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Life at Harvard University: Michelle Lee on Choosing Crimson for College Colors

January 9, 2012

by Michelle Lee (Dublin High School Class of 2011 and Harvard University Freshman)

Michelle Lee

I remember when I first found out that I had been accepted via Early Action to Stanford University.  I was in the car when the email popped up in my inbox letting me know I had gotten into my dream school, and I burst into tears of pure joy.  I spent the next few months imagining myself as a Cardinal, loading up on Stanford gear, and preparing myself to accept their invitation.

However, when the remaining admissions decisions came out, words can’t begin to describe the elation and consternation I felt when I learned that I was also accepted to Harvard University.  Thus, I faced one of the toughest decisions in choosing between Stanford and Harvard.

I decided to visit both campuses before making my final decision, and to my surprise, fell in love with Harvard.  I had been so set on becoming a Cardinal that I hadn’t given serious thought to the possibility of going somewhere else.  As soon as I set foot in Harvard, everything felt right.  The campus, the classes, the people, all made me realize there was no place else I wanted to spend the next four years.

After I enrolled at Harvard, I was eager to start the next phase of my life, but anxious at the thought of being across the country so far from home.  Saying my goodbyes to my family and friends made me fully aware of my newfound independence.  I had no idea what to expect, and I feared that I would be lost at such a prestigious institution.

One semester later, I have to say that I had made the best decision of my life.  I have found my home, and I have become part of the Harvard community in so many different ways.

In a few short months, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that college is far from easy.  Academics are harder than ever, but I have the freedom to study whatever concentration interests me.  I applied as a pre-med student but this semester has shown me that there are virtually limitless options to explore before declaring my major next year.

Dublin High School Senior Homecoming 2010

I have found the AP track at Dublin High School prepared me for the challenges of Harvard’s coursework.  In my first semester, I took courses in calculus, life sciences, expository writing, and Korean.  Classes often consist of lectures by professors together with smaller sections taught by graduate students, and supplemental student study groups.  Collaboration in study groups is a huge part of surviving Harvard’s tough academic load.  If I ever felt over-loaded, I only had to walk down the stairs to see my proctor, or set up a meeting with my academic adviser or PAF (Peer Advising Fellow).

This past December brought long, comprehensive exams that make up finals period, but Harvard’s reading period, a dead week with no classes, was certainly a nice change from high school.  There was even a Primal Scream to kick off finals week, with hundreds of stark-naked Harvard students running around the Yard at midnight in a time-old tradition :-).  Mind you, the weather in Cambridge is nothing like California’s gorgeous weather, a change I’ve adjusted to with about four more layers of clothing!

Harvard University Crimson Dance Team

Outside class, I’m part of Harvard’s Crimson Dance Team (CDT).  CDT has the perfect blend of dance and spirit.  Having danced competitively in the past, I was looking to renew my passion and was thrilled to discover that CDT would compete at nationals in Disney World this January.  Three of the many highlights were performing at the Harvard-Brown home football game (in the rain no less), the Harvard-MIT home basketball game, and the Harvard-Yale pep rally in preparation for our biggest football game of the season (which we won 45-7 :-)).

I was reminded of our Dublin High School Varsity Cheerleading halftime performances, and cannot wait for the rest of basketball season next semester.  I look forward to CDT practices every week as releases from my busy academic life, and I dance alongside girls who share the same passion and dedication.  I’ve gained another family with the fifteen other girls that make up this team, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

Harvard University First-Year Social Committee

As Senior Class President at Dublin High School, I was infamous for being the mass texter, emailer, and Facebooker.  Funnily enough, that experience continues in my publicity activities on the First Year Social Committee (FYSC) at Harvard.  I loved being a part of the leadership team at Dublin High, and wanted to find an avenue to continue leadership in college.  The FYSC was exactly what I was looking for, as a fourteen-member committee that plans large-scale social events for the freshman class to come together and enjoy.  Our first event, Fright Fest, was a Halloween costume catwalk and dance.  It was a huge success, with over 1,000 members of our class attending! We’ve put on a Thanksgiving celebratory Fall Feast, a winter wonderland themed Frost Fest, and next up is our Freshman Formal in downtown Boston.  Planning this event as a co-chair has felt strangely similar to last year’s preparations for Senior Ball, and we’re setting it up to be the largest freshman event of the year!

I am also a member of the Freshman Class Council (FCC), which is a different aspect of leadership on campus, with the financial ability to make considerable changes for the class of 2015.  We are given large funds that are allocated to various dorm common room improvements because they often serve as social spaces for the students.  The funds are also used to put on small-scale social events in a manner similar to the FYSC.  My involvement with both the FYSC and FCC have been extremely rewarding, and I hope to remain active through social leadership.

One of the best things Harvard has to offer is its diversity.  I’ve already met so many incredible people from all over the world, and many of my closest friends are international from places like Macedonia, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.  Listening to them makes me keen to study abroad in the future.  Every single person here has the drive to learn and succeed, and I need only look across my classroom to find inspiration.

Harvard University Wigglesworth Hall Dorm

This year, I live in a suite with four other girls from all over the country and abroad.  We live in the Wigglesworth Hall dorm, which is at the edge of Harvard Yard, where all the freshmen live.  Luckily, we’re closest to the Lamont and Widener libraries, where you’ll find students at all hours studying for the next exam or passed out on a desk!  Our window overlooks Massachusetts Avenue, in the heart of Harvard Square.  There you can find the Starbucks frequented by yours truly, the Chinese and pizza places open for late-night munchies, and the Coop, where we buy all of our books and school supplies.  Cambridge is truly a college town, and you’re bound to pass by classmates on the street whenever you go out!  I’ve learned to take the T, which is Boston’s version of BART, to get to places like MIT and the mall at CambridgeSide Galleria.  What’s great about Harvard and its surrounding area is that everything is so accessible. Annenberg, our beautiful Hogwarts-like dining hall, is only a few minutes away from the Yard and the majority of my classes are held within the Yard and the Science Center right outside so I can walk everywhere.

Every morning I wake up at Harvard, I think to myself how blessed I am to be there.  Being at Harvard can be overwhelming, but there is no other place I’d rather be.

At the Dublin High School 2011 Senior Awards Night Michelle Lee was named Jostens Senior of the Year (along with Ben Young) and Dublin Rotary Student of the Year, was awarded a Dublin Lions Club Scholarship, a Dublin High PFSO Scholarship, a Comcast Leaders & Achievers award, the Korean American Music Youth Orchestra Award,  the Livermore-Amador Symphony Award, the CFWC award, a Gael Achievement award in social science, was named a California Scholarship Federation Life Member, a President’s Gold Award for Educational Excellence, was named a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist, and earned Dublin High School’s Advanced Scholar Diploma. In her senior year, Michelle was elected Senior Class President and was named Valedictorian (her graduation speech is included at the bottom of this article).

Other articles in the Life in College series: