A Day in My Life & How I’ve Found Joy This Semester

Category Student Voices


College student, Cayla
Cayla Lee Class of '21
Authored on November 24, 2020


It’s been an atypical Senior Fall, to say the least. We’re living through extraordinary times, and my day-to-day life has changed profoundly. In this blogpost, I wanted to give you all a glimpse into a day in my life and share with you how I’ve been finding pockets of joy during this tumultuous semester.  

This semester, I wasn’t on campus! My friends and I (nine of us) decided to spend the semester together, so at the end of summer I flew from Seattle, Washington, my hometown, to our new temporary home in Nashville, Tennessee. Although we were all close friends to begin with (7 of us are in a blocking group together, which means when we’re on campus we live together in the same residential House), living together off campus really deepened our friendships. Anyways, here’s how I’ve been spending my weekdays! 

Two images that capture my morning: a cup of coffee and my desk space.

I’m notoriously bad at waking up in the mornings. I’m also definitely not a morning person—I'm super irritable in the mornings, so I try not to interact with anyone. My morning classes usually start around 9:30AM Central, and I wake up right before class. I quickly get ready in 5-10 minutes and make myself a cup of coffee. Coffee is critical

Coffee in hand, I sit by my plant baby (her name is Jujube and I love her so much!) and get on Zoom for class. I really like sitting by a big window because the sun makes me happy and wakes me up gradually.  

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I have class all morning, which can get really tiring. I use the 15-30 minute breaks in between classes to stretch, eat a snack, or experiment with makeup (which has been a great way to practice creativity every day).  

Images from my afternoon walks: sunsets, parks, farmers markets.

To break up the morning and afternoon, I make myself lunch. Usually, I make a bagel sandwich or heat up leftovers from the previous day's dinner. Sometimes, I feel like just eating leftover desserts with a cup of tea so that’s what I’ll have. I basically eat whatever my body feels like eating, and not being too harsh on myself about nutrition/eating “healthy” has been a form of self-care for me, actually!  

Depending on the day, I have classes late into the afternoon, but on days I don’t, I spend my afternoons answering the emails you send to the UMRP! My classes and UMRP work are usually done by 4PM Central.  

I’m from Seattle, so I’m extra appreciative of the warm autumns of Nashville. I make a point of seeing the sun every day (I’ve been treating myself like a human plant, which means I need water and sunlight every day!) so I go on a ~1 hour walk after finishing work/classes. My favorite place to walk to is a nearby park—the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park—which is right next to the Tennessee State Museum and a farmer’s market. Sometimes during my walks, I’m also on a call with friends who are living elsewhere. Most of the time, though, I walk in silence to make space for introspection or meditation. Since Daylight Savings Time ended, the sun has been setting by the time I’m done with my walk, so I’ve seen some beautifully colorful skies, too! 

Some of the dinners my friends and I cooked.

At the beginning of the semester, my friends and I got into pairs, and each pair is responsible for cooking dinner on one of the weekdays. My relationship with food and cooking changed dramatically this semester, because almost every student—including me—is on an unlimited meal plan when we’re on campus. Having to think so much about what to cook, to shop for groceries, and to cook for so many people have made me realize just how much labor and love goes into the food I eat. I am so much more grateful for the Harvard Dining Staff and the women in my family (who do all the cooking for my family)! 

Above is a collage of some of the dinners we’ve had this semester! I’m so impressed by and proud of us—we’ve had some amazingly delicious meals. I’m now much more confident in my ability to cook for myself after graduation and excited to improve my cooking throughout my life! 

Images of evening activities: working with friends, doing yoga, doing Just Dance, working on my senior thesis

After dinner, my friends and I either hang out or do work. Later into the night, we unwind and de-stress by doing something that gives us joy! On some nights, we do yoga, Just Dance, or karaoke. On other nights, we watch movies, shows, or music videos. Doing something every single day to de-stress and have fun has been really, really important for me and my friends. It’s been a way for us to care for ourselves, care for each other, and nourish ourselves!  

Since I am a night owl, I’m the most productive late in the night, when everyone else has gone to sleep. This is when I light a candle, make some tea, tie my hair up in a bun, and work on my senior thesis, which is an independent academic project that a lot of students undertake during their senior year. I love the peacefulness of the night, and I’ve (for the most part) enjoyed working on my senior thesis, which is about how Third World art—memoirs, posters, films—actively forged transnational solidarities during the Cold War and generated beautiful, life-affirming anti-colonial politics.  

I can confidently say that this semester, I have sung and danced the most I ever have in my entire life! I’ve deepened my friendships and learned to care better for myself and others. I’ve grappled with our harsh realities while also being imaginative, creative, and joyous in the ways I choose to live my life.  

I’ve learned that there’s so much power in carving spaces for joy in this world and in our lifetimes, and I hope that this glimpse into a day in my life has also brought you some joy! 


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Cayla Lee Class of '21

Hello! I'm Cayla, and I'm a junior living in Pforzheimer. My home is Bellevue, Washington, which is about 15 minutes away from the amazing city of Seattle.

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College student, Cayla