In less than a month, I will be graduating from Harvard University. I will spend the rest of my life hiding the fact that I bleed Crimson—while subconsciously finding any opportunity to show off the alma mater to which I worked so hard to gain acceptance—and make jokes about Harvard Time to people who don’t care or understand (i.e., everyone). Since the gravitas associated with my termination as a Harvard student somewhat outweighs that of my time as a Crimson columnist, I will use this last piece as a final goodbye to an institution that has given me so much over the past four years.
Reflecting on my time here, there is nothing I would rather do than thank Harvard for all that it has done, and how better to thank an academic institution than to list all that it has taught me. So Harvard, a sincere thank you for teaching me the following:
How to deal with failure. I am a strong proponent of the maxim that hard work can take you anywhere. But at Harvard, trying your best does not always lead to success. I have been rejected from several job offers, scholarship awards, and even extracurricular activities. A proud person in a similar situation would have called it quits. But these failures built in me a resilience I could not obtain any other way. As many of my peers can probably identify with, I was not used to failure at my public high school, where I accomplished whatever I set my mind to. Ask me during high school about failure, and I would have stated it was not an option. Now, perhaps drunken from senioritis, I understand failures are a part of life. There will be people better than me, and working hard might not be enough to compete against them—but that’s okay. Failure doesn’t mean the end; it just means you have to find a more interesting route to get what you want.
How to relax. Perhaps an addendum to the last item, in which I learned that everything tends to work out in the end as long as you keep trying. Harvard has taught me the importance of relaxation. To paint a picture of how nerdy I was before coming to Harvard, I was the girl who chose to attend a Future Problem Solvers competition during Harvard’s pre-frosh weekend. I never relaxed in high school, and so I didn’t enjoy what I was doing as much as I could have. From Harvard, I take away the term “brain break” and will apply it to my everyday schedule.
But also how to not relax too much. I remember how relieved I felt after my five o’clock moment—humbled beyond belief, but also glad that my life seemed set. I was going to a great institution and there was no way I could end up failing after graduating from there. What I didn’t realize until coming here, however, is that Harvard does a great job of ensuring greatness from its students, but these countless opportunities need to be sought after. So underclassmen, shamelessly take advantage of these opportunities! Take a class from a Nobel laureate, experiment at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and go to that next talk by a Supreme Court Justice. Because you will never get opportunities like this anywhere else, let alone for free.
How to seize the day. A friend once joked with me about how she flashes her Harvard ID at museums hoping to gain free admission. Riffing from the previous point, take advantage of what Harvard has to offer and use it for your benefit. Materialistically, this means getting any free merchandise that comes your way—I have more water bottles than could possibly be useful. But Harvard’s “carpe diem” extends to other opportunities that might add more to your intellectual and personal wealth, like taking challenging classes and talking with professors who are leaders in their fields.
How to be appreciative and thankful. It is easy to complain about Harvard, but when we stop to really think about how much Harvard has shaped us and helped us with our future plans, we should sheepishly accept that these complaints are meaningless compared to what Harvard offers us. If you’re still skeptical, take a minute to think of all the great things you’ve done at Harvard that would not be possible anywhere else.
This list could extend for pages, but these top five items are the ones for which I am most thankful. Harvard, it’s been a great four years, and I wouldn’t take back any of it for a second. Thank you for making me the person that I am today, a more relaxed, more confident Harvard graduate, ready to pursue my dreams without abandon.
Gina Yu ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, is a biomedical engineering concentrator in Dunster House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.