Author Archives: arpi721

Housing, food, fitness, and more!

Congratulations on matriculating! Now that you’ve decided to join the HGSE community this fall, Arpi and Gabi are back with a Q&A with some practical details for studying and living at HGSE and the Cambridge/Boston area. Food, fitness, and clubs, here we go!

Q1: What types of clubs and organizations are available for students at HSGE?

LAEF 2017 Conference

Gabi (HDP ’17): I have been a part of the Latin America Education Forum, a student organization dedicated to fostering productive dialogue around educational issues in Latin America. Throughout the year, we hosted movie screenings and debates, and a few weeks ago we had our main event, the Latin America Education Conference. It’s been a great opportunity to meet interesting people and learn more from their countries and my own. Cultural clubs are lots of fun here.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I also joined a cultural club, the Armenian Society at Harvard, which is based at FAS but open to the entire Harvard community. There are lots of clubs at the other University divisions that are open to the whole community, so chances are if you’re interested, you’re allowed to join! On our campus – and apart from those that are cultural and identity-based – there are also some clubs that apply their work on local and national levels. Just this year a group of students started a club called EduAct that is taking their activism and promotion of sound education policies on a national level, and often organizes on campus with professors as well. If there isn’t a club for your interest or mission, you can always form one through the HGSE Office of Student Affairs.

Q2: What kind of food will I find on campus and nearby?

Gabi (HDP ’17): You can find all sorts of food nearby! Darwin’s Ltd is one of my favorites for coffee and sandwiches (the Brattle is delicious). Border Cafe is a Mexican bar that understands student life and offers nachos and dip for free when you order other things. Algiers is a cute cafe on Brattle Street that makes you feel like you’re on a temple far away from Cambridge (which sometimes is everything you need). I also love going to Christopher’s, near Porter Square, for hamburgers and the occasional beer.

Arpi (MBE ’17): Gutman Cafe is among my favorite places to eat around campus. The staff are wonderful, the food definitely gets a thumbs-up, and thank goodness their prices are grad student-friendly. I love exploring the other schools’ cafes as well, since some of my courses are cross-listed at the other graduate schools. The Ed school contingency in my Law seminar usually grabs dinner together at the HLS (Harvard Law School) Pub on Wednesday nights after class (conveniently when they have trivia night), which is an awesome place to grab a bite to eat, and is open to the Harvard community. So even in a short walk’s distance, or if you want to stay on campus, your food options are not limited at all.

Q3: What exercise facilities and recreation opportunities are available?

Kayaking on the Charles River

Gabi (HDP ’17): People around here love to go jogging outside, and it’s great to exercise around the Charles River when the weather is nice. When that’s not the case, there are gyms around. I usually go to Hemenway Gym for Zumba, spinning and hip hop lessons–they are so much fun and help me remember that my body is not just this thing that takes my head to meetings. There are also more sporadic activities: I’ve been kayaking with a group of friends and heard of some people who have gone ice fishing and skiing around the area.

Arpi (MBE ’17): Harvard has two gyms on this side of the river, open to anyone who gets a membership – the MAC (Malkin Athletic Center) near Mt. Auburn St., and Hemenway by the Law School. I enjoy going to Hemenway since it’s a short walk from HGSE, although the MAC isn’t too much further for me to complain about it. For the really dedicated, there is also a November Project group based in Cambridge that does workouts one morning at week at the Harvard Stadium across the bridge, and they are fantastic! There are also lots of students who take classes – as an extracurricular and for credit – at the Harvard Dance Studio just a few minutes’ walk from HGSE. They have classes for all ability levels – and when I say all ability levels, I mean they even tolerate me with my two left feet and embarrassing lack of coordination.

Q4: How did you make plans for housing?

Gabi (HDP ’17): I’m an international student and was not familiar with the area at all, so my first priority was to find a place where I could feel safe. My second concern was to find somewhere practical so that I could maximize my limited time around here. Cronkhite made a lot of sense for my set of criteria: I reserved the room online and was able to get settled a couple of weeks before classes started. But even though Arpi and I live in the same dorm, there are so many other options available, from Harvard Housing or not.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I knew I wanted to live close to campus, since I wanted to spend as much time as possible at HGSE and attend as many lectures and events as I could. Of the Harvard housing buildings open to HGSE, Cronkhite was the closest to campus (being two blocks down Brattle Street from Appian Way). It was the best option for my price range and preferred move in/move-out dates (note that leases at Cronkhite tend to run the entire calendar year, from July to end of June the following year). This happened to work perfectly for me since I started my campus job in the summer. But there are plenty of students who commute from Boston or even further, including a cohort member who commutes from Rhode Island since he was based there prior to coming to HGSE. If you would like any referrals of students who commute from these different distances, let us know and we’d be happy to put you in touch.

Q5: How did you meet and get to know the members of your cohort?

One of many HDP Happy Hour events!

Gabi (HDP ’17): There were so many events going on in the beginning of the year, I couldn’t tell when exactly I got to know them. There were some that were specific to the Human Development and Psychology program and some for all of the Ed School. I was always on the lookout for other people from HDP and, to be honest, am still getting to know some members of my cohort. We have a regular Happy Hour event every week and every now and then we have special outings–a few weeks ago we watched a basketball game together, and last weekend there was a party at Prof. Rick Weissbourd’s house (our program director).

MBE at John Harvard’s Brewery

Arpi (MBE ’17): Well, it’s hard for my cohort members to not see each other because so many of our classes and interests have overlap (and that’s the case for pretty much every cohort here), so meeting your cohort members is not a problem at all. Orientation week was a great time for us to go on outings together in Cambridge and the Boston area and to get to know each other. Even before then, my cohort organized a few outings since some of us moved into Boston before orientation. We went to the Lawn on D, John Harvard’s brewery, and explored the Harvard campus together. As soon as classes started, the outings turned more into study sessions and study breaks, but we always find a way to meet up at least twice a month. Although, I’d be remiss to not give any credit to Mandy (our program administrator, “P.A.”, who also works with HDP) for organizing some of these study breaks!

Q6: Do you have an internship? How did you find it?

Gabi (HDP ’17): I am a Research Assistant at Agency by Design, one of the many projects at Project Zero (also called “PZ”). I am interested in creativity, and ever since before coming I knew that PZ studied themes around the intersection of arts and education, so I knew I should look for something over there. They had an Open House at the beginning of the semester, where I was able to get more familiar with the specific projects and people who worked there. I tried out for two projects before finding the one that was a good match for both me and the team.

Arpi (MBE ’17): I decided to have a campus job rather than an internship this year. Because I have a research background and less of a professional background, I wanted to prioritize gaining some professional experience while being at HGSE. Talk to CSO (the Career Services Office) early in the year, or even in the beginning of the summer, if you’re interested in such opportunities – they know exactly where to look and who to call based on your interests.

Q7: How do you find out about all of the events happening at HGSE, Harvard University, and across the broader Cambridge/Boston area?

Gabi (HDP ’17): So. Many. Newsletters. You will be flooded with emails about events from your cohort, HGSE, Harvard, research groups, labs, museums, etc. Gutman Library is always filled with posters about lectures. Facebook is a constant source of events in Cambridge, Boston, Somerville and surroundings. It is common for interesting events to cross your path when you least expect, so it’s good to leave time in your schedule to accommodate these pleasant surprises. Trust me, finding things to do will not be a problem.

Arpi (MBE ’17): For lectures and academic events, the Harvard Gazette newsletter is fantastic. It compiles events from across the university into a central calendar and highlights some of the big events of the day in the email. I also echo Gabi – there are lots of email newsletters, and they are fantastic. My favorites this year have been those for Askwith forums at HGSE, the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, and the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. If you have an interest, there’s probably a newsletter for it.

We’re so happy you’ll be joining our community in the Fall! Congratulations again on your admission and your decision to enroll – we’ll be seeing you soon!

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, education, and qualitative research. She joins HGSE from Brazil as a Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellow and is currently a Master’s in Education Candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Program.

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.


More than an observer: 5 Points for Class Visitation

So you’ve requested a class observation from HGSE Admissions and received a confirmation that you got that class you wanted. You’ve made it to Cambridge, found Appian Way (welcome to HGSE!!!), and navigated to Larsen, Gutman, or Longfellow for that class you want to sit in on. Here are five points for making the most of visiting a class at HGSE:

Point 1: (This is more like a point 0, because it’s a preparation step, but in any case) If you know ahead of time which class you’ll be sitting in on, look up the professor on the HGSE website. Check out their areas of expertise, some of their published works, and which HGSE programs they are affiliated with (it will help you with figuring out which program to apply to, if you’re interested in more than one). Understand the perspective they’ll take in teaching their class.

Point 2: Introduce yourself as a prospective student to the professor before the session starts. Of course, clarify with them that you can sit in on their lecture that day (99.99999% of the time, the answer is a welcoming “yes!”), and remember to thank them for the opportunity. Now, go and find a place to sit!


Point 3: Realize as soon as you sit down that classes don’t actually start at the time they are said to in the course book. Classes at HGSE are usually on “Harvard time,” which is unnecessarily specific terminology for starting 10 minutes after their scheduled time. It’s quite the blessing for students trekking from main campus to get to class on time, and for the hungry students grabbing bite to eat before their next lecture. Despite this, get to the classroom early! The next point will tell you why.

Point 4: Now that you have newfound time on your hands, look to your left and right, and introduce yourself to the students sitting next to you. Note: chances are, they’ll beat you to it and introduce themselves to you since you’re a new face in the class, but in any case, HGSE students are always happy to speak with you about their experiences. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear more about being a student at HGSE, straight from the sources. Use it!

Point 5: Depending on the class, get ready to do more than just listen. If you’re sitting in on the ever-popular T552 (Innovation by Design) or A608 (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Learning), for example, prepare yourself to walk around or otherwise engage with the students in the room. Classes here often break off into discussion groups, disband all written and unwritten rules of lecture structures, and call for every form of interaction with the professor and your fellow students. If the weather is nice, this may even result in holding the class outdoors in Radcliffe Yard. If you feel so compelled, (with the instructor’s permission) join in on the action!

Check out the classes that are open to prospective students here. What better way to picture yourself as a student here than to take some classes for a day?


T550: Designing for Learning by Creating, taught by Prof. Karen Brennan, takes over Radcliffe Yard during small group discussion time (photo credits to the T550 teaching team)

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

(Class) Shopping

My mind is buzzing with excitement, exhaustion, and total desperation. It’s 5:00pm on Thursday, having just finished the whirlwind two days of class shopping period. I slumped in my advisor’s chair – I needed expert advice.

“What’s up?” he asks.

I jumped right in. “I have a whole list of classes I want to take and can’t imagine narrowing it down. I’ve never had so much freedom to frame my course load. Can I enroll in four courses and audit another five? Is that normal? I’ve never done this before. What do I do? How do I do this?”

At this point, I realized I’ve just ranted for a solid two minutes. I sighed, “I just wish I could take everything.”

He sat back in his chair and smiled. “Welcome to HGSE. You’ll fit right in.”

Shopping period is an utterly exhausting and exciting two days of discovering the course book. Before each term begins, HGSE sets aside two days for exploring the offerings of the semester. From 9am to 5:30pm, our days are filled with listening to professors pitch their classes to us in short lectures, and at the end we’re asked to narrow our courses of interest to a precious few. 

My advisor sensed my uneasiness in making the final decisions. He gave another smile, folded his arms, and asked me to remind myself what drew me to study at HGSE – not what drew me to come to the school, but what compelled me to study here.

To my amazement and relief, my fellow cohort members faced similar dilemmas about their class selection. Most surprisingly, we all selected completely different courses from each other. We were each asking ourselves the same question, for which we had varied answers: what is my purpose for studying here? 

Even within cohorts, everyone comes to HGSE with a different objective. Our common thread is an interest in education-related issues (and, seemingly, a desire to take more than a reasonable amount of courses), but we each have a different purpose and path to take. Shopping week reminds us that the opportunities for study here are endless; but rather than overwhelm us, it reminds us that here we have the incredible ability to chart our own course, and this was our first step in our journey.

What will be your purpose at HGSE?


Members of the MBE ’17 cohort on our first day of classes outside Gutman Library, starting our grad school journeys together

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.