This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.
When Harvard University “de-densified” the campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19 last March, Robert Malate ’21 left Cambridge and traveled nearly 8,000 miles to his home on Saipan in the Northern Marina Islands.
“That was one of the toughest things I had to do. The time zone difference was 14 hours, and all of my classes were still ongoing,” he said. “I remember waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning to go to class. Having the discipline to push through and finish that semester was a huge adjustment for me.”
It was also a huge accomplishment that reinforced a lesson he learned time and again over the course of his four years at Harvard: passion and perseverance really do pay off.
Valedictorian of his high school class, Malate knew he wanted to pursue engineering and that he’d have to leave the island to do it. He figured if he had to go abroad for college, why not apply to the top Ivy League school?
It was a thrill to be admitted, but also a challenge to adjust to life so far from home. The population of the entire tropical island of Saipan (only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide) is about 55,000, while metro Boston, with its cold and snowy winters, is home to nearly 5 million people.
Malate, who chose to concentrate in mechanical engineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), found that building a tight-knit network of friends was a cure for homesickness. He developed strong relationships with peers in the Harvard Undergraduate Robotics Club and Harvard Undergraduate Aeronautics, where the aerospace-minded Malate had the opportunity to build an aircraft for the first time.