This story is part of a series of graduate profiles ahead of Commencement ceremonies.
There was a time when Oren Rimon Or ’23 “didn’t see obstacles.” Raised by a single mom, a teacher who instilled in her the value of education and the desire to thrive, she moved more than 5,000 miles away from her native Israel to attend Harvard. This was after volunteering in high school for an organization that aids refugees and taking a three-year gap to complete National Civil Service and work for a nonprofit researching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Then came her first year of college, a “bubble of stress” — but she credits the experience with helping her to mature. She feels more grounded and better prepared to confront challenges, even if that means recognizing the possibility of failure. “I changed from someone who went into things blindly into someone who acknowledges the obstacles along the way, and yet continues with her journey.”
Rimon Or — who came to Harvard interested in human rights and law but developed a passion for quantitative research — will graduate in May with a concentration in economics and minor in computer science. She already has a job lined up with a multinational company in Washington, D.C.
“It has been an interesting journey,” said Rimon Or, who’d only applied to Ivy League universities because their financial aid packages are more generous for international students.
When she arrived at Harvard, she said she experienced culture shock. “I had never seen such fancy buildings. Other people may feel comfortable in these spaces, but when you’re from a different background, at the beginning, it sort of alienates you, and that’s a very tough experience.”
Rimon Or moved to Winthrop House her sophomore year and began to feel more comfortable socially and academically. When the pandemic hit, she took a gap year, and worked from Tel Aviv as a remote research assistant to an economics professor. During her junior and senior years, her passion for economics and quantitative research only grew.
An emphasis on hands-on learning in high school made her a critical thinker, Rimon Or said. “I learned the importance of both exploring reality with your own eyes, and that of being willing to change your beliefs and opinions, according to what you see.”
At Harvard, Rimon Or worked as a research assistant for Winthrop House resident tutor and economics Ph.D. student Benny Goldman, compiling data on changes in minimum wage policies.
“I think at first, Oren was a little uncertain about her interest and what’s important to her and what she wants to do in the world,” said Goldman. “At Harvard, she has pushed herself to take all different types of classes and participate in different things on campus. She can manage a lot because she’s very organized and a clear thinker. That has allowed her to push herself academically in a way you don’t typically see with most students.”
Rimon Or looks forward to moving to Washington, D.C., to work for Ernst & Young Global Ltd., doing statistical analysis and surveys. She doesn’t rule out pursuing a Ph.D. in the future, but plans to spend at least a few years outside academia.
Her move to D.C. will be similar to her leap to Harvard, where she didn’t know anyone, but with a key difference. This time, she recognizes that there will be obstacles.
“I do have worries and fears. But I have developed the confidence that when you want something, you find a way to do it. That’s something that I’m proud of.”