Upperclassmen at Harvard have the opportunity to be really closely involved with freshman orientation, and many sophomores, juniors, and seniors jump at the chance to help new students with their transition to the College. Whether it’s by leading a pre-orientation program (Dorm Crew, FAP, FUP, FIP, or FOP), running events during Freshman Week, or advising first years, there are a hundred different ways to get involved. Personally, I am one of a rare few (in fact, there are only three of us) to get completely submerged with all things “freshman” by participating in the trifecta of orientation opportunities: advising freshmen in Wigglesworth Hall as a Peer Advising Fellow (PAF), leading orientation activities with the Crimson Key Society, and backpacking through New Hampshire wilderness on FOP 20. This definitely means I’ve seen a LOT of the Class of 2016 over the past two weeks, but it’s been worth it!
First Up: First-Year Outdoor Program and FOP 20
I’ve written a lot about FOP in past posts, between my time on Steering Committee and my training trip from this past spring, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I was lucky enough to lead my last backpacking orientation trip this August and I had an absolute blast. This year we had a group of eight freshmen and I co-led with Michael, a junior from Lowell House. We were in the Pemigewassett Wilderness in New Hampshire and hiked along “the Bonds,” a series of peaks with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Aside from literally five minutes of rain, we had picture perfect weather the entire trip, which made the whole thing even more enjoyable. Leading my last trip was admittedly a little bittersweet, but I was so glad I took the chance to go out one last time before the craziness of senior year.
Peer Advising in Wigglesworth
After two years of advising students in Matthews Hall, this year I’ve moved to Wigglesworth F to work with a group of 23 freshmen alongside two other PAFs and a new proctor. So far, the experience has been great – it seems like the entryway is already getting along super well, and it was a ton of fun getting to talk to them all during orientation. While PAFs have responsibilities throughout the course of the year (planning study breaks, holding advising meetings), our efforts are particularly focused during orientation and shopping week, during which time we’re expected to help freshmen get settled into school and talk them through picking their first classes. As a full entryway team, we had several meetings over the course of orientation to talk about life in Wigg F and what freshmen should expect out of their first few weeks of school. In addition, I’m personally assigned to work with eight freshmen, meeting with them individually and offering advice on everything from class selection to extracurriculars to roommate issues.
I got a chance to sit down with all of my advisees over the course of this weekend, and it was so nice to get to know them on a more personal level. As a senior, it’s a bit of a time warp listening to freshmen talk their way through major decisions impacting their life: whether to take top or bottom bunk, how to make the most of the activities fair, or whether or not to go to the First Chance Dance with the rest of the class. I definitely experienced many of the same questions and thoughts during my own freshman orientation, and it always “brings me back” when I’m talking to brand new students during their first few days on campus. What a great reminder of all I’ve experienced to do this right before launching into senior year!
FWK and CKS
In the Crimson Key world, Freshman Week (or, as we like to abbreviate it, FWK) is the biggest event of the entire year: many of us spend the weeks and months leading up to it counting down and planning in anticipation. Of course, a lot of the excitement comes from the fact that Key gets to plan and execute many of the major events that occur during orientation, including the Freshman Talent Show, First Chance Dance, and small scale social activities for the new class. While the freshmen do have to spend a lot of their time going to formal meetings and seminars on life at Harvard, they also get to attend a bunch of fun activities during Freshman Week – and Key gets the pleasure of providing this “fun”. As might be expected, there are a lot of hours required to pull off FWK, which means that it’s all hands on deck for Crimson Key members. Each of the 90 members are expected to put in a number of shifts over the course of the week, ranging from 4:45 am move-in shifts on the first day to late-night clean-ups after the freshman dance. We get to wear bright red t-shirts (yes, the same shirt all week) and enjoy the fun ourselves, though, so it makes the time well worth it.
FWK is also highly anticipated because it offers a rare chance for the upperclassmen from Key to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company for an entire week before classes start. Key is a group of fun, outgoing, ridiculous people, and we always do a good job of entertaining ourselves over the course of FWK – whether that be on shift, going out in the Square, or just relaxing in someone’s dorm room. Many of us refer to Freshman Week as “Camp Harvard,” a time when we all get to hang out and enjoy campus and each other without the pressures of classes or extracurriculars weighing down on us.
Move-In and the First Day of Class
While I definitely have spent a LOT of time with freshmen over the past two weeks, I’ve also been busy moving myself into my own dorm room, hanging out with my roommates, and picking classes for my fall semester. We’re living on the fourth floor of Dunster this year, and while our incredible views of the river make the trek upstairs well worth it, moving all of our furniture up four flights was definitely…an adventure. A few Zipcar rentals and a hearty helping of elbow grease later, though, we managed to get our three (count them – 3) couches into our big senior common room. As far as class selection goes, I’m still definitely in the throes of shopping week – for once, I don’t have any requirements to fulfill this semester, which leaves me the challenge of finding awesome electives for this fall. It’s both exciting and a bit overwhelming to head into course shopping with little definition of what I’ll be taking, but I’m eager to see what I come up with at the end of the week!
And to close out the post, I’m including a photo of my roommates and me from this morning – our last first day of school!