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Getting involved early and making new friends

One of the things I made me nervous when I thought about going to college, was how I was going to meet new people and make new friends. I grew up in a small town where I knew almost everyone in my grade and the grades around me. I had known one of my best friends since we were five years old. My other two best friends I met when I was 8 and 11 years old. But now I was 19 years old, and I had to go through the whole friend making process again. Only instead of a class of about 200 to get to know, I now had a class of over 1,600 to meet. 

Me and my three best friends from home
Above: Me and my three best friends from home

When I heard about the opportunity to participate in a week long pre-orientation program with other incoming freshman, I jumped at the chance to apply. Harvard has five pre-orientation programs ranging from an outdoor camping trip to dorm crew. Participating in one of these programs is a great way to meet a small group of class members who have similar interest to your own in a controlled environment before the school year begins. This sounded like just the environment I would be most comfortable in while attempting to make new friends. Additionally, the programs are led by upperclassmen proctors. Meeting upperclassmen early on can be super helpful because they already know how to navigate campus and can pass their knowledge on to the incoming students. 

The program that I was most interested in was the Freshman Arts Program (FAP). This program would allow me to spend a week on campus with 70 other arts minded freshman, a crew of upperclassmen proctors who were already involved in various arts groups on campus, and Harvard faculty members who were involved in arts programing. Additionally, FAP brought in a number of alumni and professionals to help run workshops and masterclasses. 

My FAP proctors on move in day

Photo Credit: Harvard Freshman Arts Program

Above: The FAP proctors on move in day

Participating in FAP was one of my best experiences here at Harvard. Not only did I get to learn my way around campus and Cambridge before the pressure of Freshman year kicked in, but I got to spend the week learning from the most amazing people. For example we learned about film directing from Glenn Kiser and about how to write music with Nell Benjamin and Larry O’Keefe (they wrote the music for Legally Blonde the Musical!).

 

Every night FAP particpants and proctors would stay up late in Harvard Yard chatting with each other. It was during these late night hangouts that I got to know some of my best friends. 

A collage of selfies with some of my FAP friends
Above: A collage of selfies with some of my FAP friends

Participating in FAP also opened doors for freshman to become friends with upperclassmen who were already a part of the clubs and groups that we would later join. For example, one of my upperclassman proctors, Julia, was working on a theater production called “Stop Kiss” through the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) that was going up early in the semester. Because she knew that I love to do costumes for theater, she asked me if I would like to be a costume assistant on the production.

via GIPHY

Of course I said yes! I had a blast doing the show and I have been designing costumes for HRDC productions ever since. 

Getting involved on campus early on through FAP really helped me find my place here at Harvard. In fact, almost everyone that I have spoken to who has participated in a pre-orientation program has said that is was an invaluable experience that truly helped them get acclimated and integrated into the Harvard Community. 

About the author

Hi, my name is Rhea Bennett (pronounced Ray-ah) and I’m a rising sophomore here at Harvard College. While I have yet to declare my concentration, I am interested in studying Integrative Biology and... View full profile

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