A few days ago, I was in the middle of a little panic attack about what jobs to apply for next year (yes, already!), and particularly which part of the world I wanted to work in. Growing up as an Indian expatriate in Qatar, I called Doha home for the first couple of decades of my life — until I moved to Mumbai two years ago. Working with Teach For India over the last two years was the first time I’d really, finally moved away from home. I went in thinking of Mumbai as a two-year stint, hoping of course that I would have a great time but knowing that home would always be somewhere else. I laugh a little now at myself then, largely for not anticipating how quickly the city would grow to become another home. My roots were in Doha, but I quickly realized in my first six months of teaching that Mumbai would always have my heart. In between the hours spent lesson planning with other struggling first-year teachers and trying to bribe my students with field trips as a reward for good behavior and falling sick many more times than I can possibly remember and the madness of what I’d once thought to be an overwhelming city, I found home. Two years into teaching, close to the last day of the school year, I was surprised by how firmly the city had grown on me, this once strange city now bursting at the seams with people I knew I could call home.
Much like when I first moved to Mumbai and thought of it as an episode that couldn’t possibly last more than a couple of years, I came to the Ed School in August filled with trepidation about what this year was going to look like. I got here in early August, a handful of days before school began. The International Education Policy program offers IPSIE (the Intensive Preparation for the Study of International Education) to get people back into the rhythm of school two weeks before orientation begins. I remember quite vividly spending those first few nights in America worrying myself silly thinking about what Harvard would be like, about whether I’d find something that interested me, about whether I would ever find friends here — and for each time I had questions and not answers, I told myself over and over that Cambridge would not be home, that I’d be out of here in a year, that it wouldn’t matter even if things didn’t work out because it would only be a year.
Three months into the semester, I am glad that I could not be more wrong. In the most unexpected ways, Cambridge has started to become home. There are the little victories — figuring out the shortest way to cut across the Yard and get to my Kennedy School class, settling on a grocery store and into a shopping routine, being able to field questions from confused tourists about how the T works, the rich fall colors. And there are much bigger, crazier ones, definitely ones I hadn’t anticipated — finding in those two IPSIE weeks an incredibly kind, unbelievably humble cohort, thoroughly enjoying my 8 am statistics class despite having struggled to understand numbers my whole life, being spoiled for choice each day when having to pick which event I’d like to attend. Perhaps two months might seem like too soon to say this, but I think I know already that in these big and little ways that will accumulate over the course of the year, Cambridge will also become a chunk of home. As the semester progresses past this halfway point and the job hunt starts to gain momentum, I am hoping not only that this time next year, I will be in one of the homes I’ve come to know and love, but also that you will be in Cambridge and will start to see it more and more as home every day. Have a great week ahead!
Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools.