Author Archives: kimh1213

The End

I will never forget the year I turned 30. Not because it’s a big birthday year but because it was the year I got my master’s degree at Harvard.

That’s a really weird sentence for me to write. Growing up, Harvard was a place for other people, certainly not for people like me who struggled in school and didn’t have any college graduates in the family. Of course, as a student of the Harvard Graduate School of Education I can’t help but think of the teachers in my life who helped me to get here. My dance teachers in Bermuda, for example, who showed their students that any goal could be accomplished with a lot of hard work and my college teachers at The New School who set high standards but always had a sense of humor and a positive attitude.

The first day at HGSE was on my 30th birthday. Similarly, the last day, convocation, is on a big day for me: my wedding anniversary. This is fitting because as my year here ends, my focus will be turned more towards the adventures my husband and I will be sharing together in our new home of Israel. I’m a little nervous about moving to a new country where I don’t yet speak the language and don’t yet have a job, but my year at Harvard has given me a lot of confidence, and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned at HGSE to helping children and adolescents.

In the meantime though, finals…

It was great sharing this year with all of you, and I look forward to reading next year’s blogs,

-Kim

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Student Organizations

With the year at HGSE about to end, many student organizations have been busy organizing final meetings and events. Last week, for example, Harvard Hillel and the Jewish Student Association (JSA) that I preside over hosted a Shabbat dinner that was open to the entire HGSE community and a Holocaust Remembrance Day presentation by Clifford Chanin, the director of education and public programs at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The Multicultural Affairs Council that I’m a member of has also been busy planning orientation events for next year’s group of students, and the Admissions Ambassadors have been welcoming newly accepted students.

One tip I have for incoming students who already know that they would like to lead a student organization is to contact someone from that organization now. I did that with the JSA last year and the president at the time introduced me to the organization, put me on the listserv so I could keep up with how the organization functions, and invited me to think about leading during my year at HGSE. That early introduction made it easy for me to jump into JSA duties in the fall. But don’t worry if you don’t know which organizations you’d like to start or join. There will be plenty of opportunities to learn more about this during orientation. The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) is really supportive of student organizations, and they will help you with every step.

Other then student organizations, OSA is a good place to start if you’re looking for somewhere to volunteer. I regularly get emails about great opportunities. I hadn’t considered volunteering when I first started here — I didn’t think there would be enough time — but the emails inspired me to find something I love. Now each week I volunteer with Friendship Circle where I get to hang out with adolescents with special needs who have few opportunities to make friends.

I wasn’t sure that I could manage this heavy load of activities along with my school work and family time, but by carefully choosing  experiences that I love or would love to have, I think it’s now safe to say I managed. Phew.

-Kim

42 Days Till Graduation

I just ordered my graduation gown.

We’re going to look so snazzy for Oprah Winfrey, the Harvard University commencement speaker.

Although I’m counting down to graduation, I’m glad that I have 42 days left here. During the sad events at the Boston Marathon, I was reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many kind people at HGSE and in Boston. These last days will be spent savoring each person and experience.

– Kim

Do you have to be a teacher to attend HGSE?

I attend a graduate school of education, but I neither want to be a teacher nor work in a school. Confused? So was I.

Since my focus is psychology, when I was looking for a graduate program I almost didn’t find HGSE. It took a creative search by my husband to discover that you can study more than teaching at a school of education. I was incredulous at first. A school of education?! For someone who wants to work in psychology?! Once I explored the option, though, it seemed perfect. School is where the children and adolescents are, and since I want to work with that population, why not learn about them in an educational context– especially if that educational context is at the nexus of practice, policy, and research.

Since I’ve started here, I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by students who want to be psychologists, teachers, researchers, policy makers, principals, consultants, artists, and so many more professions.  It’s true that everyone here has an interest in education, but how that interest manifests is different for everyone.

-Kim

A Week in the Life

What are the chances that upon pulling up to my new apartment in Brookline, just weeks before my first day at HGSE, the first person I would meet would be a neighbor who had just graduated from HGSE? That neighbor, who I met because my husband had blocked her car with our U-Haul and I had excitedly noticed her HGSE bumper sticker, said just one thing about HGSE to me, “You are going to be so busy!”

It’s true. The best word to characterize a typical week at HGSE is busy. What my neighbor didn’t warn me about, though, was how meaningful that busy-ness would be. In one week alone, I got to:

    • Hang out with adolescents with special needs along with my developmental disabilities “cohort”
    • Work on leadership skills by event planning for the Jewish Student Association and through the Multicultural Affairs Council
    • Learn more about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover from a fellow classmate who is also a rabbi
    • Connect to my independent study professor, who I consider a mentor
    • Hear from an expert in autism, Dr. Stephen Shore, who happens to have autism himself
    • Intern at the Learning Disabilities Program at the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Connect cognitive neuroscience to dance through an experiential field trip to the Harvard Dance Program
    • Participate in a phone-a-thon to congratulate newly accepted students (Congratulations!)
    • Enjoy a couple of nights out at new restaurants with my husband

Phew. All of that in one week, plus my classes and homework and running and learning to speak and read Hebrew. I’ve never been so busy in my life. And I’ve also never been so inspired.

The HGSE Ed.M. is only a one year program, but if you know what you want to learn and are willing to seek out the opportunities, or create them if they don’t exist, you can get so much out of that one year — or even just one week.

-Kim

Can I create an academic program that doesn’t exist?

When I was searching for a graduate program, I was really attracted to the Human Development and Psychology program at HGSE because it would allow me to continue my studies in developmental psychology. Besides psychology, however, I had a very specific interest in children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. Sadly that’s not a program offered at HGSE. Would it be possible, I wondered before starting here, to concentrate on a topic that wasn’t included in one of the 13 academic programs.

The answer is YES!

When I was applying to HGSE, the first thing I did was to go through the course catalog and pick out some of the courses that were directly related to my interest. After I arrived at HGSE, I tailored the remaining courses to my own needs by applying what we learned in class to my topic and writing all of my papers on that topic. To further create the sense that developmental disabilities is its own program, I connected with other students who have the same interest and then complemented my studies with related volunteer activities and by attending talks.

By far the best part of my year studying developmental disabilities has been connecting to professors who work in my field of interest. In particular, one professor, Joanna Christodoulou who teaches Developmental Disabilities, helped me to create an independent study working at Boston Children’s Hospital where I get to help out at the Learning Disabilities Program. There I get to see how both Joanna and my Reading Difficulties professor, Jennifer Thomson, apply what they teach to the real world.

Putting together my own program has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had at HGSE. I’m so glad I didn’t let the lack of a program in my specific field stop me from attending.

-Kim

Finding Balance or…Taking an Analogy Really Far

During orientation, the plethora of opportunities available at HGSE was compared to a buffet.  The key to having a good experience at a buffet, we were told, was to sample a little of everything while making sure not to overeat. At the time I heard this speech, I just felt hungry – come on, orientation is really exhausting – but now that we’ve begun our second and final semester at HGSE, I can really appreciate this advice as I try to find balance.

How to Enjoy the Buffet

1. Take breaks between courses

My key to feeling refreshed and constantly motivated is to take a day off each week. During that day, I don’t read emails or do homework or worry about finances. Instead I socialize, read books for fun, go for walks in my pretty Brookline neighborhood, nap, feast, and then nap some more. By the next day, I look forward to getting back to work, and I’m more productive as a result. (The NY Times recently shared this sentiment in the opinion piece Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.)

2. Make sure to sample a little bit of dessert 

I recently attended a college sports game for the first time ever and I also saw cheerleaders for the first time. As an immigrant and first-generation college student, this was pretty exciting. It may seem obvious that having some fun is important for finding balance, but as the work piles up and you become entrenched in student organizations, internships, and job searching, it’s easy to forget to enjoy the fun that Harvard and Boston has to offer.

3. Share the experience with someone

My husband has a spouse library card (only $5!), so he often uses Gutman Library as his workspace. That means in the midst of all of my homework, I always have someone with whom I can chat, joke, and reflect about my experiences, which really makes things less overwhelming. (More spouse awesomeness: they can audit a course for free at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.)

Finally, to take this buffet analogy even further, just when you think you couldn’t possibly take so much on your plate and still finish it all, you find that thanks to all of this balance you’ve achieved, you can indeed finish your plate – or, you know, get As.

-Kim

Spring Semester To-Do List

My dad has started texting me the number of days left before graduation, and my first thought in response has been, “I have so much left to do!” Graduation doesn’t only mean the end of my time at this graduate school that I love so much but also, if plans pan out, the end of my time living in the United States — my home for the past 11 years.

During my last few days of winter break, I made the following list of things to do before graduation:

  1. Choose spring classes. So far I’ve registered for Reading Difficulties, Adolescent Development, an independent study at Children’s Hospital, and…?
  2. Start job search. And help my husband with his job search.
  3. Learn Hebrew in preparation for (possibly) moving to Israel.
  4. Attend a college sports game for the first time ever. Wear lots of Harvard crimson.
  5. See a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
  6. Attend the Askwith Forum featuring Noam Chomsky.
  7. Run four times a week (haha!).
  8. Get better at giving presentations.
  9. Take a Duck Tour.
  10. Visit American family and friends before moving abroad.
  11. Visit Bermuda, the country where I grew up, for the first time since high school graduation. Reflect upon my past before transitioning to my new stage of life in a new country, with a new degree, a new job, and with thoughts of babies.
  12. Do homework.

-Kim

The Next Big Thing

Just as many prospective HGSE students have submitted their applications for admission, I’ve been spending winter break completing an application of my own. Ahhhh!

The application I’m completing, along with my husband, is for aliyah. Aliyah is the Hebrew word for “going up,” and it’s the process of moving to Israel and getting Israeli citizenship.

It’s strange to be thinking about the next big thing after HGSE while I’m still busy as a student here. I feel like I’ve just finished writing about how the first day of school coincided with my 30th birthday, and now I’m already planning for post-graduation. Again, ahhhh!

The most challenging part of this plan is that I don’t (yet!) speak Hebrew. That means my job search is limited to English positions. Luckily, however, the search has been far from stressful. Going to HGSE means I can tap into the HGSE network. That network is one that is both large and kind. For example, one professor overheard someone ask me where I’ll be working in Israel. I told the student I didn’t know, and the professor jumped in and told me about a connection she has. The next day that connection had me set up with a prospective job contact.

I’m really excited about this big new change. But for now, I’m so so so happy to be at HGSE and preparing for the next great thing: spring semester.

-Kim

Rejected

Scary title, huh? I don’t want to make those of you sending in your HGSE applications nervous, but rejection is a normal part of the graduate school application process. I should know. I was rejected from HGSE the first time I applied.

The first time I applied was during my final year of my undergraduate program at The New School where I attended as a nontraditional student (translation: I was older). I knew that I wanted to attend HGSE, but articulating why was a little difficult for me in the midst of my final year taking more than a full-time load in a BA/MA program, preparing to get married, and preparing for graduate school (GREs, campus visits, etc).

After I was rejected, I planned to attend another really good program; however, financial complications put those plans on hold. I was really disappointed, but I wasn’t deterred in my efforts to attend graduate school. I spent the year really thinking about what I wanted to do and gaining more experience. By the time I reapplied to HGSE, I didn’t just think I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I KNEW what I wanted to do with my life and how HGSE could get me there. I made sure that my essay was sincere and specific. I outlined some of the classes I hoped to take, specifying exactly what it was about HGSE that still made it my first choice.

Months later, I received my acceptance letter.

I wish you all the best of luck in your application process! Stay focused, positive, and get those applications in on time. And then whatever happens I’m sure will turn out to be the best for you.

-Kim