Reflections on my time at Harvard.
I’ve started and deleted the first sentence of my Parting Shot at least five times, but there is no good way to begin a reflection on the past four years of college without sounding slightly cheesy or cliché. I’ll try my best to limit the sappiness of this piece, but I can make no guarantees.
Thinking back to my high school graduation, I was in a very different headspace when it came. I was excited to leave my small town of Winder, Georgia and move up north to Harvard. I had a lot fewer goodbyes and the stakes of leaving were much lower. Most people would remain somewhere in Georgia. I was the one leaving.
Corey Smith’s “I’m Not Gonna Cry” perfectly summed up how I felt about graduating high school: ‘Now it’s time to walk that line/This tassel is gonna turn/But when the moment passes by/we’ll just walk away/then slowly grow apart/but I’m not gonna cry, no/not one sad or happy tear/I’ve waited my whole life/Now I’m gonna fly right outta here.’
Graduating from college is a whole other story. Just when I finally learned how perfectly imperfect Harvard can be, brimming with resources and connections, I’m getting my diploma and along with a kick in the pants to leave Mather. Graduating from Harvard is perhaps one of the scariest things I’ve done thus far. I’ve made my life here for the past four years and now I must transfer the values and things I’ve learned about myself to a completely new context. I must do all these things knowing the network of love and support I’ve built for myself will be spread all over the world.
Becoming a Harvard alumna means so many things. It means grappling with the connotations and implications associated with graduating from Harvard. It means reflecting on my undergraduate experience and remaining active on the alumni side to ensure that current undergraduates are able to have positive experiences. It means using the alumni network as a safety net and not a safety blanket—the majority of my life will happen after college (knock on wood) and that means pushing myself beyond Harvard but knowing that if all else fails, Harvard can help.
And Harvard has helped me over the last four years. Not necessarily the institution itself, but the people I’ve met since first coming to campus for the First-Year Urban Program (FUP) back in August 2012. While FUP does come with mixed reviews, it was my major introduction to Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston. I appreciated learning early on that Harvard isn’t perfect and that students have the power to change it.
The most formative experiences of college were my volunteer work with the Phillips Brooks House Association and writing for the Harvard Independent. Two things that are seemingly unrelated were the most important things to me during college. For me, writing is how I process my service work. I also believe that writing is a public service in and of itself. Through the Indy, I was able to craft narratives of the college and share them with my peers in a meaningful way.
Outside of PBHA and the Indy, other things have shaped my college experience. Harvard Model Congress allowed me to travel the globe and run government simulations with high school students. My blocking and linking groups, through all of our ups and downs, have taught me how to be a better friend. My classes, the reason one comes to college, have taught me what kind of academic I want to be.
I also want to take the time to recall some of the things our entire class has been through together since freshman year. Some of them were highlighted in President Faust’s Baccalaureate address on Tuesday. But we will always remember walking through the remnants of Hurricane Sandy (especially those of us who lived in Union Dorms), how an entire city came together during the Boston Marathon Bombings, the three severe winters topped with mountains of snow (luckily this past winter was tame!), going through three different Deans of Harvard College, and many more.
I can’t believe that my time writing for the Indy is over, just like my college career. It has been an amazing rollercoaster of a time, and while there are some things I wish I could do over, I can honestly answer: Yes, I would choose Harvard again on the Harvard College Institutional Research’s Senior Survey.
Cheers to you, Class of 2016!
Shaquilla Harrigan ’16 ([email protected]) wonders when she’ll get the information for an @post email account.