Campus & Community

An empty square, a full summer, teaching tuba

In ‘Postcards From Here,’ three students share a slice of life

7 min read
Moshe Poliak.

Three students offer insights on how they continue to adapt in “Postcards From Here.” For Moshe Poliak (pictured), the story starts in Cambridge.

Courtesy photos

This is part of a series called Postcards From Here, in which Harvard undergraduates talk about the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Moshe Poliak ’22

Hometown: Haifa, Israel
Current location: Cambridge
Concentration: Psychology
House: Adams

Missing the madding crowd

“I miss the hustle and bustle in Harvard Square. I miss the throngs of people who flow through the Yard to different directions, each at their own speed. I even miss the tourists. A few weeks ago I went on an evening stroll to Harvard Business School and, seeing a lit office, I felt yearning for the desk inside to be manned (sadly, it wasn’t). At the height of the pandemic, I stood in front of the Coop at Harvard Square at 8 p.m. on a Friday — a time where the square is usually packed — and didn’t see a single car or person pass for minutes. It felt empty and abandoned.”

Heavy-metal memories

“I miss my family and close friends, whom I would have visited in May were it a regular year. Currently, I’m facing the challenge of dealing with the uncertainty regarding when I’ll get to see my family again. I text daily with my best friend from high school (he isn’t precisely a high school friend, but rather a bandmate from the time I sang in a heavy-metal band during high school). Sometimes, we video chat, which is a challenge because of the seven-hour time difference.”

Cooking up new skills

“My extracurriculars and classes are intertwined. I conduct research in psychology, [teaching fellow] for CS50, and [peer-advising fellow] for first-year students. I find those to be very fulfilling, but there is not much time left for other endeavors. I miss the figure-skating club, which I joined in the beginning of the spring semester. While staying on campus this summer, I was assigned a room with a kitchen, which allowed me to explore new cuisines. Now that I’m moving into a regular room with no kitchen, I’m not sure what to do with half a bag of gochugaru hot-pepper flakes and half a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms.”

Pandemic adaptations

“I’m surprised by how easily we as humans adapt. When the pandemic hit the U.S., life with social distancing seemed unimaginable. Now, we are developing new hobbies (which left its mark on the U.S. economy in the form of yeast and baking powder shortages), settling into new routines, and not shying away from meeting on Zoom even for personal gatherings. I’m looking forward to the fall semester, and I’m excited about the challenge of coming up with ways to make it even more meaningful and enjoyable than a regular semester.”

Madi Fabber

Madi Fabber ’22

Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Concentration: English and Theater, Dance & Media
House: Winthrop

Surprises abound

“One thing that I was worried about moving to online was a tradition of surprise birthday parties I have with my closest friends, complete with clever song parodies to celebrate the birthday person. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to do something special over Zoom. We’ve gotten creative, and for our quarantine birthdays we’ve made original trivia games and comedy skits dedicated to the birthday person. For my birthday back in June, they made me a video mashup of them doing comedic interpretive dances to one of my favorite songs. I have it saved on my laptop and watch it whenever I’m feeling a little down.”

Keeping a (virtual) foot on campus

“For most of my summer, I was a part of SHARP [the Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program], doing research for the Harvard Art Museums on family programming. I spent two months doing research to create an original activity book about museum curation. I was also a peer adviser for Harvard Summer School. Now that those are over, I’m doing research on a project for my English adviser, and I’m helping to write a women’s history tour of Harvard for the Visitor Center. I’m going into my third year working there, and we recently launched our virtual historical tour, so the women’s history tour is going to be a similar model. It’s been super interesting to comb through the Radcliffe archives to find photos for the tour. Apart from work, I spent the summer in Zoom dance classes with the Ballroom Dance Team and working on recruitment for the Radcliffe Choral Society as we figure out how to make music in the virtual space.”

Animal kingdom

“When I’m not doing research or extracurriculars, I am writing (plays, prose, and poetry) and reading a lot of fiction. It’s always fun to escape into a fantasy world for a little while, especially now. At home, I live in an apartment complex, and the parking lots are full all of the time. It’s such a little thing, but looking out my window is a constant reminder of how much our lives have changed in the past six months. Though I will be headed back to Cambridge for the semester, a positive of the past six months has been getting to spend time with my family’s pets. We have a dog, a cat, some fish, and my hedgehog, Joan.”

Lucy Poulson.

Lucy Poulson ’23

Hometown: Sitka, Alaska
Concentration: History & Literature (expected)
House: Mather

The really great outdoors

“When classes ended, I started working for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp as they repainted and later reopened the local gym. I now work there about four times a week at the front desk. I also mentor a local fifth-grader who is just starting on the tuba. Once a week we meet over Zoom, and I work with him on short solos and instrument fundamentals. I also try to spend as much time as I can outside. I am fortunate to live in a place where outdoor activities are never in short supply. [On a recent daytrip] my family went with a few friends to an island about 30 miles away from town and backpacked to a beach. In the early afternoon before going to work, I usually go on hikes with my mom and our dog, Belle.”

Sharing knowledge across the country

“My blockmates and I use a group chat quite regularly to spread information about the BLM movement as well as just sharing things that have happened to us. When I first came home, one of my friends and I did Zoom workouts together. It was a great way to keep in touch while still doing something productive, and it provided a nice break from classes too.”

Covering the community

“My mom runs a small student health clinic for the local boarding school, and although she usually gets the summers off, the parent organization of the clinic needed the staff for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is now testing people and calling in results, which puts her at a higher risk of contracting the disease. We are lucky though; she is still able to work when many are not. My dad works at our family’s newspaper, The Daily Sitka Sentinel, and early on made the decision to make the paper free to residents due to the vital need for accurate information during the pandemic.”

The politics of mask-wearing

“Although it took quite a while for the first case of COVID-19 to reach Sitka, the grocery store my family shops at started requiring masks for entry. Now, even though most shops don’t require masks, people are still choosing to wear them. It has turned into a very political issue, too, which I find fascinating as I can now tell which way a person leans politically based on their decision to wear a mask in public.”