House System

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If you ever consider visiting Harvard, don’t come when September transitions into October. I’ve never noticed this before – and maybe it’s just a coincidence this year – but every aspect of everyone’s life has recently magnified. These heightened responsibilities stem from upcoming midterms, extracurricular club/volunteering activities, job recruitment…and the list goes on forever. Once October hits, students can no longer deny that school has started and autumn is in full swing. Actually, maybe visit this time of year because it’s so freaking gorgeous with the leaves changing colors.

The view from my bathroom (on the 14th floor)

Classes are strangely picking up – meaning we’re still in the calm before the storm, but people are getting antsy because it’s very obvious that the storm is extremely imminent. I’m going to turn the other cheek with regards to this storm though and focus on the fun things in my life while I can.

Mather had a Magic Show! Mather is one of the twelve upperclassman houses – it’s known for it’s concrete high rise tower (19 floors!). Students live in The Yard (the heart of campus) their freshman year and move into one of the upperclassman houses for their remaining three years of undergrad – this is called the residential college system. Each upperclassman house has a wide range of house-spirit building activities. Think constant pep rallies. For example, some days will be marked as “community dinners” where only residents of the house are allowed to dine in the dining hall. Houses will also hold Stein Clubs, also known as Happy Hour, once every 2 weeks where there’s just a ton of free food and drinks along with great music — these are the best way to start your weekend relaxation! A personal goal before I graduate is to attend every house’s Stein Club 🙂

Fun fact: Most (all?) Harvard houses will be renovated in the next few years! We’re in the process of a long term renovation process which is really exciting because who doesn’t like the new small of architecture?? However, at the same time it’s pretty scary because I’m definitely going to come back to my 10 year reunion clueless of the new names to each building!

Mather Magic Show!

Back to my main point, Mather had a Magic Show! Joe Schwarz came and put on an intimate show for about 10 people. He talked about his nontraditional love for science. It was really exciting to not only see him perform tricks as well as explain them, but also hear about his surprising application of his scientific knowledge. At Harvard, there are a handful of paths that most students go down post-graduation: consulting, finance, med school and law school are the top ones that automatically come to mind. In the moment, students can start to feel like there are no other paths, so refreshing events like the Magic Show are very helpful to remind students that the world is bigger than what we think.

…which can also remind us that we should branch outside of the Harvard Bubble – it’s very common for students to hardly step foot off campus. I’m pretty guilty of being trapped in said bubble and that’s why when my sorority organized a group to fundraise and participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s about 4 miles down the river, I jumped on the opportunity! It was a great Sunday afternoon spent before the onset of midterms!

6 mile Walk to End Alzheimer’s route!

I’ll update in a few days about midterms…ugh


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The annual Harvard-Yale football game not only lifts our school spirits, but also flags the end of the semester. After this game quickly comes Thanksgiving, Reading Period and Finals Exam week. Then BAM, our grand prize of a month long winter break (J-term/January term) for successfully finishing another semester of college.

We are currently in the midst of Reading Period: seven days without official classes (although unofficial classes/review sessions/language classes usually take place during this week) where we can prep for our finals. This time of the year can be pretty stressful with multiple final papers and projects due at the end of Reading Period. Regardless of the stress level, I am constantly reminded that I should be grateful for this week – imagine if we had to accomplish all of our immense assignments on top of class! This is actually what most college students have to do.

When I first learned of Reading Period, I thought it’d be the chillest week ever – a week of catching up on my favorite television series and sleeeeeep. However, the relaxation has definitely never been this extreme although the week’s flexibility does allow for normal sleeping hours and longer meals with friends. Reading Period can easily get a bad rep due to the high levels of associated stress, but when I talk to my non-Harvard friends, at MIT and Californian universities, my love for Reading Period is automatically rekindled!

This fall semester, I have 4 papers due within this coming week and then 1 math final on the last day of finals. I’m feeling some pressure, but this hasn’t hindered my holiday cheer!

He may look small but sure knew how to work the dance floor!!!!!

Last weekend, PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association) – our volunteer program umbrella – hosted an end-of-the-semester Holiday Party where there was tons of sugar (cookie decoration, gingerbread house-making, etc.), dancing (dance offs, limbo!), and Santa even made an appearance with presents for all! It was tons of fun seeing all the hard work we put in these term time programs culminate into some of the happiest faces on these kids! It’s also heart warming to see students take a few hours from their busy studying schedules to make joyous events like these happen, especially because they only come once a year!

The high holiday spirits definitely emanate off campus as well.

Boston Commons Park

In the middle of Boston Common, there’s a seasonal ice rink called Frog Pond. My friends and I rung in Reading Period with an ice skating celebration. The park is also beautifully decorated with holiday lights and an enormous tree (someone in the park told us the tree was imported internationally too!)

Some of us ice skated while others hung on for dear life…

What is a holiday season without delicious food??

Good thing that’s something I don’t have to answer since (I think) each individual upperclassman house (dorm) puts on a holiday feast. Each dining hall also puts up a well decorated Christmas tree and menorah. It’s like the school does everything possible to make this time of year less stressful and more cheerful!

All my roommates after dinner

My upperclassman house, Mather, had a wonderful dinner – some highlights were artichoke poppers, roast beef, apple stuffing, broccoli rabe, cheesecake, egg nog and mulled apple cider! YUM

Mather also has an annual game of Assassins since we’re not in class and usually studying around Mather. Students organize the entire game – this year, they passed out water guns (whereas last year, our provided weapons were nerf guns). We have 24 hours for each round and the end of the round comes with an emailed list of obituaries filled with (black) humor.

My favorite laugh from yesterday was reading these obituaries. Here’s my favorite:


Theresa & Jonathan

Both victims of the most casual of killers:

I killed Theresa and Jonathan yesterday.”

…as if this were the most natural thing in the world to send per email. Sends chills down my veteran spine. 
Theresa’s dying word was ” =( ” 
I was killed yesterday morning at the lab I work at. I thought I was safe being a good 15 minute walk from Mather but apparently my assassin was super dedicated and was waiting for me to come in for 40 minutes! Also uncool how her roommates are my co-workers…

Maybe it was a good thing I was killed during an early round so that I can work on my papers! AH


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

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

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

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

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

Sure, I may have returned to this:

College essentials

5 loads of laundry later…

But when your college roommates are as welcoming as this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What students see on

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

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 50 – Literature and Medicine

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

Molecular and Cellular Biology 145Neurobiology of Perception and Decision Making

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

Mathematics 18 – Multivariable Calculus for Social Sciences

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

Spanish 61nThe Ethics of Business

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

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

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Sherry L. Deckman, Senior Resident Tutor and Sophomore Advising Coordinator, Adams House

Okay, to call myself an “undergrad” is a bit of an exaggeration—given that when I was an actual undergrad the internet was just gaining popularity and it was possible to have a decent social life without having a cell phone, let alone a “smart” phone.  However, through Harvard’s unique college house system wherein graduate students live among and advise undergraduates, I have had a chance to do some of the undergrad experience over again.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve taken away from this time is about the power of play.  It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling of constantly needing to do school work or to devote oneself to extracurricular and leadership activities.  But, now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience undergraduate life for the second time, I can assure you that while we’re all here at Harvard to work hard and to learn, play is an important part of that process.  The lessons learned outside of the classroom from your neighbors and peers might even be the most valuable that you take with you from your four years here.

You’ve probably heard this sort of thing before, maybe from your parents or older siblings.  And, you may be thinking that this all sounds fine in theory, but still be wondering how you can actually go about applying this idea to your Harvard experience.  I suggest pushing yourself in two ways:

1) Do something you never thought you’d do (at least once a semester); and

2) Do it with someone you’d never thought you’d do it with.

For me, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this has involved lots of costumes!  I can assure you that costumes were sadly lacking from my first four undergraduate years and have truly enriched this one.

Here I am donning formalwear and a tricorne hat with some Adams juniors at our House dinner to celebrate Harvard’s 375th anniversary this past year.

In this photo, I’m posing with our Adams House Master and the House Committee Co-chair, at a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the House Masters’ residence.  Everyone wore colonial garb and we had a parade around the block with a fife and drum band.  For those of us with neither a fife nor a drum, we played gold-colored kazoos.

While this may seem a bit silly and nonsensical even, by letting our guards down and forgetting about classroom stresses and work obligations, through laughing and playing, we at Adams House come to know each other on a deeper level and forge close bonds.  It may also be due to the whimsical nature of some of these interactions that we are emboldened to make connections with people we never imagined we’d connect with.  I mean, it’s hard to take yourself—or anyone else for that matter—too seriously when you’re wearing a 12-inch tall wig and playing a kazoo.

These boisterous times can turn into long conversations after study breaks, like this one in my Resident Tutor suite:

And these conversations turn into friendships that can transcend your time at Harvard.

Here I am at our Adams House champagne toast for graduating seniors in May with some students who came from across the U.S. and the world and became friends here at Harvard.

Not everyone has this amazing opportunity to have a second undergraduate experience.  So, remember to make the most of your time at Harvard by doing things you never knew you were capable of and meet someone you never could have met if not for this shared undergraduate experience.  You will learn so much about yourself and the world.  And, if you ever need to borrow some costumes, just visit us at Adams House!

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Gabby Malatesta, History Concentrator in Mather House, Class of 2013

Since sophomore year I have lived in Mather House.   As a freshman, I was beyond excited about that for a number of reasons: I would have a single, it was on the river, the dining hall and food are awesome, etc.  But two years later, it’s safe to say the biggest reasons why I still get excited about Mather have changed quite a bit.  While the rooms, common spaces, and dining hall are all great, the people who I see everyday are why I sing its praises to mostly everyone I meet and why I dread the day I have to leave this place.

#1 – Hey, look at that, it’s Mather!

Mather House

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?  Okay, so concrete may be an acquired taste, but when I walk into the courtyard after a long day, I can’t help but feel happy.  In my opinion, that feeling is exactly what living in a residential House is all about: having a home.  In a House, fellow students, tutors, the House Masters, administrators, and dining hall and House staff all are there for you—whether you need a recommendation, personal advice, or even an eye-patch for the coming weekend’s pirate-themed party.

#2 – The Dining Hall: My Second Room

Mather Dining Hall

Here, I’m in Mather’s dining hall.  In a House, the d-hall is a place for eating, studying, socializing, events, and late-night snacking, and it’s a safe bet at least one or two of those will be going on at any given time.  It’s rarely empty, and once 8:30 p.m. rolls around, you’re sure to see a lot of familiar faces at Brain Break.

Nothing is better than a two-hour dinner spent with friends or that feeling of solidarity that comes when you’re at a table full of Matherites writing papers and doing problem sets until midnight.

#3 – Housing Day

“Charge!  Mather House residents flock wildly in the Yard.”  That was the Gazette’s caption.  I’m the one with the scarf, and we had just finished “dorm-storming” Matthews.  Dorm-storming is when a hoard of upperclassmen run into freshmen rooms early in the morning to greet the ‘blocking group’ of freshman assigned to the house where they will live for their sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Housing Day!

Housing Day can be suspenseful for freshmen, but most upperclassmen consider it the best day of the year, with as crazy a lead-up as the day itself.  Most Houses put together a Housing Day video (check it out below) to show freshmen why their House is so sweet (not to do too much bragging here, but back in the day, Mather gave the world the first one ever).

Freshmen will be sure to see House mascots chilling with John Harvard or taking notes in an Ec lecture. For the rest of the day, freshmen wear their new shirts around the Yard and to classes, and then around dinner time the Houses welcome incoming residents with dinner, Masters’ receptions, tours, and social gatherings.

#4 – HoCo

As I mentioned earlier, I’m pretty active in House Life.  Since my sophomore year, I have held a position on Mather’s House Committee (HoCo); first, I was a Publicity Co-Chair and am now currently a Co-Chair.  HoCo is responsible for making their House the best place to live for all students, and HoCo hosts many big and small events and acts as the representative for their House to the House and College administration.  HoCo makes it possible for Matherites to enjoy such events as Housing Day, Formals, Happy Hours, study breaks, and barbecues ever year.

HoCos are responsible for a Winter and Spring Formal every year, and the Spring Formal is usually the last event of the year.  While I’ve had awesome extracurricular experience through my HoCo responsibilities, what I value most is the friendships I have gained.  Without HoCo, I would not have seen the sunrise while on a coffee run the morning of Housing Day, have yelled, “DP4UC,” for two weeks outside of the Science Center, or had hour-long Bananagrams breaks from papers at two in the morning—all with people I am lucky to call friends.

Me and most of our HoCo board at our 2011 Spring Formal

Me and most of our HoCo board at our 2011 Spring Formal

In truth, I never expected to love Mather as much as I do now.  In retrospect, I probably should have known.  You see, my dad lived in Mather when he was an undergrad, and because of this, I grew up knowing fun facts like the first House Master kept racehorses, or thanks to the skylights and the design of the roof, you could see rainbows on the ceiling of the d-hall after it rained.  Mather stayed with him well past Commencement, and I know that it will do the same for me too.  I am the person I am today because of the people I have met and the times I’ve had in Mather, and there’s nothing I would change about my House or the family I have found there.

Okay, I’m done talking about all of my Mather feelings.  I’ll leave you now with a little something from Madness.


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I’ve had the honor of speaking with a handful of prospective/admitted students curious about life at Harvard College. I really enjoy speaking to these students because I was definitely in their position – where I was just dying to know what Harvard life was like – and their intriguing questions allow me to adequately reflect on my time as an undergraduate – an activity I wish I did more of! #runonsentence

There’s a few questions – some that I didn’t anticipate – that seem to come up frequently so I wanted to dedicate a blog to share and perhaps even plant new seeds of thought! #ambitious

But before acting on this endeavor of answering popular questions, I wanted to preface with a mini autobiography to make all the bias that I weave into my answers really obvious.

My name is Jeanie Nguyen. I’m currently a rising Harvard undergraduate junior, 20 years old and I spent the first 18 years of my life mostly in Southern California. So yes, I love Avocado (like it’s a real person, hence the capitalization/personification) and I can be quite snobby about my Mexican food (but Taco Bell is totally legitimate and if you don’t think so, you obviously haven’t had a chalupa). Essentially, I talk about being from Southern California like it’s something to brag about. I’m that premedical student who carries band-aids, burn ointment, and eye drops wherever I travel; and I’m concentrating in Neurobiology (major), secondarying in Global Health and Health Policy (minor), and pursuing a Spanish Language citation. I’m pretty adventurous/spontaneous: I love trying new things whether that’s food or activities!

In addition to warning everyone of my incredible bias, I also need to have a length disclaimer. My answers are really long, ramble for an eternity, and are probably only partially applicable at best. I throw out tons of information that I would have appreciated someone else telling me, but I’m really random and minor-detail oriented. If you don’t hate it, keep the questions coming! 🙂


Question 1: What would you say is the “best” dorm around?

At Harvard College, the freshman live in the center of campus – called The Yard – and these buildings are colloquially termed “dorms.” Most people know about Harvard Yard because it’s the heart of campus and where the oh so popular John Harvard statue is. The Yard is always beautifully manicured – even after such wildly muddy events like Yardfest and Harvard’s 375thBirthday Party – so living here your first year is such a marvelous privilege!!

Harvard’s 375th Birthday Celebration = Tons of people in the Yard + Rain = Mud for days!

Since the university follows a residential college way of housing, after your freshman year, you move out of the yard (reluctantly?) and into upperclassman houses – or “Houses” for short. You stay in the same House for your remaining time as a student although you move in and out of different rooms within the same House. Dorm locations are definitely ideal, but the love and community concomitant to House life is worth the 15 minute walk in the morning!!

I lived in Wigglesworth as a freshman. A lot of my non-Harvard friends were genuinely upset with me that I didn’t immediately tell them that I lived in a building called Wigglesworth. The name is actually somewhat fitting as it lies above the subway (colloquially called the T) so when the subway trains pass, you can feel the floors of Wigglesworth (Wigg) tremble – not annoying as it sounds! But then again, I lived on the third floor so I felt less of the impact. My really good friends were on the first floor though and I was never bothered by it. I also studied a lot on the second floor so I feel like my opinion takes a lot of perspectives into account!

There’s this period of time during the summer – I think it begins after the day you commit to your college of choice – where your future fellow college peers start friending you on Facebook. Although I normally hate adding people I don’t know, I felt really obligated to accept because I just wanted to be accepted!! Haha you really don’t have to accept – and you really shouldn’t accept unless you’re comfortable with casually exclaiming “Oh yeah! I know you because we’re friends on Facebook!” in a lot of conversations. This Facebook thing is applicable to the questions because I remember a great deal of people posting about how they were hoping to get Wigglesworth so when my housing letter came in the mail, I was excited about the result!

Wigg is known for its hard wood floors (so much better than nasty carpet that can stain easily!) and fireplaces (although you can’t use them). I’m pretty sure all rooms in Wigg have a common room in addition to bedrooms although students always have the option of making their common room into a bedroom to maximize the number of available singles. Wigg also has the luxury of in-suite bathrooms so no yucky, typical college bathroom woes. We also have our own laundry room and trash room in the basement so we don’t need to go far to take care of these chores (unlike student in Grays dorm for example). There’s also a bigger common room in the basement with study tables, comfy couches and a big flat screen TV with cable for those dedicated to Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl.

My room was the only room on the third floor and was super spacious. I loved it! And so did my three roommates! Every time I walk pass my old room, I definitely look at it fondly. Between the four of us, we had one double bedroom and two singles. To be fair, we switched rooming situations half way through the year.

Our common room at its messiest while switching rooms!

Don’t judge us!

Also, I lived in the smallest subsection of Wigglesworth (there are three subsections), fondly termed the Wigglet and since only about ~30 students are lucky enough to live here each year, the community can get pretty close and just as cute as its name!

Wigglet (2010-2011) – Convocation Day in the Fall … 10 points to whoever can spot the baseball player in the popular Call Me, Maybe parody

Since Wigg lies on the perimeter of the Yard, along Massachusetts Avenue AKA Mass Ave, it can be a trek to Annenberg/the Science Center which basically is on the opposite side of the Yard. However, there are many perks to being along a main road such as being < 3 minutes away from CVS (convenience store), JP Licks (dangerously delicious ice cream shop), and the T stop!

I can’t even really think of any common ways people bashed Wigg. When you tell people you’re from Wigg you generally get an excited response (since Wigg is a really large dorm and it’s likely that you’ll run into other Wigglers) or at least a nod of respectful approval. “Go Wigg or Go Home!” is a common phrase that should be chanted not only proudly, but frequently.

If you’re already tired of my bias, I can’t blame you. Here’s my apology, please accept:

A more comprehensive overview (applicable to the unlucky ones 😉 )

Question 2: Any advice on packing stuff up/shipping stuff out east?

At the airport before my freshman year began, en route to moving in – I couldn’t pack light if my life depended on it 🙁

If you know my middle name, you would never ask me this question. A lot of people would consider me a bad packer. I can’t say that I completely disagree, especially after my catastrophe at the end of my sophomore year. However, my reputation is sort of like a misnomer! I tend to never schedule sufficient time to pack adequately, but I do pack smart!

My friends are most impressed by how meticulously I pack. I weave dryer sheets in between my clothes when I pack them, especially if the clothes will be packed for a long time, so they always come out smelling like I just washed them! Additionally, Instead of putting things straight into a cardboard box/suitcase, I generally like to put it in a trash bag first. This trash bag method is awesome because it serves as another bad odor prevention mechanism. I also found this method helpful while traveling Europe this summer because I stayed in dorm-like hostels where I shared bedrooms with strangers so I would be uneasy about the security of my belongings; but since any potential thief would have to go through my trash bag first, it would probably wake me up too!

I make tons of paper copies of my name and phone number that I put not only on the exterior of the box, but the interior too. This is an idiot proof method when storing boxes in a common area which is the kind of storage Harvard provides (to students outside a certain radius). If anyone accidentally/not-so-accidentally takes your box, there’s really no way to justify them playing dumb since my information is everywhere!

When storing my boxes in a common area, I also like to tape newspaper to the outer sides of my boxes for easy identification. Some people like to use wild duck tape, but these types of tape are commonly sold in stores so multiple people may have the same tape. No one really tapes newspaper and since the surface area of newspapers is larger than duck tape, it’s also easier to spot in a room that’s literally filled from floor to ceiling with boxes! Newspaper is also free!! Woo!

I also enjoy performing activities in an economic fashion. This is really just a fancy way of saying that I’m cheap. However, I’ll never be cheap with packing tape. You need to buy the good stuff and use tons of it because it’s not worth it ever if a box rips and your belongings become separated/lost! Friends also become eternally grateful for your extra tape.

Being cheap also means that I hate buying boxes too! I would much rather put money towards my churro funds rather than cardboard. Definitely ask stores for their cardboard boxes since most recycle them anyway. I tend to rely on my parents’ company for boxes when I’m at home.

As for physically relocating things to campus, make sure to triple check your baggage allowances on your mode of transportation and don’t be shy about asking for student discounts. It never hurts to try. Domestically, I usually fly with Southwest airlines because they allow 2 free checked bags and a carry on which is the most “free” I’ve ever experienced. Fortunately, my parents flew out to help me move in so I called dibs on their check ins!

I literally imagined myself dying in the cold from my first East Coast winter and thought I had to buy tons of coats before leaving, but this is definitely not something you have to do. It’s hard to find appropriate coats in Southern California anyways. I’ve conformed and have become a big fan of the Northface brand though. You may not want to admit this to your parents, but you really don’t need a new wardrobe!

Embracing the cold before Freshman Formal #YOLO

I still wear my SoCal tanks and tees under a big coat in the winter. Your coat just needs to be good enough to withstand the wind + rain + snow for your <15 minute walk to class because your classrooms will be waiting for you all warm and toasty! Note that umbrellas don’t help!! Buy a wonderfully comfortable coat with a hood to strut in because it’s typically too windy for umbrellas and you wouldn’t want to hold an umbrella anyways! All you want to do in the winter outside is to bury your hands in your pockets.

Rainboots are a separate case from coats though. It rained within the first three or four days of my arrival on campus and I’ve never regretted investing in some rainboots as a preemptive strike. Every time I walk in/through a puddle in rainboots, I’m still incredulous that my socks aren’t soaked!!

If you were spoiled with amazing weather all the time like me, don’t let the threat of East Coast winters scare you!! I love experiencing four seasons. In fact, it’s best to experience leafy autumns and snowy winters in college where you don’t have to rake or shovel anything yourself!!!

Definitely not raking anything…

                                                                                                                               Question 3: What are some of the must-sees/must-dos at Harvard?

This is one of the more difficult questions to answer because interests vary so widely. But I hate it when people use that as an answer to a question. I’m already incredibly biased and don’t want to be hypocritical too!

When I think back through my time as a Harvard College student, there are definitely some defining moments. I LOVED embracing the East Coast culture and being a coxswain for the Men’s Heavyweight Crew team! Definitely one of the best, once in a lifetime experiences!!

I’ve said it before and I won’t ever stop saying that one of my ultimate, favorite aspects of Harvard is the people! I’m obsessed with sitting around and doing absolutely nothing but getting to know my peers. Everyone is so freaking interesting and hilarious! We’ve also collectively racked up enough good stories for a lifetime. It’s come to that point where I’d say our lives are more interesting than TV – interesting, not dramatic!

Most of my greatest memories are on campus/campus events – like meeting celebrities!!! You’ll be on tons of email listservs as a student where the spam can be annoying but a lot of the pubbed events are super interesting/exciting opportunities!!

I believe in Harvey Dent!



Representing the Wigglet around Shaq!!! Casual run in…

                                                                                                                     I do really want to start taking even more advantage of my environment by completing everything on Natalie’s list though!

                                                                                                                     Question 4: Is there any advice you would offer your freshman self (or a lost freshman), knowing everything you know now?

Two prominent mistakes (one personal and one academic) come to mind when I think of my personal freshman year – although we all know there were several committed.

Most of my friends are surprised that I identify myself as an antisocial person. The beginning of freshman year is just super overwhelming because not only have you left all your family and friends, but you’re now in a whole new environment with thousands of strangers! Albeit the strangers are friendly, I had a hard time continuously meeting tons of people during the beginning days of freshman year because I always doubted whether we’d become actual friends or not. This negative mindset pushed me to rely on my high school friends. I Skyped (video chatted via internet) my high school friends a lot freshman year due to the fear that our friendship would become estranged. I definitely don’t regret staying in touch with my high school friends because the ones I Skyped all the time are the ones that give me a strong reason to come home; but, I do feel like the fear of losing my high school friends shouldn’t have been stimulating anxiety. It’s definitely a natural fear to have, but after becoming super busy sophomore year, we’ve kept in touch less throughout this past year. However, I still feel just as comfortable around my high school friends to this day as I did 2 years ago. In fact, thinking about them right now makes me feel simultaneously really lucky for having their continuous support and really stupid for ever fearing that our great friendships would diminish. Therefore, if I could reassure little, lost freshman Jeanie, I’d demand her to not worry so much about her loving connection with her friends and family back home.

After the emotional stabilization, I would definitely tell myself to not try to plan my life. College comes with waves of intense sensations of fear that you’ll fail at everything which will propel you to try to plan your life. This endeavor isn’t possible – at least not your freshman year; it becomes more of a likely possibility your sophomore year and that’s why you declare your concentration (major) your sophomore fall semester rather than during your freshman year which is what most other universities have students do. During your freshman year, it’s best to talk to upperclassmen, your assigned academic adviser, your PAF: Peer Advising Fellow community, faculty and etc. to learn all the classes that are truly geared towards your interests. You’ll learn so much your first year about the differences between class series and the importance of sections, so that the life plan you made freshman year will render itself useless in a matter of a few conversations! It’s best to wait until your sophomore year to start planning how all of your courses will fit in the short time you have as an undergraduate.

I am fully aware that I’m advising you to take your hands off the wheel during your entire first year and that this request is a horrifying one! But enjoy your time as a wide eyed freshman and feel free to be a little lost! Just don’t be so lost that you can’t give a tourist directions to Annenberg.

Holy smokes. My answers always turn out to be soooo much longer than anticipated!! I really hope that the information overflow isn’t overwhelming because that is definitely not its purpose!!!! You truly don’t need to know any of this information because I didn’t and I am (arguably) fine, I promise! AHHHH SORRY!

There are also tons of other resources for any burning questions you may or may not have! One of my favorite finds are Harvard Q&A groups on Facebook. We’re all guilty of wasting time on Facebook so you might as well satiate your curiosity that way! Most of the time it’s benevolent Harvard students answering questions – yay!

                                                                                                                                                                                        **Excuse any slang/improper English please! I’ve been speaking and thinking in Spanish so hard these days while living in Peru – and LOVING it!!!!!

***UPDATE (24 June 2012)

One thing to start thinking about is money on campus – meaning banks. I am no longer an advocate of the sock drawer so one thing I made sure to check for during prefrosh/Visitas weekend was nearby banks. I know of a handful of people who chose to keep their local, small town banks but I feel like the majority of students have local banks for convenience. Once you do your research and choose a bank, you can start thinking about credit cards. And just because you’re going to college doesn’t mean you can’t bring your parents in on this – they have much more experience than you! One additional thing to keep in mind is that many, many Harvard students travel abroad at some point during their undergraduate careers so if you like to plan super ahead, take into account international fees/cards/offers.

Random list of local banks from the top of my head: Harvard University Credit Union, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, TD Bank, Citi Bank

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Today, Harvard Yard is quiet as most students have gone home (or to a warmer place than Cambridge) for spring break, but on Thursday the campus was filled with yelling, cheering, laughter and tears. Thursday was Housing Day – the day when freshmen at Harvard find out which of the upperclass Houses they have been placed in for the next three years!!! Freshmen can form a blocking group of up to eight people that are guaranteed placement into the same House, and can link with one other blocking group that they are guaranteed to be placed into the same neighborhood with.

On the morning of Housing Day, students from all of the Houses gather early in the morning to deck themselves out in House apparel and deliver letters to students assigned to their House, followed by lots of shouting and cheering in front of Annenberg Dining Hall. Here, for example, is the Mather contingent (the best, in my biased opinion!) Of course, since Housing Day is right before Spring Break, students often have papers and midterms due that day (as I did freshman year), but generally the entire campus comes together for Housing Day, with professors laughing along as mascots from the Houses storm big freshman classes like Ec 10 and LS1b.

In honor of housing day, I went through my photos and found group shots of my roommates and I from freshman, sophomore, and junior year. Freshman year, my roommates and I were part of three different blocking groups, which were placed in Mather, Dunster, and Cabot. Every semester, we have a freshman roommate reunion at Nine Tastes, the restaurant where we went for our first roommate dinner together freshman year (which is where we were going when this photo was taken!)

Sophomore year! Here are my roommates and I right before winter break, sometime in the midst of reading period and finals, in the common room of our lowrise room in Mather.

Junior year! Here are my roommates (and our new roommate for senior year) right after the room lottery. We tend to have the worst luck, and got the lowest number in the lottery for junior year and for senior year. (Each house has a lottery to decide the order for picking rooms for the next year). We still ended up on the seventh floor of Mather tower this year though, so it was all good 🙂

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Last night, my roommates and I were all in our suite at the same time—we weren’t at medical or graduate school interviews, The Crimson, our labs, a UC meeting, an evening section, or an IOP event…we were all home, and we were excited to spend a few minutes catching up before finals begin.

When anyone thinks about going to college, they think about what it will be like to have roommates. I remember how nervous I was the day of my freshman move-in—picking out my outfit (a striped pink-and-orange polo with jeans, as my current and freshman roommate Cara ’11 still remembers—in retrospect, her striped shorts and grey t-shirt was a much better idea as it was a ridiculously hot day), wondering who I would be sharing a room in my suite with, and what my roommates would be like.

All freshmen at the College live in one of the dorms in or around Harvard Yard—I lived in Weld, one of the dorms next to the University Hall and the John Harvard statue. After filling out my housing application, I found out over the summer before freshman year that I would spend the year in a six-person suite with two doubles and two singles. Our first day, my roommates and I picked our rooms out of our recycling bin (the only container not packed into a box of duffel bag) and I shared a long but somewhat narrow double with Cara ’11 the entire year (and it worked out! We have been roommates ever since 🙂 ).

During the second semester of freshman year, we got to form a blocking group, which is a group of up to eight students who will be placed together in one of the twelve upperclass Houses. Cara and I got placed in Mather House, along with a surprisingly large number of other Weld residents! Mather is an awesome house, and all of the undergrads living there get singles in suites all three years. Sophomore and junior year we lived in the lowrise, which has five floors and consists of duplexes, with a common room on one floor and bedrooms either on the floor above or below. This year, we are living in the tower on the seventh floor. I got pretty lucky and have an amazing room overlooking the Charles River. Here’s the view from my window!

We also have three other roommates—Ashley ’11, Camille ’11, and Emma ’11. One of the best parts about all the students at Harvard is the diversity of interests and activities everyone is involved in. Cara is a Psychology major who is an Exec on The Crimson’s Design Board, Emma ’11 is a History of Science concentrator who is one of The Crimson’s Design Chairs, Ashley ’11 is a Government concentrator who worked for First Lady Michelle Obama two summers ago, and Camille ’11 is a Physics and Astrophysics concentrator who has gone all over the world to take measurements and collect data on awesome telescopes—pretty cool!

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Living in New Mexico, it can be somewhat of a challenge to go back for every break – with no direct flights and the resulting expensive tickets, I’m usually stuck back East while nearly all my friends go visit friends and family in their hometowns. For every fear I had coming this far from college of never being able to visit home or of being isolated during the vacations, I’ve found friends who have been more than willing to open their homes and offer a place for me and the plenty of other students who come to our campus from across the nation and world.

This year, my friend Kristen ’12, a fellow Mather House resident, invited me to go stay with her and her family at their home. Days after Harvard-Yale Weekend, which my fellow bloggers have covered from all angles, I turned in a problem set, packed my bag, and took the next bus to Cape Cod with Kristen where her family lives. This was actually my first overnight trip in Massachusetts outside of the Boston area; I’m admittedly very often stuck in the Harvard Bubble where so many interesting events are going on, all my friends are, and a steady pile of schoolwork ensures I remain tied to my desk for much of the week. So needless to say, I was excited to get out and take a small vacation before finals period.

Encountering one of the less boisterous seagulls.

Encountering one of the less boisterous seagulls.

Over the few days, we visited the beach where I encountered the seagulls I only previously saw through postcards of Cape Cod, attended a high school football rivalry game, watched my first episode of Glee (I will admit, I judged this show before watching any of it), and joined Kristen’s extended family for Thanksgiving dinner. Coming from a family where we put hot spices into pretty much anything that hits the table, it was great to also experience the diversity of holiday traditions by visiting friends. The weather may have been cold – certainly a foreshadowing to what is to come in the winter – but the food and company were certainly warm. Joining Kristen and I was another friend from Mather House who was with her mother visiting from Manchester, UK.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner!

Through Harvard’s House system through which upperclassman live, I’ve made many great friends. My only hope now is that they’ll visit my family as well out in New Mexico!

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