Happy Fall Things: Wise Professors ft. Other Shenanigans : )

Note: here’s a mandatory throwback to my November posts from freshman, sophomore, and junior year. Somehow every November always ends up becoming either my favorite or the most tumultuous month of the fall. Life is truly a cycle, not a progression.

Conversations That I’ll Remember

In Salem’s oldest witch shop, behind a curtain, the psychic slowly placed tarot cards before me. The answer to your question: closer to home, she said.

In Professor Jill Abramson’s investigative journalism workshop, various journalists visit in the week we read their work. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, who wrote a brilliant profile on Dylann Roof said, Ask yourself ‘why you’ when writing any story. Other people are also vehicles for interrogating questions about ourselves, our most intimate denials. David Barboza talked about patience in gathering string, connecting the dots, tackling roadblocks, and doing a story that initially seemed impossible. There is some way to get any story, he said.

And then there are Prof. Abramson’s own tales. Spanning a storied career, and her years helming the New York Times in a pivotal (albeit painful) moment of transition to the digital, her anecdotes lift the veil on the process behind some of journalism’s best stories, the editor’s perspective, and how she dealt with moments ranging from the NYT’s China ban to the death of her journalists in war-torn countries. Her insights are both electrifying and sobering.

At faculty dinner, sitting by the Leverett House fireplace mantel, Prof. Abramson told me, Go out into the world. Go rural. Go international. Returning to campus after a gap year knowing I’m going to become a journalist, I can’t imagine anyone better to learn from this semester.

On a balmy Wednesday, Yiting and I trekked to HBS to lunch with Professor William Kirby in his office (which was a marvel in itself, featuring scrolls, books in both languages, and an OMG moment when we identified a framed portrait of him shaking hands with Xi). No one tells better China stories, cutting through the rhetoric and mutual paranoia to the heart of the most important relationship of the 21st century. I still remember when I took Prof. Kirby’s Worlds of Business in Modern China in my freshman year, which brought in a dizzying array of top Chinese executives from each week’s case. That was probably one of the few moments when freshman me was like wow, this is only possible at Harvard. Next semester, Prof. Kirby will be teaching a class on The United States and China, which I’m planning to take. The four years come full circle.

What November Is

Climbing on ladders and branches with Emily to reach for round, cute, red, green apples. Munching on cider donuts with cinnamon painting my cold-flushed cheeks. Lugging an entire apple pie around a ginormous orchard, opening it with a flourish back in the dorm only to see that it has become apple crumble. Finishing our way through a bag of hand-picked apples for the rest of the month.

Rain coming down in sheets over my black umbrella as I sidestep puddles, following the tour guide by lantern light. The well-worn secrets of Salem slipping into the folds of my drenched gloves, the hour inching closer toward midnight when Halloween arrives. The town is a carnival for the dead, for terror, for whispered ghost stories, for the revival of history’s faded traumas. We stand somber and pensive around stones bearing the names of those killed in the hysteria of 1692—the melted wax on each stone like little halos beside the engravings. Twenty innocent lives. The real witches lived in the circle of girls who had first begun pointing fingers.

Taylor Swift’s songs. Reputation: blared in the Canaday common room every morning in a rotation of alarms. Lover: accompanied me on the flight back to campus in junior year. Folklore and Evermore: got me through the lockdown, then the pandemic, and everything in between. Red (Taylor’s Version): listening to “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” (what a title) on repeat, snug in my duvet as the heater whirs. It’s like Taylor invented the fall in her albums, but especially, always, ineluctably every shade of autumnal love is Red.

The mystery of daylight saving time (like the universe righting itself).

Four hours of howling in a real karaoke with Marwah, after years of us just belting out ABBA songs in the common room. Nothing beats roomie reunions ❤

Thesis-ing while compulsively snacking on Tatte’s Nutella cookies… In the background: a growing tower of library books on the couch.

Hey, look at that, Yiting says beside me. The moment always catches us unaware. A dewy morning on our way to core conditioning when we turn and realize the tarmac is carpeted in red and gold. Or a warm afternoon outside Emerson when a single gorgeous maple leaf can feel like we’re holding an entire season between our fingers.

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