A Journey to the East Coast: Harvard University

Hello guys! How has your holiday been? It’s exactly two weeks into the fall break, so there’s still three more weeks before fall quarter begins. I have personally had a very fun holiday, a large part of it thanks to my trip to Cambridge, MA, where I was visiting my uncle, as well as looking at several different universities.

First of all, a brief background information on Cambridge. The Cambridge I am referring to here is not the University of Cambridge in England; on the other hand, I am referring to the city of Cambridge, which is located in Massachusetts, in the Greater Boston area. Yes, it was named after the University of Cambridge, and like its namesake, Cambridge has become much of a city that is thought of highly in terms of intelligence and education. This is because two of the world’s best universities are actually located in Cambridge. The two universities I am referring to are Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT for short), which I am sure you would have heard of, some point in your life. You might have guessed this part too: Cambridge’s two largest employers are actually Harvard and MIT, so it’s no wonder that when people think of Cambridge, they always think of it as a city full of students, because well, it’s pretty much run by two enormous universities. As a college student, I felt really privileged and excited to visit these two universities, and honestly, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like if I could one day go to one of those universities.

Now, let’s get on with the story.

I went to Boston on the 21st of August, but by the time I arrived at Boston, the sun had just set down. Since my uncle pretty much lived right next to Harvard, we headed out for a one-hour walk around campus. If you haven’t been to Harvard before, well, Harvard is gigantic, I swear, so there was no way we could cover everything in one night. We just walked around the houses, and I thought Harvard Yard was pretty cool. It’s basically sort of an enclosed yard, and it’s sort of the oldest part of Harvard.

Inside Harvard Yard

The day before the first day of college! Everybody's busy checking into their respective houses.

The next day, we started our day by attending an info session at Harvard. I know, the transfer acceptance rate for Harvard is only 1%, why even bother attending the info session? Well, I personally view Harvard with a lot of respect—it’s not only the oldest university in the United States, but it is also one of the best. It has been and will always be my dream to get into Harvard, so for me, just attending an info session was so special. The people talking were actually the Harvard students themselves, so you can get a better idea of what Harvard is actually like. It turns out that Harvard actually has a lot of volunteer abroad opportunities. One of the students talked about how she wanted to go and study abroad for one semester in her junior year. I was also in awe about how rich of resources Harvard was. The other student explained to us how he needed this old book on Chinese history for his paper. Harvard unfortunately didn’t have the book he was looking for, but they asked Yale University whether they had the book. Turns out Yale had the book, but it wasn’t in good shape so they couldn’t lend it to him. But… here’s the interesting part: the student told us, “But Harvard went along and said, ‘Oh, wait a sec, the Chinese National Museum has it. We’ll just ask them to send it to us. Oh, and we found a couple of other interesting books that might help you, do you want us to borrow those books from China’s National Library for you too?’ I mean, you know? I just thought it was sort of cool but intimidating at the same time.” Another thing that worries parents and students is Harvard’s tuition fee. Well, luckily, Harvard has this policy whereby they make sure that any student who enrolls in Harvard can pay the tuition fee. Students whose parents make under $60,000 a year, do not have to pay anything (at all), and above that, the parents will have to make some contribution, but not so much that it will be a financial burden. The majority of Harvard students graduate debt-free, so that’s a good thing to note.

After the info session, I went on a tour around campus. Like the info session, the tour was also led by the Harvard students. I was fortunate to get an English lad—Felix—as my tour guide, because then, I can get a different perspective on Harvard. Felix said that what attracted him to Harvard instead of other universities in England was how Harvard put a lot on emphasis on extracurricular activities too, instead of just on academics. Long story short, I was just in awe with how large and awesome the campus was. An interesting thing about the campus is that it’s kind of merged with the city of Cambridge. Hence, Harvard streets can be used by everyone, not just Harvard students. My uncle and I asked him about the admission for transfer students, but he said that unfortunately, there weren’t any transfer students admitted last fall, but there will be some next fall.

Felix (the guy in the red shirt) referred to this hall as "the closest thing we have to Hogwarts."

I think what appeals to me the most about Harvard is, besides all the prestige of being the best university in the world, the dorm life in Harvard seems to be so fun. Harvard doesn’t really have any official fraternities or sororities, but in place of that, they have an awesome dorm system. From the way Felix told his experience in Harvard, it seems like all the houses are one big family; like in Hogwarts, where there is Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. Each respective houses have their own different character and their own groove, and they’re just like family.

This has been a very long post, therefore, I will end with some interesting facts on Harvard, and continue with the story tomorrow.

In front of the library you can see the statue of John Harvard, or more commonly known as "The Statue of Three Lies."Can you see the statue in front of the library? That is actually a statue of John Harvard, founder of Harvard University. Interestingly enough, the statue is known as “The Statue of Three Lies.” Pretty ironic, huh? Harvard’s motto, “Veritas,” means truth in Latin, and yet, there’s a statue of lies? Well, the statue has earned this title because:

  • The inscription says, “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.” In reality, the statue isn’t actually modeled after John Harvard. The sculpture didn’t have any photo, painting, drawing or anything that could tell him what John Harvard looked like. So instead, he just carved the statue and probably said something like, “Well, that’s good enough isn’t it?”
  • John Harvard didn’t actually found the university either. He was just the first benefactor, and when he died, the people running the university were like, “Let’s just name the university after John Harvard,” and so, the name was changed from—if I’m not mistaken—New College, to Harvard College (Harvard College refers to the undergraduate’s studies while Harvard University refers to the whole institution).
  • Harvard University wasn’t actually founded in 1638. It was actually founded in 1636.

Don’t forget to tune in the next couple of days for my post on MIT, Brown University, and Columbia University.

Cheers,

Indira

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