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

Anthropology 1610: Ethnographic Research Methods

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

 Music 97c: Ethnomusicology

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

Anthropology 97z: Sophomore Tutorial

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

Music 167r: Electroacoustic Composition

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



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


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

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

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





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SUPER sorry I’ve been MIA these last two weeks! I promise to be more consistent as of now since I’ll be living with a host family (THE nicest host family in the world!) in Peru for the next two months and will have internet access. These past two weeks I’ve been living out one of my personal dreams: Euro-tripping with friends. In a whirlwind of two incredible weeks, we were able to hit up Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome and Barcelona.

Crepes + Eiffel Tower = as Parisian as we could get!

San Marco Plaza in Venice: Home of the Scariest Pigeons

Florence: Illegal but mandatory picture of me and David! Can't believe Michelangelo touched that and I stared at it!

Perfection and Happiness captured at the Leaning Tower in Pisa – mini trip during our stay in Florence

The Roman Ruins are anything but literal

Barcelona but not the Sagrada Familia…oops

The Peruvian group beachside! It's like I never left home 🙂

I never thought I’d be able to freely roam Europe in great company, but the generous Harvard funding that I received for my summer internship in Peru bestowed me the freedom to apply my personal savings towards granting one of my own wishes. Although my Euro-exploration will always be a source of exciting/embarrassing/once in a lifetime stories that will cease any awkward silences to come, I was also without wifi whenever I wasn’t in the vicinity of a McDonald’s or Starbucks which not only made communication slightly impossible, but also made blogging a feat I could not triumph.

My Peruvian internship (don’t worry I’ll definitely be blogging more about this!) and reliable internet access begins at such a clutch time because this summer, Harvard College gives undergraduate students June 4-18 to submit our PTP (Pre-Term Planning).

Since I now proudly hold one year of organic chemistry education under my belt, whenever I see the three letters PTP chained in this specific order, I automatically think of the electron sink cofactor and freak out. Before I was enlightened (cursed?) with this knowledge, I equated PTP as PLP: pre-life planning – the mechanism Harvard used to passive aggressively force students to plan out their lives in concrete. Both these perceptions are entirely wrong.

What is pre-term planning??

PTP can be perceived as a win-win situation. Deadlines for PTP provides the needed kick in the butt for students to start thinking about next semester’s classes, how their graduation requirements fit in during their remaining time at Harvard, and future plans in general. On the administrative end, PTP gives the university a slightly more accurate count of course enrollment so that faculty can prepare and allocate resources as needed such as how many teaching fellows (TFs, pretty much the same as a CA: course assistant or a TA: teaching assistant). A student’s PTP declaration is in no way binding. You can think of it as a casual conversation with a friend who asks you what classes you’re thinking of taking next semester. Here are two official websites that explain PTP:

PTP is a new tool that started the same time I began college (Fall 2010) so you can expect that there have been a few bumps in the road. However, you can also expect that the university is actively working towards smoothing out these bumps – you can see their reaction to student suggestions through this technology forum.

The undergraduate campus newspaper, The Harvard Crimson chronicles the history of PTP pretty well in these successive articles:

But I know it’s the summer and these articles have a lot of words. I’ll try to summarize its history below, especially for those with senioritis – although if reading these blogs is your form of procrastination, I completely condone (and empathize)!

I think PTP was instated because Harvard’s system of course selection is one of the most relaxed I’ve ever heard of. Students do not have to know what courses they’ll be enrolling in until a week after the semester begins. The first week of every semester is termed “Shopping Week” because students are allowed to sit in – or walk out – of any classes they choose in order to sample the class and evaluate if they’d like to commit to the material and professor for a whole semester. With this super chill system, it can be difficult for faculty and administration to anticipate how to allocate resources in a timely manner in order to get the semester rolling. PTP helps give staff a better idea of students’ interests and more adequately prepares them for the upcoming semester.

The theoretical purpose behind PTP is awesome because it aims for optimal efficiency and doesn’t call on too much effort from students. However, in PTP’s early days, the tool used to submit our anticipated classes was absolutely horrible – and even more dreadful if you take into account the technology and coding we have available today. The tool was super redundant and NOT user friendly at all which made every student feel completely technologically incompetent. Also, the university use to request PTP super early i.e. when you haven’t yet become accustomed to the current semester’s workload which encouraged students to not complete PTP as accurately or genuinely as they could have.

The majority of the hassle on the students’ side has been diminished with the new way to submit PTP. With this most recent PTP submission, students are able to submit their intended classes directly through in the same way that students commit to their classes so the routine is not only familiar, but also easy.

Here’s what it looks like now:

much more self-explanatory!

Positive results have also been reported by Harvard: “This early and generally accurate information has allowed us to more effectively allocate course sections and to minimize late TF (teaching fellow) appointments. Possibly related, last fall we had the lowest number of TFs in recent historical memory who scored poorly on the Q (Q guide).”

…proving my original hypothesis that PTP is a win-win. Now it’s up to how much we all win!

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You know those days where sometimes things just fall apart? I was having that pretty much for a week. Sounds worse than it is… I’m really referring to my once-thought-to-be-set-in-stone class schedule, which is now completely switched around.


I started with my hope to cross-register and take a class at the Harvard Kennedy School, Food & Agribusiness. Note the picture above from the Kennedy School… they have an affinity for quirky floors there I suppose.


Turns out my class was nowhere to be found because it didn’t start until mid-march, a half-semester class. That won’t do. A so starts the long chain of moving, and shopping, and disliking, and moving, and shopping new classes.


Four hours to go till our Study Card detailing our course choices are do, but I think I figured it out, with classes one may more than I cared for, but another interesting food course to do research in:  American Food, A Global History.


My second choice that got run out was a History of Science, Machines and Human Nature course. Any class that starts out an introduction with a clip from The Matrix sounds awesome to me! Bladerunner, AI, I-Robot, all assignments for the course. Even the view (see below) from the fourth floor of the Science Center where the class is was persuasive.


Note the reflection on the glass window…

Alas, sometimes things just don’t work out (i.e., no history of computer course because another put a discussion section in the way). But with Friday upon us I can feel little reason to worry (except the sudden need to run out and find the cheapest books to buy….).


Tonight is the first in semester for senior social gatherings: a series event put on during the last semester for seniors featuring discounts of food, lots of friends, and everything from games to live music. I’m excited to see all my friends again and relax. I saw a lot of them, but not all, last weekend when we trekked by bus to Allston for Korean Food (btw. do try Bibimbap in a hot stone if you haven’t, so delicious!) for my friend’s birthday—great times! We ended the night back in Harvard square at a favorite restaurant, also the location for the first senior social.


But most of all, what I’m looking forward to on the next few Friday nights is some free s’mores, hot chocolate, and ice skating right inside Harvard! Above is a picture of the new erected (temporary) ice rink by the science center… can’t wait to try it out!


Have a great weekend!



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