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Thoughts on Autumn, Harvard, and the Future of Today’s Students

By Nicholas Alahverdian

Today I’d like to talk about things that are inevitable. Weather is an especially inevitable consequence of living in this great world, and we see things that we are privileged to see. These things may include tornadoes, snowstorms, the foliage of autumn, and many other supernatural beauties of nature.

In the Midwest, I have found it quite disconcerting that there really is no happy medium. I found that it doesn’t really have a transitional period. Between summer and autumn it has just gone from wicked warm to pretty cold in just a few short days.

Usually in places that I’ve lived such as New England and New York and even Utah, there are transitional periods where one is allowed to become acclimated to the seasons and the transition periods thereof. We sort of depend on this as human beings to invite us welcomingly into the next season. We simply don’t expect there to be such a binary approach to weather, where it goes from hot to cold to freezing with no meteorological intermission.

I must say that I miss the breezy days of the transitional period between summer and autumn that is profoundly present during the month of September. I remember walking through Cambridge or Providence and seeing the beautiful hues of the trees right before foliage starts to kick in.

I especially remember walking through Harvard Yard and seeing the new students coming in and becoming accustomed to trotting down the smooth pathways leading from Harvard Hall to Massachusetts Hall to Widener Library and that sort of thing. The quintessential New England collegiate setting really has a profound effect on one who is apt to appreciate the beauty of nature, intellectualism, community dynamism, and natural camaraderie.
I find it exceptionally amazing that there are so many beautiful places such as New England in this world.

Pondering the beauty of the region of my birth and growth is such a wondrous thing. The foliage is such a magnificent example of the perks of living in New England. Especially in Harvard Square, where one is apt to discover the overwhelming amount of stimulation of the senses from the scents of the multiple cuisines, the copious amount of languages and dialects, and the colorful panorama of harvest-inspired, tan-orange tones of stylish student wardrobes.

The beauty of nature combined with the beauty of people is one of the great things that admonishes one to have a profound sense of gratitude for living in New England.

September is a delightful time to be in Cambridge or Providence or Boston. There are so many things to do, and the excitement is endless. I find the weather only complements the beauty and serenity of the surroundings. Whether one finds themselves in a park or in a college quad, they are inevitably exposed to that beauty and immaculate landscaping that surrounds them.

September is the perfect time to sit beneath the tree, your back against the trunk, and read a book by, for example, Emerson or Lovecraft or Poe or Thoreau. The crisp, fall air passing by you, the opportunity to inquisitively yet nonchalantly cheer those who are determined to make class on time, gaze at the quintessential scholar with their shoulder bag in tow and their cup of hot chocolate or coffee or tea that is magically balanced in their hand as they walk at a fanatic pace while making an effort to not spill hot liquid on themselves while rushing from one hall to the next.

Autumn is typically associated with expiration, the death of the leaves on the trees and the mounds of yellow, red, and orange leaves gathering on the ground. But autumn is also a time of a sort of birth for the intellectual. Autumn helps to assist with the improvement of one’s mind, it is the time when most students are beginning again their studies. Autumn is the perfect season with which to engage in learning and study for me because of the colors of the leaves and the natural stimulation of the surrounding beauty of the landscape of whatever collegiate setting I would find myself in. It is especially inspiring and edifying, almost as if the colors surrounding me simply spark the creative corner of my brain.

To be engaged in the act of learning is to be immersed in a sanctified and ancient practice. New England is clearly the best place to find oneself when one wants to stimulate their mind and grow in intellect and knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is a process by which all factors of one’s environment must be taken into consideration. There are many factors but some of the ones that I’d like to highlight are the weather, the people, the architecture, and the collective spirit of those around you.

The breeziness and absence of sweltering heat is especially important for me. One finds that the quaint breezy air is such a refreshing feeling as one walks through the pathways on a quad, symbolic of the journeying from one stage of learning (compare: one stage of life) to the next.

In addition to the pleasant weather and meteorological variables, the people are also very important. One does not want to be surrounded by anti-intellectual cretins. One also does not want to be put in a place where they have to interact with people who do not prioritize the things that a scholar should be prioritizing. I especially found that in Cambridge there was a notable absence of this type of person. Everyone around me seemed to be immersed in their studies and they were able to multitask and engage in an interdisciplinary approach to friendship, conversation, and socialization.

The architecture, it goes without saying, is astounding. I remember the great red bricks of Harvard. I remember the tall, ancient trees that surrounded me. I remember the marble and the bronze and the brass. I remember the towers and the the grand steeple of Memorial Church.

The pathways that have been walked upon by those who went before me as students at the most prestigious university in the Western Hemisphere are hallowed in my opinion. It has been an honor to be able to walk those venerable halls and follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before me and had a priority, as I tried to have, to contribute to the intellectual vicissitude of society within their chosen field.

All of those factors that I have previously mentioned are absolutely essential to a good education. As I reflect on the amazing days, weeks and months of my time at Harvard and as I find myself in a rather depressing state (literately and figuratively) it is essential to focus on the positive experiences of my past. For all of those that now walk the grounds of Harvard Yard and enter the portals of Widener Library, Robinson Hall, Sever Hall, and all of the other magnificent buildings on the Harvard campus, I would like to point out that now is the time to prioritize the growth and intellectual development of yourself. Now is the time to focus on the things that really matter. Now is the time to understand that what you do now will determine your future and give you an insight into what your future holds.

Consider the factors I have mentioned. Avoid associating with those who do not prioritize intellectual development. Avoid those who seem focused on the things of the world and have no idea of how to prioritize academic and/or personal development. Avoid those who would do you wrong and who would try to snuff out the flame that you have kindled so as to retain the light of your desire for intellectual improvement.

I would like to close this discourse by mentioning that you are the wave of the future. You know that you have the potential and the responsibility to learn and teach with your peers because you will be the leaders of tomorrow. You are the ones who have been chosen out of a nation of people who think being average is adequate. You are smarter than them and you understand more clearly that the world is not just for being average or following a crowd or doing anything remotely related to the wasting of time and ultimately being dissuaded from your intellectual aspirations.

Now is the time to be the best. Now is the time to love your surroundings and appreciate the privilege to study in a magnificent and phenomenal place. It is absolutely essential that you take advantage of the friendships and acquaintances that you will develop.

This is the dawn of the day of awe for you. You are the chosen few. You will soon become the masters of the universe. Some may call this attitude pompous, but just remember that you have the ability to change the world and with that, leadership is the most important characteristic.

Onward, and go forth into the bright, beautiful, wonderful world of tomorrow. It is yours for the taking.


Nicholas Alahverdian
Harvard University. © 2012 Nicholas Alahverdian. All rights reserved.

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Nicholas Alahverdian

Nicholas Alahverdian is a Harvard-educated scholar and political activist. The primary scholarly focus of Nicholas Alahverdian is the intersection of philology, rhetoric, and politics. Alahverdian attended Harvard University where his advisor was Comparative Literature Department chairman John Hamilton. Nicholas Alahverdian is renowned for his work in reforming the Rhode Island human services system and his studies and analysis are cited in local and national media.