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A grandly deserved congratulations and warm welcome to the class of 2017!!!! Every time that number increases, it’s a subtle reminder of the aging process and every time the admissions rate decreases, it’s a not-so-subtle reminder that I probably wouldn’t have been admitted if I applied that year. Acceptances are awesome because it’s a validation of your hard work and competence; however, please keep in mind that the converse is not true. Not getting accepted in no way validates your laziness or incompetence – it’s just a sad realization that there are too few spots for so many incredibly talented people. The weather sucks here anyways… 😉

Regardless of where you’ll be attending college, the transition to college is more often than not a difficult journey. Just keep in mind that difficult obstacles yield better memories and are often more rewarding. Think of the last time you drove yourself crazy studying for a test or training for a race and when you performed exceptionally well, you promised you’ll work just as hard, if not harder, next time.

The first few weeks of the college transition are tumultuous to say the least. This ambient and seemingly constant chaos tends to drive students to a quest for order and routine; a routine and schedule that they’ll essentially follow for their remaining time as an undergraduate. This is a part of what we here call “The Harvard Bubble.” This phrase more commonly refers to our collective unwillingness to leave campus despite all the luring and tantalizing the Boston skyline does. Yet this bubble imagery connotes many strong interpretations.

Not only does Harvard protect us with their amazing advising program and guidance before we enter the scary real world, but Harvard students can also easily get wrapped up in their routine and schedules. Personally, this ease of approaching the mundane makes getting off of the Harvard campus more important. It’s along the lines of “too much of a good thing” concept where I love and am grateful for spending most of my time on campus (as evidence by my fear of graduating even though I have another year!), but it’s easier to appreciate what you have once you don’t have it – even if you don’t have it for just 4 hours every week.

Visiting the top of the Science Center’s Observatory during our “field trip” to Harvard’s campus!

I spend my a few hours of every weekend afternoon off campus, volunteering in Dorchester. I direct the teenage segment of a larger program called Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE). A handful of volunteers and I mentor, tutor, but above all become friends with teenage students who have all immigrated to the US. Each semester, the curriculum is catered to the group of students we have – if they want extra homework help, more books to read, arts and crafts projects, field trips, etc. the volunteers and I will bend over backwards to provide what they find useful. Our funding comes from the generous Presidential Public Service Fund and BRYE falls under the umbrella of the Phillip Brooks House Association (PBHA) – a student run organization that our very own blogger Meaks is running!

 I’ve been involved with BRYE Teen since my freshman fall semester and stepped into a leadership position my sophomore year. Pretty sure it’s the extracurricular activity I’ve been involved with for the longest amount of time. It also took me a long time to appreciate the program, although this may sound terrible right off the bat. However, I think I’ve taken a lot and learned thousands of lessons from BRYE which drives me to keep giving back.

The immigrated students participating in BRYE vary drastically from year to year and even semester to semester. Sometimes they’re vocal (and only vocal about all the things they hate about you), sometimes they seek humor, and often they’re shy. My freshman year, I had a group of the rowdiest, most unappreciative kids ever and thought about quitting constantly. I consistently questioned why they came back week after week if they were overtly against every activity we suggested. It took me almost the entirety of my freshman year to realize that the kids preferred coming to BRYE over spending their time chilling in a park or watching TV at home because they had to get something from BRYE the sessions even if they vehemently denied it. With the high student turnover rate that BRYE experiences, I’ve gained so much perspective about my patience and interpersonal skills in the context of diversity and this helps me actively improve myself to not only put my best foot forward, but also to make sure my other foot isn’t too far behind.

This semester of BRYE has run much more smoothly with my new co-director! It has frequently been the highlight of my week this semester and some of the shy kids are more comfortable with us and are finally opening up!

Fun examples of what we’ve done just this semester: carnival for Lunar New Year,

The sign says “Happy New Year” in Vietnamese

 learn a handful of Chinese characters and phrases, and explore the Boston Harbor/Faneuil Hall.

It’s been a blast working with people who still adore cartoons and aren’t stressed about upcoming exams/papers. Getting off campus in a productive manner has been a truly refreshing experience for me and I definitely plan on being involved with BRYE until (and maybe even post?) graduation!

Once again, congratulations to all those accepted! Definitely enjoy the rest of your senior year and summer. Hope to see you for Visitas (prefrosh visiting weekend!)

Hopefully next week, I’ll have a better idea of my summer and can update everyone 🙂 Here’s a hint: I’m definitely going abroad 😀

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Gene Corbin, Assistant Dean of Harvard College for Public Service

Over 500 students are devoting their summer breaks to serving others and tackling critical social issues through amazing experiences funded by public service organizations at Harvard College.  Such opportunities abound and include:

Additionally, many students apply to the Office of Career Services for fellowships or grants to fund their own public service pursuits – including projects throughout the world made possible by David Rockefeller International Experience Grants.

Although only a drop in the bucket of the good work students are doing this summer, below are three examples:

Tyrell Dixon is a rising Senior from Baltimore.  Thanks to the Center for Public Interest Careers, Tyrell is working at the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Justice Department in New York City this summer. Through interacting with clients, shadowing attorneys,  sitting-in on court cases, and forging his own personal relationships with clients and attorneys, Tyrell is experiencing first-hand the way the law impacts individual lives.

Rising Senior Tyrell Dixon

Julia Konrad is a rising Senior from New York City.  She received a Director’s Internship from the Institute of Politics (IOP) to work for the US Department of Education in Secretary Arne Duncan’s Office.  Julia is having an unbelievable summer helping plan many important events – including the 30th Anniversary of  Title IX where she brought people together to celebrate this landmark amendment for gender equality including Secretary Arne Duncan (the slightly taller person next to Julia in the photo).


Meredith Arra is a rising Sophomore from Georgia.  She became involved in public service immediately upon arriving at Harvard College – beginning with the First Year Urban Program.  Meredith is devoting her summer to teaching 6 and 7 year-old youth in the Phillips Brooks House Association’s (PBHA) Chinatown Adventure Camp – one of the 12 camps in PBHA’s Summer Urban Program.  She’s focusing her efforts on healthy living and nutrition to combat obesity.

Teaching at the PBHA Chinatown Adventure Camp

Rising Sophomore Meredith Arra teaching at the PBHA Chinatown Adventure Camp

All of the above programs represent not only a chance to serve others, but also the opportunity to benefit from life-changing relationships and experiences.  Every fall, I have countless conversations with students who have new insights about themselves and what they want to do with their lives – including many students who return motivated to pursue a public interest career.

More information on the opportunities Tyler, Julia, and Meredith pursued, and many more, can be found by clicking the summer opportunities tab at www.publicservice.fas.harvard.edu.  I, along with the other staff members in our public service organizations, look forward to helping all students at the college pursue these exciting opportunities!

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