Trying to decide where exactly to live in Harvard is tricky business, especially when you have never been to Cambridge, and you have to make your decision from halfway around the world (in my case, it was Beijing). If you wish to have Harvard University Housing (HUH) accommodation, you have to make your decision within a limited window of time, and you only have floor plans to visualize your potential abode. Yes, it can be highly frustrating when the clock is ticking, when there are no photos for your to take reference, and you basically have no clue where everything is. However, there are a few questions I found particularly helpful in making my decisions:
- What are the trade offs in choosing to live in this accommodation?
Rental costs, start and lease dates, proximity to the school, accommodation layout, accommodation size… these are all common considerations in deciding where to live. However, finding a place that checks every single box on your “ideal” list is tough, and thus thinking in terms of what trade offs (pros and cons etc.) are acceptable to you might be more helpful.
- What are you unwilling to compromise on?
You might also want to consider what you do not want to compromise on, no matter how many “pros” an accommodation seems to have. For me personally, I did not want a lease that started after my first week of the first semester, and ended before my final month of my last semester. I wanted lease dates that matched my semester start and end dates, so that I did not have to worry about looking for somewhere else to stay or paying for months that I would not be present.
- What first person perspectives can you reference from?
I was fortunate that my partner was already in Cambridge the year before, and could survey the surroundings of accommodation we were interested in, before reporting back to me to help me visualize the area. If you can, try to get in touch with current students who can give you first hand information on their experience in house-hunting and living in the various HUH accommodation – information you can’t just learn from a floor plan.
Jasmine Chin is a Masters in Education candidate in the Arts in Education program. She was an arts administrator and public relations consultant that dabbled in piano performance, singing-songwriting, and flash-mobbing prior to pursuing her Masters. She is currently enjoying exploring new creative mediums beyond music, as well as learning about how to create positive impact through arts and education.