The pre-frosh we met at Visitas
By MICHAEL KIELSTRA, JEN EASON, and MARISSA GARCIA
Ryan Nguyen would like to be a human rights lawyer, but you wouldn’t immediately know it. He doesn’t talk about capital-I Injustices or concrete plans for getting to law school. Rather, when I ask him why he applied to Harvard, he starts with, “It’s pretty cliche, but the student body, how there’s so much diversity of every kind, not just ethnically… Everyone has a wildly different story.” He goes on to explain that, in his opinion, “Everyone has one thing they’re very dedicated to, one or two things, and it’s so interesting discovering that thing after getting to know someone.” He is already involved in multiple Harvard group chats.
Exploring other peoples’ stories seems to be a focus of Nguyen’s life. In the small town where he grew up, he wrote both for his local paper and for an outlet called Readify. “It’s an art form, in my opinion,” he says, “just to choose the right words, and through that selection of words you can bring out something in people that you don’t often see.” Every so often, he would get emails telling him that his pieces made someone cry. More recently, he was disappointed by the disappearance of on-campus Visitas, saying that, after being accepted, “It wasn’t even a full day before I started musing about exploring the Cambridge backdrop… meeting hundreds of passionate peers.” “Passionate peers” sounds like some corporate speak that the Office of Student Engagement would come up with, but from Nguyen’s mouth it sounds utterly guileless and sincere.
Nor is Nguyen interested only in people from one part of the world. He speaks Vietnamese and Lao natively, English, Arabic, and Spanish fluently, and “a little bit of Japanese.” The Independent refuses to comment on the possibility that “a little bit” means something different for Nguyen as compared to the rest of us. His first study-abroad experience, last year, was in Morocco, where he studied Arabic, and, before the pandemic canceled it, he was planning to study abroad this year in “a Spanish-speaking country.” (He had a shortlist but had not settled on one just yet.)
Nguyen, then, is that rarest of beasts, a Harvard student who actually wants to be around most other Harvard students. From the snakes to the Lamonsters to the party animals, we are sure he will be an avid chronicler of Harvard’s particular fauna, and we wish him all the best of luck in the coming four years and beyond.
We would also like to remind him to comp the Independent.
Michael Kielstra ’22 (email@example.com) writes… biography now, apparently… for the Independent.
Daniel Shen ’24 (God, isn’t that just a wild number? 24?) has committed to Harvard in all but paper. When he does push the button, he wants to be able to celebrate with his whole family. But, more importantly, he’s waiting for his Harvard hoodie to come in the mail. Completely understandable. It’s also understandable that he and many in the incoming class are seriously considering taking a gap year this fall. An online introduction to their college careers is not exactly what they were expecting when they all applied to their dream school. Many students in his high school are still pushing for a “real” graduation, whenever that may be possible. “So like, August? Maybe?” I joked. His high school sent him home on Friday, March 13, after having canceled all after school activities the day before. He says he’s doing all right. He went to a private middle school, so his best friend goes to an entirely different high school, and they don’t get to see each other that much anyways.
Shen, currently living in the Bay Area, is the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper. He’s interested in joining the Independent because he wants to continue in journalism, but he doesn’t want it to be his whole life at college. He also wants the small, tight-knit community that the Indy offers, and who can blame him? The Independent would be thrilled to have Shen on board whenever Harvard does let us back on campus.
Jen Eason ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) feels really old talking to prefrosh.
The lingering feeling of not knowing when you’ll be back on campus was not only deeply experienced by current Harvard undergraduates: prospective members of the Class of 2024 were feeling this way, too. Harini Kannan, who has officially committed to Harvard College and hopes to concentrate in Mechanical Engineering, recalls the March 12th announcement that her high school would not reconvene for, at the time, the next two weeks. She recalls, on that last day of school, wondering, “What if this actually is the last day of school?” Harini remembers, “We left on that note of uncertainty, [making] that feeling of isolation even more pronounced.”
Nevertheless, her community in Clarksville, Maryland is taking great strides to curb this feeling of isolation. When I spoke with her, she said, “Just today, I woke up and saw outside my house…the things you stick in the lawn, there was one in every senior’s house, and they said, ‘WE LOVE OUR RIVER HILL SENIORS.’” She figures someone from her school must have done between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m., and she’s so grateful.
The quarantine has opened up opportunities for Harini to try out new things. After initially reaching out to each other on Instagram, she has started “writing letters to a pen pal with someone who is going to Harvard next year.”
She’s also taken up cooking. “I’m Indian, and I’m learning how we cook our traditional Indian food and helping my parents out a lot more.” The menu’s comprised of South Indian cuisine—she notes, “a lot of rice and dal, different curries, paneer.” She says that members of the Class of 2024 are posting the food they’ve been making on GroupMe, in a separate group chat where members chime in about the foods they’re making.
In spite of these pockets of hope, Harini still fears that she’ll “miss out on certain experiences or influential times,” that she “might not be able to make the best of my four years at Harvard.” No matter what decisions are made about next fall, the Independent hopes to be a home.
Marissa Garcia (email@example.com) looks forward to welcoming these Visitasers to the Indy.
Image courtesy of the Student Organization Center at Hilles.