I spent Valentine’s Day at Harvard University. I spent the day interacting with and learning from some of the best and brightest. This blog post is about how I came to be at Harvard College on V-Day, what I learnt and some of the many memories I continue to cherish.
It was 8am. The plane was flying over Boston’s beautiful coastline. I was headed to Harvard University to attend the Harvard College conference on Asian and International Relations better known as HPAIR. I was excited to be staying with Harvard students, and learning the tricks of how not to freeze given the temperatures. I was also looking forward to hearing Refugee International’s Daniel Sullivan, and Harvard Law’s Yee Htun talk about borders, migration and the refugee identity.
I had heard about conferences organised by Harvard University a couple of years back, while working as an educator in Delhi, India. Due to competing priorities, I never found the long, drawn-out application process at the top of my urgent-and-essential to-do list. However, this year was different. I had come to LSE with one core focus: personal growth. And experiencing the Harvard way of life seemed to fit right in. So I applied for a scholarship to attend this year’s Harvard College conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And that, dear readers, is what got me to Harvard for Valentine’s day.
Honestly, the first day in Boston was slightly nerve-wracking: new place, treacherous Google maps, dying phone battery and the freezing cold. But this lasted only until I met my host, a final-year undergraduate student. She was empathetic and spirited. And that seemed to rub off on me (nothing else can explain why I would abandon the warmth of the house and go out).
But it wasn’t just the kindness of my host that shaped my experience of Harvard. My experience was enhanced by the humility of so many other participants, the richness of each culture they represented and their empathetic friendships. I heard entrepreneurs and innovators talk about ground-breaking ideas to solve some of the biggest challenges, and saw friends brave the cold Boston wind to pose for click-worthy Instagram pictures. As the conference progressed, colleagues became friends, LinkedIn followers and secret-keepers. We reminded each other of session timings, shared food and discussed must-visit places. Experiencing a place with friends creates long-lasting positive associations, I believe. This is why I remember Boston with warmth.