This spring break, we asked our writers to keep in touch with a postcard. Thankfully, no postage was necessary: we recieved four digital dispatches from cities across (and just outside) the country. Spring break forever!
The summer before my senior year of high school, after three years of riding the school bus, I finally got a beat-up Ford Taurus. While driving myself to school for the first time, I realized I didn’t know how get there. I relied on Google Maps to navigate, and my friends made fun of my hopeless sense of direction.
This spring break, my navigation skills were once again put to the test. A high school friend flew from our small-town suburb to Boston, and I had to direct us from the airport to campus. Luckily, this time around, I knew the route: Silver Line Bus, South Station, Red Line, Harvard Square. This was the first of many navigation tasks.
I used my internal map of campus to lead her through a day in my life at Harvard. At our first stop, Widener Library, I found myself explaining its origins, repeating stories I’d overheard from passing tour guides: “When Harry Elkins Widener from the Class of 1907 passed away in the Titanic…” Next, I took her to Smith Center, where I made her touch the wall covered in plants to prove to her it was real. We then observed glass flowers in the Natural History Museum — plants that weren’t real.
As I temporarily assumed the role of Harvard tour guide, I realized the extent of my campus knowledge, and not just in a geographic sense. As a freshman from an underrepresented area in Georgia, I sometimes felt like an outsider; as though everyone knew more than I did about my college. But this break, I realized that I knew how to get to and from Boston, I knew the best place for ramen, and I knew which buildings were nice on both the outside and the inside. For the first time, I felt like an insider. It was a jarring shift in perspective.
To my friend, of course, I wasn’t different from any of the other students who roamed campus and claimed ownership of the space. I was just another one of them: a student traipsing around campus without any help from Google Maps.
—Magazine writer Jen E. Oh can be reached at email@example.com.