The tall, vaulted ceiling, the warm glow of the overhead chandeliers, the wood paneling, the largest secular collection of stained glass in the world, the “OMG! This looks exactly like the Great Hall at Hogwarts!!!!!!” – it was all old news.
I turned to my guest. “Welcome to Annenberg Dining Hall, where I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.”
[This isn’t exactly true. I never eat breakfast. I simply cannot motivate myself out of bed in the morning to go grab the most important meal of the day when stuffing my face with a cereal bar as I run to class is an option. I also sometimes take naps during lunch… you can see where my priorities lie.]
My guest looked impressed. “You mean, you have white table cloths and flowers at every meal?”
“Um… no. That’s a treat for the Freshman Faculty Dinner.
The Freshman Faculty Dinner is one of those special opportunities provided by Harvard to encourage students to really get to know their professors. Oh sure, you can ask professors to dinner any time, you can go to their office hours, you can even approach them after class, but for we freshmen sometimes all of this can be intimidating. So, the Freshman Dean’s Office, in an attempt to shove us out of the nest, organizes dinner for us.
My guest, as it turns out, was Professor Simon Innes of the Celtic Languages and Literatures Department. Why the Celtic Languages and Literatures Department, you ask? Well, that is actually an interesting story.
So I arrived here on campus in August with zero idea of what I wanted to study. I knew that I was interested in something to do with Government… or Economics… or Social Studies… or Sociology… or Anthropology… (need I continue, or do you get the gist?). The sheer volume of fascinating-looking courses that Harvard had to offer overwhelmed me (there are over 3,500). I decided on taking a few basics – I knew I was interested in Government, so why not enroll in an Intro to Comparative Politics class? Economics 10 (the famous Greg Mankiw course) was next on my list. Then for fear of losing all of the hard work I put into the Spanish Language during high school, I decided it would be best to take the placement exam and enroll in Spanish 40. Great. But I still had an extra class slot to fill… hmm…
And that’s when inspiration struck. I thought, “Wait a minute… I love history… and I’m Irish… but I know nothing about Ireland… ” So I enrolled in Celtic 118: The Gaelic World from the 12th to the 17th Centuries. It was the best decision of my life.
Here I am, one of the luckiest girls on the planet for having gotten into Harvard, and in my first semester I get to be in a class of two students (yes, TWO STUDENTS) sitting across from one of the most knowledgeable people in the world in the field of Celtic history! HOW COOL IS THAT?!?! I get to ask as many questions as I want, offer whatever opinions I may have, and engage in stimulating conversation on a topic that really interests me.
Since there are only two students in the class, my classmate Katherine and I decided to invite Professor Innes to the Freshman Faculty Dinner, as sort of a ‘thank you for being so awesome.’ And if we thought our classroom conversation was interesting, dinner did not disappoint. We got to learn why Professor Innes decided to concentrate on Celtic studies as a profession, what life as a professor at Harvard was like, how his childhood was in Scotland, and what he was like as a person, beyond just our professor.
As I walked back to my dorm after dinner with a sea of other freshman, I couldn’t help but feel excited. I had reached out and gotten to know one of my favorite teachers on a more personal level (plus, the food was amazing). And I think based on the loud voices, the chorus of laughter, and fast-talking going on around me, the other freshmen felt the same way.
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