A week in the life of…

As I was mentally reliving my week, trying to pick the most exciting/memorable aspects of my week to blog about, nothing in particular stood out to me. I thought harder and tried to persuade myself to accept that maybe I just had a normal week.

Then I remembered today is the eleventh of November – that’s 11/11 and for whatever reason, this series of numbers is lucky (I tried to Google it but couldn’t find any good explanation articles). Three years ago on this day, I submitted my Common Application to Harvard College, knowing I needed all the luck in the world on my side. By putting myself out there, applying, and magically getting accepted, I officially made my life as not-normal as it can ever get.

So I scrolled back on the dimly colored events of my Google Calendar and realized my week was a string of randomly awesome events!

My week kicked off with hosting a high school student for a night. The Admissions Office is wonderfully personal here and finds current-student hosts for prospective students. Although she slept on my floor, I hope she had a great time roaming the campus, coming into the Harvard Decision Science Lab with me where I’m a research assistant, eating in a few of our dining halls, and attending classes with my friends and me. Harvard was her last stop on her college visit itinerary so she seemed to have the whole college-tour-sampling thing down.

I remember being a high school student and being concerned with college visits: why is everyone visiting colleges before being accepted? what can I actually learn about being on campus for such a short period of time? I was pretty skeptical about wasting time and money on visiting colleges before I was accepted because it seemed like I was maybe getting my hopes up on a dream that would never be realized. However, talking to my friends who avidly visited colleges, they really enjoyed their time on college campuses which helped them narrow down their list of schools to apply to. So I guess I don’t really have an opinion or advice on whether to invest the time and resources in college visits – I’m just trying to reassure all you prospective students out there that it’s not a big deal if you can or can’t! There are more important things to worry about ;)

The week continued with great excitement as Election Day rolled in. I’m definitely not a super politically knowledgeable person, but no one could deny that the entire campus was charged with immense political energy! Students planned their homework and meetings around the day – my math teacher even reduced our pset (problem set) due the day after to accommodate – and gathered around televisions in common rooms across campus to watch as each state turned blue/red.

It’s pretty surreal to not only be in this environment, but also to take a step back and observe. I vividly remember being in middle/high school when tons of celebrities promoted voting because of the great apathy among the youth. However, it’s so hard to believe this when the elections were on everyone’s mind that night.

The American Presidential elections may be over, but the Undergraduate Council‘s (UC) elections are now in full swing!! They even had a debate Thursday night about pressing student issues such as having the shuttle run more freqently during nights/weekends. I’m pretty sure this debate was the first ever candidate debate in history, but I really like the concept and hope that it continues! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend, which gives me more reason to hope that it happens again in the future!

This seemingly normal week was also the first snowfall of the season!! I remember seeing rain in the predicted forecast so when my coworker and I were walking home, she failed to convince me that it was snowing rather than lightly raining. The snow soon began to stick and it was like Christmas swept the entire yard. The beauty was just as breathtaking as the persistent winds slapping me in the face. As I walked home from the yard semi-late at night, freshman gathered around outside throwing snowballs with nonstop laughter. I have yet to make many freshman friends so it’s rare that I think in terms of their perspective; however, I can’t believe they’re well into their third month of living independently in college and for a lot of them, this was their first snowfall ever! I was definitely beyond guilty of being a wide-eyed freshman who could not stop touching the powdery snow. I’m a huge fan of snowboarding, but being from Southern California really limits my access to “fresh powder” (does this phrase make me sound legit?), and I was super incredulous that snow was so white, pure, and fluffy!!!! But I also hate being cold…so I can’t wait to return to consistently 70 degree weather for Jterm (winter break)!

In the midst of the snow, I attended a talk by Steven Pinker who is a huge name on campus. I’m terrible with names, but his is mentioned frequently enough that it has stuck. A handful of my friends advocated for his talks and his great ability at public speaking that I couldn’t resist to give up some homework time to hear about “The Sense of Style: Writing in the 21st Century.” This talk was presented as a part of the Work Lecture Series by the Harvard Writers and here was the blurb passed around about the event:

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Why do we find it so hard to convey our ideas when we write? And how can we learn to do it better?  Harvard College Professor and award-winning author Steven Pinker suggests answers from the modern sciences of mind and language.

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Psychological Association. He writes regularly for The New York Times, The New Republic, and other publications, and is the author of the books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.  Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, he has been named one of  Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”  His latest book is The Better Angels of Our Nature:  Why Violence Has Declined.

About the Series

The Harvard Writers at Work Lecture Series is co-sponsored by the Harvard College Writing Program, the Harvard Extension School Master’s Degree Program in Journalism, Harvard Review, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, and the Harvard College Program in General Education. The Series seeks to bring together students, faculty, and others in the Harvard community and the public to consider the transformational power of writing in people’s lives and in the world.

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It was a very well attended event; this could be due to the fact that it was open to the public. But I’m looking forward to attending more of his talks if given the chance!

The ludicrous weather has taken a step back, and as temperatures climb up so do the corners of our mouths. So many exciting things are imminent! This coming weekend is Harvard-Yale, only the biggest, best, and most important football game of the year!! Then right after comes Thanksgiving, a much needed/deserved time to relax and rejoice. The end of Thanksgiving holiday also brings the end of classes and the semester…canNOT believe how quickly time passes!

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4 comments

  1. HB’s avatar

    Well done! i want to experience that too but im not that smart as you guys are hehe..

    grtz

  2. YJ’s avatar

    Hi!!! “I was pretty skeptical about wasting time and money on visiting colleges before I was accepted because it seemed like I was maybe getting my hopes up on a dream that would never be realized”–this is how I feel about visiting colleges…maybe I should re-think this and go visit some colleges in the summer! :) (I’m a junior so I still have time :D ) Oh and I’ve heard about Harvard-Yale! Do Harvard people get to hang out with people at Yale? Do they get to know each other and mingle after the game?
    On Election Day, my math teacher ended his lesson early because we all wanted to know who was winning :) I didn’t know Harvard professors were that nice! I always assumed that at college, teachers would be serious and strict 24/7 :D

    Happy November! :)

    1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

      Hey YJ!

      If you have time during the summer, definitely think about visiting campuses because I think it’s always fun to people watch and check out the surrounding businesses. I just wanted to point out that visits aren’t too much of a big deal if you can or can’t.

      Harvard-Yale is hands down one of the best weekends of the year! No matter how much we hype it up, it never disappoints! Students from both schools can definitely mingle together before/after the game, but I don’t think there’s any school-organized mingling events… However, a bunch of students host each other – I’ll be hosting a friend from Yale who I met after my freshman year of high school at science camp!

      Most of the professors and TFs (teaching fellows) I’ve encountered are a good balance between serious about education and understanding about circumstances as well. Maybe taking a math class during a presidential election year is just lucky for us ;)

      Thanks again YJ for reading! Feel free to keep the good questions coming!

      –Jeanie Nguyen

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