Harvard University is considered to be one of the best universities in the world. With such a high classification, it would be very important to have a study on the students in this university to establish their behavior and how they essentially carry themselves. Through an ethnographic study of these students, it is possible to determine and identify the students of this university depending on the general trends and the activities that take place in the universities. Despite the fact that ethnographic studies tend to focus on generalization rather than individual behavior, it would be wrong to think that the study will not give accurate information of the student life in the university (Brewer, 2000). Important to note is the fact that Harvard belongs to the Private Ivy League. The fact that the university has rich history makes it to be ranked by many as being one of the world’s best universities. However, what makes the students in this university important and unique when compared to students from other universities? This research will aim to explain the certain ways that the students behave in, the activities they engage themselves in, what people talk about them and the way they perceive education. Through personal interviews that will be carried out, first-hand information will be acquired. This will make it easy to understand and have some insight on the contemporary issues on the ground. Through studying the students who reside in the main campus, the culture of the students in this university will be exposed. This will make it possible to understand what makes the students in Harvard University be considered as being among the best in the world.
In studying about a certain group, the best way to gather information is through interacting with them (Moore, 1982). If possible, spending a day or two with them in their backyard provides one a perfect opportunity to have an important insight on the manner they carry themselves. Through this, stereotypes will be avoided as one will be in a better position to learn from firsthand information on the group in question. Due to this, misrepresentation based on the hearsay and stereotypes will be avoided. The information that will be presented will depend on the individual judgment of the person seeking to have information about a certain group. Basing one’s argument on certain stereotypes will most likely lead to having information that is irrelevant and cannot be proven by way of evidence. To study the life of a student in Harvard, therefore, mingling and interacting with them is of paramount importance.
Most people have written about the student life in Harvard. However, it is difficult to rely on this information to make the correct judgment of the manner that the students behave. Most people associate success with hard work, which is in most cases true. However, the culture of the institution that a person hails from also matters a lot. As such, people that are in an institution that encourages success will most likely be successful than those that are in an environment that is discouraging. Harvard University can be categorized among the institutions that have a rich history of success. Over time, this culture has been inculcated into the university’s lifestyle, to the point that failure is always seen as an unnecessary evil in the university. This is what a Harvard University student puts into mind the first time they are admitted in the university. Back in their minds, they know that failure is not accepted and is the last thing that can happen to them. This type of attitude positively influences the students’ performance. In the study, it would be important therefore to tour the school and have firsthand information on the manner that the students behave, at the same time making personal judgments.
The analysis in this ethnographic study will aim to give the correct information as to the underlying factors that ensure that the students in Harvard are associated with success. Success is as a combination of many factors. Most people tend to think that hard work is the only factor that promotes success in an individual. This is contrary to the truth of the matter. Being disciplined, organized, dedicated and interactive are all factors that promote an individual’s rate of success. Most people have written about Harvard students dedicating all their time to studying and reading books. However, this is very wrong since according to my ethnographic study, the students engage in many other activities that are not related to studies. In the research, I will seek to explore and explain the way the students behave in the normal day in the university
My visit to the university is scheduled on a Monday. As such, I arrive very early in the morning in order to monitor the arrival trends of the students in the school compound. This is very important in order to learn whether all the students manage to arrive in time to attend the lessons. It would also be crucial to understand what the general behavior of the students looks like. This can only be achieved through monitoring their arrival, the manner that they relate, the places that they visit and how long they spend in these areas. Through analyzing such information, it would be easy to understand the general procedure in the school life. After around twenty minutes, the students start to arrive in the school compound. Important to note is the fact that most of them drive to school. Some are dropped while others use public service vehicles. Through this, one may conclude that the university consists of people from all walks of life. In essence, this is against the stereotype that people have that students from this university hail from affluent backgrounds alone. All the students arriving seem to be at ease and relaxed, exchanging greetings as expected. It is also important to note that the students arriving in the compound are from all races. Immediately, this explains the fact that the university has no room for discrimination based on one’s social status or a person’s race. All the students intermingle freely, promoting unity in the compound.
A number of activities quickly follows the arrival. Some students head to the library, others to their classrooms and others head to the dining hall to take their meals. During this busy movement, I catch up with Felix, a student of Ghanaian origin. I pose a question to him on why there is no uniformity in the movement of the students. Apparently, he explains that the movement of the students depends on their schedules. “Movement in the school depends on the schedule of each individual. Some students come from places that are very far from the school compound. Due to this, it becomes very difficult for them to have breakfast from their homes. As such, it becomes convenient for them to have their meals in the dining hall. This will save them time. Others move to the library to accomplish their assignments, and others move to the classrooms to attend the morning lessons.” After getting such a hefty explanation, I then pose to him whether it is the University policy that students must attend all the lessons scheduled to them in a particular semester (Harvard University, 2003). However, contrary to my expectations, he reveals that it is not compulsory. Students are grownups and have the capacity of understanding what is right and differentiating it from what is wrong.
Considering the nature of the visit, I then decide to move to the library to monitor the behavior of the students. Essentially, the library is divided into three sections; the reading section, the books section and the newspaper section. At this time of the day, most of the students are in the newspaper section. Many explanations can be given for this. For instance, being early in the morning, most students want to make themselves aware of the current affairs before they head to the classrooms. However, it is important to note that some if the students are still busy with their homework. As I converse with the librarian, Mr. John, he informs me that most of them find it difficult to accomplish their assignments while at home. As such, they have to report to the school early in the morning to finish the assignment in time before they ate t the lessons.
Around noon, the number of students in the library significantly reduces. Most students exit the library and few of them can be seen coming in. This is explained by the fact that most of them are headed for lunch. Most students from rich backgrounds tend to have their meals from outside the school compound. However, some have no problem using the dining hall, as it saves them time. The number increases again after lunch. This is explained by the fact that the ones that were having morning lessons are freed and they can run to the library to finish their assignments before heading home. The place is very silent indeed, as it is specifically meant for studies. Discussions are carried out in a different room, in order to avoid disturbing the other students.
Through this analysis, one gets an insight on the general behavior of Harvard University students. As much as people would stereotype that they are always concentrated on their studies, it is important to note that they also have some time for recreation. The library has newspaper section, giving the students a chance to interact with the day-to-day happenings in life. Through such information, one may conclude that discipline is the key to success. Through the interaction with the students and the interviews carried out, a new impression is created on the lifestyle in Harvard.
Brewer, J. D. (2000). Ethnography. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Harvard University (2003). The Harvard University catalogue. Cambridge: Published for the University by C.W. Sever.
Moore, P. A. (1982). Bibliography and index [for the Harvard library of computer graphics mapping collection, vols. 1-17]. Cambridge, Mass: Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, Harvard Graduate School of Design.