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The chances of a Harvard student completing a pset (local nickname for
problem set) during his/her undergraduate career are equal to the
chances of said student running into a tourist in Harvard Yard.

I spy…tourists in between Memorial Church and Widener Library.

The statistics get more complicated within the context of optional
psets. Yes, these little optional gremlins do exist with the apparent
purpose of guilting us. In my experience, optional psets at the
beginning of the semester exist to remind you of how forgetful and
rusty you are, whereas the (typically) nongraded optional psets
sprinkled in the midst of the hectic semester exist as exam
style/format hints. But what about the optional psets during the

I hope I didn’t scare anyone with the thought of “summer assignments.”
In my high school, a handful of classes required students intending to
enroll in the specific class to complete reading, writing, etc.
assignments during the summer which was the leading cause of
all-nighters before the first day of class. Thankfully, Harvard
College holds a Shopping Week – the first week of each semester where
students can drop by and even walk out of classes as they see fit.
Since our schedules aren’t finalized until Shopping Week is over and
our Study Cards (the list of normally 4 classes we’ve chosen to take
for the semester) are submitted to the registrar, it’s difficult to
assign “summer assignments.” (Note that there is also a grace period
of a few weeks after Study Card submission when you can add/drop
classes!) However, some outlier courses may require something along
the lines of a letter of intention – this is something I’ll have to
submit by August 21 for a Spanish class I’m SUPER interested in taking
this upcoming fall semester. Class policies vary widely but Harvard’s
been pretty good to me about providing me with the freedom to
personally design my own summer…independent of the presence of

I’m participating in a program called DRCLAS SIP (David Rockefeller
Center for Latin American Studies, Summer Internship Program). For 8
weeks, I’ll be living with a homestay family in Peru while I shadow at
a private clinic. Ever since I converted into a premed student
freshman spring semester, a trillion and a half decisions came before
me i.e. when to take certain prerequisites like physics and organic
chemistry, or if I want to pursue one or perhaps more gap years.
Shadowing and eventually becoming good friends with these doctors
during my summer internship has given me not only valuable, but also
realistic insight to what the journey to becoming a doctor is like. I
already feel more confident in my personal timeline of when and how to
approach my medical goals, although I’m still nervous about expressing
this openly in fear that if I change my mind, everyone will hate me.

But I find comfort in the fact that everyone hates optional psets more.

There definitely wasn’t an optional pset scheduled on the DRCLAS SIP
calendar. But the 13 participants rallied together and added a pset
session…at least this is what it felt like even though we were
meeting in a mall. We needed a secure public area to meet with free
wifi to plan a trip to Machu Picchu!

Girls pic near the entrance of Machu Picchu!

And in the shopping center’s cafeteria we sat with laptops out, shared
“Machu Picchu” titled Google Doc open, listening to each other
intently but also not afraid to cut each other off, compromising,
budgeting, and typing fleeting questions on our desktop’s Post-It app.
Passionate opinions were expressed and heated debates transpired, but
no personal feelings were affected. Planning an economically feasible
weekend trip to one of the few wonders of the modern world was exactly
like a pset – we were all there to do business and come out as a
better person in the end. Almost 3 hours later, we felt on top of the
world…or at least Machu Picchu!


We trekked up the adjacent mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu … breathtaking in multiple ways

Scurrying home, we were all ready to book buses, trains, planes and
hostels. Despite the unfortunate realization that the domestic trip
would cost much, much more than we all thought it would, it didn’t
make sense to live in Peru for 2 months without venturing to these
famous ruins. A trip to Machu Picchu with the entire group would be
the first non-DRCLAS-organized trip we would all take together.

Freezing cold in Cuzco, Peru even with all the body heat!

The whole process of Machu Picchu – from organization to execution –
was what made the glue holding us together become cement. Needless to
say, spending time together on a mini-vacation within summer vacation
doing once-in-a-lifetime activities is the secret element to
friendship. But I’d also like to attribute the pset session atmosphere
for our group bonding because this potentially intense, highly
productive environment truly fosters respect for your pset-mates.

You have to hold a person in high respect in order to collaborate on a
pset because it shows that you have trust in their intellectual
capacity – when was the last time you wanted to be lab partners with
someone you didn’t think highly of? You’ll also have to tolerate, if
not enjoy, their company since it’s at the very least a once a week
commitment. A lot of my close friends come from my pset groups
actually! Regardless of whether we were friends first or became
friends via psetting, it’s almost inevitable that pset groups grow
close as the night before a deadline gets later and later. To clear all the rumors about students being nerdy and antisocial, psets foster friendship.

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I have a love-hate relationship with my lofty personal goals. I love overcoming (or at least enduring) the concomitant challenges and of course the hilariously adventurous journey of memories. I hate how you can always count on the presence of hurdles barricading the end goal. But there’s a reason why love, rather than hate initiates the phrase.

In high school, I set two seemingly impossible goals for myself: 1) Earn admission into a private university (because I had grown weary of the faults of my public high school) and 2) Go abroad during my four short undergraduate years. Words will never be able to sufficiently express how thankful I am that high school goal #1 worked out so well – not only because I’ve achieved a profound sense of happiness within the Harvard community, but also because accomplishing goal #1 gave me the smoothest segue into accomplishing goal #2.

I didn’t go abroad after my freshman year of college and as sophomore spring semester began (this is the popularly stressful time where the majority of students scramble to make plans for the upcoming summer), I knew I couldn’t stand another whole summer of Facebook updates from all my friends abroad. I know this may sound quite shallow, but hey I’ll take a little leverage for motivation from anywhere! So I spent tons of time scrolling through websites by the Office of International Program (OIP) that looked a lot like this: suggested programs for studying abroad and summer study abroad programs.

It was all pretty overwhelming – and I was just looking at Harvard programs even though you can participate in selected non-Harvard programs and still transfer credit. There were just so many (too many) places that I wanted to experience and only one summer ahead of me. I started to approach my abroad struggles by activity instead of location.

The thought of taking summer Spanish classes was completely unsettling for my mind, body AND soul. I had come to a point in my Spanish-learning academic career where I felt like I had just been reviewing the same grammar lessons time and time again. It was definitely time to take my Spanish knowledge to the streets – or at least to a clinic in a Spanish speaking country which would incorporate my premedical interests that developed my freshman spring semester.

My interests blended together in a (suspiciously) harmonious fashion as I continued researching the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Summer Internship Program (DRCLAS SIP). Sorry, Harvard’s really big on acronyms.

I applied, interviewed, and received funding as the spring semester progressed.

Participating in DRCLAS SIP gives me an 8 week opportunity to ensure that I want to pursue the lengthy medical school path, practice my Spanish in a real world setting, as well as immerse myself in a completely different culture! That’s right, 8 weeks for academic clarity and cultural immersion. Thank goodness I have tons of support and guidance from the DRCLAS team, both on campus and in Peru!!

I’ll say this time and time again whether on this blog or in person: DRCLAS is a beautifully organized program. This fact is very apparent even in the application process as you see them handle paperwork, emails, interviews, etc. with the utmost promptness and professionalism. Although DRCLAS is a robot-like organized program, it’s also incredibly thoughtful of its students.

In the earlier weeks of this program, they definitely held our hands through orientation week which was pretty necessary as it is much easier for foreigners to run into dangers more prominent in South America than America. But with each day, the grasp on our hands have been slowly lightened and it’s full freedom ahead with two jazz hands. We were trained to call secure taxis rather than take ones off the street, to not flash our smartphones in public, and to generally stay low key.

However, no amount of training could have prevented a string of four muggings – in one night … on the same bridge. Yay for making DRCLAS Peru history for its first mugging ever. Nay for, well the muggings taking place.

It sounds worse than it was, I promise! The whole group gathered to celebrate a birthday. It was nighttime. There was a bridge necessary to cross on foot to arrive at the house. There were four men looking for trouble and found cash, a digital camera, and an iPhone. It was quite a large and unfortunate hit, but the event was nonviolent and the robbers even returned IDs and house keys.

At least there was cake waiting for everyone!

The consecutive muggings were truly a series of unfortunate events (tehe there was no resisting this one) that added some unnecessary stress, but really there was no way to prevent it – the buddy system was even in place! It opened our eyes and heightened our sense of awareness. Then we found comfort in food. Typical college student behavior?

Ceviche – my favorite famous Peruvian cuisine of deliciously seasoned raw fish. I’m so glad you can’t see me drooling right now.



Raw fish topped with Peruvian sauces – from flavorful to spicy! DRCLAS isn’t afraid to turn up the heat…











Sometimes the comfort from food stems from the preparation process

Aligning with DRCLAS Friday culture day, the whole group headed to a well known, beach side culinary school. We spent most of the morning and afternoon working hard to earn our lunch, but boy was it worth it! I haven’t cooked in so long (or really ever) since the majority of undergraduate students are on the meal plan at school. We made a multiple course lunch with dessert and drinks – all the types of Peruvian cuisine we’ve been dreaming of. Then we took our food babies to the nearby beach to enjoy some surf and sun! Local roaming took us to the main square where the Peruvian equivalent of the White House stands. In front of the presidential palace are tons of guards…

…who may or may not be friendly to tourists

It can sometimes be annoying to feel that I’m experiencing Peru more than I’ve experienced America – I’ve never been to the White House! But remnants of annoyance are quickly fleeting because life abroad can be fast-paced and I’ll have more opportunities to explore the land of the free for the majority of the rest of my life.

At this point of my summer, I’ve been outside American boundaries for a personal record of time. This whole summer has been exhilarating, but with this excitement comes its evil twin: fear. Life abroad can easily feel like a perpetual seesaw between gleeful adventure and dangerous confusion which can take an exhausting toll on you. I can’t help but constantly fight sparks of homesickness for both Southern California and Cambridge while simultaneously throwing myself in new adventures in new places.

Lake Llanganuco

I left Lima for the weekend in hopes of returning homesick for Lima and my loving host family. All it took was an 8 hour bus ride to Huaraz: “the Switzerland of Peru.” This was our first student-led trip as DRCLAS had no part in planning it although they were ready to advise us on transportation, lodging, or anything else we needed.

With altitude pills (and llamas) on our side, we hiked around the Andes Mountains to discover beautiful lakes and majestic snow-capped mountains. The local cuisine (see below),

Cuy, otherwise known as guinea pig is a famous Peruvian dish. It tastes like a fusion of duck and chicken.

fresh air and sights were quite refreshing as Huaraz served as the much needed get-away from urban (and polluted) Lima.

Hiking the Andes (at 5am!) and seeing wild llamas bathing in a river are definitely once in a lifetime adventures that I’ll always cherish. However, I think the best part of the weekend Huaraz trip was staying in a dorm-like hostel where there were 7 beds in a room which accommodated everyone on this mini trip. The reflections and conversations right before peacefully falling asleep together will ALWAYS be remembered with a huge grin on my face.

Living with a host family is my ideal situation because I get to truly observe Peruvian lifestyles day in and day out, but falling asleep to the delirious thoughts of my friends abroad with me is definitely the next best thing!


Me getting cozy with a llama

The Huaraz group enjoying local ice cream flavors and meeting another American sporting a poncho!

Conquering our Andes trek

Peek a Boo in the Andes

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There’s an inexplicable, magical aura revolving around the number three.

Which numbered attempt is a charm? How many musketeers are there?


As week number three (out of eight) of my Summer Internship Program (SIP) through the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) came to a close, I noticed the semblance of routine formation. As foreigners to this Peruvian land, us thirteen students were getting use to certain cultural characteristics (i.e. HEAVY lunch and light, if any, dinner)

This is a story about me not only overcoming, but conquering misunderstandings in a foreign culture: One time at my homestay, at 8pm my family asked if I had eaten lunch. When I said yes, they didn’t make me dinner so I snooped in the kitchen and made myself a tomato and avocado sandwich! These are the ingredients to my happiness.

 as well as the ropes of our internships. One of the best parts about having the splendid opportunity to be abroad and in a family homestay is the cultural immersion – and the fact that this immersion is a seemingly endless adventure. Although I’m a fan of routine, I’m also a huge advocate of surprises so I’ve really been enjoying constantly learning new aspects of Peruvian culture and the Spanish language simply by being present in Peru.

Bringing a little Harvard flare and organization to Peru, the students have created and shared a communal Google document where  each student contributes by listing Peruvian customs we’ve observed that stand out compared to our American-tinted eyes.

Some of my favorite items are:

1. Eggs, butter, and water are not refrigerated.

2. Bedroom doors are kept open whenever possible so that if an earthquake occurs, people won’t be trapped inside their rooms. (Earthquakes are common in our area.)

3.  Fitting people in a taxi is like playing the ultimate game of Tetris.

I’m hoping Google has swept all universities as much as it has taken over Harvard because I feel like Google makes life easier. Within  this past year or so, Google has become the official email domain which has catalyzed the skyrocketing of applications such as Google Documents (great for brainstorming with other students and even sharing Powerpoints!) and Google Voice. I’d highly recommend everyone getting a Google Voice Number because it’s a permanent phone number that you can forward to your cell phone which makes filling out paperwork less of a hassle since you won’t ever have to update your phone number again! Also, Google provides the option of having voicemails transcribed and emailed. I’m not even working for Google and I’m raving about them…

Coming back from my tangent (!), for the majority of my summer, I’m shadowing at a private clinic where I was promised freedom to roam and follow my interests as I wish. Although Spiderman claims that the best promises are the ones you can’t keep (the Amazing Spiderman movie is AWESOME and my obsession will be explained later), the promise of my liberties in the clinic have been one of the best kept promises.

I shadowed a brain surgery on my first day in the clinic last week and I’ve been making a home for myself in the operating rooms ever since. Watching surgery firsthand is light years better than what Noah Wyle and Patrick Dempsey could even portray combined on cable television! However, my supervisors, in their wise judgement, pressured me to rotate around the different departments. A part of me knew their aggressive suggestions had kind intentions and a bigger part of me didn’t want to argue in Spanish, so I rotated as they wished.

I requested Pediatrics and met some loves of my life:

I can’t help but to think newborns are so ugly-cute!! AHH little feet!!!!!!

In my short time at the clinic, I had already seen a handful of caesareans where a group of doctors whisk away the  baby while other doctors stitch up the mama. It was an enlightening experience to follow the baby this time as nurses cleaned him/her as well as performed basic medical check ups. My mind was blown to think that everyone starts off sooooo small and helpless (…and ugly-cute!)

The newborns department entrusted me with much more responsibility than the operating rooms did. My excitement climaxed – and with great responsibility comes profound fear! I was allowed to cradle some (crying) newborns in my arms, feed and weigh them, as well as collect their footprints. There was also a good 12 minutes when I was in the nursery without any other staff member, just sayin’. I’ve never carried a newborn before! I’m talking about new-newborns…like they’ve been breathing on their own for maybe 5 minutes. Although I felt really honored to be trusted so much, I felt like the H-bomb really helped me out here…I don’t hate it.

Chocoteja variety from Lunahuaná

Another thing that I’m far from hating are chocotejas – chocolate shells with manjar blanco (and usually another surprise like peanuts, pecans, etc.) filling. [Manjar blanco essentially tastes like caramel, but I’ve recently learned the sad, sad lesson that it’s basically boiled condensed milk AKA a fatty death wish.] Simple, addictive, and delicious, I surrender to chocotejas.

My host family told me to keep an eye out for chocotejas  in Lunahuaná, a small town that DRCLAS planned a group trip to on the third Friday of the program. I’ve said before that DRCLAS SIP is the epitome of a perfect “summer internship” because it’s a harmonious balance between productivity and relaxation, but it also skillfully see-saws between structure and freedom! After orientation week, most days are free days except for the majority of Fridays where DRCLAS organized events take place with the purpose of catalyzing our cultural immersion while abroad. Oftentimes after work, a few students will meet up and explore, but Fridays are always so great because the whole group finally comes together.

Lunahuaná is also known for white water rafting which has been on my bucket list for quite some time now (since the summer of 2010 to be exact). I think the closest rafting location to Cambridge is in Maine, but it was SO much cheaper to do it in Peru! Checking off an activity on my bucket list while being abroad made me feel so productive, fulfilled, and accomplished!!

While abroad, I’ve had such a concentrated amount of new and once in a lifetime experiences that I’ve hardly had adequate time to reflect. But when I do take a few moments to evaluate my experiences, I’m overwhelmed with happiness because I know that everything I’ve done this summer – from roaming Paris alone for 36 scary hours to holding a living man’s colon – has been WORTH IT, regardless of the negative reflections on my bank account…

This week’s guest blog was one of the most eloquent and succinct arguments for going abroad ever. I think it has convinced me to go abroad again! There’s a reason why everyone you talk to who has been abroad raves about their experiences and memories as their face lightens up. There’s also a reason why Harvard College has teams on teams of professionals and (financial) resources to help students pursue their desires abroad (Office of Career Services & Office of International Programs to name the most prominent). And to these reasons, I know I’ll be forever thankful!!!

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 “Summer internship” is a loaded phrase; its contrasting connotations blend splendidly together – especially under the umbrella of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) organization.

As mentioned in my previous blogs, I’m participating in the DRCLAS Summer Internship Program (SIP) for the majority of my jam-packed summer. The first week oriented the 13 participating students in Peruvian history, culture, and safety which essentially tried to eradicate our touristy characteristics (i.e. taking group photos in front of ALL churro stands) – whether or not these efforts were futile is still vehemently debated to this day. Orientation week ended with a cocktail mixer with our bosses.

Program student participants, coordinators & partners!

The program felt surreal up until the moments we awaited for our bosses to arrive. Most of us, at this point, never had personal contact with our bosses and had no idea what we would be doing for the next 7 weeks. A Peruvian company name was enough for us to purchase a round trip ticket without hesitation! The anxiety concomitant with jet-setting to a foreign country without complete job security rose and climaxed when we realized conversation icebreakers had to be in Spanish. Avoiding awkwardness in English is already almost impossible for me as it is, so I patiently awaited my boss as I perused my arsenal of knowledge, mentally recounting Spanish books and movies from class so I could quickly relate to them if the conversation lulled.

Thank goodness Melvin, my Peruvian boss, is suave enough for the both of us. We discussed the logistics behind shadowing at the clinic, ceviche, chocolate,  and before I knew it, the program coordinators declared a final toast so that no one had to travel home during an obscure hour.

My excitement about my shadowing internship carried over for days! Melvin and I had made plans for me to start my internship early in order to meet the majority of the doctors at the clinic as well as get my uniform customized. He said I would have full reins to observe whatever I wanted in the clinic and he has definitely kept his word to this day.

On my first day at the clinic, I was ushered into the operating room of a brain surgery!!!!! Yes, all these exclamation points are necessary.

Me in the middle of a surgeon sandwich!

I’ve seen human brains before – at science camp (and on Grey’s Anatomy!) – but they’ve never been attached to a beating heart.

The patient was a teenage boy and it would be his 4th brain surgery within the year. He had an aggressive brain tumor and an aggressive team of talented doctors to match. As I loomed over the shoulder of the neurosurgeon and watched as the patient’s head was shaved, a lot of conflicting emotions erupted from the core of my stomach.

A patch of the patient’s skull was meticulously drilled out of his head almost as quickly as I could imagine future-surgeon-Jeanie with the drill in my hand. Yet I wanted to run out through the automatic sliding glass doors to the beat of the patient’s heart. Although I can physically see myself running the scenes of an operating room, I feel like I have to become emotionally cold to cope with the emotional trauma of the patients! (Did I mention I cry during every Grey’s Anatomy episode? Because I don’t….)

Before this shadowing internship, I thought shadowing was a stupid waste of precious time because I’m more of a hands-on person. However, all the Mather (my upperclassman House/dorm) premed tutors/advisers strongly recommended shadowing. Since it was difficult for me to find time during this past academic year, I was beyond elated to not only receive the opportunity to shadow and simultaneously practice Spanish, but also acquire generous funding through the Office of Career Services (OCS) [see “International Internships and Funding” in the hyperlink].

I never thought I would stand inside an operating room in action before the third year of medical school. The fact that I’ve already had this experience as a rising undergraduate junior blatantly demonstrates how Harvard and its resources effectively provide a catalyst to jumpstart as well as support students on their career paths. Reid, in her more recent blogs, mentions how grateful she is to be studying abroad in the country known for love and food. I couldn’t agree with her more.

I’ve done a lot of traveling this summer and still have tons of traveling ahead of me. When my summer official ends on September 4th (the first day of class of the fall semester), I’ll have my personal record of travel mileage. Every plane, bus and train that I board is made possible by Harvard, its opportunities and resources, as well as the strong support of my family and friends. Have I mentioned that I love life enough? And I haven’t even begun to rave about the “summer” half of “summer internship” …

Peruvian tradition calls for the birthday person to bite the cake before cutting it.

DRCLAS’s official calendar has students working/going to class Monday-Thursday with organized activities on Fridays and free weekends. Please note that students may be called in to work on any day! The flip side applies too – meaning that spontaneous holidays have happened. For example, the second Thursday of the program was a participant’s birthday! The main program coordinator was gracious enough to invite all the students over to her house to celebrate with pizza and CAKE! It was really great to reunite with the other students because we saw each other every day during orientation week, but when work and school started, we hadn’t seen each other for days! Hearing about everyone’s internship over a slice (or multiple slices!) of delicious birthday cake was the ideal way to wind down the first “business week.”

On the second Friday of the program, DRCLAS organized a tour through Paracas and Ica. In Paracas, we boarded a boat headed to the Ballestas Islands.

The caves and rock formations were carved by sea, wind, and weather!


On our way to the islands, we got a great view of “The Chandelier” hieroglyphic

This steep hillside encryption can only be seen on boat. Its origin and function remain as mysteries!

as well as a wide range of animal species including sea wolves and Humboldt penguins! Back on the mainland, we toured a winery. Although you might expect a bunch of college students to get excited about free wine samples, we were all just really eager for lunch! One of the more difficult adjustments to Peruvian life is the late lunchtime! We hadn’t really eaten since breakfast at 5am and it was about 3pm which directly translates into a bunch of winey kids (if you catch my drift 🙂 !)

I’m so glad they captured my good side while sandboarding…

After lunch, most of us spent the best $8 of our lives. Literally right next to the lunch restaurant were miles and miles of seemingly endless Huacachina sand dunes where we sandboarded down steep, STEEP slopes!

Just a few hours ago, we were on a boat!

Once in a lifetime #fairytalelife


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Forming new friendships can be a nervously fun experience, but there’s something quite unsettling about throwing yourself in a situation where you not only have to make new friends to survive, but also a third party has hand selected the people you’re suppose to make nice with. (College orientation anyone?) However unsettling this situation may be, I apparently am drawn to it – especially during the summer.

When I reminisce on my previous summers, my science camp (yes, that was me and I’m not ashamed!!) months definitely sparkle brighter than the rest – even beating out summer days spent on beautiful (Southern) California beaches. This isn’t solely because of the sheep brain

Spinal cord, Lady & the Tramp style, anyone? She actually goes to MIT and is a Theta too! We make a point of catching up a few times every semester. Such a small world!

I got to dissect or the proteins I got to grow in tobacco leaves, but science camps were phenomenal because of the people I met and the friendships that still carry me forward to this day. Science camps, however, always had at least 40 other students; whereas, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) Summer program only had 12 other participating students. Pressure? Atmospheric.

Yet, I’m more than happy to report that after one frighteningly quick month in Latin America, we’ve proclaimed ourselves as the most diverse Peruvian family you’ll ever know. The strength of our bond is measured by the camera lens of our fake-reality show called REAL LIFE DRCLAS. After a handful of polite wars

Tres leches is a traditional Peruvian dessert – it’s basically vanilla cake soaked in sugar milk…YUM

(No, you have the last french fry!), we’ve declared a truce and have gone to eating each other’s tres leches without both permission and hesitation. Having the term REAL LIFE DRCLAS  has really come in handy because it’s a great phrase to shout when you want to immediately suppress any tension because it’s a simple reminder that our “angry voices” aren’t personal attacks towards the person, just the frustrating situation. Our mutual understanding – that group activities, decisions, and agreements come concomitant with heated debates – is truly the glue holding us together in Peru (well, that and our love of manjar blanco).

Alfajor: a Peruvian delicacy where manjar blanco is generously wedged between 2 soft sugar cookies – my treat after work!


My situation is exactly where I want to be and how I want to live – that is, practicing Spanish and eating three times my weight at every meal.


DRCLAS is split into two groups: Summer Internship Program (SIP) & Spanish and Community Service (SCS). All participants live with a Peruvian host family who naturally have become our real family. (Future blog to come about living with a host family!) Note that DRCLAS structures and organization may change from year to year and may depend on location as well as popularity.

SIP kids are partnered with a Peruvian company and work Monday-Thursday. SCS kids alternate between taking a Spanish class and working with a local company for 4 days of the week as well. Fridays are usually Peruvian themed days with DRCLAS sponsored adventures and weekends (as well as weeknights after work) are typically free as we please. The inherent dichotomy of DRCLAS doesn’t lead to family feuds (SIP vs. SCS), but rather a constantly entertaining exchange of stories.

Since I’m personally participating in DRCLAS SIP, my adventures will be tinted as so.


Week One – Orientation

Sky somewhere between Barcelona and Lima

My flight from Barcelona landed in Lima at 5am, a mere 6 hours before our first official DRCLAS meeting. If there ever was a time I felt like a jet-setting business woman, it would have been that morning! Someone get me my pantsuit from the dry cleaners!!

I must have filled out the all-Spanish customs paperwork correctly because passing through security was a breeze. There was nothing for me to do except aimlessly wander the airport with an extremely public thought bubble that read: “I’M A FOREIGNER.”

Before my arrival in Lima, my host family and I had exchanged a handful of emails that included picture attachments so we could both know who to look for at the airport. A man, who I didn’t recognize, stood with a handheld whiteboard sign that read JEANIE NGUYEN in all caps.

Foreign strangers popped my personal bubble with the warmest hugs and kisses. My host family consists of grandparents (with the grandmother being my primary caretaker), a host mom, a 19 year old host sister and a 17 year old host brother. My room, with its blue-sponged painted walls and giant teddy bear, awaited me. My full sized bed called to me, but I had just enough time for a hot shower before being whisked away to a bus (locally known as combi) that would take me to the first DRCLAS meeting…the first of MANY meetings that week.

Orientation week felt a lot like Shopping Week (the first week of every semester where students noncommittally attend classes) because many Peruvian professors and outstanding members of the community kindly lectured about the country’s history, norms, economy, emergency procedures, and so on. These informational (overload?) lectures were well balanced with city tours and food tours! DRCLAS did a phenomenal job with organizing group activities this week! It would have been hard to rally the group especially when we didn’t know each other well. With the support of DRCLAS, we were able to tour the main plazas, eat at some well known restaurants with authentic cuisines (Pardo’s Chicken, Cucho la Rosa) as well as roam the Pachacamac ruins.

Pardo’s Chicken: known for their pollo a la brasa (slow cooked chicken)



Pardo’s pollo a la brasa (typically paired with fries) – Thank you DRCLAS!








A city tour isn’t right without churros from street vendors! (Note street vendors are not encouraged by DRCLAS or Harvard University Health Services…oops?)

A warm (llama) welcome to the Pachacamac ruins!!!

The end of orientation week (or Shopping Week) is like getting a pacifier ripped out of your little infant mouth. No more baby business nor monkey business – it was time for straight up business! Time for SCS kids to start class and SIP kids to enter the work force!


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Hi everyone!


My apologies for the sudden disappearance for the last few weeks: with post-graduation festivities and settling into summer housing and programs, things have just begun to smooth out.


My time as a student at Harvard may be over now (at least as an undergraduate), but that doesn’t mean I’ve let go of Harvard Square and the Harvard community so easily. This summer I’ll be participating in two programs in Cambridge, MA in conjunction with Harvard College: Harvard-Karma Yoga Community Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program (which I’m in the midst of right now), and a research fellowship with Harvard’s Schlesinger Library (which I will begun right after my teacher training is done).


Before I get into the amazing Harvard-Karma program and what its like beginning summer in Boston with a bunch of yogis, I wanted to give a quick update on the graduation festivities!


Graduation week (May 21st to the 24th) flew by, attributably largely—I believe—to the fact that I had 10 family members staying with me and touring Boston…

With my grandparents peering out to sea

My mum & dad at the wharf 

…and Harvard together.

Outside the freshman dining hall (Annenberg)

My aunt and her boyfriend hiding from the rain as we tour Harvard

Some of my family, such as my grandparents, had never been to Boston before and it was great taking the time to re-explore this place in potentially my last summer here. We even were able to cook a full family meal together and it almost made up for missing Thanksgiving these last four years! A child of Italian heritage, pasta, bruschetta, and cannoli’s flowed plentiful from the kitchen.

Many cooks in the kitchen, with my brother Adam and mum

A real Italian-style feast

My second family who has graciously allowed me to stay through the summer: my friend Dylan and his mum Pia

Graduation itself seemed to take place in the span of two. Wednesday was Class Day, which focused on just the Harvard Undergraduates graduating complete with hilarious speakers (Andy Samberg and Barney Frank) and four great student speakers as well. The whole event was less formal and featured a lovely pre-picnic before the speakers.

With the boyfriend before senior picnic

Senior friends at senior picnic

Commencement day was on Thursday and began early at 6am with a Senior Breakfast, church service, and was filled with tradition at every turn—everything from men in top hats to a full speech given in Latin! It was a whole day affair, but the ritual of it all was amazing to witness—traditions that have been around for hundreds of years it really makes you feel part of something larger than yourself.

Note the sports-announcer-esqu explanation of commencement and its many traditions

All of Harvard Universities’ schools from the Law School to the Business School to us undergraduates was presented and united together on Thursday as each of our respective school deans declared we had met the requirements to graduate and each graduating class broke our into much deserved cheers. After a final song from the choir and the local sheriff declare the event over, we all marched the deep drum of the Harvard band out to our undergraduate house. Once there we received our diplomas with family and friends in company: a perfect ending to a beautiful day.

 Bright and early on commencement day!

With my blockmate, Anita, at our house’s diploma ceremony

Diploma officially in hand!

When Friday morning rolled around, I was sad to bid farewell to my family members but was able to find solace in my new endeavor—training to be a certified yoga teacher. A recent program began between Harvard University and Karma Yoga studio in Cambridge where students received discounted 200-hour-certification in exchange for teaching yoga for free to underserved populations in our local community. I truly believe in the healing potential of yoga and meditation, and in its ability to show individuals that they can each become self-empowered—that we all have that potential within us!

 The whole group: Om Shanti~

I am truly grateful to be part of such a great community and to learn so much about myself and from others post-graduation. As many of my Harvard friends left town, it was great to be able to truly find friends and encouragement in this new program.

Teaching each other

Learning & growing together

…And jumping off the footbridge into the Charles River together…!!

Summer so far has been beautiful, if occasionally rainy, and I’m using the opportunity to take advantage of my last few months in Boston—exploring local farmers markets, opting into new classes and workshops I’ve always wanted to take, exploring amazing parks and greenery, and trying out new restaurants as well as old favorites. Next entry I’ll write back with some of the specific events I’ve been checking out in case you too ever find yourself around Harvard for the summer—it’s a wonderful place to be!


Until next time~



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It is always hard to say good-bye to an amazing class. Last year, I thought I experienced the worst, when I had to say good-bye to all my life-long friends and venture into a new environment where I didn’t know anyone. Little did I know that I would venture over three-thousand miles and make closer friends in one year than I have my whole life.

Throughout my life I have been a competitive junior and traveled the U.S. playing national tennis tournaments. Tennis is such an individual sport, and in the juniors you just look out for yourself. In college, it is supposed to be more team oriented, but before coming to Harvard, I didn’t understand the team aspect. In the fall, I continued to play as if I was still an individual. Since then, I feel I have grown so much, as wells as grown closer to the team.

I owe this growth to the four seniors on the tennis team. They are Davis Mangham, Alistair Felton, Jon Pearlman, and Mac McAnulty. While each one has a complete different personality, tennis has unified them and they comprise the HMT class of 2012.

First we have our captains, Davis Mangham and Alistair Felton. Davis is the most responsible person I have met. He is always on top of his work, takes care of his body, and never misses a practice or a workout. More importantly, is one of the coolest people I have ever met, and I always enjoy being in his company.

Davis Mangham

Our other captain, Alistair, hails from Great Britain and has been a great leader through many battles we have had this year. He is a world-class doubles player who can return virtually any shot blasted at him. He also constantly invites us to his room to hang out or watch a movie, and really made me feel part of the team during my first couple months at Harvard.

Alistair Felton

Next, we have Jon. Known for his six-pack beach body physique, he is probably the most entertaining player to watch on a tennis court. His passion and fire is second to none, and he truly wears his heart on his sleeve. He is one of the most hard working tennis players I know, putting several hours outside of practice to improve his game. I really looked up to him this year, and he inspired me to try harder and push my boundaries farther than I thought I could.

Jon Pearlman

Last, but not least, we have Mac. He is one of the most interesting people I know. Not only does he excel in academics, breezing through his undergraduate years with a near perfect GPA and at ticket to Oxford, but he is one the most vocal tennis players both on and off the court.  Whether he has to climb a tree, or shout through a small opening in wall, Mac is always keen on voicing his support in our dual matches.

Mac McAnulty

These four seniors really shaped my first year at Harvard and is the reason why I had such a positive first year experience. Being part of this team has given me so much invaluable experience and memories that will last me for a lifetime. It’s not only in the advice they give and direct commentary, but also through the indirect effects of their actions that they continue to influence everyone on the team. They are our mentors and leaders, and I will continue to look up to them for the rest of my life.

While it is sad to say goodbye to such an amazing class, it is a very essential part of life. This cycle enables the next generation of warriors and fighters, to rise up and make their mark as a member of the HMT. Like many great graduates before them, the HMT class of 2012 will be missed greatly, but they  will never truly be gone, but continue to live and be present through our actions. Congratulations HMT class of 2012, and best of luck in the future!


Harvard Men's Tennis Senior Class of 2012

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If you’re coming in to Harvard College as a math/science kid, there’s one prominent aspect that sucks and I’m going to warn you now so you can mentally prepare. Your finals will always be last. Most likely you’ll be the one on campus studying until your brain almost overheats as you bid your non-math/science friends farewell during Reading Period (the week before Final Exam Week when classes end officially) and as seniors celebrate their last week of avoiding real life.

It’s only fair if I weigh the benefits of late exams too. Non-math/science students basically don’t receive their earned Reading Period because it’s more of a Writing Period for them. They’re forced to crank out ridiculous amounts of pages revolving around their profound, revolutionary theories that will change life as we know it – all meanwhile the math/science concentrators hibernate their brains, enjoy the abundant spring formals, and naturally pity their peer writers.

There are definitely some hefty pros and cons to both sides. You may find peace of mind in the fact that every student has their academically rough times eventually. One struggle that unites us all simultaneously, however, is moving.

Most students will remember Move In day as the glorious day they met their freshman year roommates, settled into their first dorm room ever, and even perhaps had their first appeteaser of genuine independence. All students will try to forget the anti-glories concomitant to Move Out days.

Unlike most other universities, Harvard is awesome about providing (free!) storage for students during the summer. All upperclassmen Houses (dorms) have their own storage areas (i.e. squash courts in their basements, music rooms not used during the summer, etc.) for everything from clothes, bikes to furniture. Generally, the biggest move you’ll make as an undergraduate follows your freshman year as you move your belongings from the Freshman Yard to your respective upperclassman House. Students get 12 stickers that are mandatory to tag your belongings so storage is limited in a sense. Storage is also first come, first served, depending on space availability, but I’ve never heard of this being a problem. If you live within a certain mile radius, however, you don’t get these convenient storage privileges. Also, the hours of access to storage are pretty limited. Rooms with supervisors are open for business about 6 hours a day around Final Exam week and no one gets access to these rooms until a few days before the fall semester begins. The storage system isn’t flawless – I’ve heard of basements flooding during the summer or students losing their items – but life definitely would be way worse if it didn’t exist!

This past Saturday, I had my last final exam during the 2nd to last possible final exam slot. Although I spent the week optimistically thinking “at least it’s not the last final,” I also (over)optimistically bought a flight home 3 hours after my last final. After a few days in the Gutman library (where there was free coffee and tea compliments of the Dean!!!!), I decided I would study in my room and take study breaks to pack. Initially, this system worked pretty well because my hate for packing would accumulate rapidly and I would actually want to study more. I clearly studied too much since my packing was (maybe) half way done as I was walking into my last final.

I ran home after my physics final to finish packing so I could catch my flight in 3 hours. I really, really hate to say it, but it was an impossible feat. I nearly threw everything in boxes while trying to strategically pack for my European/Latin American summer, frantically struggled to tape them shut, and struggled even harder to fight the nearing mental break down I felt creeping up as the countdown to my flight’s take-off ticked louder and louder! Most stressful situation of my life. Thank goodness I’ve met some of the greatest people of my life during my 2 years as an undergraduate. Some of the best and most altruistic friends literally came to my rescue as they fought the packing tape out of my hands and ushered me out the door to catch my flight home. They reassured me that my things will be packed, stored, and ready for me come September. I can never thank them enough!!!!!! Seriously though, if any of you need an organ, hit me up!!

My motivation for writing this blog post was to use my venting as a mechanism of informing future/prospective students of some non-academic tasks that are intrinsic to Harvard. But I’m extra glad I can hit two birds with one blog because for everyone out there who devoutly believes Harvard is a strictly selfish and cut-throat environment, you’re wrong. While moving my belongings, my friends got all nasty sweaty as their biceps and lower backs screeched in pain when they know they’re not really benefitting from helping me out – besides from all the baked goods I will deliver to them weekly from now on. Helping me out isn’t a resume booster, it’s not going to help them land their next internship – in fact, this unidentified shout out may even be their best reciprocation – yet, they still helped me not only because I really needed it, but because they wanted to! Awww, my friends are truly the best and the people I’ve met at Harvard have definitely defined my happiest experiences.

Although I categorize my friends back home as my “high school friends,” I’ve known most of them since middle school and our friendships have most definitely solidified throughout the decade we’ve spent together. It’s crazy to acknowledge that my friendships in college are just as great when it’s only been ~2 years or less, but living with your friends is probably the most efficient catalyst.

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Visitas Weekend has finally come! Every April, Harvard opens its gates to the admitted students for a jam-packed weekend full of diverse events, great food, and incredible conversations. This is an important weekend because the admitted students have to make the decision of where to spend their college careers. It’s an exciting time of college exploration and finding out if Harvard is right for you.

My favorite part about this weekend is meeting the Admitted Students- or as we call them at Harvard- the “Pre-Frosh.” Current students get the chance to host Pre-Frosh in their dorms during Visitas in order for a chance to see what it’s really like to go to Harvard. Hosts are also there to provide any kind of advice, guidance, or past experiences to help the Pre-Frosh make their decision. I signed up for 3 and I can’t wait to pick them up and show them around once they get here!

Another one of my favorite parts of this weekend is that Presencia Latina falls on the Friday of Visitas. Harvard’s Presencia Latina is a spectacular Latin Arts Showcase where groups from across the Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston communities can come together to celebrate the Latin culture. I really hope some of my Pre-Frosh can make it to the show! I was at Dress Rehearsal last night until the early morning so I know the show is going to be a great one, as always.

Another reason why this year is so special is because Presencia Latina has reached it’s 10th Year! That’s an entire decade of Latin Arts. I really appreciate that Harvard gives us the resources and space to celebrate a culture that means so much to me and I know that we’ll continue sharing this beautiful culture for years to come! That was one of my concerns about coming across the country to college- I thought I would lose my culture. Luckily, Harvard provides a ton of opportunities to celebrate the culture you grew up in as well as learn of the diverse set of cultures that make up Harvard’s student body. This weekend will be unforgettable.

To get a look in to what last year’s Presencia Latina looked like, check out this video!

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Hey everyone! This week’s post is different than normal; I decided to take some photos and collect some information about Freshman Housing at Harvard. It’s known around the country for being incredible, as you’ll find out while reading this post. Click on an image to enlarge it, click on a title to find out more information, and enjoy the post! If you would like another resource, click here to be redirected.



Harvard freshmen all live on campus around Harvard Yard, the central location of Harvard College. There are four “yards” which encompass various dorms, all of which have their perks. When you’re a sophomore, you live in a House (or the Dudley co-op, if you so choose) until you graduate, but this post is only about freshman housing…perhaps I’ll feature upperclassmen housing next year. If you’re interested in learning about how the housing process works, check this out; otherwise, keep reading!


Apley Court

Apley Court is known for huge suites, marble bathtubs, and its distinct location between the Yard and River houses.

Not a dorm, but Holden Chapel, my favorite building in the Yard




Yay, Hollis! Suites, which are only doubles, are absolutely gigantic.


I personally love Holworthy, mostly because of their awesome (yet again giant) suites and their common room, which is the best on campus in my opinion.


 Lionel’s twin is Mower. I get them confused. There are only 40 residents, and each suite has a private bathroom!

Mass Hall

Mass Hall is incredible, with around 14 freshman living there, because it also houses President Faust.


Lionel’s twin, home of one of my favorite people, is both adorable and tiny.


Straus, home of my future roommate (!), is awesome. It’s in a private yard, has lovely rooms, and really cool staircases (things you notice when living in Canaday).


Stoughton! Home of more great people, this dorm is awesome because it looks like it is split in two. Other reasons include huge doubles and ideal location to run Primal Scream.


Union Dorms!

Union dorms (Pennypacker, Greenough, and Hurlbut) are “far away;” that is, they are really close to Lamont,

and about as far as Straus to Annenberg. Also, because they’re farther away, there’s more space to have better rooms.


Despite its gross name, Hurlbut is gorgeous. The suites are huge, and there are many “pod systems” comprised of luxurious singles around a big common room.


Pennypacker, home of the radio station WHRB, has in-suite bathrooms in each room, a central staircase, and tons of dorm pride.


Greenough has hardwood floors and huge suites. Enough said.



Wigg is where it’s at! This incredibly long dorm has the best practice rooms, where I spend most of my time, and has spacious suites to boot. You’re very close to all of what Harvard Square has to offer!




Canaday is my dorm! As a resident, I can honestly say that it is the ugliest dorm on campus, rivaling Mather (an upperclassmen house). The good things of Canaday include our own courtyard, proximity to everything (it takes me less than one minute to walk to class), heightened security (riot-proof building…but that’s not actually a plus to living in Canaday), and most importantly, the GIANT windows. I live in the common room, though, so that might effect how I see the world (pun).


Thayer is awesome. I love it. It has the best interior design, with hardwood floors, crown molding, and pale green walls. The rooms are big. My future blockmate and friend since 7th grade lives there. It’s really close to Canaday!




Dream of Weld. If you like huge common rooms, you’ll love Weld.


Matthews also has incredible housing. Pattern? Yes.


Grays Hall

Grays is known as the Harvard Hilton for a reason. (Hint: best rooms.)


I asked around campus in order to find some of the best freshmen dorm rooms Harvard has to offer.

To the class of ’16, you might be lucky next year and end up in one of these sweet suites!

A Weld Room


Welcome to the huge common room. Boasting dormers, a hand-made coffee table, and natural light, this common room might be the best in the yard.


Pictures from home are displayed on a clothesline in a whimsical fashion.


Check out this coffee table, complete with Crimson!


A white-board wall is a creative and artistic addition to this lovely room.


Both Weld doubles and singles are spacious and well-lit.


An Apley Room

This single in Apley Court is enormous, complete with walk-in closet and and hardwood floors.


Same room, different angle: check out that closet!


This might look like your bathroom at home, if your bathroom had a marble bathtub.


Although this room is on the 5th floor, who wouldn't want to ascend that staircase every day?


Two Hurlbut Singles

If this room had a superlative, it'd be best-dressed.


A not-so-average college dormroom is common place at Harvard!


A Grays Room

This spacious common room gets a cozy feel from the christmas lights

Same room, different angle: brick walls add a classic Harvard touch


Too Cute to Bear

A Canaday Room


This common room, although messy, is well-lit and has colorful touches. (And it's where I live!)


A Canaday single may be smaller than some, but it's cozy and guaranteed to be yours (or in this case, my roommate Helen's) for at least a semester.


Canaday rooms make you incredibly happy, as displayed by my roommate Rachel.




until next time


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