So, there are a lot of things I plan to talk about and I decided to break it up into several, shorter posts instead of one massively long post that will take forever to write.
Well, I can say I’ve officially been a student at Harvard for about a month now. It’s been very…odd, trying to get used to this place.
Let me back up a bit. Once I accepted my offer to come here, I actually became reluctant to tell people that I was going to Harvard. Why, though? It’s a huge accomplishment, right? Harvard is…Harvard! Some people asked me why I wasn’t shouting it from the rooftops, especially after I’d do the little dance that finally ended in me saying “Harvard” almost under my breath. Honestly, I was afraid of coming off as pretentious or pompous. “Oh, I’m just going to attend Hahvahd in the fall. No big deeaalll.” Surely you’ve met someone like that, and I was terrified of becoming that person.
Now, I’ve almost completely gotten over it. When you live in Cambridge, and you say you’re a student to people who ask what you do, they automatically assume you go to one of the two universities in the area, the two universities that happen to be world-renowned. Saying you go to Harvard hasn’t, well, it hasn’t lost its meaning, but it’s definitely lost its impact factor. When you say you’re going to Harvard in a room where half of the people are also going to either Harvard or MIT, the risk of sounding pretentious drastically decreases from when you’re the only one. I haven’t had the chance to experiment with this yet, but I’m willing to bet my reticence will come back when I visit other places or go home.
So, that’s just getting used to saying I go to the school. Now for actually going to it.
Part of being a student, being an academic, is that a school is a school is a school. Schools don’t change that much. Maybe superficially. Moving from one school to another, it wasn’t that big of a life adjustment, to be honest. So, on one hand, you’re just a student going to another school and you fall into the same patterns of life and work and it’s almost like nothing changed from undergrad to grad (at least for me).
But then you have those moments. You know the moments I’m talking about, the ones where you stop and you nearly can’t think because you’re so awed. For example, to get to my office, I walk past the office of one Dr. Richard Lewontin. He’s never in there, so I’ve never talked to him and didn’t really care to learn what he did. On Wednesday, I learned that he lead the field of population genetics for the second half of the 20th century. He essentially created the field of molecular evolution in a 1966 paper. It’s these types of moments that I’m talking about, when you stop and think, “Holy crap, I’m. at. HARVARD. Modern science was created behind these doors. The giants of academia started or came here.” ….And then the moment is over and you go on with the rest of your week at ‘that school you go to’.
This cycle of normal life interrupted by the sudden realization that you go to Harvard (which, theoretically speaking, is something you’ve known all along, but it is only now a meaningful piece of information), and then back to normal life, is kind of difficult to get used to. But it’s only been a month.
Stay tuned for the next post, I’m probably compare and contrast GT and Harvard a bit and then talk about all the hoops G1s get to jump through during our induction to the program. Also graduate students recently received the right to unionize, and so that’s going on. Once I have a firmer understanding, I’ll also write about that a bit.