Students reflect on their Harvard journeys

#MyHarvardJourney offers an inside look at the breadth and depth of student passions and experiences at Harvard College.

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Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself before beginning your Harvard Journey?

Harvard is not like buying a sandwich, it’s not like, ‘Oh, how good was the sandwich?’ It’s not a singular experience you have. It’s your life, you’re here for years, and it’s a big formative part of your life. I’ve had some of my highest highs here ever, but also my lows. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s something to learn from.

James Holloway ‘16
Temecula, California
Studying sociology

Q: Who have been some of the most important people on your Harvard Journey?

I have a very eclectic group of friends, ethnically and religiously. That is one thing I love especially about my blockmates, that there aren’t two people that think the same about everything the same way. We’re called the “interfaith council” by our friends. That’s a big asset of Harvard — being able to live in the same room with other people who absolutely do not believe in what you believe in. Different people think differently and you should still learn how to live with them. We’re eight people and we all have super different views. It makes for the best conversations.

Hajar El Fatihi ‘17
Casablanca, Morocco
Studying applied mathematics/economics

Q: What has been one of the best moments in your Harvard journey?

Even though I have minimal to no hiking experience, I became a leader on the Freshman Outdoor Program (FOP). There’s a lot more to FOP than just hiking. We went through this whole process of training to be a leader, which is pretty intensive. The last week of summer I was so nervous, it really hit me that I would be leading this trip, that I would be leading ten freshmen out into the woods and those lives would be in my hands.

A lot of FOP is self-reflection, and a lot of it is time to be introspective and we give a lot of opportunities to students to process. At the very end of it, we have one final processing activity, after we’re out of the woods, back on campus, and it’s already a jarring experience because you’ve spent a week with this one group of people and all of a sudden you’re thrown into campus when everyone’s here, everyone’s back.

We reflect on the week that has just passed and look forward to what’s about to come and what’s about to start, and I just started crying and it was really embarrassing, but all my kids — I called them my kids even though a lot of my FOPers were older than me — but all my kids started crying, and it was a very touching experience for me. It’s just hard to put into words the kinds of connections you can make on a trip like that and I think it was also a combination a lot of emotions of all different sorts piling up and overflowing.

And it’s such a crazy thing, honestly to me it’s magical the way FOP can bring people together. It’s something that stands out as special and something I’m grateful for, not just to FOP but to Harvard for creating those moments.

Minnie Jang ‘18
Ellicott City, Maryland
Studying history and literature, and pre-medicine

Q: If you had to pick one moment that was the true start of your Harvard journey, what would it be?

We had this Christmas tree in our college counseling office at school everyone had decorated. Acceptances came out at a specific time of day, and I went to the counseling office to log onto the computer and check. My friend already knew he’d been accepted, and he was really hoping that he was going to get in, and I obviously really wanted to get in. I have this really vivid memory of opening the email and being vertical, and then just hitting the ground surrounded by Christmas tree needles and my head was two inches away from this metal thing in the wall. My friend had just tackled me, so it really could have turned out very poorly. But we were so excited because we were going to school together another four years.

Chris Farley ‘16
Rye, NY
Studying government and history

Q: What during your Harvard journey surprised you?

I just auditioned for the Hasty Pudding during my first semester because at the time it just seemed like a fun thing to do. It’s really hard to get into it without having some sort of experience on campus acting in something, just because the process is so quick and so taxing physically and mentally. You’re doing 38 shows and spending all your time with the same twelve people. People want to know they can be in a room with you, not just on stage but backstage.

I was the only freshman my year — I was very lucky to have this role work for me. Things changed in a second when I got into the Pudding, and everything Harvard became this much zanier thing.

Max McGillivray ‘16
North Andover, MA
Studying visual and environmental studies and history

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