Harvard University, class of 2016
Ana-Maria Constantin, Harvard University, MA, class of 2016
"Just be yourself" – the phrase my upper-classmates obsessed me with while I was still in high school, preparing to apply for college. It was the same piece of advice over and over again. It was kind of confusing for a 17-year old girl, a little insecure about her chances of getting in the college of her dreams, or about her academic future overall.
To be myself while writing my CommonApp Essays was both challenging and puzzling: there were plenty of things to say, and I had no idea what to start with. And as I figured that the only solution I had was to write honestly, from my heart, I took the courage to tell my humble story: how I grew up in my grandparents' house, in the countryside, where I came to appreciate and respect the Romanian traditions. How the beginning of high school meant saying "Good Bye" to my family and jumping by myself on a train to Bucharest, where I went to attend one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, the International Computer High School of Bucharest. How high school meant living in a Romanian-Turkish dormitory where I had to learn from an early age how to take care of myself and how to be responsible for the choices I make. How I attended advanced physics and astronomy classes, and how I eventually qualified for several international Olympiads. How I traveled the world for these Olympiads or for other research projects, heard thousands of stories, shared thousands of smiles, and made countless unforgettable friendships. And how by the end of high school, in the beautiful morning of March 30th 2012, at 6:00 am, after an overwhelming all-night wait, the Harvard admissions decision came: "Dear Ms. Constantin, I am delighted to inform you that the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid has voted to offer you a place in the Harvard Class of 2016". It was, I think, the most intense moment of my life. I immediately took a train to my hometown to celebrate with my family. I was happy, as I was now aware that all the efforts they made to pay for my study in Bucharest for the past 4 years had been worth it.
Everything else, since then, has been magic. The moment I stepped on campus I was immediately immersed in this Crimson culture, and it felt as if I'd always belonged there. There are literally no words to express how grateful I am for having the chance not only to study at Harvard, but to be part of the Harvard community. It's almost unbelievable how much my life has changed in the past year.
Harvard became my place, and I rediscovered myself and pushed my limits farther than I'd ever dreamed, both academically and socially. The courses I took were different from what I had expected in every single aspect: I have never worked so hard in my life, but felt so happy at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised by the unconditional support and positive attitude of the people around: I had the chance to attend a Computer Science class with a budget of 1.5 million dollars. I could e-mail my Professors or my Teaching Fellows at 4 am and they would still reply in 15 minutes at most. During the same course, I had the chance to attend a Hackathon (an epic all-nighter in which all the attendants prepared their final projects for the course) organized by Harvard with Microsoft, and interact with worldwide leaders in the IT industry. Through one of my other courses, the Astronomy one, I gained access to some of the top telescopes in the world, and I actually spent "observing" nights next to those telescopes, in order to obtain data for my research. All the resources available to students are always on top. For my Ethical Reasoning Class (where I studied concepts of modern philosophy and actually learned to apply them in current-day issues of politics and economics) I attended several Global Classrooms. This meant that during class, Harvard students (including myself) would receive an iPad and take part in video conferences with other students from Tokyo, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, and New Delhi, and attend live debates on global issues. It was a unique experience to see how the same concept applies differently across the globe, as a function of culture and traditions.
The courses I took are only one aspect of my college experience so far. By involving myself in several extracurricular activities, I got in touch with people who eventually became my best friends on campus. Coming from Romania, I was automatically included in the Woodbridge International Society, which is the "home away from home" for all the international students. Everyone I met there was unique, and the life lessons I learned from my classmates were more valuable than any class I have ever taken. As I think of everything I experienced in the past 4 months, my favorite aspect of Harvard is definitely the tight community of diverse individuals, who love and support each other unconditionally. By having this support, I succeeded in both my courses and my extracurriculars.
All in all, I learned how to wisely manage my time and ultimately achieve my goals. But most importantly, I learned to be humble and appreciate everyone around me. I learned how to look for the good in people, and how to respect them without stereotyping. I learned to ask questions and offer help. I learned to say "Thank you" from my heart.
So I honestly THANK YOU, people from the Fulbright Educational Advising Center. When I came to FEAC a few years ago I couldn't even hope to get into Harvard. I know for sure that this wouldn't have happened if it weren't for you. I am more than grateful for all the support you offered me while I was preparing my application package and I personally congratulate you on your wonderful work. At Fulbright, I have always felt at home, and for a student who actually lives far from home, that feeling is priceless. Thank you!
My fulbright experience
Students at the advising center