It was like being dropped into a page of a fairy tale – but I kept asking myself… was I in the wrong book?
I remember spending hours at a time perusing the TIE (Technology, Innovation, and Education) website online and procrastinating on school assignments to browse the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) pamphlet. Harvard slowly became a fairy tale – a frequent visitor to my daydreams. Flipping through the HGSE pamphlet reminded me of when my mom, little brother and I would look through catalogs admiring gorgeous oak furniture and impressive TV displays. Our gaze would linger on the pages for a minute too long before my mom slowly closed the magazine and told us to grab our jackets. It was time to go to the thrift store.
Several months after my days daydreaming in front of pamphlets, there I was, standing in front of the Gutman Library, right across from Longfellow Hall at the HGSE. I stood there for a while staring at that banner; “Learn to Change the World”. Then I looked down at my pamphlet at the reminder of why I had come here – but was it the right fit? Was I here by accident? Do they really believe that I can actually “change the world”?
I was cautious during orientation. I didn’t want to be found out. What if someone randomly asked for my GRE score and realized I wasn’t all that smart?? I couldn’t risk it. So I quietly navigated my way underneath the canopy, making my way down the line to grab a plate of food. I had the option to choose from an aromatic Southern BBQ spread, complete with melty mac-n-cheese, coleslaw, crumbly cornbread, and BBQ pork. I filled up my plate, then found an isolated table where (hopefully) no one would find me. As luck would have it, three students “found me” and sat at the table. One from the Middle East, another from Florida, and another from India. We recapped our favorite moments from the day and debated about how authentically “Southern” the meal was. They arrived as strangers, we left as friends.
On my way back for seconds (because that mac-n-cheese was in complete agreement with my spirit), I ran into a professor who asked how my first couple of days had been going. I was honest with him and said that I was feeling really nervous. I asked him if he ever got nervous right before classes started up again and he said something that really stuck with me. He said, “whenever I get that feeling, I interpret it as excitement! I see it as an eagerness to meet new students, have new experience, and learn something new from each of them. It’s all in how you interpret that feeling.”
As the day wound down, students gathered around the dance floor like fireflies against the backdrop of the night sky. They were all so radiant – each brimming with joy as they let the music move them. As I recalled my experiences from the day and conversation with the professor, I started loosening up and found my way to the dance floor. I couldn’t resist. It was an evening full of amazing memories.
This was just the first chapter in my Harvard experience. Slowly, I was beginning to feel like, maybe I was in the right book after all.
Blog and photo by Joshua Onyango
Born in Arusha, Tanzania, Josh has spent most of his life in the mid-west and southern US. He studied Biomedical Science in college and went to medical school in North Carolina. He’s still a medical student there, but decided to take a year to learn more about the role of technology in educating patients and training young physicians through the TIE program at HGSE. Outside of school he enjoys playing video games, basketball, and pondering the meaning of life.