“Adulting” at HGSE

It’s 10 pm on a Tuesday night, and I’m standing close to the stage, eagerly awaiting Aquilo, one of my favorite bands for the past couple years now, to begin their act. I have two midterms and one major problem set all due in less than a week, but I push it out of my mind for the moment, knowing that the time for studies will come later. There’s so much more to Harvard than just academics, and The Sinclair, a venue less than a three-minute walk from the HGSE campus, has become part of my Harvard tradition.

Looking back at the past four months (having arrived in Cambridge back in June to begin a lab position), I’m struck by just how much like a kid I feel at heart, which is probably why I’m drawn to Education in the first place. There’s something strangely odd after being an adult in the “real world” for the last three years about throwing on a backpack every morning, heading to class, and pulling out my Curious George pencil case to retrieve my rainbow highlighters and sticky notes.

There’s something else, too, about having been in the “real world” that has changed the way I feel about academics now that I’m back in school again. Class now feels like a privilege, not like the duty that it once felt back in college. Choosing to come back to school – choosing to come to HGSE – has reinvigorated a sense of curiosity and wonder that I thought I had lost while working full-time. I’m enjoying life at HGSE so much that it feels more like a playground than a stereotypical school (which all education should be like, right?).

I’m finding myself engaging with academics in a new manner that is allowing me to truly understand my purpose in embarking on such a pedagogical journey. The material we learn in class feels tangibly animated. We’re not just learning concepts; we’re being challenged to engage our imaginations to envision using such theories in applied settings to truly incite meaningful change. Meetings with professors are not just matters of administrative duty but are brainstorming sessions that leave you inspired and empowered to apply yourself as a global solution. Homework assignments involve creating interventions that actually will be brought into the classroom. For me, academics have moved from a realm of duty to the sphere of energizing possibilities that makes me look forward to heading to the library every night.

And the motivation to practice my new skills has given me time and space to rediscover another “childlike” quality I thought I had lost – the desire to try everything. I do feel like a kid during my weekly Capoeira lessons – messing up my lefts and rights, struggling to remember the Portuguese vocabulary, singing with the rest of my class during roda. I’ve gone to my first professional soccer game, my first river cruise, and even my first PsyD campus visit. Last week, I even tried my first truly authentic, mouth-watering Chinese dinner, cooked from scratch by a friend’s mom, which necessitated a translator to keep the conversation flow over the meal. Long story short – there are a lot of firsts here at Harvard, inside and outside of the academic sphere.

If you do decide to come study at HGSE, which I hope you do, my best advice to you is embrace a childlike mindset; come here “tabula rasa” – ready to open your mind to all of the academic and non-academic opportunities that the university has to offer. Go to that weeknight concert. Sign for every listserv possible and actually go to the events. Say “yes” to joining that club, even if you don’t yet know how to properly say it’s name (like Capoeira = cap-o-ey-ra). HGSE will “grow you up” – a lot – in ways you never expected possible. Opening yourself up to such change through embracing a mindset of curiosity, wonder, and an interminable desire to try everything will help you cultivate a healthy sense of humility for such learning. In order to learn how to change the world, one must first learn how to change one’s self; I have broken my preconceptions of age and have discovered that one can “adult” without having to let go of what truly matters.

Written by Arianna RiccioHeadshot

Arianna Riccio is a current Ed.M. candidate in the Human Development & Psychology program at HGSE who aspires to pursue doctoral studies after graduation. She received a BA in French (Psychology minor) from Franklin & Marshall College in 2014 and spent the past year serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA for the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana. Arianna’s hobbies include yoga, meditation, writing, and having spontaneous discussions about the meaning of life.

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