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Welcome to My World, and Yours

By Andrew K. Mandel, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Meet the teaching fellow who hated me.

I know, I know--I thought it too. How could any grade-giving official hate the high school teacher's lapdog?

You'd be surprised.

The Graduate Student From Hell (GSFH) sneered at my questions during section. She said my research paper topic suggestions were unacceptable. She reveled in telling me her office hours were at 8 a.m.--in Hilles Library (you'll trek there soon enough, my friend). She "lost" one of my assignments, a political cartoon we had to draw, and later "found" it all crumpled up at the bottom of her briefcase. She said I did not know how to write a midterm essay.

"Haven't you ever taken a college history course?" GSFH snorted.

"No," I responded. "This is my first year."

Hah! And I was planning on being a history and literature concentrator?

Talk about inferiority complexes. And I had to survive this class with this woman--the only TF for the course--for the entire semester.

I did survive. And you will too.

The Harvard experience is a humbling one. You will be amazed by the resources, by the opportunities, the challenges if you accept them. You will be stunned by the hilarity of it all.

The surreal moments always jump to memory first.

Primal Scream snuck up on me in December of 1996. I had no idea why people were screaming outside my window in Weld at midnight, so I checked it out and was more than slightly confused to see several dozen undergraduates running around the Yard--sans clothing--egged on by more than 2,000 onlookers. Whoa.

I produced a play in the spring. The director announced after our first show that she was canceling the rest of the performances (she later reconsidered). She also slapped one of the leading actors across the face off-stage during a performance. Yup.

There were small triumphs, too.

That research paper I wrote for my first semester history class led me to Gutman Library, where I was researching textbooks from the nineteenth century and found the actual tomes a few shelves away from my HOLLIS terminal.

I got goosebumps when I saw the incandescent Julia Roberts strut into the Hasty Pudding Theater to receive her Pudding Pot as the band wailed "Pretty Woman."

There were rude awakenings--and sleepings.

There was that fine April morning when I woke up to see snow nipping at the vines of ivy-covered walls, learning--to my dismay--that the several white inches that meant panic to my suburban high school meant little to the Rulers of University Hall.

There was that fine June afternoon that I fell asleep after snagging a front row seat at Madeleine K. Albright's Commencement address (my apologies again, Madam Secretary).

You too will await the verdict of housing lottery gods, maybe spending that fateful night curled up in your future roommates' room, on an odd-smelling couch that has been who-knows-where.

You too will say goodbye to your proctor after he is fired for partying with students and alcoholic refreshment during exams. (Well, maybe that one was just me.)

Not everything will happen Your First Year.

The angry philosophical debates about libertarianism at 3 a.m. may not come before June, but they will come. So will the e-mails accidentally sent to just the wrong person. So will the GSFHs.

When the mini-van, or the train, or the taxi, or the bus or the magic carpet whisks you close to the wrought-iron gates of your new home, the journey will have only begun.

Enjoy the ride.

--Andrew K. Mandel '00 is associate managing editor and news comp director of the Crimson.

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