Photo: Couresty of NEWMAN PR
Eric Kester experienced the Harvard no one talks about.His tenure at Harvard is the stuff of nightmares. He survived a brush with a cheating ring, being locked out of his dorm on the first day of school in just his boxers, and being the only one of his friends to move home jobless after graduation.
Kester, who graduated in 2008, admits that he barely survived “the world’s most famous university,” and he recaps it all in his recently released tell-all memoir, “That Book About Harvard.”
Kester wrote a humour column for The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, and wrote for CollegeHumor.com after graduating. Once a publisher read about his mishaps at Harvard, Kester was encouraged to write a book.
“Everyone seemed more accomplished than me, better than me,” Kester said. “That’s a lot of the same anxiety at any college, but it’s really intensified there at Harvard.”
Kester’s lack of confidence was justified: At Harvard, he was surrounded by brilliant minds, including Mark Zuckerberg, who was one of his classmates. Kester also joked (well, actually he was serious) that everyone at Harvard was valedictorian of their high school class.
Some of the facts in the book are skewed and names changed. But Kester assures readers that the craziest stuff in his memoir—the events that seem impossible, like being caught in his underwear and experiencing party mishaps—actually did happen.
“I tell my parents it didn’t actually happen though,” Kester said. “It makes them feel better.”
Kester couldn’t catch a break from the start. On his first day at school, freshman move-in day, he locked himself out of his dorm room. He was wearing just his boxers. To get the spare key to his room, Kester had to walk across Harvard Yard, which was filled with hundreds of students and parents, in just his underwear.
“All these classmates I wanted to impress essentially just saw me do a walk of shame,” Kester said. “It made every interaction after that much more anxiety ridden.”
Kester continued to struggle with academics and what he wanted to major in. The pressure of Harvard’s culture started to push him in the wrong direction.
“For me, Harvard helped me realise how far I was willing to push my morals and ethics to succeed,” Kester said.
Calculus quickly became the biggest challenge for Kester, who originally was a business major, but then switched to anthropology.
Cue the cheating club. Classmates knew Kester was struggling in classes and looking for an easy way to succeed. He had a class with someone in a cheating ring, who introduced him to the seedy world of cheaters at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. “It kind of found me,” he said.
The cheating ring was here to help and Kester’s contact wanted to give him all the information about the most common ways to cheat. The most utilized and easiest way to cheat at Harvard is hiding answers in the bathroom. The cheating ring encouraged Kester to visit the bathroom during tests and take advantage of the answers hidden there, but at the last moment he backed out, afraid to jeopardize his academic career.
Kester admits in the book’s Note From the Author that he wrote this book to impress a girl and to impress all of his classmates who went on to big business jobs after graduation—even though he just moved home to live with his parents.
He also hopes readers understand that there are good people at Harvard, many of whom made his tumultuous college career worth it.
“I understand this isn’t the Harvard everyone experienced,” Kester said. “But I hope anyone reading the book, someone going into college, or an alumnus, can relate to the anxieties we all have about college.”
Kester, now 26, currently teaches at Middlesex School outside of Boston.
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