My name is Terilyn and I'm a freshman at Harvard University. Quite honestly, the idea of writing this testimonial is a little daunting because I don't feel like I have a "lesson" to share or anything like that, since I'm still very much figuring everything out myself. Still, I hope this helps a bit.
This semester I took four courses (Harvard freshmen must take no more and no less than 4 courses first semester): Math 1b (equivalent of Calc BC), Life and Physical Sciences A (intro bio/chem course), Chinese BX (Chinese course for heritage students, or students who already speak and understand Chinese, but need to learn to read/write), and a freshman seminar (pass/fail discussion class of 15 or less freshmen) called Imagining the Suburbs Post World War II.
I am involved with the Environmental Action Committee and will be its Outreach Chair next semester and I edit Manifesta Magazine (Harvard's first and only feminist magazine that just started). I'm still in the process of comping the weekly newspaper The Independent, and I have been to a couple of events for the International Women's Rights Collective, but haven't been too involved with that. I hope that changes next semester.
At the beginning of the semester, I was really anxious and self-conscious about not doing many extracurricular activities. I felt like I was just doing math homework all the time (which was true, but to be fair, I also super super exaggerated in my head) because problem sets took me forever. I just didn't understand how people had time to become so involved with so many activities. I was also super stubborn about my math problem sets in the beginning. I felt like I needed to figure out every single tiny problem I had by myself. And while that helped me really learn the material, it also really slowed me down because sometimes I would be stuck on a problem for hours because I had just made some small addition error. Anyway, I met with my section leader and we talked about how to speed up my homework process, and I went to office hours and the Math Question Center. My math class didn't become a breeze or anything like that, but I definitely got better at doing other things too. The great thing was, I learned that I really like math, which I never did in high school. And I learned that even though it's something I have to work hard at, I'm not bad at it. While there were a lot of little "discoveries" that happened during my first semester, this was one that was especially important to me because I had convinced myself for much of high school that I hated math and that I was horrible at it.
Another pleasant discovery I made was that professors and teaching fellows (graduate students who teach/lead sections and are basically extra resources for students) are awesome. Or at least, mine were. I had heard stories about professors who didn't know their students' names, etc. But I had the great fortune of having awesome, down-to-earth, brilliant and funny instructors. One ended up buying me lunch, and another invited all of her students to her house for dinner. Another went to the Freshmen Faculty Dinner with me and a couple of other students who asked him, and would send personalized emails to check up on his students. Meeting up with professors was as easy as literally shooting them an email asking when they could meet up, or asking if they would be interested in having lunch/dinner sometime. My teaching fellows were also amazing. One TF for LPSA would bring cookies and candy to section, and would always stop to talk if he happened to run into you outside of class. I could go on and on about all of the amazing profs/TFs I learned from, but that would take forever. I guess the important thing to remember is just not to fret about this.
When I try to sit and reflect on my first semester, my thoughts are all jumbled, maybe because so much has happened, and I haven't finished processing. So I really mean it when I say you should all feel free to email me with questions. I'll probably be able to tell you much more about college through specific answers than through this.
Happy New Year everyone,