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The Myth of Senior Spring

Learning to chill out about chilling out

By Elizabeth C. Bloom

Robin Williams once said, “If you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there.”

That is how I pictured senior spring. In my dreams, I imagined it would be a time for carefree picnicking, joyful inebriation, and peaceful reflection. My professors would collectively cease to assign response papers and tests. The weather would be 80 degrees every day (rather than just two freak days). It would be the perfect way to end my time at Harvard.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that senior spring is actually a series of “false peaks.” During the First-Year Outdoor Program, we defined false peaks as the parts of the mountain that appear to top off a slope, but which turn out to be the bottom of another. Similarly, during senior spring, we think we have completed all major academic commitments, expecting to become the masters of our own time. But we quickly discover there is always another hill to ascend.

Of course, most students experience less academic urgency during senior spring than in previous semesters. Moreover, in the two weeks before Commencement, we will have time to do the things we’ve been meaning to try since freshman year, and Harvard will surely provide the requisite refreshments. But until then, we follow up our theses with piles of neglected work; oral defenses with apartment hunting; the economics honors exam with job applications (JK, econ concentrators have had jobs since October).

And now that it’s April, we have no more buffer months to separate us from graduation. So we “take stock” of our experiences, as one friend put it. If we don’t have jobs, we wonder why not; if we do, we ask whether we should have held out for others. We question the decisions—academic, social, and extracurricular—we made along the way. We worry about what we will do when we don’t live minutes away from our peers, food, and work. This tumultuous process of self-reflection causes simultaneous buyer’s and seller’s remorse in seniors. It informs how we feel we should spend our spring.

Last Thursday, in anticipation of two articles, two exams, and a paper due the following week, I chose to stay in to work. The night was not typical of an ideal senior spring, and I wondered whether I should be doing something else. But I was surprised to find myself looking forward to a night in, doing work alongside friends. Upon reflection, I realize that my time at Harvard has been made meaningful by such ubiquitous, seemingly mundane occasions: the late-night conversations in Currier House, the 15-minute breaks during orchestra rehearsal, the occasional “wow” moments in class. Those are as memorable as the Harvard-sponsored events meant to shape the end of our undergraduate careers, whether paintball trips or outings to Celtics games.

So I was due for just another Harvard evening. I settled down with a few friends in the balcony of Pforzheimer House dining hall. Doing homework there has come to be a highlight of my senior spring. It is during long nights working there that I have cultivated new friendships, where I report on the success of an April Fools’ Day prank, where I share inanities about my day over mozzarella sticks from the Quad Grille, where senior spring happens in all its ordinary glory.

So here I am, at a point I have looked forward to since freshman year. It is a time to let go and to enjoy the offerings of student life fully and without regrets. I arrive at senior spring, however, only to discover that what I choose to spend time on now are the same things I have enjoyed for the past four years. The Harvard experience is what occurs between the major events we are afraid of missing. But, knowingly or not, we might already be acting as though that were the case.

Elizabeth C. Bloom ’12, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Currier House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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