SHANGHAI--We've seen a lot. Thanks to the Din & Tonics, and more importantly, Harvard University, we are circumnavigating the globe this summer, hitting such exotic locales as Athens, Bangkok, Kathmandu and San Antonio, Texas. It's been a fantastic trip thus far, complete with nightlife adventures unsuitable for print and, undeniably, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Granted, a knack for singing is a definite prerequisite, but frankly, that ability is far secondary to the Harvard affiliation that we have taken for granted over the past four years. Without Harvard's name (and clout) backing our endeavor, combined with the support of numerous Harvard Clubs and alums around the world, this trip would be impossible.
From the moment we walked on our first Harvard tour, our over-zealous tour guides informed us that one of the most important benefits of attending Harvard is "tapping" into the Harvard network. As starry-eyed high schoolers, we both rolled our eyes upon hearing this, never imagining that such connections ever reached fruition. When we ultimately made our decisions, we chose Harvard because it was "Harvard," hardly knowing what that actually meant beyond the incessant teasing we received from friends who knew what "school in Boston" we actually attended.
Perhaps the farther away from Harvard you get, the easier it is to see how extensive its influence is around the world. Currently, we are as physically far away from the school as we will ever be in our lives and yet, it is hard to find anyone who does not know the Harvard name. When people notice Harvard logos on our clothing, we are often stopped with numerous inquisitions from curious passers-by. As flattering as this can be at times, we encounter some prejudices because of our status at an elite University. Indeed, we have learned that when shopping (read: haggling) in some marketplaces, it is best not to wear t-shirts emblazoned with the school's insignia, or else face higher-than-average starting prices.
Despite the minor inconvenience, we have reaped almost excessive benefits in our travels with the Dins. We are chauffeured around by embassy and five-star hotel officials (sometimes in bullet-proof vans or protected by bodyguards with automatic weapons), given free tours of the city's landmarks, and fed until we are satiated in said hotels and ambassador's homes' having only our name--the Harvard Din & Tonics--on which to rely in exchange for their efforts.
Similarly, we have found that our mere presence as Harvard affiliates is often expected to add legitimacy to an event. For example, upon arriving at a July 4 concert for the Irish Embassy in Dublin, we were greeted with a host of photographers who--after realizing that we were Harvard students--maneuvered us into their "perfect picture": Harvard students clad in white tie and tails, holding an American flag, welcoming the U.S. Ambassador. Even Ambassador Michael Sullivan commented that he had never looked so good in a picture.
But more often than not, the benefits we accrue come from more than the name we carry, and instead, directly from the very Harvard network previously thought inaccessible. Indeed, it is the assistance of Harvard clubs that make our trips possible: These alums are our first point-of-contact in planning our tours and they continue to be the single greatest resource that we have around the world. For example, after performing for the Harvard Club of Switzerland on past world tours, the group was contacted by its president for a separate trip. A year ago a millionaire requested that the Dins perform at his 50th birthday, so in May the group travelled to Zurich for a post-exam, five-day trip.
To the best of our knowledge, there are only three collegiate a cappella groups in the country that regularly embark on world tours. As evidence supporting the notion that simply being enrolled at "Harvard" so greatly assists us in our travels, it should not be surprising that two of these groups are the Dins and the Kroks and the third, the Whiffenpoofs from our second-rate rival in New Haven.
Realizing that opportunities are available, Harvard students should take advantage of all that our school offers in name and network. Granted, singing has enabled our experiences, but every student has access to parallel opportunities if they seek them out. Moreover, recent graduates should appreciate the resources they utilize and remember to do their part in assisting both students and student groups alike whenever possible.
For those now entering Harvard--or those hoping to attend some day--we are sure that you will roll your eyes at this cliched advice just as we did on our Crimson Key tour four years ago--but as embarrassing as it can be to admit you attend "some school in Boston," know that you have access to something no other school offers.
Alexander "Alec" Barry Gale Sevy '00, a Crimson editor, was a neurobiology concentrator in Adams House. Jay S. Wiley '00, a Crimson editor, was a social studies concentrator in Kirkland House.