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Aug 26
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Sam Harris

Harris1.jpgStudents who remember the good old days when Mirror Lake was actually a body of water may also remember the campus legend known as AfroDuck. About a month after his tragic death in January 2016, students were surprised to see a similarly fluffy duck hanging out at Mirror Lake. Did OSU have an emergency backup supply of AfroDucks for situations like this? Or was it the campus icon himself, resurrected just on time to comfort students during the dreaded midterm season? Sam Harris was one of the first on the scene, interviewing fellow students about proper duck nutrition and evil twin conspiracy theories. Over the past few years, she has written articles about topics such as American politics, campus housing, and one student organization's passion for burritos. After all this time writing about other people, it turns out she has done some things worth writing about, too.

Harris is a fourth-year student in International Affairs (IA) Scholars. She is a self-described bookworm whose two current favorites are The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. She adds "movie nerd" to her list of identities as well, considering Gateway Film Center the second best part of Columbus. The first, of course, is the Oval—at least in good weather, and maybe with less construction.

For Harris, Ohio State was a big adjustment from growing up in a small town outside of Cleveland, but she was drawn to the university because she knew there would always be something going on and she would never be bored. As it turns out, she doesn't have much time for boredom either way. She is pursuing International Studies because she likes to stay informed on politics and current events, Journalism because she has had a long-standing dream to be a reporter, and Arabic because she finds the language fascinating and often considers her Arabic classes her favorites.

At first, transitioning into college life felt overwhelming. "It was quite the culture shock," says Harris. "Scholars gave me a community right from the beginning." She adds that she is still good friends with some of the people she met through the program back when she was a freshman living in Smith-Steeb, where all IA students live together during their first year.

Harris also feels that the mentorship and resources provided by Scholars have helped her make decisions about her future. For her, one of the best parts of IA was hearing from guest speakers in a more intimate setting than one might expect on a campus of about 60,000 students. Particularly notable was a woman from Doctors without Borders who shared her experiences in Sudan. In terms of social events, Harris is a big fan of the first year retreat and the Halloween social. After having so many positive experiences during her freshman year in IA, she decided to join the Leadership Council as a chair and has filled this role for the past three years, working with program coordinator Steven Blalock to help IA evolve. Harris remarks, "I can't say enough wonderful things about Honors and Scholars."

Harris2.jpgIn addition to IA, Harris has been involved with The Lantern since her first year at Ohio State. After getting a few stories published that year, including the triumphant Afroduck story, she took on the role of assistant campus editor as a sophomore. She reflects, "I worked with some incredibly talented individuals and we put out some great coverage for a tough year. I actually have a tattoo of The Lantern logo that a few other editors and I went out and got at the end of the year." Now, she has less time to dedicate to writing stories than she did two years ago, but when she does stop by the newsroom, the excitement she felt when she toured it back in high school is still there.

Perhaps one reason she is so busy is because she works as an RA, which, to her, means making an effort to be there for her residents both "as a resource and, even more than that, as a person." Another reason might be that she plans to attend law school after graduating from OSU and had to spend countless hours studying for the LSAT, motivating herself with thoughts of the future and cups of tea. (She adds, "I find that a hot cup of tea can do wonders.") Then again, maybe it has something to do with the fact that she has travelled abroad three times through OSU—to Morocco, the Czech Republic, and—mostly recently—New Zealand. She eventually hopes to go hiking in Iceland.

This was exactly the kind of college experience she'd been hoping for when she submitted her application for IA Scholars. "Prior to my time at Ohio State, I had only left the country once to go to the Bahamas," she explains. Her recent trip to New Zealand was about a month long and much of her time was spent in a small city on the South Island called Christchurch. She was there to study linguistics, something she had no background in but ended up enjoying quite a bit. Of course, the trips to Lake Tekapo and Mt. John probably didn't hurt.

"My favorite thing about New Zealand is that you could walk in any direction and find something unlike anything you had ever seen before," Harris recalls. "We would visit the beach and the mountains in the same day." (It is easy to understand why this might be a nice break from the Ohio experience, which more closely resembles visiting multiple seasons in the same day.)

A specific favorite memory of hers was going to Castle Rock, which was the site of battle scenes for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia. If she could travel through an old, dusty wardrobe to New Zealand at will, she would probably do it most days, even if there were none of Narnia's talking animals and Turkish delight. Harris admits that, despite growing up in Northeast Ohio, she often feels homesick for New Zealand. To anyone who knows her well, this is no surprise. She reports having wanted to travel there since she was a little kid. "I actually had photos taken from National Geographic articles hung up all around my room," she says.

Now, she has her own photos to hang up. "I think that my face hurt by the time the trip was over just from smiling so much."

 ​By Christina Szuch, Honors & Scholars Media Team Member