Campus & Community

It was a week like no other

Student staring out over the Charles River.

Fatima Reyes ’23 returned home to Los Angeles, but only after some quiet contemplation on the Weeks Bridge at sunrise on Sunday.

Photos by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

4 min read

Students mark their departures with nostalgia

Is surreal a strong enough word to describe last week? Probably not.

The coronavirus pandemic and corresponding upheaval of our lives led to complicated and layered responses as students left campus to finish the semester, many of them studying behind laptops in their childhood homes.

During my return to campus this past weekend, I found Joaquin Cortacans Sosa ’23 and his classmate, Ines De la Morena ’23, waiting for an Uber on Massachusetts Avenue. They were headed back to Uruguay and Dallas, respectively.

“This past week was probably the craziest of my life,” remarked Sosa. “Being told to leave Harvard to go home felt weird, because I’ve never felt more at home than at Harvard. It’s crazy, maybe even a little humbling, to think how easy it was for all my plans to fall through.”

De la Morena agreed, “This week has truly made me realize that the people make the place; leaving Harvard was hard but leaving the people I’ve met and everyday interactions is devastating. I could not be more ready to unpack my boxes in August and come together as a class once again.”

Currier House Faculty Dean, Latanya Sweeney, counsels a student.
“At each turn, we saw one Currierite helping another,” Currier House Faculty Dean Latanya Sweeney said of her week. “Currier is not a physical place, but one that occupies our minds and hearts and transcends physical space and time.”

Students’ responses ranged from listening to news reports non-stop, skipping class to toss a Frisbee, to partying midday. One student confessed to screaming, then crying, then screaming again. On several mornings, the Weeks Footbridge became crowded by seniors and underclassmen; they played music and enjoyed their final Harvard sunrises together. Eventually, rooms were stripped bare. Microwaves and futons and mini-fridges were piled into donation corners. Goodbyes were said as the students dispersed to the cars of waiting parents, ready to bring them home.

Like many around the world, Harvard undergrads are tasked with sorting through their feelings. Senior Aileen Villalpando Estrada expressed hers beautifully: “Our hearts hurt for each other, pained with the uncertainty of our futures, concerned over the safety of our peers. But I know that if I could do college over again, I’d do it the exact same way, no regrets, down to the last few days.”

Roomates carrying out a mattress.
Students helping each other with boxes.

Stuti Telidevara ’20 (from left), Aileen Villalpando ’20, Madeleine Joung ’20, Amanda DiMartini ’20 (back left), and Camille Sammeth ’20 (back right) move a futon from their room in Cabot House to the donation pile. Hannah Eckstein ’21 (left) gets help from housemate Ece Hakim ’21 as she moves out of Currier House.

Two students on a table.
Daniela Liera ’21 (left) and Andrea Bossi ’21 danced on the tables at a party before they left campus. “I woke up late to the news (because I watched ‘Contagion’ the night before) that we had to vacate campus. Today, things still feel (oddly and sadly) surreal. Reality didn’t sink in on that sad Sunday everybody left, even while being goofy on d-hall tables and saying bye to my friend for six months,” said Bossi.
Security guard helping students cross the street.
Custodian cleaning dining room.

Harvard security guard Diallo Clark assisted students with move-out at the intersection near Leverett and Quincy Houses. Custodian Dritan Llega did a final cleaning of the Winthrop House dining room.

Student Aaron Olkin ’20 (left) went to hear and ring the bells in Lowell before he left campus. Noam Elkie (center) and student Gavin Moulton ’20 stilled the bell following the final ring.

People stilling the bells.
Student listening to the Lowell House bells.
Student Aaron Olkin listened as “Fair Harvard” was played. Next, the bells rang four times, one more than the traditional three at 1 p.m. on Sunday. A few hours later, campus shut down.