summer

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The chances of a Harvard student completing a pset (local nickname for
problem set) during his/her undergraduate career are equal to the
chances of said student running into a tourist in Harvard Yard.

I spy…tourists in between Memorial Church and Widener Library.

The statistics get more complicated within the context of optional
psets. Yes, these little optional gremlins do exist with the apparent
purpose of guilting us. In my experience, optional psets at the
beginning of the semester exist to remind you of how forgetful and
rusty you are, whereas the (typically) nongraded optional psets
sprinkled in the midst of the hectic semester exist as exam
style/format hints. But what about the optional psets during the
summer??

I hope I didn’t scare anyone with the thought of “summer assignments.”
In my high school, a handful of classes required students intending to
enroll in the specific class to complete reading, writing, etc.
assignments during the summer which was the leading cause of
all-nighters before the first day of class. Thankfully, Harvard
College holds a Shopping Week – the first week of each semester where
students can drop by and even walk out of classes as they see fit.
Since our schedules aren’t finalized until Shopping Week is over and
our Study Cards (the list of normally 4 classes we’ve chosen to take
for the semester) are submitted to the registrar, it’s difficult to
assign “summer assignments.” (Note that there is also a grace period
of a few weeks after Study Card submission when you can add/drop
classes!) However, some outlier courses may require something along
the lines of a letter of intention – this is something I’ll have to
submit by August 21 for a Spanish class I’m SUPER interested in taking
this upcoming fall semester. Class policies vary widely but Harvard’s
been pretty good to me about providing me with the freedom to
personally design my own summer…independent of the presence of
psets!

I’m participating in a program called DRCLAS SIP (David Rockefeller
Center for Latin American Studies, Summer Internship Program). For 8
weeks, I’ll be living with a homestay family in Peru while I shadow at
a private clinic. Ever since I converted into a premed student
freshman spring semester, a trillion and a half decisions came before
me i.e. when to take certain prerequisites like physics and organic
chemistry, or if I want to pursue one or perhaps more gap years.
Shadowing and eventually becoming good friends with these doctors
during my summer internship has given me not only valuable, but also
realistic insight to what the journey to becoming a doctor is like. I
already feel more confident in my personal timeline of when and how to
approach my medical goals, although I’m still nervous about expressing
this openly in fear that if I change my mind, everyone will hate me.

But I find comfort in the fact that everyone hates optional psets more.

There definitely wasn’t an optional pset scheduled on the DRCLAS SIP
calendar. But the 13 participants rallied together and added a pset
session…at least this is what it felt like even though we were
meeting in a mall. We needed a secure public area to meet with free
wifi to plan a trip to Machu Picchu!

Girls pic near the entrance of Machu Picchu!

And in the shopping center’s cafeteria we sat with laptops out, shared
“Machu Picchu” titled Google Doc open, listening to each other
intently but also not afraid to cut each other off, compromising,
budgeting, and typing fleeting questions on our desktop’s Post-It app.
Passionate opinions were expressed and heated debates transpired, but
no personal feelings were affected. Planning an economically feasible
weekend trip to one of the few wonders of the modern world was exactly
like a pset – we were all there to do business and come out as a
better person in the end. Almost 3 hours later, we felt on top of the
world…or at least Machu Picchu!

 

We trekked up the adjacent mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu … breathtaking in multiple ways

Scurrying home, we were all ready to book buses, trains, planes and
hostels. Despite the unfortunate realization that the domestic trip
would cost much, much more than we all thought it would, it didn’t
make sense to live in Peru for 2 months without venturing to these
famous ruins. A trip to Machu Picchu with the entire group would be
the first non-DRCLAS-organized trip we would all take together.

Freezing cold in Cuzco, Peru even with all the body heat!

The whole process of Machu Picchu – from organization to execution –
was what made the glue holding us together become cement. Needless to
say, spending time together on a mini-vacation within summer vacation
doing once-in-a-lifetime activities is the secret element to
friendship. But I’d also like to attribute the pset session atmosphere
for our group bonding because this potentially intense, highly
productive environment truly fosters respect for your pset-mates.

You have to hold a person in high respect in order to collaborate on a
pset because it shows that you have trust in their intellectual
capacity – when was the last time you wanted to be lab partners with
someone you didn’t think highly of? You’ll also have to tolerate, if
not enjoy, their company since it’s at the very least a once a week
commitment. A lot of my close friends come from my pset groups
actually! Regardless of whether we were friends first or became
friends via psetting, it’s almost inevitable that pset groups grow
close as the night before a deadline gets later and later. To clear all the rumors about students being nerdy and antisocial, psets foster friendship.

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How do we tell a chef from an amateur, a piece of culinary art from mere lowbrow attempts at home cooking? Is there any real difference at all, and if so, on what expertise does this distinction rest?

 

This is the basic question that my research fellowship with Harvard’s Schlesinger Library attempts to answer. As summer is slowly winding to a close, so too is one of my post-graduation summer endeavor. Many days in an overly air-conditioned library have finally brought together an illuminating bit of research on the topic of culinary aesthetic shift from the post-WWI period in the United States to the post-1975 period.

 

To give you a bit of insight, I thought I’d feature a few of the clippings from my research below—all photographed from the culinary magazine Gourmet through-out different time periods.

 

Taken from a 1952 copy of Gourmet, during what many describe as the time of high modernism, this advertisement elucidates the proliferation of mass production and appeal to authority typical of products under the period of Fordist modernity.

Compare this to the advertisement below from Gourmet in 1975, featuring instead an emphasis on small batch production and eclectic (or D-I-Y, do-it-yourself) style.

While I’ve traced a number of factors that played into this shift in culinary aesthetics of which only one example is shown above, one of the most telling is the distrust of totalizing views of cooking as art that was so prominent in the 1950’s of French-cooking traditionalism and extensive chef training leading to a distinction between the chef and the amateur. Chefs-as-artists became co-opted into materialism completely through advertisements (James Beard) and more easily through television cooking shows (Julia Child) with the advent of TV.

 

Of course, this is all just to give you a flavor of what my summer has looked like, and also to show some of the truly interesting research materials at one of Harvard’s libraries. On a less scholarly but no less important side, summer in Cambridge has proven to once again offer a wealth of opportunities of leisure time for any student (or post-grad) who happens to be around for these few months.

On Sundays Cambridge closes down a section of the street between the river and Harvard Square allowing of jogging, walking, or bike riding without the innumerable cars to push you off on a sidewalk. During the summer though, they have a new program called Sunday Parkland Games where everything from badminton to hula hoops, along with team games (potato-sack race) and free yoga classes from Karma Yoga Studio! It was so much fun, it felt like being a kid again during our elementary school relay games.

If anyone is in the area, this will be going on for the next two Sundays and strongly urge you to come check it out.

Besides that, Fridays have also become a time of routine as the workday from 3:30-5pm for The Harvard Community Garden. The Garden has grown beautifully with the addition of its annual crops, and has been a great place to take free yoga classes put on by Harvard student and my Yoga-Teaching-Training classmate Kelly, as well as to take classes on everything from tea making to pickling. Most Fridays they even have a movie at the garden at night.

As the month comes to a final close, I’ll make sure to check back in one more time for more updates on spending the summer in Cambridge.

 

~Natalie

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I have a love-hate relationship with my lofty personal goals. I love overcoming (or at least enduring) the concomitant challenges and of course the hilariously adventurous journey of memories. I hate how you can always count on the presence of hurdles barricading the end goal. But there’s a reason why love, rather than hate initiates the phrase.

In high school, I set two seemingly impossible goals for myself: 1) Earn admission into a private university (because I had grown weary of the faults of my public high school) and 2) Go abroad during my four short undergraduate years. Words will never be able to sufficiently express how thankful I am that high school goal #1 worked out so well – not only because I’ve achieved a profound sense of happiness within the Harvard community, but also because accomplishing goal #1 gave me the smoothest segue into accomplishing goal #2.

I didn’t go abroad after my freshman year of college and as sophomore spring semester began (this is the popularly stressful time where the majority of students scramble to make plans for the upcoming summer), I knew I couldn’t stand another whole summer of Facebook updates from all my friends abroad. I know this may sound quite shallow, but hey I’ll take a little leverage for motivation from anywhere! So I spent tons of time scrolling through websites by the Office of International Program (OIP) that looked a lot like this: suggested programs for studying abroad and summer study abroad programs.

It was all pretty overwhelming – and I was just looking at Harvard programs even though you can participate in selected non-Harvard programs and still transfer credit. There were just so many (too many) places that I wanted to experience and only one summer ahead of me. I started to approach my abroad struggles by activity instead of location.

The thought of taking summer Spanish classes was completely unsettling for my mind, body AND soul. I had come to a point in my Spanish-learning academic career where I felt like I had just been reviewing the same grammar lessons time and time again. It was definitely time to take my Spanish knowledge to the streets – or at least to a clinic in a Spanish speaking country which would incorporate my premedical interests that developed my freshman spring semester.

My interests blended together in a (suspiciously) harmonious fashion as I continued researching the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Summer Internship Program (DRCLAS SIP). Sorry, Harvard’s really big on acronyms.

I applied, interviewed, and received funding as the spring semester progressed.

Participating in DRCLAS SIP gives me an 8 week opportunity to ensure that I want to pursue the lengthy medical school path, practice my Spanish in a real world setting, as well as immerse myself in a completely different culture! That’s right, 8 weeks for academic clarity and cultural immersion. Thank goodness I have tons of support and guidance from the DRCLAS team, both on campus and in Peru!!

I’ll say this time and time again whether on this blog or in person: DRCLAS is a beautifully organized program. This fact is very apparent even in the application process as you see them handle paperwork, emails, interviews, etc. with the utmost promptness and professionalism. Although DRCLAS is a robot-like organized program, it’s also incredibly thoughtful of its students.

In the earlier weeks of this program, they definitely held our hands through orientation week which was pretty necessary as it is much easier for foreigners to run into dangers more prominent in South America than America. But with each day, the grasp on our hands have been slowly lightened and it’s full freedom ahead with two jazz hands. We were trained to call secure taxis rather than take ones off the street, to not flash our smartphones in public, and to generally stay low key.

However, no amount of training could have prevented a string of four muggings – in one night … on the same bridge. Yay for making DRCLAS Peru history for its first mugging ever. Nay for, well the muggings taking place.

It sounds worse than it was, I promise! The whole group gathered to celebrate a birthday. It was nighttime. There was a bridge necessary to cross on foot to arrive at the house. There were four men looking for trouble and found cash, a digital camera, and an iPhone. It was quite a large and unfortunate hit, but the event was nonviolent and the robbers even returned IDs and house keys.

At least there was cake waiting for everyone!

The consecutive muggings were truly a series of unfortunate events (tehe there was no resisting this one) that added some unnecessary stress, but really there was no way to prevent it – the buddy system was even in place! It opened our eyes and heightened our sense of awareness. Then we found comfort in food. Typical college student behavior?

Ceviche – my favorite famous Peruvian cuisine of deliciously seasoned raw fish. I’m so glad you can’t see me drooling right now.

 

 

Raw fish topped with Peruvian sauces – from flavorful to spicy! DRCLAS isn’t afraid to turn up the heat…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the comfort from food stems from the preparation process

Aligning with DRCLAS Friday culture day, the whole group headed to a well known, beach side culinary school. We spent most of the morning and afternoon working hard to earn our lunch, but boy was it worth it! I haven’t cooked in so long (or really ever) since the majority of undergraduate students are on the meal plan at school. We made a multiple course lunch with dessert and drinks – all the types of Peruvian cuisine we’ve been dreaming of. Then we took our food babies to the nearby beach to enjoy some surf and sun! Local roaming took us to the main square where the Peruvian equivalent of the White House stands. In front of the presidential palace are tons of guards…

…who may or may not be friendly to tourists

It can sometimes be annoying to feel that I’m experiencing Peru more than I’ve experienced America – I’ve never been to the White House! But remnants of annoyance are quickly fleeting because life abroad can be fast-paced and I’ll have more opportunities to explore the land of the free for the majority of the rest of my life.

At this point of my summer, I’ve been outside American boundaries for a personal record of time. This whole summer has been exhilarating, but with this excitement comes its evil twin: fear. Life abroad can easily feel like a perpetual seesaw between gleeful adventure and dangerous confusion which can take an exhausting toll on you. I can’t help but constantly fight sparks of homesickness for both Southern California and Cambridge while simultaneously throwing myself in new adventures in new places.

Lake Llanganuco

I left Lima for the weekend in hopes of returning homesick for Lima and my loving host family. All it took was an 8 hour bus ride to Huaraz: “the Switzerland of Peru.” This was our first student-led trip as DRCLAS had no part in planning it although they were ready to advise us on transportation, lodging, or anything else we needed.

With altitude pills (and llamas) on our side, we hiked around the Andes Mountains to discover beautiful lakes and majestic snow-capped mountains. The local cuisine (see below),

Cuy, otherwise known as guinea pig is a famous Peruvian dish. It tastes like a fusion of duck and chicken.

fresh air and sights were quite refreshing as Huaraz served as the much needed get-away from urban (and polluted) Lima.

Hiking the Andes (at 5am!) and seeing wild llamas bathing in a river are definitely once in a lifetime adventures that I’ll always cherish. However, I think the best part of the weekend Huaraz trip was staying in a dorm-like hostel where there were 7 beds in a room which accommodated everyone on this mini trip. The reflections and conversations right before peacefully falling asleep together will ALWAYS be remembered with a huge grin on my face.

Living with a host family is my ideal situation because I get to truly observe Peruvian lifestyles day in and day out, but falling asleep to the delirious thoughts of my friends abroad with me is definitely the next best thing!

 

Me getting cozy with a llama

The Huaraz group enjoying local ice cream flavors and meeting another American sporting a poncho!

Conquering our Andes trek

Peek a Boo in the Andes

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Salut!

The last time I posted, I’d just returned from an incredible weekend in Nice, but I’ve been working away busily in Paris since then in the Harvard Summer in Paris program. Today was our last formal class, and something similar to Reading Period begins now so that we can have time to really crack down on our final projects. The projects themselves must be based around the idea of Revolutions, have a similar theme to one of our lessons, and of course be situated in Paris; as I love food, people, and history, I decided to focus on the open-air food markets of the city. I’ll be making a short film (around 15 minutes) on the lighter side of the market economy, using lots of vibrant colors and rich sounds from the incredibly varied markets, and will also have to write a lengthy research paper. (Mine will probably be 15-25 pages, depending on all of the historical information I find in the various libraries of Paris.) The real work starts now, and I have to motivate myself! This is the hardest part of any assignment…the daunting part. However, I’ve made myself some deadlines and checklists, so hopefully I’ll be all set come presentation time. Then, back to the States 🙁 / 🙂 …I want to go home, but summer is too short!

Back to Paris: what have I been up to, you may ask? I could tell you…but I’d rather show you. Check out some pictures below, with very descriptive captions.

 

I happened to catch the Tour de France, which was a total blast. It was a gorgeous day (rare for this summer), the crowd was wild, the racers were fast, and my man Wiggins won! It really was an experience that I’ll never forget.

 

My friend from Harvard/Germany, Jan, came to visit! Anneli (left) and Mandi (center) hung out with us during the beautiful few days in Paris.

 

I took Europe’s fastest elevator to the top of Tour de Montparnasse, the only skyscraper in Paris proper. There, you can see the Eiffel Tower, which I have yet to climb, and in the distance, La Defense, a district right on the other side of Paris’s border.

I ate Berthillon ice-cream! It’s the same price as all of the other [incredibly expensive] glace in Paris, but tastes so much better. Here we have Cassis, my favorite flavor.

I made it to Versailles with my friend, Anneli! It was a gorgeous excursion, and we decided not to go inside the Château, preferring to explore the sprawling grounds, which included a farm (much to my delight). It rained a bit, but hey, it’s Paris.

 

My friends and I spent the evening at “Au Lapin Agile,” a very famous cabaret in Montmartre. Picasso used to hang out there, at the very same tables as us!

 

For my project (and my pleasure) I went to the Marché Bio des Batignolles, an organic market near me. Check out this CHEESE!

 

So, I don’t exactly know these people, but they were my neighbors during one night’s screening of the Olympic Games. A giant screen and beanbag chairs were set up at Hôtel de Ville in the center of Paris, and we got to watch some swimming and handball for free! (Although I much prefer Equestrian.)

 

We went to La Maison La Rocher, an incredibly well-known modernist house created by Le Corbusier; little did we know, this amazing architect had built the Carpenter Center, which houses much of Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies building, and is the only North American building by Le Corbusier!

 

Mandi and I went kayaking at Paris Plages on the Canal St. Martin, in the 11th district. Though we ended up playing kayak-polo instead of going for a leisurely outing, it was really fun and worth the price…that is, it was free!

 

I went to Le Musée d’Orsay for the second time this summer. It used to be a train-station, hence the giant clock. As a student, we get free admission, so I am able to spend as little or as much time as I want per visit. I was only there for an hour and a half, and will go again to explore the 5th floor.

 

Okay, so this is the Musée d’Orsay again, but it’s my absolute favorite piece in the WORLD: the model of l’Opéra Garnier. Note the size (enormous) and the sign in the corner saying no pictures…whoops! (Also, this is where the Phantom of the Opera took place.)

 

While walking through the center of Paris, I heard the familiar sound of bagpipes (cornemuse in French). I happen to play the same instrument as these old fellows from Ontario, so we had a great little conversation about the lovely instrument.

 

In true Parisian fashion, I sported a black blazer and walked 400 steps to the top of Nôtre Dame Cathedral; sadly, I did not become a hunchback nor Victor Hugo.

 

Yes, I ate éscargots for dinner. No, they weren’t expensive; in fact, a supermarket that sells only frozen food is known for having the best snails in Paris! (Cross my heart.)

 

Though this may appear to be in the middle of a jungle, it’s actually at Buttes Chaumont, a park in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The giant caves were a really cool surprise, and a lovely way to wrap up our final afternoon visit.

 

Well, that’s all about Paris. Although I’ve been mostly in the French mindset, I’ve started shopping {translation: looking for} courses for the fall, using this amazing website called Harvard Class. (Nope, I don’t know the people who made it, but I do know that it’s a heck of a lot prettier to look at than the my.harvard tool or the CS-50 standard tool.) I’m trying to figure out my concentration, which means I want to take 7+ classes, as my interests are very varied (hehehe say that outloud). It will take me a bit longer to decide, but it’s so exciting; this time last year, I was doing the exact same thing, obsessing over the coolest thing ever: school. (Synonym, Harvard.) So, incoming Freshmen, if you find yourself doing the same thing, be proud. Go onto your rooftops and sing your love of LS1B. Text your best friend the truth: that no, you’re not really going to Mike’s party tonight, but rather cozying up in your bed and making sure you have the prerequisites to take that Physics of Sailing freshmen seminar. (But go out eventually, please. And take a fun freshmen seminar, one that has no homework, or coursework for that matter.) Freshmen, GET PUMPED. Harvard is as overwhelming as it is amazing, and that’s saying something, as I slept for 3 days when I came home from my first semester. Congratulations again, and can’t wait to meet you once we get back on campus!

À plus tard!

-Reid

 

 

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There’s an inexplicable, magical aura revolving around the number three.

Which numbered attempt is a charm? How many musketeers are there?

Three.

As week number three (out of eight) of my Summer Internship Program (SIP) through the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) came to a close, I noticed the semblance of routine formation. As foreigners to this Peruvian land, us thirteen students were getting use to certain cultural characteristics (i.e. HEAVY lunch and light, if any, dinner)

This is a story about me not only overcoming, but conquering misunderstandings in a foreign culture: One time at my homestay, at 8pm my family asked if I had eaten lunch. When I said yes, they didn’t make me dinner so I snooped in the kitchen and made myself a tomato and avocado sandwich! These are the ingredients to my happiness.

 as well as the ropes of our internships. One of the best parts about having the splendid opportunity to be abroad and in a family homestay is the cultural immersion – and the fact that this immersion is a seemingly endless adventure. Although I’m a fan of routine, I’m also a huge advocate of surprises so I’ve really been enjoying constantly learning new aspects of Peruvian culture and the Spanish language simply by being present in Peru.

Bringing a little Harvard flare and organization to Peru, the students have created and shared a communal Google document where  each student contributes by listing Peruvian customs we’ve observed that stand out compared to our American-tinted eyes.

Some of my favorite items are:

1. Eggs, butter, and water are not refrigerated.

2. Bedroom doors are kept open whenever possible so that if an earthquake occurs, people won’t be trapped inside their rooms. (Earthquakes are common in our area.)

3.  Fitting people in a taxi is like playing the ultimate game of Tetris.

I’m hoping Google has swept all universities as much as it has taken over Harvard because I feel like Google makes life easier. Within  this past year or so, Google has become the official @college.harvard.edu email domain which has catalyzed the skyrocketing of applications such as Google Documents (great for brainstorming with other students and even sharing Powerpoints!) and Google Voice. I’d highly recommend everyone getting a Google Voice Number because it’s a permanent phone number that you can forward to your cell phone which makes filling out paperwork less of a hassle since you won’t ever have to update your phone number again! Also, Google provides the option of having voicemails transcribed and emailed. I’m not even working for Google and I’m raving about them…

Coming back from my tangent (!), for the majority of my summer, I’m shadowing at a private clinic where I was promised freedom to roam and follow my interests as I wish. Although Spiderman claims that the best promises are the ones you can’t keep (the Amazing Spiderman movie is AWESOME and my obsession will be explained later), the promise of my liberties in the clinic have been one of the best kept promises.

I shadowed a brain surgery on my first day in the clinic last week and I’ve been making a home for myself in the operating rooms ever since. Watching surgery firsthand is light years better than what Noah Wyle and Patrick Dempsey could even portray combined on cable television! However, my supervisors, in their wise judgement, pressured me to rotate around the different departments. A part of me knew their aggressive suggestions had kind intentions and a bigger part of me didn’t want to argue in Spanish, so I rotated as they wished.

I requested Pediatrics and met some loves of my life:

I can’t help but to think newborns are so ugly-cute!! AHH little feet!!!!!!

In my short time at the clinic, I had already seen a handful of caesareans where a group of doctors whisk away the  baby while other doctors stitch up the mama. It was an enlightening experience to follow the baby this time as nurses cleaned him/her as well as performed basic medical check ups. My mind was blown to think that everyone starts off sooooo small and helpless (…and ugly-cute!)

The newborns department entrusted me with much more responsibility than the operating rooms did. My excitement climaxed – and with great responsibility comes profound fear! I was allowed to cradle some (crying) newborns in my arms, feed and weigh them, as well as collect their footprints. There was also a good 12 minutes when I was in the nursery without any other staff member, just sayin’. I’ve never carried a newborn before! I’m talking about new-newborns…like they’ve been breathing on their own for maybe 5 minutes. Although I felt really honored to be trusted so much, I felt like the H-bomb really helped me out here…I don’t hate it.

Chocoteja variety from Lunahuaná

Another thing that I’m far from hating are chocotejas – chocolate shells with manjar blanco (and usually another surprise like peanuts, pecans, etc.) filling. [Manjar blanco essentially tastes like caramel, but I’ve recently learned the sad, sad lesson that it’s basically boiled condensed milk AKA a fatty death wish.] Simple, addictive, and delicious, I surrender to chocotejas.

My host family told me to keep an eye out for chocotejas  in Lunahuaná, a small town that DRCLAS planned a group trip to on the third Friday of the program. I’ve said before that DRCLAS SIP is the epitome of a perfect “summer internship” because it’s a harmonious balance between productivity and relaxation, but it also skillfully see-saws between structure and freedom! After orientation week, most days are free days except for the majority of Fridays where DRCLAS organized events take place with the purpose of catalyzing our cultural immersion while abroad. Oftentimes after work, a few students will meet up and explore, but Fridays are always so great because the whole group finally comes together.

Lunahuaná is also known for white water rafting which has been on my bucket list for quite some time now (since the summer of 2010 to be exact). I think the closest rafting location to Cambridge is in Maine, but it was SO much cheaper to do it in Peru! Checking off an activity on my bucket list while being abroad made me feel so productive, fulfilled, and accomplished!!

While abroad, I’ve had such a concentrated amount of new and once in a lifetime experiences that I’ve hardly had adequate time to reflect. But when I do take a few moments to evaluate my experiences, I’m overwhelmed with happiness because I know that everything I’ve done this summer – from roaming Paris alone for 36 scary hours to holding a living man’s colon – has been WORTH IT, regardless of the negative reflections on my bank account…

This week’s guest blog was one of the most eloquent and succinct arguments for going abroad ever. I think it has convinced me to go abroad again! There’s a reason why everyone you talk to who has been abroad raves about their experiences and memories as their face lightens up. There’s also a reason why Harvard College has teams on teams of professionals and (financial) resources to help students pursue their desires abroad (Office of Career Services & Office of International Programs to name the most prominent). And to these reasons, I know I’ll be forever thankful!!!

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Volleyball camp ended last week and I had the opportunity to coach both sessions with several members of the Varsity Women’s team. Volleyball is my favorite sport, and I played for the Varsity Men’s team at Harvard for two years. I coached a group of young girls together with my good friend Ann, who played on the women’s team for two years–I like to joke and say we “retired” from our respective teams together. It was fun to teach younger players what I learned nearly 7 or 8 years ago, especially because the girls we were coaching were just starting out and had all the right motivation–for the love of the game. It was refreshing to teach volleyball in a setting that wasn’t competitive or about showing off; the players really just wanted to learn and get better. It was pretty awesome.

Scott and Ann with Team Black Panthers at The Volleyball Camp at Harvard

Scott and Ann with Team “Black Panthers” at The Volleyball Camp at Harvard

This week, I had a midterm presentation due for my tissue engineering class. The way that the class is structured, each student must present for 30 minutes on a topic of his or her choice that is related to the field of tissue engineering. The paper can be a study or a review of studies that’s been published within the past 3 years. I decided to present a recently published paper regarding advances in retinal tissue engineering. Specifically, the paper offered an introduction on common diseases of the eye and exactly why research within Ophthalmology is relevant and important. It reviewed several studies that looked at various polymers that different types of donor cells were delivered on when transplanted into the retinal pigment epithelial layers in the eye. The topic complements my position within Ophthalmology at the hospital I’m working at this summer, so I really enjoyed researching and finding out more about these polymers. There’s currently no cure for permanent visual loss due to retinal degeneration, so it’s definitely an exciting and worthwhile field to invest time in.

Volleyball camp and my presentation took up a lot of my time these past two weeks, but time just seemed to fly by. I’m only here for two more weeks! After that, I get one day off at home and then I’m off to India to film for the documentary that I started shooting earlier this summer before I got to campus. I’ll be there for 6 days before I fly back to Harvard to start PAF and Crimson Key events. Summer went by so quickly; I can’t believe it’s almost over. Everything is happening so fast, it’s crazy. Senior year will be a lot of fun, I’m sure, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet. I’m definitely still in summer mode, but I guess it’s a good thing I’m a month away!

Playing Kan Jam on the MAC Quad

Playing Kan Jam on the MAC Quad

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 “Summer internship” is a loaded phrase; its contrasting connotations blend splendidly together – especially under the umbrella of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) organization.

As mentioned in my previous blogs, I’m participating in the DRCLAS Summer Internship Program (SIP) for the majority of my jam-packed summer. The first week oriented the 13 participating students in Peruvian history, culture, and safety which essentially tried to eradicate our touristy characteristics (i.e. taking group photos in front of ALL churro stands) – whether or not these efforts were futile is still vehemently debated to this day. Orientation week ended with a cocktail mixer with our bosses.

Program student participants, coordinators & partners!

The program felt surreal up until the moments we awaited for our bosses to arrive. Most of us, at this point, never had personal contact with our bosses and had no idea what we would be doing for the next 7 weeks. A Peruvian company name was enough for us to purchase a round trip ticket without hesitation! The anxiety concomitant with jet-setting to a foreign country without complete job security rose and climaxed when we realized conversation icebreakers had to be in Spanish. Avoiding awkwardness in English is already almost impossible for me as it is, so I patiently awaited my boss as I perused my arsenal of knowledge, mentally recounting Spanish books and movies from class so I could quickly relate to them if the conversation lulled.

Thank goodness Melvin, my Peruvian boss, is suave enough for the both of us. We discussed the logistics behind shadowing at the clinic, ceviche, chocolate,  and before I knew it, the program coordinators declared a final toast so that no one had to travel home during an obscure hour.

My excitement about my shadowing internship carried over for days! Melvin and I had made plans for me to start my internship early in order to meet the majority of the doctors at the clinic as well as get my uniform customized. He said I would have full reins to observe whatever I wanted in the clinic and he has definitely kept his word to this day.

On my first day at the clinic, I was ushered into the operating room of a brain surgery!!!!! Yes, all these exclamation points are necessary.

Me in the middle of a surgeon sandwich!

I’ve seen human brains before – at science camp (and on Grey’s Anatomy!) – but they’ve never been attached to a beating heart.

The patient was a teenage boy and it would be his 4th brain surgery within the year. He had an aggressive brain tumor and an aggressive team of talented doctors to match. As I loomed over the shoulder of the neurosurgeon and watched as the patient’s head was shaved, a lot of conflicting emotions erupted from the core of my stomach.

A patch of the patient’s skull was meticulously drilled out of his head almost as quickly as I could imagine future-surgeon-Jeanie with the drill in my hand. Yet I wanted to run out through the automatic sliding glass doors to the beat of the patient’s heart. Although I can physically see myself running the scenes of an operating room, I feel like I have to become emotionally cold to cope with the emotional trauma of the patients! (Did I mention I cry during every Grey’s Anatomy episode? Because I don’t….)

Before this shadowing internship, I thought shadowing was a stupid waste of precious time because I’m more of a hands-on person. However, all the Mather (my upperclassman House/dorm) premed tutors/advisers strongly recommended shadowing. Since it was difficult for me to find time during this past academic year, I was beyond elated to not only receive the opportunity to shadow and simultaneously practice Spanish, but also acquire generous funding through the Office of Career Services (OCS) [see “International Internships and Funding” in the hyperlink].

I never thought I would stand inside an operating room in action before the third year of medical school. The fact that I’ve already had this experience as a rising undergraduate junior blatantly demonstrates how Harvard and its resources effectively provide a catalyst to jumpstart as well as support students on their career paths. Reid, in her more recent blogs, mentions how grateful she is to be studying abroad in the country known for love and food. I couldn’t agree with her more.

I’ve done a lot of traveling this summer and still have tons of traveling ahead of me. When my summer official ends on September 4th (the first day of class of the fall semester), I’ll have my personal record of travel mileage. Every plane, bus and train that I board is made possible by Harvard, its opportunities and resources, as well as the strong support of my family and friends. Have I mentioned that I love life enough? And I haven’t even begun to rave about the “summer” half of “summer internship” …

Peruvian tradition calls for the birthday person to bite the cake before cutting it.

DRCLAS’s official calendar has students working/going to class Monday-Thursday with organized activities on Fridays and free weekends. Please note that students may be called in to work on any day! The flip side applies too – meaning that spontaneous holidays have happened. For example, the second Thursday of the program was a participant’s birthday! The main program coordinator was gracious enough to invite all the students over to her house to celebrate with pizza and CAKE! It was really great to reunite with the other students because we saw each other every day during orientation week, but when work and school started, we hadn’t seen each other for days! Hearing about everyone’s internship over a slice (or multiple slices!) of delicious birthday cake was the ideal way to wind down the first “business week.”

On the second Friday of the program, DRCLAS organized a tour through Paracas and Ica. In Paracas, we boarded a boat headed to the Ballestas Islands.

The caves and rock formations were carved by sea, wind, and weather!

 

On our way to the islands, we got a great view of “The Chandelier” hieroglyphic

This steep hillside encryption can only be seen on boat. Its origin and function remain as mysteries!

as well as a wide range of animal species including sea wolves and Humboldt penguins! Back on the mainland, we toured a winery. Although you might expect a bunch of college students to get excited about free wine samples, we were all just really eager for lunch! One of the more difficult adjustments to Peruvian life is the late lunchtime! We hadn’t really eaten since breakfast at 5am and it was about 3pm which directly translates into a bunch of winey kids (if you catch my drift 🙂 !)

I’m so glad they captured my good side while sandboarding…

After lunch, most of us spent the best $8 of our lives. Literally right next to the lunch restaurant were miles and miles of seemingly endless Huacachina sand dunes where we sandboarded down steep, STEEP slopes!

Just a few hours ago, we were on a boat!

Once in a lifetime #fairytalelife

 

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Summer is absolutely flying by! Bit scary to think that it’s been almost 6 weeks since my internship started; pretty soon I’ll be back on campus for FOP! Having now spent a good chunk of my summer working, I thought I’d check in and give an update on everything that’s been going on… Enjoy!

As I mentioned, I’m now in the throes of a nine-week summer internship at Monitor Group, a strategy consulting firm based out of Cambridge that does work in a huge range of content areas and industries and has offices around the globe. I was lucky enough this spring to get an offer with them through the On Campus Interview program run by Office of Career Services, and I signed on for their training program towards the end of the semester. As a premed Social Studies concentrator, I came into the summer with effectively zero business background and only a faint idea of what “consulting” really meant. Fortunately, the internship was designed with people like me in mind, and Monitor’s done a fantastic job of introducing me to the foreign world of strategy consulting.

In total, there are twelve interns in my program, hailing from seven colleges and representing a huge range of academic backgrounds. One of the best things about the summer has been the opportunity to get to know my fellow interns – Monitor is unique in having all of its interns located in a single office, and it’s been really fantastic to have a group of peers to spend my time with. We started the program with a weeklong orientation to Monitor, its policies, and the expectations for the summer. We learned the ins and outs of Excel and PowerPoint, heard from some of the partners at the firm, and got a chance to ask questions of the younger consultants (examples include what to wear on “casual Fridays” and how to effectively ask for feedback from managers). Mixed into that week were a few social events, including dinners with other employees at the firm and outings with the interns, which provided ample opportunity for the twelve of us to get to know our coworkers (and each other!).

Dinner early on in the summer

After orientation, I received my “allocation” for the summer: I was assigned a case team and a manager and sent a bunch of “ramp up” materials to get up to speed with the material and the team’s progress. I’ve found the case to be really interesting so far, as I’m working on a pharmaceutical case that combines social and private sector with government and non-profit work. Having spent a lot of time at Harvard thinking about social issues, it’s really cool to attack similar issues from a totally different angle. There are certainly moments where I feel a bit out of place and find myself asking lots of questions, but I’ve been surprised by the degree to which the skills I’ve picked up at school (communication, critical thinking, secondary research capabilities) have been directly applicable in an office setting. Way to go, liberal arts education!

Monitor’s been doing a great job of planning a fun summer for us, as well – we’ve gone to dinner in Boston, tried out our artistic abilities at “Paint Bar,” and traveled to Maine for a weekend white water rafting trip. Check out some photos below!

Monitor Interns at Paint Bar

Scavenger hunt through Boston

All of the Monitor interns (Cambridge + Toronto!) in Maine

And though it may not sound like it from what I’ve written above, this summer has also provided opportunity for non-internship-related fun in Cambridge. I’ve found that a ton of my friends are on campus, many conducting thesis research, and it’s been nice to have some time to catch up with them in a slightly different environment. I’m living in Central Square, which is a fun change of pace, and I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot more about Cambridge from my adventures this summer. I’ve been walking to work as much as possible (it’s about 2 miles from my apartment), and I must confess that there are a lot of pockets of Cambridge that I’ve yet to explore. No better way to really get a feel for an area than by walking!

Celebrating the 4th in Cambridge: no better place to be than ‘Nochs!

At Fenway with my brother!

Shockingly, summer is beginning to wrap up, which is both terrifying and exciting. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing about my PAF placement for this fall and getting back on campus for FOP trips and Freshman Week (shout out to 2016!). Not so excited to think about post-grad life, the job search, and the fact that my last year at Harvard is quickly approaching! 🙁

 

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Gene Corbin, Assistant Dean of Harvard College for Public Service

Over 500 students are devoting their summer breaks to serving others and tackling critical social issues through amazing experiences funded by public service organizations at Harvard College.  Such opportunities abound and include:

Additionally, many students apply to the Office of Career Services for fellowships or grants to fund their own public service pursuits – including projects throughout the world made possible by David Rockefeller International Experience Grants.

Although only a drop in the bucket of the good work students are doing this summer, below are three examples:

Tyrell Dixon is a rising Senior from Baltimore.  Thanks to the Center for Public Interest Careers, Tyrell is working at the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Justice Department in New York City this summer. Through interacting with clients, shadowing attorneys,  sitting-in on court cases, and forging his own personal relationships with clients and attorneys, Tyrell is experiencing first-hand the way the law impacts individual lives.

Rising Senior Tyrell Dixon

Julia Konrad is a rising Senior from New York City.  She received a Director’s Internship from the Institute of Politics (IOP) to work for the US Department of Education in Secretary Arne Duncan’s Office.  Julia is having an unbelievable summer helping plan many important events – including the 30th Anniversary of  Title IX where she brought people together to celebrate this landmark amendment for gender equality including Secretary Arne Duncan (the slightly taller person next to Julia in the photo).

 

Meredith Arra is a rising Sophomore from Georgia.  She became involved in public service immediately upon arriving at Harvard College – beginning with the First Year Urban Program.  Meredith is devoting her summer to teaching 6 and 7 year-old youth in the Phillips Brooks House Association’s (PBHA) Chinatown Adventure Camp – one of the 12 camps in PBHA’s Summer Urban Program.  She’s focusing her efforts on healthy living and nutrition to combat obesity.

Teaching at the PBHA Chinatown Adventure Camp

Rising Sophomore Meredith Arra teaching at the PBHA Chinatown Adventure Camp

All of the above programs represent not only a chance to serve others, but also the opportunity to benefit from life-changing relationships and experiences.  Every fall, I have countless conversations with students who have new insights about themselves and what they want to do with their lives – including many students who return motivated to pursue a public interest career.

More information on the opportunities Tyler, Julia, and Meredith pursued, and many more, can be found by clicking the summer opportunities tab at www.publicservice.fas.harvard.edu.  I, along with the other staff members in our public service organizations, look forward to helping all students at the college pursue these exciting opportunities!

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Forming new friendships can be a nervously fun experience, but there’s something quite unsettling about throwing yourself in a situation where you not only have to make new friends to survive, but also a third party has hand selected the people you’re suppose to make nice with. (College orientation anyone?) However unsettling this situation may be, I apparently am drawn to it – especially during the summer.

When I reminisce on my previous summers, my science camp (yes, that was me and I’m not ashamed!!) months definitely sparkle brighter than the rest – even beating out summer days spent on beautiful (Southern) California beaches. This isn’t solely because of the sheep brain

Spinal cord, Lady & the Tramp style, anyone? She actually goes to MIT and is a Theta too! We make a point of catching up a few times every semester. Such a small world!

I got to dissect or the proteins I got to grow in tobacco leaves, but science camps were phenomenal because of the people I met and the friendships that still carry me forward to this day. Science camps, however, always had at least 40 other students; whereas, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) Summer program only had 12 other participating students. Pressure? Atmospheric.

Yet, I’m more than happy to report that after one frighteningly quick month in Latin America, we’ve proclaimed ourselves as the most diverse Peruvian family you’ll ever know. The strength of our bond is measured by the camera lens of our fake-reality show called REAL LIFE DRCLAS. After a handful of polite wars

Tres leches is a traditional Peruvian dessert – it’s basically vanilla cake soaked in sugar milk…YUM

(No, you have the last french fry!), we’ve declared a truce and have gone to eating each other’s tres leches without both permission and hesitation. Having the term REAL LIFE DRCLAS  has really come in handy because it’s a great phrase to shout when you want to immediately suppress any tension because it’s a simple reminder that our “angry voices” aren’t personal attacks towards the person, just the frustrating situation. Our mutual understanding – that group activities, decisions, and agreements come concomitant with heated debates – is truly the glue holding us together in Peru (well, that and our love of manjar blanco).

Alfajor: a Peruvian delicacy where manjar blanco is generously wedged between 2 soft sugar cookies – my treat after work!

 

My situation is exactly where I want to be and how I want to live – that is, practicing Spanish and eating three times my weight at every meal.

 

DRCLAS is split into two groups: Summer Internship Program (SIP) & Spanish and Community Service (SCS). All participants live with a Peruvian host family who naturally have become our real family. (Future blog to come about living with a host family!) Note that DRCLAS structures and organization may change from year to year and may depend on location as well as popularity.

SIP kids are partnered with a Peruvian company and work Monday-Thursday. SCS kids alternate between taking a Spanish class and working with a local company for 4 days of the week as well. Fridays are usually Peruvian themed days with DRCLAS sponsored adventures and weekends (as well as weeknights after work) are typically free as we please. The inherent dichotomy of DRCLAS doesn’t lead to family feuds (SIP vs. SCS), but rather a constantly entertaining exchange of stories.

Since I’m personally participating in DRCLAS SIP, my adventures will be tinted as so.

 

Week One – Orientation

Sky somewhere between Barcelona and Lima

My flight from Barcelona landed in Lima at 5am, a mere 6 hours before our first official DRCLAS meeting. If there ever was a time I felt like a jet-setting business woman, it would have been that morning! Someone get me my pantsuit from the dry cleaners!!

I must have filled out the all-Spanish customs paperwork correctly because passing through security was a breeze. There was nothing for me to do except aimlessly wander the airport with an extremely public thought bubble that read: “I’M A FOREIGNER.”

Before my arrival in Lima, my host family and I had exchanged a handful of emails that included picture attachments so we could both know who to look for at the airport. A man, who I didn’t recognize, stood with a handheld whiteboard sign that read JEANIE NGUYEN in all caps.

Foreign strangers popped my personal bubble with the warmest hugs and kisses. My host family consists of grandparents (with the grandmother being my primary caretaker), a host mom, a 19 year old host sister and a 17 year old host brother. My room, with its blue-sponged painted walls and giant teddy bear, awaited me. My full sized bed called to me, but I had just enough time for a hot shower before being whisked away to a bus (locally known as combi) that would take me to the first DRCLAS meeting…the first of MANY meetings that week.

Orientation week felt a lot like Shopping Week (the first week of every semester where students noncommittally attend classes) because many Peruvian professors and outstanding members of the community kindly lectured about the country’s history, norms, economy, emergency procedures, and so on. These informational (overload?) lectures were well balanced with city tours and food tours! DRCLAS did a phenomenal job with organizing group activities this week! It would have been hard to rally the group especially when we didn’t know each other well. With the support of DRCLAS, we were able to tour the main plazas, eat at some well known restaurants with authentic cuisines (Pardo’s Chicken, Cucho la Rosa) as well as roam the Pachacamac ruins.

Pardo’s Chicken: known for their pollo a la brasa (slow cooked chicken)

 

 

Pardo’s pollo a la brasa (typically paired with fries) – Thank you DRCLAS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A city tour isn’t right without churros from street vendors! (Note street vendors are not encouraged by DRCLAS or Harvard University Health Services…oops?)

A warm (llama) welcome to the Pachacamac ruins!!!

The end of orientation week (or Shopping Week) is like getting a pacifier ripped out of your little infant mouth. No more baby business nor monkey business – it was time for straight up business! Time for SCS kids to start class and SIP kids to enter the work force!

 

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