What I Did This My Harvard Freshman Fall, Where I Plan to Go Next, and Why

Disclaimer

Looking back, I don’t find this post particularly insightful. I talked about logistical things, but did not really include interesting reflections. For those, I’d recommend:

Harvard Freshman Fall In Retrospect (Productivity Focused)

and 2022 in Review (All The Key Realizations I’ve Had About Life In The Past Year)

(Edited Jan. 6, 2023)

General Info

This semester I did Math55a (Some Hard Pure Math), AFVS58T (Made Random Videos), Hum20 (Learned Some Random Art History), and SLAVIC148 (Read Some Really Good Strange Russian Writers).

I plan to pivot into a full STEM course load, with Math55b (Some More Hard Pure Math), CS124 (That One Hard Intro. Algo. Class CS Majors Hate), STAT111 (Statistical Inference Because Stat Is Just Useful), and Expos (A Mandatory Writing Class That Should Be Eliminated).

In my free time this semester I was basically only involved in EA (effective altruism) and HAIST (Harvard AI Safety Team), spending maybe something like 15 hours a week thinking about AI safety, reading textbooks outside of class, and thinking about how to make myself a more effective person. I have also been spending around 2 hours/week on HCCF (Harvard College China Forum) finding sponsors for the conference. Next semester I plan to get super super good at Applied Math, learn tons of AI safety, and do some original research, whilst also deepening my China connections.

Reflections

Humanities Classes? (No.)

I came into Harvard trying to build as unique a skill-set as possible, which is why I took 3 humanities classes along with a hard math class. I, however, won’t take another humanities class at Harvard anymore. The other 3 courses didn’t make me a more interesting individual, but rather diverted my time sub-optimally. In fact, I had more “humanities” training from my Math course than the humanities.

What, Then, Helped Me Grow?

My biggest growth as a person came really from chatting with my friends, explaining my random ideas to Kevin (aka. Kevdawg, my best friend & suitemate), talking to grad students in the Math lounge, falling and unfalling in love, reading War and Peace (at the beginning of the semester), writing blog posts, going on AI safety retreats, and considering seriously the EA and AI Safety long-termist arguments. Compared to those, the Humanities stuff are just plain boring and far, much too far removed from life.

What, Then, Will I Do Differently Next Semester?

Outside of, of course, doing all the things that I really enjoyed more, there are also a few things around socialization that I’d do differently. In this semester, I engaged in a lot of socials that were a sub-optimal use of time. Going to them might have been necessary to understand what events I should goto, but next semester I’ll put a much higher bar for the events I goto, prioritize spending quality 1-on-1 time with my friends that actually builds friendships than large parties.

In that vein, I also realized that I don’t have to force myself to hang out with anyone. If I find some people uninteresting, I should really just leave, ASAP. In this sense, getting rejected from Crimson Business Board, which I spent a sizable portion of my free time in the first 5 weeks on, might’ve been the best thing that have happened to me. My current social group of STEM, EA, and AI safety nerds is just a much better fit for what I wanted.

Winter Plans and 10 Year Plans

I actually wrote down a lot of stuff here. Deleted all of them though because realized that I am not certain about any of them.

It seems like the main thing to do is just to get good at things. Whatever it is. And I’ll be working on it for the long months and years to come.

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