When I moved into my first-year dorm, my suitemates and I received a letter from four seniors who had lived in our suite three years prior, giving advice on all there was to come. My first-year suitemates and I are continuing the tradition, but first, here is my letter to myself and all of you.
Dear first-year Aisha,
Congratulations! You got into Harvard! Welcome to the class of 2023, and the most exciting, tumultuous four years of your life--so far!
I know you’re a mix of scared and excited—all are fair and expected emotions for you to have. You’ve never been a part of such an institution, and you only really applied just in case. You’ve just met the most wonderful community through FYRE, and some of those peers will become your best friends. They’ll guide you through Harvard, and soon enough, you’ll be the one guiding them. At times, you’ll be scared because you’re unsure of which path to take, or if you even know of all of the options available to you. When you feel this way, ask for help; a lot more people are willing to help than you might think. They have been in your position just a few years prior and have a lot of knowledge to pass on.
You’re a little discombobulated: there’s so much to do and so little time to do it! There’s a community and space for everyone, whether you find it among people who share similar culture, hobbies, passions, or your residential communities. So don’t worry, you’ll find your place--or places, in fact--here, and they’ll make you as happy as you would hope.
With that said, stay in contact with the friends you make, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Up until the end of your junior year, you’ll have kept to yourself and the few friends you met at the beginning of your time here for the most part. In our senior year, don’t worry, we’ve kept our old friends and made so many new ones--the kinds of friendships that you’ll be sad to leave behind once you graduate. You’ll be in the same two programs for a while but find new roles and passions to pursue; you just have to look. You’ll travel to Egypt with the help of the Mindich Independent Research and Community Engagement program and write a thesis you could have never dreamed of writing as an incoming first-year.
You’re new at this institution now, but soon enough you’ll be the one welcoming others in. First year will fly by, and you’ll learn a lot, and grow even more. You’ll continue learning alongside incoming classes as you enter your sophomore, junior, and senior years. Once you take on leadership roles for helping out incoming students, don’t forget to be persistent, to try again and again to make sure everyone is there. Just think of how you weren’t sure how to involve yourself, and people took you by the hand and let you in.
Of course, as cliché as it is, don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll apply to dozens of positions and fellowships and be denied or waitlisted, not to hear back from them again. You’ll apply to dozens more and be accepted, to the point you’ll have to choose the better of two great options. If you see people with dozens of accomplishments, know they have dozens more failures, and the greatest success of all is that they continued on.
Regardless of how you feel at the moment, you’ve left a piece of yourself at this institution and will take a piece of it with you. No matter how much you heed my warnings or follow my advice, know that if things don’t go the way you want them to, they are still a lesson learned. Be proud of all that you’ve done and all that you haven’t, because they're not signs of failure, but areas to grow in. Trust me, you’ll grow so much; I see it already.
I wish you all the best as you take on the hardest and most fulfilling years of your life (so far). Say hi to everyone for me and give them proper goodbyes (or see you laters).
P.S. Visit home as much as you can. Your family misses you and you might not realize it, but you miss them even more.