night at the Museum: Survival of the Fittest (yes, we like science a lot). In honor of Charles Darwins’s 202nd birthday, we worked with the Harvard Museum of Natural History to create an event where undergraduates could visit the museum after hours, enjoy mochi ice cream and local froyo favorite Berryline (with fresh fruit toppings!), and participate in behind-the-scenes tours of the museum collection.

To prepare for the event, I spent an afternoon walking through the museum exhibits (Harvard undergraduates get free admission with their ID card) and writing up questions related to Darwin and evolution for the scavenger hunt undergrads could participate in for the chance for winning gift certificates to a local sandwich shop (called Darwin’s Ltd!). HMNH is just one example of the amazing resources available to students at Harvard. Without the urging of my friend Jeremy ’11, an OEB concentrator who has been able to use some of the museum specimens for class projects, I probably would never have discovered how amazing the museum is. After my thesis is turned in, I plan to spend more time looking at all the exhibits, which include everything from dinosaur fossils to exquisitely crafter glass flowers in a special humidity-controlled room.

The night of the event, John ’11, Veronica ’11, and I walked to Trader Joe’s to pick up mochi ice cream. Thanks to a grant from the Undergraduate Council, we could buy $200 of mochi ice cream, which we learned meant filling our cart with 44 boxes of mochi (11 of each flavor – mango, green tea, strawberry, and chocolate)! Not surprisingly, we got some strange looks from the Trader Joe’s employees.

After lugging the boxes of mochi to the museum, we spent the night unwrapping the boxes for the 150 undergraduates who I hope had a pretty great time. It was a lot of fun to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for a while since we’ve all been buried in our laptops writing our thesis and finishing up research. Remember, take a break every once in a while and do something fun!

Picture by Caterina Yuan ‘11 – note the awesome fossil behind John, Veronica, and me!

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Although December brings reading period, papers, and finals (which I finally finished!) it also brings many holiday socials for student groups on campus. Since a lot of student groups transition boards between December and January, the meetings serve as a way for the graduating seniors to reflect and welcome the incoming board members.

My first was the Harvard Premedical Society’s annual holiday party, where the outgoing board participates in Secret Santa and, this year, played apples to apples and ate a delicious peanut butter cake cooked by one of our board members! Since I have been on the board since my freshman year, it was really sad to see my time come to an end—I have made some of my best friends at Harvard through HPS, and I’m going to miss it next semester. Here is almost the entire 2010 board!

The next day, I headed over to the Undergraduate Admissions Council social. We are a student group on campus that serves as the student arm of the Admissions Office, so for those of you who are accepted, you will receive a call from us in the spring and we will be behind the scenes making sure Visiting Weekend is a blast! We munched on appetizers and desserts in the Lowell House Small DHall and caught up with everyone to make sure we were all on track for next semester. My co-chair Ayse ’12 and I can’t wait to meet many of you in the spring!

A few hours after that, I walked up the stairs at 14 Plympton Street to the (somewhat) annual crimson superlatives. Of all the activities that are coming to an end in December, The Crimson has probably involved the most blood, sweat, tears—and joy!—and I will miss pitching stories and editing the paper into the wee hours of the morning. All the other news execs and I have spent so many hours together since our freshman year 🙁

Next semester is going to be so different now that my time with so many activities has ended. I’m heading home tomorrow morning, and I hope all of you have a lovely holiday season! I’ll be back in January when I’ll be working on my thesis during J-Term.

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Eighteen one-on-one interviews in five days, a 2000-word essay (written in the 18 hours before it was due), and a final 45-minute interview to — quoting a few friends — “test how well you handle pressure.” This describes my the components of my experience in The Crimson‘s Turkey Shoot, a process by which our daily newspaper chooses its president and top leaders for the upcoming calender year.

I’m shooting for “Director of Web Strategy,” a new position on the publication that aims to bring a greater emphasis on our web product and blogs to ultimately improve our online experience and expand online revenue. It’s exciting because even while in college, I can make an impact on a site that reaches tens of thousands of people a day and helps keep our community informed. But the road to it is no simple ordeal. To shoot, I wrote a statement of purpose in a surprisingly constraining 2000-words after talking to the outgoing president, managers, and editors across our building. The following week, “shooters” as students like me are known interview one-on-one with each editor who would like to deliberate on the  new office-holder through a process affectionately and humorously known as “schmoozing.” Finally, there is that final interview where each of your deliberators sit together, keeping you on your toes for 45 minutes; for positions like President or Managing Editor, there can be 25 or more for more deliberators. Upon writing, I’m currently finishing up my 18 schmoozes.

Students here throw themselves into everything they do, extracurricular activities being no exception. With a talented set of peers, getting the opportunity to lead organizations can thus be a rigorous process. The Crimson‘s is by far the most intense I’ve seen; almost every small and large organization makes do with simple elections or applications. In the middle of it, “the Shoot” as it’s commonly known can seem a bit absurd just to figure out who’s going to lead our publication. It probably is Actually, it definitely is a bit absurd of a process, but by taking a moment as an organization to critically think about our long-term vision, there emerges a consistently amazing set of  leaders who edit and mange almost every part of the publication from content to advertising to even printing (we are one of a few papers in the nation that owns our own presses).

And so while the process is intense, it shown me the possibilities that exist upon bringing together motivated students and giving them a few resources. After hearing and reading about everyone’s ideas and talents over the past week, those possibilities seem almost endless.

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