Why your classmates are a key to your success during your first month at HGSE

What happens once you get your acceptance letter from the Harvard Graduate School of Education? It’s different for everyone. For me—and several other students I have talked with—first, there was the excitement of realizing that I would be a graduate student at Harvard, studying with some of the top global experts and researchers on topics I care about.  Next there were the night sweats, thinking that I might wake up to an email that there was some mistake, ha!  Then there is the anxiety of making sure you are well-prepared to do well once you arrive.

This whole sequence of emotions, along with an initial review of your syllabi once classes start, can make you want to stay tucked away in the library studying around the clock. That sounds like a good plan but I have found the opposite tack to be most helpful during my first month and a half of classes. Being social helps relieve stress—even if that means interacting with just one or two people if you don’t enjoy crowds.

I know this works for sure because I started out not socializing too much. I wanted to stay focused and study on my own. Plus, I was busy trying to tie up loose ends.  I moved to Cambridge from Syracuse, New York and I spent my first couple weekends driving back and forth trying to downsize from my apartment in New York to my dorm room at Cronkhite, one of the graduating housing centers. However, after a fun kayaking outing with some fellow Ed school students, a class group project, and two classmate’s feedback on one of my first papers, I realized how much lighter I felt emotionally after these social experiences.

Felicia Joy_kayaking
Felicia Joy and other Cronkhite residents go kayaking on the Charles River in Cambridge, MA.

Going it alone my first few weeks made everything feel so much more serious.  By interacting with others I had more fun and realized that nearly everyone here is brilliant, yet, they are feeling some anxiety too. We now study together, which creates a kind of accountability that helps you get over moments of anxiety-induced procrastination. Plus, the combustible moments of laughter about random things during quick breaks makes hitting the books that much merrier.

By engaging in the student community, I learned that working toward earning your master’s here at HGSE you can be serious-minded but lighthearted. Save yourself a couple of weeks of stress and find your study buddies from day one!

Felicia Joy is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program.  Prior to HGSE, she served as the chief communicator for the world’s busiest airport; an adjunct professor of practice at Syracuse University; and a marketing consultant for one of the top commercial printers in America.  Upon graduating she will become an entrepreneur, working on changing education and other social systems to more equitably serve all communities.