Downtime Boston

Students from around the globe apply to and attend Harvard for its academic rigors and plethora of opportunities. These are the driving factors that compelled me to enroll; however, there are a different set of factors that explain why I have willingly stayed as an eager student in the community. The people I’ve met on campus and the relationships I’ve built are the reasons why I get butterflies of excitement when I return to school after a vacation or even when I return to my dorm room after a long day of class and lab.

No one can truthfully deny that Harvard is competitive, but I think the intensity of our competitive nature is usually overestimated. Disregarding the outliers that I expect to exist in every academic setting, we’re a community of forward thinkers who like to discuss as well as debate our innovative ideas and controversial opinions. We may like to keep secret our hope that our unique idea is the best, but more often than not, we’re not very good at keeping our ideas a secret from each other. As a math and science student pursuing the premedical track, I normally have multiple, brain-teasing (or even brain-splicing)  psets (problem sets) due each week. I’ve never submitted a pset without asking questions to either the professor or TF (teaching fellow) in office hours, or my peers. NEVER. And I don’t even finish psets early. I normally try to start psets as early as possible, but the majority (if not all of it) gets completed the night before the deadline – this is a horrible habit and me and my history of sleep deprived nights are fully aware of this; therefore, I do not encourage this practice! Anyways, enough confessions for me, my point is although I typically finish my homework close to deadlines, students are still willing to answer my questions and review the material. Learning definitely boosts both our knowledge and confidence, but it’s not a selfish practice here.

My roommate and I studying in Lamont Library basement

Learning, studying, and practicing class material, coupled with our extracurricular commitments (i.e. sports, work, various student groups) consume the majority of our time. But I think most students (hopefully) would agree that there’s also time for random, nonacademic, YOLO activities which probably take up the majority of my fondest college memories…and that’s why my roommates and I went on a random cruise of the Boston harbor!

The physical setting of Harvard is already phenomenal even if you look at it in isolation. Yet if you expand your horizon just a few miles, Cambridge and Boston harmoniously merge as the Charles River leads into the Massachusetts Bay. At the same time, it’s still like an ironman challenge to try to rally students off campus due to the high concentration of events and opportunities conveniently right in the heart of campus. At the beginning of every semester, I always tell myself that I’m going to get off campus more frequently and this became less and less of a lie as I started to pursue distance running during my sophomore year. Running around 10 miles along the river helps you realize all the wonderful events and opportunities off campus yet still super close to campus. I’ve been able to participate in heart walks, various community 5k fundraisers, as well as the delicacies of farmers’ markets! My friends and I have never regretted making a trip out to Boston, even if it’s just for some dessert! Therefore, when one of my best friends and roommates advertised a 2 hour cruise on the Boston harbor, there was no hesitation in committing.

The girls in my blocking group soaking in the Boston skyline!

We excitedly separated ourselves from campus for a few hours after making a few expert transfers on the T (subway) and soon boarded the boat! Our backdrop was beyond beautiful, the DJ was skillfully mixing throwbacks and top 40 songs, and an array of fruit and hummus was served. If you couldn’t already tell, all the ingredients for the perfect night were present and I don’t think we could have exploited the night any better!!

It’s always emotionally tolling when I think of how little I see my family and friends back at home, across the nation; however, I know the opportunities I have here on the East coast are unparalleled. I can’t imagine having this much fun anywhere but Cambridge where there’s a harmonious blend of an urban and small-town feel.

I may put more of an effort into exploring downtown Boston, but it’s always very natural to explore Harvard during my downtime too!

I’d say it’s pretty common for students to have jobs on campus – whether its to pay for academic or social costs – most of my friends all hold steady jobs during the term time. There’s even a Harvard Student Employment Office (SEO) that links available jobs to students. Jobs range widely from librarians, cafe baristas, cleaning bathrooms with Dorm Crew, or lab/research assistant jobs like mine at the Harvard Decision Science Lab (HDSL). The common thread of these varying jobs is that they all pay well! If your salary is connected with the Harvard payroll, it’s usually higher than minimum wage and since the jobs are on campus, they’re super convenient! Although you should keep in mind that job opportunities are not only limited to the university’s offerings as some of my friends work for local restaurants and retail boutiques as well.

One of my friends recently started working at Eliot grill. I’ve never heard of Eliot grill, but I’ve heard (and enjoyed!) its sisters: Quincy grill and Dunster grill. Eliot, Quincy, and Dunster are all upperclassman houses (dorms for sophomores, juniors, and seniors) which have a late night grill for the typical college cravings i.e. mozzarella sticks, burgers, and ice cream milkshakes. Their hours differ but are typically open even later on the weekends.

The school gives each student $65 of “BoardPlus” per semester to spend on university affiliated cafes. Crimson Cash is credit loaded onto a student’s ID card via credit card/cash – also useful for laundry!

We decided to visit the grill while my friend was working and it was much fancier than I thought! I kept wanting to refer to it as Eliot diner because “grill” just didn’t cut it!

Such a cool hang out place!!

There was a pool table, a Foosball table, a big screen television and comfy couches all atop a checkered tile floor. I just wanted waiters/waitresses to come by on roller skates!

I’m not really sure when Eliot grill started working, but I’m pretty disappointed I didn’t know about this space earlier. I’m excited and determined to continue exploring both Boston and Harvard! It’s always the best to be able to tell your visiting guests a few exciting secrets about your home.

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  1. Nadeem Pasha’s avatar

    How can i become a student of Harvard and how can i apply for the entrance exam of Harvard

  2. cyka’s avatar

    I just found your blog a few weeks ago and I have really enjoyed reading it since then. Your content is very informational. Keep posting!

    1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

      That’s one of the best things I’ve heard all day Cyka! Thank you so much! Please let me know if you ever want me to detail anything in particular!

      –Jeanie Nguyen

    2. Ashley’s avatar

      I’m a high school senior and I’m very interested in attending Harvard University, but like most students, I’m concerned about the workload. As an IB student, I’m used to rigorous coursework, but I assume that Harvard will be extremely demanding and competitive. I’m excited by the challenge, but I don’t want to be overwhelmed. How is the coursework? Piles of assignments weekly or intensive, ongoing projects/papers/studies? Are the professors helpful and readily available? Can you explain the pset? I plan to be a pre-med student and I don’t want to be daunted by the prestige.

      1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

        Hi Ashley,

        I’m currently a junior and still concerned about the workload, haha, so don’t worry about that too, too much! I didn’t have the IB program at my high school, but I took a handful of AP classes which really does help build your fundamental knowledge. I just think the way college classes run and expect you to learn is completely different than what we’re use to in high school, but the great thing is that the majority of freshman struggle through this transition together – and come out on top!

        To be more specific, I remember high school as straight up regurgitation; there were no tests with surprises and they never expected you to know things that weren’t covered in class. Whereas, in college, the lectures and homework assignments may go over completely different topics, or the homework may lead up to the next lecture so it feels like completely new (and often frustrating) material. There’s tons of support though if you’re willing to put yourself out there. Your friends/classmates, TFs (graduate student Teaching Fellows), CAs (undergraduate Course Assistants), and professors are available by office hours, appointment, or even via texting! If you’re actively looking for help, it’s never far!

        As for assignments, classes will definitely vary with timelines. A lot of paper-based classes have more long range assignments and perhaps with intermittent (mini) writing assignments along the way. My math and science classes usually all have psets (problem sets) weekly or even more frequent than once a week. The professors are humans too, and they won’t assign give you psets that take a week to do a deadline just a few days away.

        I hope all this information is NOT overwhelming, but helps provide some clarity! I’m going to try to go into further detail about my study habits and assignments in my next blog!

        Don’t freak out Ashley! I’m premed (and LOVE it!!), but I hope that you can see I also have time to allocate to activities that are just as important (relaxing with friends, exercising, volunteering and of course sleeping!).

        Good luck with college applications! It may all seem overwhelming and stressful now, but I PROMISE you that it’s all worth it in the end – and the end is near!!! Always feel free to reach out with questions – your questions are awesome!

        –Jeanie Nguyen

      2. David Arturito’s avatar

        How can I do to be accept in harvard is my dream to be a student of harvard university

        1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

          Hi David,

          Many students are intimidated by Harvard and don’t apply – that could have been me if it wasn’t for my persistent family! I encourage you to browse the Admissions Office website, specifically:

          Hopefully, it can help you create an application timeline. Don’t be shy with questions!

          –Jeanie Nguyen

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