Midterms

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As a Harvard student, I think one of the fastest lessons you learn is that the word “midterm” is a misnomer. These tests should really be re-coined as exams because they seem to happen all throughout the semester rather than just in the middle of it. Some classes won’t have midterms (maybe they’ll have papers) while some classes will have up to three midterms (more common in science classes).

This week, my big exam was in my LS2 (Life Sciences 2: Evolutionary Human Physiology and Anatomy) class. It was a 50 point in-class exam and students had 50 minutes to complete it. We were very thoroughly notified that time would be a critical issue, but this didn’t help with my anxiety. There really isn’t any time to think! I truly had to know everything about germ layers, embryos, sensory impulses, and etc. inside and out to be able to not think yet thoroughly answer all the questions. Whether or not this crazy-fast recollection of physiology and anatomy will ever help in the future is still TBD. When this exam was over, I definitely had less on my plate – but still enough on my plate to keep me a bit overwhelmed.

My senior fall midterm schedule is looking pretty nice since they’re spread out over a few weeks. However, I’m still running from meeting to appointment to interview in a (hopefully) hot mess fashion.

In my EMR 20 (Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning 20 – The Business and Politics of Health) class, my professor David Cutler cut a deal with his students: if students volunteered to present in groups the pros and cons of the New York Soda Ban, those students would be able to drop a pset (problem set). This class has a pset due every other week which seems nice at first because most psets are weekly. However, these psets tend to be longer and since I’m very interested in the international development trend of the course, they take me longer as I research my tangent thoughts. Long story short, I volunteered to present the cons concomitant to Bloomberg’s Soda Ban and was placed in a group of 4 students total. Group presentations – especially when you cannot select who to work with – can be wild cards. My “con” group was great though! We were super organized, efficient, and productive. Everything was seamlessly shared on Google Drive and we even ran through our presentation at least twice the night before! It was definitely one of the best group project dynamics I’ve ever experienced to date. Coincidentally, we all represented four different years of the university; I really appreciated not only meeting new peers, but also listening to their different perspectives and knowledge about the university. Harvard students employ an outrageous amount of acronyms so it was funny to see which ones freshman learn first. From class selection, sleep/eating schedule, to our approach on how early to start psets, our opinions and preferences all varied yet were all similar as well. I can’t really articulate the common thread linking all Harvard students, but there’s something warm and fuzzy keeping us together through our experiences in Annenberg (the freshman dining hall), The Yard, and beyond.

The group presentation is just one of the many ways Cutler makes his lecture-format course interactive. He’s one of the best professors I’ve ever had in terms of transforming lectures into an active, rather than passive, activity. He challenges us with questions and then uses our answers to pose higher level thinking questions. He’ll poll us on our opinions before and after discussing certain topics like whether or not we should improve the economy to improve health or focus on healthcare first to have the enhancement of the economy follow. I’m really enjoying the lectures thus far!!

Outside of class tests and projects, I’m starting another research experiment as a Research Assistant at the Harvard Decision Science Lab. I’ll be working with a fellow from the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences. Since we employ human subjects in the lab, it’s always hard for me to determine how much information to disclose so I’d rather err on the conservative side. We’ll be spinning around the Dictator Game to answer our research questions about impulsive decision making and bargaining.

This week is also the beginning of the PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association) mentoring program that I’ve been involved with since my freshman fall and have been directing since my sophomore fall: BRYE Teen. (I’ve warned you all about our ridiculous amounts of acronyms!) PBHA is a student-run, umbrella public service organization that supports hundreds of different programs serving the elderly, the youth, and every person (or animal!) in between! BRYE stands for Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment and has many subcategories such as BRYE (afterschool) Tutoring, BRYE Summer (summer camp), and many more. My co-director and I have been working super diligently this past first month of school to recruit both mentors and mentees. We’ve been nervously waiting to see the fruits of our labor and I’m more than happy to report that the fruit turned out sweeter than what we were hoping for!

My favorite thing about PBHA is that it connects you with your community as well as other students. Many of my friendships have blossomed from being involved in mentoring and PBHA in general. Once a month, PBHA serves dinner and hosts a meeting called Cabinet where directors from various programs come to give updates and learn about the other aspects of PBHA they might not be aware of – sort of like a behind the scenes look. The PBHA Cabinet meeting is a great place to learn about how Harvard students have been spending their time!

Although the theme of my week has been running around from task to task, I try to make time to stop and smell the roses. The establishment of the new Science Center Plaza has helped me make time to stop and smell the roses. The new plaza is incredible – and even more so in the nice weather we’ve been having in Cambridge! I’m glad that no more students will have to go on without the plaza. It’s a unique and thriving place to meet with friends, have lunch, and get tan! I’m pretty sure I always naturally smile when passing the plaza. There’s also a tented area where farmer’s markets happen with frequency along with other special events too such as health fairs and boutique shops!

Coincidentally at the same time as Obamacare?

Health = fresh fruit baskets

HUMMUS YUMS

Great use of space

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To reiterate what Rob said, Boston (Strong) and the Harvard community is moving forward after the tragic series of events last week. Although we trudge on forward, we definitely continue to honor the past. If you don’t follow @HarvardBloggers on Twitter, then 1) you should and 2) look at how the Science Center Plaza – a place with one of the highest foot traffic on campus – is supporting the community we’re proud to be a part of:

Tons of poster boards for students, faculty, and townies to freely express themselves

A recently remodeled Science Center Plaza celebrates springtime while honoring the past. The flowers were free to take! :D

This week was most definitely highlighted in my calendar as an academically rigorous week. I had three midterms spread out over the course of 22 hours. After a lot of denial and sleep-deficient nights, I tackled the midterms and hopefully conquered them…

It’s been a pretty rough time for everyone because of last week’s craziness, a lot of “midterms” (more like exams) and psets (problem sets/homework) were pushed around. Even recently accepted students of the class of 2017 felt the consequences as Visitas (prefrosh) weekend was cancelled to prioritize everyone’s safety. Through the movement of #virtualvisitas, however, I really hope that the new prefrosh has felt the love from not only the Admissions Office, but also current Harvard students as we’ve been posting like crazy in the 2017 Facebook group, excited to (electronically) meet you and answer all your questions! The Harvard Club of San Diego even has their own group to try to foster a sense of community. You all should have received an email, but students have been posting videos and there have been discussion panels in an attempt to virtually recreate Visitas! <https://plus.google.com/u/0/102309278484648429541/posts>

While 2017ers have their commitment day approaching, students here have been equally struggling (if not struggling more) with the semester ending. Whether it’s the typical emotional senior sad about a looming graduation or everyone else being slayed with “midterms” and papers, we’re all trying to swim to the shallow end to keep us from drowning in the work that is perpetually piling. We also all want to enjoy the spring sunshine that we’ve been eagerly waiting for what seems like 18 eternities.

Back to my series of midterms, I think they all went relatively well. That being said, my standards of doing well in school have definitely lowered since high school. It’s pretty common for students to be stellar students in high school, then come to Harvard and have to deal with everyone else being so much better at everything from breathing to deriving theory. Our successes are all pretty relative which makes me thank the heavens and beyond for pset groups! Students very commonly work with a circle of friends (or strangers that become your good friends during the semester) and professors will go out of their way to ensure the success of you and your friends. For example, I’m currently enrolled in a math class that deals with manipulating differential equations to model biological and the life sciences. It’s an AWESOME class with a professor and a CA (course assistant – undergraduate students who have taken the class before and have done extremely well) that make this world a better place by teaching math. I’m serious. It would be a disservice to humanity if they ever stopped teaching math! After grading our math exams in like 3 days, the professor realized that the mean for this exam was about 8 points lower than the mean of our 1st exam. As a result, he’s allowing us the opportunity to earn a few points by correcting some of the problems we initially completed incorrectly. In conclusion, not only is he a phenomenal math teacher, he also has the kindest heart. I’m kind of obsessed…

You know you’re in the greatest environment populated with even greater people when you’re slammed with midterms and can still call the week one of the best. Put short and sweet, the highlight of my week was definitely meeting Matt Damon…twice!

Tickets to see MATT DAMON <3

Every year, Harvard holds an “Arts First” celebration where they honor art in general – made by both students and professionals. These two groups aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive! Matt Damon, a previous student at Harvard College, was awarded a medal for his dedicated promotion of art as well as for being awesome in general. This past Thursday, he was interviewed by another amazingly successful past Harvard student, John Lithgow, in the same Sanders Theater where Sheryl Sandberg spoke just a few weeks ago! Matt’s and John’s dynamic was the epitome of perfection as they harmoniously blended laughter and serious topics into their discussion. I’m still starstruck if you can’t tell…

John Lithgow

Matt Damon walking out on stage with the encouragement of John Lithgow

Matt Damon on high school Matt Damon

President Faust presenting Matt with the Arts First Award!

Matt discussed his wonderful experiences growing up in Cambridge with Ben Affleck and being a student at Harvard. He proudly talked about the beginning steps of creating Good Will Hunting, which later played in the Science Center Plaza. As mentioned earlier, the Science Center Plaza has recently reopened after months of reconstruction. It’s super beautiful and just in time to give students a great place to soak up some springtime sun! In the spirit of Arts First weekend, the plaza has transformed into a stage where student bands and movies have played. After Matt’s interview and award ceremony, a Good Will Hunting screening took place with a fantastic introduction by Matt. Too bad he didn’t stay to watch the movie with us…

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Losing an hour may not seem much, but 60 minutes is huge when I think about all the sleep I didn’t get this week :(

Between midterms, papers, and that activity called eating on top of attending classes and lab, I’ve been beyond swamped – not only this week but the 2 previous weeks before too! Spring Break couldn’t have come at a better time! SUNSHINE HERE I COME

I’m currently posting from the Boston Logan airport and will update as soon as I can :)

Happy Mid-March yall!

 

**updated March 22, 2013

 

I’m back on campus now from a delightful Spring Break and am no longer in travel mode – still working on getting off of vacation mode though! I am blogging from a much better mental mindset now compared to where I was a week ago. Spring semester definitely gives Fall semester a run for its money in terms of fun festivities and enjoyment.

I’m definitely enjoying all my classes again and that includes both required and non-required/elective classes. Having the freedom for elective classes is a perk of being an upperclassman; but I’m taking 3 required premed/Neurobiology concentration requirements that people normally take their freshman and maybe sophomore year that I’m really enjoying too! When I tell this to people, they’re always surprised as to why I put off these classes, but that’s just how my schedule worked out because I front-loaded my organic chemistry (aka orgo) and physics series. Since the majority of my classmates are freshman, it’s funny to watch them Facebook or nod off during lecture because as an upperclassman (I’m guilty of all above too), I am much more cognizant of my ticking time as an undergraduate and really appreciate the great lecturers that are available to me. I literally sit in class, really excited about having the opportunity to sit there … and may or may not be fighting the urge to high five freshman among me. I’m just happy to be taught by professors who are excited about the material they’re teaching because back at my public high school, this was not the case.

Although I love my classes, the hardest aspect about them is that all of their first midterms were spread out. You typically hear of students complaining (whining) about how they have all their midterms in the span of a few hours, but midterms are a struggle regardless of when they’re scheduled. Due to my 1 midterm a week schedule, I lived a very extreme month. I would study haaard leading up to the test and then treat myself to probably more relaxation time than I actually deserved afterwards, and then I repeated this vicious cycle. On top of this, I was trying to manage summer applications: finishing personal statements up, collecting recommendation letters, interviewing, pondering about medical school, and all that mentally taxing business. All in all, I think I would pick spread out midterms over condensed midterms if I was forced to choose the better of two evils.

One of my goals for this blog is to show prospective students (and their families) that Harvard College students are of course academically focused, but that this studious rigor also applies to outside of the classroom as well. I’d be comfortable saying that all students have at least one activity they are 200% committed to outside of class – check out Meaks‘ altruistic arm and Scott’s passport stamp collection!

There are two highlights of my week beyond the classroom.

1. Faculty Dinner – a few bloggers have written about our experiences with faculty dinner. Basically, both freshman and upperclassman dining halls host these faculty dinners at least once a semester. It’s a casual setting over delicious food where students can invite a professor or teaching fellow (aka TF, usually a graduate student) so both parties can get to know each other better. Although nerve wracking, it’s a great opportunity that most university students don’t get, so I try to take advantage of it every chance I get. This spring faculty dinner in my upperclassman house, Mather, I invited my preceptor from two years ago! All freshman are required to take an expository writing class (colloquially called Expos 20) that revolves around different focuses. My class was called Tales of Muder and I absolutely attribute my affinity towards writing to this class. I loved this class because of the structure (or lack thereof!) and I still refer back to my notes when I hit a wall outlining papers to this day. My professor and I caught up over these last (and fast!) 2 years. I had such a great time and definitely walked away from dinner knowing I will always find a friend in my Expos professor!!

2. Research Presentation – I’m a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Decision Science Lab which is part of a great program of “social science scholars” who are undergraduates working on a variety of projects at many different labs around campus. About once a month or so, the institute organizes a luncheon where one or a handful of students will present the research they have been working on. It’s always nice to attend these luncheons because a constant reminder that I’m a part of something bigger continues to motivate me. This month, a student presented his work on audio files from the Supreme Court and how he tackles this enormous data set to determine (vocal) emotions and how (or if) this affects their decisions/decision-making processes. I’m always amazed whenever someone is answering a question I have yet to think of!

 

Hope you all enjoy reading about everyone’s different Spring Breaks!

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A few weeks ago, while a few of the bloggers were walking home from the blogging dinner reunion/meeting, I asked one of our new teammates Rob about his freshman year, specifically about the contrast between his fall and spring semesters. It’s insanely beautiful how most college students adapt to new campus environments. You start off in the fall with little hope of losing that deer in headlights, wide-eyed freshman glow. Yet you come in hot at the beginning of the spring semester shopping classes like you have a closet of awesome, high end swag already. I was mostly surprised by the idea someone threw out there that the spring semester is always better than the fall. I cannot wholeheartedly agree. On a scale of 1 to 10, both semesters are AWESOME with its own perks and defaults. However, I do think spring is more conducive to social activities.

You may or may not have gasped at the fact that I’m talking about social activities on the Harvard College blog. It’s only human nature that after feeling trapped in an igloo prison during seemingly perpetual winters that we want to bust out, or rather bust a move. That’s why I made sure fellow blogger Scott was at my sorority’s spring social event called Crush. It sounds semi-violent when all the girls start talking about who we “crushed,” but it’s the most elementary school-innocent conversations because each girl gets the opportunity to anonymously crush two boys. The social committee hand makes invitations and delivers them slyly to each door. It is then in fate’s hands whatever happens after. Love at first sight? Maybe. What I do know definitively is that Scott and I won the dance battle.

Although Harvard does not recognize fraternities and sororities (meaning we’re not like a student recognized organization that can, for example, reserve rooms on campus), I’ve really enjoyed how my sorority connects me with not only other students on campus, but also in the greater Boston area. Nearby Tufts University which also has a sizable active Greek life is inviting one more sorority to campus which led me to explore their campus this past Monday when I was representing my chapter during Kappa Alpha Theta’s extension presentation. At this event, there were Thetas from Harvard, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and BU (Boston University), as well as the national fraternity president! It was a pleasure mingling with Thetas at other campuses to see what their experiences have been like because all of our campus specific involvement differs, but there’s an unparalleled similar foundation upon which the first female fraternity was built upon.

Don’t get me wrong, spring semester has its academic rigors as well! I had my second midterm of the semester this past Tuesday in my Math 19a class. I was honestly, initially dreading this math class because my math course last semester met 3 times a week and had a pset (problem set) due EVERY TIME we met. Not okay. However, I’ve grown to love Math 19a. The class is really small and I feel like we’re already a community! Might even go ahead and say that it’s my favorite class this semester! This math class focuses on applying differentials to the life sciences, modeling predator-prey systems to epidemics and human heart positions within the body. The material totally makes all the premed sides of me tingle with warmth. By all means, I’m not saying I was excited for the midterm, but it helps that I adore the professor.

Math 19a is taught every semester, which in my opinion, is pretty rare since most classes are usually just taught in either the fall or the spring. It’s taught incredibly well, but most notably for the freshness of the class. There are advantages of it the class being help every semester such as the professor is consistent, extremely knowledgeable, and familiar with how students will grasp certain concepts. However, there comes a point when some professors who have been teaching the same course for so long that it becomes mundane and seems too rehearsed. Math 19a, however, sort of “refreshes” every semester. The professor changes the scientific articles that each set of students read and analyze as well as the psets, warm up problems, and lecture notes. These seemingly small changes make grand differences because it keeps everyone involved on their tippy toes rather than complacent and comfortable. I’m a big fan of the class and I’m nerdily looking forward to integrating math into my biology knowledge!

My midterms are spaced out pretty well this semester; I really have nothing to complain about. My next exam is Monday night in LS1b (genetics). I have to be honest that it’s been a little hard to study with Spring Break on my mind. I do have exciting plans for my vacation, but on campus, the few days leading up to Spring Break is Housing Day  http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/3…) where all the freshmen (self-grouped into ~8 friends) get assigned an upperclassman house to live in for the rest of their undergraduate years!

For the freshmen, this waiting period is full of unknown and maybe some excitement. The upperclassmen have the most fun job of advertising their own respective houses though. Students (more often than not) always have pride for their respective houses as you can hear in everyday sly comments in casual conversations. This house spirit magnifies with great intensity the weeks leading up to Housing Day though because there is so much glory to be had when freshmen rightfully desire the house in which you reside.

This time of year is very exciting because everyone’s (hidden) talents come out. In order to publicize the greatness of an upperclassman house, there are Facebook fan pages and pep-rally-like events/study breaks. Yet my absolute favorite form of spirit is Housing Day videos which are typically parodies on culturally relevant/hilarious matters in the media. I’ll leave you with a few videos:

My house/best house, MATHER HOUSE last year jumped on the Call Me Maybe coattails and created this gem:

This year, we wanted to double up and went with a James Bond twist with the help of the House Masters and Administration!!

Last year, Quincy House came in a close second to Mather’s Call Me Maybe by adding their Quincy flare to the movie Inception:

As you can see, not all the parodies are current. We appreciate throwbacks too!

Adams House (notorious for the gaudy gold decor) came out with a real gem – or should I say they struck gold?

I have to say that the best throwback this year was Lowell House, known for their loud bells:

 

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It’s not that I like pressure per se – it’s more like I’ve gotten pretty good at leveraging pressure into a source of active motivation.

I’m a little hesitant to tell this story because 1) I can see my mom shaking her head and deeply sighing; and 2) it’s not my typical lifestyle! But I feel like it’s a common part of #college.

On Sunday/Monday/Tuesday (it’s all a blur) I pulled my first academic all-nighter of junior fall. I had to specify “academic” because sometimes all nighters happen for fun i.e. tv series marathon, video games (Mario Kart, Tetris, Diner Dash!), etc. I knew this day was coming because I had my Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding: Literature & Medicine Midterm Paper due Tuesday at 1pm and my Math 18: Multivariable Calculus for Economics Tuesday at 6pm. I was mentally prepared, but perhaps I should have prepped physically by spending the previous days sleeping.

However, it was the weekend before Halloween AKA a national holiday that needed to be celebrated by quadrupling my calorie intake via pure sugary coated dark chocolate. My sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, also had our annual blind date event called KAT in the Hat where a sister sets you up with a friend, gets their hat, you wear the hat and they find you in the hat, and BAM you find love. Maybe. Except not really. As intimidatingly awkward as a blind date is already, we dressed up in costumes in the spirit of Halloween! It was a SUPER fun event with awesome music, food, and of course people <3

Also a great excuse for red tights…

One of the most memorable events of this Halloween season was my sighting of the most awesome boy dressed as Mario scurrying in the Yard. I’m sure he was late for another class/meeting or something, but I like to think he just was incredible at being in character at all times. I’m literally chuckling to myself as I’m recalling this. The scenario almost seems like it’s too good to be true but my friend witnessed it too! And we discussed how it’s kind of sad that more college kids don’t dress up in costumes for class like how we use to in high school/middle school/elementary. Celebrating Halloween is pretty necessary because its a general celebration of youth (and candy)!

The fun Halloween spirit definitely kept my spirits uplifted even when I knew I had so much work to do for school. I trudged along in the library (multiple people were getting suspicious that I was living there) and worked calmly throughout the night. Classes were cancelled this past Monday due to Hurricane Sandy – and my thoughts and prayers definitely go out to all those affected! – and I used that day to continue working.

What kept me going was my interesting paper topic. I think the first time I was ever genuinely interested in writing a paper was junior year of high school when I realized the complexity of my thesis excited me: gathering and analyzing evidence to support my claim (something along the lines of: murder is a kind of love / love inevitably leads to murder) was a challenge that I found thrilling. It was during this paper that I promised to myself that I would never write a paper with a thesis I didn’t like.

I had met with my Literature & Medicine TF (teaching fellow) to discuss my thesis because I didn’t want her to hate my idea or find something obviously inherently fallible that I somehow missed. She gave me a hesitant green light and doubted that I could cover everything in 5-7 pages, but I reassured her that all my ideas naturally come to an end in 6 pages.

My Literature & Medicine Midterm Paper centered around challenging/extending an argument of another author we read who claimed that pain is inexpressible. I tried to make the convincing claim that pain is indeed expressible when in a single-person context because groups of people actively prohibit pain’s expressibility. Yet pain is “inevitably inexpressible” (title of my paper) because humans are naturally drawn towards group settings. Overall, I tried to articulate my opinion that pain experiences an evolution of inexpressibility rather than beginning as an inexpressible concept.

Although creating paper topics is deemed a not-so-enticing task, I dread the process of actually eloquently gluing the paper together with well thought out sentences. I vented about this at dinner tonight, saying how I don’t prioritize the importance of writing the paper over the importance of expressing ideas. I think it’s more important to logically explain your thought process rather than eloquently explaining; however, I tend to find the latter about 13 times more time consuming!

It wasn’t a great experience (but it also wasn’t a horrible experience) staying up forever to write my midterm paper and practice for my math test, but at the end of the day, I’m just glad I had a place to do it! That may sound like a strange appreciation, but I remember not knowing where to go for a quiet place to study for the finals at the end of my freshman spring semester.

It always seems like math/science people have the latest finals (since paper based classes have earlier deadlines). I usually always have a final on the last day of exams and at the end of my freshman year, one of my blockmates and I were stuck studying for the last of the last exam. We were studiously re-watching lectures in Lamont Library until around 1-2 am, we got kicked out because the library was closing even though it is notorious for being open 24 hours Sunday-Thursday. I just figured libraries would be open 24/7 during Reading Period and Exam Week and thought that would be a safe assumption. I ended up going to bed and waking up extra early to fit in more studying.

I won’t ever run into this problem again though! In a recent email, students were notified that:

Lamont Library will be open 24/7 during reading and exam periods this year.  For more information, see the announcement in the Harvard Gazette.  Our decision to make Lamont available for late night study during this time follows a successful trial run of 24-hour operations at the end of the spring semester.

We want to thank everyone who made this possible, particularly the Harvard Library Access Services staff and the Undergraduate Council.  Working together, we are pleased we could once again make this space available to you after normal business hours.

 

Sincerely,

Evelynn M. Hammonds

Dean of Harvard College

It’s beyond spectacular that Harvard faculty and staff are constantly seeking ways to improve our undergraduate experiences! Perhaps that’s why not sleeping wasn’t as awful as it sounded…

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Rough  /rəf/ the most common adjective used by Harvard students lately

Midterms have the snowball effect – once they start, they don’t stop and continue growing aggressively. We’re smack dab in the middle of the semester at this point which actually means the second wave of midterms have come/are here/are lurking closer than we want them to be. For classes with only two midterms, it’s a great thing because it’s your last midterm until the final exam! Yet for classes with three midterms, it’s just another wave you have to paddle out for and hope that you catch its drift.

The middle of the semester also means mid-semester evaluations. All classes and course instructors have evaluations forms either in class or online where students can anonymously and honestly describe their feelings towards the class. Anything from lecture pace, homework lengths, to course website formats are open for discussion/critique. After student input has been reviewed and considered, professors usually announce popular concerns and how the staff will go about tackling our concerns. It’s always a beautiful thing to both have a voice and be heard, especially when the listener has your best interest in mind.

I just got a new phone and number which means I have no contacts, but it’s the best way to receive creepy-awesome texts!

I feel like as an entire student body, we’ve been working really hard, really diligently, and really long hours trying to reach (and exceed?) our potential. Libraries have gotten more crowded and coffee consumption has sky rocketed.

All this talk about perpetual midterms and caffeine addictions can easily depict a gloomy backdrop here at Harvard BUT I’m beyond happy to not only tell you, but show you how beautiful it is here!

Our rough weeks are all broken up by amazing weekends.

When I think of “amazing weekends” there are a few obvious ones that come to mind: Harvard-Yale, Yardfest and Head of the Charles.

As Caroline mentioned in her blog, Head of the Charles is this huge 3 mile crew race (as opposed to its counterpart Foot of the Charles). A big portion of the race takes place on the part of the Charles River right next to a bunch of the upperclassman houses (dorms). Tons of people gather along the river to watch, cheer, and collect all the free goodies being passed out (I got a flash drive my freshman year!). It’s a really exciting event, especially when the weather is beautiful!!

That’s Harvard Business School in the background!

Rather than just spectating this year, I decided to volunteer at the Head of the Charles. Volunteers have to sign up months in advance! I also had to arrive at 7 am with my estimated leaving time at 6 pm. A lot of mental preparation for this event!

I was positioned on Weld (Harvard Women’s boathouse) balcony where I had the best view of boats passing the Business School! The team of volunteers I was with was responsible for gathering split times. We had this fancy camera connected to a computer and we would snap pictures of boats passing by and mark their split times on the computer and send this information to the central manager – some pretty official business I’d say!

Me, spotting with my fancy binoculars!

Spotters were also present to tell us when boats were coming so we could snap accurate pictures. The spotters would also describe the boats passing and there was a scribe who wrote down boat numbers with their respective descriptions (i.e. black boat, white hats). I think this served as back up information just in case of future disputes about split times, people can look back at both the picture and the description.

I was the Men’s Heavyweight Coxswain my freshman year so being in a boathouse and watching good old feathering was all around a great day.

It may look like I’m hardly working, but I came up with my midterm paper thesis right then!

 

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I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately. I can’t seem to kick this cough! However, the weather in Cambridge is beautiful today so I’m trying to look on the bright side–no pun intended ;) The past few days have been overcast with a few drizzles of rain showers so seeing the sun is really refreshing. The unpredictable weather here is both a blessing and curse because you get so much variety but you never know when it’s going to rain, even if it’s beautiful and sunny!

I can’t believe it’s already October. Where did September go? Senior fall is definitely in full swing. Schoolwork is picking up and we’ve already entered midterm season. Luckily, I don’t have any midterms that overlap in the same week, whereas I know several people who have two or three exams over the span of just as many days. I don’t know which is better. On one hand, having every midterm in the same week gets them over with, but on the other end of that argument, it’s not as stressful to take them one at a time. I’m taking an engineering course called “Innovation in Science and Engineering” (ES139) this semester, and there are no exams. My midterm was making a video that depicts how a successful person went about “Problem Selection.” My friend Min and I chose to profile Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com. We basically made a montage of pictures and video clips with our voices narrating Jeff’s story. It was a pretty untraditional midterm assignment. I’ve never done anything like it for a class at Harvard before, but we had a lot of fun with it. I’m definitely not a huge fan of exams, so I thought it was a cool way to assess what we’ve learned so far.

Min

Me and Min!

I’ve been getting a lot of meals with people I’ve lost touch with since freshman year. These are people who, for whatever reason, I didn’t spend too much time with as a sophomore or junior. It’s actually really nice to catch up with old friends, especially to see what their Harvard experience has been like compared to mine. It’s also really nice to reminisce about things that I might not be able to talk about with friends I met in later years (i.e. my pre-orientation experience with Dorm Crew or my freshman year entryway). One topic I’m still getting used to is “the future.” It has come up in every single meal or conversation I’ve had with someone who is also a senior and I haven’t seen for a while. I’ve heard everything from medical school to investment banking to graduate school at Oxford. It’s both scary and exciting–but I’m trying to keep a healthy distance away from the future and live in the present. I try to remind people we still have a year left: a whole quarter of our Harvard experience!

It’s a short week for me. Today is Columbus Day in the States, and therefore I don’t have any classes. I also don’t have any classes on Fridays this semester (the first time this has ever happened). I wish I wasn’t feeling under the weather, or else I’d be outside enjoying the sun. I’ll probably venture out into the Square anyway for tea or Starbucks with one of my friends later this afternoon. Quickly going back to this idea of memory lane–I suspect many of you who are high school seniors are also having similar conversations about the future. Make sure you take some time to enjoy senior year! It’s probably a mix of a whole lot of emotions but I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity you can!

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Wow! It’s been such a whirlwind of a week!! That’s literally (due to this nasty, rainy weather lately) and mentally (midterm season!)

 

Happy October everyone! This month marks our one month of school. If you ask any non-freshman student, we’ll tell you that it simultaneously feels like we JUST started school and that we’ve been here forever. Many things are still relatively new – we’re still getting the hang of balancing our new combination of assignments as well as establishing an organization and studying method curtailed to this semester’s classes – however, academia has been a critical part of our lives for so long that these activities seem second nature to us.

I had my first midterm of the semester this past Wednesday night so I’ve spent the majority of my free time preparing for my first of three exams for Math 18 (i.e. going over class notes, class worksheets, homework, and additional practice problems). Normally, midterm tests are held during scheduled class times, but math exams, for whatever reason, are typically held during the evening. My midterm was scheduled for 6-7:30pm but I had my Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding 50: Literature and Medicine section from 5-6pm. There are strict attendance policies for my Lit & Med class (they’ll deduct from your grade if your absent!), but know that flexibility indeed exists within the rigid structure of Harvard. I emailed my TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow – essentially the same as a TA at most other schools) a few weeks before my math midterm asking for permission to either leave early or to attend a different section for the week of my math exam. She allowed me to leave a few minutes early which was probably the best part of having a math exam!

Despite all my extensive review for the math exam, I didn’t really know what to expect and was somewhat nervous going into the test. It’s a new class this semester, so there are no reputations like “exams are tricky” or “exams are essentially the practice tests” to help build your expectations. I felt pretty good during the test though and felt even better after it – because it was over!

I immediately felt the post-midterm laziness (that I’m still suffering from)! I spent the rest of the night talking to friends, catching up on my comedy television shows and getting excited for my sorority’s fall formal.

It feels like I haven’t been academically productive in a while, but I can tell you about the productivity in other aspects of my life!

In preparation for the Boston Half Marathon 2012, I’ve been trying to run longer and longer runs. Thank goodness I have the Charles River and the Esplanade to run along, but on certain days, ~10 miles can feel like much more even with my pumping iTunes beats. One of my best friends (who I traveled Europe with this past summer!) is currently training and fundraising for the Boston Marathon 2013 by making an extra effort to run all throughout Boston. I took advantage of her creative routes by running with her into Chinatown where an elementary was holding a fair with cotton candy, photobooths and carmelized popcorn!

We even met (and danced with) Pooh Bear!

This long run throughout downtown Boston and eventually ending up in Chinatown made the time pass by very quickly. I love when (physical) productivity effortlessly blends in with new, fun experiences! I’m definitely looking forward to being more adventurous on my runs by being more willing to deviate from the riverbanks. Next weekend, I’ll be running the Boston Half Marathon for my second time. I’m feeling pressure to beat my time last year but I think this is only possible if the rain gods have some mercy and cancel the predicted rainy forecast!

Another long term project I’ve been involved with since my freshman fall semester is called BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) Teen. This is a program I direct through PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), essentially the central hub of public service work on campus. The teen program runs once a week, on Saturdays, at a Vietnamese Community Center located in Dorchester, where (recently) immigrated students gather to work on homework, supplementary lessons we’ve created, arts & crafts, and we often strive for field trips to museums/Harvard’s campus. This is my second year directing the program and I feel like this year will be easier than last, not only because my previous experiences will help me solve future problems with much more skill, but we’ve received a lot of generous financial assistance to run the program this year.

At the end of the 2012 spring semester, I applied to the Presidential Public Service Fund (PPSF) grant to alleviate some of BRYE Teen’s accumulated deficit – a heavy burden that started before I became a director. Luckily, BRYE Teen received this generous grant as with a handful of several other programs (see the university’s generosity here!). PBHA partnered with Dean Evelynn Hammonds for a reward reception where program directors gave a short summary of their programs’ goals in exchange for a hefty and generous check.

Presidential Public Service Fund grant reception with Dean Evelynn Hammonds

It’s so rare (and difficult!) to unite 20+ PBHA program directors and hear about their passionate work so it was really a beautiful event to attend. I know that my program, BRYE Teen, would have great difficulties running without these funds so all my volunteers and participants are eternally grateful for this financial support and encouragement!

Needless to say, it’s been a phenomenal week! There are no classes held on Columbus Day, so the long weekend is looking extra marvelous. I don’t have any midterms this coming week, so I’m looking forward to doing some learning without intensive pressure!

 

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You know how people say that Wednesday is the hump day of the week? You know, that point in the middle of the week that is particularly excruciating?  Well November has proven itself to be the proverbial hill month of the first academic semester of the year.  The middle of the month (as in right about now) is especially rough.

Here’s a general breakdown of the progression of the school year up until this point:

August: Students generally don’t arrive on campus until the last week or so of the month.  August is all play, and no work!  Everyone is excited to be back on campus, and classes have yet to begin.  It’s a blur of summer summaries, meals in Harvard Square, and exciting reunions with friends and roomies.

September: September isn’t quite as laid back as August, but the start of a new semester is always refreshing.  I love checking out different courses during Shopping Period and getting to know my new professors and TFs (teaching fellows).  Also, it’s a great time to make friends because a new class schedule means new classmates!  Also, the weather in September, especially towards the end, is fantastic.  The sun shines and a light breeze is usually there to cool you off just when you need it.

October: The first wave of midterms usually takes its toll on me at this point, but Columbus Day (no class!) and Halloween (costumes and fun!) help ensure that October is still an overall enjoyable month.

November: Now we reach the “hump”.  Things start to get a little too real in November.  The second wave of midterm exams and papers comes crashing down.  Also, as a sophomore, I officially declare my concentration (major) next week.  In and of itself, declaration is a really exhilarating occurrence.  However, the paperwork that accompanies it is no fun…at all. At this point in the year New England living rears its ugly head.  It is legitimately cold outside, and it starts getting dark by 5pm.  More than anything, by the time you reach November you are so close to Reading Period (the week or so preceding exams when class does not meet) and exams that you just want to fast-forward to the end and go home for J-term (our month-long winter break).  I might sound like a Negative Nancy, but that’s probably just the midterm stress coming through.

Full disclosure: there is a select list of November-related things that really help me power up and over the hill.

  • The Changing of the Leaves.  Cambridge in the fall is enchanting.  The leaves on the trees in The Old Yard and Tercentenary Theatre change from green to captivating hues of gold, brown, red, orange, and yellow.  I like to think that being surrounded by all of the warm fall colors helps keep me warm, despite the cold.  This has yet to be scientifically proven.
A glimpse of the leaves changing color in Cambridge.

I'm no professional, but I snapped this on my phone on a walk home from the Yard.

  • Veteran’s Day.* It’s a national holiday, so no class!  Enough said.
  • Harvard-Yale. Harvard-Yale is the sporting event of the season–Nay, the year.  My excitement cannot be contained.  The game is next Saturday at Yale, and the wait is going to be the death of me.  It is a REALLY big deal.  Students and Alums alike make the trek to the game.  I can’t wait to take a bus down to New Haven with all of my friends, tailgate with great food and great people, and watch Harvard domination extend to the field.
  • Thanksgiving Break.  Thanksgiving is the first time that I get to go home during the school year!  To be fair, I could probably sneak home for the weekend before this point but it never seems worth the hassle.  Also, it will be the first time that all of my family members will be in the same place since the summer, and I cannot wait for the family bonding to commence.  Most importantly, the Thanksgiving feast at my house would leave any glutton delighted and satisfied.
My family's Thanksgiving feast from last year.

Believe it or not, but this is just a portion of our Thanksgiving set up form last year.

  • Pumpkin Flavored Treats. Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, pumpkin milkshakes from Boloco, and pumpkin pie and pumpkin cupcakes from Sweet!  All of these delicious treats are available in celebration of the fall season, and the best part is that they are all conveniently located in Harvard Square.  It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Pumpkin cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes!

  • The End of Daylight Savings Time.  Falling back to gain one hour of sleep?  YES PLEASE!

Fret not.  The mid-November hump will pass.  Right now, Harvard-Yard is the light at the end of the tunnel that I am focusing on.  I can’t wait to share it with you in a future post!

*Happy Veteran’s day to all of the men and women of the United States military! Your contributions are much appreciated (past and present alike).

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