Some parting advice and reflection from a graduating senior
1. Be willing to learn from HarvardI mean this in the broadest possible sense. Take courses that will challenge your intellect and your conceptions of the world. Participate in discussions that force you to defend how you think, and never be afraid to change your mind. Most importantly, understand that Harvard draws from two different pools of peoplethose who want to be the status quo and those who want to change it. Far too often, those who come to Harvard to change the world have their idealism and creativity sapped by what they feel to be a suffocating atmosphere. Instead of thinking this way, and becoming bitter and isolated, those who want to change the world should think of this as an opportunity to learn how to temper idealism with realism, to navigate morality through the avenues of power in society. Moreover, this space represents one of the few places in modern society where such disparate opinions can come together and influence people whose opinions and ways are already not set.
2. Never forget that you have something to offer Harvard toooftentimes, we are so intimidated by an institution with this much prestige and history that we think that our College career is a one-way exchange: information, resources, and experiences come from Harvard to us. But each of us, in our cultures, intellects, social activities, and personal experiences has something to offer that if directed correctly in the classroom, in a student group, towards an event, or at the administration can change the way that our classmates see us and others like us, and can change the way this place works forever.
3. Dont believe the bubble, pt. 1Ranking at the top of my list of saddest characteristics of Harvard culture is that it is incredibly self-absorbed. The internal focus of our activities and thoughts often blinds us to the reality that simply because of the reputation and influence of our institution and the vast array of resources at our disposal, we can be a force for positive change that is more far reaching than campus politics and the accompanying discourse. Whether it is divestment from Sudan or South Africa, pushing for diversity in the workplace, or organizing to raise money for HIV/AIDS advocacywhen students and faculty do something at Harvard, it grabs the attention of the nation, and sometimes the world, and can force conversations and actions that would otherwise never occur.
4. Dont believe the bubble, pt. 2The other side of not acting as if Harvard is a bubble is the Boston area. We have the luxury of having dozens of institutions of higher learning around us with amazing people and ideas. When organizing students or events, it is imperative that people look beyond Harvard and involve other students to really take advantage of the density of talent and energy we have at our disposal. Beyond this higher calling, visiting other schools and meeting people from other colleges is funand sometimes you need a getaway from some beer pong party in Quincy.
5. Be self-reflectiveHarvard can be extremely individualistic in that it often gives back what you put in. When it comes to making friends, meeting faculty, doing well in classes, and utilizing the resources of the University, a lot of individual effort and perseverance is required; it is never just handed to you. That being said, you must consistently engage in self-reflection, so you know who you are and what you want out of this school and are able to go get it.
6. Talk to somebodyEven prior to thefacebook.com, most Harvard friendships were very shallow. We have a tendency, perhaps from our emphasis on networking, to consider anyone we say hello to on the street or in a meeting our friend. But because we are so self-absorbed and unreflective, we go about on our own busy schedules, never really taking the time to sit down and ask someone about their real life and have a truly meaningful relationship. This goes for students, faculty, and staff. So take the time and get to know peopleyou can read these books anywhere, but you can only meet these kinds of people at a few places.
7. Finally, always thank the people who helped you get through this part of your life, and move on to the next step. And in that vein, I want to thank my family, my blockmates, my friends, the BMF and Harvards black community, the Department of African and African American Studies, Rev. Eugene Rivers, Unite Against AIDS, the Phillips Brooks House, and all of those individuals who, through some way or another, touched my life and helped me to get the most out of this place and to give it as much of myself as I could. Finally, to The Crimson and everyone who read On The Real, thank you, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifelargely because of your feedback and support.
As the saying goes, its been real
Brandon M. Terry 05 is a government and African and African American studies concentrator in Lowell House. His column appears regularly.