By Devon Higham
Characteristics of Harvard Students in their Natural Habitat
Harvard Student are strange and unique beasts. They come in all forms and types and can usually be identified from afar by their characteristic type-A personalities and salmon pants. But what is this strange species like inside their natural habitat; how does a Harvard Student act in the classroom? Read on to find out.
1. The one you’ve never seen before
This is a type of student you’re bound to come across frequently at Harvard. As you struggle to fulfill you Gen-Ed requirements and take classes in fields you don’t care about, you’ll surely find yourself asking, “Who is that?” or “Do they even go here?” That’s understandable given that Harvard is a big school, and every year a crop of new students arrive for you to be awkward with. It starts to get weird when everyone in the class gives a brief “ice-breaker” introduction, and you realize this person you’ve never seen before has the same concentration as you, lives in your house, and maybe even shares your same “one weird fact about yourself.” You’d think this would stop happening, and that you’d eventually cross paths with all these ghost people outside of the classroom. It won’t.
2. Your friend
Having your friend in class is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, you never have to sit alone and can avoid the uncomfortable feeling of walking into a classroom not knowing anyone. On the other hand, once you sit down, you are filled with instant regret. All your friend wants to do the entire time is talk. Forget about taking notes. Forget about hearing what the Professor is saying. May as well pull up Facebook and commit to learning nothing because you’re not winning this battle. Hell, you might even want to talk to them, and then you can’t even try to blame them entirely. You’ll be happy for a brief moment when you realize that P-sets can be done as a team effort. But that happiness will soon fade when you realize that neither of you has any idea what has been going on for the past five lectures.
3. Speaking of P-sets…Your P-set Buddy
I do not exaggerate when I say that these are some of the most important “friends” you will make at Harvard. It’s essentially impossible to survive certain classes if you don’t have at least one person with whom you can struggle through math problems. Everyone knows adversity builds relationships, and after several semesters of bonding over sleepless nights in Lamont and last minute submissions, these characters might become your real friends. On the flip side, others will remain friends only in the context of class. You’ll know their name, their favorite hi-lighter color, and their g-mail address, but aside from that essentially nothing. In extreme cases, you won’t even be on “what’s up” terms with them when you cross paths in the Yard. You’re contact will be limited to exclusively Facebook messages and hurried study sessions. These are the guys whose names you’ll guiltily struggle to remember at your five-year reunion.
4. The class clown
Once extremely prevalent in middle and high school, the class clown becomes a rarity once you reach college—or at the very least, he has changed forms. Everyone here is so motivated and put so much effort into getting here that they mostly shake off their funny sides by the time you’re in class. There is more opportunity for top humor in sections or tutorials where you can actually develop a group dynamic and get to know each other well. Really it’s up to the teacher whether or not anyone can be funny. Certain tutorials are all business, and the students are smart enough to know that it’s probably not a good idea to start making jokes. Others are the opposite and love when students seem engaged enough with the class to have fun. And in certain cases, the teachers are the class clowns (see: Parzen, Michael). These are the gems of Harvard—the ones who get you actually excited to go to lecture. You only stumble across them once in while, so make sure you cherish the class when you do.
5. The Teacher’s Pet
This is somewhat of a misnomer once you get here. Let’s face it: we’re all at Harvard, so really we’re all teacher’s pets to some degree. The Harvard teacher’s pet, though, isn’t so much the classic sit in the front, apple on the desk type of student you see in movies. No this student is more likely to reveal his/herself by how they participate in class. They’ll always raise their hand and eagerly participate. Half of the time when they’re called on though, they merely repeat the exact same thing the teacher just said so they can seem smart and “engaged.” Most Harvard students try to walk a fine line between interested and “cool.” The teacher’s pet knows no such boundaries.
6. The Night Owl
No one’s really sure why this student even bothers coming to class. They spend pretty much the entire lecture sleeping. Who knows whether they were up late partying or working on a P-set; maybe they were inventing the next Facebook or working on their start up. Either way, in class this student looks like they’ve had the life drained from them and could pass out at any moment. They probably only come to class so they can feel good about having gotten out of bed. I sympathize; really, we’ve all been there. To them class isn’t about paying attention or being an active participant, no to the night owl the struggle begins and ends in the act of showing up; once you make it there then you get to go back to sleep.
Devon Higham ’17 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a breed of his own.