Getting Around Annenberg

Avoid eating after large lectures, go trayless, and sample the upperclass d-halls

It’s iconic, it bears a striking resemblance to Hogwarts’ Great Hall, and it turns away families of curious Swedish tourists at the door. Annenberg—Harvard’s famous freshmen dining hall—will be your culinary home from August through May, and since the transition from your cozy family dinner room to a 9,000 square foot church-like structure (complete with sculptures and stained glass windows) can take some getting used to, just getting fed here at Harvard might seem overwhelming at first. Hopefully, these sage words of wisdom will help.

Depending on the hour during which you choose to chow down, the ’Berg might be calm, quiet and nearly empty. But, more often then not, the towering edifice seems to house all of Massachusetts, as your screaming classmates frantically hoard chickwiches and attempt to make friends.

To avoid the chaos and long lines, it’s important to strategize: Find out when the big, intro lecture courses end in Sanders Theater next door (specifically: Ec 10, and Life Sci 1A), and don’t touch Annenberg with a 10-foot-pole for the following half-hour. Arriving at meals seven minutes before the dining hall closes also works well, though if you tend to run late, this can lead to missed dinners, perpetual hunger, and multiple trips to ‘Nochs for pizza.

Before your time, a legend guarded the gates to Annenberg. Domna was her name, and she grew famous over her nearly 22 years at Harvard for accosting poor individuals who forgot to bring their ID cards. She retired this summer, and so—alas—we can give you no advice about the new Annenberg card checker. She (or he) might be friendly and kind to those who misplace their swipes. But you shouldn’t risk it.

Inevitably, as your fellow first-years adjust to frenetic crowds and large, green trays, someone will bump into somebody else. This can result in a a simple orange juice spill or an entire, five-course meal dumped on the ground. Probably, someone will laugh, and there might even be a chorus of slow claps. Needless to say, you don’t want this to be you—though, if it happens, it’s not the end of the world.

The key to avoiding such mishaps? Trayless dining: With a plate in one hand and a drink in the other, you’re free to maneuver between clumsy tray-holders with ease. And once you’ve loaded up on food, try doing a tap dance in the servery to test your balancing skills.

Undoubtedly, you’ll hear from upperclassmen that House food beats the ’Berg, no contest. And it’s true. While the menus are the same, it’s easier to prepare quality dishes for three hundred than it is to do the same for 1000 plus. While Dunster and Currier Houses reputedly serve the best cuisine, walking there might be a hassle you’re not willing to endure. And here comes the bane of your existence: upperclass House dining hall restrictions. Adams House—the worst offender—will turn you away at the door, no questions asked, simply for being a freshman (the exception: if you come with an Adams resident).

So, what to do? Try Quincy House, which is nearly as close and far more welcoming. Or, if you’re really brave, waltz into Adams dining hall as though you’re just finding a seat to work, and then sneak in the back servery door when the swiper isn’t looking.

For the first two months of college, many eager freshmen will want to meet their fellow Harvardians. As a result, the ’Berg becomes a sea of introductions. Don’t be surprised when a beaming guy you’ve never seen before plops down across from you and chants: “Hi! My name is Adam! I’m from Denver, Colorado! I live in Canaday D!” While it might seem trite, take advantage of these early weeks to meet and greet, and welcome those who do the same. Yes, knowing someone’s prospective concentration might not mean a whole lot, but you never know when a real friendship might spark. All too soon, the stars in your eyes will fade, and you won’t be tempted to choose that empty seat next to a table full of strangers. For the socially ballsy, Annenberg provides a chance to broaden your net wider than just your freshmen roommates. Take it.

—Staff writer Molly M. Strauss can be reached at

For more information on the ins and outs of Harvard life, visit the My First Year homepage.