You are currently browsing articles tagged Extracurriculars.

As I mentioned last week when I was describing my course schedule for the semester, I’m taking more independent classes this term. These less structured courses are a new experience in my academic career and I’m nervous-excited as I venture into this personally new unknown. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage my time and work well enough to not go crazy come November.

One of the two of my more independent classes is GHHP 91r (Global Health and Health Policy Supervised Reading and Research). The goal of the class is to write a mini-thesis on a topic of choice under the supervision of a faculty adviser who is there to help focus my topic as well as grade me at the end of the term. I’ve (tentatively) chosen to continue my topic from the summer when I was performing clinical trials about maternal health and nutrition (vitamin A/iron supplementation during pregnancy within malaria-endemic regions). However, I’ve been unable to secure an adviser as of yet. I’ve been emailing and meeting with people like crazy and I have (false?) confidence that I’ll find an adviser eventually, but this process has been much more difficult than I anticipated and thus, I have been a bit discouraged.

Good thing this discouragement doesn’t carry over from classes to my extracurricular activities! This week of school has been focused on my “work” outside of the classroom.

In my search for a global health adviser, I was directed to a Harvard initiative about raising awareness about malaria. There’s actually a competition open to all Harvard affiliates and I’ve gathered 3 of my friends to form a team with me and enter. When I first perused the article and found out about the competition, I definitely thought it was cool, but something I would never enter due to no time/thinking I would never win. However, I still attended their informational session and ran into some friends there. We threw around the idea of forming a team and I’ve been super determined to enter with a great idea. We don’t have any ideas yet though — but we’ve been having a blast trying to come up with some! Okay, so most of our meeting time is spent joking around and relaying stories, but the few serious minutes we had were pretty productive. We’ve scheduled a meeting with the head of Malaria No More and intend to schedule many more with professors and whatnot.

I’ve not only never entered into a contest of this sort, but also wouldn’t have seen myself doing something like this. I’m getting really excited about my team though since we come from many backgrounds (life sciences, economics, education, computer science), it’s been really useful to bounce ideas off of each other!

This Defeating Malaria contest is definitely more of an academic extracurricular. However, I’m also involved with the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) which is an umbrella organization running a bunch of programs geared towards public service and volunteering in the community. Mentoring was a huge part of my high school years; I mentored elementary students afterschool all throughout high school. When I moved across the country for college, I knew I wanted to continue mentoring and the opportunity to mentor the heavy immigrant population in Dorchester was perfect because it would also help keep my Vietnamese language ability alive.

I joined the Teen sector of the BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) program during my freshman fall and started directing the program the following year. At the beginning of each semester, PBHA programs like BRYE work diligently to recruit student volunteers. I spent a lot of time this week interviewing applicants. I’ve also stressed the importance of recruting mentees this year so I’ve been calling a lot of families in Dorchester and utilizing my proficiency in both Vietnamese and Spanish. BRYE has truly been the best application of my language abilities and I love it!

One more “extracurricular” that I’ve tacked onto my schedule for my senior year has been trying to find something to do post-graduation. My plan is medical school, but not immediately. I’m hoping to fill in my gap year(s?) with something related to the medical field and hopefully this different insight will help me become a better practicing doctor when the time comes! Besides from looking into research fellowships, I’ve also been on the job hunt for healthcare consulting/tech firms. I’ve never actually sought out a job before and this whole process of networking and interviewing has been intimidating! I had a phone interview with a healthcare software company this week and apparently that went well enough so that I’m at the next stage of their hiring process: a skills assessment. It’s essentially an online logic test from what I gather. There will be a proctor just sort of watching me as I take this 2 hour test, but I won’t be able to see the proctor! I’ve never done anything like this and I’m nervous – probably more nervous than what’s good for me. I’m taking this logic test this week and just don’t know what to do with myself since I feel like I can’t prepare for it…

So I’ve been trying to relax. I’m a senior and I’m not currently active in the medical school application cycle. There are endless reasons why I should be having a great time…and I may or may not be exploiting them. However, the ticking clock ticks louder senior year because time is definitely running out to do everything I want to do! But one step at a time right?

One thing I’ve always wanted to do was to get money to throw a party. Thanks, Harvard! There’s a student run group on campus called Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisors (DAPA) and they give out grants every week to students who apply for funding. I decided I wanted to host a party revolving around guacamole and although I requested $40, I received a good $20 for guacamole and everyone was so impressed. It was the best. I definitely want to continue taking advantage of this resource to feed all my small cravings 🙂

I sort of have this problem where even when I’m full, I won’t stop eating. It’s the worst. I’m just glad I have an affinity for exercising to counter my bad habits. I have my third Boston Half Marathon coming up in three weeks and have been experiencing anxiety about it for the past three months. I don’t ever feel ready for long races! But around the end of every September, there’s a community 5k event called the Brian Honan. It’s an amazing event, full of community and spirit! Harvard also sponsors a huge group of runners at the event so registration is free for us! Today was my third Brian Honan as well as my best 5k time! A huge group got together for the event and some of us even jogged back together with a stop at the football stadiums to run up a few stairs before heading over to brunch. Today was just overall an amazing day! It was downpouring at 6am in the morning but the sun was out and the day was beautiful by noon when the race started!

In the summer of 2012, we were all in Barcelona together. In the fall of 2013, we’re still running happy at the Brian Honan 🙂

It’s been a great week, but I need to stop ignoring my classes. Midterms are coming up…what?! Midterms are definitely the sneakiest thing in college.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The best lectures are stories – they’re motivated and seamless, captivate us, and intrigue us. But every great story comes to an end and this is how I perceive the end of my third year of college. It’s been an incredibly enduring as well as fulfilling ride – from ending my first summer abroad experience as a dual continent venture to rush back to begin my junior fall semester, from taking more than the average 4 classes per semester for the first time, from finishing my MCAT all the way to kicking off my junior spring with snowboarding in New Hampshire with the blockmates, to meeting alumni Sheryl Sandberg & Matt Damon, and to witnessing the boundless strength of Boston. I can’t believe another year of college has flown past me – but describing it this way makes it seem like the quick passage of time is a passive experience. I’d like to think I’m actively partaking and making the most of my undergraduate years at Harvard. (Like how Reid talks about actively making life changing decisions!)

It’s very common for students to graduate and find themselves settling down nearby Boston for real-world jobs, research, grad school and the like. For students who aren’t graduating this May, we also try to linger around campus too – whether that is to bid farewell to graduating seniors, continue pursuing public service/research projects that began during term time, or make some extra summer money with jobs through the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) like Dorm Crew, baby-sitting, bartending, etc. We love staying on campus when the weather isn’t a frigid 3 degrees and we enjoy campus even more when classes have ended.

After an entire semester of story time-lectures, I think it’s more than fair to say that all students deserve a little time to kill a few brain cells catching up on trashy television and sunbathing – all of which I really want to be guilty of as soon as possible! “Camp Harvard” (no school, just friends) is definitely a much needed, much slower pace to life that no one will ever complain about. Just imagine an ideal fantasy world where you can endlessly chill with your friends – guiltlessly too as there are no papers/psets (problem sets) to start or lectures to catch up on!

The summer after my freshman year, I stayed about 1.5 weeks after the end of the semester to work Dorm Crew which is pretty much an entirely student run business contracted by the university to clean students’ dorm rooms both during term-time and the summer in order to get rooms sleek for new/summer students and previous students (who come back for reunions!).

I hardly had time to wrap up the loose ends of my sophomore year as booked it to the airport a mere 2-3 hours after my last final, rushing home knowing that I’ll be abroad for the first time in South America (Peru and Bolivia) soon.

This year, I checked off my junior year by taking a chemistry final on the morning of the last day of final examinations; it was the worst having to pack with final preparations hanging over my head! A lot of my friends graciously helped me pack and move – I really couldn’t have packed everything on time without them!! Friends help me every year and I can’t imagine doing it without them, let alone leaving them for the summer!

The way my plans worked out this year, I’d stay on campus for about 3 days after the official move out day, then hop on a plane to Africa for the summer. Seniors do not have to abide by this move out deadline though since they stay for Senior Week and Commencement.

Senior week is planned by the senior class committee (which fellow blogger Scott is a part of!) and includes really awesome events like a trip to 6 Flags amusement park, a scavenger hunt with prizes, a Boston harbor moonlight cruise, dances/formals, and more! Staying on campus low-key for the first few days of Senior Week was a little too much foreshadowing for me, but I really needed a few days to run some errands and really prepare for my summer in Africa and South America.

One of the errands on top of my priority list was white water rafting with my blockmates 🙂 A few months ago, we bought this package deal for rafting in Northwestern Mass. IT WAS SO FUN. The weather was pretty crappy, but it was the first time I didn’t mind the rain! It didn’t rain all the way down the river (thank goodness), but it rained for a good part of it and it got a little bit chilly. The cold and being really uncomfortably damp for hours was well worth it! We took turns sitting at the front of the boat, trying to maintain balance standing on the edge of the boat, and wheelies (our boat was much more vertical by the way *brushes shoulder*) – I even got to sit on the very front of the raft while everyone rowed like crazy down a rapid (aka “riding the bull”)! It’s important to keep in mind that college is all about the opportunities you take, whether that’s from your school or nearby nature, have fun with it!! Adventure is everywhere!

I spent the next few days catching last meals with friends, lingering in the dhall (dining hall) for hours, watching movies, and (re)packing. One of the highlights from all this non-scheduled time was definitely catching lunch with my former Expos 20 preceptor!

Expos 20 (Expository Writing) is a required course for all freshmen. During the summer before coming to Harvard, admitted students all take a placement exam that sounds much more intimidating than it actually is! What I remember about the placement exam for Expos is that it’s a timed, on demand essay. There may or may not be like 2 prompts to choose from. Your placement is either in Expos 10 or Expos 20. You don’t have to take Expos 10, but you have to take Expos 20. The former is only offered in the fall while the latter is offered both in fall and spring and students are assigned to a certain semester to enroll. Straight out of high school, I’d be the first to eagerly admit my hatred for writing; but I’m not so eager to admit that now – check me out blogging!

Regardless of how averse you are to arranging letters coherently, Harvard tries to make the pain as minimal as possible by offering tons of courses with specific topics: from Family Matters and Shakespeare to Darwinian Dating and HIV/death. From a long, long list of available courses (which change from year to year), you rank your preferences and some mysterious algorithm spits out an email with your assignment. I wanted Darwinian Dating so so so so so so soooo bad. All 3 of my roommates got Darwinian Dating in the fall, but I was assigned to take it in the spring and did not get Darwinian Dating. womp womp. As a freshman, I pretty much felt like my world was ending when I had to enroll in Tales of Murder.

Little did I know that I would make such a great friend in my Tales of Murder Expos preceptor!! We’ve kept in touch ever since freshman spring (2011). To be honest, we hadn’t really spoke after the class until a year later when I emailed her saying that I looked through my Expos notes in order to outline my paper for a Bioethics course I was taking. In her quick response, she summarized some of the key points of my essays from 2 years ago and it was just like this.

Sadly enough, this past spring semester was her last semester at Harvard as she’s taking time off to write a book. I definitely wanted a (final?) goodbye so we made time to meet up and catch up. It’s kinda scary (but definitely scary-awesome!) finding friends in your teachers, but these are the great relationships this intensely academic environment fosters! When people say the people is the best part of Harvard, we’re not only talking about the students here.


Tags: , , ,

Wowwww, hey guys…it’s been a long time. I have TOTALLY been shirking away from my duties as a blogger, but just you wait – this post is bringin’ the HEAT, and I’ll be here allllll summer. (Also, this post keeps being unable to save and losing EVERYTHING I’ve written, so I hope it doesn’t do it again… because if it does, I am outta here.)

So. I guess it’s that time of year again. School is OUT, I’m in Pennsylvania enjoying the fresh air and the food, and June is just around the river bend. Should I choose the smoothest course, steady as the beating drum? NO!* In fact, this entire semester has been about choosing the course that I most desire; in college, you have a say, you have a great amount of choice. Going to Harvard is preparing me for when I have to make crucial decisions, ones that will change my life – or perhaps I’ve already started to make those! On second thought…I definitely have. Here goes: the top 5 choices of sophomore year!


5. Nostalgic for The Nostalgics… 

Me singin’ at our last gig. (SamRichmanPhoto)

I had to take off time from The Nostalgics to deal with my vocal issues…this was not a decision I wanted to make. It was, however, life-changing. I suppose, if I look at it in a warm light, it was a good method of ensuring that I didn’t become too involved with my music and ignore the other things in my life that have so much weight. I definitely got to spend quite a good bit of time with my photo ladies instead of gigging and rehearsing, giving my voice a rest while testing my eye. It also really saved my voice – as much as I love soul and Motown, it really pains me – so I will always be grateful that I am taking the time now to work through a spot of trouble. Also, being apart from the group made me realize how much it means to me, and I know that the music will always have a special place in my heart. We had our last gig the night before Commencement [graduation], right in Brattle Square, and it was fantastic. It’s something I’ll never forget, and something I wouldn’t have loved so much if I didn’t have to suffer for it. (No I am not kidding nor am I in ROTC.)

4. Arts + School = LUV

Paine Hall, location of Music 167r and my heart

First semester, I took an intensive studio course in printmaking and etching, committing eight hours of my Tuesday to the class. Although I had class straight from 10am to 8pm, followed by rehearsals until midnight, giving myself the opportunity to really devote myself to the arts was awesome. I suddenly prioritized arts in my academics, something I’d never really done before, and found myself able to synthesize the subject material I was learning in studio with what I was learning in other classes. This semester, it was even more pronounced; Music 167r, a course on sound stories and Electroacoustic music, was basically the fusion of all that I’m interested in: storytelling, music, engineering, and CREATION. Making something that I am proud of is the best experience, and I crafted and performed a seven-minute piece that I’d never expected to compose in my life. This year has been all about expanding my interests…it’s as if I’m in this malleable casing that I just keep pushing out to explore another aspect of Harvard (and myself) that I never knew existed.


3. The Opps: Risks and Leadership 

Grad Jam for the Opps…saying bye 🙁

Auditioning for the Opportunes was a huge risk for me. I was very unsure of whether or not I wanted to try out, mostly because I was afraid of rejection. However, I decided to suck it up and push through the audition process, surprising everyone involved – even me! I am so glad I took that step into Lowell Lecture Hall and joined my acafamily, working hard all year long to perform at my personal best. Yesterday, my mom was surprised by my voice, saying it sounded really beautiful; this year has changed it so much, and for the better, from focus and vocal discipline in the Opps and in therapy. I’m psyched to continue to craft my instrument and incorporate it into my academics, meshing all aspects of my life into a melange of strange awesomeness. (Also…my career! Now I can manage business as business manager and do music AT THE SAME TIME!)


2. Dropping Acid…No, Not That Kind.


After being diagnosed with vocal nodules and severe acid reflux, I had to make a great deal of changes in my life. The most obnoxious alteration? My diet. I was eating really well, in the normal sense of things – mostly salad, no meat, occasional carbs, protein, and Tabasco or Shriracha to spice things up. Then, I quickly learned that my diet was the reason I couldn’t speak in the morning or sing through a set with The Nostalgics. I had to remove the tomatoes from my salad, skip the balsamic, cut the spice, avoid anything fried or fatty, and still maintain a healthy diet. Unfortunately, I found myself always hungry and eventually started adding meat to my meals. I’m still not sure how thrilled I am with this compromise, but I will do anything to preserve my voice and stop the painful acid reflux I used to experience after each meal. In addition to these changes, I had to start poppin’ pillz (Zantac and Prilosec) half an hour before I ate anything, and had to wait 3 hours after eating to go to bed – no more late night Brain Break from the d-hall! Also a lot of meals planned in advance. (Luckily for me, my blockmates in Currier always eat dinner at 6pm sharp, without fail.) Finally, I had to stop going out as much, and found myself enjoying parties even more, as I could rarely attend them! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say ; )


1. Concentration! 

Fair Harvard…Our fight song, apparently.

Choosing my concentration was by far the most important decision I’ve made at Harvard. Luckily for me, my sophomore advisor was extremely helpful, talking with me for a good hour and a half three days before I had to declare! Choosing a concentration [our word for major] is important,  so having tons of help from my various advisors made the decision a little bit clearer and easier. Although I drew out of a hat in the end, I had discussed the pros and cons of each option in depth and knew with my gut that Music and Anthro was the way to go, providing me with the perfect balance of structure and freedom in my studies.


I don’t want this post to expire before I publish it. I am sorry if it isn’t up to par, but I promise to make it up to you!

Until next time,


*if you didn’t understand that blatant reference, please relive your childhood and include Disney.

Tags: , , ,

Another grand congratulations to the Class of 2017! Such an incredibly exciting accomplishment, but definitely also scary at the same time because I’m sure you all have great alternative options. In some ways, it doesn’t even seem fair that at age 18, you have to decide where you want to be receiving a diploma at age 22. How do you know where you’ll fit into the mold best – or where you can create an improved mold of yourself? The honest and worst answer is that you don’t. You don’t know, we don’t know, your parents don’t know. And all you want is someone to just tell you what to do because this way, when the going gets rough, at least you can blame someone else, right?!

I love having options, but they can also be a source of stress. One of my favorite ways to leverage this stress into fun is by sampling. I like to try a little bit of everything, and only after this do I step back to make an informed decision. For all of you who are still on a verge of deciding where to attend college, find comfort in the fact that you still have some time and even more resources to help you. I hope this blog can provide a unique insight to student life here at Harvard!

I didn’t check in last week (have been getting slayed by midterms since forever) so I wanted to give you all a little sampling of the highs and lows of these past 2 weeks instead of focusing on just one event 🙂


Sheryl Sandberg on leaning in

Caroline blogged about Sheryl Sandberg speaking at Harvard as a stop on her book tour. I heard about this event about a month beforehand because of some of my friends in the student organization sponsoring her talk, Women in Business (WIB). I reserved tickets about a month in advance and was excited for the event all day! I’ve only watched her talks online so it was surreal to be sitting in the live audience, especially when College President Drew Faust was right there along with me! It’s even more surreal that Sheryl Sandberg was a member of the audience at one point too during her undergraduate years. To share, or at least be able to relate to, a part of her history is really inspiring and a great reminder that Harvard generously provides both the academic and financial resources that can catapult us down phenomenal career paths! Sheryl Sandberg always makes really good points about putting yourself out there to be in a position to fearlessly lead that I think both men and women would benefit from following.

Sheryl Sandberg kicked off a great weekend because the very next day was Relay for Life, an all night walkathon hosted by the American Cancer Society. Last spring, I was involved in Relay as the incoming Vice President of Philanthropy on the Panhellenic Council, but since I was in the midst of transitioning in last year, everything ran smoother this year and I was much more involved. Our “Go Greek” team actually became the #1 team, fundraising the most money for the event – a little friendly competition doesn’t hurt!  The walkathon was a culmination of tons of planning as we had fundraising events such as bake sales, water pong tournaments, restaurant fundraisers, etc. leading up to the walkathon. It was great seeing all the sororities and fraternities taking time from their rigorous academic schedule during midterms to rally and honor cancer survivors as well as support cancer research.

The day after Relay for Life, I went on a field trip to the Boston Aquarium with my students in a volunteering program I direct through PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), called BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment). It was my first time at the aquarium and I’m pretty sure I was more excited than my group of teenagers!


It’s pretty rare for most Harvard students to get off campus to explore Boston which can be nice because it makes Boston more of a novelty, but it can also be a sad thing because we’re missing out on all the great things Boston has to offer i.e. the aquarium, Quincy market (as Rob mentioned), etc. My friend, a senior at Yale, was visiting this weekend for Harvard Law School admit/orientation weekend and was able to go to the aquarium as well. It was really interesting to hear my friend’s perspective of Harvard and Boston in general. Being so use to New Haven, my friend was delightfully surprised we could walk around Cambridge at night without getting mugged, beyond pleased by our morning run by the river since New Haven’s nature isn’t really existent, and also impressed with how close Boston is since most Yale kids have to take a train to New York City for any kind of real urban experience. Don’t take this as me hating on Yale, but rather a Yalie hating.

Yale and Harvard represent at the Pet a Stingray exhibit!!!!!!! Best. exhibit. ever.


It’s mid-April, which is essentially the worst time of the academic year. It’s that time when school is pretty much over, but you have all your work left. Spring Break is long and gone and students are getting slammed with midterms up until finals. If the weather was nicer, I could probably try to put a positive spin on that somewhere, but I’m a weather-spoiled California kid and this rainy-windy combo is just not cutting it. I was also planning on running the Boston Marathon this Monday (as a bandit), but I have a genetics midterm this Marathon Monday and the latest I can reschedule is 7 pm. LAME. Harvard is also basically the only school that holds classes on Marathon Monday, which makes no sense because it takes out all the fun-community-building that stems from the Boston Marathon, an event people fly in to Boston to compete in from all over the world! We shouldn’t hold classes as a simple sign of respect!!

Yet, there is a light at the end of this (loooong and dark) tunnel – it’s called Mid-May. Classes are officially over in about 2 weeks, starting Reading Period, a week where students have unorganized time to study for our final exams. When school ends, I’ll still be denying that I’m 3/4 done with college. This denial will continue abroad since I’ll be abroad for most of the summer again 🙂 This was literally the best news to me because after spending summer 2012 in Europe, Peru, and Bolivia, I’m officially obsessed with collecting passport stamps. I’m honored to be accepted into the Global Health Institute’s iSURF (international summer undergraduate research fellowship) program which is sponsoring me to pursue clinical research in the context of women and nutrition in Tanzania. I’ll be spending about 10 weeks there and then heading over to South America/Bolivia again. More updates to come once I get everything sorted out, but for now, I’m SO excited to get familiar with Africa!

Also can’t contain my excitement because today is Yardfest! There’s been some controversy over Yardfest this year, but the other bloggers and I will be sure to let you know how the event goes!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hello everyone!

While I apologize for not updating you on my life sooner, I must admit I’ve been so busy having fun that I’ve just had no time! It’s been quite the whirlwind semester. When I last updated you, I was enjoying the amazing snowstorm that we experienced on campus. Since then, all the snow has melted, spring break has come and past, many important events were performed and attended, and summer plans were decided. Life at Harvard is always dynamic, so I’ve had to stay on my toes to make sure I can catch what’s thrown at me…or at least dodge it. Let’s take a look back and a glance forward, shall we?

March was a big month for me, as it brought my Spring Jam for a cappella and my birthday, two events that were strangely comparable. Jam is our only on-campus event that’s specifically for our peers/parents/friends, and so it takes a lot of rehearsal (think 5 hours a night for two weeks) to prepare. As some of you might recall, I was diagnosed with vocal nodules in December – they’re basically calluses on the important part of your voicebox – so I wasn’t sure how this semester would pan out for me, as far as singing went. I had to stop singing for The Nostalgics, my Motown band, but was able to sing with The Opportunes, as long as I continued taking my medications and attending vocal therapy at Mass Eye and Ear. Both treatments have been going very well for me, and so I was able to have an amazing jam with the people I love; I even got to solo on one of my favorite songs, which was far beyond my expectations for the semester! Check it out below.

Jam day brings most of my family into the area. My dad and I had a great lunch at Clover, one of my favorite restaurants in the square (and my definite recommendation for cheap eats if you come to visit) and watched the Men’s Lacrosse team beat Georgetown in an incredible game. As a photographer for The Harvard Crimson, I had the opportunity to cover the game, and although I’ve been doing it for a whole year and a half now, the thrill of snapping photos never gets old.

Sick shot. Check out that action!

My mom, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and cousins all came to see me as well! It was really awesome to have such deep support from my family, as well as from my friends, who came out to listen to the music and take some pics as well. The next morning we had brunch with the Opportunes alumni, which was a great way to experience the community and dedication to the group, even after you’ve graduated. I feel very lucky to have such a tight-knit group of friends on campus 🙂

Yay Opps!


If I didn’t get enough of the Opps from rehearsing and performing at Jam, a week later we were on our way to the Dominican Republic for our Spring Break Tour, which I had set up as tour manager. We hopped on the plane at Boston Logan and spent a week singing, swimming, and most importantly, relaxing and having fun with one another. I was surprised to find myself not sick of the Opps by the end of the week, which is quite an accomplishment; we are an overwhelming group of large personalities! It was definitely one of the most fun times I’ve had in my life, and definitely at Harvard. We even went SNORKELING and made up a song to sing to the fish, which was pretty bizarre but also hilarious. Check out a few photos below!

Opps on the Beach!


Me and My Friend Brian!


Pirate Night!


Once we returned to Cambridge, it was time to start working again. Three of my classes require a research project of some sort, so I had to start interviewing and taking field notes on slam poetry culture, Celtic music in Boston, and the Vermont dairy farm crisis – not too shabby a schedule if you ask me! The subjects are incredibly interesting (I mean, I chose them for myself), but they happen to require a lot of time, so I’ve been very overwhelmed with coursework for the past month, and I will continue to be until the semester wraps up. I’m studying such a wide variety of subject material and have a lot of flexibility in my coursework, which is something I really appreciate about the Anthropology and Music departments, and especially the joint concentrations! Joint concentrations are Harvard’s [dare I say, superior] version of the Double Major; basically, instead of fulfilling two disjoint majors’ requirements, I am taking a slightly reduced course load in each department (16 courses instead of 20) and will have to write a thesis that combines the two fields in a very comprehensive product. I am SUPER excited to write my thesis, but luckily I have a ways to go before I have to start thinking about that.

The summer before senior year will be full of research for my thesis, last summer was full of Parisian culture, and this summer will be oh-so-close to home: I’ll be working at Harvard’s Admissions Office as the tour and info-session Coordinator! I am really pumped to work and stay on campus (yes, I get free room and board!), as I have yet to be in Cambridge during the summer months, and I hear it is lovely. I’ll have about a week to go home between recording for the Opps and starting work, but I can take a bus ride up for a quick weekend here and there…or so I hope. It might be challenging staying on campus for a whole year without pause, but I suppose I will let you know about that once Junior year starts. (Ahh, I am getting so old!) Speaking of which, I had my birthday at the end of March! I had a cider and pancakes party in my room, and required everyone to wear flannel in the Vermont fashion. It was actually really fun and very successful, so I was pretty pleased.

Okay, I am off to lunch with my friend Ned, I will catch you all later! I promise to update about the rest of my life soon, and maybe I’ll run into you, readers, at Visitas or at an information session (this summer? this year?).

À Bientôt!



Tags: , , , , ,

A grandly deserved congratulations and warm welcome to the class of 2017!!!! Every time that number increases, it’s a subtle reminder of the aging process and every time the admissions rate decreases, it’s a not-so-subtle reminder that I probably wouldn’t have been admitted if I applied that year. Acceptances are awesome because it’s a validation of your hard work and competence; however, please keep in mind that the converse is not true. Not getting accepted in no way validates your laziness or incompetence – it’s just a sad realization that there are too few spots for so many incredibly talented people. The weather sucks here anyways… 😉

Regardless of where you’ll be attending college, the transition to college is more often than not a difficult journey. Just keep in mind that difficult obstacles yield better memories and are often more rewarding. Think of the last time you drove yourself crazy studying for a test or training for a race and when you performed exceptionally well, you promised you’ll work just as hard, if not harder, next time.

The first few weeks of the college transition are tumultuous to say the least. This ambient and seemingly constant chaos tends to drive students to a quest for order and routine; a routine and schedule that they’ll essentially follow for their remaining time as an undergraduate. This is a part of what we here call “The Harvard Bubble.” This phrase more commonly refers to our collective unwillingness to leave campus despite all the luring and tantalizing the Boston skyline does. Yet this bubble imagery connotes many strong interpretations.

Not only does Harvard protect us with their amazing advising program and guidance before we enter the scary real world, but Harvard students can also easily get wrapped up in their routine and schedules. Personally, this ease of approaching the mundane makes getting off of the Harvard campus more important. It’s along the lines of “too much of a good thing” concept where I love and am grateful for spending most of my time on campus (as evidence by my fear of graduating even though I have another year!), but it’s easier to appreciate what you have once you don’t have it – even if you don’t have it for just 4 hours every week.

Visiting the top of the Science Center’s Observatory during our “field trip” to Harvard’s campus!

I spend my a few hours of every weekend afternoon off campus, volunteering in Dorchester. I direct the teenage segment of a larger program called Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE). A handful of volunteers and I mentor, tutor, but above all become friends with teenage students who have all immigrated to the US. Each semester, the curriculum is catered to the group of students we have – if they want extra homework help, more books to read, arts and crafts projects, field trips, etc. the volunteers and I will bend over backwards to provide what they find useful. Our funding comes from the generous Presidential Public Service Fund and BRYE falls under the umbrella of the Phillip Brooks House Association (PBHA) – a student run organization that our very own blogger Meaks is running!

 I’ve been involved with BRYE Teen since my freshman fall semester and stepped into a leadership position my sophomore year. Pretty sure it’s the extracurricular activity I’ve been involved with for the longest amount of time. It also took me a long time to appreciate the program, although this may sound terrible right off the bat. However, I think I’ve taken a lot and learned thousands of lessons from BRYE which drives me to keep giving back.

The immigrated students participating in BRYE vary drastically from year to year and even semester to semester. Sometimes they’re vocal (and only vocal about all the things they hate about you), sometimes they seek humor, and often they’re shy. My freshman year, I had a group of the rowdiest, most unappreciative kids ever and thought about quitting constantly. I consistently questioned why they came back week after week if they were overtly against every activity we suggested. It took me almost the entirety of my freshman year to realize that the kids preferred coming to BRYE over spending their time chilling in a park or watching TV at home because they had to get something from BRYE the sessions even if they vehemently denied it. With the high student turnover rate that BRYE experiences, I’ve gained so much perspective about my patience and interpersonal skills in the context of diversity and this helps me actively improve myself to not only put my best foot forward, but also to make sure my other foot isn’t too far behind.

This semester of BRYE has run much more smoothly with my new co-director! It has frequently been the highlight of my week this semester and some of the shy kids are more comfortable with us and are finally opening up!

Fun examples of what we’ve done just this semester: carnival for Lunar New Year,

The sign says “Happy New Year” in Vietnamese

 learn a handful of Chinese characters and phrases, and explore the Boston Harbor/Faneuil Hall.

It’s been a blast working with people who still adore cartoons and aren’t stressed about upcoming exams/papers. Getting off campus in a productive manner has been a truly refreshing experience for me and I definitely plan on being involved with BRYE until (and maybe even post?) graduation!

Once again, congratulations to all those accepted! Definitely enjoy the rest of your senior year and summer. Hope to see you for Visitas (prefrosh visiting weekend!)

Hopefully next week, I’ll have a better idea of my summer and can update everyone 🙂 Here’s a hint: I’m definitely going abroad 😀

Tags: , ,

Losing an hour may not seem much, but 60 minutes is huge when I think about all the sleep I didn’t get this week 🙁

Between midterms, papers, and that activity called eating on top of attending classes and lab, I’ve been beyond swamped – not only this week but the 2 previous weeks before too! Spring Break couldn’t have come at a better time! SUNSHINE HERE I COME

I’m currently posting from the Boston Logan airport and will update as soon as I can 🙂

Happy Mid-March yall!


**updated March 22, 2013


I’m back on campus now from a delightful Spring Break and am no longer in travel mode – still working on getting off of vacation mode though! I am blogging from a much better mental mindset now compared to where I was a week ago. Spring semester definitely gives Fall semester a run for its money in terms of fun festivities and enjoyment.

I’m definitely enjoying all my classes again and that includes both required and non-required/elective classes. Having the freedom for elective classes is a perk of being an upperclassman; but I’m taking 3 required premed/Neurobiology concentration requirements that people normally take their freshman and maybe sophomore year that I’m really enjoying too! When I tell this to people, they’re always surprised as to why I put off these classes, but that’s just how my schedule worked out because I front-loaded my organic chemistry (aka orgo) and physics series. Since the majority of my classmates are freshman, it’s funny to watch them Facebook or nod off during lecture because as an upperclassman (I’m guilty of all above too), I am much more cognizant of my ticking time as an undergraduate and really appreciate the great lecturers that are available to me. I literally sit in class, really excited about having the opportunity to sit there … and may or may not be fighting the urge to high five freshman among me. I’m just happy to be taught by professors who are excited about the material they’re teaching because back at my public high school, this was not the case.

Although I love my classes, the hardest aspect about them is that all of their first midterms were spread out. You typically hear of students complaining (whining) about how they have all their midterms in the span of a few hours, but midterms are a struggle regardless of when they’re scheduled. Due to my 1 midterm a week schedule, I lived a very extreme month. I would study haaard leading up to the test and then treat myself to probably more relaxation time than I actually deserved afterwards, and then I repeated this vicious cycle. On top of this, I was trying to manage summer applications: finishing personal statements up, collecting recommendation letters, interviewing, pondering about medical school, and all that mentally taxing business. All in all, I think I would pick spread out midterms over condensed midterms if I was forced to choose the better of two evils.

One of my goals for this blog is to show prospective students (and their families) that Harvard College students are of course academically focused, but that this studious rigor also applies to outside of the classroom as well. I’d be comfortable saying that all students have at least one activity they are 200% committed to outside of class – check out Meaks‘ altruistic arm and Scott’s passport stamp collection!

There are two highlights of my week beyond the classroom.

1. Faculty Dinner – a few bloggers have written about our experiences with faculty dinner. Basically, both freshman and upperclassman dining halls host these faculty dinners at least once a semester. It’s a casual setting over delicious food where students can invite a professor or teaching fellow (aka TF, usually a graduate student) so both parties can get to know each other better. Although nerve wracking, it’s a great opportunity that most university students don’t get, so I try to take advantage of it every chance I get. This spring faculty dinner in my upperclassman house, Mather, I invited my preceptor from two years ago! All freshman are required to take an expository writing class (colloquially called Expos 20) that revolves around different focuses. My class was called Tales of Muder and I absolutely attribute my affinity towards writing to this class. I loved this class because of the structure (or lack thereof!) and I still refer back to my notes when I hit a wall outlining papers to this day. My professor and I caught up over these last (and fast!) 2 years. I had such a great time and definitely walked away from dinner knowing I will always find a friend in my Expos professor!!

2. Research Presentation – I’m a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Decision Science Lab which is part of a great program of “social science scholars” who are undergraduates working on a variety of projects at many different labs around campus. About once a month or so, the institute organizes a luncheon where one or a handful of students will present the research they have been working on. It’s always nice to attend these luncheons because a constant reminder that I’m a part of something bigger continues to motivate me. This month, a student presented his work on audio files from the Supreme Court and how he tackles this enormous data set to determine (vocal) emotions and how (or if) this affects their decisions/decision-making processes. I’m always amazed whenever someone is answering a question I have yet to think of!


Hope you all enjoy reading about everyone’s different Spring Breaks!

Tags: , , , ,

A few weeks ago, while a few of the bloggers were walking home from the blogging dinner reunion/meeting, I asked one of our new teammates Rob about his freshman year, specifically about the contrast between his fall and spring semesters. It’s insanely beautiful how most college students adapt to new campus environments. You start off in the fall with little hope of losing that deer in headlights, wide-eyed freshman glow. Yet you come in hot at the beginning of the spring semester shopping classes like you have a closet of awesome, high end swag already. I was mostly surprised by the idea someone threw out there that the spring semester is always better than the fall. I cannot wholeheartedly agree. On a scale of 1 to 10, both semesters are AWESOME with its own perks and defaults. However, I do think spring is more conducive to social activities.

You may or may not have gasped at the fact that I’m talking about social activities on the Harvard College blog. It’s only human nature that after feeling trapped in an igloo prison during seemingly perpetual winters that we want to bust out, or rather bust a move. That’s why I made sure fellow blogger Scott was at my sorority’s spring social event called Crush. It sounds semi-violent when all the girls start talking about who we “crushed,” but it’s the most elementary school-innocent conversations because each girl gets the opportunity to anonymously crush two boys. The social committee hand makes invitations and delivers them slyly to each door. It is then in fate’s hands whatever happens after. Love at first sight? Maybe. What I do know definitively is that Scott and I won the dance battle.

Although Harvard does not recognize fraternities and sororities (meaning we’re not like a student recognized organization that can, for example, reserve rooms on campus), I’ve really enjoyed how my sorority connects me with not only other students on campus, but also in the greater Boston area. Nearby Tufts University which also has a sizable active Greek life is inviting one more sorority to campus which led me to explore their campus this past Monday when I was representing my chapter during Kappa Alpha Theta’s extension presentation. At this event, there were Thetas from Harvard, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and BU (Boston University), as well as the national fraternity president! It was a pleasure mingling with Thetas at other campuses to see what their experiences have been like because all of our campus specific involvement differs, but there’s an unparalleled similar foundation upon which the first female fraternity was built upon.

Don’t get me wrong, spring semester has its academic rigors as well! I had my second midterm of the semester this past Tuesday in my Math 19a class. I was honestly, initially dreading this math class because my math course last semester met 3 times a week and had a pset (problem set) due EVERY TIME we met. Not okay. However, I’ve grown to love Math 19a. The class is really small and I feel like we’re already a community! Might even go ahead and say that it’s my favorite class this semester! This math class focuses on applying differentials to the life sciences, modeling predator-prey systems to epidemics and human heart positions within the body. The material totally makes all the premed sides of me tingle with warmth. By all means, I’m not saying I was excited for the midterm, but it helps that I adore the professor.

Math 19a is taught every semester, which in my opinion, is pretty rare since most classes are usually just taught in either the fall or the spring. It’s taught incredibly well, but most notably for the freshness of the class. There are advantages of it the class being help every semester such as the professor is consistent, extremely knowledgeable, and familiar with how students will grasp certain concepts. However, there comes a point when some professors who have been teaching the same course for so long that it becomes mundane and seems too rehearsed. Math 19a, however, sort of “refreshes” every semester. The professor changes the scientific articles that each set of students read and analyze as well as the psets, warm up problems, and lecture notes. These seemingly small changes make grand differences because it keeps everyone involved on their tippy toes rather than complacent and comfortable. I’m a big fan of the class and I’m nerdily looking forward to integrating math into my biology knowledge!

My midterms are spaced out pretty well this semester; I really have nothing to complain about. My next exam is Monday night in LS1b (genetics). I have to be honest that it’s been a little hard to study with Spring Break on my mind. I do have exciting plans for my vacation, but on campus, the few days leading up to Spring Break is Housing Day  http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/3…) where all the freshmen (self-grouped into ~8 friends) get assigned an upperclassman house to live in for the rest of their undergraduate years!

For the freshmen, this waiting period is full of unknown and maybe some excitement. The upperclassmen have the most fun job of advertising their own respective houses though. Students (more often than not) always have pride for their respective houses as you can hear in everyday sly comments in casual conversations. This house spirit magnifies with great intensity the weeks leading up to Housing Day though because there is so much glory to be had when freshmen rightfully desire the house in which you reside.

This time of year is very exciting because everyone’s (hidden) talents come out. In order to publicize the greatness of an upperclassman house, there are Facebook fan pages and pep-rally-like events/study breaks. Yet my absolute favorite form of spirit is Housing Day videos which are typically parodies on culturally relevant/hilarious matters in the media. I’ll leave you with a few videos:

My house/best house, MATHER HOUSE last year jumped on the Call Me Maybe coattails and created this gem:

This year, we wanted to double up and went with a James Bond twist with the help of the House Masters and Administration!!

Last year, Quincy House came in a close second to Mather’s Call Me Maybe by adding their Quincy flare to the movie Inception:

As you can see, not all the parodies are current. We appreciate throwbacks too!

Adams House (notorious for the gaudy gold decor) came out with a real gem – or should I say they struck gold?

I have to say that the best throwback this year was Lowell House, known for their loud bells:


Tags: , , , , ,


Second semester has officially started! My study card is signed, I’ve already passed in a paper, and I can’t see my floor underneath all of my books and coats. I couldn’t be more excited. I was really worried about pulling together my joint concentration (similar to a double major) and having a good fit, or seeing if it was the right choice, but I am confident that Music and Social Anthropology was the way to go. (Let’s see if I feel the same after the semester is over…I sure hope so!) So now I present to you my First Impressions of the four courses I’ll be taking in the next few months.

Anthropology 1610: Ethnographic Research Methods

Ah, William James Hall. We meet again. Furthest building from the quad (or any of the upperclassman houses, for that matter). Shaped like a giant white cheese grater. Luckily, there’s the most beautiful room on the first floor, with a rounded riser system and glowing wood paneling. The acoustics must be amazing. I don’t recognize anyone in this classroom, and the professor looks like he’d be teaching something more related to psychology. There are a lot of people in here, also. Okay wrong room! Up four flights and back to the little, poorly-lit seminar room where I spent last semester in Ethnographies of Food. And now I will share a direct quotation from my notebook, “omg, I love accents.” There are more than 5 people who are Tibetan, including my TF, my professor is Jamaican and just called method courses “unsexy.” The girl to my right is Nigerian, he’s Ethiopian, Turkish, Jamaican, Thai, Dutch, Indian…all in a class of less than 20 people! Anthropology is amazing. Wait, my professor just said that he studied Cape Verdean music “many moons ago.” This was the right decision. WE GET TO WATCH AVATAR?! Sold.

 Music 97c: Ethnomusicology

Seriously, what is it with me and being in the wrong classroom? I swear that I wrote down Music 6, and nobody is here. It is 10am, however…combined with the fact that these are music concentrators and the time of day, perhaps I should stick around. Here comes the professor, I think. Yup. There are three people now, and it’s 10 past. The room is well ventilated and well lit, and the chairs are uncomfortable; even if I didn’t sleep the night before, I’ll definitely stay awake during class. Let’s see if lecture is interesting; okay, so does discussing the meaning of music after listening to a computer-created composition in the style of Vivaldi and James Kenning’s stamp cancelling recording in Uganda count as lecture? Yes. Yes, it does. I suppose comparing a reading from the Qu’ran and a call to prayer whilst discussing the concept of haram (banned) music in Somalia is an incredibly interesting way to start off my day. I can groove to this.

Anthropology 97z: Sophomore Tutorial

Back in room 105! Alright, the curved walls. They are so beautiful. My professor wants to talk about witches for a large section of this tutorial. That’s okay, too.

Music 167r: Electroacoustic Composition

Me: Is there any room left in your class? I’m obsessed with it! Hans: Fill out this form. Can you come to section from 4-6? And commit 7 hours outside of class to working on your recordings? Me: Yes. (Anything to get my hands on that amazing studio on the top floor of Paine Hall. Anything for that.)



Now that I am all settled in with my classes, I can talk a bit about my extracurriculars. Although I had a really bad doctor’s appointment about my vocal nodes, showing very little sign of improvement (the pictures are really graphic, so I won’t show them), I will be singing in my a cappella group, The Opportunes, alongside our two newest members, Madeleine and Sara! After an abridged version of our normal audition cycle, we decided on these talented ladies, and I couldn’t be more excited. I went to bed around 2 after our deliberations and set my alarm for 6:30, actually forcing myself out of bed and down to Harvard Yard to pound on our new baby Opportunes’ doors and congratulate their sleepy selves. We let them go back to sleep and/or enjoy their donuts and set off for Lowell house, where we ate breakfast together until around 8 am.


I marched back to the Quad underneath a blazingly blue sky, wind whipping my cheeks bright red, and settled in to my room to apply for a summer proctoring position at Harvard this summer. I’ll have to be doing vocal therapy, as I am completely unable to sing in my band (The Nostalgics), so I have to be in the Boston area, and proctoring means free room and board, plus a free class on top. You know what that means? One less class in the fall! (Or, more likely, an elective, knowing me.) Check out the courses at this link, including the one I’m super interested in (Anthro and Film).

Then I read for a bit, listened to Fleetwood Mac in preparation for a concert mid-April with my two awesome friends, Jess and Parul, and started writing a new poem for the CUPSI slam poetry competition. The competition is next week, and it determines the team who will be representing Harvard at the National Poetry Slam, which will be at Barnard College in NYC this year! Remember my post from last year? All systems, go!

I’m off to clean the mess my room’s become and have dinner with the newest Opps! Happy February everyone, and here’s to a great second semester.





Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Goodyear

Hello everyone!
Now that we’ve made it to 2013, I can congratulate you on surviving the apocalypse and, if you’re a prospective student, finishing your application to Harvard. I can congratulate myself on a great first semester of sophomore year (it’s helped my GPA a bit) and can now re-cap the months past, as I’ve distanced myself from them in both time and location (although Vermont isn’t that far away and a handful of weeks isn’t really that long). So fasten your seat-belts and prepare yourself for the highlights (and lowlights) of Fall 2012.
1. Going to see Joss Stone was definitely one of the best musical experiences of my entire life. She is a super talented soul singer, for those of you who are unaware; you can check her out here. (Did I mention she was beautiful?) I went with my really close friend, Leah, who shares a similar passion for music (we are in both The Opportunes and The Nostalgics together) and is a senior at the College. I’m hoping to continue performing with her next year, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Also, my awesome dad got me an Epiphone guitar with pickups, which means that I can plug into an amp and have kick-ass singer/songwriter sessions. Watch out, Boston, here I come.

Joss at the House of Blues! (Credit to Leah and her phone)

2. The two retreats, for The Nostalgics and The Opportunes, were super awesome. As much as I love Harvard, it is great to get away from the bustling feel of Cambridge and focus on my friends and music. Second semester will mean a Nostalgics tour in Vermont (actually in a few days, right before the semester begins) and a Spring Break tour with The Opps (wherever I can find…being tour manager is not a simple position and we’re jivin’ for Jamaica), not to mention a retreat for Photo (oops, Multimedia) of the Crimson. I’m so excited!! (Also my photo friend Allie came back from her semester abroad in Cuba, which means we’ll be again reunited come January 28.)





3. Watching “Sweeney Todd” and photographing various events on campus, including the women’s hockey game when they crushed Russia 4-1. I am always amazed by our theater department (yes, we have ~75 student-run productions annually and they are absolutely killer), our arts on campus (check out the OFA for some of the speakers and performers who come by), and our sports (in which I will be participating come spring…wut wut intramural crew). There’s always something happening, and it’s always more interesting than sitting in your room.

4. Twerking Working all year long! The Admissions Office is a great place to work, as a blogger and tour guide, and various other paid jobs are always available (The Crimson!). I don’t know if I can work more next semester, as I want to take more classes, which leads me to…

Secret Insider View into The Crimson Photolounge…I swear it’s work!

5. …Classes! My anthropology class was super good, and I wrote a really interesting paper on the public school lunch program, which is a field in which I could definitely focus. Next semester, I have to take at least 2 anthro classes, as it took me until midway through the semester to decide on my concentration [major]. My awesome tutor (read:advisor) helped me out a ton during the complicated time of narrowing my academic interests, although I didn’t have to try that hard, as joint concentrations are easy to apply for and aren’t too hard to complete. I’ll also be taking a lot of music classes (2 or 3?) and a Gen-Ed to fulfill my graduation requirements.  Heeeere we go!
So those were the good, and alongside the bad, they shaped me into someone who is really happy to say that she goes to Harvard. Although my next semester will be shifted away from singing, music will be taking up a lot of my academic life, and I can’t wait to spend more time with the photography board of The Harvard Crimson, our daily newspaper. I also am thinking of joining the design board to expand a little bit more, and will hopefully be doing intramural crew come spring.
In the meantime, I have a lot of interesting spring semester classes that I’m considering, the responsibility of finding a resort to host my a Cappella group, The Harvard Opportunes, and will need to focus a lot on continuing to change my diet and lifestyle to accomodate my acid reflux. Oh, and today I start a 10-day songwriting challenge, which is led by the Optional Wintersession Activities Week (otherwise known as Wintersession, similar to J-term at other schools). It’s going to be really fun, and the first prompt is our favorite Harvard memory, so I’ll keep you all posted on that one!

Time to get back to my phone calls with Jamaica before I pick up my sister this afternoon. Happy 2013, everyone.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

« Older entries