Author Archives: Junia

Day in the Life, part 2: Oh, just another day at HGSE

Monday, April 9th, was an amazing day.  So amazing that I wanted to share it with you.  I suppose the trend with our posts lately have been about finishing strong, looking back, or reflecting on what we learned.  Well, I have come a ways since my first (embarrassing) post (on my lack of productivity) or my second post on how I never sleep.  To redeem myself from those first semester posts, I’m posting a day in the life, part deux.

2:43 AM – Finished my taxes and rejoiced at the Lifetime Learning Tax credit — this year I’m getting money back!  Opted to fall asleep with a small light on because I realized that a bright room helps me wake up better in the morning.

7:51 AM – Woke up before my alarm.  Decided to snooze fifteen minutes longer.

9:35 AM – Overslept! Quickly got dressed.  Out the door 15 minutes later.  Some things never change.  On the bright side, the neighbors’ tulips and daffodils are about to bloom! Spring is so beautiful.

10:00 AM – Walked into office hours with Dr. Reimers.  Talked about a group project and got some specific, helpful feedback.  Talked about potential summer opportunities and got some specific, helpful feedback.  Talked about my cousin’s interest in medicine and disruptive innovation (a la Christensen) and got some specific, helpful feedback.  Do we see a pattern here?  Mad respect for this man.

10:15 AM – Left office hours early and called my partner to update him on my meeting.  My partner will meet with Reimers later to discuss more general questions about the project.  Enjoyed the new library, greeted some people, and ambled home.

10:55 AM – Walked to work.  I tutor at the Harvard Bridge, a really cool branch of the University’s Human Resources – Harvard workers can access ESL, GED, etc. classes!  Been teaching this student how to use e-mail and how to type.  He’s a fun guy.

12:50 PM – Go to the HGSE Admissions office for a fancy photoshoot.  Just kidding, not fancy.  It’s for publicity next year.

1:30 PM – Went to get lunch to go from the ever so faithful Cronkhite cafeteria.  Had a tofu parmesan sandwich.

2:00 PM – Downloaded my readings and did my readings for class that night.

3:30 PM – Set my alarm and decided to take a nap.

3:51 PM – Jolted awake when a floormate knocked on my door to return something.  I thought I overslept, but I didn’t!  Left for class and called a friend and sang Louis Armstrong songs to her.  Flowers make me feel goofy and happy.

4:00 PM – Dr. Merseth’s Charter school course.  So interesting.  We have 2 more classes after this class and we spent some time quickly synthesizing and recapping.  She also casually mentions that Mike Feinberg is dropping by.  Yes, one of the co-founders of KIPP.

4:30 PM – Our Teaching Fellow (TF), Kyle Hartung spoke about Envision Schools and how they assess and gauge learning with their project-based learning model.  Super interesting. Super packed.

5:30 PM – Dana Lehman, managing director of Uncommon Boston (part of Uncommon Schools), gave a jam-packed talk.  Walked us through a lot of Professional Development ideas.  My mind is spinning.

6:30 PM –  Mike Feinberg and four students talk and answer questions.  At first I wasn’t sure what to ask.  Then, I wasn’t sure how to phrase it since actual KIPP students were there.  I think my thinking about these no-excuses schools is still evolving (probably due to the fact that I’ve read the KIPP case study in 3 of my classes this year).  Regardless, when I left the classroom, I was sort of shocked.  Really?  Was I just with a guy whose making waves in U.S. education today?  Woot, HGSE.

7:10 PM – Talked with a friend from Arts in Education about the speakers today and saw Dr. Merseth and her teaching partner, Nelson Smith (CEO of NAPCS) leaving HGSE.  I told them today was crazy.  Nelson reminded me that I’m meeting with him for office hours tomorrow.

7:20 PM – Walked into Gutman library and made a poetry card for the HGSE installation at the Arts First event in April.

8:00 PM – Student Government Association meeting!  We’ve definitely come a long way (evidenced by the chatty, comfortable banter AND a quick meeting).

8:55 PM – Met my friend and went to Cronkhite to study.  People came in and out.  We chatted.  Then got to working.  We were pretty productive.. for about 4 hours!

Anyway, Mondays are not always so full.  But, I wouldn’t say these events are unusual, because, simply put, at HGSE there really is always an opportunity to do or see something.  (Case in point: John Wood is coming to Dr. Reimer’s class this Friday!)

It’s funny how I’ve come to a point where I harbor an almost “no big deal” response to the reality that CEOs and founders and board directors stroll into various classes and give presentations and earnestly answer our questions.  But if I stop to pause, I realize that, hey, it kind of is a big deal!  Oh HGSE, I’ll miss you.

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Unsolicited Harvard Housing Advice

Here is an embellished email I sent to some of my future Language & Literacy buddies.  

Congratulations on your admission!  I remember around this time last year, I was so conflicted because as a California native, I really didn’t want to leave.  However, once I decided to make this East Coast move, the next thing I had to figure out was … .. .. dun dun dun dahhhh: Housing.  Where do I live? 


Initially, I was supposed to live with two other friends from the West Coast, but just in case that fell through, I applied for both Cronkhite and GSAS housing. Well, my plans did fall through, but I qualified for Cronkhite housing!  I love it.  Not only do I get to mingle with people from HGSE, but there are students from the other grad schools as well (the Harvard Kennedy School, the Divinity School, the Graduate School of Design, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School…most likely in that order).  The food is really good and the rooms are tolerable.  The people are all great and you each get a single room.  Furthermore, I’m really close to HGSE.  It takes me 4 minutes, folks, to get from my dorm room to my class.  (I walk fast, take shortcuts, and cut corners – it’s all about the hypotenuses.)  Especially if you’re not planning to stay in Boston or are unwilling to sign a year-long lease, grad housing or Harvard apartments are great.


This is limited only to the options I saw my friends take.  Most of them are at least a year-long lease.  In general, try to live near the T (T=subway) or a regularly running bus.  MBTA is your friend.  I recommend getting a Linkpass (you’ll get an e-mail for a student deal.  First semester I got the T+Bus pass, second semester, I only got the Bus pass because I didn’t use the T very often.)

When I was looking for housing, I only looked around Harvard, Central, and Kendall T-stops.  That was a mistake.  Apartments there are expensive and hard to find if you’re unfamiliar with the area (and if you’re on the other coast).  In general though, keep in mind that Cambridge housing is not very cheap, so brace yourselves.

WatertownIf you live off Mt. Auburn Street – the main road running through Cambridge and Watertown – different busses go up and down about every 12-15 minutes (or more frequently during peak hours).  It’s cheap too.  Going from Harvard Square to Watertown square is 25 minutes tops.

BelmontDifferent busses.  Again, very frequent.  An affordable area.

Porter/Davis Square (in Somerville): Red Line T.  A lot of people I know live here.  Some people bike.  Some people take the subway.  If you live off Massachusetts Avenue (the main road running through Cambridge and Somerville), you could take one of the many busses that go up and down that street.

BostonTaking the plunge across the bridge?  Just FYI: The Green line T can be really slow.  I have a few friends in Brookline though, and their places are really nice.  Really nice.  They’re also planning to stay so they nested.

Other Places: I know of people who live as far as an hour’s drive away.  They take the train or drive.   So it’s definitely doable.


Are you worried about the walk?  I’d say use google maps and click the “walk” button. Unless you know you’re a sloth, most likely, your walking pace will be faster than the pace Google uses to guesstimate time.  Maybe anywhere within a mile is good?  It snows but Cambridge is good about salting the streets so you won’t be slogging through snow.  Also, you’ll have snow boots!  They’re great.

Bikes are great too.  I’m so envious of my friends with bicycles.  Especially this year, it barely rained or snowed.  I wished I’d had a bike.  You’ll also want to invest in a good lock!  Anyway, people bike from everywhere.

Public Transportation: I think the Linkpass is a good investment, especially if you’re new to the area and will be accidentally hopping on and off different modes of transportation.  It also forces you to go out more and explore.  However, if you foresee yourself not using it often, then just buy a CharlieCard.  You can reload it as often as you want and you get a discount on the bus and the T!  Lastly, most HGSE events end before the T closes, so even if you live farther away, you can still be involved with the community and get home more or less conveniently.  Taxis are all right too.


I hope this helps, and if you’re familiar with the area, you should post comments on other suggestions, warnings, disputes, and disagreements!  If you still have questions, just call the Office of Student Affairs.

Here’s the official HGSE Housing Tips site.  Happy House Hunting!

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CSO + Winter Break = Future?

So, if you haven’t realized it already, HGSE has this thing for acronyms.
CSO = Career Services Office.

And the people there are pretty awesome.  I would know– I think I met with more than half of them.  What really worked for me, though, was scouring through their bios and then finding someone that I felt would be specifically helpful to me and whose time slots fit my schedule.  Like I said, I met with a few people.  However, I did connect with one advisor (Sarah Deighton) pretty quickly, so I feel that it was pretty smooth sailing from Day 1.

On my first day, I literally just showed up with my resume and chatted about future possibilities. During our meetings in my first semester, I mulled over ideas, updated her on my job search process, my internships, potential locations, etc.  I think I literally changed my mind about every other meeting.  But, throughout it all, even though we only had fifteen minutes, it didn’t feel short.  I always left with concrete advice, small “assignments,” and a better idea of where I was going.

I think I can honestly say this was one of my most valuable resources at HGSE.  And the semester isn’t over, so I’m obviously still milking it!  For you future HGSE’ers, here’s some advice:

  • Start early.  You have the most time in the beginning of the semester.  Don’t be in denial about graduating. 🙂
  • Try to meet regularly (every 1-2 months?) with one advisor who will get to know you.  This can be accomplished by signing up for time slots ahead of time.
  • Ask for and do your homework.  Even when I was swamped in all things HGSE, the little assignments helped me keep the future in mind.
  • Meet with other advisors too.  All of them have different resources, and if they don’t know the answer, they will direct you to someone who does.
  • Be candid and ask for help.  If the advisor doesn’t know where you’re coming from or what you’re exactly looking for, he or she won’t be able to help you.

If you’re like me, and you  didn’t come to HGSE fresh from an amazing career with another amazing job lined up for you, I think this is a good start.  Take care!

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My life as a vampire (minus the sparkling)

When you come to HGSE, it can sometimes feel overwhelming.  Everyone is so well put together.  Everybody has incredible work, volunteer, and/or school experience.  It’s not uncommon for you to run into someone who already started a program or someone who used to be your boss or supervisor.  Unlike my undergrad years, nobody goes to class in sweats and uggs.  In fact, I think I may be the only person who has worn a hoodie to class.  I swear!  (It’s the east coast, I tell ya!)  Here’s another sad little secret: if I’m in a hurry and I have to wear grungy clothes, I throw on my running shoes and pretend that I’m either coming from the gym or going to the gym after class.  And I swear, everyone turns in their papers on time.  And they probably all get As.

With all that said, this week was an especially downer week for me because this week was the week where I realized that no matter what, my research paper was going to be late.  It was really hard coming to terms with that because I didn’t have a valid excuse.  Before, if I had to turn in a paper late, I had already arranged some sort of extension with my professor ahead of time.  This time, I had to shamefacedly write an email in the morning informing my professor and teaching fellow that my paper was going to be late.  Basically, I hadn’t managed my time well, I had prioritized other things, and  I wasn’t willing to drag my body through the night to punch out something deliriously mediocre.

I assumed that I’d be turning in the paper a few hours later, but THEN on top of all this, I got some sort of stomach bug!  It was ridiculous.  During that ordeal, I was determined to crank out the paper, go to my two classes, and THEN go to the health services.  My friend Eva saw me working on my paper and told me that no, class wasn’t important where health was involved, and to take care of myself.  I think as I was rambling on about how I “had” to finish this paper, I realized how ridiculous I sounded.  In the larger scheme of things, a paper isn’t worth my health, my sanity, etc.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was hard to then email my professor again and tell her I was sick.  I’m so used to “muscling through”.  However, I think, just like with everything else, this was a good learning experience.  Just not the type that I receive from a lecture hall.

And it turns out I’m not the only one.  My other friend (in the Education Policy and Management program) just the other day emailed me and shared with me how she’s struggling too and how she too had to turn in papers late.  We commiserated about how everyone else seems so put together, and out of this body of over 600 students, we’re the only two who turn in late papers.  However, that’s not true either.  As I stay frank about how I’m doing, I’m realizing other people also have late papers (as of now, I’m not the only one who hasn’t turned in my research paper yet).  And no, it’s not like HGSE professors are fluffily lenient and airily dole out extensions.  They don’t. It’s that, you come to a point where you realize that yes, an A would be nice, but ultimately there’s really more to what you do here than the grade.

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A Day in the Life…

Just in case you’re curious!  

8:00AM – Woke up late and quickly readied myself for class.

8:30AM – Locked my dorm door (remembering to take the keys this time) and took a shortcut to class.

8:35AM – Arrived in class.

8:40AM – Intro to Quantitative Research with Professor Tivnan.  If you want to know what having “accessible faculty” feels like, take a class with Tivnan.

10:00AM – Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Learning with Professor Higgins.  Since this is the first time I took a class based on case studies, I never fail to feel nervous during class.  I also never fail to leave class without something new to ponder. That’s sweet.

11:30AM – Lunch at the dorms with classmates.  Swiped in my friend Jackie (Arts in Education) because the food here is amazing.  I used to take my lunch to go, so that I could “be more efficient,” but I quickly realized, taking this break is definitely more productive in the long-run.

12:30PM – Brought Jackie up to my room to study.  I noticed her reading her Bible so I took the opportunity to do some reading, reflecting, and praying myself.

1:00PM – Began completing “to-do” items, including calling schools that I need to poll for a survey project for class and making a dentist appointment.

2:00PM – Tackled some reading on my bed.

3:00PM – Woke up from accidentally falling asleep and realized I have only read 6 pages.  Moved to the floor and tried to read some more.

4:00PM – Jackie left.  I moved to my desk, ate an early dinner, and planned to check email, skim the news, and scan Facebook.

4:25PM – Thanks to a Google Chrome extension (StayFocusd), I was kicked off Facebook and Twitter after 25 minutes.  Began checking my email and skimming the news.

4:45PM – Texted exercise buddy Julie (Prevention Science and Practice) and asked her if she wanted to do Aqua Aerobics at the Melkins Athletic Center (a requirement for completing a gym-wide challenge; successful participants get a free t-shirt!)

4:50PM – She replied saying she actually got out of class early so she can!

4:55PM – Got dressed for Aqua Aerobics and went to her dorm room.

5:10PM – Left for the MAC.  We got to the pool for the first time.  I ran into my professor.  Not awkward. Not at all.  (Or so I tell myself).*

5:30PM – Class started and I found myself behind my professor, jogging in place and sweeping my arms around to the orders of the very peppy aqua aerobics instructor.  Must save this story for my kids.

7:00PM – Class finished.  Showered and changed.  Decided to take a Balletone class too since I’m behind on the gym challenge (and I’d rather not read for class).

7:30PM – Started balletone class.  Midway through, instructor decided to do a Zumba routine.  I was not feeling it.

8:30PM – Walked home.  Freezing!  For some reason, Cambridge decided to get really cold.

8:40PM – Got home, ate a snack, started reading.

9:00PM – Got bored, walked over to Lauren’s (Mind, Brain, and Education) room and chatted with her since I haven’t seen her in a while.

9:20PM – Washed up.

9:30PM – Cracked down on my reading.  Really.  It was time to concentrate.

9:45PM – Moved to the kitchen to concentrate better.  Asked myself why I stink at reading.

10:30PM – Started nodding off in the kitchen.

11:00PM – Decided to finish reading in the warmth of my bed.

11:30PM – Decided to wake up early tomorrow to finish reading.

11:31PM – Took off my glasses and decided to sleep early 🙂

*It was honestly fine.  We chatted and just the other day, discussed the merits of aqua aerobics.  She’s also another example of an extremely accessible professor.