We all know that sport forms a important part of life at Reigate Grammar School, so when we heard that Taylor Weber (RGS 2012-19), had won Harvard University’s Freshman of the Year Award for her field hockey work, we couldn’t have been more proud!
The 2019 Freshman Award is given to the player who has had the most positive impact on the season with her commitment, work rate and attitude on and off the field. Tjerk van Herwaarden, Head Field Hockey Coach said, “Taylor has made a great impact and to win this award is a true testament of her work. She has proved to everyone what she is capable of.”
We caught up with Taylor to find out how her first year at Harvard has been…
What does winning this award mean to you?
Winning this award means so much because it demonstrates the impact you can make on a team off the field. I played less than some of the other freshmen, but I didn’t let that keep me from showing up with a positive attitude and a desire to make the team better in any way that I could. It is also special because this award was voted on by all players and coaches.
What have you enjoyed most about Harvard so far?
This is a really tough question because however fabricated it may sound, I have truly enjoyed every day at Harvard. But to be more specific, I think the main thing that has made my experience so special was casually hanging out with some of the most incredible and talented young people in the world. Every day I would meet someone new, whether in the huge first year dining hall, the constantly full athletic training room, or just around campus. This is definitely one of my favourite things about Harvard because everyone I met was interesting and special in some particular way. This fascinated me – I wanted to meet everyone and hear all of their great stories. Another main contributor to my relished time at Harvard has to be the culture of American collegiate athletics. Despite playing sports all of my life, I had never been on a team with such a shared goal, where every single member put the team first. This connection between us meant that we were never just a team, we were family.
What has the change in teaching style from RGS to Harvard been like?
Like all universities I suspect, learning is much more independent. For instance, my psychology class had lots of independent reading that was critical for the exams but not kept track of by the professors or teaching fellows. It also had lectures where you have to decide what is worth making notes on as the professor is not going to tell you (or likely doesn’t know) what you will be tested on. This was also the same with my economics class. Both my economics and psychology classes had ‘sections’ on top of lectures, which were a small group of around 10-12 students, where you discussed the material in lecture and were able to get close contact with a teaching fellow. Also, Harvard values collaboration, so lots of work and learning was done in groups.
How does the workload compare?
The workload is definitely much more, yet considerably less stressful. All grades are cumulative, so there is no chance of ruining the whole thing if you have a bad day during the final exam. There is significantly less time pressure both during exams and for homework because we are told in the syllabus about every single piece of work and its due date before starting the class. Also, the nature of a Liberal Arts degree means that I can take a mix of classes as there is lots of room for electives as well as concentration requirements. I feel really lucky to have the ability to study such a range of things and I think it has allowed me to enjoy studying much more than I would if my scope was more narrow.
Was it easy to settle in?
Yes! As a fall term athlete, I was lucky that I started school having already been on campus for almost two weeks for pre-season training. This meant that I not only had in-built friends through my team, but I had become close to lots of freshmen athletes from other teams such as water polo, volleyball, American football and soccer, whom all had the same pre-season as us. It meant that even though I was starting a brand new school having not known a single person in my grade before I arrived, something that should have been terrifying, I was remarkably never stressed about friends at all – I always had people to sit next to in lectures or in the dining hall. Additionally, having older teammates who were so genuinely interested in my wellbeing, meant that I was able to quite easily navigate all the important decisions as a freshman, such as what classes I should take, what extra-curricular activities I would like or what food I should avoid in the dining hall!
Is there a good social life?
Yes, but it is very different to the social life at other schools such as my sister’s (University of North Carolina) and even more different to that of universities in the UK. As a student athlete, it is also very different in season (fall term for me) than off-season (spring term) where we have much more free time and weekends off. During season, most of my social events were with other teams that shared the same schedule as us so we ended up hanging out a lot with the men’s water polo team and the men’s and women’s soccer teams. I did not go out as much as people at most other universities, but when I did, I felt I had more fun because it wasn’t something I did most days. I personally felt like I had a good balance because I did have lots of fun but it never infringed on my studies or athletics.
Have there been any challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My biggest challenge and ultimate feat has to be time management. Everyone that knows me will know that I was absolutely awful at it, and I suspected before arriving at Harvard that it would be an issue! However, at the beginning of the field hockey season, to be the best teammate I could be, I made it my mission to control all the controllable elements, which included being prompt and reliable. It wasn’t easy! I had to learn to prioritise, be more efficient, and wake up earlier than my other teammates, with awareness that it would take me longer to get ready in the morning or pack my bag for an away game. But I am incredibly proud to say that I did it! I was not late for a single thing – not practice, video meetings, bus journeys, early morning lifts, nothing.
Anything you hadn’t expected?
Not really, it has proved to be exactly what I had dreamed it to be. At times it has felt like it was too good to be true, or like I was living in a movie or something. In fact, having grown up in the UK, it was just like the movies with tailgates, chants and school pride.
Do you have an idea of where your course will take you next?
Although I am currently undeclared, I plan to study a combination of psychology and economics (I haven’t yet decided which to be my concentration and which to be my secondary). The Introduction to Psychology class has been my favourite so far, so I really look forward to taking more higher-level psychology classes next year.