FYRE - A Home for First-Generation, Low-Income Students

Category Student Voices


Samia Afrose Class of '25
Authored on September 11, 2023


FYRE, also known as the First-Year Retreat and Experience, is one of the many pre-orientation programs offered to incoming first-year students. The goal is to encompass a community for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students and prepare them to both take on and overcome challenges that students may face during their time in college. 

Group Picture of FYRE's Team Leaders and Co-Chairs

Although FYRE was virtual the year I was an incoming freshman due to the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2021, I still made solid connections and cherished memories from those few days. I specifically remember the bright and high-spirited energy illuminated by former FYRE co-chair Aisha Abdelhamid and one of the former team leaders Malika Umar. I remember the authentic, vulnerable conversations with my FYRE parents Lucy Wickings and Alaha Nasari. I remember the goals and laughs we shared during FYRE family time with one of my FYRE siblings Mariam Muffleh. Even under the circumstances of not being able to experience FYRE in person, I felt more prepared to start my journey at Harvard, and from day one I was seeing familiar faces on campus.

The Summer after my sophomore year I became a FYRE team leader(TL) for the first time and for the first time, I was experiencing FYRE in person. The team leaders and co-chairs spent long hours training, going over resources and logistics, building connections with each other, creating posters for our FYRE families, and calling our FYRE children, whom we also refer to as our FYREflies, the night before their arrival. I remember the next day standing at the check-in table and seeing all the FYREflies joyously approach us as their loved ones proudly stood behind them. The music was blasting, and team leaders were chanting; It was indeed a memory to cherish. I was lucky enough to be a co-team leader with Ananda Birungi. The moment I met her we instantly clicked and I was very thankful to have such an energetic, positive TL to work alongside. Ananda and I were able to both mentor and have a great time with our FYREflies: Joseph, Vinny, Daniel, Roja, Victoria, Arsema, Khalid, Thara, and Nicole. Throughout my sophomore year, my day would instantly brighten up when I spontaneously saw them around campus. I am looking forward to continuing to see them around and being their support system.

FYRE families having dinner together in Radcliffe Yard

The fulfilling experience that I had at FYRE and the strong relationships that were cultivated as both a FYREfly and a team leader is what had me elated to be a FYRE team leader for the second time this Summer. I was able to take away a lot from my last Summer in order to improve my mentoring skills and be better prepared to be the best possible mentor and support system for the incoming freshman class. I had an amazing time being a team leader alongside Miguel Martinez. So many joyous moments were shared with my FYRE family and there was so much I learned from my FYREflies: An, Chris, Eli, James, Lia, Megan, Noel, and Salma. I am extremely grateful to have been their mentor and I am looking forward to seeing them become leaders and supporting them throughout all of their accomplishments at Harvard and beyond.

South Asian Affinity Group Talking about the South Asian Community and Student Organizations on Campus.

Indeed, Harvard is a five-day pre-orientation program catered to first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students, but it is also a community full of positive energy and love. FYRE is where I realized it is okay to make mistakes. FYRE is where I found some of my closest friends on campus whom I explored cafes, traveled to different countries, and watched Bollywood movies late at night with; FYRE is where I met my study buddies as we spent hours working on problem sets and studying for exams. FYRE is where I met and mentored future leaders. FYRE is my community, my home, and my family.

You can read about another FYRE member’s experience at FYRE here

You can find out more information about FYRE here.

Also, be sure to check out the other pre-orientation programs: LIFE, FIP, FAP, FOP, FUP

Samia Afrose Class of '25

Hi! My name is Samia.