To My First-Year Self

Category Student Voices


College student, Maria
Authored on April 10, 2020


Dear (first-year) María, 

You’re a few months away from starting an absolutely wild four-year adventure which will take you places you never imagined and introduce you to some of the best friends you’ll ever have. I know that you’re nervous about moving so far from home and going to a place that doesn’t seem entirely real to you. I know you’re worried about the academics and the social scene. After all, Harvard is nothing like the community you grew up in. I want to be completely honest with you and let you know that these next four years won’t be easy. You will struggle with some of your classes and you will come to learn how hard it is for institutions to change. You will also come to learn that few issues are black and white and many are instead shades of gray, something which will really challenge you. You will feel tired and want to give up some times.

But you will also make more incredible memories than you can count and you will miss it with all of your heart when it’s over. You wouldn’t trade any of the past four years for anything in the world and you will be happy with the choices you will make because they will lead you to where you will be at the end of your journey. Over the next four years, you will gain a newfound sense of confidence and realize just how strong and capable you are. You’re coming to Harvard with the goal of taking advantage of the resources that are available and seeing the world and you will accomplish your goals. You will study abroad in Brazil after your first year and you will go back for two weeks the next year. You’ll also intern in Argentina after your sophomore year and study abroad in France for your Spring semester junior year. You’ll get to see a good chunk of Europe and you’ll even get to visit Marrakech and Jerusalem.

You’ll go to a number of Latinx parties and dance the night away to Bad Bunny and old-school salsa with la comunidad. You’ll work on the Latina Empowerment and Development Conference for three years and eventually run it during your junior year. You’ll get to work at the Admissions Office and talk to first-gen students who are in similar situations to the one that you were in in high school. You’ll take classes about topics that you’re passionate about, like education and immigration, and you’ll learn more about the history of the country you were born in, Guatemala. You’ll get to be a part of the Harvard Teacher Fellows program and train to be a math teacher while earning another degree from Harvard. You’ll be placed in the best house on campus, Currier House, and meet some of the best people and your closest friends in the dining hall.

This is all to say that you really will make the best out of your time at Harvard and that you should relish every moment while you’re living through it. After four years, you’ll realize that you should be more forgiving of yourself when you make mistakes because those mistakes are the reason you’ll be able to grow and become stronger. You’ll also realize that a lot of people pretend to have everything under control around you, but in reality, most of the first-years will be going through similar challenges because adapting to college is hard for everyone. It’s okay to change over the next four years. After all, you should be growing as a person! But it’s also okay to hold on to your values and what you care about. You’ll grow apart from some friends and closer to others, and you’ll even meet some of your closest friends during senior year, which is also okay.

As you go through these next four years, remember to take the time to really enjoy the good times and support those around you. Harvard isn’t something you can do alone. I wish you the absolute best! 


María (A very nostalgic senior)

Maria posing with a friend in front of the Eiffel Tower.

I got to meet up with one of my friends when we were both studying abroad!


Maria posing with her parents at the LEAD 2019 Conference.

I got to be one of the Executive Directors for the Latina Empowerment and Development Conference and my parents came to cheer me on!

Maria posing with her friends at Quad formal.

We didn't know it then, but this was our last Quad formal!



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