reading period

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If I could pick a birthday month, it would be April! What other month kicks off by celebrating tons of pointless jokes?? If we look beyond the infamous April Showers, I’ll personally confirm that we don’t have to wait until May for flowers – especially at Harvard.

April is essentially the last month of school for students since May consists of Reading Period (a week where classes stop existing so we can study, study, study for the upcoming week of finals) and Exam Week. Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial that we celebrate the end of another AWESOME academic year as an undergraduate. For the most part, people can safely assume that Harvard supports students academically as well as financially, but the institution also makes incredible strides to make our smiling muscles sore.

Speaking of sore muscles, Harvard On The Move, a new initiative, publicized as well as funded students to participate in the annual Cambridge City Run. Since the event took place on April 1st, I was hoping the 5 mile course would be a joke. Too bad they were actually serious. However, it was a perfectly breezy morning run around the nearby and scenic Fresh Pond.

Action shot after the 5 mile run!

Stress is a common theme among not only college students, but also humanity; so I always like to applaud Harvard for providing its students with healthy and effective outlets to counter the negative effects of perpetually compounding stress. Although my confession of love for the month of April is pretty serious, April is also the month that the last wave of midterms goes by just as soon as the new wave of final projects and papers begins. It’s an insanely hectic time of year and this can be manifested by my calendar which has reminders to remind my friends of tasks!

Everyone has a different organizational method just like how everyone relieves stress via varying outlets. Let’s say exercising isn’t your thing, but Taylor Swift really pinpoints all your emotions and makes you feel alive. Committed and diligent students on CEB: College Events Board (just look at their link! The first word is ‘fun,’ and URLs don’t lie!) bring live music right to Harvard Yard for FREE. (As you’re reading this, you should feel like you just won free tickets to Coachella).

On a Sunday in April, Yardfest happens and this year, it’ll be this Sunday April 15. As a sophomore, I’ve only been to Yardfest once and it will definitely stand in the top 25 moments of my life. (Last year, Yardfest was the same weekend as prefrosh/Visitas so the lucky class of 2015-ers basically get to go to Yardfest 5 times!!!! Jealous.) The event begins with BBQ and tire swings and lightens with live performers. My friends and I had so much fun at the concert last year that now, we’ll randomly yell “Yardfest!” at irrelevant times to convey the message that we’re having so much fun! If I haven’t successfully hyped up Yardfest yet, let me just say that I wasn’t even angry that my boots were ruined by mud.

But if you’re the kind of person that would rather not risk your cute ankle boots, Harvard also has another event for you! Eleganza is a fashion show put on by Harvard students for Harvard students, using Harvard students as models! I’ve never personally attended, but I only hear of great things – probably one of the reasons tickets sell out pretty quickly. The function also has a VIP section for student groups and these sections may cost a little bit more, but I’ve been told it’s worth it especially with the goodie bags you get!

I could go on and on foreverrrr about not only April events, but events any time during the year. I’ll never be able to do it as well as these sites though: HarvardEvents & EventPlease

So much to do, so little time – at least this is a good problem to have..?

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There’s nothing like walking out of the exam room after your last final of the semester. It is a long-awaited sigh of relief, (unwanted) reminder of exhaustion, and a huge feeling of accomplishment. Huge. All the hard work has finally paid off–well, for the most part. I remember at least one course I’ve taken here that I didn’t enjoy, which definitely reflected in my attitude toward the class. Regardless, I had that hodgepodge of feelings earlier today as I walked out of the Science Center after my Organic Chemistry final. The strangest part about it all is the interim between having no academic commitments and when you leave campus for home. Many people peace out as soon as they walk out of the classroom, suitcase and all. As a fairly local student (I’m from Massachusetts), I don’t have to catch a flight, so free time is suddenly restocked on all the shelves. I leave campus tomorrow morning.

You might be wondering, what exactly does one do when the majority of people have already left campus and those who are still around are studying for their next exam? Well, I had tea with my Proctor from freshman year (a Proctor  is essentially a “Resident Assistant” or “Resident Advisor” at other schools). Yes, my proctor and I still get together even though she is no longer my advisor. Many students keep in touch with their proctors and advisors from years past, and I think that’s a testament to the Advising Program here. You get to know each other very well, and it definitely isn’t unusual to see students and their advisors outside of an academic setting, perhaps eating in a dining hall or getting coffee together.

After we caught up, I went out into Harvard Square and attempted to get some Christmas shopping done. Now, I’m a very bad shopper because I’m extremely indecisive when it comes to gifts. I’m usually nervous that the person I’m buying for isn’t going to like what I get him or her. I know, I know…it’s the thought that counts. But I can’t help but doubt my gift purchasing abilities, which is why I think the holiday season would be fantastic if no one exchanged presents and instead just enjoyed each other’s company without gifts. I might suggest that, but it’s too late for this year. I was unsuccessful in my search, but it was definitely a nice, somewhat mindless way to spend time after my final exam.

I must now clean my room and pack. I haven’t paid too much attention to where stray papers and clothes have gone because of Reading and Finals Period, so it is a bit of a(n organized) mess!

My dorm room

My next blog post will be from home! I hope everyone has a great week!

 

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Hey, everyone!  We just finished with reading period, which is a week free of classes given to students to help with studying for exams. While this week encourages students to study hard, there are always events to compensate for the hard days of studying.

Last week marked the end of classes for the semester. While it was easy for me to part with a couple of my classes, there were two classes I was sad to leave. The first class was my expository writing class, what Harvard students call “Expos.” As freshmen, students are required to take an expository writing class, which is a writing-intensive course taught in sections of about 15 students.  There are many different expository writing classes, such as Family Matters, Darwinian Dating, Voice of Authority, etc. I picked the class HIV/AIDS in Culture. At first, I had some contrasting opinions about the class, but as we started to progress and look deeper into the texts, I began to appreciate the different works we studied.  In addition to enjoying the art and literature in the class, I’ve learned a lot from my teacher, who is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. Having been diagnosed with HIV for the past 15 years, he has played an active role in spreading awareness and fighting for public acknowledgement. My conversations with him were extremely interesting, and I feel privileged to have taken this class.

The second class I will miss is Math 1B. Similar to Expos, this class was memorable because of my professor. He has received countless awards for his research in this field, and is well-known for his work in gauge field theory. Despite being this world-renowned math mathematician, he was one of the most downto-earth and humble people I have ever met. Before coming to Harvard, I had a stereotypical idea of what Harvard professors were like, but Professor Taubes broke every misconception I had. Constantly cracking jokes about himself, and engaging in one-on-one conversations with all of his students, he was a very approachable person. On the last day of classes, he did a magic card trick that left our class speechless.

 

 

Camille, Hannah, Kelly, Professor Taubes, and me on the last day of math class.

I have been studying pretty hard for finals, but I’ve still had time to attend some social events. This week, the Harvard Varsity Club hosted the 2nd Annual Winter Charity Ball. I attended the Ball with a couple of members from the Women’s Tennis Team, and we had a great time! It was held at the Sheraton Commander Hotel, and all the proceeds went to benefit a nonprofit organization that uses coaching and sports to promote social change.

 

 

Kelly, Sylvia and me getting ready to head to the Winter Charity Ball

 

This week, I also had the honor of co-hosting a puja for the Dharma Club. A puja is a religious ritual performed as an offering to various deities. This prayer was for the celebration of the goddess of knowledge, music and creative art. In the puja, we said opening prayers, saraswati slokas, and sang bhajans. About thirty people attended the puja, and it was a great way to receive blessings for our upcoming exams!

Co-hosting a Puja in the Indian Prayer Space

 

Later in the week, the First Year Social Committee hosted “Frost Fest” in Annenberg, the freshman dining hall. At the event, students built gingerbread houses and decorated sugar cookies, and great holiday music courtesy of Harvard’s acapella groups helped to spread the holiday spirit.

 

Students building Gingerbread houses at Annenberg to alleviate stress


That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading this entry, and I’ll post again next week!

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This weekend was one of the most eventful and exhausting couple of days I’ve had in a while. As I said in my last post, Friday, December 9 was the CS50 Fair, which was just as epic as I imagined it to be. There were final projects from over 600+ students on display, along with several corporate sponsors: Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, and Bridgewater, just to name a few. They were all giving out free swag, including iPhone cases, t-shirts, and sunglasses. My final project partner, Lina, and I presented our website to so many people throughout the course of the fair, and we got some great feedback. We also hunted down David Malan (CS50’s famous instructor) and showed him our project! I actually didn’t care if he was impressed with our project or not, as long as we got a picture with him. And we did! You know, he’s such a celebrity…I don’t think he realizes what a big deal he is. Before I took the class, I’d see him walking around campus and was tempted to ask for a photo, but I’m super glad I waited until he was actually my professor. It’s crazy to think that we’ve talked in person at office hours and exchanged email after email. I sound crazy. He’s just a normal person, I know. But he’s still a big deal and I’m glad I can cross him off the list of people I have to meet before I graduate. Perhaps I’ll write a post sometime devoted to all of these people…but I bet I’d sound even more crazy. How embarrassing. To wrap the conversation about CS50 up,  Lina and I agreed as we were leaving the fair that it had given us an unusually strong feeling of accomplishment that other classes haven’t quite given us thus far.

Lina, me, and our friend Jenny with David Malan!!

Lina, me, and our friend Jenny with David Malan!!

I spent Saturday sleeping and studying so I didn’t wear myself out before the Five House Formal at the House of Blues in Boston on Sunday evening. Reid’s band, The Nostalgics, was awesome and you can see pictures from the stage in her post from a few days ago! I had a +1 to the event, so I brought my friend Marianna, who lives in one of the houses that had their own separate formal on another evening. It was incredibly fun to see so many familiar faces all in one place. Typically, house formals are either independent of each other or occur together with one other house. Each house’s House Committee (HoCo), comprised of elected student representatives, plans each semester’s formal. Talking to my house’s outgoing Co-Chair, I learned that the communication and planning about the Five House Formal started all the way back in January. I think all the hard work was reflected in how much everyone loved the event.

Marianna and I before the Five House Formal!

Marianna and I before the Five House Formal!

All of the fun stuff is over for now because exams have begun. I actually had a final this morning. All that separates me from vacation and the second semester of my junior year is the Organic Chemistry exam! I have an entire week to devote to it, so I’m hoping all goes well. It’s eerily quiet on campus this time of year. People take longer to respond back to texts and emails, and some even go missing for entire evenings. In the midst of all the free time shelves being empty, I was able to snap a nice picture of the John Harvard statue without anyone else in the frame (a rarity!). Check it out below…it’s a nice change of pace, especially because I feel like I’ve been posting way too many pictures of myself lately!

The John Harvard Statue

The John Harvard Statue

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Although I thought I’d have lots of free time this week, I’ve been really busy with all of the crazy things I’ve been doing. Today I can relax a little bit, though my French Final is tomorrow and I have to start studying some Conditional Tense (grammar is not my favorite thing in the world, to put it lightly). So now that I’m almost completely recovered, I can start reflecting on the wild week behind me!

 

Last weekend, I did the usual: music. On Friday night after band practice, I went out and supported my entryway-mate, fellow band-member, and other friends at the Opportunes-Krokodiloes jam at Sanders Theater. It was completely AWESOME, of course, because they’re all super talented; I got chills too many times to count during the two hour set. Afterwards, I went out with my friends to a get-together at the Co-op, an alternative housing system at Harvard. In the morning, I powered out some work in preparation for the week ahead. Saturday night, I tried to buy tickets for Spring Awakening at Club Oberon, where some of Harvard’s shows take place, but it was sold out, so I ended up staying in and watching Crazy Stupid Love. (Mmm…Ryan Gosling.) It was the first movie I’ve watched at Harvard, since the premiere of Money Ball at AMC Loews in Boston when I met JONAH HILL! (That was a fun time. Things you do here…jeeze.) Anyways, I rented the movie through iTunes, putting my $100 promotional deal to good use. I went out again that night, but not for too long, because Sunday was my big day!

Why, might you ask?  It is time to talk about my band, The Nostalgics, in greater depth. I have definitely talked about them before, but I have yet to dedicate a FULL PARAGRAPH (or two) about them! You may recall that we won the Battle of the Bands back in October. This guaranteed us a spot at the Five House Formal on December 4th, which happened to be this past Sunday. We’d been working really hard to get as tight as possible, and by the time Sunday afternoon swung around, all twelve of us (Burt, Charles, Noah, Ben, Will, Jack, Patrick, Rachel, Alex, Leah, Nick, and I) were feeling pretty confident. After all, we were about to play at The House of Blues, otherwise known as the best music venue in New England. After having taken the Green Line to Fenway, we met up at said venue at around 4 pm for soundcheck. After struggling to find an entrance (yeah, don’t ask why), we entered the GIANT music hall (three stories! balconies! a raised platform for the drums on a five foot-high stage!). We soundchecked quickly, ran upstairs to check out our Green Room (the place where cool backstage people get to chill), and headed off to Bertucci’s. It was Ben’s 21st birthday, so we splurged (not really) on unlimited soup and salad, as well as these great warm rolls. (I don’t know if I like very many things better than a piping hot roll to sate my hunger after a long day.) Then, it was time to head back and get ready to play.

After our opening act and a quick pre-gig ritual, we were ready to head on stage. I can speak for the whole band when I say that we were blown away by how packed it was. Thirteen-hundred students filled the hall, dancing to our crazy tunes as we ripped through our set. It was indubitably one of the best experiences of my life, and definitely the best experience I’ve had at Harvard. I wanted to stick around to dance, but I had a paper due early that morning, so I trucked back to campus to work, my ears still ringing from the epic sound system.

 

My band, The Nostalgics, playing at the House of Blues!

When I turned on my computer that night, however, I discovered that I had to prepare a few things for The Crimson’s Grand Elections the next day and night. I ended up only sleeping two hours, which has only happened two other times here (don’t worry, I normally sleep for 7 or 8 hours), but I saw my first Harvard sunrise! Check it out.

 

Canaday in all of its Morning Glory

Monday was a whirlwind of Photojournalistic activity, which ended with a secret ceremony in which I was elected a Junior Editor of The Crimson! Never again will I have to wait outside of The Crimson’s building, as I have swipe access! Plus, when my photos are published in The Crimson second semester, “Crimson Photographer” will be next to my name. Holla! I returned to my dorm room at around 11:30, my excitement fueling the final push on my French composition, which I’d be presenting in the morning.

Earlier on Monday, I decided it was time to finish the project I’d been working on. No, it wasn’t for school; I’d been messing around with iWeb in order to develop a website for The Nostalgics, and for some reason, my server wasn’t able to verify the site. I called my dad in NYC, asking for help, and he hooked me up via an alternative server. At 4:30, the site went live, with a few kinks and useless links, but it worked! I ironed out the problems, and you can check out the finished product here. It was my first time working on a website, and it was a very fun and satisfying way to end my afternoon.

I woke up to nasty weather on Tuesday, making it even more difficult to exit my cozy canaday bed. However, I convinced myself to take the short walk to Boylston Hall, which is definitely one of the nicest buildings on campus. There’s a lot of open beams, light, and foreign languages– all the things a potential Romance-language/Visual and Environmental Studies/Mind-Brain-Behavior concentrator could ever desire! There I met with my funny professor for my Oral, which lasted half an hour, and was really interesting. We ended up talking about democracy in Iran, based on conclusions we could draw from the movie Persepolis. Afterwards, I went to Loker Basement, where my band quickly ran over a few songs, a cappella, which was hilarious. That afternoon, I quickly printed out my final Jazz Composition, sprinted to the Music Building (where I’d never been…embarrassing), and turned it in right on time.  Then I could relax. For a bit.

Let’s skip over some of the boring details (mainly because I don’t remember them, even though it was only a few days ago…hey, I’m sleep-deprived). Tuesday night was Eliot Formal! I got my classy clothes on, went over at 6 to soundcheck and set up, and ate a quick meal at Adams, which was the first time I’d eaten dinner there. Then I trucked back to Canaday in the rain to finish my review worksheet for French and rehearse some of my lyrics. YAY! After returning to Eliot, we played for twice as long as the Five House Formal, which was really fun and gave us time to expand and be more creative. We totally killed it, finishing our first-semester gigging season on a high note.

Eliot D-Hall, pre-dancing. Doesn't it look like The Nutcracker?

Wednesday was the first day that I actually did any reading! I had class at 10, in which one of my classmates played a song on his cello about Pierot, the famous fictional French clown. (It was absolutely beautiful.) From 12-3, we had our final Jazz session, where everyone’s compositions were played by a full band in Sanders Theater, which was a special treat. Right after that, I headed over to the Science Center to the review session for LPSA. I’m almost done with all of my classes except for that, which is really scaring me; French will be done at 11 AM tomorrow, and then it’s all Biology and Chemistry from there on! My next post will be from back home in Vermont, where I can truly rest and prepare for my favorite holiday of all time.

Happy atypical reading period!

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If a meanie were to hold a gun to my head (likely situation now that my upperclassmen house/dorm community, Mather, is hosting a house-wide game of Assassin) and asked me to name the most important lesson that I’ve learned at Harvard, I would be ruthlessly murdered due to my indecisiveness. However, if the bully had just rephrased the question to inquire about my takeaways per semester, I would have lived to tell the tale.

As the semester falls to a close and Reading Period (the week before final semester exams where no official classes take place – a week to study and hopefully relax!) begins, my slightly slower schedule is concomitant to much reflection time. When I look back on each semester in retrospect, it’s always been easy for me to identify one activity that my whole semester revolves around.

Freshman Fall: Coxswaining for the Men’s Heavyweight Crew Team (Yes! Girls can do this…WHAAAT?!)

Freshman Spring: Chem 20 (an introductory organic chemistry class)

None of my friends knew the three other classes I was taking…'Nuff said.

Sophomore Fall: Working as a Research Assistant at the Harvard Decision Science Lab, located at the Harvard Kennedy School

Being a member of the math and science community, the pressure to perform research always exists. Lucky for me, I’ve always perceived this pressure as a challenge I’m willing to confront. I left this challenge on the backburner last year as a freshman though. So when I started comparing myself to my peers (a dangerous road I forbid you to travel down), I felt like I was slacking which resulted in a handful of freak-out moments during my Freshman Spring semester. I didn’t join a lab freshman year (totally normal!) because I wanted to wait for a topic that I’m genuinely fascinated by in order to avoid a tragic dive into a project I was only faintly interested in. Waiting and relying on fate can literally be one of the most frightening tasks! BUT just make sure you keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. In our fast paced lives, it can be hard to side step long enough to accept that some good things take time. But boy, am I glad I waited…

Within the two weeks right before the start of the Fall 2011 semester, I applied and interviewed for a position as a research assistant at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory (HDSL, this is a moment where I wish we had a twitter so I can tell you to follow us…). This type of research would be completely different from all my academic and commercial research experience during my high school years because there would be no mice, pipettes, or microscopes involved! Although these differences were an enticing and an exciting aspect of the job, the unfamiliar environment was also a source of fear.

However, saying I was scared of that is just like saying I’m scared of opportunity; it’s ridiculous! After one semester of working at HDSL, I can already say that I’m obsessed. Not only does the job pay me well, but I also get to interact with many undergraduate and graduate professors while working on their projects, and working with post-doctoral students has given me significant insight in graduate education.

The surrounding Harvard Graduate schools were one of the prime reasons why I decided to enroll at Harvard College instead of other universities. I’m a big advocate of undergraduates exploiting opportunities from nearby graduate schools – also it gives me a (false?) sense that I’m not a member of the Harvard Bubble community. But that’s definitely not to say that there isn’t a virtual cornucopia of opportunities on the undergraduate campus. The Office of Career Services (OCS) frequently partners with undergraduate (and graduate) departments to hold informational sessions about upcoming opportunities in research as well as in the internship/job market and beyond! You also can’t use “I’m busy” as an excuse for being ill-informed because user-friendly informational websites are abundant. If this isn’t overwhelming enough, you can take it upon yourself to investigate what individual professors are researching and directly approach the professors to inquire about whether they need assistance or not! The opportunities are literally endless; but it’s also extremely important to keep in mind that having too many opportunities is a good problem to have.

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#timeflies

Sorry that I’ve been missing in action the past few weeks!  I’ve been all over the place mentally (Physically I’ve pretty much just been here in Cambridge…).  Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess.

Time flies when you're having fun

Time flies! Get it?!

Here’s a brief overview off what’s been going on in my life since my last post.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19th: Harvard-Yale

As always, Harvard-Yale (H-Y) was an unforgettable experience.  Just to be clear, H-Y is the annual football game against Yale.  It’s cryptically referred to as “The Game” here on campus.  This year, H-Y was at Yale so there was a huge exodus from Cambridge.  Most people made their way down to New Haven to take part in the festivities.

I look forward to H-Y without fail because it is one day a year when school spirit reigns supreme.  H-Y is evidence of the thriving Harvard community.  Students, Alumni, friends, family, and football enthusiasts all come together to share in the experience.  This year was no different.

I’m not much of a sports fan, so I prefer to shift my attention to the student tailgates.  I dressed up in my best Harvard apparel, ate hot dogs and hamburgers, and kicked back with some of my closest friends and fellow classmates.

Me and my friends at the H-Y tailgate

Me and my friends at the H-Y tailgate

Oh, and Harvard won the game 45-7. Go Crimson!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd: Home Sweet Home!

After Harvard-Yale, I went back to campus and powered through the last few days of class before Thanksgiving break.  By Tuesday evening I was sitting at the Starbucks in Logan Airport, waiting to board my flight home.

I love traveling to and from school.  As I mentioned in my Blogger Bio, I’m from Virginia, so I usually fly into one of the Washington, D.C. airports.  Travel from Boston to D.C. is a breeze!  Tickets are almost always available, and the flight only lasts about one hour.  Plus I can take the T (Boston public transportation) to the airport, instead of spending a ton of money on a cab.

The best part about coming home for breaks is the warm welcome!  My mom treats me like a soldier returning from war.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24th: Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is one of my top three favorite holidays (the other two are Halloween and the Fourth of July).  I look forward to it each and every year, and this year did not disappoint!  The spread at my house included everything from honey baked ham to corn soufflé.  I especially love Thanksgiving now that I’m in college, because I don’t have to ration the leftovers.  I’m only around to enjoy the food for a few days, so I don’t worry about saving anything for the next week, so I just enjoy the food recklessly.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 27th: Back to School

I flew back to school on Sunday morning.  I decided to get to Cambridge early in the day so that I could get ready for the LAST WEEK OF CLASS of the semester.  The light at the end of the tunnel had never been brighter.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2nd: School’s Out! (But not really…) 

Last day of class!  Actually, I don’t even have class on Friday, so Thursday was technically my last day but we won’t worry about that silly little detail.  Regardless, I decided to reward my hard work this semester with an evening of appreciating the arts.

First, I stopped by Memorial Church (Mem Church or MemChu) in the Yard to see the Kuumba Christmas Concert.  The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College are just one of the many amazing choirs here on campus.  I went to support a few friends and hear some great music.  The energy at the concert was fantastic.  People were on their feet, clapping to the beat, and swaying back on forth.  One highlight of the concert, at least for me, was when the group sang the Boyz II Men arrangement of “Silent Night”.

My ticket from the Kuumba Christmas Concert

My ticket from the Kuumba Christmas Concert

After Kuumba, I made the short walk of to Sanders Theatre to catch the second half of “Twas the Jam Before Christmas”, which was a joint-effort a capella concert featuring the Harvard Krokodiloes (Kroks) and the Harvard Opportunes (Opps).  Unfortunately, I missed the Opps because I was at the Kuumba concert, but the Kroks were out of this world.  They must practice in their sleep, because they seemed so comfortable on stage.  The jokes between songs genuinely made me laugh, and the soloists were incredible.  There was even tap-dancing involved in the show!  I think the best word to describe the performance is “cheeky”.  They do a great job of making sure their bits are fun and carefree, with just the right amount of sass.

My ticket from the Kroks and Opps performance

Okay, I think that just about catches us up.  You’ll have to excuse me now, as a hide away in my “Reading Period Cave”.*  Also known as the Harvard Library System (especially Widener, Lamont, and Houghton).

 

Widener

Widener

 

Lamont

Lamont

Houghton

Houghton

*Reading Period is the week or so before final exams.  Most students spend the time writing final papers and studying for exams.

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After the joy of Thanksgiving break (which was MUCH needed – so nice to be home!) I was unlucky enough to come back to school to an extremely large pile of work and a big ol’ presentation for my Social Studies tutorial. Not so fun! So needless to say, I’ve spent the week cracking down on my assignments, drinking lots of coffee, and spending late nights at the library.

I did have one near-horror story with my paper, though. For background: in order to print using library printers, students have to swipe their ID and pay with “Crimson Cash,” which you can load onto your card online. The paper I was writing was for American Constitutional Law, and given that our professor is a Law School professor, we needed to submit our essays in hard copy at his office at 4:30. I was working on my paper down to the wire, went to print at 4:15… and discovered I didn’t have enough Crimson Cash to print it! Probably the most stressful 7 minutes of my semester were spent trying to load money onto my account, waiting for it to load, and finally printing my paper. A full out sprint across Harvard Yard later, I submitted at 4:27 – phew!

Yesterday also marked the end of classes, which means that today is the start of our nine day reading period. I was joking with friends this morning at this day (that is, the first day of reading period) is the “best day of the year” – mostly because it’s one of the few times all semester you can feel guilt free when you’re not working. I took full advantage of my mini-break and treated myself to dinner out last night and a long night’s sleep. It was much needed!

The bliss only lasts for so long, though, as end of the year assignments and activities begin cropping up constantly during reading period. I have two more papers due over the course of the next week, as well as three exams during our finals period, which means I’ll definitely be working!

Outside of class, though, there are also a lot of fun social events and activities going on, which means students are usually busy all day despite not having classes this week. Tomorrow night, for example, is the “Five House Formal” – as you might have guessed, five of the upperclassmen Houses are joining together to run a giant formal downtown Boston. As further evidence of how hectic reading period can be, there are probably a dozen end-of-semester performances going on this weekend. I went to see my friends in Spring Awakening and Little Shop of Horrors Thursday and Friday, and am going to the Kuumba (gospel) concert tonight. It’s definitely busy trying to balance everything! The mix of school and fun is what makes reading period great, though – I’m strangely looking forward to the next week!

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December at Harvard means one thing: finals. For the last three weeks of the semester, students spend the majority of their time writing final papers, finishing final projects, and studying for their impending final exams. We’re lucky in that we have a full week of “reading period,” during which there are no formal classes or exams and students are given time to crunch down.

If that sounds stressful…it’s because it is. It’s hard to deny that finals period is the most intense part of the semester – the libraries fill up, Houses have a “zero-parties” policy, and the line for coffee at Starbucks is consistently 15 minutes long. Luckily, though, I’ve spent (er, wasted) much of my reading period testing out different study spots, coffee shops, and snack stops in an attempt to find my perfect combination. Given my extensive research (glad to see reading period was good for something!), I’ve developed a list of my favorite exam period standbys. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am a non-library, coffee shop studier who loves Dunkin’ Donuts and pizza from Noch’s. Hopefully my bias doesn’t come through too strongly, though!

Best Libraries:

  1. Widener – Great for the “I go to Harvard” feeling. The main study room is really official looking, with long tables and lots of students doing seemingly important things. Plus, the silent study rule makes it a great place to crank out some work.
  2. Lamont – While it gets really packed over reading period, Lamont being open 24 hours makes it a convenient spot for late-night cramming. Misery loves company!
  3. Law School library – Conveniently right off the Yard, and stocked with free coffee! Hard to beat, but few undergrads.

Best Non-Library Study Spots:

  1. Starbucks in the Garage – While there are two Starbucks locations in the Square, the one in the Garage is much larger and has big tables and booths. Constant supply and coffee and snacks if you need them! Downside is that if you stay more than an hour, you start hearing their holiday playlist on repeat.
  2. Crema Café – A small, local coffee and sandwich shop with a great upstairs seating area. Again, delicious snacks at the ready! There’s no wifi, though, which can be good or bad, depending on the type of work you need to get done.
  3. Quincy Dining Hall – The Houses leave their dining halls open at night so students can hang out and study. Quincy’s is the best for serious work – big tables, good lighting, and comfortable chairs.

Best Coffee and Tea (for you caffeine-addicted readers…)

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts – Ok, ok. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t actually have the best coffee, if you’re looking for quality of bean or any sort of real measure of quality. Being from New England, though, I’m biased! The guy at the DD up the street knows my order.
  2. Crema Café – Great home brews and cute coffee cups! They make the drinks to order, so everything’s really fresh.
  3. Starbucks – I hate to admit it, but it’s true. It’s hard to beat Starbucks in terms of convenience, tastiness, and options.
  4. Burdick’s – Admittedly, Burdick’s is known for it’s hot chocolate, not it’s coffee, but their mochas are delicious. The dark hot chocolate is especially tasty, as well! Small tables, but they have wifi – good place to check your email or edit a paper.

Best Brain-Boosting Snacks

  1. Slice of pizza from Noch’s – Make sure you ask for Sicilian! Cheesy and delicious, and made even better when used as a break from studying. My recommendation is to get a slice of whatever’s coming out of the oven.
  2. Smoothie from Boloco – One of the three burrito places in the Square, but this one has a plethora of smoothie options that are both sweet and filling.
  3. Bagel from Au Bon Pain – Best part about ABP is that it’s open til 2 am. Anything with sugar and carbs is going to be super helpful getting through that late night of studying!

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Finals time has arrived, and this being Harvard, EVERYONE is hitting the books.  Luckily, Harvard has anticipated our crazed desire to study 24 hrs/7days a week and has scheduled a ten day Reading Period in which classes are canceled, meals are plentiful, and the campus is abuzz with chapter reviews.

It is during this time of year that the colloquial term “Lamonster” takes on added meaning.  Lamont is the College’s 24-hour library used by undergraduates looking to overdose on work.  It provides every work environment imaginable.

On the first floor, you will find a café operational until 2 a.m. where students can purchase sandwiches, cappuccinos, pastries, and sushi, or can grab any assortment of snacks from the vending machines.  The Café is a social work area where students are welcome to talk about work, complain about work, or chit-chat about everything BUT work, while sitting in lounge chairs and throwing their feet up.

Because pictures are not allowed in Lamont during Reading Period, here is a picture I grabbed off of Google Images. This is the Lamont Cafe, but imagine it packed to the brim with students.

Need to get some real work done?  No problem, just head back a little further on the first floor to the quiet study section, where you will find an open workspace filled with more lounge chairs and cubicles.  There you can still feel part of the world as you shoot silent glances across the room to your roommate or watch your friend from Life Sci receive your Facebook chat asking about the third question on the problem set.

But find even that much interaction too distracting to be productive?  Try the second floor where there are desks set up among the stacks or the third floor where there is another quiet study room with more cubicles and fewer lounge chairs.

Ahhh!  You just got a text from your Spanish partner reminding you that you need to finish up that group project tonight, and Lamont Café is too full!  Not a problem, there is a large group-study space in the basement with plenty of large desks to spread your stuff out, and swivel chairs.

Right now, you might be thinking, “Gee… Lamont Library really has everything a person might need… food, comfortable chairs for naps, study space, books, computers, friends to talk to, and it NEVER closes.”  And you would be right.  Thus, the Lamonster.  The Lamonster is the terrifying creature within us all that lurks the bookshelves late into the night and doesn’t ever leave.  The Lamonster eats, sleeps, and works all in the same building, only glimpsing the sun through the windows and only venturing outdoors to go to class.  The Lamonster is very, very real.  And no time is more conducive to Lamonster behavior than Reading Period.

As I sit in one of Lamont’s first-floor lounge chairs, I can hear the pitter-patter of fingers on keyboards, the scratch of pages being turned, and the faint tin of various types of music blasting through earphones.  I have not become a Lamonster today.  Soon I will pack up my studying and head home to Pennypacker.  But last week was a different story.

I have a very strange exam schedule.  I had my two-part Spanish exam last week during Reading Period (I know, I thought this strange too) and my 15-page final paper in Celtic History due last Friday.  While this was a completely manageable amount of work, I spent quite a few hours in Lamont.  Because I am easily distracted and find that I cannot help but talk to every single person I recognize when work is the other option, I worked on the third floor… for a looooooonnnnngg time.  As I am not guaranteed that my teachers (or my mom) will not read this, I will not tell you just HOW late I was up the night before my Celtic paper was due, but let’s just say, that it was very, very late… or should I say early?

But even I have to admit, it’s kind of cool to have a place to go when you’re uber-stressed about a test, a paper, a presentation, and find a community of equally hard-working students!  It can be depressing to see the light of the early morn in you room by yourself after a night of work, but in Lamont, you are always guaranteed to have company.  I should also note here that not everyone at Harvard becomes a Lamonster.  If you have even half-decent time management skills and place even a little value on sleep, you will be a perfectly healthy and happy student with good study habits.  But if you happen to be like me and have no ability to manage time and a propensity to put assignments off, just know, you will never be alone in Lamont!

UPDATE:  Upon seeing this blog post, my roommate referred me to this new website called Sleeping in Lamont, which I find to be HILARIOUS and very relevant.  Enjoy!

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