Will D’Epagnier, Visual and Media Arts ‘19, sits on a bench next to me at the Harvard University Science Center, sporting a dark gray Perry Ellis suit, loafers, and an appropriately crimson and gold tie (the colors of Adams House at Harvard). “Look, I’m not an elitist, I’m an every man’s man,” he says revealing his short sleeved button-up shirt. “I’ve been [going to Harvard] since freshman year. It’s just nice to get away from Boston because I think Cambridge and Boston are totally different places. I think it’s a nice place to get away and it reconnects me to my love for academia because...sometimes Emerson feels like a trade school.”
I have looked far and wide at Emerson to find someone who shares the same passion for spending time at Harvard as Will, but no one seems to. Will attributes this to the well-known concept of the “Emerson bubble.” He told me that this feeling of being enclosed in the Emerson bubble is what first made him want to broaden his horizons within the hallowed halls of Harvard. “Sometimes you need to get inspiration from a place other than the one you call home,” he told me as his sipped his almond cortado. D’Epagnier says that he typically visits Harvard approximately ten times a semester, usually to do work or relax with a book. Typically his visits are comprised of a trip to one of the area’s many coffee shops, a walk through Harvard Yard, and a cursory glance around for Malia Obama.
In terms of the actual campus, many of the buildings at Harvard require a University-issued ID to get into, but there are a few that are open to tourists, and those of us curious about the Crimson culture. The Science Center, located just beyond the Yard, is home to a new Clover restaurant, an ancient computer, rooms that house classes by day and (occasionally) the Harvard College Stand Up Comic Society by night, and semi-public bathrooms in the basement. A decent amount of the Houses at Harvard have manicured courtyards, complete with outdoor seating and hammocks for the ever-busy Harvard students, who also need escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. These courtyards typically have gates, which are often open during the day, so you might be able to sneak in and do some light reading or casual people watching, but be weary of invading other people’s living space. If you’re looking to hang with the Harvard locals, there are other, potentially less intrusive places to spend your time. Brianna Suslovic, a 2016 Harvard graduate, says that if non-Harvard students want to hang out at Harvard they should pay a visit to Cafe Gato Rojo or Boylston Hall because “cool people hang out there.”
If you’re looking to go to a Harvard party, however, things are a little different. When I asked Will if he had successfully snuck into any of these elusive events he told me “I haven’t snuck into any buildings or parties successfully...yet. It’s kind of intimidating, I’m scared that if I go there they’ll be like, ‘Oh, what house do you live in?’ or ‘What major are you?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know.’” A pro-tip if you’re trying to blend in during a Harvard conversation is to replace the word “major” with “concentration” when talking about what people study.
Parties at Harvard are not like Emerson parties. Yes, of course there are the ones held in so-and-so’s room with various substances, a classic party genre seen on almost every college campus in the country. But then there are Harvard parties. Many of them are catered and come complete with a bar and DJ, like the annual Halloween party at Currier House or Eliot House’s famous Fête formal, which features a champagne bar and live swing band. The University’s Final Clubs, which are typically run like a fancy Greek Organization, are known for having wild parties that rage into the night, complete with bouncers, lists, and lines of people waiting to get in. It seems that if you want to really experience the Harvard atmosphere, you need to actually befriend the people on the inside.
So what do Harvard students think of others trying to infiltrate their elite institution? One student, Eleanor Lieberman ‘19, said, “I don’t really mind it, but I think it is odd. Also most people don’t care if you go to Harvard or not.” Which seems to be the sentiment of most Harvard students I talked to, they just can’t be bothered with spotting the posers. Suslovic, however, said that she thinks that “Harvard being this inaccessible thing is bad for everyone involved! ...I wish I had more friends from outside Harvard, it’s strange to me how socially-secluded and elitist we are in this way.” Can we consider that an open invitation? Either way, there’s plenty to explore across the river.
Photography by: Hana Antrim