Remembering the Invasion

Three years ago, according to The Harvard Crimson, the University was "being invaded"--and, the lead paragraph concluded with a splash of Crimson wit, "it's not by extraterrestrials."

I was one of the pseudo-aliens interviewed for that article.

I was "Confer, the Nebraska native." The one who got her own paragraph explaining that she thought Harvard was nicer than Yale because Harvard seemed to have more trees. The one who made the astute observation that while Lincoln, Nebraska, wasn't exactly a "hick town," it was "much smaller than Boston."

With warped school selection criteria like mine ("How Many Trees Are There?") it's really something that I actually found pre-frosh weekend helpful.

But Harvard circa April 1990 was certainly not the Harvard I now attend. I liked--no, loved what I saw, but I was also kind of screwed up.


For one thing, I didn't stay in the Yard. I was put in Leverett Towers. It didn't faze me except that every night when I was trying to go back to my host's room, I got my towers confused. Did she live in F, or G? Did it matter? How the hell did people tell them apart?

It didn't occur to me that all the other pre-frosh were staying with their first-year hosts in the Yard. I didn't know that the Yard was specifically for first-years. And because I was living down by the river, ignorant of the existence of a Yard community, I had a messed-up conception of space. When I finally encountered the Yard, I think I thought it was some kind of park. And I thought the center of University activity was in Quincy House courtyard.

Apparently, everyone in the Class of 1994 was from Long Island, New York. Apparently, they all knew each other. Apparently, every other high school in the nation had their proms in May. "When's yours?" people would ask the Nebraska native. "Tonight," I'd answer. (That's right. I skipped prom my senior year to go to pre-frosh weekend at Harvard. So what?!?)

I thought Harvard was a math school. I was staying with another pre-frosh who was very good at math. I, on the other hand, had trouble counting change.

Nevertheless, we got along well. She was great about introducing me to all of her friends who had also gotten into Harvard and all of her friends who were already at Harvard. I knew no one at Harvard, period.

Many of my co-pre-frosh's friends were acquaintances from math competitions, math fairs, math conventions, math jamborees. And this is when I realized that by golly, while I had been splashing in wading pools for seventeen summers, other kids had been doing stuff. Math stuff. Had I picked the wrong school?

I pushed those worries to the back of my mind. I focused on absorbing The Harvard Scene. I noticed many things that, by now, I have discovered to be misleading or downright false observations:

I attended an Open House at The Crimson, and the business editor who gave the tour had a beer in his hand. "Wow," I thought, "they must drink like fish at this newspaper! They must drink all day long and into the night!" Wrong!

There were a couple nights when we couldn't find anything to do. "That's because people know it's pre-frosh weekend; no one wants you guys invading their parties," we were told. "There are parties other weekends," they assured us. Wrong!

We went into Boston on Saturday to go shopping. "Wow," I thought, "if I go to school here I'll go shopping all the time. I'll set aside a little time to go into Boston each weekend." Wrong!