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Everyone back home who I’d ever seen go off to college would finish up their finals, pack their bags, and head to our hometown for the summer. They’d spend their summer days lifeguarding at the pool, waiting tables at the restaurants they'd worked at during high school, or working a job at the mall. They’d spend time with family and long nights catching up with high school friends. Normal way to spend the summer, right?
But of course, Harvard kids never do things the normal way.
I probably should have picked up the hint about Harvard summers a lot quicker than I did. Maybe I should have picked it up when my advising team started asking me about summer plans before I had even gone home for J-term. Maybe I should have picked it up when every other conversation I engaged in began with "What are your plans for the summer?" Maybe I should have picked it up when I witnessed the people around me panic about applying for summer funding.
But I brushed it all off. It was never a question for me that I was going to spend
my summer at home. After seven months away from my family, seven months of
papers and problem sets, seven months of comps and cuts, seven months of too
much stress and too little sleep, seven months of "Hey, how are
you?"s and "Good, and you?"s when no one is ever good, there was
no place I wanted to be but my own bed at home. Yes, I wanted an internship,
but don't people usually wait for the summer before senior year? Yes, I wanted
to study abroad, but don't I have plenty of time for that in the years to come?
It didn't take me long to realize I was wrong. Soon, I couldn't scroll down my Facebook newsfeed without a "Friends and family, I am so blessed to announce (insert summer plan here)" post from a classmate. My friends were booking their international flights and prepping for funding interviews. Fellow freshmen were getting ready to walk the halls of Twitter, Microsoft, and Google. Everyone around me was doing something, and I was going home.
Apparently, I didn't get the memo.
It seems like I didn't get the memo on a lot of things
essential to the Harvard experience. Like how it's cool to compete over who has
the most assignments and who is the most stressed out. Or how I'd have to lie
about my name to get into listed final club parties if I wanted to have a semi-decent
night out. Or how I should have had Ec10 and CS50 on my fall study card, and
how consulting is even a thing, much less something that I and everyone around
me should be interested in.
The thing that confused me the most about Harvard culture was how being busy to the point of breakdowns and tears seemed to be almost valued. I didn't understand why getting the least amount of sleep the night before was something to be proud of, and why mental health was always being compromised to fit in an additional extracurricular activity. I couldn’t understand how no one seemed to ever take a break.
I've been home for the summer for a couple of weeks now. I've
spent hours petting my dog and catching up on all the Netflix I didn't have
time for during the summer. I've enjoyed my mother's meals and my father's
company. I write this in the middle of the day, with eight year olds running
around me playing a game, while I am volunteering at a Girl Scout camp only 20
minutes down the road from where I grew up—the same camp I went to years ago.
And to be quite honest, I'm glad I didn't get the summer memo.
Lauren A. Sierra '19 is a Crimson multimedia executive living in Dunster House.
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