I became a Women’s Center intern when I was hired in the spring of my sophomore year, and have been working there from my junior year until now. It has been an interesting process, and a lot of the reason the interns form a tight bond with each other and the Center, I feel, is due to the attitudes, values, and behavior of the administrators, as well as each individual's personal relationship to the space of the Center itself.
When I began this narrative, I thought I had a very clear view of what I felt about my time at the Women's Center. But I realize I've been putting reflecting on my experiences at the Women's Center on the back burner, pushing it out of my mind, because I'm not ready to leave my role at the Center just yet, even though it's coming up soon for a senior like me. In some ways, reflecting on my time here feels not only an acknowledgment and remembering of what I have experienced, how I have grown, what I have accomplished-- but also an acknowledgment that this experience is coming to a close. It's a bittersweet feeling.
Looking through my old materials- blog posts and photos from the Women’s Center, has made me strangely nostalgic.
My first connection to the Women’s Center was through another student organization I was in, Speak Out Loud.
Our spoken word poetry group held meetings in the space. The first connection I had with the Women’s Center was a sense of affinity with the space. It felt familiar and comfortable, a yellow kitchen and couches, the air smelling slightly of cooking and dish soap. It reminded me of the particular feeling of being at home, doing homework at the kitchen table while my mom made dinner. As a freshman, thousands of miles away from home for the first time, I was just beginning to negotiate my identity between childhood and adulthood. I was also spending a lot of time thinking about my identity as an Asian American, and throughout the years spent a lot of time writing poems for Speak Out Loud, and drawing comics for a Harvard publication, the Crunch, on that very topic.
The space of the Women's Center lounge felt appropriate for this sense of transition. So I remember my first year spent weekly in that space, writing, sharing, and hearing stories from other students, sitting in familiar couches every Tuesday and feeling comfortable in a way that Sever Hall and Science Center classrooms never made me feel.
Strangely, comfort is always associated with something easier, and thus something less important or valuable, especially within an environment like Harvard that almost seems to prioritize discomfort. After all, we are on this campus to challenge ourselves, aren’t we? Challenge was the ultimate purpose of a liberal arts education, as advertised. Challenge and comfort didn’t seem to me like reconcilable concepts. But in essence that was what I already was experiencing within that space of the Women’s Center. I was grappling with difficult topics, things I hadn’t thought about in any critical sense before that point in my life— my Asian American identity, my relationship to my family, my relationship to the campus itself, all in a physical space that made me comfortable enough to be myself. It was meeting other interns and people through the Women's Center that gave me the confidence and encouragement to join an Asian American women's organization for the first time my junior spring, and that was how I came to be a part of OAASIS.
My time working at the Women’s Center led me to understand how to reconcile the concepts of challenge and comfort, and how the two actually worked in tandem often. The actual process of applying to the Women’s Center I don’t remember. Why I applied to be an intern when I did is less relevant than the people who inspired me to apply— I saw upperclassmen women whose contributions to discussion in classes were always thoughtful and provocative, working in the Center, and thought that I too might be able to contribute to the space in a different sense than I had been using it previously.