PRISE, Harvard’s undergraduate science research program, is full of smart kids, grant money, and cutting edge experiments. But deep down it’s still summer camp. And summer camp has always been a time-warped, over-sexed, over-scheduled version of real life. So there’s the quiz bowl, the mandatory celebrity lectures, the repetitive dining hall back-and-forths, the awkward allusions to instances of PRISE-cest. Go forth and cross-pollinate!
Summer camp is often a fascinating social skills incubator. You’re forced to meet a hundred supposedly like-minded individuals, socialize with them, and walk away co-authors. If you don’t, you suffer the consequences, which may include sitting alone in the cafeteria or “not having a good time.” Both are fatal.
But seriously. I read an article in The New York Times that reported a recent spate of mothers bringing their 12-year olds in for leg and bikini waxes as preparation for summer camp. I saw it and thought, that’s bullshit. If they need any preparation, it’s this: Read the rest of this entry »
I took a computer science class a while back which involved some amount of audience participation. Naturally a few people dominated. The most conspicuous was a guy in pastel shorts and twice-conditioned hair who would always make comments like “that doesn’t work in the edge case.” He was clearly bright. And he clearly knew it. I thought he was a douche-bag.
At the end of the semester, we ended up on the T together to the airport. We formally introduced ourselves. Referring to our mutual class, he said “Not the best social scene. I probably sounded like an asshole.” I made some non-committal noise in response. But I appreciate self-awareness, and right then and there, I liked him a lot more.
The moment we meet people, we make instant judgements of their character, appearance, and coolness. This is neither avoidable nor undesirable, so long as we recognize that we need not stick to our initial judgements. It is acceptable, indeed expected, that your perception of a person evolve as you get to know him better. That he seemed like an asshole in the beginning doesn’t mean he actually is one; it also doesn’t obligate you to forever think so. Read the rest of this entry »
Embarrassing episodes are an inevitable part of social interaction, but given the right attitude, they can be transformed from a source of humiliation to a source of humor. There are two messages that I want to convey about embarrassing moments. The first is that when you embarrass yourself, other people don’t care that much. The second is that much can be gained by embracing these moments.
On the first point, even things that feel devastating in the moment are often forgotten ten minutes later. Sophomore year, newly placed in Adams House and eager to make friends, I made it a point to share meals with as many people as possible. One time sitting down at a full table of unfamiliar faces, I knocked over my glass of milk, spilling it all over the table. Mortified, I picked up my tray and left. It wasn’t my best moment, but ten minutes later, I was three tables over joking about the incident with some newly made friends. Read the rest of this entry »