Campus & Community

Defining moment

Students enter campus gate.

Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

5 min read

We asked a group of first-years to tell us about themselves. Read their answers now, before they change.

People change — young people, especially. The speed with which it happens is sometimes dizzying, sometimes thrilling. Inspired by her own college experience — specifically the memory of Nora Ephron telling Wellesley’s Class of 1996 “You are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever” — Gazette photographer Stephanie Mitchell asked a group of Harvard first-years to describe how they see themselves today. She’ll check back in a year to find out if the same three words apply.

Free. Independent. Friendly.

Sofia Chavez
Hidalgo, Mexico

“I’m learning how to be independent for the first time, leaving home and my country. I’m allowing myself to be free and to explore myself and to know myself for later on to become a citizen of the world.” Among Chavez’s interests are women’s and gender studies and sociology. “I love meeting new people. I love knowing their backgrounds, their stories.” Perhaps most of all, she’s looking forward to “finding those special characters who will make my College experience unique.”

Sofia Chavez.

Fun. Kind. Excited.

Myra Bhathena
Andover, Massachusetts

“I always take pride in being able to light up situations and people I’m around,” says Bhathena, who plans to study global health. “I think it is important to find the humor and the light in life. Building relationships is the most important thing to me. I believe it is important to have empathy and show love for others.”

Myra Bhathena.

Creative. Passionate. Fun.

Nali Gone
Cambridge, Massachusetts

“I see myself as a very artistic individual,” says Gone, who loves music and reading and expects to study psychology or sociology. “One of the main things I’m looking forward to this year is learning more about myself and the other people here at Harvard, because I really want the opportunity to grow into myself. I also want to make lasting connections and try to learn as much as I can, both inside and outside of academics.”

Nali Gone.

Friendly. Excitable. Ambitious.

Dara Omoloja
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Everyone has always told me that I’m super bubbly, and I’m pretty easy to talk to,” says Omoloja, who will concentrate in cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology with a secondary in global health policy. “I am most looking forward to the immense personal discovery that everyone mentions when thinking about College. I am always aiming to develop myself into the best version I can be.”

Dara Omoloja.

Driven. Independent. Ambitious.

Gabriel Gerig
West Palm Beach, Florida

The first student from his high school to be accepted into an Ivy League university, Gerig will study economics with a secondary in computer science. He plans to attend business school. “I believe to do anything in life you have to have a passion and you need to be driven in order to succeed. I have learned over the years that it is very important to also be independent.”

Gabriel Gerig.

Excited. Determined. Outgoing.

Riley Flynn
Phoenix, Arizona

“I’ve been trying to meet a lot of people this week and just put myself out there as much as I can,” says Flynn, who plays on the softball team and plans to concentrate in human development and regenerative biology. “I am determined to do well in both academics and athletics. I am most looking forward to meeting people from all over the world and taking classes that interest and excite me.”

Riley Flynn.

Relieved. Emotional. Over the moon.

Taylor Browning
Carluke, Scotland

“It was a total shock to even be here,” says Browning, recalling the planning that went into his journey to campus. “It’s strange being away from home … and not just being able to phone home because there’s a time difference.” Connecting with classmates from all over the world, he is filled with excitement. “At the moment, I’m just looking forward to a whole new phase of my life.”

Taylor Browning.

Funny. Critical. Thoughtful.

Kojo Acheampong
Spotswood, New Jersey

“Funny because I make people laugh, critical because sometimes I’m a skeptical person, and thoughtful because I think a lot; I’m an overthinker.” Acheampong will focus on computer science and African American studies and plans to volunteer with Phillips Brooks House and other local organizations. “I’m looking forward to growing more in my own personal ideas and ideology as well as getting experience in service.”

Kojo Acheampong.

Adventurous. Ambitious. Authentic.

Austin Wang
Waterloo, Canada

“I look forward to stepping out of my comfort zone with clubs and activities and such, even if they might be unknown and unfamiliar to me, thus the adventurous and perhaps ambitious part. But I also hope to further discover and develop myself as a person and to stay authentic in my interactions and discussions! Overall, I’m enjoying campus life and the college experience so far.”

Austin Wang.

God-loving. Adventurous. Passionate.

Bradley Chinhara
Harare, Zimbabwe

“I’m adventurous because ever since I was a young kid, I was exposed to a lot of things at once. That caused me to have diverse interests. I’ve always loved exploring new things. I’ve always tried to be multi-faceted, like for now, I do electrical engineering, but at the same time, I’m on the rugby team, and at the same time, I play marimbas.” Chinhara expects to concentrate in electrical engineering or computer science, but is open to change. His Christianity is a guiding force in his life. “God has always been my No. 1, the biggest part of my life. Why I’m here.” His passionate disposition comes from his family, “I really love my family and when I get attached to someone or when I talk to someone, I am quick to care for them and love them.”

Bradley Chinhara.