Cambridge, MA: My visit to Harvard began with the unveiling of three fallacies associated with the statue of John Harvard, the institution’s “founder.” In actuality, the statue isn’t John Harvard but a comely student stand-in because no image of Mr. Harvard exists. Second, Mr. Harvard didn’t found the college, he only underwrote a library. Third, Massachusetts Bay Company founded the school in 1636, not 1638. These revelations set the tone for the rest of my visit.
The student body pleasantly surprised me. In place of stereotypical nerds and snobs, I found friendly, down-to-earth students. Diversity and interaction permeated the community creating an accepting, open atmosphere. While it is true that much time must be devoted to academics, the almost 300 clubs speak to the active, interesting lives of the students. I found them genuine, passionate, intellectually stimulating people who were thriving in a challenging environment.
The college offers unbelievably spacious dorms. Each suite has a common room with singles or doubles branching from it. Freshmen are housed together, creating a sense of class community. A lottery sophomore year places students in their houses for the following three years where further communities are developed.
Harvard’s picturesque red-brick campus is nestled in Cambridge, an ideal college town. Public transportation allows easy access to the thousands of other college students who populate the Boston area. Thus Harvard’s location allows students to live in as self-contained or expansive a manner as suits them.
In visiting Harvard, I expected to find the world-renowned professors inaccessible to students. Instead I saw professors teaching undergraduate classes, staying after class to answer questions, and welcoming students during their office hours. The nature of relationships with professors, as well as guidance from advisors, contribute to the independent environment; help is available if sought, but isn’t volunteered unnecessarily.
I didn’t need to spend the night on campus to know the value, opportunities and resources of a Harvard education. I did need to visit to find that I loved the campus, its location, environment, and most of all, the vivacious students whom I hope will become my peers.
Reviewed in 2003