Summit Highlights: Harvard University

See the sights in Cambridge and Boston!


In our first sneak peek at Harvard University, we explored the university’s campus and the city of Boston, as well as student activities taking place during the Harvard Summits. Today, we continue our virtual tour! Join Jeremy as he explores the unique buildings of Harvard, two nearby hangouts, and the exciting student panels at the Summits.

As part of the Leadership in Action Summits at Harvard, you will have a chance to go on the “Hahvahd” campus tour — with Harvard students serving as your guides. This tour gives you the real Harvard story, complete with insider information you won’t get even on the official Harvard admissions tour.

While you won’t see any of the original Harvard buildings from the 17th century (sadly, none survive), you will see some very old buildings on campus. The campus’ oldest standing structure is Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720. Originally a dormitory, it now houses the university president’s offices. During the Revolutionary War, the hall served as barracks for American soldiers, and two of its four floors are still reserved for freshman dorms. Imagine beginning your first year at Harvard only to discover you get to live in the same hall that housed Revolutionary soldiers!

Wadsworth House, built in 1726, is the second-oldest surviving building. Nearly fifty years after its construction, General George Washington used the house as his headquarters and purportedly laid out his plans to defeat King George. Student who attend a Summit at Harvard will hone their leadership skills less than half a mile from Wadsworth House, a site of pivotal leadership decisions in American history.

One “new” building with a unique story is the Widener Library. One of the largest libraries in the United States, it houses over 3 million books on over 50 miles of shelves. The library was built in 1915 and has 10 floors, four above-ground and six below. It was named after Harry Widener who died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. His mother donated millions of dollars to the university to have a library constructed in her son’s name. Her one condition was that the facade of the building could not be changed. When the university needed to add space to the library, the architects were forced to build underground. That’s why the building has six subterranean levels!

Don’t let the historical buildings fool you into thinking that’s all Harvard University has to offer. Right outside the gates of the university sits Harvard Square. It is a hub of modern life with just about everything you can imagine in its six-block radius.

If the summer heat has you craving a cold sweet treat, the Square has you covered with five different ice cream and fro-yo shops. While you snack, listen to the street musicians perform; they’re staples of the Square. With its myriad retail shops to browse, the Square is also a great place to get souvenirs!

For food and shopping, though, nothing beats Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Located downtown near the harbor, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market will be part of your Boston city tour. The market was originally where local farmers brought their crops and livestock to be sold and traded.

Today, over 50 food vendors and 100 shops —selling everything from high-end merchandise to cheesy souvenirs (my favorite is the lobster-shaped hat)— pack the market space, making it another great place to pick up gifts for your family. And you have to try a lobster roll, bowl of clam chowder, or any of the other great seafood choices from right out of the bay. As you eat lunch, watch the amazing street performers make the marketplace their stage.

With a full stomach and bursting shopping bags, it’s time to head back to campus.

One popular event during the Summits at Harvard is the Global Youth panel. This panel is made up of international Summit-goers and addresses cultural awareness in a global society. With students from dozens of countries already slated to participate in this summer’s Summits, each Global Youth panel promises to be diverse and unique! The goal is to teach student leaders how to be more empathetic toward all people, more knowledgeable about world cultures, and more effective in global settings.

If your goal is to get into Harvard someday but you aren’t sure how, our College Life panel has you covered! This highlight of the Leadership Summits at Harvard brings university students together to answer your questions about all-things college. They will take you through the every-day challenges of the college experience and help you understand what you need to do now to prepare yourself for college. Not planning on going to Harvard? No problem. Their advice works to give you an advantage in applying at any college or university.

Check back next week for our final installment of Summit Highlights: Harvard University. We will visit the JFK museum and MIT, and dance ourselves silly on a harbor cruise!

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By Jeremy Potter

Jeremy has served with Ambassador Leaders since 2013 . As a middle school social studies teacher, Jeremy loves traveling to historical sites around the country, with Boston being his favorite city. He has also traveled the world with students, teaching them that cultural immersion is the best path to better global citizenship.