A ‘Typical’ Day in the International Education Policy Program

Hello reader,

It’s starting to get cold over on this side of the world.  Having grown up “down under” in Australia and New Zealand, this will be my first proper Christmas with snow.

You may be wondering “What is a typical day in the life of an International Education Policy student?”  And I would reply, “It’s funny you would ask that, because I’m going to tell you right now.”  Then you might say, “Great!” or “Sweet!” or any other manner of sound which expresses delight and anticipation at the same time.

Although each day is different, usually there are classes, talks and projects to work on.  Here’s a snapshot from my day today.


At 8.30AM, I met with my microeconomics study partner, Allison, to complete our problem set.  In class, we analysed a case study about a policy intervention to raise revenue for a university while also diversifying the student cohort.  After class, I met with my teaching fellow Sarah.  She helped me with some ideas about my class project;  I’m collaborating with the founders of an innovation school.  It puts all my learning into context and hopefully can actually help them with developing their school, the Somerville STEAM Academy.  It’s definitely an example the Education School’s belief that the “nexus of practice, policy, and research is the most powerful way to improve education.”


A quick lunch at the delicious cafe inside Gutman library while reading over emails, then popping into the supermarket to buy some snacks for my section in the afternoon.  Off to my favorite class this semester (and… ever!) titled “Deeper learning: Reforming schools for the 21st century” taught by Professor Jal Mehta.  During class we looked into ways that adults could engage in deeper learning.  What does it look like?  What are the design principles involved in having an experience that captures deeper learning for adults?  How can you apply this to a case study scenario?  We pitched our idea to three experts who questioned us.  In section we discussed what questions we still had around deeper learning, including how it would be persuasive for policy makers to accept (the idea is getting more traction rather than just testing).


Classes finished at 5PM.  I went to do some more work at the library, checking emails, talked with my friend Clare and organized a dinner for people around the university who are interested in education.  Had dinner at Harvard Square, then went to an “Alternative Economy” study group at 8PM on the topic of the New Economy within the Kennedy School of Government hosted by Professor Richard Parker.  It was definitely a “wow, I’m in total awe” moment.  Professor Parker told us we need to stand up “against privilege and ignorance in the world” and that being “kind/understanding/tolerant isn’t enough”.  He spoke directly about issues of color, gender, privilege and power and said we need to consider others to include at the table as we aren’t here just to take the chairs.  We finished our discussion around 10PM, then it was time for bed.

Welcome to Harvard

As a teenager, I used to day dream so much about what I wanted to do later on.  I never thought that I’d be able to study at Harvard.  Living a dream: it’s not the easiest dream, and there are sacrifices that everyone makes to come here, but I want to maintain this momentum, this drive, this sense of possibility and wonder…

Each day as I ride my bike down the streets towards campus, I am in awe of my surroundings. I feel the wind on my cheeks, and my muscles working as they push my bike pedals, and focus on feeling in the moment as I stop at the traffic lights, weave between pedestrians, and every time I pass the buildings, I still gasp at how beautiful it all is, taking in the changing fall foliage and the tourists and the chisled VERITAS inscribed on the buildings, and just marvel.

This year I am questioning my privilege and sense of responsibility.  How did I get granted so many unearned advantages when I know there are so many people out there in the world that have so little?  I think back to the summer program where our teaching fellow Julia advised us, “never, ever, ever just assume you’re doing good work… always scrutinize yourself!”

Lisa Qin is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. She aims to work in creating meaningful and sustainable reforms to address the complex issues of education inequality.