Friday, 5 September 2014

Harvard uni life

I'm having flashbacks to my uni days.

With summer officially over, it's back to school for uni students across North America.  

It seems everywhere I go I'm running into packs from fraternities and sororities hitting the town and celebrating.

Today, I'm visiting Boston's esteemed Harvard University, where students are also shuffling back for another year.
John Harvard Statue getting a clean for the new academic year
Despite its grand buildings, leafy courtyards and centuries of history, I'm finding Harvard surprisingly ordinary... in a good way.

It seems even attending one of the Ivy League universities doesn't negate the need for students to do all the usual, boring, start-of-term activities: moving into accommodation, buying books, and finding lecture theatres.

These are the student rituals that are the same all over the world, no matter where you are.

There are even pop-up information tents in Harvard Yard where "older" students, presumably with names like Amber, Brock and Chontell, provide guiding smiles and information in loud, perky voices.

Given the annual cost of Harvard's tuition, room, board and fees is reportedly approaching $60,000, it's probably no surprise to find a temporary second-hand furniture stall in one of the uni's squares.

Here Harvard reveals its great fondness for futons.

Fold-out futons are big at Harvard
Students can also snap up a bargain-priced ironing board, laundry basket and lots of other things they've never had to use before.

Second-hand student supplies

Of course, wandering around Harvard I'm reminded that some things have changed since my first year at uni.

While I had my assignments loaded on a 3.5" floppy disk and was forever waiting for one of the communal desktop computers to become available, these students are lounging with their Macbooks on the grass in Harvard Yard, uploading their files to the "cloud" thanks to the uni's wifi.

Harvard Yard

But I don't envy these students.  Apart from facing the pressure to do well having secured a place at pricey Harvard, they also have to content with hordes of tourists (like me) meandering through their campus each day.

Imagine running late for an exam only to have to navigate around camera-toting tour groups.

It's no wonder there is a highly visible presence by the Harvard University Police; presumably there not only to keep the tourists at bay, but also track down late library books and administer caffeine and sugar to students suffering nervous breakdowns during exam times.

Harvard University Police - they know you've got overdue library books

Over at the nearby MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), there's less of a feeling that the "eyes of history" are tracking your every move.

In contrast to Harvard, they've adopted a more modern approach to their campus with high-rise buildings and the eye-catching Ray and Maria Stata Centre.

MIT's Stata Centre

A jumble of brick, metal and glass, not surprisingly this building is the home of the electrical engineering and computer science department.

It's funky and colourful, but I'm guessing it's unconventional layout makes it just that little more difficult for the Ambers, Brocks and Chontells of the world to orientate the new students.

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