As a junior at the College, I live in the upperclassman house called “Mather,” also lovingly referred to as the concrete jungle. We have a residential college system, where you live in The Yard – the heart of campus – during freshman year, then move into a House (dorm). Students remain in the same House – just different rooms – for their remaining time at Harvard (there’s also the option to transfer Houses though) so it’s very natural to gain tons of House pride and feel a strong sense of community. Even if you don’t know everyone in your House, you’ll definitely recognize faces. Mather has definitely become my home, meaning I think about my room (and roomies!) in Mather when I’m not on campus and homesick!
I spend quite a lot of time outside of Mather in different Houses – whether it’s psetting (the act of crushing problem sets with pure knowledge), catching meals or hanging out. I actually think I eat dinner more outside of Mather than in Mather! However, this week I’ve spent a lot of time in Mather. It’s been an awesome week of exciting events here!!
Mather Book Club
I definitely enjoy reading for fun! But I’ve had difficulty in “finding” time to read novels for pleasure and usually just spend hours procrastinating by reading random articles on my Twitter feed. This semester, I’m determined to find time for everything I want to do! I joined the Mather Book Club which meets monthly and I’ve really enjoyed it!
The Book Club is run by a student in Mather, supported by House Masters and Tutors, and definitely not limited to just students living in Mather House as all are welcome! We always discuss books over monkey bread and French pressed coffee – I would come without these incentives too though! 😉
For the month of September, we read Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and discussed the cleverly narrated novel. In October, we read Thérèse Desqueyroux which has a new movie coming out soon! I’ve enjoyed both books and I really look forward to our November book: The Year of Living Biblically, especially because it’s a book I recommended.
I didn’t anticipate how much I would like these discussions. I’ve never been super enthusiastic about English classes, but only because it’s hard for me to appreciate the laborious and time consuming task of writing papers when I could slightly less eloquently express my ideas to someone verbally much faster. However in Book Club, talking and joking about the psyche of characters and their interactions is beyond intriguing because it can either remind you of someone you know or open up a whole new way of thinking and understanding people.
I’m going to take this opportunity to go ahead and advocate for the liberal arts system of education because I feel so lucky that I get to concentrate in the sciences with regards to classes, but also have a plethora of opportunities to immerse my free time in other fields of study as well. As nerdy as that sounded, it’s true!! I’d pick a pset over a paper any day, but have me psetting most nights in a week and I’d be more willing to flirt with papers.
Certain issues may be dividing the country, but this is my first (and only) presidential elections during my time at Harvard and I feel like it has created a unifying atmosphere – all televisions across campus were tuned to the debates!
Most college students are eligible to vote, yet choose not to. To counter this destructive apathy, active Harvard students have been creating this huge movement to push students to register to vote by having voting and registration information available at all the upperclassman Houses’ dining halls during meal times and utilizing TurboVote. There’s even a House-wide competition where the House with the highest number of students who have pledged to vote get a cash prize dedicated towards activities intended to promote House spirit (i.e. seasonal House formals & class outings).
Mather held an informational/discussion event where politically active students and affiliates with the Harvard Kennedy School (i.e. Alum & Professors) came (with cookies!) to the Senior Common Room. They oriented us by laying out the healthcare plans of both Obama and Romney. Then questions were proposed to the presenters as well as the audience. One of the best debated questions was whether the government should focus on making healthcare more affordable or more accessible. When the issue was first presented, I had a clear opinion; but as I listened to others’ rational thoughts, I wasn’t so sure anymore!
I thought it was an extremely well organized event. The turnout was pretty small (less than 20 people) which made the environment much more comfortable to express opinions and ask questions. I’m definitely not one of the most politically aware people, nor do I take classes geared towards these topics, so I’m glad there are many other opportunities to become knowledgeable! Healthcare is such a broad category which affects everyone so I really appreciate Mather making an effort to help students understand the current situation.
I was running meeting to meeting Tuesday night with tons of homework assignments lurking around in my mind, but I’m really glad I made the decision to make time (read: sacrifice sleep) for this event. My next Spanish composition prompt asks me to write a letter to a politician so attending this healthcare discussion has catalyzed my ideas for my next essay! I love when things come full circle!!
Mather Faculty Dinner
Harvard hosts a Faculty Dinner every semester. This is an opportunity for students to invite a member of the teaching faculty – whether this be a professor, graduate student teaching fellow (TF), an adviser, etc. – for a more casual setting for lively conversation over delightful food. If your head is screaming AWKWARD, you can silence it by finding comfort in the fact that you can invite one faculty member with a group of students.
Freshman all share one dining hall: Annenberg, so freshmen and their invited faculty all congregate here for a marvelous dinner, after a reception in the basement of Annenberg also known as the Queen’s Head. The lines are usually ridiculously long but it gives you a chance to break the ice – or create more ice haha. Freshman fall, I invited my Admissions Officer and then my Expos 20 (Tales of Murder) preceptor in the spring.
Each upperclassman House holds their own Faculty Dinner each semester with an earlier reception in the Master’s House. Dinner is always pretty fancy as there are table cloths and people serve you – how exciting! If you choose not to participate, the House asks you to eat dinner in another House for the night. During my sophomore fall, I invited my advanced Neurobiology professor with 3 other students in Mather. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend in the spring when I was taking organic chemistry (orgo) and physics – 2 classes with time consuming labs!
This semester, I invited my Neurobiology Tutorial professor, Dr. Barak Caine. I’ll be his student for the entire year so I figured I’d try to get to know him better sooner rather than later. My friend in Mather is in the class with me so I reached out to her and we sent him a joint invitation. We had a great dinner without even one lull in conversation. He received his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego (my hometown!) so we had lots to discuss and I even learned so many fascinating tidbits about my classmate 🙂 It was definitely one of those nights where I eat 2.5x my body weight and didn’t regret it one bit – in other words, it was definitely a great night.
Snaps to Mather!
Although my week was pretty sleep deprived, it set up a good weekend. Get excited for Head of the Charles in my next post!