I am graduating from Harvard as a proud resident of Winthrop House.
One of the best parts of student life at Harvard is the residential community and the experience of living on campus. First-year students live in or near Harvard Yard, and upperclassman students live in one of the twelve Houses. Students typically stay in the same House for their sophomore year through their senior year after being randomly sorted into one during Housing Day, one of the biggest and boldest student traditions at Harvard.
Though I was sorted into a different house in my first year, I applied to transfer into the House my sophomore spring after realizing that all of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping ones too, when I would fall asleep on my friend’s couch) were spent in Winthrop as opposed to my own House. My transfer was approved three weeks before we would be asked to move off-campus for the next year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transferring Houses is a process that can be difficult no matter the circumstances. Since so much of student life is built around the Harvard housing system, from advising to graduation, moving into a new community midway through your collegiate career can be scary. In my case (and in the case of my fellow 2020-2021 transfers), trying to acclimate into a new House while being entirely virtual was absolutely terrifying. I knew the friends I had transferred into the House to be with, but I didn’t know any of the House tutors, staff or people outside of my class year within the House.
Luckily, as was the case with all Harvard Houses, Winthrop went the distance when it came to fostering virtual community. Throughout the Zoom year, students and staff alike bonded through a number of virtual initiatives and activities, doing everything from painting classes to a koala discovery walk. I got to know so many members of the House community that when we arrived back in person in Fall 2021, I felt right at home.
My first (and last year) as a student in Winthrop House (in person) was incredible. I shared a room with eight of my closest friends (in the infamous nine-person duplex suite) and lived in the same part of Throp as many of the people I had grown close to over the virtual year. I made countless memories in the dining hall, in Beren 202, and in the Rooftop Common Room. As so many of my favorite moments happened in the Winthrop halls, I found myself thinking of Winthrop not just as a house, but as a home. Winthrop is where I went to rest, to eat, to socialize. Winthrop is where the people I love lived. What else makes a home if not that? When it came time to give my toast to my adopted blockmates during Winthrop Senior Dinner, it was one of the most bittersweet goodbyes I’ve said yet.
Though I am saying goodbye to Winthrop as a student, I’m incredibly lucky in that I will be returning to the House next year as a Faculty Dean Aide. I will get the opportunity to work with House staff to bring together the Winthrop community, and make this house a home for others as it has been for me.