Around The Yard: Alexa Altchek

Returning to for a third season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrativeFor a full list of blog entries, click here.

For more student blogs from Harvard Admissions, click here.

Alexa Altchek
Feb. 8, 2017

Being an athlete at Harvard definitely made my transition easier as a freshman.  If I had questions about life at Harvard, how to make a class schedule that wasn’t too overwhelming, or what this crazy thing called “shopping week” was, I had a guaranteed group of 20+ seasoned veterans to turn to.  Despite the scary move from high school to college and shifting to a new environment, my time was made a lot easier by my “guaranteed friends” on the softball team waiting for me and excited to talk to me before I even arrived.  This isn’t the case for everyone stepping onto Harvard’s campus for the first time.

I would definitely say that I took this luxury for granted.  This is why when the opportunity arose to become a Peer Advising Fellow for freshmen, I jumped at the chance to apply.  I have absolutely loved the experience of being a PAF this past year.  I am connected with an entryway of around 30 freshmen that I, along with an incredible team of co-PAFs and proctors, advise and help through the transition to college.  I have the opportunity to be the upperclassmen resource for them that my teammates were for me.  For the nine freshmen that I am personally paired with, I have the ability to be a confidant and a source of knowledge on the inside, giving them tips as best I can on how to adjust based on what I learned going through the same thing just two years prior.  Weekly study breaks give me the chance to relax and hang out with the students, provide them with some great food, and really get to know some people outside of my softball circle.  It is so fun to be able to interact with these freshmen every week, take a break from my crazy life as a student-athlete, and dive into their worlds for a while.

Whether we’re playing Twister in the Women’s Center, eating Felipe’s Nachos, having political conversations, or making smoothies, there’s never a dull moment at a Thayer 4 study break.  We have so much fun every week, and it gives me an amazing opportunity to step back from my life, take a study break myself, and hang out with people from all different backgrounds with all different interests whom I never would have met otherwise.  I love the time that I spend with the entryway, either on an individual level or with the whole group.  We’re able to have fun while I also help them navigate Harvard through the trying times of freshman year.  It brings me back to the times when I was confused, didn’t know what classes to take, had trouble navigating office hours, or just wanted advice from someone who had been through it before.  Being someone that these freshmen can go to when they feel lost is such a rewarding feeling. 

As much as my experience being a PAF is a way for me to branch out and have great experiences outside the athletic world, it has helped me realize that Harvard softball comes with me everywhere I go.  Despite how cheesy it may sound, all of the values that have been instilled in me by my coaches and by being a part of the softball program these past three years have followed me and have shaped my entire PAF experience.  I need to do my best to put my advisees before myself in order to make sure that they always have someone to turn to if they need it.  I work cooperatively with my PAF-proctor team to make study breaks fun and organized every week.  Selflessness, leadership, unity, communication, time management, integrity.  Every value that has been instilled in me through my time as a member of the Harvard softball team has given me the skills to be a great PAF.  And in that sense, even though being a PAF has given me a home and a family away from the softball field, my time as an athlete has permeated into this experience and every other, continuing to show its never-ending impact.