Last year as a freshman, I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in with the fencing team. I was a quieter type, and it seemed like many of my teammates were louder and more boisterous than me. Add that I was a walk-on, and while the team didn’t treat me any differently than the recruits, I still felt a little out of place, like I didn’t quite belong.
To be the most successful athlete that I am capable of being, I must play for more than just myself. To be the most successful athlete that I am capable of being, I must play for more than just my teammates. To reach my highest potential, I play for my community.
As my senior spring semester starts, I find myself reflecting on all of my experiences at Harvard over the years. While many of my greatest memories were made on the ice with my teammates, many more were made away from the ice, gym, and locker room.
The thought of me going to Harvard never amazed me as much as it amazes others until the summer after my freshman year. When I first committed, I was excited not because its Harvard, but instead because of the people I would have the opportunity to spend time with. After meeting the other three girls in my recruiting class, I could not wait to be with them for four years and I had high hopes of befriending many other remarkable people.
Ultimately, my time with NextEra proved to be an invaluable experience; one that essentially convinced me to declare Computer Science at the beginning of this month. Without the opportunities provided by this great school, I may never have discovered my passion for programming.
Beginning my first semester of college proved both challenging and exhilarating. It was a time of firsts: first night away from my parents, first meal in Annenberg, first midterm, first college golf tournament, and more. It was a whirlwind of problem sets, practices, and meeting new people. Everything was up in the air, susceptible to change.
I don’t think I’ll forget move-in day. So many suitcases and so much sweat on that 85-degree day. I remember lugging my bags up the three flights of stairs, and then, after several trips, still remembering that I had to grab packages from the mail room as well. That whole day, and, frankly, that whole week was overwhelming and I often found myself asking out loud and internally, “what’s next?”
On a crisp wet Saturday, my teammates and I boarded our van for a very special home match. Instead of playing on our usual home courts, we would be competing at the Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center in the Dorchester section of Boston. Sportsmen’s is a club dedicated to helping the community through lessons learned on court.
The typical image of a student-athlete is a tall, strong-looking person, donning jackets or shirts representing his or her respective sport. Student-athletes may have graceful movements, outstanding social lives, and indeterminate physical resolve. One may gaze upon student-athletes and wonder how they can maintain such straight postures and have so much energy outside of their practices.
There are many core qualities that are bred into the ethos of a Harvard student-athlete. For one, we are taught balance—how to make each side of the river compatible with the other. We are also taught commitment—how to dedicate yourself fully to a goal with a viable chance of failure.
The most popular advice I hear from graduating seniors, alumni, professors, and elders in general is to take advantage of the opportunities presented in front of you. It can be overwhelming at times with the constant feed of new emails and event flyers, but you never know what you can find after taking that first step in exploring a new opportunity.
WHO ARE WE?
This is how we start every match. We come together, excited to represent the Crimson with passion for the game. It gives me the chills every time. The fact that I get to be a part of this team and a student at this college never fails to amaze me. Every time I step on the court, I remember how blessed I am to be at Harvard, a place where opportunities are seemingly endless.
As move-in day approached nearly a month ago, I had a moment of realization. This is it, the last beginning of my Harvard career. So as my family and I loaded up our ’05 Ford, bungee cording the trunk closed, I started to reminisce. Past senior teammates had always told me that the years would fly by and that I’d be a senior before I knew it.
Call me a nerd, but sometimes I really relate to Luke Skywalker. If you’re unfamiliar with the Star Wars story, he’s a kid stuck on the desert planet, Tatooine (sorry Hoosiers), who goes on an epic journey through the galaxy. Along the way, he meets some of his best friends who help him realize his Jedi powers. Now, obviously I’m not a Jedi because I’m not that cool, but there is something notable about Luke’s journey.
Yet to return to a normal state after our Ivy Championship title defense this past weekend, I have found myself decidedly unproductive the last few days. It’s okay though – that feeling of satisfaction after a successful outcome of a semester of hard work and sacrifice is worth being enjoyed. If anything, it leaves me more motivated than ever to push hard through my busy reading period and finals week.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” It’s still hard for me to fully register in my head that I’ll be wrapping up my sophomore year at Harvard in less than a month. It doesn’t feel all that long ago since I first stepped foot on campus, a starry-eyed high school golf recruit gaping in awe and marveling at the unfamiliar magnificence the architecture and statues seemed to exude.
I’m privileged to spend about twenty hours each week rowing for the Radcliffe Varsity Lightweight rowing team (RVL). When I’m not on the water or in class, I am likely to be eating, studying, or socializing with my teammates. Given the amount of time I spend with these people, I’m lucky that they are some of the most ambitious, well-rounded, and inspirational individuals I have ever met.
“We have a sailing team?” That is probably the most common response when I tell someone that I’m on the Harvard sailing team. Frankly, it makes sense. College sailing is a niche sport and not many people know what we do. However, for the thirty members of the Harvard sailing team, the sport has made an indelible impact on our college experience.
I still remember sitting in Wigglesworth with my seven blockmates, waiting for our housing assignment two years ago. We watched crowds of upperclassmen sprint around the yard, excited to welcome freshman to their houses–where they will live for the rest of their time at Harvard.
Earlier in the semester my friends and I had a great Sunday hiking Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. As most things that occur while being a busy student-athlete, the trip came together pretty last minute.
A star of Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, and her ever popular skit with Drake, the one and only Leslie Jones made an appearance on campus this past weekend. Thanks to the Office of Student Life, all students were offered tickets to her show, completely free of charge. That Friday evening, after a few classes, a quick practice, and a convenient Annenberg dinner, I met up with a few friends and headed to Sanders Theater.
People often ask if it's easy to get lost at a big university like Harvard, but in my opinion the size of the university is actually one of its most underrated assets. I’ve experienced this advantage of access through the research project on human capital in startups that I’m working on at the business school.
It’s a brisk Tuesday morning in Cambridge as I walk down Garden Street. I pass the shuttle full of students from the quad, and make my way toward Radcliffe Yard. I turn into the brick walls and walk through the gate of one of my favorite places at Harvard. Once home to the classrooms of Radcliffe College, Radcliffe Yard now houses administrative buildings, education school offices, and the Schlesinger Library.
Being an athlete at Harvard definitely made my transition easier as a freshman. If I had questions about life at Harvard, how to make a class schedule that wasn’t too overwhelming, or what this crazy thing called “shopping week” was, I had a guaranteed group of 20+ seasoned veterans to turn to.