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Greetings from the snowy sidewalks of Cambridge!

I believe it’s safe to say that the groundhog lied this year when he said that spring was right around the corner. It started snowing Thursday morning and didn’t let up until Friday afternoon. Subsequently, I had “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas” stuck in my head all weekend, despite the fact that it’s March.

Snowy Street

The snow this week gave me “Nemo” flashbacks!

Irregular precipitation aside, it’s been a pretty slow week here. We’re all gearing up for Spring Break, which is just around the corner, unlike its seasonal namesake. This week, if I wasn’t buried under a mountain of snow, I was buried under a substantial mountain of homework. Papers, midterms, problem sets, and presentations were the name of the game for me. Don’t worry; I’m not complaining – I actually enjoy having a lot of schoolwork to do, especially when it’s subject matter I’m interested in.

A few weeks ago, I attended “Sing It Sisters!” an open-mic night celebrating African American Women as a part of Black History Month. The event was part of the 15th Annual Walter J. Leonard Black Arts Festival. It was funded by the Undergraduate Council (our Student government) and held at the Queen’s Head Pub, on the ground floor of Memorial Hall. Everyone had a great time, and the set list included song performances, spoken word presentations, and some group numbers. At one point, I believe there was a group that attempted to perform the “Single Ladies” dance. I can’t say their execution was particularly successful, but they certainly entertained the crowd.

open mic night singing

One singer performed her own original music! It sounded incredible.

Generally, one of my favorite things to do on campus is attend artistic performances. Last semester, my roommate Kendra and I attended an Opportunes Winter Concert. The Opportunes are one of the many a cappella ensembles on campus. They’re amazing, and each one of their members is incredibly talented. I’ve heard them sing everything from Gladys Knight to Eagle-Eyed Cherry, and their dance moves are always excellently inventive. What’s the best part about the Opportunes? Our very own blogger Reid is a member! Win, win, win.

opportunes concert

The Opportunes were amazing! My favorite song they performed was “Skyfall” by Adele. I always feel surrounded by talent at this school.

Anyway, what’s truly been on my mind this week is the countdown to Spring Break. As much as I love Harvard, there’s nothing like going home for a week to hang out with my family, watch television, shop, and relax.

Stay warm, wherever you are!


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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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Hi everyone!

Summer has wound down to an end, and here we arrive at another amazing year at Harvard.  Sometimes I find that I get so caught up in everything going on in my college life that I forget how truly blessed I am to attend such a fantastic institution, one that offers me every opportunity if I only look for it.  But the beginning of the year is certainly an excellent reminder.

Even though I’ve been on campus all summer working for PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), there is something distinctly magical about Harvard at the beginning of the school year.  The air turns crisp, the sun is bright, and there is a charged atmosphere of excitement as new friends are made, old friends are reacquainted, classes are chosen, extracurriculars are comped, and dorms are unpacked.

Freshman exploring Green ’16 outside of Memorial Hall (photo courtesy of Google)

Before I started writing this blog post, I took some time to go back through my previous posts, all the way back to the beginning of my freshman year, and it is amazing to me how much/little time has gone by and all that has happened in the interim.

One post that is certainly missing, however, is one about my summer experience with PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP).  I tried several times to write this summer, but shockingly working 80+ hours a week is not conducive to publishing anything of substance.  Opening lines of half-completed posts that I still have up on my computer (yes, I am one of those people who keeps up tabs and windows from months and months ago) include “You guys would not even believe how amazing this month has been!” and “Two weeks left of summer.  Two weeks left of the best summer of my life.”

My Full-Time SUPport clipboard!

And these lines are true, but they don’t do a great job of describing what exactly I did this summer, so here it goes.

This summer I worked for the PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP) on its Full Time SUPport (hehe get it?) team.  Some background information – PBHA is a student led, student run 501c3 nonprofit organization that helps to run over 80 public service programs that reach out to over 10,000 people in the Greater Boston area.  At 1,400 student volunteers from Harvard, Wellesley, Tufts, Wentworth, and Boston University, we are one of the largest student-run organizations in Boston.

SUP is a huge part of what we do.  With twelve inner-city summer camps run throughout Cambridge and Boston, over 800 kids, around 80 college-aged Senior Counselors, and many more high-school aged Junior Counselors, in addition to the student Directors, the Staff, and the Full and Part Time SUPport teams, SUP is a large operation.  As a student Officer at PBHA during the school year and a member of the Full-Time SUPport team during the summer, I got to help run SUP at every level.

Color-coding and filing evaluations for every camp

At the organizational level, I was able to see the big picture of SUP, talk about its vision and goals, help enact and enforce its policies, and have input on the outcomes not only for that summer but in some cases for summers five years out.  At more of an operational level, each member of the Full-Time SUPport team had projects to complete over the course of the summer.  Mine were organizing two weeks-worth of Senior Counselor Training at the beginning of the summer, coordinating and leading the Community Cousins program (which I am continuing into the school year, so more on that later!), and carrying out all of the Evaluation processes that help SUP assess its programming and progress.  In addition, as Programming Chair during the school year, I also continued my responsibilities to what we call the “term-time” programs that chose to continue throughout the summer.

The van I drove all summer. We became quite close.

And at the most basic (and fun) level of SUP, I spent a lot of time leading camping trips in the Myles Standish State Forest, lifeguarding at the beach or the pool, substitute teaching, and driving a 10 passenger van full of children around to and from various field trips!  This was easily my favorite part of the summer because it meant that I got to know the kids.  Nothing made my day more than when I would pull up to one of the camps, and the kids getting into my van recognized and talked to me!  It was the time when I could look at them and know without a doubt that all of my late nights and early mornings and lack of weekends were absolutely worth it.

My tent while camping with the kiddos

On top of all of my SUP stuff, I also wrote two and a half briefings for Harvard Model Congress to be sent out to schools around the country for our conferences coming up later this year!

Just because I had to write briefings, didn’t mean I couldn’t do it sitting outside of Peet’s Coffee in Harvard Square while listening to live music!

Whew (taking a breath because I’m pretty sure I wrote all of that so fast I didn’t breath).  So yes, this is why I didn’t blog.

But lest you think my summer was horrendous, let me remind that it was the best summer of my life!  I didn’t complete any of the goals on my summer bucket list that I alluded to in my previous blog post, but that was only because when I made that list, I had no idea what kinds of opportunities would be open to me!  Rather than learning how to do a cartwheel (I’m starting to believe I might actually be hopeless), I learned how to lifeguard.  Rather than watch all of the Academy Award Best Pictures, I watched a Boston Public Schools community meeting in which parents, students, and teachers alike debated the current redistricting process.  And rather than eat at a cool new cultural food restaurant every Friday night, I found myself eating perfectly normal sandwiches from delis in Dorchester, the South End, South Boston, Mattapan, and Cambridge.

My best friend Jared and me at the City of Cambridge Summer Dance Party! It’s a giant party for all of the members of the Cambridge community, old, young, and in between, to come out and celebrate the start of summer.

I also did some really cool things like go to the Museum of Science, a Pawtucket Red Sox game, Canobie Lake Park, Lexington and Concord, Minute Man State Park, Cape Cod, and Washington D.C.!  Some of these were on my own time, but most were on field trips with the camps or with my Community Cousins program!

Some friends of mine and I also ran the Color Me Rad 5K!

I guess the bottom line is that while I was working all summer, work was fun, and I made so many friends in the process!  And as I am starting to think about my future for life outside of college, I’ve learned that any profession where I can gain new experiences, love my work, and make new friends (isn’t that wonderfully vague?) is exactly where I want to be.

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Summer is absolutely flying by! Bit scary to think that it’s been almost 6 weeks since my internship started; pretty soon I’ll be back on campus for FOP! Having now spent a good chunk of my summer working, I thought I’d check in and give an update on everything that’s been going on… Enjoy!

As I mentioned, I’m now in the throes of a nine-week summer internship at Monitor Group, a strategy consulting firm based out of Cambridge that does work in a huge range of content areas and industries and has offices around the globe. I was lucky enough this spring to get an offer with them through the On Campus Interview program run by Office of Career Services, and I signed on for their training program towards the end of the semester. As a premed Social Studies concentrator, I came into the summer with effectively zero business background and only a faint idea of what “consulting” really meant. Fortunately, the internship was designed with people like me in mind, and Monitor’s done a fantastic job of introducing me to the foreign world of strategy consulting.

In total, there are twelve interns in my program, hailing from seven colleges and representing a huge range of academic backgrounds. One of the best things about the summer has been the opportunity to get to know my fellow interns – Monitor is unique in having all of its interns located in a single office, and it’s been really fantastic to have a group of peers to spend my time with. We started the program with a weeklong orientation to Monitor, its policies, and the expectations for the summer. We learned the ins and outs of Excel and PowerPoint, heard from some of the partners at the firm, and got a chance to ask questions of the younger consultants (examples include what to wear on “casual Fridays” and how to effectively ask for feedback from managers). Mixed into that week were a few social events, including dinners with other employees at the firm and outings with the interns, which provided ample opportunity for the twelve of us to get to know our coworkers (and each other!).

Dinner early on in the summer

After orientation, I received my “allocation” for the summer: I was assigned a case team and a manager and sent a bunch of “ramp up” materials to get up to speed with the material and the team’s progress. I’ve found the case to be really interesting so far, as I’m working on a pharmaceutical case that combines social and private sector with government and non-profit work. Having spent a lot of time at Harvard thinking about social issues, it’s really cool to attack similar issues from a totally different angle. There are certainly moments where I feel a bit out of place and find myself asking lots of questions, but I’ve been surprised by the degree to which the skills I’ve picked up at school (communication, critical thinking, secondary research capabilities) have been directly applicable in an office setting. Way to go, liberal arts education!

Monitor’s been doing a great job of planning a fun summer for us, as well – we’ve gone to dinner in Boston, tried out our artistic abilities at “Paint Bar,” and traveled to Maine for a weekend white water rafting trip. Check out some photos below!

Monitor Interns at Paint Bar

Scavenger hunt through Boston

All of the Monitor interns (Cambridge + Toronto!) in Maine

And though it may not sound like it from what I’ve written above, this summer has also provided opportunity for non-internship-related fun in Cambridge. I’ve found that a ton of my friends are on campus, many conducting thesis research, and it’s been nice to have some time to catch up with them in a slightly different environment. I’m living in Central Square, which is a fun change of pace, and I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot more about Cambridge from my adventures this summer. I’ve been walking to work as much as possible (it’s about 2 miles from my apartment), and I must confess that there are a lot of pockets of Cambridge that I’ve yet to explore. No better way to really get a feel for an area than by walking!

Celebrating the 4th in Cambridge: no better place to be than ‘Nochs!

At Fenway with my brother!

Shockingly, summer is beginning to wrap up, which is both terrifying and exciting. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing about my PAF placement for this fall and getting back on campus for FOP trips and Freshman Week (shout out to 2016!). Not so excited to think about post-grad life, the job search, and the fact that my last year at Harvard is quickly approaching! 🙁


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Janet Song, Chemical and Physical Biology Concentrator in Quincy House, Class of 2013

This summer (as with the past 2 summers and 2 school years), I’m working in the Macklis lab in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB) thanks to funding from the Harvard College Research Program. I’m a rising senior concentrating in Chemical and Physical Biology, who loves watching football, playing cards, and eating froyo.

The SCRB department in the fall

An aerial view of the SCRB department

I study corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN), which are the neurons that control voluntary movement – like moving your arms or legs. CSMN are located in the neocortex (the “cerebral cortex”; that’s the part of the brain that makes us human) and extend axons through the brain and down the spinal cord to make connections at every level of the brainstem and spinal cord, from the controlling centers for the face in the brainstem to the cervical spinal cord located at our neck, down to the lumbar cord located at our lower back. I am interested in characterizing genes that are specifically expressed either in the population of CSMN that extend axons to the cervical spinal cord or those that extend axons to the lumbar spinal cord to see what roles they play in axon outgrowth and building the “circuitry” during development. As you can probably imagine, understanding the development of CSMN is important for spinal cord injury (in which CSMN damage leads to paralysis) and diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease (in which CSMN are the brain neurons that degenerate and die, leading to paralysis).

Green shows the path that CSMN that project to the cervical cord would follow, while red shows the path that CSMN that project to the lumbar cord would follow

The Macklis lab uses mice to study CSMN development. One of the ways we investigate how genes function during development is by doing experiments using in utero electroporation. As the name suggests, this allows us to mis-express or knock-down the gene we’re studying in specific progenitor cells and neurons. We then analyze the developing mice a few days after that. Single genes each do specific things, like individual concert instruments, and, together, orchestrate the incredibly complex developmental processes that build the brain!

Of course, I wasn’t born with a pipette in one hand and a test tube in another. When I first joined the Macklis lab way back in freshman year, the only things I knew about neurons were that some of them were located in the brain and that they allowed us to form conscious thoughts. My Principal Instructor, Professor Jeffrey Macklis, paired me up with postdoctoral fellow Vibhu Sahni, who has been an amazing mentor through the years. Both Prof. Macklis and Vibhu have been instrumental in helping me to grow as a scientist.

Lab isn’t always fun though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated the same experiment over and over again because it failed the first time (and the second time and the third time …), and the hours are nothing to sneeze at. Mice aren’t thinking about what day of the week is convenient for you when they become pregnant or give birth. And I, along with most of my fellow undergraduates, spend time in lab on the weekends as well.

At the end of the day, though, I’m here doing research because I genuinely enjoy it. There’s a special kind of excitement that comes when you discover something that no one else in the world knows, and it’s that sense of possibility – combined with a pervasive curiosity about biological systems – that keeps me motivated. As I apply to graduate programs in biology this coming fall, I hope that I will continue to possess a sense of wonderment and inquisitiveness about the natural world.

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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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Everybody’s been saying that this is a mild winter, and maybe they’re right.  But it still seems freezing and grey to me, and I’ve definitely had the January Blues.  Last week, I woke up early and looked outside my window, only to see a completely frozen world – there was white ice on the ground, an opaque grey sky, and leafless trees dotting the street.  Everything looked the exact same color, and I felt a sinking sadness in my heart at the bleak sight of winter.  So I did what any normal 21-year-old would do – I called my parents on the phone and cried.

But this story has a happy ending.  After my phone call, my parents were so worried about my wellbeing (SAD is a true phenomenon!) that they sent me a sun lamp, and it came in the mail only two days later.   Now I use it in the mornings when I’m checking email: a simulated sun on the desk beside me.  And it has actually helped!   My roommate and I also decorated the living room with a tropical/Bohemian flavor, so we can pretend it’s summer all year round:

Well, everyone on this blog has been raving about their courses for the spring, and since I’m also thrilled about mine, I’ll mention them briefly.  First, some backstory: My roommate and I are both in the humanities (she’s into photography and I do English), so a lot of our classes have been theory-based over the years.  But that’s not just characteristic of the humanities – my friends who are government or economics majors encounter an almost equal number of classes full of theorizin’ and philosophizin’.  The idea is that when we get into the real world, we’ll be able to practically apply these complex frameworks of meta-knowledge.  While that might be true, I’ve been increasingly attracted to classes whose content is facts-based and has a more direct, unambiguous application – classes that are oriented toward a practicum of some kind.

The first exciting one I’m taking is called The African City.  Contrary to many opinions, Africa is full of more than savannah, grasslands, deserts and jungles.  This class focuses on the urban centers of my most beloved continent.  We’re learning how to use Geographic Information Systems, which is a kind of data mapping system that employs Google Earth & other topographical maps.  Using GIS technology, you can get an immediate, visual representation of data spreads like population density across Africa, or sites of armed conflict. For this class, we each pick one city that we really care about, and we research that city for the entire semester.  Each week, we’ll be focusing on maps of different kinds – transport routes, cultural flows, ethnic & linguistic groupings, and lots more.  I’m so thrilled about this class because my city of focus is Dar es Salaam – a city that I hope to live and work in someday.

Another great class I’m taking is called Africa & Africans.  When I first came to college, I definitely didn’t expect to be studying Africa in school.  Africa was just my home, and I wasn’t even sure it should be a school subject!  But that was totally naïve, and I’m realizing how unfamiliar I am with a part of the world that I love dearly.  This semester, I’m taking a class on the history of sub-Saharan Africa over the last century.  It’s taught by Caroline Elkins who just happens to be an expert on post-colonial Kenya, so I’m in good hands.

The final class I’m super excited for is called Creative Nonfiction – it’s a writing workshop where we get to improve our journalistic writing.  I’ve already taken one writing workshop at Harvard, which was probably my favorite class of all time, so I’m looking forward to the follow-up.  And as I mentioned above, I love that the skills from the class are immediately applicable in a straightforward way.

One more little story before I sign off — last night, I went to see a band called Augustana play in the city, and they were wonderful.  I adore loud shows because the music shakes everyone in the audience in the exact same tempo; I always imagine that our hearts have been transplanted by the bassline, so we all have the same heartbeat for the length of the song. Anyway, the band has a song called Boston, which made everyone happy, and it portrayed this city in a pretty light.  And then on the T ride home, the subway was crammed with exhilarated Bruins fans, who had just won the game 4-3.  I was the only one on the subway not wearing a Bruins jersey, but in that moment, I think I felt just as happy and proud of Boston as everyone else.


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After spending a lovely few days in Vermont for Thanksgiving, I returned to campus today. This is what I have learned: I miss a lot of aspects of my old life, but I also am glad to be in this new environment; in fact, my life at Harvard is easier in some ways! Here are some mini-lists, interspersed with some recent photography!


Things I miss:

1. Fresh _____ (food, towels, air, sheets, silverware, etc.) There is nothing like the clean air of Vermont, and living in a city is quite the contrast. While my lungs miss the fresh air, my skin misses the fresh sheets and towels. This could easily be solved by increasing the frequency of my laundry runs, and has been ameliorated by the smuggling of ANOTHER towel from home to my dorm room. Laundry is normally not my top priority, but I’m not lazy enough to have it done by Harvard Student Agencies (although that’s offered, for those of you who are repulsed by dirty clothes). As for food and silverware, this is another problem that I could probably solve. Although Annenberg is very good for the number of people it serves, I miss the fresh veggies and fruits that my mom would bring home every day. Shaw’s is just a short trip by T, and I technically could go out and purchase some delicacies for my fresh food fix. (For silverware, please see ‘laundry’ above.)


2. My old friends!

This is not Harvard’s fault; it is just part of growing up. I had to start a new life at college, and that means losing a lot of contact with my friends, who are at colleges such as Middlebury, Denver, and Queens or living and working across the country. I miss them a TON, especially my lovely friends Tucker and Georgie, who happen to be chillin’ on the  West Coast. This problem, too, will be solved by J-term: FLYING TO LAX!


3. Driving!

It’s really, really fun to drive on dirt roads. If you’ve never done it before, you’re missing out.


4. My family

Okay, so I miss my mom. And my dad. And my stepdad, my sister, my half-sister, my dog, and my cat. But video chatting on iChat is the best! It was awesome catching up with them all over Thanksgiving break, as well as an extension of this family in the form of cousins, uncles, and aunts.


5. Vermont itself!

I hail from the best state in the Union, no doubt. We have maple syrup, cider, and leaves: you know that. We also have COWS, TREES, MOUNTAINS, FLANNEL, TRACTORS, MY HOUSE, MUD SEASON, STICK SEASON, 6 MONTHS OF WINTER, THE ONLY CAPITAL WITHOUT A MCDONALDS, THE BEST SWIMMING HOLES, GORGEOUS RIVERS AND LAKES, AND NOT THAT MANY PEOPLE!!! Maybe you can tell that ILOVERMONT.


Things I Don’t Really Miss That Much:

1. Driving

Okay, so it may be slightly contradictory, but driving isn’t always the best. Not paying for gas, worrying about speeding tickets or about where you’re going to stay the night in poor weather is very pleasing. As much as cars are fun, they are also a pain and a drain (of cash), and I’d rather be outside walking in the cold air than trying to drive with these crazy Boston drivers!


2. Living at Home

Don’t get me wrong: I have the best house in the entire world, the best family I could ever ask for, and live in the best state. Here at Harvard, though, I don’t have to cook my own meals, do my dishes, worry about making a fire when I get home (yay heating!), share the dessert, feed the dog, or drive an hour to find a town! The Boston area is incredible; there’s everything you need, from British candy at Cardullo’s, to hot-pot in Chinatown… it’s really the perfect city for me, and not too overwhelming for a country girl.


3. The Endless Winter

I am a huge snowboarding/skiing enthusiast. Vermont is a great place to do both of those things, but by the time March rolls around, it’s getting a little old. The temperate climate of Cambridge (comparatively, to Northern New England) is really, really nice. For example: there was 6 inches of packing snow in Vermont over break, and it was about 35 degrees most of the time. In Cambridge, there is no snow, it’s around 48 degrees, and spring comes a lot earlier. Way to go, Massachusetts! I really dig this weather!


4. My Old Classes

Though my four courses may or may not be kicking my butt right now, they’re waaaay better than the eight I had to take in high school. Having a bajillion courses to choose from is something very novel to me, so I spend a preposterous amount of my free time drooling over all of my options. (Yes, I have already decided on my second-semester courses, but that remains a surprise until I finalize my schedule!) Harvard is great because you can take any class you want to and be guaranteed an incredible professor, as long as you check the handy-dandy Q guide (rating system) to see just what you’d be getting yourself into. There’s nothing quite like the level of academics here, and I sure am glad to have access to all this learnin’!


5. Wondering Just What To Do Tonight…

I am now at college, where the number of people in my class exceeds the number of people in my town. Therefore, there are plenty of things going on, which can be seen here. Examples of my week ahead: Eleganza (a fashion show) fundraiser, OppsKroks jam (super great a cappella groups), band rehearsal, Little Shop of Horrors, and House Formals. There is no way to become bored here! One would truly have to try in order to do nothing.



So that’s it! School’s great, home’s great, but they each’ve their own pros and cons. I am very excited to go home after finals, but I think I’ll be even more excited to come back to start second semester. (Yes, this is a little premature….) Check out some of my photos of Vermont!


Vermont over Thanksgiving



Snowy Snowy Porch



Cider Making! Yummmmm



Hockey vs Dartmouth!

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As usual before an interview, my body temperature was high, my confidence was low, and my brain was fluctuating between clutter and utter emptiness. When I got to the interview room, I nudged open the door, tripped on the carpet, and gave a sweaty handshake to the three interviewers.

“Have a seat,” said the dude in the middle. I did.

“Why do you think you’d be good for this summer position?” he asked, flashing me a vaguely patronizing smile.

The interview should have been a breeze. I was trying to go to Botswana to teach English, and I had a lot of great answers to his question. For example, “I’m an English major,” and “I’m familiar with Africa” – those would have been good answers. Instead, I treated my interviewers to a series of Um’s, Uh’s and Likes, before launching into a modest plea: “Well, I’m not great at teaching, but I do love kids! Well, what I mean to say is, I like teenagers.” They stared at me bleakly, and I felt my soul shriveling up into a little ball of defeat.

That was last semester, and that’s how all my interviews went. I know Harvard kids are supposed to be great at interviews, but I like to think of myself as an interviewee-in-training. I applied to a kabillion summer programs (well, three or four), and got rejected from all of them. As summer got closer and closer, I wrung my hands and thought, What am I going to do? Everyone else will be saving the world and/or interning at prestigious institutions. But about three weeks before summer began, the African Studies department sent out an email soliciting kids to apply to fully-funded language programs in Africa.  I applied on a whim, and the rest is history.  I had the happiest summer of my life on the Kenyan coast, studying Swahili through Yale’s summer program.

This past weekend, my roommate and I planned out a walking-tour of the Cambridge/Somerville area. We spent Thursday night on Google maps, designing a long route through the city, choosing cafés and landmarks to see along the way. I’ve had the chance to see a lot of Cambridge already – a concert here, a meal there, a grocery trip to Whole Foods. But my sense of spatiality is underdeveloped, and it’s hard for me to visualize how those different locales are related to each other. Every café, shop, park, club and alleyway that I’ve visited are just atomized places in my head, connected by a mysterious network of streets.

Our walking-tour actually went pretty smoothly. My roommate was in charge of the route and kept referring to the maps on her iPhone. We walked through plenty of classic New England neighborhoods, strolled by some train tracks, and admired some graffiti. At different points during the walk, we’d emerge into an area that I recognized – somewhere we’d been before – and amazingly, it fit into my mental map of Cambridge. As I recognized more and more places, a cohesive scheme of the city began to emerge in my head. (“Holy cow, this is Porter Square!”) It was weird and satisfying to finally understand how all the places connected.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that sometimes things don’t make sense until way, way later. Sometimes the events of your life will seem really random, and disappointments will feel absolutely crushing and nonsensical. But I think that eventually the pieces fit together into something kinda unified, something kinda beautiful.  So keep trying risky things, keep applying to programs, keep going to interviews even if your pulse rate gets dangerously high.  Keep moving along.  In retrospect, all the failures and dead ends usually make a lot more sense.

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