By Katie Catulle ’24

In the fall of 2020, my first 24 hours at Harvard were spent alone in my room while I waited for the key to unlock my door: my first negative COVID test. But when I got out of isolation, I didn’t know anyone. I was the first person to go to Harvard from my county since the eighties.

First-year fall is always full of challenges, but with the heightened fear and isolation surrounding the pandemic, I was grateful for my Peer Advising Fellow, or PAF, as a source of support. A PAF is a student advisor that works with first-year students to connect them to resources and offer advice from their own experience to help with the transition from high school to Harvard. Through FaceTimes about clubs, classes, and unexpected challenges (i.e., Where’s the toilet paper? How do I set up Crimson Print?), Harvard began to feel like home.

So, in first-year spring, when my PAF nominated me to be a PAF the following year, I immediately knew I wanted to apply. I am so grateful I did. Joining the PAF community has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my Harvard experience. There is something inexplicably special about joining a community dedicated to helping others navigate this sometimes scary, always exciting place.

10 PAF students together outside with masks on

Each year has brought something special. Sophomore year was especially magical as my first year as a PAF and my first year with the full, in-person Harvard experience. I was able to learn and enter the experience alongside my wonderful entryway. Everyone seemed so excited about any opportunity to socialize coming out of COVID, and the entryway formed a strong community bond.

That year, 15 first-years in my entryway traveled to Salem with me as part of the Beyond the Yard event. It was so much fun to get out of the Harvard bubble for a day and explore such a vibrant, intriguing neighboring town. 

Though I was sad to see my PAFees move from Hurlbut into their respective Houses, my second and third years as a PAF were just as special. I am so grateful to have worked with the same proctor in the same entryway, Hurlbut Lower, all three years as a PAF. I was also excited to co-PAF with one of my good friends during my junior year, which made the PAFing even more fun.

Now, as a senior, I am incredibly grateful to round out my Harvard experience as a PAF this final year. Every week I get to work with my incredible co-PAFs and wonderful proctor to put on fun study breaks to create community in Hurlbut Lower, or as we like to call it, Lower ’But. Weekly study breaks have been a consistent part of my Harvard experience: from carving pumpkins, to Felipe’s v. Jefe’s taste tests, to my personal favorite, “Choc and Talk,” an event with hot chocolate and community check-ins. Though next year I will no longer be part of the PAFing community, I can’t wait to hear about how this incredible program continues to provide a support system—both for first-years and for the PAFs themselves.


Did you know that gifts to the Harvard College Fund make the PAF program possible? Learn more about the HCF here!

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