All ye uninitiated take heed: Harvard is filled with a variety of gigantic, conflicting personalities, and how they manage to coexist in an environment this competitive remains an open question. (Alcohol may be involved.) New residents of this ever-surprising urban jungle must learn to recognize each of the tropes they’ll encounter and how to avoid the worst of the lot. Aren’t you glad you have Flyby to help?
THE CONFESSED PRE-MED
This is the person who asked your proctor whether he could petition to take five classes in the fall. He wants to get a secondary and a language citation and study abroad junior year. He will do anything to get you to reveal your midterm grades, and no matter what you say he will respond by putting in extra hours at Lamont.
Junior year he may start a club, which you will hear about over every email list you had the misfortune of signing up for. Do not sit with this person at Sunday brunch, because they will likely have gone on a run, set up an experiment at their HMS lab, and started a study group while you were still hitting the snooze button.
Useful Phrases: “Organic chemistry in the summer vs. organic chemistry during the school year: Go!” “No, really, my P.I. is the worst.” “How do you feel about the standard deviation on the midterms?” “My parents think this is a really good thing for me.”
Note: There is a subset of this species who are still in denial about their identity, and will not admit to being pre-med—even when cornered with an organic chemistry exam in their hand. They will attempt to disguise their identity by adopting slouchy clothes or shaggy hair or talking about how much of a slacker they are. Do not be fooled.
THE FERVENT ACTIVIST
After this person takes Societies of the World 25 freshman fall, you will have to sit through many dinner conversations about Paul Farmer. They join countless Facebook groups against hunger, poverty, and homelessness, and may even spend their summers in a country where they can experience all of the above. They might start wearing only organic, chemical-free clothing and get testy with the grill guy at Annenberg when he gives them non cage-free eggs.
After they take Social Studies 10 sophomore year, all the words in their vocabulary will grow a couple of syllables. Get ready to hear about the proto-fascistic nature of socially constructed heteronormative gender structures.
Useful phrases: “I think development is all about sustainability.” “But do you think this situation really exemplifies the Hegelian master-slave dialectic?” “What would Paul Farmer say about that?” “I just think that’s a really Western-centric—maybe even heteronormative—way of putting it.”
THE LITERARY TYPE
This person manages to wear a scarf in a different way each day, though they haven’t showered since Easter. By your third week they will have ranked all of Harvard Square’s cafes, a list on which Café Pamplona will rank high (hipster!) and Dunkin’ Donuts will rank low (low-brow!). They will comp The Advocate and ask you if they are more of a “fiction” or “features” type of person, and you will have to make up an answer to that question.
Talking about your favorite books, movies, or music is always a dangerous endeavor with this person (prepare for feelings of inferiority). To play it safe, you would do well to make up a highly specific genre of music from a foreign country (e.g. 1950s Venezuelan jazz).
Useful phrases: “I wish Annenberg would invest in better coffee.” “Frankly, I much prefer Franzen’s earlier work.” “I just finished reading this wonderful piece in the New Yorker.”
THE FINAL CLUB BRO
You will not see this person sophomore fall because they are punching four clubs, and you will not see this person junior fall because they are punching four investment banks. They may talk of how their club is not like the “other clubs” that give everyone a bad name. They’ll tell you it’s just a bunch of nice dudes who like to have some beers together without the chicks around (except after midnight). This person has a great haircut and great shoes, both of which may or may not have been paid for by daddy’s credit card.
Useful phrases: “I just flew in from New York.” “Brah, when I was at Groton/Andover/Exeter…” “Sweet Sperry’s.” “I was just reading in the Journal that going forward Goldman might be hiring less.”
THE HOCO MEMBER
This person will bother you about playing IMs until you start to avoid them in the dining hall. This will be difficult, because they are always in there, more or less taking up residence in the d-hall. They are also the only one who knows the name of the kid on the 2nd floor in Math 55.
The person who’s always trying to organize an outing, a picnic, or a game of ultimate frisbee, the future HoCo (house committee) member is the one who’s trying to make the best of a bad situation—namely, Harvard’s social scene. This is a person you are likely to develop a love-hate relationship with as it takes a special type of personality to organize an ice cream social for 300 people who barely remember your name.
Useful phrases: “You know, I would love to help decorate for formal, but I have this exam tomorrow…” “Themes?! Ohmygod! I love themes.” “You had me at cookie decorating.” “I live for stein club.”