Firstly I would like to apologize to all of you who were asking for updates earlier in the week… I had limited internet access until Tuesday, and then a tidal wave of orientation events in which we were reminded of how hard we’re going to work for the next 6 years. And gosh, never realised this before, but they tell us that it’s suuuper important to maintain work-life balance! Now there’s a new concept if ever I heard one. Or at least, they seem to think that it would be a new concept to most of us. Us new students have also been inundated by information about every possible thing ever in the world. Lots of paper.
The one exception in this “you need to have a life” chorus was my head of department, who told my incoming class that “work-life balance is all well and good, but you’re not undergraduates any more. Most people in this department work 70 hours a week. It’s a nice idea, this work-life balance thing, but realistically you’ll be working evenings and weekends. That’s what you have to do to succeed in this job…”
Anyway, it still feels a bit crazy when I’m at orientation things and think, “what the… I’m at Harvard.” It’s surreal. I hear the same comment from other incoming students, too. There are countless people every day in Harvard Yard (Harvard Yard is the oldest and central part of Harvard’s campus. It’s surrounded by a big wall. Check out photos on the wikipedia page) with cameras around their necks, taking photos of the old brick buildings. This comic is from Stanford university but the sentiment holds true here, as well:
There are four graduate residence halls, all clustered together just north of the Yard. Most students are in the School of Arts and Sciences (so not students from law, medicine or other professional degrees), although there are a few students housed here from other schools such as the School of Design. Still, there is enormous diversity in the topics that people are studying. I have met people doing Physics, Film and Media studies, English, East Asian studies, Computer Science, African and African American Studies, Political Economy and Government… I could go on. I have met people from France, Mexico, the UK, Ireland, Uganda, China, Korea, Romania, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Uganda, Canada… Apparently there are students from 53 different countries in this year’s intake.
So. The graduate halls. I’m in Conant Hall, which looks like this:
Conant Hall is located next to many of the biological science buildings, like the Harvard Herbaria, The Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology. My department is a 3 minute walk away, so it’ll be handy to be so close, especially in winter. I chose a ‘small’ room in this hall. The large rooms have the bay windows you can see in the picture above. My room is located on the third level, and it’s in between the two sets of bay windows on the right. It was much bigger than I expected it to be, so the large rooms must be enormous.
Once I’d unpacked and fetched a few essentials like coathangers, etc, my room became much more homey.
The coffee table next to my bed was a bargain from the Harvard Yard Sale, a place where students drop off their unwanted dorm room belongings and Habitat for Humanity sell it back to new students. It’s actually solid wood and only cost me $20. And I got the flowers from Haymarket, a cheap produce market in Boston, which I’ll talk about in another post.
So this week has been busy. I’ve settled into my new room, gone on as many orientation events as I could manage, met so many people I’m starting to get dizzy just thinking about it, and even managed to slip in a few beers. I’ve been into the lab twice, been given work to start off with, filled out a crazy amount of paperwork, and still haven’t chosen my classes. Classes start next week and there is an open week where you can attend as many classes as you want before settling on the ones you actually want to do.
There’s a lot more I could talk about but it will have to wait for another post. I still don’t have a phone number here (I’m waiting for my first stipend “check”, which will be early September, before getting a cell phone). If anyone wants my mailing address let me know and I’ll email it to you. I miss you all!