Caroline B’s Blog

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My remaining posts are probably going to start taking on a similar theme as I run through many “lasts” in my Harvard career, but this Friday marked a pretty important one: my last Dunster Formal! Reading period is always filled with end-of-the-year activities, and one of the major traditions is that each house hosts its own formal dance. Dunster’s spring formal is always held in the courtyard under a tent, which is a really fun alternative to many of the other events that are held at venues downtown Boston, both because it saves us the commute and allows us to really enjoy the beautiful space. The night started out with a champagne reception in our Junior Common Room, and my roommate’s brother entertained us for an hour with his (lovely!) piano skills. We then moved into the courtyard for a long night of dancing, which ended up being SUPER fun.

House formals are always a blast because they’re generally very low key: students will go with or without dates, and while everyone does get dressed up there’s no expectation of wearing anything uncomfortable or overly fancy. As my roommates and I were getting ready, shoe selection was determined by whether we could wear them for a whole night on the dance floor (read: flats). The formals are also attended by all members of the House, including new freshmen who just got into Dunster, tutors, the Resident Dean, and our House masters! It was great being able to see everyone under one roof, and many of us spent the weekend recapping the formal’s highlights.

Enjoy some pictures below!

The courtyard also got “dressed up” for formal

Party favors!

Admittedly really bad shot, but gives you an idea of what the tent looked like!

Goofing off with moose “antlers”

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With classes ending on Wednesday and the end of the year (and my time at Harvard!) in sight, the pace of life around campus has started to really pick up. Whether that means studying for exams, starting to research final papers, or attending end-of-year celebrations for student organizations, there’s no doubt that things are starting to get exciting. These past several days have been especially busy for me, though in a really fantastic way: on Thursday, I welcomed new members to Crimson Key (including fellow blogger Rob!); Friday night was spent at Fenway Park cheering on the Red Sox; and Saturday marked the first of many senior dinners coming up in the next couple of weeks. This is often the time of year that everyone’s social calendars tend to be a bit fuller than usual, which can make focusing on schoolwork a bit more difficult – I have my thesis oral defense on Friday and have been struggling to find time in my calendar to sit down and prepare! The beautiful spring weather certainly has not been helping, either: we’ve had a week straight of sunny days and are looking forward to at least another week of sunshine. With all of this in mind, I wanted to share just a few snapshots from around campus this week – enjoy!

Beautiful front-yard garden along Memorial Drive

An Arts First performance in Harvard Square

Dunster courtyard at its finest

The past week on campus has been incredibly surreal. I was at the marathon on Monday, up all night on Thursday and in front of the TV most of Friday watching coverage of the manhunt, and celebrating Friday night when it all came to a close. Jeanie, Inesha, and Rob each gave their own insights into this week’s events, and I would echo much of what they said: it was a scary experience that brought the campus and the city together. I’ve seen and heard echoes of “Boston Strong” again and again in the past few days, and the sentiment could not be more true: everything from the dedicated police response to the incredibly high spirits after the arrest made on Friday demonstrated again and again that Boston is a proud and resilient city.

Having spent nearly four years living in the Boston area, seeing the city unite in the wake of the bombings was unsurprising to me – there is a fierce sense of pride that comes through in Red Sox fanaticism, local politics, and winter weather survival. What surprised me more, actually, was the sense of local pride I saw blossoming in myself and in fellow students over the course of this week. While we are residents in the area, I think many of us don’t necessarily consider ourselves “Bostonians” or “Cantabrigians” if we’re not from here originally. But in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we all were experiencing the pain, sorrow, and eventually triumph along with the rest of the city. For many of us, it was the first real sign that Boston and its community has truly become part of our identity in the years we’ve been living here.

There was a really touching article published in The Atlantic this week entitled “You May Leave Boston, but Boston Never Leaves You” that talked about exactly this sentiment. While we may not realize it consciously, college students living in the Boston area come to this city for some of the most formative years of our life and become part of the “enormous extended family” of people who consider Boston home. For most of us at Harvard, Boston will only be home for a brief while, but it is the city in which we develop into “real people,” come to form a sense of identity, learn to think for ourselves, and join a diverse community. What this week has taught me is that the community that has helped to shape me extends far beyond the walls of Harvard – Cambridge and Boston, and the sense of intense local pride so unique to this area, are just as much a part of the equation.

This sense of connection extends beyond my eagerness to cheer for local sports teams. I’ve spent all three of my summers locally: one at Harvard, one interning downtown for Boston Public Schools, and one working at a consulting firm in Cambridge. I wrote my thesis about the Boston community, and spoke with residents about the best (and worst) parts of the city. I boast about my knowledge of Boston geography, and take pride in my ability to walk around the city without needing a map. In my four years here, I’ve campaigned for local politicians, attended cultural events in Cambridge, and explored the area’s rich history. My attachment to Boston and Cambridge is deep and multifaceted, and in a strange way this week’s tragic events were the first chance I had to really reflect on how much this city has shaped me as a person.

Yesterday, I set off on a long run along the river and through downtown Boston to visit the memorial at Boylston Street and get a glimpse of how the city is bouncing back. I’ll let the following photos speak for themselves, but it was a really moving and uplifting experience to be downtown with countless others venturing out to enjoy the spring weather and celebrate the city in the wake of terror and tragedy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that Boston is strong, and that I’m lucky to have picked up a bit of that strength, pride, and resilience in my short four years here.

Daffodils in bloom along the Charles

A touch of humor near Boylston St

Huge crowd gathered at the Boylston St memorial following the Red Sox game

Outpouring of support at Boylston St

A running-themed flower box on Beacon St near Boston Common

Beautiful view along the Esplanade

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We’re getting to the point in senior year when there is a special “senior event” almost every week. The Senior Class Committee (SCC) is in charge of planning a whole variety of activities, ranging from trips to the Celtics to adventures following the Freedom Trail in Boston. This past weekend, SCC hosted the Senior Champagne Brunch in Annenberg, which was a chance for seniors to come back and eat one final meal in the freshman dining hall. Since only freshmen are allowed to eat in Annenberg, the event is a unique opportunity for seniors who likely have not been back in almost three years. More importantly, though, the champagne brunch is a time to reconnect with roommates and dorm-mates from freshman year, as everyone sits with their freshman dorm. For me, that meant spending a fantastic meal with my friends from Mower B – unequivocally the best freshman entryway of 2009-2010.

Mower B, freshman year


My freshman year I was part of a small and very tight knit entryway of 18 students: Mower B. Mower is one of the smaller dorms in Harvard Yard, and is tucked away in its own mini-courtyard. While the dorm may have been a well-kept secret, the community of students living there certainly was not. Mower earned attention freshman year for our high-quality pranks on each other and our excellent athletic abilities: we won the Yard Cup, the freshman intramural championship, despite only having 34 potential participants. Even after freshman year, we have all remained close as an entryway and have stayed in frequent contact over the course of college. Therefore, senior champagne brunch provided a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy one another’s company before the end of senior year.

Our expert decorations, freshman year

To brag on our own behalves, Mower B had a truly excellent showing at champagne brunch: all 18 of us came! While there are many former residents of Mower B that I see around campus on a regular basis, there is a handful that I don’t see as often and it was really nice to get a chance to catch up. We even took the whole event one step further by Skyping our freshman proctor, Peter, who now teaches at Stanford. I’d be willing to bet that we were the only entryway with 100% participation!

Mower at Senior Champagne Brunch (Photo credit: Senior Class Committee)

Peter gets Skyped in

After champagne brunch, we all decided to reminisce a bit by returning back to our freshman dorm for a group photo and a mini-tour of the dorm. My freshman roommates and I all went back to our old room to meet the girls who live there this year – they might have been a bit surprised to see us, but I think they got a kick out of meeting old Mower residents.

Mower B ’09-’10 in front of Mower B!

Freshmen roommates!

Champagne Brunch was an awesome event, and it was great to flash back to our first year at school even for a couple of hours. I’m really looking forward to the huge list of events coming up in the next couple of months!

This afternoon I was lucky enough to go see Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the new book Lean In, speak in Sanders Theater about her work and writing. The event was hosted by the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB or “WIB”). Sandberg is a ’91 graduate of Harvard College and a ’95 graduate of Harvard Business School, and she spoke to a largely female crowd of college students about being a woman in the business world and her advice about how to reach the top tiers of various professions in America.

It was really fascinating to hear Sheryl Sandberg speak primarily because she herself had come from Harvard College, but also because many of my friends and I will be entering the corporate world come this summer or fall and much of Sandberg’s talk was targeted at our exact demographic. I ended up purchasing a copy of her book and it was scary to see how accurate much of her advice actually was! The audience in Sanders was incredibly receptive to all that she was saying, which I think largely is a result of Sandberg being such a significant role model for young women looking to become successful professionals. Guess you could call me a bit of a “fangirl”!

Sheryl Sandberg in Sanders

My day finished off with a visit to the Senior Gift Launch Party, which was held at the Queen’s Head Pub in Memorial Hall (so basically right under Sanders Theater!). Every spring, each graduating class runs a “senior gift” campaign encouraging seniors to donate to the Harvard College Fund, which usually is about $10 per person. While the dollar amount may be small, the donation is meant to be a gesture in recognition of all that we have benefitted from as college students here. Major resources like financial aid and extracurriculars benefit from funding secured through alumni fundraising and the Harvard College Fund, so Senior Gift is a great first step in recognizing all that we’ve gained from being students here. It was so fun to go with my roommate and have a mini pre-graduation celebration before senior week and commencement!

Senior Gift!

Today is a big day in the admissions office: at 5 pm, emails were sent out to the lucky new members of the Harvard Class of 2017. Huge congratulations to those of you receiving good news! This is a really tremendous opportunity and I am so excited that you all have the chance to experience all that Harvard has to offer. Now that I’m at the end of my four years at Harvard, decision day makes me incredibly nostalgic – I know that my time here is coming to a close, which is bittersweet but also makes it even more exciting to welcome in a brand new class. Since it’s the perfect opportunity for me to be a bit sentimental, I thought I’d use this post to reflect back on some of my favorite memories from Harvard. These are in no particular order!

1. The first comes from very early in my freshman year, right after classes had started: I had gone on an orientation backpacking trip (yeah FOP!) and one of my fellow FOPpers had a birthday only days after we got back to campus. At the time, everyone was really nervous about not knowing anybody, which can make celebrating birthdays early in the year really stressful. Who do you invite? How big of a deal do you make out of your own birthday? The rest of our trip figured we’d make this early birthday really fun, though, so we held a surprise party and baked her a cake the shape of Texas, her home state.

Birthdays and FOP!


2. Dancing to disco music in the Science Center. I’m a member of the Crimson Key Society, which runs freshman orientation every year. As upperclassmen, one of the favorite events we run is a screening of the movie “Love Story,” which is set in 1970. To celebrate and get freshmen excited for the event, we host a huge dance party in the Science Center and dress up in 70s gear. It’s totally ridiculous but a really fun way to start off fall semester.

3. Housing Day, freshman year. Of course, this might be a bit stereotypical and maybe goes without saying, but the experience of finding out I was in Dunster House and spending basically 36 hours straight with my blocking group in anticipation was an awesome couple of days in my Harvard career. We basically got run over by the mass of upperclassmen that barged into the dorm room we were staying in, we were all totally sleep deprived from having stayed up late and woken up early, but it was a TON of fun.

4. Blizzard 2013. A more recent addition to the list is the blizzard that happened earlier this semester. Campus normally buzzes with busy students, and everyone has a pretty tight schedule they keep on a day-to-day basis. With the university shut down for the weekend and over two feet of snow on the ground, Harvard students had nothing to do but hang out with each other and enjoy the beautiful winter weather.

5. Presidents’ Day Ski and Snow Weekend. One of my friends lives in Cabot, Vermont and has created a tradition out of inviting her friends up to her house for the long weekend every February. This year, a bunch of us headed up and ended up writing our theses from the comfort of her home, but it was awesome to get off campus!

These are just a few examples of the incredible memories I’ve had here as an undergraduate – so excited to have you all joining the Harvard community next year!

Yesterday was a huge day in my undergraduate career: I turned my thesis in!!! After a year of planning, researching, and writing, I finally printed the final product, bound it, and submitted it to Social Studies. The last week of work involved a lot of long days of pushing, lots of coffee, and a number of trips out to lunch to treat myself. After spending Thursday through Sunday rewriting portions of chapters and inputting new data, Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to editing, formatting and spell checking. I got incredibly lucky because a handful of friends – any of them fellow Dunster residents – helped me out during these last days by reading through my draft and finding basic errors that sometimes can be easy to miss. I was so grateful for the help!

At the printer!

Wednesday morning involved waking up early and heading to Gnomon Copy in the Square, where I printed out two copies of my 117 page (!!) thesis. I also printed a bound version for myself, which was a nice way to remember the project. Social Studies gives us binders for the copies we submit, and I walked them to the department office to submit. It was such a relief to finally get them in!

Overtired but done!

Even though I got a nap in yesterday afternoon, I was up and at ‘em early this morning for another momentous day of my senior spring… Housing Day! I know the other bloggers have already and will continue to fill you all in about the details of Housing Day, but it was a blast to do it as a senior and I wanted to share a couple of quick snapshots.

Dunster Moose in front of John Harvard

Probably the coolest moment of Housing Day – all of the House Committee chairs running out of University Hall with assignment letters for the freshmen!

I’m going to keep this post short – time for a good night’s sleep!

I have to admit, as a New Englander I’m happy to report that Harvard is finally experiencing a “real” Boston winter this year.  We had a week of below-zero weather in January, a blizzard in February, and this weekend are being gifted 10-12” of glorious snow a week into March. While many of my friends are horrified by the fact that it’s still snowing on March 8, I find myself reflecting fondly back on April lacrosse games played in flurries and celebrating the continuation of winter this year.

Dunster Courtyard

One thing I did have to adjust to, though, is that winter and snow requires totally different “gear” on a day-to-day basis now that I’m in college. Unlike when I’m at home, I don’t have a car to take me where I need to go, so getting dressed to go outside during a storm like this means really layering up. A few essentials that I pile on include my ski jacket (regular puffy coats don’t repel the snow very well), a baseball hat (to keep the flurries out of my face), and my tall LL Bean boots to trudge through the puddles and snow banks.

My trusty Bean boots

Bean boots are super necessary to get through stuff like this!

Snow always has a nice effect on the student body, though, because we’re all forced to slow down a bit and hang out inside instead of bustling everywhere like we normally do. People linger longer in the dining hall over lunch and dinner, spend the afternoon working in their common rooms, and might even head outside to build a snowman. It’s a nice change of pace!

Hiding out in Dunster dining hall

Speaking of hustling and bustling, I’m in the middle of finishing up my thesis (due next Wednesday!) so I’ll keep this post short and leave you all with a couple more snapshots of Dunster and Cambridge in the snow. Enjoy!

Bikes outside Dunster

More people hiding out from the snow in Starbucks – my favorite study spot


Hello again!

I’ve been unfortunately pretty quiet in the blog world so far this semester, but I think it’s for a pretty great reason: I’m currently charging through the last few weeks (T-16 days!) of my senior thesis for Social Studies. This is a project I hinted at in earlier blog posts but that has become an increasingly large part of my life over the past couple of months, and it’s finally due – printed and bound – at 2 pm on March 13. I’ll be sure to write a more detailed post after I’m finished talking more specifically about what I’ve been working on, but in the meantime I thought it would be interesting to give a bit of a peek into the life of a “senior thesis-er.”

We seniors have a made-up word for the last couple of months of writing: “thesising.” Thesis writers can be spotted at all hours of the day (and night) in libraries, dining halls, and cafes around campus, usually surrounded by a stack of books or journal articles and often frantically typing on our overworked laptops. While many of us started thinking about and planning our theses almost a year ago at this point (time flies!), the bulk of the production and polishing happens between January and March, when most theses are due. About 50% of the senior class works on a thesis each year, and it makes for good company during these weeks of intensive writing and editing. Just for perspective, my thesis must be 20,000-30,000 words in total, which works out to about 100 pages.

So many chapters….

Many of us returned early for J-term and lived on campus for three weeks focusing solely on our thesis. During that month, we created an email group – “jtermthesis” – that was shared with many of the seniors on campus and allowed us space to ask questions about chapter formatting or plan outings to the movies as a study break. Some of the best email subject lines from that month included: “something to brighten your thesis adventure,” “late night study buddy?” and “good news for coffee drinkers,” all of which included links or tips for getting through January.

Now that we’re back on campus, thesis-related work has settled into a more regular rhythm because seniors have had to adjust back to class schedules and normal student responsibilities. Social Studies has been a great resource in helping us stay focused on the project deadline, though, largely through workshops and email reminders. I’ve been participating in a thesis writers’ seminar sponsored by Social Studies over the course of the year, and every other week I exchange drafts and feedback with two of my classmates in addition to meeting as a total group of 10 for an hour and a half. Social Studies also organized “presentation workshops,” which allowed me an opportunity to present my whole thesis in 15 minutes to a new group of students; the feedback from a fresh audience was incredibly useful.

Outside of these more formal aspects of thesis writing, there are some more fun additions that have been helping me push through the last couple of weeks. One great tradition maintained by many student groups is “thesis fairies,” where underclassmen volunteer to bring treats to seniors writing theses. Thus far I’ve been generously gifted Nutella, a slice of pie, Oreos, and a Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards – all of which provided an excellent energy boost! There’s also an anonymous Tumblr – – to which my classmates have been uploading GIFs capturing the sillier side of thesis writing. Definitely worth a visit if you want a funnier angle on the thesis process.

I’m writing this blog post from inside the Graduate School of Education’s Gutman library, which is one of my new favorite spots to study. I’m including a snapshot to give you all a sense of what studying at Harvard looks like!

Live action post from Gutman

And finally, I should clarify that I haven’t spent ALL of my spring semester drafting and editing – I did get a chance to enjoy winter during the blizzard a couple of weeks ago and during a weekend trip to my friend’s house in Vermont. I’m including a couple of photos below!

Dunster courtyard post-Blizzard

“Presidents’ Day Ski & Snow” Crew, as we named ourselves

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Reading period on campus is simultaneously a really stressful and really fun time of the year: in addition to the paper writing and studying, there are always a bunch of end-of-the-year events and performances happening around campus. I tend to use these kinds of events as fun bribes for myself to help get through long hours of studying, so I’ve been keeping pretty busy this past week! Since I couldn’t pick just one event to focus on, I wanted to give an overview of my favorite events from reading period!

Macbeth – Up first this reading period was some Shakespeare, which I was especially excited to see because two friends of mine were the director and the lead role. I’d never read or seen Macbeth until this show (maybe I should be embarrassed by that), but the cast (and crew!) did an incredible job telling the story, and with a really cool adaptation – it was set in New York City’s Financial District. It was put on in the “Experimental Theater” at the Loeb, which is a really small theater that allows for creative set design – really cool to see how different shows use the space.

Three-House Formal – Each House has a winter formal during reading period, and this year Dunster teamed up with Leverett and Quincy to have a “Three House Formal” downtown Boston. The House Committees, who are groups of undergrads in each House that plan social events, had planned an incredible event at the Seaport Hotel, complete with a live band and photo booth. I coincidentally have a bunch of friends in Quincy and Dunster, so it was awesome to have an opportunity to hang out with them all! Plus, it’s always fun to get dressed up once in a while.

RENT – The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club put on RENT this weekend, and while I’m a bit biased (RENT is probably my favorite musical) I thought it was the best production I’ve seen at Harvard so far. I again had several friends playing lead roles, which made it even more fun to watch, but it was also crazy to see younger actors nailing some of the biggest parts. So much talent! RENT was at the Oberon, which is more like a nightclub than a formal theater, and the action happens all around the room, which made the experience even more exciting.

Kuumba Christmas ConcertKuumba is Harvard’s gospel choir that celebrates African American tradition and culture (“Kuumba” means “creativity” in Swahili), and this weekend was their annual Christmas Concert. This is the third time I’ve attended this concert and it’s always SO impressive – the group brings amazing talent and energy and it’s a really joyful experience for everyone involved. It’s also no small feat that they manage to fill up Memorial Church twice in one weekend – that’s close to 1000 people!

View from the balcony at the Kuumba concert

Gift Exchanges – Less formal events this week have included gift exchanges with a few groups I’m a part of on campus, and I just came back from a “Secret Stalactite” event with the First-Year Outdoor Program.

As far as reading period goes, I have a pretty manageable schedule this year, largely because I’m only taking three classes, one of which is my thesis. I turned in a final paper for my History of Art class on Friday, have a fifteen-page take-home exam due this coming Wednesday, and an exam on the 17th. Almost done with the semester! Now, back to work!

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