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#HarvardSummer: What Do Harvard Students Do?

It is already summer here in Boston!! I can feel the sun on my skin at last!! All my friends are all over the world doing different activities that they love. The diversity in experiences is what I love most, and I am always anticipating their pictures and stories. Here are some of the stories:

Harriet (Ishikawa, Japan)

My name is Harriet, I’m a rising junior from Kenya. Coming from a small rural village in the middle of nowhere, I have always been fascinated by the idea of traveling all over the world. Coming to Harvard was my first ever trip abroad and I want, no I craved, for more adventure. To be 100% honest, with the fact that Harvard paid for most of the travel costs through the many summer abroad programs all over the world, I was more drawn to fulfill my inner curiosity of how the world looked like.

I first went to Korea through a Harvard summer program, which was completely covered by funding from the college. I had the best experience in my entire freshman year, and it being my first vacation abroad, I was so happy to make new friends in a totally different environment. During this program, I was able to learn more about the Korean culture through language and the art of filmmaking. I was also able to learn a key lesson that, I was able to remain myself in a completely different surrounding, and knowing this I was able to grow as a human being and of course, I gained much as a student. #DEEP

Summer 2013 in Korea

I was more than thrilled to do another summer program the following summer and that’s how I applied to a Princeton program where I also got funding from the college to study abroad in Ishikawa, Japan. This is where I am today. This program is a great program since I get to stay with my amazing host parents and also get to study with students from Princeton, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Duke and many more schools in the States. I also get to meet up with students from Kanazawa University, which is one of the leading college in Japan and I am having a great time learning a lot about the Japanese culture and language as I meet up and make new friends.

Kanazawa Festival_2014

More of Kanazawa Festival!!

There are many reasons I chose to do this program. For one, traveling being one of my top desires, I was more than thrilled to get an opportunity to travel to Japan, which is well known for a lot of cool stuff. I am also a photographer and this was a great opportunity for me to create a diverse portfolio knowing that Japan is a country known for its great and beautiful traditional culture. I am also interested in international relations and I am currently majoring in Government and a minor in East Asian studies and this will also provide a great platform for me to get my hands on information about the culture both political and social that is helpful to understand a country’s politics.

Javier (New York & Bogota, Colombia)

I am currently writing from a subway in New York City on my way to the final showcase for the American Ballet Theatre Summer Collegiate Intensive where I have been dancing ballet for three weeks. Ballet is one of my greatest passions and it is absolutely wonderful to be so greatly enveloped in dance just like my high school days.

Javier with best friend in front of Juilliard

Selfie with the mom of ABT star ballerina, Julie Kent
Tomorrow I will be heading to the place where I was born, Bogota, Colombia, to intern at the Center for Social Innovation. This is such a unique and special opportunity because social innovation and international development are a couple of my greatest interests right now and it’s amazing that I will be able to explore this interest in my home country. Artistic social interventions fascinate me and when crafting my dream summer I wanted it to stay true to this fascination and I am thrilled that it worked it! Each and every day brings with it beauty waiting to be discovered whether it be in beginning each day with a ballet class or being able to rejoice in my love for art at the Guggenheim or on Broadway, which has all been a true blessing to experience.


Matthew (Ghana, Nigeria & Ivory Coast)

I am a rising junior at Harvard who grew up in Switzerland. Over the summer, I am working for Golden Palm Investments–a Venture Capital firm based in Accra, Ghana. GPI was started by Sangu Delle-a Harvard alum. As a sophomore, Sangu raised capital from his friends and supporters at Harvard. He then spent his summer doing “cattle arbitrage” between the North and the capital, Accra. Within a couple of months he had doubled his capital and GPI has been growing ever since. The company operates its own companies, but also investments in a variety of industries such as healthcare, real estate, technology, agribusiness and finance.

My job gives me a lot of freedom and a typical day can vary from creating a business plan to launch a new product, meeting with potential investees and investors. But it can also be spending a day working at their fishery in Western Accra or trying to make their data collection more efficient at their clinic.In the next couple of weeks, I will also be travelling to Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to work for some of our holdings as well as to conduct diligence meetings with local entrepreneurs.

I had some experience with emerging markets, having worked for an investment bank in Hong Kong last summer. However, I had never been to Africa, and I wanted to work for a company that would give me exposure to new ideas and teach me more about entrepreneurship.My hairdresser Justice did not understand that I wanted it short ONLY on the sides…

Living here has exposed me to a much more nuanced side of Africa and has dispelled my simplistic perception of Africa being as poor and suffering continent. There are many thriving businesses and I’ve met locals who possess an entrepreneurial and optimistic spirit that many westerners could learn from. GPI is attempting to help Africa help itself by creating jobs through its strategic investments in entrepreneurs and is in a position to dominate several industries in Western Africa in the next 5 years. After a bit less than a month here, I can already see myself coming back to Africa after graduation as an entrepreneur or an investor; there are still so many ideas to be developed and very little competition.

My living situation is amazing. Accra is the only city I’ve been to that has it’s back to the ocean; the richest live near the airport while the poorest near the water. Being a mere intern, I am living in a bungalow right on the water with essentially a private beach to myself—I know, such a burden. I spend my evening going out with some of the locals I’ve met, or at the Dutch bar where most of the expats congregate to follow the World Cup and drink beer (not necessarily in that order). I use my weekends to travel around Ghana, mostly along the coast where I made several pitiful attempts at learning how to surf.

All in all, this has been a fantastic experience and I would encourage more people to come check out the incredible lifestyle that Ghana has to offer.

Sabrina (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

#cuteness #adorable

I will be spending my summer in sunshiny Cambridge! I am going to be a proctor with Harvard Summer School. In addition, I will be working with the summer school activities office as the New England trips coordinator and taking a summer school class. My role as a proctor involves guiding a group of high school students participating in summer school through the twists and turns of summer school at Harvard. At the activities office, I will be organizing outings to different places in New England including Martha’s Vineyard and Six Flags amusement park.  In terms of academics, I chose to take a macroeconomics class, which will count as part of my degree requirements.

I chose to remain in Cambridge this summer because summers here are always so beautiful and lively. To top it off, a lot of my very good friends will be in Cambridge too and what better way to chill and hangout with my besties than over the summer!

So far, the summer has been great! The weather in Cambridge tends to fluctuate a lot and quite honestly, you never know what each day will bring, but so far, it has been warm and balmy everyday. I am extremely excited about the activities I am participating in and I am looking forward to a fantastic summer!


Serena (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

This summer, I’m doing bioinformatics research on Chagas disease at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I was given this opportunity by the Harvard Global Health Institute, which funds many global health related internships both within the US and abroad. In particular, Chagas disease is a long term chronic disease found mainly in South America caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The more we learn about the parasite, the closer we get to curing the disease, and even harnessing the parasite for use as a vaccine vector.

Quick technical side note: We actually have access to two strains of T. cruzi: one which is virulent, and another which for some reason cannot infect cells. We want to figure out exactly why the non-virulent strain can’t infect cells, as this may help us find a cure. To do so, I’m currently helping to map the gene expression profile of both strains of T. cruzi, to see what differences there are between the genes expressed in the virulent strain and the non-virulent strain. Genome and transcriptome mapping is an awesome opportunity for me to combine my interests in Computer Science and Biology.

Aside from the research, Brazil during the World Cup is incredible beyond anything of my expectations. Going to the Belgium vs. Algeria game last week was like being in 5 countries at the same time: there was a Belgian sitting on my right and a Tunisian on my left. In the same day, I’ve talked to people from France, Australia, Germany, Korea, Colombia, and Egypt, and who knows how many others I only brushed shoulders with. At one point, on top of the Cristo Redentor statue in Rio de Janeiro, some German friends we met starting taking pictures of themselves waving their flag. Pretty soon, some Colombians joined, and after 5 minutes they had a picture of a lineup of flags from Germany, Colombia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, and the USA. Belgium vs. Algeria Line up

As for Brazilians themselves, these are some of the most open and friendly people I’ve met. I imagine that being a foreigner here is an entirely different story from being a foreigner in the USA. Can you imagine? A Brazilian once apologized to ME for not speaking ENGLISH! Still, there’s a significant amount of racism that comes with having an Asian heritage here. Wherever I walk, I hear whispers of “japonesa?” from all sides. Whenever they ask me where I’m from, they pull their eyes to mimic the “asian eye,” and a couple of times people have pulled me into pictures without my consent. Whenever they ask me “Korea?? Japon?!!!”, I imagine it is just as ignorant and offensive as if I said “Mexico??!! Colombia?????” and started speaking Spanish to them. Unfortunately, I’ve heard of this happening as well, and it has renewed my awareness in the unfortunate amount of racism and ignorance surrounding South America in the USA. Festa Junina! Serena in zebra-striped dress!!

This is but a taste of the Harvard Summer Experience, I hope you enjoyed them!!!

About the author

Hi Everyone!! My name is Viona Shina Leboo from Kenya. I am a rising junior living in Mather House (Best Upperclassmen House!!!) and concentrating in Economics with a secondary in Psychology. I am... View full profile

Comments (5)

on April 27, 2018 am30 02:29

You’ve got a Fan. Thank you for your collage of stories. Brilliantly put together, but are they in the same house as you? What’s the relation between these students?

Viona Shina Leboo

on April 27, 2018 am30 02:29

They are my friends on campus who were willing to share their stories!!
Thanks for reading my post!!

on April 27, 2018 am30 02:29

asanteh sana dada. these posts are really honestly invaluable. nimeiona kwa bahati tu na ninashukuru kwa sababu kama mkenya mwenzako aliyetumaini kweli kuungana nawe huko inanitia moyo sana kuona dada mwenzangu ananufaika na ku-succeed hivi. be blessed! endelea vivyo hivyo na tafadhali salimia wakenya wote wenzako kule (haha najua unakumbuka tabia hizo za kikenya :) ), natumai nyote mnatu-represent vyema. kwa upendo- Ian Irungu

on April 27, 2018 am30 02:29

Hey Shina!How lovely are the experiences of your friends.I loved reading them because I am also a passionate traveller.Currently I am doing AIESEC exchange programme in Sunyani,Ghana.Great times!!
The articles are well written and grammar is on point.I love the showcase of diversity in our culture!

Viona Shina Leboo

on April 27, 2018 am30 02:29

I am glad you enjoyed reading them.!!

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