Surveying the Student Activities Fair.

Whenever we introduce ourselves to a fellow Harvard student, we encounter the standard laundry list of questions — name, year, concentration, and house — as well as the inevitable inquiry, “so what do you do?”  In any context outside of Harvard, one would most likely provide a list of hobbies, but within “the Bubble,” this question is designed to elicit a (long) list of on-campus organizations in which one participates. It seems nearly every Harvard student devotes a substantial amount of time to extracurricular activities.

Despite the downpour of rain at the Student Activities Fair held last Friday at the Quad, upperclassmen found an opportunity to promote a vast variety of additional activities and sign up for new organizations.  While the fair was routine for upperclassmen, members of the freshman class of 2016 arrived with fresh ideas and new energy.  The freshmen added their email addresses to sign-up sheets for any — or all — of the nearly 400 activities that were represented at the fair. After trekking from the Yard or catching a shuttle to the Quad, freshmen were greeted by excited upperclassmen, some donning costumes (ranging from togas to cross-dress), standing behind an array of activity tables advertising pre-professional, cultural, academic, public service, athletic, and artistic groups on campus.  One freshman from Weld, Derek Booth, commented to the Indy in awe after the fair, “there were a lot more activities than I thought there would be.”

The fair could be overwhelming to freshmen as they traveled through a variety of tables hidden under posters, trophies, fliers, and t-shirts as eager upperclassmen, oftentimes bearing candy, beckoned them to sign-up sheets, promising not to send spam emails (let’s see if they keep that promise). The class of 2016 was of particular interest to the student groups at the fair, as the freshman have the freedom to throw themselves into new activities fearlessly whether that means delivering a cross-exam with the Harvard Mock Trial team or solving Rubik’s cubes with the Harvard College Cube Club.

While some members of the Class of 2016 were excited to develop passions acquired during high school, many were equally anxious to branch out and explore new activities.  For example, after the fair, another Weld 2016er, Kathy Li, explained, “I’m pretty much set on three activities so far.  One of them is CityStep, which is totally new for me.  I’ve never done anything dance-related, but it looks really cool.”

Even freshmen who arrived at the fair seeming to know exactly what activities they wanted to join were surprised to find new interests as they perused the fair, as Welder Alex Weickhardt experienced.  Weickhardt, whose interests included club tennis and the Harvard Culinary Society, said, “I didn’t go to the fair to find new things, I just wanted to get information on what I was already interested in.” However, Weickhardt could not escape the attraction of exploring new activities.  He explained, “I did find one new activity, which was Quidditch. I might try that out just because it sounds like a lot of fun.”

Weickhardt’s consideration of Quidditch seems to capture the spirit of the Activities Fair.  At its core, the fair is an opportunity for students to be exposed to available opportunities, but by exploring new organizations, students also have the opportunity to forge new friendships and unleash unique, hidden talents (like riding a magical broomstick).

Kalyn Saulsberry ’14 (ksaulsberry@college) hopes that the desire to be open to new possibilities extends not only to the Class of 2016 but to the entire undergraduate community.