Dear Freshmen: From Our PAFs

By Margot E. Shang

Dear Freshmen,

This semester’s been a lot, and who better to hear from than the PAFs in Flyby! Without further ado, some words from the wise...

Give yourself time. — Sarah M. Lightbody

By now you’ve probably turned in your first midterm, had your first HUDS cookie bar, and had someone ask you what you planned to do after graduation as if you didn’t just get to college. Maybe you’ve also taken a ton of COVID-19 tests, had takeout HUDS food, and probably experienced some type of weird social distancing interaction. Or maybe you’re experiencing all of these “firsts” and more from home right now. College might be feeling more like home, or it might not. Give yourself time to get used to everything, the college parts, the coronavirus parts, the weird social parts that make Harvard sometimes lonely and sometimes the absolute best. It takes time to be about time, to make truly meaningful connections, but when you look back on this semester, there will be a million little memories that might not have felt special in the moment but will probably make you just a touch nostalgic. So if you can, savor the good moments, let everything not be totally okay if it’s not, and give yourself time.

It’s okay! — Kiana Ziadkhanpour

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on the “normal” Harvard first-year experience… but normal (whatever even that is) is out the window. This is a whole new adventure and no one really knows what to do. So it’s fine that you aren’t experiencing a party in the Igloo or LamCaf (and if you don’t know what those are or where they are — that’s OK!) because now you’re on a new adventure experiencing the inner workings of Zoom rather than the underground tunnels of Pfoho. But, it’s easy to say that we’re all in the same boat. Sure, we’re all missing out on new experiences, but this is all the more difficult for the newest Harvard students, and we all understand that. Stop sweating the small stuff and just take in what this semester offers you. If you’re on campus or off, embrace your situation and remember that this is temporary.

Take off that ~emotional~ mask. — Rachel L. Reynolds

“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” We may not *actually* be at Hogwarts (though the Berg can definitely feel like it), but Dumbledore had the right idea here. While at Harvard, it can feel like there’s this constant pressure to put on a brave face and get through any struggles you may face completely on your own. After all (you think), you’re here, so you’ve already been through the worst of it… right? Surprise! College brings with it all kinds of new situations — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

At the same time that you’re finally meeting the incredible people you’ll be learning alongside for the next four years, you’re also stressing over finding your “group,” crying over a pset at 1 a.m., and wondering if you’ll actually make it through comping that club. And that’s just the school struggles! Especially in all the current covid chaos (say that three times fast), it can feel like the hits just won’t stop coming. But, there is 100 percent a bright side to what can feel like a never-ending shitshow — even though we’re all dealing with so many different circumstances right now, there are also so many people who want to support you. We might not always have that perfect advice to offer (honestly, do any of us actually know what we’re doing right now?), but we’ll be there to do the best we can to listen, support, and encourage you along the way.

While you do have to keep a physical mask on pretty much everywhere right now, that doesn’t mean you have to keep an ~emotional~ one on too. We’re all cheering you on, and you never have to just trudge through all the stresses that college life throws at you by yourself. Even if we’re just as lost as you are, we’re happy to at least be a listening ear (or maybe just someone to scream with about That One Class™). Whether it’s your PAF, proctor, academic advisor, upperclassmen friends, roommates, literally anyone!, we all have unique perspectives and advice to offer — all you have to do is take that first step.

Remember your goals for this year, and stay true to yourself. — Linda Lee

The first year of college is a radical transition, different from anything else you’ve ever experienced. It can be incredibly exciting and fun, but it is also terrifying, which is completely normal. You are now in a completely new environment surrounded by new faces, new responsibilities, and new expectations. While it’s easy to let yourself slip into a daily routine of psetting, grabbing meals, and making it to the next day, take some time to take a step back and reflect on who you are and who you want to be. What are your goals for this year? For all 4-plus years? In what areas do you want to grow, and what steps can you take to get there? Who do you want to surround yourself with, and what do you need from both yourself and others in order to truly succeed and be happy? While the answers to these questions can and will change throughout your time here, reflecting on your goals can ground you amidst all the academic, social, and emotional chaos and remind you to stay true to yourself and your needs. Remember that college isn’t just about your GPA or the number of clubs you’ve joined. It’s also a time to make life-changing connections, explore yourself, and make the most of everything that’s out there. Prioritize yourself. You are the main character.

Sending love,

Your PAFs at Flyby

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