This semester, I began advising first-year students as a Peer Advising Fellow, or PAF! PAFs are part of the advising network for first-year students at Harvard, along with Proctors and academic advisors.
Proctors are residential advisers who live in the first-year dorms, and along with PAFs they are in charge of creating a community in first-year “entryways.” These entryways are groups of 30-40 first-year students who live in the same section, floor, or entryway of a dorm building. PAFs hold weekly study breaks for the entryway with fun activities like trivia nights, food runs, and mini-olympics, among many other silly and fun events. Additionally, PAFs hold one-on-one check-ins with first-year students throughout the year. They take on an older sibling role at the College, and they can help answer questions about balancing workload, which extracurriculars to join, and even on social life!
Getting to connect with first-year students reminds me of all there was to be excited about during my first year, from meeting new friends, to moving into my first-year dorm, to going to my first classes.
Being a PAF has been such a rewarding experience so far! Getting to connect with first-year students reminds me of all there was to be excited about during my first year, from meeting new friends, to moving into my first-year dorm, to going to my first classes. As a PAF, it has also been exciting to see my PAFees begin to find their niche on campus and start to make friends.
On a personal level, I also really like the mentorship aspect of PAFing. I love checking in with my PAFees and asking them about classes, how they’re balancing their workload, social life, and extracurriculars. I give them advice on how to navigate campus resources, give them reassurance as needed, and even tell them my best-kept secrets for dining in Harvard Square on a budget. I love mentoring, and being able to share advice for students who are coming into my learning and living environment is a great way to do this.
One of the challenges in this new role, however, has been giving advice about a campus I am also still getting to know. I remember during the first few days of classes, my PAFees would ask me about a particular building or lecture hall, and I had to Google it with them. Beyond Harvard’s physical space, there are also elements of social life I am getting used to. Whereas the phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue was something I grew accustomed to and could manage, it seems that now I have the opposite problem! Getting used to face-to-face interaction again has been a learning experience I was not expecting. In these instances, it sometimes feels a little silly or embarrassing to admit that I don’t know everything, or that I am also (re)learning some elements of campus life. Nevertheless, I know my advice can be helpful and needed, and I am happy to learn along with my PAFees.
As I continue with my remaining three years at Harvard, I hope to continue PAFing in order to learn from first-year students, and hopefully give out advice that I have taken for myself. The PAF program is a big highlight of my Harvard experience, both as a first-year and now as a PAF. It proves that sometimes, hanging with freshmen can be cool.
Shoutout to my 8 PAFees. You all are amazing and have blown me away with your talent, grit, and warmth. You make my job incredibly easy.