Yardlings on Housing Day


The stress of midterms and blocking can’t keep freshmen down.

Housing Day once seemed impossibly far out of reach. A couple months ago, when blocking groups were both a distant concern and a nagging thought on many minds, the festivities of the day were the last things thought about. Instead, finals, winter break, friend groups, etc. dominated campus. Some were certain, while others were stuck in between, left out, or confused by the ambiguously frustrating and exciting experience that was blocking.  Therefore, the months of January and February were spent either in confident certainty or annoyance; tiny frivolities seemed to drive groups apart, while seemingly random new groups formed out of nowhere. Now that students had an incentive to make friends, the campus seemed suddenly alive for a few weeks.

My proctor, parents, old friends, new friends, and even grandparents had their own input on housing with friends in college; what to look for, who the people were, and of what I should be careful. The advice seemed to rush in from all different directions, while blocking was right in the throes of being figured out. Everything everyone said was valid  – but none of it was mine, and that’s what blocking and Housing Day are supposed to be: opportunities to both make your school, your friends, and your future home, yours. The flavors of the experience, come in wide variety: fellow freshmen ranged from a tad braggadocious: “You know, I had lots of groups that wanted me, but in the end, I had to go with the best one,” to utter frustration: “Eventually, I just said screw it and ditched the original group and just went with one friend who I really wanted to stay with.” It is this distinct emotion, tied and interlocked with the struggles and/or ease of blocking, that defined the path to Housing Day.

The week before Housing Day included nervous excitement, subtle hints from upperclassman, along with the general daily stress that accompanied class and work. Although the anticipation for the Day was huge, there lay a significant caveat that seemed to undermine the entire process per say. After speaking to a friend regarding his general thoughts as we approached Thursday, he said: “If this was truly meant to be a bonding, social event that brings together a blocking group, house, or college, then they would do it on a day (or days) unmarred by large exams or projects.” The pressure to be ready for exams and complete the necessary schoolwork significantly distracts from the initial glee that the thought of Housing Day brings.

Messages paralleling “Oh, sorry, I have something at 7am that morning” or “I have a meeting at 11pm that night” to one that I myself sent: “I have midterms at 9am and 12pm that day, sorry” add an unexpected twist and source of anxiety to an otherwise thrilling process. Thus, as we approach Thursday, one can sense a duality in the mood within the Yard – those who are done for the week look forward to having a great time Wednesday and Thursday before taking off for Spring Break; others are simply trying to keep up their push until the very end.

Per one friend’s recommendation: “Perhaps Housing Day should be kept on the same day, but it is a requirement that all exams and major school assignments be due by professors the previous day.” While the shortened time might increase pressure, the thought of having a day without classes or stress on which students can focus primarily on getting closer to their blocking group and discovering the future of their Harvard career would be extraordinary. However, there is one interesting result that has come from the increasingly exciting and high pressure atmosphere as we approach Housing Day – groups have found new ways make their Housing Day experiences unique.

When three out of the eight students in a certain blocking group could not sleep over that night, due to exams early the next morning, the other members planned a surprise study break of their own for everyone earlier on Wednesday – head downtown, get food, relax, and then get back to work. When trying to meet up Wednesday night before the day, another blocking group was able to work around all possible conflicts to manage 15 minutes together as a whole group – while the rest would be spent split, with some members taking care of obligations, they made sure they had at least one chance to pull everyone together. As a result of the charged atmosphere prior to Housing Day, students and groups are coming up with increasingly ingenious solutions to work around the unfortunate challenges that seem to present themselves. And while for some it may be a packed day of midterms, excitement, and/or disappointment, it will certainly be a day we freshmen will never forget.

Tushar Dwivedi (tushar_dwivedi@college.harvard.edu) wishes his fellow freshmen a fun Housing Day!