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After four years at a small, private boarding school, Jay T. Mok '99 was ready for a change.
"I thought the next step [after high school] would be a large institution with as many extra-curriculars as possible," Mok said. That's why he chose to attend the University of Michigan.
But after one year at Michigan, Mok was unhappy at the huge school. "It was really big," he says, "You can get really lost easily."
After his first year, Mok decided not to return to Michigan in the fall. Instead, he went to Seoul, South Korea, where his parents had moved when he was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
While in Seoul, Mok took classes and worked teaching an SAT prep course. During his nine months there, he decided to focus more on his studies, he says.
He changed his intended area of concentration from Chemistry and History to Economics and decided to apply to Harvard College.
Applying from Korea, Mok found that communicating with the University was sometimes a challenge. Mailings from the admissions office were often delayed and his acceptance letter, sent by standard mail, arrived more than a month late.
But arrive it did, and Mok, now a first-semester sophomore, moved into Dewolfe last Sunday. The Dunster affiliate says he was glad to return to New England.
When Mok was applying, he hoped Harvard would help him find the right concentration. But while he has now found a focus for his studies, he says he was unhappy with the University's advising system.
"I was a bit disappointed by the lack of guidance," he says.
Mok says he was also surprised by the small effort he feels was made to help transfer students adjust.
"Because we are such a small number of kids, they didn't pay much attention to us," he says, citing a meeting and a dinner with faculty and staff as the only two events held for new transfers. "We were told to be aggressive and do things on our own."
In addition to new classes and surroundings, Mok is also adjusting to the social scene at Harvard, which is about one-quarter the size of the University of Michigan.
"I thought [Michigan] was going to be a lot of fun since it's a Big Ten school," Mok says. But after a year dominated by athletics and Greek life, Mok was ready for conversations about topics other than sports.
"Socially and conversationally, Harvard is what I expected," Mok said. "Conversations here are interesting."
He is also interested in the issue of diversity here and notes that Harvard appears much more racially integrated than Michigan.
But what about the parties? Mok says he considered trying to join one of the finals clubs here. But he changed his mind, having heard "negative opinions and comments" about that branch of the Harvard social scene.
Instead, Mok says parties in Houses remind him of fraternity parties at Michigan. Mok attended a party at Currier House which he described as "pretty fun. It was just like a frat party except smaller," he says.
Overall, Mok says he is happy with Harvard's often-critized social scene. "I'll say it's different," he says. "But from what I've seen so far, the social life is okay."
Mok, who has already nailed down his schedule for this semester, is optimistic about his courses. "I know the classes are going to be good and well taught," he says.
After a week at the College, Mok is excited about his future here. "I know Harvard's a great school," he says.
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