Discover the Humanities at Harvard | Summary and Q&A

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March 2, 2017
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Harvard University
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Discover the Humanities at Harvard

TL;DR

A personal account of how studying humanities, particularly English, transformed the author's perspective and helped them become a better doctor and advocate for social justice.

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Key Insights

  • 👨‍⚕️ Studying humanities can enhance empathy and understanding, making individuals better doctors and leaders.
  • 🏛️ Engaging in different cultures, such as participating in tango classes, can broaden one's horizons and nurture personal growth.
  • 🧑‍🎓 Professors who are invested in students' interests can profoundly influence their educational journey.
  • 😃 The humanities focus on big questions and challenges, sparking creativity and imagination.
  • 🥺 Neglecting personal passions can lead to missing out on happiness and personal growth.
  • ❓ There are various paths to a career, and interests that seem like hobbies can evolve into meaningful pursuits.
  • 👶 Studying humanities provides a deeper understanding of culture and the world, fostering new perspectives.

Transcript

My parents both immigrated from Asia. They worked so hard just to have enough money. My dad really, really emphasized that to be financially stable, we had to be well-educated. I think that was why, when I was about eight, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. When I eight years old, I started a newsletter about curren... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the author's upbringing influence their career aspirations?

The author's immigrant parents emphasized the importance of education and financial stability, leading the author to aspire to become a doctor.

Q: What made the author realize the wider world of study options in college?

Taking a course on political theatre in college exposed the author to new fields of study and expanded their understanding of the diverse possibilities in education.

Q: How did tango help the author overcome discomfort and thrive?

Despite being a terrible dancer, the author decided to take tango classes and discovered the ability to tackle discomfort, ultimately learning to thrive in uncomfortable situations.

Q: How did a speaker series on conflict in Africa impact the author's career as a writer?

The author was inspired by a former child soldier's speech during the speaker series, leading them to write "Beasts of No Nation," which eventually became a successful novel and movie.

Summary

In this video, the speaker shares their personal journey of discovering their passion for the humanities and how it has shaped their life. From their childhood aspirations of becoming a doctor to their transformation through studying English, the speaker emphasizes the importance of pursuing one's interests and engaging actively in culture. They also discuss their experiences in tango, involvement in social justice issues, and the profound impact of supportive professors. Ultimately, the speaker highlights the value of studying the humanities and how it contributes to personal growth and a deeper understanding of the world.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the speaker's parents' background influence their career aspirations?

The speaker's parents, who immigrated from Asia, instilled in them the importance of being financially stable and well-educated. As a result, the speaker decided at a young age to pursue a career as a doctor in order to meet these expectations.

Q: What was the speaker's initial perception of the sciences when they arrived at Harvard?

When the speaker arrived at Harvard, they believed that the sciences were the only field they would end up in. They did not realize initially that there was a wider range of study options and the potential for different experiences beyond the sciences.

Q: How did studying English impact the speaker's perspective on being a doctor?

While taking a course on political theatre and the structure of drama, the speaker had a transformative realization about the nature of goodness. This revelation led them to understand that studying English was teaching them how to be a better doctor because it made them more empathetic and deeply understanding.

Q: How did the speaker engage in Argentine culture while at Harvard?

The speaker actively participated in Argentine culture by taking tango classes. They would attend these classes immediately after their ROTC class and this experience allowed them to develop the ability to tackle discomfort and thrive in challenging situations.

Q: How did the speaker's involvement in the Harvard African Students Association lead to a significant project?

While serving as a co-president of the Harvard African Students Association, the speaker organized a speaker series on conflict in Africa and invited a former child soldier from Uganda. This event had a profound impact on the speaker and inspired them to write "Beasts of No Nation," which later became a widely translated book and film.

Q: How did the speaker's experiences with professors at Harvard influence their life?

The speaker had the privilege of having professors who were deeply invested in their exploration of knowledge and were supportive of their interests. This experience greatly influenced the speaker's life and allowed them to pursue their passion for storytelling that can affect social justice and political issues.

Q: What did the speaker discover about their passion while studying at Harvard?

Initially, the speaker believed that studying the humanities, specifically English, would just be a hobby. However, they realized that neglecting their passion would result in losing what truly makes them happy. Their journey at Harvard led them to understand that there are various paths to pursuing a career and their interest in English became much more than a hobby.

Q: According to the speaker, why is studying the humanities important?

The speaker believes that studying the humanities is essential because it is a study of culture, which provides insights into new ways of thinking about the world. By exploring big questions that may never receive definitive answers, individuals become better people and gain a deeper understanding of society.

Q: What does the speaker believe is the purpose of art and creativity?

The speaker suggests that making art involves finding ways to do impossible things and is a reflection of human creativity and imagination. Art and creativity allow individuals to surpass limitations and contribute to what makes us human.

Q: What is the key takeaway from the speaker's experience at Harvard?

The speaker's journey highlights the importance of pursuing one's interests and passions, as it can lead to unexpected opportunities and personal growth. They emphasize that there are various paths to a career and that neglecting one's passions can result in losing happiness and fulfillment.

Takeaways

The speaker's story demonstrates the value of studying the humanities and engaging actively in culture. It is a reminder that neglecting our passions can lead to lost opportunities and happiness. The humanities provide a deeper understanding of the world, foster empathy, and tackle big questions that shape us as individuals. Pursuing one's interests can lead to unexpected paths and a more fulfilling life.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The author's parents, who immigrated from Asia, instilled the value of education and financial stability.

  • The author discovered their passion for storytelling and connecting with others through a newsletter and sports in high school.

  • The transformative moment came when studying English, leading to a realization that empathy and understanding are essential qualities for a doctor.

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