Hi all! Don’t you love when you have a commitment somewhere, and things don’t go as planned afterwards, making a shift for the better? I had that same feeling when I found myself in Harvard and had to work after the said commitment. I tried to go to the cafeteria of Harvard Art Museum (which is free for MIT students, so I will visit it later), in a very beautiful and tall hall. However, there were no plugs. After 15 minutes, before I knew, my laptop battery was over. Therefore, there was no choice but to find a new place to work from. But something inside me, in a sunny afternoon, told me:
“You’re around Harvard University for the first time. Wouldn’t that be a waste not to stroll around for a little while?”
In fact, I dreamed of knowing Harvard all my life. I quickly checked that I had my camera with me, and off I went. Again, like my previous walks around town, I didn’t have that much battery left. Perks of coming unprepared! I gave myself about 1 hour before finding a new cafeteria to work from. So off I went.
MIT is beautiful, but Harvard looks older and cozier in a way. No wonder, since Harvard University is the oldest university in the USA, founded in 1636. While there are extraordinary buildings, everything feels so simple around here, with the brick houses and the connection to the community.
I got inside the very quiet Divinity Ave and photographed a very simple building first. Yes, this is the home of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, one of the leading institutions in the area of my PhD thesis. It is such an honor to wonder all the amazing research that goes on inside such a simple building. In a way, this reminds me of the first institute I worked at, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, where the buildings were not flashy, made with bricks, but the laboratories inside are amazing and cutting-edge research on biology is made there every day. Memories appearing everywhere without question!
I had been told that the Peabody Museum was in the end of Divinity Ave. In fact, I found even more museums: Divinity Center, Herbaria and, in Oxford St, right around the corner, the quite famous Harvard Museum of Natural History. I couldn’t visit any of these due to the lack of time, but they are free on Sundays, so I definitely have to get some free time to visit these museums.
After walking some time through the snow covered gardens, squirrels and red berries, I landed in a large courtyard, facing the Harvard Law School. Before taking photos to this impressive building, two squirrels distracted me. The main entrance seems to be inspired by the Greek Temples, which is impressive and my camera couldn’t capture quite well, but my favorite was another entrance. I have a major crush for Moorish inspired palaces and buildings in general. So, I felt taken back to my hometown (Sintra, Portugal) that has some of the arches and colors that I find so typical, and also taken back to a very special trip I made to Andaluzia in 2013. This reminds me I have yet to write about it. Oh my, time flies!
Finally, without much planning, I felt drawn to the Cambridge Common Park. I will be honest, I haven’t done much research about the public parks here in the area. As you can see in my Beacon Hill post, Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States. However, the Cambridge Common is almost as old. I felt so inspired by learning that the area of the park today was so meaningful to American history. The park was established in 1630 and was part of the Old Indian Trail from Charlestown to Watertown. I learned about the exodus of Thomas Hooker, a puritan priest, who fled in 1636 from Massachusetts into what is now Hartford, Connecticut in disagreement with John Cotton, the leading minister of Boston.
The park is super beautiful with the snow, but I wasn’t expecting at all what I found. I saw a flag of the United States of America and three cannons, along with a sign under a tree. About the tree, this is presumably the tree under which George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, first took command of the American Army, in July 3rd 1775, leading the way to the independence of the United Colonies. Then, the three cannons were abandoned by the British forces when they evacuated Boston in 1776, ending the Siege of Boston, one of the first events of the American Revolutionary War.
I was starving already, so I made a detour to find a cafeteria around Harvard Square and then head home. I turned into Appian Way, which reminded me of my time in Rome in the Via Appia catacombs (more memories, come on!) and I found the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It is impossible not to notice the contrast of the red banners against the snow, as empowering as it can be with the message “Learn to Change the World”. I got a bit meditative after this, wondering if what I am doing here is learning how to change the world. I believe most of us in grad school sometimes wonder if our projects will be useful after all the dedication we put into them. I cannot say that my project will change the world per se, but what this reminded me to is to put more and more passion into everything that I do, and things will come naturally. Who knows what worlds I may change with my project? And moreover, what worlds can I change with my actions through life? I can safely say that, in this short period of time I have been here, I have been learning how to change not the world, but how to change my world. This experience here has challenged me in so many levels, but I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
I thought this would have been the last picture of this post by then, but after I left the cafeteria and walked home, I just remembered I hadn’t been to the Harvard Yard yet. The Yard is the oldest part of the campus and is a very nice park with some majestic buildings, such as the Widener Library and the Memorial Church. Again, I just let myself be guided by my instincts and hoping that I still had battery on my camera to photograph the sunset. It was a magical way to end the day, where I felt a sense of ease and imagined myself strolling through a past era.
I am sure I will come back to Harvard, not only to explore this campus and visit the museums, but also to visit the other campuses in the south bank of the Charles. Hopefully, with such a beautiful sky and light as this time.
P.S. This visit was in March and now it’s May. I still didn’t manage to visit Harvard again but I will soon. Anyway, since March I’ve been to many places around here and I can’t wait to write about those. Stay tuned! In the meantime, tell me if you’ve been to Harvard and what are your favorite parts of the campus! And don’t forget to follow my journey around my PhD in the US in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to keep up to date!