Strake attends summer program at Harvard


Maria Strake

Junior Maria Strake sits on the steps inside the Leverett House tower with her proctor group on the last day of the program.

Valeria Luquin

Spending two weeks away from home during the summer at Harvard University, junior Maria Strake learned more than just astrobiology while attending the Harvard Pre-College Program. 


“My course was definitely challenging,” Strake said. “I felt discouraged because I felt out of place. I’m more into the science side, but that (astrobiology) was a lot of physics and math.” 


The program introduces students to what life is like in college while taking challenging classes and meeting other students from all around the world. Depending on what course you take, you will learn all about that subject.  


Strake paid $4,600 just for the course and $75 for administration. This also doesn’t include the cost for the plane ticket.


Strake’s course taught students many things like the differences in UV rays, light rays, a little bit about astrophysics and the misconceptions about black holes and how they work. The class mainly focused on Kirchhoff’s Laws and bacteria that can survive outside of earth. Strake also learned what the best ways to email professors are and how stress can positively influence you instead of negatively.


Strake’s mother saw a video about the program on YouTube and encouraged her to sign up for it. Originally, Strake had wanted to take the neuroscience course instead of astrobiology, but her father encouraged her to take astrobiology. 


Strake made a lot of close friendships with her classmates and has many memories with them. Workshops outside of the program were available as extracurricular activities on a topic of your choice.. 


“My friends and I got bikes and went from Cambridge to Boston,” Strake said. “The next day, my roommates and I ordered an Uber and went to a lake called Arlington Reservoir.”


Spending time in a different state allowed Strake to see how different the atmosphere and culture is like in Massachusetts compared to California. She got to explore the different parts of Harvard’s campus and some places in Massachusetts. Strake wants to go to college in the West Coast and is interested in studying business, marine biology, economics, or veterinary. 


“The people there are nice. It’s so perfect, there’s so many trees and riding your bike is so normalized there,” Strake said.  “Everywhere you go, there’s a bike path. So, I really liked it. The environment was completely different from here.”


Being in a different state without her family also taught Strake to take care of  herself and be cautious of her surroundings. She became a lot more responsible and felt more mature by the end of the program. 


“I really had to be more aware of my surroundings because we’re constantly surrounded by tourists,” Strake said. “I had to walk home often at night by myself and I learned how to protect myself.”