BackgroundInterview Date:July 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Small public high school in a small Massachusetts town with a graduating class of 95 and a culture of pursuing higher education degrees.
First Generation College Student: No
Concentration: Joint concentration in Government and Romance Languages and Literatures
Secondary Field: Global Health and Health Policy
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in Global Health Brigade, which is a group of 50 Harvard students that go to a developing nation every January for a week to set up a health clinic. I’m also a tour guide with companies associated with the university for tourists, not for prospective students.
What was your favorite class last year?
My favorite class was called Spanish 81 – Table Talk and Food Writing and it was all about the cuisine in Spain and how it’s portrayed in literature. Once a week we would actually cook a traditional dish and eat it which was really fun.
What was your least favorite class last year?
My least favorite class was probably Expository Writing, which is a required writing class that I didn’t find very interesting.
Was there anything that Harvard or the professors did especially well or poorly during your first year?
I think everyone was super friendly, and I think that was super helpful, but I can’t think of anything particular for either of those.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It was more collaborative than I was expecting. I don’t think the competition is necessarily among other students, but more of a competition with yourself to see how well you can do. Because you see how well other people are doing, it’s more out of a sense of self-improvement that we work hard than a sense of jealousy or competitiveness.
Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Not always. I think that people say they are open to multiple schools of thought but are less open than they think they are.
How accessible were your professors during your first year?
What made you choose your double concentration?
I started out thinking that I was going to be pre-med with a concentration in Romance Languages and Literature because I want to do aid work and I really love foreign languages. I thought it would be really helpful to study French and Spanish and then I could go on to be a doctor. I still kind of have those goals but I’m also really interested in government and possible might want to pursue law instead of going to medical school. I’m kind of just doing what interests me and Harvard is really willing to work with me so I really appreciate that.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Matthews Hall with two roommates.
Sophomore: Leverett House with one roommate.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve never felt unsafe, and I’ve never had any friends that have felt unsafe that I know of. I think Harvard is a safe area.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
El Jefe’s Taqueria.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Going down to the river.
Pros and Cons of being in Cambridge, MA?
Pros: (1) You can easily get into Boston
(2) It’s a very lively area but you don’t have all of the cons of the city. You don’t have any weird or sketchy nightlife that you might have if you were in the city.
Cons: I can’t think of any cons. It’s a really great location.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I enjoy partying, I think a lot of Harvard students enjoy partying. I go out pretty much every Friday and Saturday. During the first semester, we even went out some Wednesdays and Thursdays. I think there are fewer parties second semester just because it was colder. I really enjoy dancing so wherever the music is good is usually where I try to go. I didn’t go to many final clubs. I would party more in the [on campus] houses than anywhere else. Usually, the parties that I go to are hosted by clubs.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I was very happy first semester. Second semester I was less happy because it was just so cold and people kind of gave up partying because it was so cold. In my experience, there’s either a really amazing party or there’s nothing so I wish it was a little more consistent.
Does being a person who identifies as LGBT influence your nightlife at all?
Only the one time I got rejected from a final club because they said the ratio was too bad and I was there with my boyfriend.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Mostly through the First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP). That’s where I met most of the friends that I had the first semester and then the friends that I have now are either those same people or people that I met through them.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Harvard?
It’s fun. It’s moderate. I don’t think it’s crazy. I know there are a lot of schools where people party every night but I think Harvard is very reasonable.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Harvard is a really accepting place but I do think that at times people don’t mix as much as maybe they should. I don’t think it’s on purpose. I think it’s just almost a coincidence maybe. I don’t think there’s any negativity whatsoever at Harvard towards people of other races or other cultural backgrounds.
How would you describe the student body?
Diverse. Literally no two students are alike. Everyone has different interests, different passions, and different abilities. Harvard is Harvard because of the people, and every single person is entirely different. [About 41% of the student population is White, 21% is Asian, and 12% is international.]
How helpful was the financial aid office? How accommodating were they to your needs?
The Financial Aid Office was amazing in helping me the first year and I’m very grateful for them.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Harvard before entering as a freshman?
It’s ok not to be rich. I thought everyone was going to be incredibly rich and most of the people aren’t rich. If they are, they’re incredibly humble or very sincere and genuine people. [Socioeconomically, 15% of students come from the top 1% and 4.5% come from the bottom 20%.]
What is something a prospective student may have missed on a visit that is worth checking out?
You can head into the Science Center because it’s the place where people hang out. There are some food options in there and also that’s where a lot of people’s classes are. There’s also a library in there that people use. It’s a place that you’ll become very familiar with but it’s not very public so most people miss it.
What is something that a prospective LGBT student should know about?
It’s a great place to be LGBT because there are so many schools near it. Also, it’s really close to the city, and Cambridge is really hopping. I see it as kind of a college town where most people are attending university in some capacity. It’s a really great place and I think Boston is a really accepting community.
Reasons to attend Harvard:
1) Harvard has so much money that even if you’re not on financial aid you’ll probably still benefit from it either with the amazing research or through the many grants and different programs that it offers.
2) The prestige of Harvard opens doors that other universities can’t.
3) The people. Harvard being as prestigious as it is can cultivate an amazing group of students. I feel as though I have benefitted from my fellow students more than from the University itself.
Reasons to not attend Harvard:
1) It’s really cold in the winter.
2) Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind just because we’re given a proctor who lives on your floor and you’re given an academic advisor but some are more competent than others and I know a lot of people who had difficulty with their academic advisors. My advice would be to be a strong advocate for yourself.
3) A personal pet peeve of mine is that it is sometimes difficult to find good water on campus because the buildings are so old so some of them don’t have water fountains.