Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

What a difference a year makes

8 min read

Sophomores who described themselves in 3 words last fall get chance to change their answers

Harvard’s campus and community through the lens of our photographers.

Last year, Gazette photographer Stephanie Mitchell asked a group of Harvard first-years to describe how they saw themselves in three words. Inspired by her own college experience —particularly Nora Ephron telling Wellesley’s Class of 1996 “You are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever” — Mitchell followed up with the students this year to see how they’ve changed. Last year’s three words appear in gray for reference.

Free. Independent. Friendly.
Independent. Free. Possibility.

Sofia Chavez.
Sofia Chavez is pictured.

Sofia Chavez

Currier House

“It’s incredible how magical a year can be,” said Chavez. “I discovered myself in the sense that I don’t see myself as a daughter or an older sister. I see myself as an individual.”

After being inspired by the class “Comparative Politics in Latin America,” Chavez is leaning toward a government concentration in the law and justice track with potentially a secondary in economics.

“I am more confident in myself. I have new goals. I want to explore the world. I want to travel. I will continue to pursue my academic career and consider graduate school,” Chavez said.

Chavez also will continue to nurture her friendships, most especially with her roommates and suitemates, and aims to become more involved in the Latin American community and Harvard community generally.

“Last year was all like a dream, and now it is a reality, and I can trace a clear path.”

Creative. Passionate. Fun.
Enthusiastic. Creative/Artistic. Natural.

Nali Gone.
Nali Gone.

Nali Gone

Eliot House

“I feel like I had a transformative summer,” said Gone. “I was at home, but being in College had changed me, and I was still trying to grapple with those things. Now I’m coming into this year feeling more in touch with myself and what I want to do, and more adult.”

Having enjoyed classes in sociology, psychology, and creative writing, Gone is considering a concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

“I’m ready to do new things, learn new things, explore more. I really love creating things, looking at how people create things, and analyzing all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that go into that.”

Gone participated in community dance classes in modern and Soca fusion at Harvard Dance Center and attended a few Harvard University Native American Program events. This year, Gone hopes to get involved in a musical and take hip-hop and West African dance classes.

Relieved. Emotional. Over the moon. Organized. Optimistic. Settled-in.

Taylor Browning.
Taylor Browning.

Taylor Browning

Leverett House

Browning begins his sophomore year feeling more independent and adult.

With a focus on some combination of linguistics, comparative literature, and art history for his studies, he hopes to expand his horizons this year and achieve “a balance between fun and work.” To that end, he is looking to get more involved in dance organizations, rock climbing, and housing committees.

As a first-year, Browning was surprised by “how approachable and personable professors were,” especially in his smaller classes, where he enjoyed building a rapport and exchanging ideas. He is excited to return to his friends, many of whom are also from the international community. (Browning is from Scotland.)

“I think I grew a lot in terms of resilience,” Browning said. “I thought I was resilient coming into College. I encountered more challenges, and the fact that I’m still looking forward to the year ahead is a testament to the fact that I haven’t let those things bother me.”

Excited. Determined. Outgoing.
Excited. Passionate. Ambitious.

Riley Flynn.
Riley Flynn.

Riley Flynn

Eliot House

Flynn, a rise ball and curveball pitcher, had a spectacular year on the softball mound. Her team won the Ivy League Championship and she was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

Planning to declare her concentration in developmental and regenerative biology, she looks forward to taking more specialized biology classes.

Last year she oriented herself on campus, “meeting tons of different amazing people from all over the place” and discovering along with her fellow first-years how she fits in here. At the beginning of her sophomore year, she is excited to be in a new House and making new friends.

“I am looking forward to embracing challenges and pushing myself to try new things. Ambition fuels my desire to learn, grow, and achieve my full potential in the classroom and on the field.”

Adventurous. Ambitious. Authentic.
Excited. Fun. Adventurous.

Austin Wang.
Austin Wang.

Austin Wang

Lowell House

“I definitely feel more at home. It is more familiar,” Wang said. “First year, I was trying to figure out where’s the laundry room, where is everything?”

After taking an intense integrated life science class that met every day last year, Wang bonded with his classmates and they formed a tightknit group. He researched pancreatic cancer with a lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studied Latin, wrote science stories for The Harvard Crimson, and volunteered at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.

“It’s really cool to meet all the people here. I was coming from a city where it’s fairly homogenous.”

This year, he plans to declare a concentration in chemical and physical biology. “I’m hoping to do more around campus and explore Boston in the fall. Hopefully, many adventures where I step out of my comfort zone await.”

Friendly. Excitable. Ambitious. Approachable. Adaptable. Vibrant.

Dara Omoloja.
Dara Omoloja.

Dara Omoloja

Leverett House

“I was most surprised how fast things change,” Omoloja said. “When I first got to campus, I felt I wasn’t doing enough social activity, but every day, I was doing these little things, always asking my roommates about their day, talking to people randomly, and doing kind things, and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by people, and it made me feel really good.”

Last year, she created and taught lessons to kindergarteners in Boston Public Schools, and this year, she is focusing on classes in organic chemistry, human nature, and creative writing. Initially intending to study psychology, she has shifted to neuroscience and is thinking about a secondary in the history of science.

“I have started my journey of self-love, self-acceptance,” Omoloja said. “In high school, I used to compare myself a lot, and I used to talk down to myself, but now, I feel more confident. I can speak my mind … I just show my true self always so it makes me really happy to be able to do that.”

This year, she looks forward to new life experiences. “I want good grades, I want nice friends, maybe a little romance. I am excited to see how I’m going to be at the end of this year too.”

God-loving. Adventurous. Passionate.
God-loving. Adventurous. Kind.

Bradley Chinhara.
Bradley Chinhara.

Bradley Chinhara

Lowell House

For Chinhara, who plans to concentrate in computer science with (probably) a minor in economics, the welcoming environment of friendly students and engaging professors has made the transition through the first year “pretty smooth.”

His descriptive words have remained the same, with one change. “I still put God first in everything I do. Even though I’ve been exposed to many different religions this past year, I still feel my faith plays a huge role in the things I choose to do, the things I choose not to do, and who I am as an individual.”

He is still adventurous, meeting people, making friends, and exploring new fields and activities. “Last year, it was all rugby,” which he will continue this year, adding the i-lab (he recently launched a software development startup) and dance to the docket. Amending only one word, Chinhara shifts to kindness.

And after his first year, he has learned to be kinder to himself. “I learned that sometimes I am a bit too hard on myself. You need to get this done. You need to do this perfectly. I can be hard on myself, and I have been trying to change that.”

The intensity he finds at Harvard “has definitely helped me to become a better person socially, intellectually. I feel like for one year, I’ve grown a lot. I look at life differently now.” Optimistic about the year to come, Chinhara said, “I feel like I’ve been smiling a lot more compared to freshman year.”

Fun. Kind. Excited.
Grateful. Motivated. Hopeful.

Myra Bhathena.
Myra Bhathena.

Myra Bhathena

Pforzheimer House

“This summer, I spent a lot of time with my family and friends,” said Bhathena. “Being surrounded by the people I love has re-established the things that drive me. Particularly, I’ve spent a lot of time with my grandparents, whom I love so much. And they feel so much older and wiser than I think I’ll ever get to, but I feel so lucky to have them in my life.”

Bhathena is pursuing a premedical track and plans to concentrate in economics with a secondary in global health and health policy. Outside the classroom, she plays club soccer, is on the improv team, and volunteers at the Y2Y homeless shelter in Harvard Square.

“I think I was surprised by where I found my people. I didn’t expect to find my best friends the third week of school at soccer tryouts. I didn’t expect to find people who will be in my life forever at an improv show. I think I was surprised the most by where I found people I love and how those relationships were built.”

Looking back on her first year, she said, “I was determined to prove myself. I was very intense about my classwork. And with some perspective, I’ve learned the importance of taking a break, not taking yourself too seriously, learning to find the fun in almost everything, and I’m grateful for that change.”