By Alaya Ayala
Some musings on the things Harvard Professors can’t teach you
By ALAYA AYALA
The week after Thanksgiving is often the week when all hell starts to break loose for Harvard college students. Suddenly every essay is due, final projects are in the works, and Reading Period is just around the corner. Procrastinating is probably one of the main causes of stress during this time. Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t stop me from doing it.
During one of these fits of procrastination, I decided to start looking at classes that I could shop for next year. I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the classes available for next term, and for that reason, I have compiled a list of classes that I wish Harvard would offer.
- How to be a better friend
I think one of the things I never really grasped growing up was how to balance my social life with my academic responsibilities. Being at Harvard for a year, unfortunately, has yet to enlighten me on the subject. I have to wonder if I could learn to be a better friend if my grade were on the line.
I imagine a class like this would teach me a lot of really useful skills. Maybe I’d learn how to prioritize my relationships with other people over my readings on some occasions. Perhaps I would learn how to be a better listener, or even learn how to offer constructive advice. I might even hope to learn how to pursue this “fun” that I hear people mention every once in a while. With the threat of finals lurking on the horizon, I certainly don’t recall what the word even means, let alone how to actually integrate it into my life.
- How to talk to your family after you haven’t seen them for three months
I think it may be safe to say that after the awkwardness that comes with Thanksgiving and having to explain your choice of concentration to skeptical family members at home, some may be wary to do so again without further instruction on the matter. I am among that group, for my awkwardness seems to know no bounds. If there were a course at Harvard instructing us on small talk around the holiday dinner table, I dare say that many would leap at the opportunity to educate themselves.
Perhaps this course would teach us how to safely navigate through tense political conversations. Maybe we would learn the finer details of constructing a good joke to break any awkward silences. If we’re lucky, we might even learn how to keep up a conversation through the desire to run away and eat our holiday dinners alone and in peace. If Harvard were to offer a class like this, I would most certainly consider shopping it, and, if I were so lucky as to be permitted to lottery in, I may even take it.
- How to get a job
Now, I know the Office of Career Services and several other groups and departments on campus host many wonderfully instructive workshops on this matter, however, when faced with choosing between going to one of these or indulging in some Netflix binge-watching and studying for classes, I often find myself choosing to not go to these workshops. If my GPA were at stake, I’m sure I’d be much more persuaded to enroll in one of these classes. If I’m lucky, I may even get a job out of it, just imagine!
I’d think that a course like this would provide me with tons of important resources and skills that I would need on my job quest. I’d be very interested in perhaps learning how to write a cover letter that doesn’t sound like I copy-and-pasted large chunks of it from my college essay. Maybe we’d learn how to tailor a resume to a specific job, or even how to upload that resume to various job seeking platforms such as LinkedIn or the Crimson Careers website! If we’re truly lucky, the course may even teach us how to overcome our tendencies to be incoherent and nervous during job interviews. I’m sure if this course were offered as a gen-ed, it would very quickly fall into the favored “gem” category that so many Harvard students appreciate.
- How to date
Now, this topic may be sensitive for some, but in my opinion, it’s absolutely necessary for some people to receive some enlightenment on the topic. Again, this includes me, naturally. I feel that a class that teaches one the finer points of online dating, navigating the first date, and maintaining a healthy relationship with someone would be invaluable to Harvard Students.
For my own part, I would hope that the class would teach us how to plan dates. Event planning on such a small scale would really force us to pay attention to detail and scheduling, and would surely prove a very useful skill to have later in life. I’d also hope that the class would teach us how to transition from inevitable small talk to deeper conversation topics without offending our dates. It may even be useful for us to receive instruction on how to give our partners gifts since this action can often be fraught with peril if we haven’t been dating our partners for very long. This class, if the syllabus is planned correctly, could prove to be on of the most popular ones on campus if Harvard were to offer it.
- How to file taxes and do other adult things
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that filing my taxes during my freshman year at Harvard was an absolute nightmare to do on my own. What with the confusion of having to wait for all of my part-time jobs to send me my W-2s, having to gather my sensitive documents, and having to choose a platform with which to file my taxes, I was an absolute wreck. I’m pretty sure even today that I drastically messed up during the process, however, there’s no taking it back now.
If Harvard had offered a class on this subject last year, or even offered it this coming term, I would jump on it in a heartbeat. Nothing is more disconcerting than finding yourself lost among your parents’ tax documents while trying to navigate through FAFSA and the CSS profile. And what of applying for credit cards and car loans? Surely a class like this would be able to walk us through even the most hazardous aspects of building our credit scores. Imagine if they taught us how to begin to navigate the stock market! I can’t imagine that there’d be anyone who wasn’t even a little interested in an Adulting 101 course that could bolster our GPAs while teaching us how to not irrevocably destroy our budding finances.
Alaya Ayala ‘21 (Alaya_ayala@college.harvard.edu) is looking forward to this term ending so she can shop new classes next term.