Harvard Magic: The Sparkle We Take for Granted

e go to Harvard.

The day we accepted our invitations to this college, our lives changed. We were ecstatic—on top of the world, in fact—but does this reverence fade over time? Through the February slush and April monsoons we complain: we say that we’re miserable in Cambridge. When faced with these sentiments, all it takes is one look around to remind yourself that you are at the second most magical school in the world, after Hogwarts. Whatever any complaining blockmate may have to say, no one can deny that Harvard is an elite institution with the greatest professors and the most interesting peers on this planet. It’s like the Disneyland of American universities. This year, it was advertised to newly housed freshmen that Kirkland House is “where dreams come true,” but I can just as easily believe that this phrase describes all of Harvard. No other university in the world is like ours.

So why did we choose Harvard?

There’s something to be said for the fact that our professors are pioneers in their field; they wrote the books that your friends at other schools read for their courses. Not to mention they’re the ones we see time and time again as honored guests on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report (I’m looking at you, Steven Pinker).

We also come here for the student body. Harvard students are not only driven and ambitious, but also intriguing and accomplished beyond their years. They have taken incredible journeys with unexpected stops in order to get to this school.

As freshman Ariel Mitnick said, “The best thing about being at Harvard is that this place attracts the most brilliant minds of our generation. To be surrounded with people that are accelerating to the top of their fields while also managing to have fun and enjoy life is incredible and impressive.”

Late-night conversations often bring to the table gems of life stories that you would never have heard otherwise. That one freshman year entryway-mate who circumnavigated the globe with only a backpack and a toothbrush; that down-to-earth Phi Beta Kappa Junior; that roommate who went through Hell and high-water (and probably more than one job application process) to be able to afford this place; these are the people that make me think we’re much more remarkable than some of our professors could ever hope to be.

Or maybe we come for the magic that is Harvard. The freshman dining hall that is reminiscent of the Great Hall of the kid with the lightning bolt scar, or a library system that is the envy of all other universities (and almost the United States Congress) due to its sheer size and possession of an original Gutenberg bible. Or what about the fact that upperclassmen live in “houses” rather than traditional dorms? Based on word choice alone, it is apparent that Harvard students go home at night, to a family and a community, while most college students simply return to the impersonal living quarters of a dormitory—sometimes miles away from the center of any action. We even eat as communities rather than in large, hectic dining halls someplace across campus. Think about the Peabody Museum, which houses one of America’s oldest and most expansive collections of archaeological materials in the Western Hemisphere. I won’t claim here that I’ve even scratched the surface of why Harvard attracts such interest on a worldwide scale. As the oldest college in America, it has been advancing society and forming its history and the futures of its alum for nearly 400 years.

As current students, we should take a step back and appreciate where we are. Think about the number of bricks that were placed by hand to construct the buildings in the yard. Choose a random stack in Widener, pick up an equally random book, and I dare you not to get goosebumps as you notice a check-out stamp from 1886. Look at the John Harvard statue—but really this time. As Harvard students, we love to complain about the number of tourists that snap pictures with the lucky foot at all hours of the day—but at how many other universities across the world do tourists spend at least an entire day simply walking the grounds? All clichés aside, Harvard contains a certain undeniable charisma that—like it or not—we will all miss one day. So take it in while you’re still around, ‘cause it’s not going anywhere.