One of my favorite things about Harvard is how your social life can be very intertwined with so many other aspects of your life.
My friends have made my Harvard experience a thousand times better than I could ever imagine. Looking back, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I met some of these amazing people. It’s mostly been through some very interesting encounters. So here’s a story you might find fascinating. Maybe that’s how you’ll meet your friends at Harvard too!
As a first year, you do not get to pick your roommate. The summer before school starts, you will fill a housing form which asks you to describe your ideal rooming situation. It asks questions from the number of people you would want to live with to the type of music you listen to. You also get the option to write what you would want in a roommate. I remember writing “I talk a lot, can I get someone who listens?”.
Whether it was the housing form or fate, my roommate ended up being one of my best friends on campus! The fact that she is a short drive from school, while I am a 20 hour flight away from home is just one of the many things we do not have in common.
But our differences have been a perk more than anything. After your first year you can choose who you want to live with for the next three years, I guess you already know who definitely did not miss that list. Hopefully, you will also meet your best friend in your room too!
The First Year International Program (FIP) is one of the many pre-orientation programs available to first years. It is mostly for International students and the program I participated in. During FIP, international students are familiarized to Harvard's campus, Cambridge and Boston. They are also helped to settle in, get phone plans and open bank accounts. Students also participate in a number of fun activities and are broken down to small groups which we call “FIP Families”. Each FIP family would have FIP parents (upperclassmen) and the children who are first years. What I find fascinating is how most of these bonds lasted beyond the 3 days of FIP. Some of my FIP friends ended up being my blockmates and my home away from home. As FIP was so special to me, I decided to be a FIP leader this year.
SOLVING PROBLEM SETS (PSETS)
I would never guess that the many hours spent studying in Matthew’s common room, completing problem sets in Lamont or bonding over some troubling question at the Math Question Center would bring me closer to my best friends. It starts with “Hey, let’s meet every Sunday to solve these problem sets” and slowly turns to “let's meet everyday in Annenberg for dinner”. And before you know it, you have people you can talk to when you are homesick, travel with during spring break, block with, and can absolutely not imagine life on campus without them. But this just highlights how Harvard fosters more of a collaborative community than a competitive one. Chances are some of your strongest friendships will be cultivated through “psetting” like mine did.
EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
This is one of the best ways to make friends with whom you share the same interests with. With over 450 extra curricular activities - including student organizations - on campus, I doubt you will miss something that interests you.
The Harvard African Students Association has not only offered me my favorite African dishes during events, but has also given me a home and a community.
I’ve also met some amazing people through theatre, Model United Nations and the Black Students organizations. These groups would also host events, a great way to interact and take you off binge watching Netflix on a Friday night!
Sometimes a paycheck isn’t the only thing you will get from an on campus job. Your workmates could also end up being your really good friends. I worked at the Widener library and for the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative during the summer. Since your workmates are also your fellow students, your relationships could go beyond work. These are people you could also solve psets with, ask for advice from and hang out with during your free time. Work can be fun with the right people.
Your current friends could be the key to meeting your future friends. Annenberg was one of those places where I would get introduced to a bunch of my friends’ friends. It was very common for me to enter Annenberg at 5pm and leave at 7pm. Nothing matches a good meal with friendly conversations. Other than berg, it could be any other place on campus including a walk home from the library or your roommate’s friend visiting your room!
Maybe these are some of the ways you will meet your close friends or maybe you’ll just bump into them at Starbucks. Regardless, it is these people who will make most of your Harvard memories. And at some point, I hope you take a step back and recall your first encounter. That should make you smile!