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Making A House A Home

By Sarah J. Schaffer

The day my seven blockmates and I were randomized into Currier House three years ago, I thought my life was over.

It is as clear to me now as it was then. We waited anxiously in a Grays East dorm room for the fateful envelope, listening to whoops of joy from friends in the Yard below who had just gotten into Eliot or Lowell. And then the envelope came. We opened it. And then we screamed in disappointment.

The hours that followed were some of the hardest I have ever experienced. I did not want to leave my room, because then I would have to face the dormmates who had received their first choice--those whom I believed were thereby blessed with a perfect existence for the next three years. I could not share in their joy, and I did not want their pity. By the end of the day, if I heard one more "I'm sorry" from a well-meaning (or malicious) future River resident, I thought I would have to become violent.

The feeling of being left out by the lottery did not end on that day. The entire spring was hard, because I had to readjust my thinking about what Harvard meant. As a first-year, I thought being a Harvard student meant living along the river, watching the rowers on the Charles, throwing frisbees on the MAC Quad on a spring day. Before I traveled to Currier for a welcome dinner on that day, I had been to the Quad once, by accident. We had to walk so far to get there, I thought it was off-campus. I did not think that one could be a true Harvard student if one lived in the Quad--especially in Currier House, the bane of the housing lottery and the house in which the 1970s live on.

Of course I was wrong. But it took me that spring and much of the fall to realize that. And it did not help that Harvard springs on its first-years blocking upheaval and concentration trauma at the same time. Yale's system of assigning houses to dorms makes much more sense for first-year psyches.

I was, however, helped by an e-mail from a friend who had lived in Currier for two years. On the day the results of the housing lottery were announced, she sent me an e-mail containing 20 reasons to feel better about Currier. While it did not erase my pain at the thought of many long walks in the cold, it certainly gave me a few good reasons to celebrate.

So in that tradition, here are my reasons for thinking Currier House (and the Quad) is a great place to be. Within a year or two, wherever you are, I hope you will have a similar list about the house you have made into a home.

1. The people are great.

2. Toddlers run around and make you laugh.

3. The masters hold teas at which they serve chocolate cake, carrot cake, hummus and pita, cream-cheese brownies, nuts, chips and dip, cheese and crackers and baked brie (which you have to taste to believe). Tutors also hold wine tastings for those over 21.

4. The dining hall is the coziest on campus, with carpeting to keep down the noise, cushioned chairs, friendly workers and lots of space.

5. You get door-to-door service on the shuttle from Currier to the Science Center.

6. The facilities are amazing, with grand pianos, hundreds of videos you can borrow, cable television in the common areas, a dance studio, a computer lab and the Fishbowl (come visit and see).

7. You will likely have a single room all three years. You will have bathtubs in junior and senior years. And you may get a balcony and a kitchen in your senior suite.

8. We have fro-yo--and we had it first.

9. The Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Facility (QRAC) is across the street: less crowded and more sanitary than the MAC.

10. The walk or bike ride on a beautiful day from the Quad to the Yard makes you appreciate life.

11. Porter Square, with a 24-hour Star Market, CVS and Dunkin' Donuts, a more interesting Pizzeria Uno, a Blockbuster Video and novel restaurants is only a 10-minute walk away. The best part: You feel very far away from Harvard when you go there.

12. The neighborhood just north of the Quad, where many Harvard professors and administrators make their home, is beautiful, with old houses and tree-lined streets that lend themselves to walks at dusk.

13. The Bell's Desk, no longer 24 hours but still a presence, gives you someone to smile at when you come home.

14. Everything in Currier House is connected. You can walk to breakfast in your pajamas and slippers.

15. When you come back to Currier after a long day of classes and extracurriculars, you feel like you've come home.

And that's what being in a house is all about.

Sarah J. Shaffer's column appears alternate Fridays.

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