Academics

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It’s not that I like pressure per se – it’s more like I’ve gotten pretty good at leveraging pressure into a source of active motivation.

I’m a little hesitant to tell this story because 1) I can see my mom shaking her head and deeply sighing; and 2) it’s not my typical lifestyle! But I feel like it’s a common part of #college.

On Sunday/Monday/Tuesday (it’s all a blur) I pulled my first academic all-nighter of junior fall. I had to specify “academic” because sometimes all nighters happen for fun i.e. tv series marathon, video games (Mario Kart, Tetris, Diner Dash!), etc. I knew this day was coming because I had my Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding: Literature & Medicine Midterm Paper due Tuesday at 1pm and my Math 18: Multivariable Calculus for Economics Tuesday at 6pm. I was mentally prepared, but perhaps I should have prepped physically by spending the previous days sleeping.

However, it was the weekend before Halloween AKA a national holiday that needed to be celebrated by quadrupling my calorie intake via pure sugary coated dark chocolate. My sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, also had our annual blind date event called KAT in the Hat where a sister sets you up with a friend, gets their hat, you wear the hat and they find you in the hat, and BAM you find love. Maybe. Except not really. As intimidatingly awkward as a blind date is already, we dressed up in costumes in the spirit of Halloween! It was a SUPER fun event with awesome music, food, and of course people <3

Also a great excuse for red tights…

One of the most memorable events of this Halloween season was my sighting of the most awesome boy dressed as Mario scurrying in the Yard. I’m sure he was late for another class/meeting or something, but I like to think he just was incredible at being in character at all times. I’m literally chuckling to myself as I’m recalling this. The scenario almost seems like it’s too good to be true but my friend witnessed it too! And we discussed how it’s kind of sad that more college kids don’t dress up in costumes for class like how we use to in high school/middle school/elementary. Celebrating Halloween is pretty necessary because its a general celebration of youth (and candy)!

The fun Halloween spirit definitely kept my spirits uplifted even when I knew I had so much work to do for school. I trudged along in the library (multiple people were getting suspicious that I was living there) and worked calmly throughout the night. Classes were cancelled this past Monday due to Hurricane Sandy – and my thoughts and prayers definitely go out to all those affected! – and I used that day to continue working.

What kept me going was my interesting paper topic. I think the first time I was ever genuinely interested in writing a paper was junior year of high school when I realized the complexity of my thesis excited me: gathering and analyzing evidence to support my claim (something along the lines of: murder is a kind of love / love inevitably leads to murder) was a challenge that I found thrilling. It was during this paper that I promised to myself that I would never write a paper with a thesis I didn’t like.

I had met with my Literature & Medicine TF (teaching fellow) to discuss my thesis because I didn’t want her to hate my idea or find something obviously inherently fallible that I somehow missed. She gave me a hesitant green light and doubted that I could cover everything in 5-7 pages, but I reassured her that all my ideas naturally come to an end in 6 pages.

My Literature & Medicine Midterm Paper centered around challenging/extending an argument of another author we read who claimed that pain is inexpressible. I tried to make the convincing claim that pain is indeed expressible when in a single-person context because groups of people actively prohibit pain’s expressibility. Yet pain is “inevitably inexpressible” (title of my paper) because humans are naturally drawn towards group settings. Overall, I tried to articulate my opinion that pain experiences an evolution of inexpressibility rather than beginning as an inexpressible concept.

Although creating paper topics is deemed a not-so-enticing task, I dread the process of actually eloquently gluing the paper together with well thought out sentences. I vented about this at dinner tonight, saying how I don’t prioritize the importance of writing the paper over the importance of expressing ideas. I think it’s more important to logically explain your thought process rather than eloquently explaining; however, I tend to find the latter about 13 times more time consuming!

It wasn’t a great experience (but it also wasn’t a horrible experience) staying up forever to write my midterm paper and practice for my math test, but at the end of the day, I’m just glad I had a place to do it! That may sound like a strange appreciation, but I remember not knowing where to go for a quiet place to study for the finals at the end of my freshman spring semester.

It always seems like math/science people have the latest finals (since paper based classes have earlier deadlines). I usually always have a final on the last day of exams and at the end of my freshman year, one of my blockmates and I were stuck studying for the last of the last exam. We were studiously re-watching lectures in Lamont Library until around 1-2 am, we got kicked out because the library was closing even though it is notorious for being open 24 hours Sunday-Thursday. I just figured libraries would be open 24/7 during Reading Period and Exam Week and thought that would be a safe assumption. I ended up going to bed and waking up extra early to fit in more studying.

I won’t ever run into this problem again though! In a recent email, students were notified that:

Lamont Library will be open 24/7 during reading and exam periods this year.  For more information, see the announcement in the Harvard Gazette.  Our decision to make Lamont available for late night study during this time follows a successful trial run of 24-hour operations at the end of the spring semester.

We want to thank everyone who made this possible, particularly the Harvard Library Access Services staff and the Undergraduate Council.  Working together, we are pleased we could once again make this space available to you after normal business hours.

 

Sincerely,

Evelynn M. Hammonds

Dean of Harvard College

It’s beyond spectacular that Harvard faculty and staff are constantly seeking ways to improve our undergraduate experiences! Perhaps that’s why not sleeping wasn’t as awful as it sounded…

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Rough  /rəf/ the most common adjective used by Harvard students lately

Midterms have the snowball effect – once they start, they don’t stop and continue growing aggressively. We’re smack dab in the middle of the semester at this point which actually means the second wave of midterms have come/are here/are lurking closer than we want them to be. For classes with only two midterms, it’s a great thing because it’s your last midterm until the final exam! Yet for classes with three midterms, it’s just another wave you have to paddle out for and hope that you catch its drift.

The middle of the semester also means mid-semester evaluations. All classes and course instructors have evaluations forms either in class or online where students can anonymously and honestly describe their feelings towards the class. Anything from lecture pace, homework lengths, to course website formats are open for discussion/critique. After student input has been reviewed and considered, professors usually announce popular concerns and how the staff will go about tackling our concerns. It’s always a beautiful thing to both have a voice and be heard, especially when the listener has your best interest in mind.

I just got a new phone and number which means I have no contacts, but it’s the best way to receive creepy-awesome texts!

I feel like as an entire student body, we’ve been working really hard, really diligently, and really long hours trying to reach (and exceed?) our potential. Libraries have gotten more crowded and coffee consumption has sky rocketed.

All this talk about perpetual midterms and caffeine addictions can easily depict a gloomy backdrop here at Harvard BUT I’m beyond happy to not only tell you, but show you how beautiful it is here!

Our rough weeks are all broken up by amazing weekends.

When I think of “amazing weekends” there are a few obvious ones that come to mind: Harvard-Yale, Yardfest and Head of the Charles.

As Caroline mentioned in her blog, Head of the Charles is this huge 3 mile crew race (as opposed to its counterpart Foot of the Charles). A big portion of the race takes place on the part of the Charles River right next to a bunch of the upperclassman houses (dorms). Tons of people gather along the river to watch, cheer, and collect all the free goodies being passed out (I got a flash drive my freshman year!). It’s a really exciting event, especially when the weather is beautiful!!

That’s Harvard Business School in the background!

Rather than just spectating this year, I decided to volunteer at the Head of the Charles. Volunteers have to sign up months in advance! I also had to arrive at 7 am with my estimated leaving time at 6 pm. A lot of mental preparation for this event!

I was positioned on Weld (Harvard Women’s boathouse) balcony where I had the best view of boats passing the Business School! The team of volunteers I was with was responsible for gathering split times. We had this fancy camera connected to a computer and we would snap pictures of boats passing by and mark their split times on the computer and send this information to the central manager – some pretty official business I’d say!

Me, spotting with my fancy binoculars!

Spotters were also present to tell us when boats were coming so we could snap accurate pictures. The spotters would also describe the boats passing and there was a scribe who wrote down boat numbers with their respective descriptions (i.e. black boat, white hats). I think this served as back up information just in case of future disputes about split times, people can look back at both the picture and the description.

I was the Men’s Heavyweight Coxswain my freshman year so being in a boathouse and watching good old feathering was all around a great day.

It may look like I’m hardly working, but I came up with my midterm paper thesis right then!

 

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It was an extreme week indeed and I may even still be recovering!

at Franklin Park

My week started with a bang (literally!) at the start line of the Boston Athletic Association’s Half Marathon 2012. This would be my second time racing in the event, but my anxiety level mirrored that of last year’s. Even though I’ve acquired running as a huge hobby for a year now, I felt immense pressure to beat my time from last year (2:10). I knew I was faster this year and I knew that running a personal record was possible – but this just made the unknown that much scarier!!

During the summer of 2011, a bunch of my sorority sisters encouraged me to start running, but it wasn’t until the push of my biological sister that really started me going. I had been seeking a new physical outlet ever since I stopped competitively swimming after my senior year of high school; and running in Cambridge, especially along the beautiful Charles River, presented itself as not only an aesthetically pleasing alternative, but also a convenient one! Relative to the streets and atmosphere of Southern California, I feel like there’s a larger running culture here. Cars don’t hesitate to yield to sweaty runners and vehicle passengers often express their support vocally. This was one of the biggest reasons I was so excited to return to campus after a blessed summer of exciting world travels. My training schedule while traveling Europe and South America wasn’t ideal…or even existent haha so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run right back into the swing of things!

Who just ran a half marathon?? THIS KID.

My prerace goal was to pace 9:30 minutes/mile (compared to my 9:59 pace from last year). Yet during the first 7 miles of the 13.1 mile course, I was beyond elated to realize that I had been pacing around 8:30 because I could finish really under 2 hours if I kept it up! Too bad I died out. The last half of the race, especially the last 5K, was killer. Every stepped seemed so heavy and my iPod couldn’t even pump me up. I finished with an average pace of 9:28, slightly exceeding my goal but also slightly disappointed. Even though I had become an improved amateur runner, I couldn’t decide if I was happy or disappointed … so I ate a bagel.

The Boston Half Marathon is always a great event – everyone there has so much energy and spirit at 6am that you can’t resist smiling even if your eyelids are droopy.

A huge turnout!

It’s always a wonderful opportunity to get off campus, especially if it means investing yourself in the Boston community. As glorified as it sounds, the half marathon always makes me feel part of something greater than myself. Here at Harvard, it’s scarily too easy to become self-consumed – when I say this, I mean that students’ lives effortlessly become so busy and hectic that our calendars have us at 3-6 places in any given moment. So in order for us to feel like we’re not drowning – or maybe even feel like we’re happily drowning in responsibility – we zoom in on our to-do list, leaving little time to envision the bigger picture and all the outcomes of our productivity. Sometimes training for the half marathon felt like picking up a 6th class and I would become so frustrated with myself every time I had a crappy/slow run. But now that the half marathon has happened and passed, it’s awesome to realize that tons of people were working extremely diligently to have such a successful event too and so much money was raised for incredibly altruistic organizations such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Another highlight of the event was that it fell over Columbus day weekend – a 3 day weekend!! I successfully avoided academic work Sunday night by heading over to MIT where some friends cooked up a beyond delicious dinner to regain all those calories burnt earlier in the day! I had also been really good at avoiding academic work the entire weekend so I celebrated Columbus day by catching up on some reading, psets (problem sets), and writing papers. I made it to bed at a decent hour, planning to get a healthy and reasonable 7 hours of REM cycles. Surprisingly, I managed to get 10 hours of sleep – only because my cell phone alarm did not ring! 🙁

I was suppose to wake up at 9:30am for my Perception & Decision Making class from 10-11:30am. Immediately following, I have Spanish between 11:30am-1pm where the first hour would be dedicated to our first (of three) exams. From 1-3pm, I would submit a response paper for my Literature & Medicine Class right before attending the weekly lecture.

My lack of alarm caused me to wake up at 12:30pm, right when my Spanish exam had ended. I still have no idea what happened to my phone because as I angrily jerked it around when I woke up, my phone was turned off. I literally had no idea what to do. After checking my running watch and my everyday watch which concurred that it was definitely 12:30pm, I violently burst into my roommate’s room with the insane hope that it was actually 12:30am or something! I’ve never accidentally missed a class before let alone an exam!! I had even emailed my Perception & Decision Making professor over the weekend to request permission to leave a few minutes early to arrive to my Spanish exam on time! I couldn’t even rush to Spanish and offer to take the exam right then and there because I had to physically submit a paper at 1pm! All these frantic thoughts scattered my brain and I ashamedly admit that I considered quitting on life and just going back to bed to deny that the day existed. I called my sister, who was probably expecting me to wish her a happy birthday, and I quickly explained my complicated predicament in my trembled-on-the-verge-of-tears voice. She told me to just rush to class and deal with things as they came. Pretty simple, but I couldn’t have thought of that myself.

On my sprint to class, I shot my Perception & Decision Making TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow) an email requesting an appointment with him sometime later in the day. I arrived in Spanish during a student presentation and anxiously waited until class ended to approach my teacher. I honestly explained my situation in a string of trembling conjugations and she was super accommodating and told me to come to her office after my last class for the day. After making up the exam, I rushed to my Perception & Decision Making TF’s lab where I simultaneously explained the series of unfortunate events from the morning, fought back my stupid tears, and offered to write thousands of extra papers in order to eradicate all my guilt for missing class. He refused my offer after reassuring me, but also vocalized that nothing along these lines should ever happen again.

As I made my way back home after a long, stressful day of adrenaline and watery eyes, I was super incredulous that I was walking away from what felt like the most climatic battle of a huge war without any wounds. In retelling this story, I still can’t believe the ending. I’m also being overwhelmed by guilt again! I just felt so terrible because my biggest responsibility in life is being a student so having such a traumatic day didn’t only make me feel like a horrendous student, but also an awful person! All my friends keep telling me that I’m being overly dramatic and need to relax, but I’m only finding relaxation by setting alarms on multiple devices.

Happy news that the rest of the week was much more normal! I don’t think I could have handled any more trauma. Heading into this week, it’s a heavy Spanish week as we have a paper due and I have to give 2 presentations (one group and one individual). Vamos!

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Wow! It’s been such a whirlwind of a week!! That’s literally (due to this nasty, rainy weather lately) and mentally (midterm season!)

 

Happy October everyone! This month marks our one month of school. If you ask any non-freshman student, we’ll tell you that it simultaneously feels like we JUST started school and that we’ve been here forever. Many things are still relatively new – we’re still getting the hang of balancing our new combination of assignments as well as establishing an organization and studying method curtailed to this semester’s classes – however, academia has been a critical part of our lives for so long that these activities seem second nature to us.

I had my first midterm of the semester this past Wednesday night so I’ve spent the majority of my free time preparing for my first of three exams for Math 18 (i.e. going over class notes, class worksheets, homework, and additional practice problems). Normally, midterm tests are held during scheduled class times, but math exams, for whatever reason, are typically held during the evening. My midterm was scheduled for 6-7:30pm but I had my Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding 50: Literature and Medicine section from 5-6pm. There are strict attendance policies for my Lit & Med class (they’ll deduct from your grade if your absent!), but know that flexibility indeed exists within the rigid structure of Harvard. I emailed my TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow – essentially the same as a TA at most other schools) a few weeks before my math midterm asking for permission to either leave early or to attend a different section for the week of my math exam. She allowed me to leave a few minutes early which was probably the best part of having a math exam!

Despite all my extensive review for the math exam, I didn’t really know what to expect and was somewhat nervous going into the test. It’s a new class this semester, so there are no reputations like “exams are tricky” or “exams are essentially the practice tests” to help build your expectations. I felt pretty good during the test though and felt even better after it – because it was over!

I immediately felt the post-midterm laziness (that I’m still suffering from)! I spent the rest of the night talking to friends, catching up on my comedy television shows and getting excited for my sorority’s fall formal.

It feels like I haven’t been academically productive in a while, but I can tell you about the productivity in other aspects of my life!

In preparation for the Boston Half Marathon 2012, I’ve been trying to run longer and longer runs. Thank goodness I have the Charles River and the Esplanade to run along, but on certain days, ~10 miles can feel like much more even with my pumping iTunes beats. One of my best friends (who I traveled Europe with this past summer!) is currently training and fundraising for the Boston Marathon 2013 by making an extra effort to run all throughout Boston. I took advantage of her creative routes by running with her into Chinatown where an elementary was holding a fair with cotton candy, photobooths and carmelized popcorn!

We even met (and danced with) Pooh Bear!

This long run throughout downtown Boston and eventually ending up in Chinatown made the time pass by very quickly. I love when (physical) productivity effortlessly blends in with new, fun experiences! I’m definitely looking forward to being more adventurous on my runs by being more willing to deviate from the riverbanks. Next weekend, I’ll be running the Boston Half Marathon for my second time. I’m feeling pressure to beat my time last year but I think this is only possible if the rain gods have some mercy and cancel the predicted rainy forecast!

Another long term project I’ve been involved with since my freshman fall semester is called BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) Teen. This is a program I direct through PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), essentially the central hub of public service work on campus. The teen program runs once a week, on Saturdays, at a Vietnamese Community Center located in Dorchester, where (recently) immigrated students gather to work on homework, supplementary lessons we’ve created, arts & crafts, and we often strive for field trips to museums/Harvard’s campus. This is my second year directing the program and I feel like this year will be easier than last, not only because my previous experiences will help me solve future problems with much more skill, but we’ve received a lot of generous financial assistance to run the program this year.

At the end of the 2012 spring semester, I applied to the Presidential Public Service Fund (PPSF) grant to alleviate some of BRYE Teen’s accumulated deficit – a heavy burden that started before I became a director. Luckily, BRYE Teen received this generous grant as with a handful of several other programs (see the university’s generosity here!). PBHA partnered with Dean Evelynn Hammonds for a reward reception where program directors gave a short summary of their programs’ goals in exchange for a hefty and generous check.

Presidential Public Service Fund grant reception with Dean Evelynn Hammonds

It’s so rare (and difficult!) to unite 20+ PBHA program directors and hear about their passionate work so it was really a beautiful event to attend. I know that my program, BRYE Teen, would have great difficulties running without these funds so all my volunteers and participants are eternally grateful for this financial support and encouragement!

Needless to say, it’s been a phenomenal week! There are no classes held on Columbus Day, so the long weekend is looking extra marvelous. I don’t have any midterms this coming week, so I’m looking forward to doing some learning without intensive pressure!

 

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Remember back in those elementary/middle school days where you were always so excited for any field trips because the locations were always SO COOL (i.e. local fair, museums, zoos)?? Then you hit high school and the field trip locations may or may not have gotten worse, but there was still excitement because it usually meant less work for the day…

Well, college field trips are the best. You’ve probably heard tons of people say that college is the best and that it’s way better than high school. I have to agree with this statement (even though I LOVED high school) because in college, you really do become your own boss. Therefore, college field trips are basically trips to anywhere you want and the itinerary includes whatever your heart can possibly desire at any given moment.

This is a continuation of my off campus exploration series! Although I’m proud of myself for actually getting off campus more rather than just saying I will, I’m worried that my goal to explore outside my comfort zone is more like a New Year’s resolution which will die out in due time. With this fear in mind, I’m going to soak in every moment I spend off campus.

It’s much easier to get off campus when I’m organizing an event with a group of people so I took advantage of my leadership position as Vice President of Philanthropy on the Panhellenic Council (Panhel) and organized the Fall Philanthropy event in the next town over.

Each semester, Panhel strives to organize a volunteering event that unites the three sororities and fraternities on campus (note that the University does not officially recognize these 6 organizations). I’m hoping to establish consistency and familiarity which will boost number of participants, so during the fall semester, I partnered with Cradles to Crayons and in the spring semester, I plan on concentrating my efforts on Relay for Life. The event at Cradles to Crayons happened last weekend and was pretty successful considering we more than doubled our numbers relative to last year! It was really exciting for me, as the organizer, to see people pumped about the event! We spent a few hours early Saturday morning sorting clothes, cleaning shoes, and creating care packages. It was awesome to die of cuteness over all the adorable baby clothes while simultaneously instantly seeing your impact because the packages we made would be delivered soon to get kids ready for the start of school and the transition of seasons.

Clothes need to be reviewed for quality and then organized into age/size groups before being packaged.

Same rigorous process for shoes!

It was a weekend of early mornings because on Sunday, there was an annual, community Brian Honan 5k walk/run event. I first heard about the Brian Honan race through HCMC (Harvard College Marathon Challenge) as a sophomore and have vowed to participate every year that I can because it’s an AWESOME event!! The course is smooth and slightly hilly and there’s FREE: food, tshirts, and finisher medals! The aspect that most attracts me is how free it is, especially because the Harvard Community Affairs Office prepays slots for Harvard students and employees.

The 5K was on a gorgeously sunny and breezy day. Everyone was in high spirits and the positive energy was resonating all around. I don’t think I could have sported a bigger smile for the rest of the day (despite my sore muscles)!

We were all in Barcelona together this summer!

It’s like they won the Olympics or something… (ps Check out the custom Harvard-Brian Honan free swag!)

The event also had a carnival/fair-like character because there were booths with local businesses as well as street art for your creative juices and a live band performing for your dancing juices. 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though I’ll always consider myself an amateur runner, my habits of running have definitely built a wonderfully unexpected community for me here at Harvard. People are always willing to run with you at extreme hours (i.e. 6am, midnight!) as well as give you advice on mysterious pains. In a sick and twisted yet beautiful way, there’s a uniting aspect of running your body down physically that’s also slightly addicting. One of my long terms goals is running the Boston Marathon and because I won’t be ready for it this spring 2013, I’ll be living vicariously through one of my friends who is fundraising and running it in 7 months! If you’re interested in running (around Boston), you can even check out her running adventures here! She’s running with the support of HCMC who reserves a few slots for Harvard students in the Boston Marathon each year. I always love seeing my peers challenge themselves in ways beyond academia and lucky for me, everyone here seems to push themselves out of their comfort zone frequently.

Although I’m extra-appreciating my time off campus, this does not at all mean that I’m not appreciating my time on campus as well! I can’t believe it’s happening, but junior year is starting off as the best year ever! I know I say that about every year, but it’s been incredible to get back into a nice routine and reconnect with my friends. My profound happiness also stems from my courses – I’ve never been happier with my class schedule.

In one of my more recent blogs from this semester, I listed the 5 classes I’ve enrolled in. Midterm season is lurking – or is already here for some of us! I call it a “season” because once your first midterm hits, more and more keep bombing you until Final Exam Week. Thus, it’s a perfect time to update how classes are going!

Neurobiology Tutorial – Dopamine

Relative to my other classes, we haven’t done too much because it’s half a class each semester, but meets for the entire year so will eventually count as one full semester course by the end of my junior year. Shopping week wasn’t a facade because this class is still riveting! There’s so much enthusiasm from the professor and he seems to effortlessly make topics and tangents connect in the end. My favorite part thus far are the video clips about research experiments we watch because he’s trying to train us to critically watch and listen to these interviews. I use to mindlessly watch and listen and just blindly accept what they’re throwing at me, but now I’m beginning to question the validity of their experiments, data, and interpretation – I feel like a boss! Our first assignment is to read a scientific article and be ready for discussion Monday; hopefully, the critical analytic skills are transferable to fine print.

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 50 – Literature and Medicine

I don’t think I’ve ever had this much reading assigned to me in my life and I don’t think I’ve ever read this much of the assigned reading, haha. I can’t lie and say I’ve read it all – the college way of life and sacrifices has not allowed me to read all of it (yet?). Since this class is more of a GenEd (General Education requirement) for me, I’m honestly not prioritizing it. But when I’m procrastinating from my other assignments, I’m happily reading for this one! This class is stretching me in new ways. I’ve never taken the time to think about the patient’s perspective or the importance of how and why someone chooses to describe pain. Analyzing the (positive and negative) emotions concomitant to being a doctor have kept me intrigued during the weekly 2 hour lectures! Our first submitted assignment was due this week – it was a 2 page response paper and we had the option of performing a close reading of a passage from anything we read or interpret a theme prevalent in many of the works we’ve focused on (analogous to a compare and contrast mini essay).

Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) 145 – Neurobiology of Perception and Decision Making

GAH, this has been my favorite class! We meet twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half each. On Tuesdays, the class splits into 2 and we discuss the assigned scientific articles. Weekly written reports on these articles are submitted, but 4 students each week have the option to present the article to the class rather than submit a written report. I volunteered to present first, which was a little nerve wracking because I had no standards to work off of, but it went very well! It was a pretty casual presentation, with people butting in to ask questions and express their opinions which is exactly what I wanted! Discussion based classes are awesome in theory, but it really only works when students are willing to take risks and participate. The beauty of this class lies in the fact that it’s more of an upper division class and upperclassmen are more willing to voice their thoughts. Then on Thursdays, the professor lectures (we also had 1 guest lecture already!), but still strives to keep the class very interactive. We’ve had tons of 3D image-illusion examples in class and the interesting material is our natural caffeine!!

Mathematics 18 – Multivariable Calculus for Social Sciences

Bleh, so many fixed feelings about this class. I’ve been learning a lot, yes. The concepts I’m learning are not only applicable, but also easily useful in real life, yes. But all these pros are quickly countered by the fact there’s no credit-incentive I’m receiving for this class since it’s entirely an elective for me. There are 3 psets a week and they’re always pretty difficult which means I designate the majority of my homework time to math. I saved the worst con for last: the final for this class is not only on the last day of finals, but it’s also on my 21st birthday! I was hoping to go home earlier than December 21st, but nope, I’ll be embracing the snow and bone chilling cold until then. At least I can rely on the constantly glorious Southern California weather? Help me with more pros here people.

Spanish 61n – The Ethics of Business

Love this class! Two kids who I spent the summer in Peru with are taking this class so it’s great to talk about our experiences and relate class material back to real life, personal experiences! We’ve had a mixture of reading, writing, and movie watching assignments. My teacher is one of those people who would own at Jeopardy because she’s incredibly knowledgeable in all categories of everything. It’s my first Spanish class that isn’t based on grammar, but rather runs like a normal class, just in Spanish. It’s definitely a transition because grammar has always trumped content in lower level Spanish classes, but now it’s flipped!

 

I once was asked in the comments section of my blog how I organize for classes.

I’m a binder person so I’ll designate a binder for each class or split up a binder for multiple classes (typically grouping together classes that happen on the same day so I don’t have to carry too many things on any particular day) using tabs and within those tabs, I’ll divide up class notes, reading notes, section notes, lab notes, etc. depending on the demands of the class. If you look around my room, you’ll probably never guess that I’m super organized with my schoolwork, but I can be very type A about the organization of my school business. I probably get these attributes from my elementary habits when teachers required you to organize in a certain way.

With regards to notes, I like to use different colored pens sparingly and hardly highlight anything. For a few of my premed requirement classes (i.e. organic chemistry and physics), I’ll rewrite my class notes so it’s not obvious that I was semi-dozing off in the early morning lectures. I get all middle-school-girl-giggly when my notes are aesthetically pleasing because for whatever reason, I keep my notes forever. I kept all my notes/assignments from high school and was finally convinced to throw them out right before moving to college.

 

See all the stacks of paper I have on the top of my bookshelf?? That’s the accumulation of my academic-sweat since freshman year of college. These are only the notes I write down, but I take notes with my laptop for certain classes as well! I basically cherish my notes like they’re my chromosome-carrying babies and have this fear that one day I’ll want to know something specific, will remember where I wrote that fact down, but won’t have my pretty, pretty notes to look back through them. This is ridiculous, yes, especially because inventions like the internet and Wikipedia exist, but I can’t help it!

As for studying habits, I’m not much of a re-reader because I personally perceive that task as inefficient and I frown down upon inefficiencies. To trick myself, I’ll read pretty slow the first time around which increases my material absorption and will review my notes to write papers, complete psets (problem sets), and prepare for exams. I discovered that practice problems in preparations for exams have an immensely greater importance because any good exam will test your ability to apply concepts learned in class to varying situations rather than to regurgitate facts.

 

Harvard is academically rigorous – there’s no reason to deny this because we should be proud of it. However, I hope that you can realize that it’s both rigorous and fulfilling in more areas of life than just academia! Next week, I have my first midterms (in math and Spanish), my sorority’s formal, and the Boston Half Marathon! That’s stress in all aspects of my life – academic, social, and physical – and I’m nervous-excited to take on these thrilling obstacles!!

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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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Two suitcases – one for summer clothes and one for winter clothes. One backpack with a laptop, toothbrush, and a passport.

This was my arsenal of protection for five countries in three months. I know I wasn’t exactly roughing it to the extreme, but it sure felt like it at times, especially when my bus company left me at the Peruvian-Bolivian border and my mess of sobbing tears triggered the sympathy of a different bus company to bring me into Bolivia…pretty much my favorite sob story from the summer.

At the age of 20, I’m beyond proud, honored, and lucky to say that I feel like an experienced world traveler. I know that passport photo headshot copies are as useful as eye drops and burn ointment to carry around with you. I know that I can go four days without showering and still be happy. I know that I can survive without a smartphone to Google Map me out of any bad situation.

It’s extremely comforting as well as empowering to discover some of my hidden capabilities. And I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say it feels just as great to be home at Harvard. Home sweet Harvard! 

The heart wants what it can’t get in a really sick and twisted way. I’ve wanted to travel and roam freely since I could string a grammatically correct sentence together, but there were low moments while traveling when I just wanted to be home and settled. I couldn’t wait to return to Mather (my upperclassman “house” or dorm) and have the luxuries of a dining hall where I would never eat potatoes again.

Sure, I may have returned to this:

College essentials

5 loads of laundry later…

But when your college roommates are as welcoming as this:

Welcome back/catch up session with the best friend and roomie!

Then your high spirits help you make your beautiful single into:

I’m excessive 🙁 but I’m working on it!

I’ll never take having a home base for granted ever again. It also helps to live in Mather – one of the twelve upperclassman houses at the undergraduate college – because our house motto is “Singles for Life,” meaning that each student is guaranteed a single room. I’ll admit that I’ve been very spoiled in my college housing lotteries since I’ve never had to bunk with anyone and because the singles in Mather are inside a bigger suite so you can control your degree of isolation for studying purposes!

There are seemingly endless perks concomitant to entering your third year of college – having a room triple the size of your sophomore room is just one of them. My other favorite elderly perk is my increased class elective freedom. Since I’ve completed several of my basic core classes such as physics and orgo (organic chemistry) for both my premed and Neurobiology concentration requirements, I’m now facing much more relaxed requirements with guidelines such as “one advanced Neurobiology class” with more than 20 choices to fulfill it. Having so many choices resulted in my craziest Shopping Week ever.

Shopping Week is referred to as the first week of every semester because students are free to walk in and out of any classes at any time during the week – we essentially shop and sample any classes that our hearts and minds desire. Although it can still be difficult to project if you’ll enjoy the class for the rest of the semester, Shopping Week takes part of the guessing factor out and allows students to make educated decisions when selecting classes. The week is also a lot of freedom that most college students don’t ever experience (my high school friends like to remind me how lucky I am) so I always make sure to try to appreciate the entire week!

Study Card Day” marks the end of the first week of school which is the same as the end of Shopping Week. Students submit to the registrar Study Cards which list the classes they’re planning to enroll in for the semester and sometimes these cards require professor/adviser signatures depending on the course.

I had a lengthy shopping list of classes that sounded super interesting, had a great Q guide score (the Harvard version of ratemyprofessor.com), and had colorful recommendations from my older friends. Although this is a good problem to have, the choices layered the week with stress which is actually a topic that the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, where I work as a research assistant, has discussed. The midst of stress can blur the bigger picture and make your week dreadful. When I had six classes competing for one slot – four of the six occurring simultaneously – I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable since I would be walking out of intriguing lecture classes the size of ~15 students in hopes that maybe another class would be even more engaging.

It wasn’t until I ran into a recently graduated sorority sister by surprise while crossing the streets of Cambridge that my attitude about being a class shopaholic changed. She more than willingly listened to me vent and reassured me. As we parted, she turned to reiterate that Shopping Week’s evil twin of chaos is always short-lived and worthwhile. All the diligent course sorting I’m doing now will make a better semester because my classes and workload will be customized to my interests. I instantly felt better about my situation and lingered around how I feel like my youth has passed but my wisdom hasn’t arrived yet.

What students see on my.harvard.edu

After a short yet long week of shopping and meetings with advisers, I’ve decided to take 4.5 classes. One of my courses counts as “half” a class because it only meets for 1.5 hours every week (3 hours is about the average) but I’ll be taking the class throughout the whole year. Even though it’s a year long course, it will only count as a full one semester course. This special class is my Neurobiology 95hfh tutorial on Dopamine. I was weary about taking a whole class on just one neurotransmitter, but the professor, S. Barak Caine, is beyond riveting! He’s so passionate about the topic and has a knack for transmitting that excitement onto his students. I was hooked after just one lecture and I’m really excited for our class on Monday! Neurobiology tutorials are capped at 12 students so it’s a great way to get to know a professor, especially since the classes really thrive on discussion. Throughout the year, we’ll be focusing on developing skills to critically read and understand scientific articles.

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 50 – Literature and Medicine

This class double counts for a General Education requirement as well as for my secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. I’m a little nervous about the class because I’ll never consider English and Literature my thing, but the professor, Karen Thornber, is a phenomenal public speaker and is very aware that a 2 hour lecture can be difficult to sit through. I’ve only been to one lecture, but it seems like we’ll be attacking how literature throughout the ages has tried to capture illness and disease. I’m looking forward to further developing my writing skills!

Molecular and Cellular Biology 145Neurobiology of Perception and Decision Making

This marks my second course that counts as an advanced Neurobiology course and it was the golden course chosen because of my recent realization that I’m a closet economics person. I started working at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory at the beginning of my sophomore year and therefore have been more exposed to economic professors and research topics ever since. Its always been a fascinating work environment because I hardly think of every facet of life in an economic viewpoint which motivated me to take this class so I can further dive into this thought process. The title of the class is pretty self-explanatory, but what excites me most is our final project which will mimic a grant proposal for a research topic of choice!

Mathematics 18 – Multivariable Calculus for Social Sciences

Math 18 is a brand new class this semester – well it has a brand new name and an upgraded structure! It use to be called Math 20 and it’s required for students on the Honors Economics track. It’s suppose to be like the Math 21 series, but instead of physics applications, we’ll be using economic models. I came across this class as I was looking into Math 19a (Modeling and Differential Equations for the Life Sciences), a Neurobiology concentration requirement, and shopped it just because I was curious. The professor, Meredith Hegg, is new to the university but teaches the class with such energy, encouragement, and enthusiasm that I would have felt stupid for missing a grand opportunity if I didn’t enroll in the class. Math 18 is only offered in the fall, whereas Math 19a is offered every semester, so I’ll definitely be taking Math 19a next semester. For now, I’m pretty happy with taking Math 18 just for fun, although the first three psets (problem sets) have been pretty tough and lengthy. It’s been a little rough because I’ve never taken an econ class so I don’t know what terms like substitutes and complements mean, but there’s tons of support for the class. Meredith Hegg has office hours three times a week and the two undergraduate course assistants also hold a multitude of office hours as well.

Spanish 61nThe Ethics of Business

I’ve had my eye on this course since last spring semester!! I wanted to skip Spanish 50 to take this class because I felt like I’ve had enough Spanish grammar review for a lifetime, but everything happens for a reason. This semester is the perfect semester to take this course because it focuses on businesses in Latin America which is where I spent the majority of my summer! It’s so fun to be able to relate my experiences in Peru and Bolivia – especially because 2 other students who participated in the same DRCLAS (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies) program in Peru are also taking the class with me! This is my first Spanish class that is like a normal class, just conducted in Spanish and I love it!! The 1.5 hours go by too fast and I spend most of that time laughing. It’s also a nice change to only be talking about corn and potatoes instead of actually eating it 🙂

Yes, 3/4.5 of my classes deal with economics/business even though I’m definitely a Neurobiology concentrator. Yay for liberal arts education! As I said before, I’m still really refreshed and excited about this upcoming semester! I’m eager to do my assignments and have no trouble seeing the real life applications of my class lessons. Junior year is starting off with a blast and I wouldn’t change anything about it! Hopefully I can maintain this attitude until the end of finals…

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I’m halfway done with college – I hate admitting this and hate hearing it more. My loathing stems from the general consensus that time passes by too quickly. Wow, I feel so old just typing that.

The Yard & John Harvard Statue with more visitors during commencement than normal; welcome!

As my sophomore academic year ended, I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) believe another phenomenal senior class would be graduating from the college. First and foremost, they all deserve a grand CONGRATULATIONS – no banner, no matter how large, will ever be able to accurately convey the prodigious pride that they have instilled not only in themselves, but also in their family, friends, and even acquaintances. The graduating class of 2012 has – and will continue to – permanently imprint their intellect and kindness both on and off campus. President Faust eloquently and succinctly delineates the greatness of 2012 in her commencement speech [here] – while reading this, I shamelessly freaked out about her how AWESOME her closing line is!! Referencing Call Me, Maybe definitely captures part of Harvard’s culture as this track has conquered campus, infiltrating into the playlist of every (good) party, Housing Day videos, and of course, athletic teams.

 

Fun fact (that I think is true): Class Banners are only presented a few special times – Convocation, Commencement & Reunions!

 

After freshman year at the

Convocation and Commencement happen in the same place: between Memorial Church & Widener Library

undergraduate college, students are officially considered “upperclassmen” as we move into our upperclassmen houses (dorms). This “House Life” definitely lends itself to increased interaction with the older (and wiser) kids on campus. Therefore, I definitely feel much closer to this year’s senior class. In fact, many of them were instrumental in my decision to become premed my freshman spring semester. Needless to say, I’ve gotten pretty reminiscent and have been watching class day/commencement speeches these past few hours – perhaps trying to prematurely absorb and apply the wisdom being imparted. To my surprise, some of my favorite speeches weren’t celebrities, but rather students – students speaking about failures and disappointments: Molly O’Connor Fitzpatrick, Scott Alan Levin-Gesundheit, Jacqueline Rossi, and Steven Maheshwary. As depressing as this may seem, it’s hard to talk about something without mentioning its evil twin. So on the glorious day where we rejoice in our successes, we must also acknowledge how our failures have brought us here.

 

A wider view of the stage where all the speeches take place

Mentioning “Harvard,” more often than not, triggers an overwhelmingly popular misconception that its students are nothing other than absolute perfection. As much as I’d love for this perception to be completely true, it’s really not. In fact, we’re trying to build upon ourselves and improve constantly. This drive to strive for not just more but better is how I like to characterize “Harvard.”

During the last week of this past spring semester, I participated in an Admissions Focus Group where current students and the Director of Digital Communications collaborated on how to basically market Harvard through the power of the internet. It’s slightly unintuitive that Harvard needs to market at all, but it is really important to inculcate to applicants that Harvard is not beyond reach. Personally, I’d like to see the prioritization of humbling Harvard so that interested and prospective students are more open to applying rather than being too intimidated to sit at the table and gamble. The focus group discussed everything from our website and its ease of navigation, Visitas (prefrosh weekend), & decision letters and its wording in personalized letters and phone calls – and more importantly how all these factors compared to other institutions.

Although I really should have been studying for finals and packing my belongings, it was really inspiring to participate in the focus group and how much hard work goes on behind the scenes. In the midst of hectic semesters, it’s all too easy to get caught up in how hard you’re working and neglect the diligence of others. However, I feel much more motivated when I know that those around me are working hard too – and this includes the faculty and staff! I’ll call it the Peer Pressure Syndrome when you work hard because everyone around you is too!

 

**Photo credits to Harvard Magazine!

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On any given day of the year, I would take any pset (problem set, notorious in science classes) over any written assignments. Although I dread deriving equations that other, more brilliant scientists have already derived, I feel much more accomplished doing this compared to spending 10 minutes mentally drafting each meticulous sentence to eloquently express my semi-insightful ideas. However, if I swallow some of my scientific pride, I can definitely appreciate the beauty of the written word. No other class has catalyzed and reaffirmed this appreciation more than the Expository Writing 20 class I took last spring semester (2011).

The summer before your first semester at Harvard College, you take Placement Exams – I remember taking one for math, science (biology or something like that), a language one (if you’re interested in that), and a mandatory writing one. Although actual placement isn’t strictly forced (it’s just highly recommended by faculty, me and my peers!), the latter exam is suppose to determine your entrance into one of two essential Expository Writing classes.

Expository Writing 20 (colloquially termed Expos) is a mandatory class for all freshman and is definitely frequently spoken about. I’m truly being honest when I say most of my conversations about Expos are more like obsession-confessions since the classes are small and led my talented preceptors, but keep in mind that there will always be a handful of people that dislike Expos. The class serves to help transition students into writing in the college environment. There are many, MANY types of Expos 20 classes and this hefty selection not only makes it appealing to the normal student, but more so to students who aren’t inclined to writing (guilty). Students rank these Expos classes by interest and some fancy type of randomizing algorithm places students. Some classes may have multiple sections which increases your chances in the lottery process.

Last spring semester, one of my favorite things to boast about was my Expos 20 class. I was enrolled in Tales of Murder (my first choice was actually Darwinian Dating, but I’ve never been more happy to lose a lottery) and after announcing the title of my class, everyone becomes so intrigued!

The class was divided by three papers and each paper was devoted to a specific unit – this is a typical Expos 20 structure. Our first unit was murder ballads – the preceptor (Emily Shelton) provided a CD of old murder ballads with accompanying lyrics to analyze. The second unit (my absolute favorite unit in which I produced the best six pages I’ve ever (and will ever?) write!) was termed the “lens” unit because we read a variety of stories by Edgar Allan Poe along with literary critiques. We then had to synthesize these two sources to extract a theme about murder. My paper in the second unit argued that anyone who was literate was also capable of committing murder and getting away with it…a creepy thought considering my environment. Unit three was a film unit. I know this sounds like every student’s fantasy but I checked out one of the films from Lamont and since it was only loaned to me for ~5 hours, I returned it immediately after watching it. This means I walked ~1000 yards at like 4am in the dark right after a movie revolving around murder. Scariest thing ever! I had HUPD (Harvard University Police Department) pre-dialed on my phone just in case. Speaking of safety, there’s an escort service HUPD provides so you never have to walk alone if you feel even slightly uncomfortable. It’s always important to remember that Harvard is located in an urban environment; therefore, knowing both your surroundings and resources is crucial. Okay, the preaching is over.

Basically, Expos 20: Tales of Murder completely revamped my writing style. I remember in high school, for the most part, writing felt extremely formulaic. Your first sentence is a general statement, then you narrow your focus into your thesis which had to be the last sentence of your introductory paragraph or else it wasn’t really a thesis. Each body paragraph started with a supporting thesis, followed by a lead in to your quote/concrete evidence. I always felt so constrained and only started feeling like I was actually persuading my readers during my junior year of high school in Advanced Placement English Language (APEL) where my supporting theses didn’t have to be the first sentence of every body paragraph. My writing world really started rocking senior year of high school when a lot of the papers we wrote were promptless – my Advanced Placement English Literature (AP Lit) teacher would provide leading questions and ideas, but it was really up to us to extract an insightful message from the author. I guess you just have to earn freedom in your academic progression. This freedom was really epitomized in my Expos 20 class. When my preceptor told me that introductory paragraphs should really be introductory pages – this wasn’t just the best thing ever, but it just seemed too good to be real!!!!!

There were just so many revolutionary ideas about writing in Expos 20 that I still can’t hardly handle it. We talked about explaining motives which entails proving to readers why both the author and you as an author have a rhyme and reason to write. We talked about “standard readings” and although obvious, it’s important to include. More importantly, however, are the shocking twists and turns to these standard readings which drive the paper into its thesis.

The concepts I learned in Expos 20 still reverberate to this day. During Reading Period (when official classes stop for a week before Final Exams begin), I looked back through my Expos notes in preparation for my 12 page marathon paper for my Ethical Reasoning 24: Bioethics course. I know there are plenty of you out there that can crank out many more quality pages in a leisurely afternoon while dog-sitting, but I would literally rather run a marathon…twice.

That being said, Expos 20 was truly the arsenal of knowledge (and caffeine!) that got me through my final paper. I was so thankful that I even emailed my former preceptor to inform her of my boundless appreciation. I’m still stunned by her immediate (and of course eloquent) response where she basically summarized all three of my papers! Ah! She’s SO COOL! Is she still fair game to invite to my faculty dinners? TBD

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Hello!

Sorry this post is coming a few (umm…almost 12) hours later than normal, but here’s one anyways! While my friends are jetsetting or tanning in Bermuda/Cayman Islands/Mexico, I am just chillin’ (literally, look at the title) with my family and friends back home. In no way am I complaining; Vermont is totally awesome, and I absolutely love it here in March. (Plus, I was in LA over winter break, so that was enough sun to hold me over until the summahtime.) For those of you who are flatlanders (anyone not from Vermont, Northern New Hampshire or Upstate New York), you may not know that Vermont has more than four seasons. We have six, in fact: Spring, Summer, Fall, Stick Season, Winter, and Mud Season, in which we happen to be right now! Though people say you can’t wear white after Labor day, I say you can’t wear white during Mud Season; aptly named for its lovely driving conditions on our dirt roads, this span of a few weeks prepares you for spring by making you readjust your outfits and cars. (You’ll need a realignment on top of taking off your snow tires once May rolls around.) I’ve avoided nice clothing, donned my Muck Boots, and only driven my truck, because the roads are really bad, and you don’t want to bottom out on the ruts and ruin your car!

Luckily, the weather has been pretty nice. It’s been sunny, and today I did all of my French homework for the next few weeks outside on one of our Adirondack chairs and watched my goofy dog, Posey, attempt to catch a squeaky chipmunk as it hid in our stone wall. Here are a few prime photos from the little escapade, which hopefully will bring a smile to your face.

Also, I cut my hair today! Yay! Actually, my really good friend’s mom cut it for FREE, and she owns a salon so it was all professional and such! I also have done a lot of online shopping and research on DIY projects that I can do to create an EPIC dorm room next year…seriously, it’s going to be insane. Prepare yourselves. Think: awesome lighting and headboard.

So, back to Academia: there are a few things that I can assess, as this is the middle of the semester and I probably should crack down around now…not like I haven’t been, but I have to decide my concentration by next November, so I should at least decide whether or not I like my courses. And so I shall, right now, ranking my courses with some numbers, but mostly judgment…just like Flyby’s housing ranking. (Sadly, I won’t make a cool graphic.)

1. Italian Acd: Intensive Italian

This class is totally awesome. My prof (TF, actually) is incredible, and it’s her first semester teaching…ever! She’s wonderful, the camaraderie in my class is top-notch (we had an Italian party the other night where we made pasta carbonara and spoke Italian to one another), and we have learned so much. After having only taken 2 months of Italian, from knowing nothing, I now can form the future tense, both past tenses, and the present, not to mention all the vocab and culture we’ve picked up! Soon we’ll be covering the subjunctive and conditional…yippee! Overall, this class is an A+, which mightn’t be reflected in my final grade, but we’ll see (:

2. Freshman Seminar: Pressing the Page

This class is also totally awesome. The only reason it comes in second place is because I don’t have it every day at 10 am (we only meet for 2 hrs mon/wed), and so I think it hasn’t really been properly tested in the long-term, early-morning scheme of things, like Italian has. My prof is, again, incredible, and Adams’s Bow and Arrow Press is both historical and efficient, creating some gorgeous art. The only reason I’m bummed about  getting housed into Currier is that I’ll be rather far away from the press, but luckily (or unluckily) The Crimson is right next to Adams, so I’ll be spending a lot of my time in that area, anyways! I have no qualms about this course, and really love being able to show my creativity through another outlet (for credit, nonetheless). In conclusion, this class is an A; the only thing that stops it from being perfect is the lack of adequate time to create as much art as I’d like!

Okay, this is where it gets kind of tricky, as I only have 4 courses….so it’s not like the fourth spot is the worst spot, but rather, it is simply the last one, which doesn’t make it bad.

3. Expos 20: Contemporary Theatre

Two things I really like: theatre and writing. Sadly, I don’t like writing about theater all that much; I’d rather perform, and creative writing/poetry is my forté, not analytical writing. But, it’s Expos, and most people complain a lot about their courses. Mine is pretty interesting, and covers risqué topics, so it’s never boring during class…it’s just when I get in front of my computer and try to write my 6 page essay about something I’m not interested in…that’s when it gets pretty difficult. I do, however, want to be a better writer, and I trust that this course will help me to become more apt with my words. Overall, I’d give this course a B, which is probably higher than my current grade.

4. French 50: Liberty and Culture (or something)

J’adore le français, alors c’est un peu étrange que je n’aime pas ce course beaucoup. Also, I’ll be going to Paris this summer (hopefully), which might lend some insight about my sentiments towards French culture. (I love it.) This class is interesting, and our workbook clarifies the complexities of French grammar (which is honestly so ridiculous sometimes…SO MANY EXCEPTIONS), but it feels like a lecture, even though there are only 15 people in it. Language courses should be more interactive, at least for me, and this isn’t very interactive. Still, I am heavily considering a concentration in Romance Languages and Literatures, or at least Francophone studies, so I can’t dislike this class too much (: Final grade? B-. It’s not in the C range, because it is definitely above average, as all courses at Harvard are!

Soooo, that’s all for now. Time to go:

a) bake a cake?

b) clean my lil’ room?

c) record a new song?

You choose.

Until next time,

-Reid

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