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Breathe In The Snobbery, Or First Timer’s Guide To Visiting Harvard - Travel Notes

"How many Harvard students does it take to change a light bulb? One. He just holds the bulb up to the socket, and the world revolves around him." Harvard campus is a place that’s a little scary for anyone with inadequacy issues. You will probably feel like you don’t belong. That’s normal, and to be expected. You need thick skin and high self-esteem. For sure. THE school. The ultimate school. The school to brag about. $28k per semester. The school I never went to. You see the typical student attire of t-shirts and jeans. However, there is also significantly more knit sweaters. Maroon, dark green, yellow. And brown leather shoes. This is glorified Hogwarts with a really expensive price tag, and the largest Mac laptop per person ratio I have ever seen. And their own quidditch team. Am I anxious? You bet your maroon sweater I'm anxious. At least I have a Mac laptop. Here are four things you should do, while visiting Harvard:

1. Book a tourGo on a weekday. It will be a much better representation of a place, with classes running, and students bustling. During the tour, I find myself the odd one out. A typical visitor is either over 40, or under 15 - hopeful parents, dragging their bored children around the court yards. There is an overachieving mom-to-be, who looks about 8 months pregnant. Our guide is a smiley African-American student in Classical History. I ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. "Graduate school in Classical History to become a professor”, he says. Or law school.

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2. Hang out You can’t fully absorb the place by just taking a tour. Find a lounge, a student coffee shop. Find a study lounge, and read. Preferably something dense (so you look like you fit in. May I suggest Plato’s Republic?). Or better still, eavesdrop. A group of seven is discussing how to divvy up $12,000 in donations among various non-profits. Each group member takes copious notes on his/her Mac laptop. . Libraries - they won’t let you in (I tried). Unlike most academic libraries that I have been to, where people can come and go as they please, unless they want to take out materials, a typical library at Harvard is a fortress.

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3. Walk around the Harvard Square Check out the world’s only Curious George store, or Zinnia, a unique jewellery store, with some very unique locally designed pieces from wood, steel, and other materials. Bookstores? God, yes. There is the Co-Op. Prounounceed “coup”. Raven Used bookstore. Harvard bookstore (you can finally get that Harvard t-shirt). Poetry shop. Food? Meh. Nothing spectacular around, but if you feel like a burger, check out Bartley’s. It will be busy. Larger groups may have to wait to be seated, but couples and singletons will be in and out within 20 minutes. Bring cash.

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4. Sneak into a classroom Ok, this last one is for the more determined ones. Like with most universities, the class schedule can be found online. I would suggest cross-referencing the potential course you are interested in with the classroom size - it will be easier to slip in and out unnoticed out of large lecture halls. That way you also avoid disturbing a small graduate seminar class, discussing the finer points of literary criticism. Or something equally dense. Happy Harvarding. Liked this post? Check out the essay I wrote after the Boston bombings, and why I went to Boston a  year later. Hugs, SOLO

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