Returning to GoCrimson.com for a fifth season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrative. For a full list of blog entries, click here.
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November 29, 2018
My name is Håvard Hjermstad, I am a freshman at Harvard and I live in Thayer. I am also a part of the men's soccer team here at Harvard. If you think my name is weird it is because it is a Norwegian name, which is where I am from. I have kind of a big family, at least by Norwegian standards, with three brothers and one sister. My family has always been very active and two of my brothers and my sister are competing in a sport called orienteering at the national level. I, however, decided that was not for me so I stuck with football. I am the youngest in my family, but given I am a triplet it is only by a matter of minutes.
I always knew college was an option for me, but I never considered it seriously until junior year of high-school when I started to look more into the process and what I actually had to do to make it a reality. As a kid I, of course, was ambitious and wanted to be a professional football player and play for Juventus, but I realized after a couple years that was kind of unrealistic, so my goal changed from becoming a professional football player to getting something real out of football. I have gotten a lot of joy and experiences from football over the years, but I wanted something more, I wanted football to take me somewhere. So, the process really started when I was thinking about it as a real opportunity, and realized that college was the way I could use football to actually take me somewhere. However, I did not just want to go anywhere, I wanted to find somewhere I would feel comfortable choosing, and there were a lot of important factors in play like location, how the school was, how the soccer team was, what my impression of the coaches and players were etc. I was lucky to get in contact with Harvard through my assistant coach for the club I played for back home, he helped me a lot to get the process started, which I am really grateful for. Harvard was an opportunity I felt I could not let go of, I would never have thought I would attend Harvard.
My first visit to the U.S. was the summer of 2010. My family and I were visiting some relatives in Seattle and we also drove over the border to Canada. Then my second time in the U.S. was in the fall of 2012. This time we went to New York, Washington D.C. and Boston. Those two visits were my first times in the U.S. before the Harvard process started. I visited Harvard twice when the process had started, the first time I took my SAT and the second time was my official visit to Harvard and I had my admissions interview. That is actually a fun story, I was in Barcelona at training camp with my high school soccer team when I was informed that Harvard wanted to fly me over to have my interview when I got back from Barcelona. So, I got back from Barcelona, repacked and got on the plane to Boston to have my interview. As it turned out the person who I was supposed to have the interview with was stuck because of bad weather so we ended up having a Skype interview, so basically, I flew half across the world to have a Skype interview. I did not mind though, I got to meet all of the guys on the team, attend a class or two and spend some more time in Boston, so I was happy!
Most of my family is still in Norway, but as I am the youngest in my family, we are all kind of scattered around now. My big brother has a job and has his own apartment. My sister is studying at a university in Trondheim. One of my triplet brothers is studying in Gothenburg, Sweden and my last brother is studying in Oslo and is living at home. So, I guess it is really more weird for my parents than it is for me, I mean with five children there is always someone around and something going on, and suddenly there is only one of them left living at home. I don’t know how to describe how it was like leaving them, the summer was over really fast. It was kind of like suddenly you realize you are sitting on a plane and you are on your own. Going to Harvard was something I was looking forward to, so I was looking forward to starting this new adventure and that was kind of how that whole process went. And at the same time my brother was leaving for Sweden, so it was kind of chaotic. But my mom and my sister took me to the airport which was really nice. The weirdest thing for me is that the triplets are separated, some of us have always been together. Usually I have been the odd one out, seeing as they both compete in the same sport and went to the same high school (I went to a high school with a football program and they with an orienteering program) and not to mention they are identical, and I am not. But now we are all separated; one in the US, one in Sweden and one back home!
I am glad I did not have classes from the get-go! I arrived in the U.S. August 15 for pre-season with the football team so I had some time before classes to adjust. In the beginning I had so many things I had to do and places I had to be, so it was stressful, and I was really just walking around trying to be at the right place at the right time. My teammates were great at making me feel welcome and helping me adjust.
Other than I have to speak a foreign language every day, I don’t know if there are any major cultural differences I have had to adjust to. I do notice some small things every now and then which makes me think like “huh, that is weird”. I had also been in the U.S. four times before I started here so that probably makes a difference.
The classes have been fine. It is more work than what I am used to from high-school, but I was prepared for that, I knew that I had to work more on school here than what I previously had. I think it is important to pick a schedule that won’t make sit in the library 24/7 but will allow you to have periods where you can relax a bit and do other things.
I love The Yard. First of all, the placement of it is great, we are so close to where our classes are, libraries, dining hall and everything except the sports facilities. It was cool during opening days how much The Yard changed from day to day with all the activities and things going on, I kind of miss that. But The Yard is beautiful.
Most of all I am looking forward to the experiences. You have so many opportunities here, both academically and socially, and my plan is to make the most of that; not just sitting in the library for 4 years.