I remember that first time. How could I forget? Exhausted muscles, a myriad myths swept away by the tangibility of climax, and a hungry stomach. After a long night of hard work, the John Harvard statue gracefully welcomed me, no one else but me; I was finally moving into the Yard.
So will you this week. And just like this article, everything at Harvard will completely be devoted to you during Freshman Week. Enjoy it while it lasts: Freshmen will vanish from the spotlight as quickly as HUDS swipers will kick you out of Adams.
This time last year, I was falling asleep to the sound of late chattering in the Yard, coming from scattered puddles of freshmen evidently not as tired as I was. Obsessively, I reproached myself for not being there, eagerly collecting more, newer acquaintances. The crucial piece of advice for such a tumultuous time, one I cannot take credit for, is to engrave into your skull, and schedule, the impossibility of attending every presentation, speech, tour, and event.
To be a freshman is to realize how many people arrive here ready to leave. That, rather than over-stretching, is perhaps the worst mistake you can make. It seems only logical that economics and government, disciplines that study money and power, are by far the most popular disciplines at Harvard. But be sure to go beyond appearances: open the Courses of Instruction in an obscure area, and make sure you graduate knowing the meaning of hassium, kleos, and the Laffer curve.
A “friendly” customs officer recently asked a close friend why she came to a Liberal Arts college if she knew biology to be her true calling. She promptly told him she was really undecided, trying to avoid further questioning.
But why not shortcut to what we think is right, what job recruiters deem productive, or live at that amazing lab we always aspired to run? Because college is the time for introspection, inquiry, and examination: this is the time to leave the cave. People fall deeper into midlife crises when they fail to find their role in the world. That is precisely what a liberal arts education strives to address. So that your fourth decade won’t find you buying a Porsche but feeling empty inside.
In the end, not everything that glitters is gold, and as any respectable Yard tour will teach you, the model for the famed statue—that you should never, ever kiss—wasn’t even John Harvard. Yet your virginity shall not be lost in vain. Harvard remains that place you dreamed of, that one you fought tirelessly to gain admission to. Savor it without becoming jaded by its privileges.
And to close, a shameless plug: be sure to comp The Crimson. It manages to pleasantly evaporate your free time, while giving you an unbeatable forum to whine amidst great friends who do the same… and somehow, even be heard.
Pierpaolo Barbieri ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, is a history concentrator in Eliot House.