Heading into the second month of quarantine! Here’s the latest from the Vann-Persians in Boston:
…is still in session, for both of us. Ben is getting his masters degree from the University of North Dakota and has a few online classes each week. Normally, he watches recorded videos after work – but now that he’s actually home during most class periods, he can do them real-time!
We do share an office, but this has only led to occasional chaos. Ben usually wears his gaming headphones during class so I can listen to my professors through my computer microphone, but occasionally he’ll forget I’m there and start talking out loud. We also only have one video camera and Ben gets first dibs (it’s his, after all) so sometimes my little Zoom box is just black during class! When I have the camera on, most people can see Ben sitting in the background. But as Ben’s conference calls increase, my time on the couch also increases…
I only have a week of classes left, and then two weeks before exams start. Before we transitioned to Pass/Fail, those two weeks would have been twelve-hour study days of outlining every class, taking tons of practice exams, meeting with professors about last-minute questions, and commiserating with my friends. That last one won’t change, but everything else will! Here’s what I’m looking at for Finals Szn, Spring 2020:
CRIMINAL LAW – As far as I know, this is still a 3-hr exam on the original day (I should probably check which one). This will be the test I plan to study most normally for, as it will likely resemble the exams from first semester (two long scenario-based questions and one policy question).
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – We have two options here, but either way the exam is due on May 11. Option 1 is to get the exam questions at the end of our last class (next Wednesday!!) and have weeks to formulate an answer; then on May 11, we’ll ‘copy and paste’ our responses into the exam software. Option 2 is to take a normal four-hour exam on May 11, a lot like our Crim final. Both options have a 3000 word limit, so we can’t write a thesis either way! HUZZAH!
LEGAL RESEARCH & WRITING – This “grade” is based on a twenty-page paper, which I submitted on Monday! Done & done 😏
COMPARATIVE LEGAL – I chose a paper option early in the semester, so I’m stuck with that now! I don’t mind though – I’m comparing the British and American military legal systems, and my professor suggested that I eventually make it a proposal for changes to the American Uniform Code of Military Justice. It’s an interesting topic and even though it’ll take WAY more time than an exam (it’s 25 pages minimum) it’s one less timed event to worry about!
TORTS – This exam will also stay the same as originally proposed; it’s designed to only take three hours, but we have eight hours total. And like Con Law, there’s a 2000 word limit!! This professor is usually all about quality (hence the extra time to perfect our answers) but yesterday he straight up said we’d pass “if we show any modicum of knowledge.” eeeeeexcellent🙌
Overall, I’m glad. I started off the semester with every intention of crushing these exams, but even in a stable environment it’s been difficult to maintain motivation. I still plan to study and internalize the class material because it’s not like college courses in math or science – these are real concepts I’ll need to use in my legal career! But the pressure is off to create an articulate work of art in three hours’ time, four times over, and for THAT I am grateful.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Well, we might not be back on campus in the fall, but life goes on! The incoming 2Ls and 3Ls are registering for clinics, classes, and seminars like normal. I plan to talk about this next week, and go into detail about how I submitted my preferences.
I’m also excited to say that I’m been elected co-President of HLS’s Armed Forces Association for the academic year 2020-2021! There are about fifty veterans enrolled in the law school (AMAZING – there were only about twenty vets four years ago) and we get together once a month for lunch, community, and war stories. Okay, not really – mostly we whine to each other about class. But it’s still fun.
The AFA is also part of a veterans network across all the Harvard schools. Once a month, I’ll meet with the other orgs to discuss mentoring, outreach, and networking opportunities for both current and future veterans! Last year the AFA hosted a prospective future students for a day, set up some lunch talks, and even organized a trip for vets to San Francisco. This year, my co-Pres and I want to continue those efforts, but also set up a mentorship program between the undergrad vets and the grad school vets. We also plan to pair up with other student organizations for lunch talks and events, in an effort to expose the HLS student body to the military. I’m so excited to be part of it!!!!
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Okay, I KNOW this is why you really tuned in. HERE’S THE DISH ON HOW TO BEST 👏 WASTE 👏 YOUR 👏 TIME 👏
Full disclosure, I will sometimes just put down the textbook and pick up a fun book. And lately more often than not, it’s been Stephen King. I rolled right through The Outsider (which is a little different than the Hulu version, but I liked the book), The Long Walk, and Salem’s Lot; I just finished When Breath Becomes Air (the epilogue had me sobbing) and started rolling on War, by Sebastian Junger. But, I’d be lying if I said my time was spent mostly reading…
Okay, this is the order that it all went down:
- Love is Blind (reality tv, couples meet with a wall between them, get engaged before they ever see each other; the show concludes with a wedding where each person MAY OR MAY NOT SAY YES. Incredible drama, 10/10)
- The Circle (reality tv, people create social media profiles, can only communicate through chat, people get voted off. More entertaining than I anticipated, 9/10)
- 100% Hotter (reality tv, basically the British version of What Not To Wear. PERFECT show to have on in the background but not to dedicate full attention, 6/10)
- Tiger King (documentary about the crazy people who privately own tigers. A MUST WATCH, 11/10 on the crazy scale)
- Unabomber, In His Own Words (documentary about Ted Kaczynski, very interesting, 8/10)
- How To Fix A Drug Scandal (documentary about corruption in two MA drug-testing labs, fascinating stuff. 9/10)
- McMillions (documentary about the McDonalds Monopoly scam…did YOU know that happened?! ME NEITHER! Definitely recommend, 10/10)
Now I’m down a Hulu rabbit hole of Project Runway, 90 Day Fiance, America’s Next Top Model. Thank goodness our tv doesn’t keep track of how many hours it’s on every day…
I try not to spend too much time on Facebook and Instagram, but Ben and I have PLENTY of time for YouTube! We absolutely LOVE John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” videos – I cry every single time, they are so incredible. If you haven’t seen them, I’ve linked the last two year…PLEASE watch. They’re an absolute feel-good tool for your Thursday morning.
SGN Week 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oilZ1hNZPRM
SGN Week 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg08rJGKjtA
Plus, I absolutely LOVE the celebrities going live and streaming performances for people stuck at home! Just last night, Ben and I watched Luke Combs live on Facebook, and he had a beautiful new song about staying home. And I was super excited when I woke up to this news – I hope it works out! https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/04/15/20/andrew-lloyd-webbers-phantom-of-the-opera-to-be-streamed-for-free-for-48-hours?fbclid=IwAR3KuWo-H-ex0Hzr9wJNFnV7arISucR0I1OE1v9uAIfqxHUe5KH2d3RtGIA.
Don’t forget about free exercise trials and the Power of the Face Mask!!!! I’m working my way through a two-month Jazzercise trial AND LOOOOOVING IT. They have ten-minute abs/arms/leg sessions, forty-minute dance sessions, and mid-range HIIT sessions. If you don’t want to sign up for a trial, they’re conducting live daily sessions on FB!! Or the Instagram influencers are chock full of inspo these days, that’s always a good place to look.
Other essential self-care items: hot baths, face masks, teeth whitening strips, red wine, Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben and I have also taken this time to tackle a few projects; mine mostly revolve around home organization and cleaning, his are computer improvement-related. We’ve cleaned out a lot of garbage and donated a ton!! We’ve also had a few Zoom parties with both friends and families, which have been much more therapeutic than expected. No one can get through this thing alone, and we MISS PEOPLE!
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Well, it’s been quite overcast and rainy lately, but at least it isn’t snowing!! I absolutely LOVE doing laps around the pond because it makes me happy to see so many people outside walking, running, biking, and rollerblading. But even when the bike paths are full, people still take care to stay as far apart as possible. The vast majority of walkers wear masks, everyone sticks to the sides of the paths, and one lady legitimately carries a STICK to keep people six feet away. I gave her a huge thumbs up as I ran by.
Besides the pond (and my living room, and office), our only other destinations are CVS and Trader Joe’s (which are conveniently located side-by-side). There is always a line outside the grocery store; the sidewalks are chalked, it’s one person in/one person out, and hands and carts are sprayed down before going in the door. Inside, the store is fully stocked and arrows are painted on the floor to direct shoppers through the aisles. At the checkout shields are erected between customer and cashier, keypads are sprayed between customers, and every employee wears a mask and keeps their distance. And leave your reusable bags at home!!!
This weekend we planned to take a short drive up the coast – Ben wanted to see a specific lighthouse, but we just checked and it’s in a park closed until May. So that’s out but we’ll find something else…even if it’s just making Ben watch Phantom of the Opera with me, in a pile of blankets with some wine 😏
In the meantime I hope you’re all staying healthy and safe, and those stimulus checks are coming in handy. God BLESS our first responders, healthcare workers, delivery drivers, grocery store personnel, sanitation workers, military members, and all other essential personnel ensuring that the country keeps chugging along. Check on your friends and family; give blood & donate money and food if you can, or REACH OUT to someone (me!!!) if YOU need help or just want to chat. It’s a scary time but we’re all in it together – sending lots of love and hope from Cambridge, MA! ❤️❤️