As a first-year in 2021, our Housing Day festivities were all virtual last spring. This year, I was grateful to experience my first in-person Housing Day at Harvard as a sophomore.
March is an exciting month for Harvard first-years because it includes the years-long tradition of blocking and housing. At Harvard, 98% of undergraduates choose to live on campus all four years because the on-campus community and facilities are just that awesome. While first-years live in specific dorms designated for them, sophomores, juniors, and seniors live in 12 upper-level Houses. Each House accommodates between 350 and 500 students and, because sophomores live in their assigned Houses for all three years until graduating as seniors, Houses create close-knit communities within the broader University. Each House has its own deans, tutors, advisors, dining hall, library, and social/recreation rooms. Pretty much everyone at Harvard has their own opinions about which Houses are the best in terms of campus location or room and suite designs. However, each House has its own wonderful traditions and characteristics.
Last spring, I was a first-year and had a great experience with blocking, which is the selection of first-years into the Houses through a random lottery system. I had such a great experience with blocking that I wrote a Student Story about it a year ago. A blocking group is a group of one to eight people that a first-year student is guaranteed to live with in the same House. Due to the pandemic, the Housing Day process and festivities for my class (2024) and the class before us (2023) looked differently than in years past. However, now that Harvard has had a full re-densification, campus was buzzing throughout March in anticipation of the first in-person Housing Day since 2019. What’s more, because I am now a sophomore, I was excited to experience Housing Day not as a first-year waiting to get their housing assignment but as an upper-level student getting the wonderful opportunity to notify first-years about their housing assignment!
On Housing Day 2021, I was assigned to Adams House! I have loved living with my blocking group in such a welcoming and diverse residential community this past year, and I look forward to continuing to live here until I graduate. While Housing Day is an extremely exciting day for first-years, it is also a celebratory day for students already living in the Houses. Each of the Houses at Harvard has a House Committee (HoCo) made up of undergraduate students that live in the House. Together with faculty, tutors, and staff members of the House, the House Committee is deeply involved with the culture and day-to-day activities within the House – whether it be organizing teams for intramural sports, relaying student suggestions, or planning events like formal dances and dinners. Many Houses, in conjunction with the House Committee and Faculty Deans, will hold special dinners, study breaks, and receptions leading up to and/or on Housing Day. For example, Adams House gave residents a free Housing Day t-shirt and had a special poster making study break with snacks on Housing Day Eve all to get ready for the festivities on Housing Day.
The Housing Day activity that I found most exciting was “Dorm Storming.” As a sophomore who has never experienced a “normal” Housing Day, I did not really know what to expect when I received the email instructing all those who wanted to “dorm storm” to report to the Adams Dining Hall at 7am on the morning of Housing Day. While I did not know what to expect, when I walked into the dining hall, it was buzzing with so much energy that you would not have known it was 7am on a school day. There were posters to pick up, students were dressed up in Adams gear, and music was playing on a speaker. After meeting, we walked to Harvard Yard (the central point of campus where the first-year dorms are located) to meet with the other 11 Houses and waited as the HoCo chairs of each House went to retrieve the housing assignments from University Hall. From there, I was able to experience dorm-storming; using the housing assignments, groups of sophomores, juniors, and seniors go to the first-year dorm rooms, knock on the door, and reveal (with chants, hoorays, and many smiling faces) to first-years the House to which they have been assigned. Seeing first-year students being elated upon realizing they were assigned to Adams was really joyful and an experience I will not forget and can’t wait to repeat. At the end of the day, Adams hosted a reception for the new “Adamsians” followed by a very nice barbecue dinner for everyone in the House to meet new people.
To me, this Housing Day, in particular, was very special for those who had a virtual housing experience because it represented a "full- circle" moment that highlights the joy of not only welcoming first-years into the Houses we have come to call home on campus but also being at the point where Harvard College can celebrate such milestones in-person after a difficult couple of years.
Lastly, I think Housing Day also highlights something I really admire about the community at Harvard. You might be wondering what happens in between the excitement of 7am dorm storming and the evening festivities. Well, at 9am, classes start, so students go to class, some still wearing their dorm storming outfits and others walking to class asking their friends to which House they were assigned. A professor might start class with an anecdote about Housing Day when the professor was a Harvard student or pause to ask the first-years in the class to which House they were assigned and congratulate them. It is really awesome that in the week before Spring Break, even when busy with assignments, papers, and midterms, Harvard students show so much House pride to welcome classmates or be welcomed into these wonderful communities.