The Square holds its own against other college towns, with an abundance of restaurants and shops. It's also pricey and corporate--chains like Abercrombie & Fitch are displacing a generation of mom-and-pop stores. "Good Will Hunting" hangout Au Bon Pain and the ubiquitous Store 24 are downscale retreats.
If you're looking for students in their preferred element, though, try the banks of the Charles River, Harvard's most beautiful vista on warm days. But this isn't Stanford--Cambridge weather is spastic, with summery weather in February and snow in April. (It's not always like this, we promise.)
The snow is most oppressive if you live in the dreaded Quad. The three Quad Houses are actually roomy, clean, attractive...and a 15-minute walk from the rest of campus. Quadlings will quickly bond while waiting at shuttle stops, though they may find the distance gives them refreshing perspective on Harvard's bustle.
The Quad at least offers an element of solidarity that the River Houses have lacked since randomization took hold in 1995. Harvard students used to pick their upperclass digs, and each House attracted a different personality (artsy, athletic, elitist). Now, Houses are little more than ordinary dorms, albeit remarkably nice ones, most with amenities like fireplaces and hardwood floors that other colleges only dream of.
If Harvard students are too lazy to walk to the Quad, imagine how rarely they get to Boston. We've heard Boston is a fabulous city, with museums, concerts, clubs and great restaurants. Too bad some of you will never go there.
The real world does occasionally intrude on campus, though. After a several years of lull in student protest, activism has recently roared back. The Progressive Student Labor Movement has nudged the University towards more progressive policies on sweatshops. The fight for a living wage for Harvard employees faces more resistance.
After two years of trauma, the controversy over Radcliffe has died down at last. The former women's college officially merged with the University in October, making the Class of 2004 the first admitted to Harvard alone. Radcliffe has been transformed into an Institute for Advanced Study that promises world-class scholarship.
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