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Greetings from Cambridge!

As you might know already, I am an Information Office tour guide through the Crimson Key Society (Key).  I just gave my first tour of the semester, and I have to admit that it got me really excited about the upcoming semester.  I’ve been basically bumming around campus since I flew back to Cambridge on Sunday, but now it’s time to start thinking about classes and activities for the spring.

Monday is the first day of Shopping Period, which is the week or so when students are allowed to sample the courses that they are considering for the semester.  I plan on taking four classes this semester, one of which will be my History and Literature tutorial for concentrators.  My tutorial will meet for three hours every Monday, which sounds painful but I actually think that it will be my favorite course this semester.  My field in History and Literature (or Hist and Lit) is America, and the seminar will focus on New York City.  I was checking out the syllabus earlier this week, and the readings are on point.  I’m genuinely excited to read and discuss The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton), and Angels in America (Tony Kushner) to name a few.

Cugat's Cover Art for The Great Gatsby

Francis Cugat's cover art for The Great Gatsby.

Honestly, my biggest problem right now is figuring out where to put all of my books for the coming semester.  I didn’t sell any of my texts from the fall, and I couldn’t take them all home with me over break, so my bookshelf is kind of running low on space.  Aside from my tutorial, the rest of my schedule is up in the air, so this Shopping Period will be heavy on the shopping.  I’ll let you guys know what I decide in my next week or next.

My Book Shelf

Books on books on books.

Outside of the classroom I am looking forward to dedicating lots and lots of time to Crimson Key.  I can’t remember if I mentioned it in any of my posts last semester, but I ran and won a spot on the Crimson Key Board as a Tour Coordinator.  My job is basically to work with the Information Office to staff historic tours of Harvard Yard.  I love Key and I love tours (and I especially love a good e-mail) so it’s actually a match made in heaven.  Also, Crimson Key runs its comp* from February through April so that’s where I’ll be focusing a lot of my time and energy this semester.

Last but not least, I have some disappointing news to report.  Unfortunately, I have already failed to stick to one of my resolutions for 2012.  I’ve only been back at school for about 5 days, and I have already indulged in numerous non-HUDS (Harvard University Dining Services) treats.  In this short window of opportunity I have been basically hemorrhaging money thanks to two visits to Pinkberry, a stop at Broadway Market for Sushi, a soup and sandwich meal at Crema Café, a Boloco burrito dinner, and numerous mid-day Starbucks drinks.  I am a sham and a failure.  Hopefully I’ll show more discipline in regards to my other resolutions…

I’m looking forward to writing next week!  Hopefully you all have been stronger than I have been in the New Year.

*Comp, which is kind of short for “competency”, is the process of joining a student organization here on campus.  Some student groups have comps, some don’t.  Some comps are more competitive than others.  At the end of the day it is just another dimension of student life. (Paraphrased from Inside Harvard by the CKS)

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Although I have yet to begin my final exams, I’ve finished the first semester as of two hours ago! Now I can dig into studying, Christmas music, and second-semester planning. Before I do that, though, there’s some reflection of the first semester that needs to happen, focusing mainly on what I’ve learned so far in my 3 months at Harvard! Check out my list below to see just what Freshman Fall has taught me, in no particular order.


1. Dorm Crew is a great pre-orientation program, but not for reasons you may think.

Cleaning bathrooms is not everyone’s top priority. However, Fall Clean Up (FCU or Dorm Crew pre-orientation) includes very little bathroom cleaning! The majority of my time was spent mopping and sweeping Leverett Towers, alongside my eight other d.crew members, from 9-5 every day. This is, by no means, ‘fun.’ What is fun is making friends, impressing other freshmen with your knowledge about campus, making money instead of paying money, and getting an upper-body workout. Having upwards of $400 dollars in my pocket before I even started school gave me a little bit of a cushion as I set out in the World of Harvard, to which I was accustomed due to the extra week on campus. Also, all dorm crew groups have a secret “theme” that you’re supposed to figure out by the end of the week. Ours was pretty obvious; all of us were going to live in Canaday! Now, I have friends in different entryways (as well as in mine) which really helps to foster dorm spirit; I also have an automatic (and lucrative) on-campus job which took care of some of my financial aid. Moral: Dorm Crew is GREAT, and you make a small group of good friends right off the bat!


2. Rent, don’t buy, Textbooks!

After researching the prices of my Chemistry, Biology, and Psychology textbooks, I wanted to either rob a bank or drop those classes. Instead, I discovered some great book-renting sites, such as e-campus and Chegg, whose rental prices prevented me from performing criminal acts in the name of Academia. I ended up paying a third as much as if I’d bought the books, and they were brand-new! (One of them even came with a Schick Razor, which was really weird but useful, I guess…hey, it was free!) Anyways, search around, because the Coop (pronounced ‘coop,’ not ‘co-op’) is MAD expensive, and there are a ton of online options that will save you precious dinero!


3. Talk with your deans, advisors (PAFs included), and proctor!

Harvard has a lot of great resources on campus. Unfortunately, they’re not readily-accessible unless you know where to search; it’s very different from high school where everyone is proactive for you, instead of you representing yourself. I found this out the hard way, which caused more than a few points to be knocked off one of my course’s final grade. You have a Peer Advising Fellow, who is a totally Harvard-savvy upperclassman to whom you can ask questions you’d rather not ask your Advisor. Go to them first! They have a big budget to take you out to coffee, which is always high on my list. Your advisor is the next up, and normally they’ve majored in a subject that you’re interested in. (If you’re considering pre-med, there are even advisors for that!) They can help you plan your schedule, work out problems with roommates (luckily, I have had none of those because my roommates are THE BEST), and decide on a plan of action if anything goes awry. However, you need to be very proactive about your problems; if there are even just the faintest sensations of difficulties, meet with your advisor! It takes only a few minutes and can save you a lot of stress in the future. Finally, if things get a little whacky, your Resident Dean is there for you; their job is to help you (along with lots of other stuff), so don’t worry about meeting with them. Also, lots of people have a hard time with courses their freshman fall (and beyond), so there’s no need to freak out if you feel like an idiot. (Because, really, you’re not.)


4. Never go to Annenberg at 6:30.

There is a slight problem with Annenberg’s hours: they are really short and really early. Annenberg opens at 4:45 (or something) and closes at 7:15, so everyone ends up going around 6:30, which means you’ll have difficulty finding a seat, getting food, and hearing the person across from you. (Exaggeration. But not really.) You don’t need a tray, either! Freshman fifteen probably exists, and if so, I have found the cure: go trayless. There are a million choices of food and lots of fun containers, which can be tempting, but with one plate of healthy food and a glass of whatever, you’re set! (Just make sure you’re eating properly…I am not a nutritionist, but there are a lot of them at Health Services.)


5. Comp the Crimson…if you’re Crazy

Okay so that might have sounded bad. But The Crimson is amazing, and everyone there is a little bit crazier than other Harvard students, which is a good thing. Especially crazy boards to comp (comping is the first step to becoming an editor, where you get to write articles or take photo/video) are FM, photo/video, and Arts. You get to hang out in the crazy basement after having waited crazy hours to get let into the crazy Crimson (no swipe access=long nights), go to crazy formals, cover crazy events, and sprint around like a crazy person while you should really be doing something else! (Post Scriptum: Other boards are also crazy, if you’re interested in crazy economics or crazy no-shave november hockey players, or like sharing your crazy opinions.)


6. Get a Mac!

No, not because you miss Steve Jobs. Harvard IT has HUGE deals on Macs, and you really need a fast computer while you’re here. Also, you get a free printer, $100 dollar iTunes Store Giftcard (or whatever Apple decides to do next season), and a great warranty. Go Apple!


7. Icing Shots are Disgusting, but Sweet is Great.

Sweet is this incredible cupcake store that makes the best cupcakes in the world, and also the most horrendous invention in the world. They sell these big trays of teeny cups full of icing. Blegh. If you don’t like frosting, don’t ever eat it.

7.b) Good food places include Flat Patties (get the grilled cheese), Crema Cafe (they have legit wraps), Burdick’s (deliciously expensive hot chocolate), Starbuck’s (…sorry…), and Cardullo’s (they have EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER DESIRE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.)



If you take this course, you will maybe regret it. You will come away from it knowing too much about how your mind works (joke), potentially much more wealthy/exhausted (psych studies pay 15 or 10 dollars an hour!), and a weakened sense of self-esteem (everyone, except for those terrible smart people, perform poorly on the exams…they’re multiple-choice deathtraps). So…take it, or don’t. Your choice! (Or is it?)


9. You learn so much….



That’s all, folks!


Happy 2nd Day of December! © S. Reid











*this is college, where you learn things. but this is also harvard, where you learn more!

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