Monday, April 27, 2015


"That stuff is cool and all. But it can’t hide the fact that Visitas felt a little weird, strange, and somewhat empty. Harvard doesn’t feel like home yet. And, what’s worse, with the distinguished classmates, the intimidating world-class professors, and the pomp and circumstance, Harvard doesn’t feel like it could ever have the comfort of home. And that’s unsettling.

But, before you make your decision, let me tell you a little story. Maybe it’ll change your mind."

See it on the Crimson website here.
Or...



A Dash of Insanity


Dear Pre-Frosh,

I know this past weekend, Visitas weekend, was very exciting for you.

I’m sure you really enjoyed not going to Yardfest, the college’s only fun school-wide gathering besides the Harvard-Yale game. I’m sure you really liked the following night, when you went with your freshman hosts to a party in a sweaty, cramped room in the quad, after they got a text saying “Pfohoo beltower. Itx’s fzunn!” And I’m sure you really enjoyed the next day, when your hosts were busy, so you spent 10 hours twiddling your thumbs in awkward small-talk and silence with another pre-frosh named Doug.

Yeah, no one likes Doug.

And, yeah, no one really likes Visitas. The meet-and-greets seem hollow. The atmosphere seems strange. And it doesn’t give you  the best impression of what it’s really like to be a Harvard student.

Like every Pre-Frosh, I’m sure you were also admitted to 52 other Ivy League schools. Plus, you probably have acceptances to several safety schools, like Yale College. With all those options to choose from, you may have some doubts about Harvard.

Of course, this weekend spoon-fed you with some good reasons to come here: “Wow, they have world-class professors in every field.” “Wow, they have terrific students from a variety of backgrounds.” “Wow, they have fantastic…OH MY GOD THE WAFFLE MAKERS HAVE THE LOGO ON THEM!”

That stuff is cool and all. But it can’t hide the fact that Visitas felt a little weird, strange, and somewhat empty. Harvard doesn’t feel like home yet. And, what’s worse, with the distinguished classmates, the intimidating world-class professors, and the pomp and circumstance, Harvard doesn’t feel like it could ever have the comfort of home. And that’s unsettling.

But, before you make your decision, let me tell you a little story. Maybe it’ll change your mind.

As I was sitting down to write this column, my roommate Andrew had a suggestion: “Yo, do you want to duel?” We had some water guns in our room. I agreed.

The plan was to go outside and start fighting. But, as we walked out our door, I preemptively shot Andrew in the face. That’s when things got interesting. He pursued. We ran down the stairs, opening hallway doors for cover. As he came after me, I’d fire a few shots and then retreat further down the steps. After a standoff outside, during which I tasted Andrew’s sweet water of vengeance several times, we ended in a stalemate.

As we headed back, to our surprise, our friend Zak emerged from his room. He wielded not one, but two water guns. Because of the extra fire (water?) power, we settled our squabbles and teamed up against him. Eventually, Zak slipped into our room. There, he joined forces with our roommate Tank (appropriately nicknamed), who had just gotten back from class.

There we were. Locked out. And there they were. Locked in. We could hear a bit of chatter. But not much else. We decided to wait them out. But it was of no use. They had enough Ramen noodles in there to last them until dinner time.

We had to go in.

We made a plan. In the outer hallway, strangely enough, we found a thin piece of wood. This would serve as my shield. I’d be the point man and Andrew would file in close behind. The plan set, I pounded on the door: “SWAT team, open up!”

        No answer.
        “I said open up!”
        Nothing.
        I put the key in the door. We threw it open.
        Splash!
        “Grenade! Grenade!”

Tank had filled up three water cups. As we entered, he emptied their contents in our direction. Thankfully, the shield blocked most of it.

We worked our way inside, our shuffled feet pattering on the flooded floor. We came in firing (watering?). It all happened in a blur. But we made it in.

After we had some screams and some fun, a stalemate was drawn. We threw in the towel. And, subsequently, threw some towels on the floor to clean up the mess.

***

At Visitas, we talk about how Harvard is different from other schools. Those differences are supposed to distinguish us. They’re supposed to give us an advantage.

But the message of difference can hurt us. It makes Harvard seem like a cold, distant, and alien institution that, while impressive, is strange. It’s uncomfortable. And it doesn’t feel like home.

The reality is that for every Harvard student, once a little time goes by, the “world-class” professors become teachers. The prestigious red-bricks become libraries. And the impressive peers become familiar friends.

Sure, the students, professors, and history are impressive. But the majority of the student experience isn’t about the impressiveness. It’s about the long nights laughing with friends in the dorm rooms. It’s about the thoughtful bike ride on the Charles on a lazy afternoon. It’s about the fun meet-ups, the joking put-downs, the scandalous hook-ups, and the raging throw-downs. And, most importantly, it’s about spontaneous water gun fights with your roommates to kick off the weekend on a spring day.

And once you add those more familiar experiences to the list of things on the Visitas brochure…

Well, I don’t know why you’d go anywhere else.

Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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