Graduation

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Hi everyone!

 

My apologies for the sudden disappearance for the last few weeks: with post-graduation festivities and settling into summer housing and programs, things have just begun to smooth out.

 

My time as a student at Harvard may be over now (at least as an undergraduate), but that doesn’t mean I’ve let go of Harvard Square and the Harvard community so easily. This summer I’ll be participating in two programs in Cambridge, MA in conjunction with Harvard College: Harvard-Karma Yoga Community Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program (which I’m in the midst of right now), and a research fellowship with Harvard’s Schlesinger Library (which I will begun right after my teacher training is done).

 

Before I get into the amazing Harvard-Karma program and what its like beginning summer in Boston with a bunch of yogis, I wanted to give a quick update on the graduation festivities!

 

Graduation week (May 21st to the 24th) flew by, attributably largely—I believe—to the fact that I had 10 family members staying with me and touring Boston…

With my grandparents peering out to sea

My mum & dad at the wharf 

…and Harvard together.

Outside the freshman dining hall (Annenberg)

My aunt and her boyfriend hiding from the rain as we tour Harvard

Some of my family, such as my grandparents, had never been to Boston before and it was great taking the time to re-explore this place in potentially my last summer here. We even were able to cook a full family meal together and it almost made up for missing Thanksgiving these last four years! A child of Italian heritage, pasta, bruschetta, and cannoli’s flowed plentiful from the kitchen.

Many cooks in the kitchen, with my brother Adam and mum

A real Italian-style feast

My second family who has graciously allowed me to stay through the summer: my friend Dylan and his mum Pia

Graduation itself seemed to take place in the span of two. Wednesday was Class Day, which focused on just the Harvard Undergraduates graduating complete with hilarious speakers (Andy Samberg and Barney Frank) and four great student speakers as well. The whole event was less formal and featured a lovely pre-picnic before the speakers.

With the boyfriend before senior picnic

Senior friends at senior picnic

Commencement day was on Thursday and began early at 6am with a Senior Breakfast, church service, and was filled with tradition at every turn—everything from men in top hats to a full speech given in Latin! It was a whole day affair, but the ritual of it all was amazing to witness—traditions that have been around for hundreds of years it really makes you feel part of something larger than yourself.

Note the sports-announcer-esqu explanation of commencement and its many traditions

All of Harvard Universities’ schools from the Law School to the Business School to us undergraduates was presented and united together on Thursday as each of our respective school deans declared we had met the requirements to graduate and each graduating class broke our into much deserved cheers. After a final song from the choir and the local sheriff declare the event over, we all marched the deep drum of the Harvard band out to our undergraduate house. Once there we received our diplomas with family and friends in company: a perfect ending to a beautiful day.

 Bright and early on commencement day!

With my blockmate, Anita, at our house’s diploma ceremony

Diploma officially in hand!

When Friday morning rolled around, I was sad to bid farewell to my family members but was able to find solace in my new endeavor—training to be a certified yoga teacher. A recent program began between Harvard University and Karma Yoga studio in Cambridge where students received discounted 200-hour-certification in exchange for teaching yoga for free to underserved populations in our local community. I truly believe in the healing potential of yoga and meditation, and in its ability to show individuals that they can each become self-empowered—that we all have that potential within us!

 The whole group: Om Shanti~

I am truly grateful to be part of such a great community and to learn so much about myself and from others post-graduation. As many of my Harvard friends left town, it was great to be able to truly find friends and encouragement in this new program.

Teaching each other

Learning & growing together

…And jumping off the footbridge into the Charles River together…!!

Summer so far has been beautiful, if occasionally rainy, and I’m using the opportunity to take advantage of my last few months in Boston—exploring local farmers markets, opting into new classes and workshops I’ve always wanted to take, exploring amazing parks and greenery, and trying out new restaurants as well as old favorites. Next entry I’ll write back with some of the specific events I’ve been checking out in case you too ever find yourself around Harvard for the summer—it’s a wonderful place to be!

 

Until next time~

 

~Natalie

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I’m halfway done with college – I hate admitting this and hate hearing it more. My loathing stems from the general consensus that time passes by too quickly. Wow, I feel so old just typing that.

The Yard & John Harvard Statue with more visitors during commencement than normal; welcome!

As my sophomore academic year ended, I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) believe another phenomenal senior class would be graduating from the college. First and foremost, they all deserve a grand CONGRATULATIONS – no banner, no matter how large, will ever be able to accurately convey the prodigious pride that they have instilled not only in themselves, but also in their family, friends, and even acquaintances. The graduating class of 2012 has – and will continue to – permanently imprint their intellect and kindness both on and off campus. President Faust eloquently and succinctly delineates the greatness of 2012 in her commencement speech [here] – while reading this, I shamelessly freaked out about her how AWESOME her closing line is!! Referencing Call Me, Maybe definitely captures part of Harvard’s culture as this track has conquered campus, infiltrating into the playlist of every (good) party, Housing Day videos, and of course, athletic teams.

 

Fun fact (that I think is true): Class Banners are only presented a few special times – Convocation, Commencement & Reunions!

 

After freshman year at the

Convocation and Commencement happen in the same place: between Memorial Church & Widener Library

undergraduate college, students are officially considered “upperclassmen” as we move into our upperclassmen houses (dorms). This “House Life” definitely lends itself to increased interaction with the older (and wiser) kids on campus. Therefore, I definitely feel much closer to this year’s senior class. In fact, many of them were instrumental in my decision to become premed my freshman spring semester. Needless to say, I’ve gotten pretty reminiscent and have been watching class day/commencement speeches these past few hours – perhaps trying to prematurely absorb and apply the wisdom being imparted. To my surprise, some of my favorite speeches weren’t celebrities, but rather students – students speaking about failures and disappointments: Molly O’Connor Fitzpatrick, Scott Alan Levin-Gesundheit, Jacqueline Rossi, and Steven Maheshwary. As depressing as this may seem, it’s hard to talk about something without mentioning its evil twin. So on the glorious day where we rejoice in our successes, we must also acknowledge how our failures have brought us here.

 

A wider view of the stage where all the speeches take place

Mentioning “Harvard,” more often than not, triggers an overwhelmingly popular misconception that its students are nothing other than absolute perfection. As much as I’d love for this perception to be completely true, it’s really not. In fact, we’re trying to build upon ourselves and improve constantly. This drive to strive for not just more but better is how I like to characterize “Harvard.”

During the last week of this past spring semester, I participated in an Admissions Focus Group where current students and the Director of Digital Communications collaborated on how to basically market Harvard through the power of the internet. It’s slightly unintuitive that Harvard needs to market at all, but it is really important to inculcate to applicants that Harvard is not beyond reach. Personally, I’d like to see the prioritization of humbling Harvard so that interested and prospective students are more open to applying rather than being too intimidated to sit at the table and gamble. The focus group discussed everything from our website and its ease of navigation, Visitas (prefrosh weekend), & decision letters and its wording in personalized letters and phone calls – and more importantly how all these factors compared to other institutions.

Although I really should have been studying for finals and packing my belongings, it was really inspiring to participate in the focus group and how much hard work goes on behind the scenes. In the midst of hectic semesters, it’s all too easy to get caught up in how hard you’re working and neglect the diligence of others. However, I feel much more motivated when I know that those around me are working hard too – and this includes the faculty and staff! I’ll call it the Peer Pressure Syndrome when you work hard because everyone around you is too!

 

**Photo credits to Harvard Magazine!

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The View from the End of the Road

 Lowell House Courtyard

Spring has sprung: see the flowers blooming! It was almost 80 degrees and warranting more classes to be outside. Less than a week left of classes, the last official classes of Harvard, and I can’t believe it!

The senior class committee has been sending out impending countdown announcements: 36 as of now. The days are still filled with last minute study, delving into extracurricular, and preparation for graduation. I’ve been attempting to take advantage of the local surroundings while I’m in the area; particularly study breaks in local cafes!

 

 Diesel Cafe, Davis Square, Cambridge

As for extracurricular, it’s been a Food Literacy Project heavy week. This Tuesday FLP hosted our annual Top Chef competition—teams from each of the Harvard houses (and the freshmen) who won a preliminary cooking competition came together in Annenberg (the Harvard freshman dining hall) and were each given thirty minutes to make an entrée and dessert to be judged by the Harvard dining services, including Executive Chef Martin Breslin.

The event was high energy and full of creativity and food passion. Check out some of the great dishes from the event:

 

Adam House Dishes

Leverett House Dishes 

Currier House Dishes [the two kids of a house tutor were the team!]

The winner was Winthrop house with a fattoush salad and apple tart. Check out the winners and their meal below:

 

In the meantime, I’ve been working on sales and marketing with a local company, helping put on events. With that, fellowships for the summer, and an offer to get trained in yoga with a Harvard community program (!), it looks like at least the next few months post-graduation are coming together, the first couple of which will be in Boston.

 The view from a dorm room in the Leverett Towers, featuring the Charles River

~Natalie

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Small Classes, Big Ideas

If you walked through Harvard Yard this week you would have seen groups upon groups of flip-flop-wearing, sun-dress-adorning college students relaxing on the grass and playing Frisbee in the shade. The 80-degree weather even promoted my Philosophy 97 Tutorial (environmental ethics) to be held outdoors, as many Harvard classes opted for.

 

Debates raged about immigration and the Kyoto treating as we lounged in the shade. This is my favorite time at Harvard, spring, when the stresses of classes are mingled with the soothing warmth of sunlight and playfulness that becomes evoked as students enjoy the moment. There’s a certain comfort in the coming of this season again, and reminds me of years past and the same events.

Students having a “beach party” at the Charles River sans the beach

I found myself relieving memories of academic in particular when I ran into an older teaching fellow from a favorite philosophy class of mine, Philosophy of Psychology. He told me about his dissertation work and I my thesis work, somehow feeling timid all of a sudden about my own work. Perhaps it was because I remember how far my own writing in theory has come since then, or perhaps it was odd realizing I was at the end of the time of academia.

 

As excited as I am for the real world, there’s a certain scary uncertainness to it all. There’s no obvious next step, no ever-expanding choice of options and new options to explore, but just more narrowing and narrowing. I’m in the process now of determining how to choose as I apply to jobs and fellowships. Only a short post for this mid-semester evening, but I’ll keep you updated as it turns out.

 

~Natalie

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I can’t believe it is already August! My apologies for not posting sooner, but I have a very long wrap-up post for all of you, and I may occasionally post to let you know what post-college life is like.

To finish up my previous posts, I started junior year excited to pursue an MD/PhD and registered for the SAT of medical school: the MCAT. Most of junior year was spent juggling classes and lab with studying, and I was ridiculously happy to be over with the MCAT when I took it at the beginning of reading period in May. From there I jumped straight into applications, which are centrally organized through AMCAS. The summer between junior and senior year I was trying to get data for my senior thesis in lab and writing draft after draft of essays for my primary application (which gets sent to all medical schools) and my secondary applications (which are specific to each medical school). In general, MD/PhD applicants follow a similar timeline to MD applicants, but we have more letters of recommendation (including a letter from every lab we have every worked in) and generally more essays, with the extra essays focused on our research and why we want to get two degrees and stay in school for a really long time. We also have longer interview days – I had anywhere from six to twelve interviews over a two to three day period per school, so fall of senior year I was lucky if I was able to make it to class (I ended up missing over forty days of school, and spent a lot of time getting work done on plane flights).

As I waited to hear back from programs (although some MD/PhD programs are rolling, many wait until march to release all of their spots as each school as so few spots) I wrote and rewrote my senior thesis, had it bound at kinko’s (which is open 24 hours!) and turned it in to the MCB Office. The process of writing my thesis was the most intellectually satisfying experience of my time as an undergraduate, and I am very grateful to my PI and postdoc for the time they put into mentoring me—I learned so much about neuroscience and kinase signaling pathways, but also about science as a profession. After turning my thesis in, I had the opportunity to revisit some of the MD/PhD programs I was deciding between, meet with professors I have admired throughout college, and hang out with the friends I had made during the application process. And then it was time for senior week and graduation!

My roommates and I at the Picnic! (courtesy Cara ’11)

Graduated!

It doesn’t feel too different to have graduated from college just yet but I will definitely miss Mather Dining Hall and not having to cook for myself! Of course, I didn’t go very far—I am now an MD/PhD candidate in the Health Sciences and Technology Program at Harvard Medical School/MIT (and all but one of my roommates and most of my blockmates and friends are still in the Cambridge/Boston area). This summer we started off the program with a summer course and a graduate school lab rotation, and in less than two weeks I will be getting my first white coat!

I was so lucky to graduate from college and be able to start the next phase of my life that I am incredibly excited about, and I hope the class of 2015 has a wonderful first year at Harvard College—it may not seem like it now, but the next four years will go by fast, so do your best to make the most of them!

If you have any questions about the MD or MD/PhD route, feel free to contact me at Alissa_D’Gama@hms.harvard.edu (Yes, my email has an underscore and an apostrophe!)

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