Kemie’s Blog

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Working on final papers, projects, and exams can be a little overwhelming at times, but the College does what it can to ease our suffering as we wrap up each semester.  Of course, the easiest way to please college students is to feed them, so most of comforting involves free food.  For example, this evening the Office of Dean Evelyn Hammonds, the Dean of the Undergraduate College, treated the students in Lamont Library to free pizza from Pinocchio’s (“Noch’s” for short).  Noch’s pizza is a late-night staple for a lot of Harvard students, so people were really excited to take a break from their work and head to Lamont Café for a snack.  I never thought I would say this, but I am so happy that I have a research paper due tomorrow, or else I would have missed out on Dean Hammonds’ pizza delivery…

Me with Dean Hammonds in Lamont Café.

Pizza for everyone!

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I would say this this past week was our first (much needed) dose of spring. The sun has been shining all week and it has done so much to lift the spirits of everyone on campus as we deal with the difficult events of the other week and prepare for the onslaught of final assignments.

Another example of positivity in Harvard Square

Another example of positivity in Harvard Square

I had a difficult time figuring out how to share my perspective on the tragedy at the time, but I could write a novel about the outpouring of love and support in the Harvard community since.  For example, I found the most inspiring email in my inbox earlier today. One of my blockmates forwarded me the link to a page for a Recovery Fund for a man named Jimmy who had been injured in the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  At first, the name didn’t register with me.  I did, however, notice that the message had been forwarded from email list to email list, so I clicked on the link to the page out of curiosity.  When the page loaded, I instantly recognized Jimmy from our countless exchanges my freshman year.

As it turns out, Jimmy worked in the Freshman Mailroom (in the basement of the Science Center), so he interacted with many Harvard students interacted with him on a regular basis.  Checking your regular mail is a relatively impersonal experience (since each student has a personal mailbox), but in order to collect a package you check in with someone at the Mailroom Window.  Jimmy was often the person greeting students at the window, and in his position he has shared countless conversations with countless Harvard freshmen over the years, myself included.

I am not a particularly sentimental person, but I was touched to see how many of my classmates recognized the important role that Jimmy and the Mailroom staff serve on campus, and were willing and eager to share the link with their peers.  I wanted to take a moment and share it with all of you as well.

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One of my favorite things about HUDS (Harvard University Dining Services) is that there is always dessert. Actually, dessert is only officially available with lunch and dinner. That being said, there are some really sugary cereals available during breakfast (think Lucky Charms, or rather Marshmallow Mateys), so I’m going to go ahead and count that as dessert.  The point is, if you are looking for a sweet treat after your meal you are well cared for.

Most importantly, there is no shortage of dessert diversity. HUDS lunches feature a variety of cookies. The flavors change from day to day and from House to House, so there’s pretty much something for everyone. Sometimes I am in the mood for a classic sugar cookie, but if I am feeling more adventurous I might prefer a peanut butter cookie. Thanks to HUDS, both flavors have the potential to be a part of my lunchtime reality, and that’s a beautiful thing. The dessert at dinner has even more variety to it, so it feels like more of a surprise. It could be bread pudding. It could be pie. There could even be a selection of whoopie pies. There really is just no telling.

Now, all of this dessert diversity is thrilling for someone with an adventurous sweet tooth (like me). However, HUDS also offers frozen yogurt at every meal for the student that appreciates a consistent dessert option.  There are typically two flavors available at each meal.  The featured flavors are usually vanilla and chocolate, since they are the classic choices, but every now and then HUDS surprises us with a less conventional option (dulce de leche, red velvet cake, etc.).  For example, the other day at dinner the dining hall in Currier introduced “Graham Cracker Pie” frozen yogurt, and it the best flavor yet. I wish I could share the experience with you, but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Think about it. It was so good that it inspired me to write an entire post about HUDS dessert. Honestly, just reflecting on the whole experience has put me in the best mood. It really is the little things…

Graham Cracker Pie Frozen Yogurt in Currier<3

Also, to be clear, some people do choose to treat themselves to healthier options (frozen yogurt without toppings, fruit, etc.) and some people choose to skip dessert altogether. I’m just not usually one of them.

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This past week was Spring Break, and I ended up staying on campus to work on my junior essay for my History and Literature tutorial.  The junior essay is a 6,000 word (give or take) paper that every Hist and Lit student writes in the spring of their junior year, in preparation for the senior thesis.  To be clear, most concentrators don’t stay on campus to work on this essay, since the assignment spans the majority of the semester.  I just stuck around because I made a last-minute to write a new paper on a completely different topic, and I decided it was worth is to give up my break to focus all of my attention on my work.

Since I sacrificed sunshine for a better paper, and I ended up spending a lot of time in Widener Library working on my second paper.  My research often led me to the Widener Stacks, which are basically endless.

Some of the books are stored underground in Pusey Library, which is connected to Widener by an underground tunnel (you can see the tunnel in the diagram above).  A trip to Pusey is a rare occasion for me, and I couldn’t resist the urge to play around with the electronic book shelves while I was down there.

So this is basically how I spent my vacation: Pusey Stacks Clip

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Since I can’t always make it back to the Quad for meals in Currier, I tend to bounce around from River House to River House for lunch and dinner.  The great thing about being a dining hall wanderer is that since I spend so much time in other upperclassmen houses, I get a pretty strong sense of the culture in each individual house community. Each house has little quirks and traditions that set it apart from the other 11.

I was hanging out with my friends in Lowell House after dinner the other week, when I inadvertently discovered Lowell House Speeches. Basically, for a number of weeks in the spring semester, the Lowell provides the opportunity for residents to sign up and share a 5-minute original speech with their peers following dinner.  I’m just an outside observer, but I think that the idea is to give students a space where they can reflect on major life events or lessons learned, and grow from sharing something personal with their housemates.

I didn’t know about the event when I made plans to eat in Lowell that evening.  At first I was totally caught off guard when a girl walked up to podium and started speaking into the microphone, but it didn’t take long for my confusion to swing to delight.  I can’t get over this tradition.  Sure, as students we get to share our academic thoughts on a regular basis in response papers and section discussion. But we don’t always have the opportunity to speak broadly about the life experience (like you would in a college application essay) outside of conversation between friends.

I really enjoyed listening to this speech, so maybe you will too.  Here’s the link to the speech that I stumbled upon that night.  It was really well done, and I think it’s a great example of why it is so important that students have a platform like this to share their take on things.

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It’s about 11:30 pm on a Tuesday. I have set up shop on the third floor of Lamont Library because I’m supposed to be writing a paper on the meaning of “union” following the American Revolution, but I can’t stop reminiscing about the weekend.

Daydreaming in Lamont

Daydreaming (procrastinating) in Lamont

I am fixated on the weekend, now days behind me, because it was not simply your standard Harvard weekend.  This past weekend was Junior Parents Weekend (JPW), a special time when the University invites the parents of third year students to visit campus and enjoy a weekend of college-sponsored programming. There’s also a similar weekend set aside for first years students in the fall called Freshman Parents Weekend. But this weekend was all about my mom and me.

I still can’t believe my mom was just here.  I’m from Northern Virginia, so the trip from home to school is not a particularly epic journey.  It pales in comparison to the trips that my west coast/international friends have to deal with every time they go home.  In fact, I’m just a short ninety-minute flight from the comfort of family and home when I’m at school.  That being said, my mom is a full-time elementary school guidance counselor and a mother of four, so she doesn’t make it up to Cambridge very often.  JPW was just her fourth time visiting campus (she also came for Move-In Day, Freshman Parents Weekend, and random visit this past July).  Given the rarity of our mother-daughter visits, my mom and I made the most of our time together.

Friday morning, I packed a carry-on bag full of clothes, toiletries, and books for the weekend so that I could move in with my mom for the weekend.  Honestly, I think that my bag for my trip from Currier in the Quad to my mom’s hotel room on the River outweighed her luggage for her trip from Fairfax, VA to Cambridge, MA.  The span of time from check-in on Friday to check-out on Sunday was pretty much a blur of friendly introductions and good food, but a few moments stand out in my memory.

The highlight of the day on Friday was having my mom tag along on my weekly tour.  Every Friday I give a historical tour of Harvard Yard through the Crimson Key Society.  The tours are open to the public, so it was a lot of fun seeing my mom’s reaction to my tour and watching her interact with the tourists in my group.  The best part of the day on Saturday was taking my mom to see this year’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals show.  Like I mentioned in some of my posts from last year, a lot of my friends are involved with the production of the show, so that made sharing the experience with my mom even more special.  She also got a kick out of the male students dressed as women, since the show is essentially a drag-musical! Finally, the standout memory from Sunday was ordering room service and sharing breakfast in bed with my mom before her flight home.

Me, Mom, and John Harvard

My mom and me with John Harvard after my tour.

Overall, the weekend was fun, relaxing, and a great way to center myself before tackling midterm papers this week.  Speaking of which, I should really get back to work now! I can’t keep daydreaming about Junior Parents Weekend and missing my mom. Although, honestly, I miss the restaurant meals at least as much as I miss her…

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Hello again!

Yesterday night, a bunch of us from the blog got together to unwind and share our plans for the upcoming semester.   We keep up with one another by reading each other’s blogs, but it’s really great when we find the time to gather in person and just hang out.

I was especially excited for our plans to meet, because we decided on dinner in Harvard Square at Russell House Tavern, an undergrad favorite.  Convenient location, great food, and amazing decor! The walls are covered with photographs of prominent locations in the Square at different points in history, so you get to track the development of the Square over dinner and drinks.

We figured it was a good time together, since we started a new semester a few weeks back.  Also, it was a chance for us to welcome three new bloggers to the fold!  So excited to keep up with our new bloggers: Caroline (2.0), Rob, and Inesha.  Keep an eye out for their takes on life as an undergrad at Harvard!

Shaun, Rob, Scott, me, Caroline, and Inesha at Russell.

That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have some interesting updates for you all this semester…


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As I mentioned in my post the other week, I am working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, which is a part of the Harvard Law School.  I am incredibly lucky because my morning commute is just a casual stroll across the campus.  It only takes me about 10-15 minutes to get to the office each morning, and to return home in the evening.  No train, bus, or cab necessary.

I especially enjoy my walks to the Bureau because there is a lot of construction on campus at the moment, and gauging the progress keeps me entertained as I walk from place to place.

For example, at the law school they are working on tearing down a building called Pound Hall so that they can build a better version.  The Pound Hall Project is just one aspect of the law school’s makeover.  The University recently completed the Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center and Clinical Wing Project, and the building is amazing.  Even though I am an underclassman at the College, I plan on hanging out in Wasserstein during the school year.  It has a lot of study space and social space and it’s refreshing to try out new, “exotic” spaces when I am reading or writing.  Generally speaking, Wasserstein has garnered a lot of positive feedback so I am looking forward to seeing how Pound Hall turns out.

The demolition of Pound Hall

The demolition of Pound Hall

The construction at the law school is obvious.  The buildings are enormous, so you can’t help but notice noise created by the large machinery, the rumble of demolition, and the piles of debris left behind.  That being said, I have also noticed some smaller-scale changes being made to the campus.

I pass the Science Center on my way from Adams House to the Bureau, and near the side entrance of the building is an example of a more subtle construction project.  Even though as children we were taught that Winnie the Pooh lives in the fictional Hundred Acre Wood, for many Harvard students, Pooh’s home is located just outside the Science Center.

Winnie the Pooh's house, as pictured last spring

Winnie the Pooh’s house, as pictured last spring

I first noticed Winnie the Pooh’s house during my freshman year, on my way to pick up a book from the law school library.  I instantly fell in love with it.  It’s an unexpected, and adorable, addition to the campus.  It is also cool to think that some individual or group were creative enough to come up with this beloved campus quirk.

Unfortunately, when the spring semester came to a close I was bummed to discover that Pooh had lost his home to building maintenance!  The University cut down a small group of trees, which were too close to the Science Center, including the tree that served as Pooh’s residence.

I thought it was the end of Pooh’s tenure at Harvard, but luckily, the University had the foresight to leave the tree stump behind and within a couple of weeks Pooh’s house was renovated to include a roof, as well as a brand new door and sign.

Pooh's house under construction

Under Construction, but check out the roof!

Pooh's House Today

Pooh’s house as it stands today! Note the new sign and door.

It’s easy to be annoyed or frustrated when there is construction on campus, but I can’t think of a time when the end product was not worth the wait!

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It has been a good minute since my last post, so I am really excited to check in and update you on my status this summer.   I didn’t have the chance to share my summer plans with you all before I went on hiatus in the spring, but I am happy to share that I am spending the summer in Cambridge and working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau until August.  I could not be happier with my decision to stay close to campus.  Cambridge is my home away from my real home (Fairfax, Virginia) so for me, Summer 2012 is all about embracing the familiar.

Embracing the familiar is a far cry from last year’s summer break.  Instead of staying close to home or on-campus, last summer I participated in the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Program in Barcelona.  It was my first time spending any substantial amount of time in Europe, and I am so appreciative of the experience.  Even though it was a Harvard program, I met a lot of new people and formed lasting friendships.  As a group, we really took advantage of our weekends and used the time outside of class to travel.  I experienced a lot of previously unfamiliar cities (Madrid, Granada, and Seville to name a few) and took in some truly amazing sights.  Just as importantly, I became more comfortable communicating in Spanish in the classroom, and the street signs and side conversations throughout the city served as my (brief and superficial) introduction to Catalan.  All in all, last summer was a stimulating adventure.  Looking back on it now, I would not change a thing, but leading up to this summer I was definitely looking forward to something different.

The Barcelona Program on the last day of class

That being said, living in on-campus for the summer does not mean that I am not experiencing new things.  As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past, during the school year I live in Pforzheimer House, which is one of the three houses that are located in the Radcliffe Quad.  As a Quadling, I am used to having some distance between my home and the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square and the center of campus, but this summer I’m getting a taste of life on the (Charles) River.  I have summer housing in Adams House, and right now, I am loving the convenience.  I can walk out of my room and have a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee in my hand in less than 5 minutes.  The Quad commute is not as big of a deal during the school year, but during the summer the central location of Adams saves me from the oppressive heat and humidity.

From the Quad to the River

As I am writing this entry, I am realizing that even though I am in Cambridge at the moment, elements of my Barcelona Summer are still present.  At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), part of my work is to serve as a translator for Spanish-speaking clients.  The lectures and assignments for the course I took in Barcelona were entirely in Spanish, and I am not sure that I would feel comfortable in this position, if I didn’t have last summer’s experience to assure me of my capability.  On top of that, I met my summer roommate, Tessa, when I was in Barcelona last summer.  Tessa wasn’t in the same program as me, but she was working in a lab in the city so we got to know each other really well.  Tessa and I are also in the Crimson Key Society together, but we became good friends in Barcelona.  In the name of platitudes, I guess you could say that the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.  No need to roll your eyes at me, because I already beat you to it.


Me and Tessa in Gerona last summer

Nothing concludes a post like a cheesy saying, so that’s all I have to say for today.  I hope that everyone is looking forward to a relaxing Fourth of July!

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I was taking a look at my planner today, and I realized that there is less than a month left in the semester.  This year has flown by so quickly, and I for one am a little unnerved about the fact that I’m about to wrap up my sophomore year.  Generally speaking, I’ve had an incredibly positive Harvard experience, but this spring has been my favorite semester by far.  I think that one of the reasons that this semester has been so enjoyable is that I have found my “academic soul-mate” in the History and Literature Department.

At Harvard, you do not declare your concentration until the end of your first semester during your second year.  I love that the College gives undergraduate students three semesters to shop around before they declare, because it gives students the opportunity to explore all of their options with minimal pressure.  In fact, I hadn’t seriously considered History and Literature as a concentration until this past fall.  Since I was able to take my time looking into prospective concentrations, I now go to class every day without any regrets about my decision to study History and Literature.

History and Literature (Hist and Lit for short) is an interdisciplinary field in the Humanities.  It’s actually the oldest concentration at Harvard (it celebrated its centennial in 2006 according to the Harvard Handbook), and is unique to the College.  In Hist and Lit we do our best to understand the historical and literary significance of a given text, and connect the text to larger themes.  To be honest, my own mother still gets a little confused when I try to explain the difference between “History and Literature” and History, Literature, and English, so feel free to check out the profile on the department’s website if you want more information!

In Hist and Lit, my field of interest is America (1607 to Present), but students can choose to study Latin America, Postcolonial Studies, Medieval Europe, Early Modern Europe, or Modern Europe as well.  Each field offers a selection of tutorials that are, without a doubt, the backbone of the department.  The tutorial is a required course that Hist and Lit students take every semester following their declaration.  Tutorials basically promote the integration of History and Literature.  The sophomore tutorial, which I am enrolled in now, is taught by two professors, one to represent each field, and all tutorials are kept small to facilitate discussion.  Tutorials allow students the opportunity to practice and perfect the research and writing skills that they need to succeed in interdisciplinary scholarship, but they shift their focus as students progress, so my junior and senior tutorials will be a little different.  The most exciting (and intimidating) part about being a History and Literature student will be my senior thesis.  Since it is an honors concentration, seniors are asked to produce a 10,000 to 15,000-word thesis about a subject that they find to be interesting, important, and relevant to their fields.

Me and a classmate as we get ready for our Hist and Lit tutorial! One of my tutorial leaders, Dr. Jeanne Follansbee, was kind enough to let me use some of the photos that she took during our tutorial for this week's post. Jeanne is the Department Head and the authority on literature for the class.

Harvard has over 40 concentrations that undergraduates can choose from, so there really is something for everyone.  Every department has something special to offer, and if you don’t feel at home in any of the departments you are welcome to declare a Special Concentration and design your own plan of study.  I love my concentration because I get to sample a little bit of what the other departments have to offer.  History and Literature is a unique and dynamic field, and I cannot imagine myself in another discipline.  Humanities or bust!

Tutorial in action! That's Dr. Steve Biel at the end of the table. He's the one of my tutorial leaders, and our history representative.

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