End of the Semester! YES!

Hi there! Sorry it’s taken me a while to post. These last few weeks have been a little hectic what with final papers. It’s that time of the year when I continuously vocalize that college is really hard…and receive absolutely no sympathy. That’s probably because when I say college is really hard, I actually mean having so much fun is super exhausting

May 1st marked the last day of official classes and the beginning of Reading Period which is a whole week of unstructured studying time for students to prepare for Final Exams. A lot of final papers and projects have deadlines during Reading Period – so much so that students can even finish all their classes before the official week of exams begin! I am always actively grateful for this week because a lot of universities have classes up until exams which I think is completely ludicrous, unreasonable, and pretty much sets you up for tons of stress eating. Good thing Harvard cares about us  But don’t think Reading Period is a like a week on the beach!! Depending on your schedule, you’re probably living in the library and attending review sessions like it’s your day job. The great part is that by night, there are tons of activities lined up!

This awkward 2-week period when you get to louse around, do nothing, and get really sick of school. So, naturally, when summer comes around, you’re ready for it. In college in general it’s just not like that. You have all your finals in a flurry and you hastily pack and… you leave. Just like that a really great semester comes to an end and you bask in how much you’ve grown and how fast it all went. Reading Period is a blessing in disguise. For five or so days before finals, Harvard gives us a reading period so that we can drill down, write our papers, and prepare for finals. It’s a blessing because not many college students get one. It’s not so much a blessing because, let’s face it, preparing for finals is not always so fun. BUT reading periods are actually one of my favorite weeks because it always affords me the chance to do a little more exploring– nothing motivates me to go outside my usual “Harvard spaces” than the need to study.

Not very many kids complain about classes ending for Reading Period, but this isn’t to say that we don’t appreciate class. The semester definitely reliably blends unpredictable events into everyone’s life which can make attending every single lecture and (discussion/problem solving) section difficult. Most lectures, however, are recorded so if you absolutely can’t go to class, you can always watch the video at your own leisure. There are even tools out there that allow you to watch videos 1.5x to 3x faster – talk out upping your efficiency, though it can be hard to understand someone talking that fast. These technological advances can make life easier, but there are invaluable perks about attending lectures.

Soledad O’ Brien will grill you, as I unceremoniously found out during an impromptu Q&A after the forum. She had come to the Institute of Politics to talk to a group of about 40 undergraduates about politics and public service in a more casual setting. She came in, stood at the podium, and instead of launching into the banal stump speech glittered with inspirational stories and encouraging mantras, fired a question at us: Why do you want to go into this field (politics)? It seems to me that there are a lot more effective ways to affect change, she challenged us. She stood defiant. No one answered her at first. “Well this is going to be a pretty short meeting,” she chuckled. She wasn’t there to inspire us, she was there to make us think. Seeing her at the last JFK Junior Forum was more than just a treat. Part of what is so unique about the Harvard experience is the opportunity to not just hear from and sit in the room with amazing people who do incredible work, but too to talk to them, to ask them questions, to learn from them. These experiences give Harvard students a most special outlook on the world and, at least my case and in the case of this forum, the opportunity to figure out what it is that they want.

There are moments when I am really proud of my school. Like the weekend after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. One of the really cool things going on at Harvard this semester was the construction of a new Science Center Plaza. The Plaza– which is this awesome new common space!) It was to be unveiled on Friday, the day that we were on lockdown as the police tried to find the suspect. And so, unfortunately, the big unveiling ceremony Harvard had scheduled was postponed and Visitas was cancelled. But the Harvard community turned right back around and the very next Friday, yellow flowers lined the plaza. They were free for all community members and students. More than that, boards with well wishes for the victims of the attack lined our plaza. It was so heartening to see such warmth in those yellow flowers after such a tumultuous and chaotic few days. It was a strong reminder of the common spaces that are slowly bridging together our community and keeping us forever more #BostonStrong.

It’s inevitable that the end of the semester brings a lot of stress with final papers, but it’s important to realize that we have a lot of accomplishments to celebrate as well!  The end of every semester calls for a celebration honoring our hard work. This semester is a bit special because in light of recent tragic events in Boston, it also seems imperative to celebrate Boston. I have mentioned before that’s it’s a tad difficult to motivate Harvard students to get off campus because there’s always so much to do on campus and because it’s like we’re constantly living in a time crunch. Remember that fun is exhausting too, so it’s also critical to balance with work. Kind of a lie, since my work thus far has been pretty fun.

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