Photo by ROBERT MIRANDA
by ROBERT MIRANDA
On the first day of school this year, I was asked a question I have been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Where will you be a year from now? The answer: not here.”
This statement has been exceptionally true for me, as I never anticipated being in the position I now find myself.
April is a busy and confusing time in any high school senior’s life. By this point, college acceptances have come in, coupled with financial aid statements and scholarships, and one begins to feel an unsettling sense of foreboding as he faces the decision of where to go to college.
I was fortunate enough to be faced with many different choices of where to spend the next four years, each with relative merits and disadvantages. However, I am naturally indecisive; being faced with all these options left me overwhelmed and completely uncertain of where to go, or even what campuses to visit.
I elected to visit Harvard two weeks ago. Their financial aid is absolutely excellent, the research and study opportunities virtually endless, the city of Boston is rich in historical significance and easy to access by public transportation. (What stopped me from visiting Princeton was the inconvenience of travel there via a series of trains.) Of course, I had also never been there before.
When I arrived on Harvard’s campus, my first reaction was one of fear and extreme uncertainty. I had expected to be completely blown away by the beauty of the school, but I didn’t feel any of that. The buildings did not have the Gothic towers of Kenyon or Princeton. Everything in sight was brick: the buildings, the gates, the walls, the towers, even the streets were all paved in red brick. In a way, though, it grew to be comforting: reminding me of Schurr. Call it surprising to compare Harvard to our school, but it helped me process all I saw, somewhat easing my transition.
At first I was lonely, especially after realizing that many admitted students are from prestigious prep schools I’d never even heard of, but soon I found that most were like me: uncertain students from public schools all over the country, just as overwhelmed and nervous as I. Most people I met did not feel they deserved to be there; I encountered countless people voicing aloud their concern that the admissions officers had clearly made a mistake. The faculty was genuinely nice: I had many conversations with security guards, dining hall attendants and even professors (the brilliant psychologist Steven Pinker among them, with whom I got a selfie.)
The historical elements were one of my favorite parts. One has only to walk for a few minutes before finding the oldest graveyard in the country, markers showing where Emerson and Thoreau lived as students, and memorials dedicated to countless individuals who served in the Civil War and the American Revolution. Harvard is more than just a collection of students and learning opportunities. It is a collection of our nation’s very history. A quote, by Emerson, engraved on a main wall perfectly illustrates this: Cambridge at any time is full of ghosts… This imposing historical significance added to the fear I had, but it also did more to make me extremely interested and excited to be on the campus.
By the end of my visit I looked around, walking back to the registration office where I had begun my journey, reflecting on how far I’d come. A security guard took back my key card and asked me simply: “So did you like Hah-vuhd?,” her Boston accent prominent.
I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite songs: the story of a man trying to convince a girl to fall in love with him. “I could be in love with someone like you…”
The guard sat, silently waiting for my reply. I smiled and said, “I can see myself at home here.”
“Can? Does that mean you’re not sure?”
“Well…It was overwhelming at first. There was a lot going on. But I could be in love with somewhere like Harvard. I am.” There was a pause, as I gathered my thoughts and decided to fully say what I had been thinking of more and more: “I’ll be committing when I get home.”
A broad smile stretched across her face as she reached over to shake my hand. “I’m so glad. We’re so glad. You’ll love it. See you in August!”
I turned back and smiled, naturally, for the first time since my arrival on campus. I now knew the answer to that first-day question, as I responded…
“See you in August.”