Author Archives: kpfernandes

Oh, The Things You’ll See!

Right now, several of you are probably mulling over the question of what graduate school to pick, wondering what will make for the best learning experience. If you’re considering HGSE as one of your top choices, you’ve probably already seen a number of reasons why you should come through this blog — carefully curated classes, brilliant peers who push you to learn every day, and a ton of resources around campus that can speak directly to your interests. When classes are in session, it is of course a great time to learn, but I realized this spring break that at HGSE, learning continues well beyond the classroom and into the wider communities that we are a part of. Continue reading


A Supportive Network: The I.E.P. Cohort

Of the many things that have been going on recently, there’s one from two weekends ago that I’m still happy about — our cohort retreat. Sometime toward the end of the fall semester, a couple of students came up with the idea that we should all try to get away before the spring semester began to take a step back, reflect on how we’d used our time in the first half of the year here, and develop a community even stronger than the one we already have. So we spent a weekend in Petersham, at the Harvard forest, split between three wonderfully quiet community living houses and peppered with a whole lot of laughter. As great as it was to be involved in planning the retreat and thinking about all the things we could do together to build a stronger cohort, it was also just really nice to be around everyone, staying up late and playing games and chatting, and particularly listening to personal reflections at the end of the retreat. Being away allowed us the time and space to speak with people we might otherwise rarely run into, to play games and talk about our lives with people we otherwise might only see in class, and to appreciate how blessed we are to have such an incredible cohort.

The summer before grad school began, I spent hours worrying about whether this was the right decision. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in — that there  would be too many crazy smart, hardworking, passionate people who I might not connect to. But those fears have long since disappeared, because there are so many things to love about our the people we surround ourselves with every day — the classmate who took this great picture, the phenomenal planning committee who thought of all the little details and then some more, friends who listen to worries about classes and the job hunt, others who help you dress up for the masquerade ball (another blog post about that coming soon!), thoughtful colleagues who always have snacks ready in three-hour classes, supremely talented and brilliant friends who surprise you with their insights. All of the above, and great conversations and laughter.


Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools. 


J-Term at HGSE

Having spent several years actively disinterested in television (yes, I’m a little strange), I have to confess that I was initially a little skeptical about whether I would enjoy the J-term (January Term) class I’d signed up for. Informal Learning for Children, taught by Professor Joe Blatt, was a two-week long course from 10 am – 6 pm every day, and I worried that this might be more exposure to television in that fortnight than I’d had during the rest of my life. I also believed (clearly mistakenly) that many media experiences were uninformative and had little to do with education of any sort, and wondered how it would be possible to design experiences that were both engaging and educational.

So much of what I heard and saw over the course of the past fortnight blew my mind. I was amazed by how much careful thought and diligent work goes into creating a three-minute segment. The expert guest speakers for our class ranged from Melvin Ming, the President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, to Judith Palfrey, Executive Director of Let’s Move, and later Shari Rosenfeld, the Vice President of International Projects at Sesame Workshop. Of course I’m not naming everyone we heard from or doing justice to all the incredible speakers we heard during the course through this one blog post, but I guess that means you’ll just have to take the class and see for yourself!

Sesame Street Muppets!

Sesame Street Muppets!

I also really enjoyed the process of working with a group to design a product for our final project proposal, especially since this was not something I would have otherwise ever done. We decided to design IMPACT, a board game for middle school students, intended to increase global awareness and inculcate in students the traits necessary to respond to global challenges. This was by far the most unusual assignment I’ve done in a while, and it was so informative to see the different components of the game come together as we thought about what would be best suited to the needs of our target audience.

I’m so glad I took a class quite different from what I would normally be interested in, because it pushed me to consider a whole new world and to think harder about the kind of work I’d like to do in the future. Here’s to a year of fascinating learning experiences that push us beyond our expectations — Happy 2014!

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools. 

Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Application

At a cohort Christmas party a few weeks ago, I asked several of my wonderful colleagues from the International Education Policy program what their one piece of advice might be for those of you working on your applications through the holiday season. By far the best thing about my time here at HGSE, our IEP cohort is filled with a number of brilliant, generous, highly successful people, and I thought it would be useful for you to have multiple perspectives on what a successful application might look like. There are too many of us for one blog post, so I am only putting down a few responses here and look forward to blogging more about other talented individuals in our program over the course of this year.


Jeff: “Try to connect what you are interested in with what HGSE has to offer.”

Jared: “Dig really deep into the website — it has so many things to offer, and can probably answer about half the questions you have. Use your Program Director as a resource — ours is very open to questions!”

Nina: “Be sincere in your essay, and don’t be afraid to try something different! You don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing.”

Alyson: “Tell an amazing story, and make sure your passion for education shines through.”

Janan: “As an international student, I was intimidated at first by the prospect of applying to such a well-known university, but you have to have confidence and faith that your unique experience is very valuable.”

Shazia: “Research the classes you’d like to take and the professors you’d like to work with — the Ed. M. is less than a year at HGSE, so it is really helpful to have a tentative roadmap before you come in. Of course this will change when you get here, but it is always useful to come in with a plan so you can make the most of your year.”


Drew: “There are some really good deals you can find online for boots and jackets before you come, and this is quite important because it gets so cold here. Be looking out right now for deals on boots and other winter apparel. Also, don’t give in to groupthink.”

Andy: “Be confident and believe in yourself. Believe that you deserve to be here because you know that this is the program that can help accelerate your career and get you to the place where you can accomplish your goals (and make sure this comes through in your statement of purpose!). Submit your application and let it go — don’t stress about whether you get in or don’t get in.”

Elizabeth: “Try to create a narrative that best displays your talents, your unique gifts to the world and your contribution to the field of education.”

Jim: “Be specific. Choose two or three really meaningful professional experiences, and use your personal statement to elaborate on those experiences as you highlight your passion for education. Use all parts of the application to your advantage, so that you show something new about who you are not only as a professional but also as a person.”

Fernando: “Be exceptional. We are really interested in attracting people who have a vision for what kind of difference they want to make in the world. The committee is going to look at your application holistically, and there isn’t a single piece in the application packet that determines whether you get admitted or not. Really, the only sure way not to be admitted is not to apply, so if you have any interest in being here, you should apply.”

Cass: “Just do it. I never believed I would get into Harvard and I got here because I was encouraged by some very special people in my life. If they hadn’t encouraged me I would never have got here, so dream big.”

MacKenzie: “Dream big. Prepare to have all your expectations exceeded.”

Mark: “Seek out mentors for your application. Talk to people who are already working in the field and find your place with them.”

Anita: “Just apply. Don’t be intimidated by the name of the school.”


Nick: “Apply to the Ed. M. program as if you were applying to the Ph.D. program, because it will really help you to think about the professors here and what you want to study.”

Manasa: “Don’t feel like your statement needs to be 1500 words (mine was about 900). The GRE isn’t everything. Breathe.”

Adam: “Figuring out who I would be learning from and what kinds of experiences they had was the most important part of my decision to come to Harvard. When I was looking into similar programs at other universities, I found that a lot of them started to sound the same, and in deciding whether I wanted to apply here I found it really useful to read about what kind of work professors at HGSE have done and what types of research they are doing.”

Francisco: “By carefully examining the curriculum, I was able to identify the intersections between my interests and expectations, and the IEP program.”

Best wishes and much love for a phenomenal holiday season!

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools. 

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Five Great Resources to Help You With the Application Process

Greetings readers!

I hope this week is going very well for all of you. Many of you are probably busy with the application process, drafting your personal statements and figuring out which schools and programs you might want to apply to. Given my own preference for lists, I thought it would be helpful to put down some quick resources that you can turn to at different points while applying. Below is a list of five that I used most heavily during my own application process:

1. Email an ambassador: I found it most helpful to speak with current students and alumni to understand what things I absolutely shouldn’t miss out on, which ones to avoid, and other experiences to consider engaging in during the very short 9-month period here.

2. Explore course offerings and requirements on your program’s website: When starting my own application, I wasn’t quite sure which program would be the best fit for my interests, and definitely thought (mistakenly) that it might make sense to enroll in more than one Master’s program simultaneously! The viewbook was a helpful starting point in helping me clarify and refine my thoughts about which program to select, and then the academic section of the website allowed me to develop a much more nuanced understanding of the many programs offered.

3. Make an appointment with an Admissions liaison: If you have specific questions that haven’t yet been answered by the extensive website and our knowledgeable ambassadors, a twenty-minute consultation with an Admissions representative will definitely help answer them!

4. Take a virtual (or physical) campus tour: If you’re lucky enough to be in/around/near the area, a Saturday session or an Open House will allow you the opportunity to explore the buildings that have become home this year. If not, the virtual tour is a great substitute until you have the chance to see these in person!

5. Attend an information session: These sessions are available both online and off-campus. If you’re able to visit campus, there are opportunities to ask current students questions in person during one of many admissions events.

Good luck and love from Cambridge!

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools. 

Settling in at HGSE

A few days ago, I was in the middle of a little panic attack about what jobs to apply for next year (yes, already!), and particularly which part of the world I wanted to work in. Growing up as an Indian expatriate in Qatar, I called Doha home for the first couple of decades of my life — until I moved to Mumbai two years ago. Working with Teach For India over the last two years was the first time I’d really, finally moved away from home. I went in thinking of Mumbai as a two-year stint, hoping of course that I would have a great time but knowing that home would always be somewhere else. I laugh a little now at myself then, largely for not anticipating how quickly the city would grow to become another home. My roots were in Doha, but I quickly realized in my first six months of teaching that Mumbai would always have my heart. In between the hours spent lesson planning with other struggling first-year teachers and trying to bribe my students with field trips as a reward for good behavior and falling sick many more times than I can possibly remember and the madness of what I’d once thought to be an overwhelming city, I found home. Two years into teaching, close to the last day of the school year, I was surprised by how firmly the city had grown on me, this once strange city now bursting at the seams with people I knew I could call home.

Much like when I first moved to Mumbai and thought of it as an episode that couldn’t possibly last more than a couple of years, I came to the Ed School in August filled with trepidation about what this year was going to look like. I got here in early August, a handful of days before school began. The International Education Policy program offers IPSIE (the Intensive Preparation for the Study of International Education) to get people back into the rhythm of school two weeks before orientation begins. I remember quite vividly spending those first few nights in America worrying myself silly thinking about what Harvard would be like, about whether I’d find something that interested me, about whether I would ever find friends here — and for each time I had questions and not answers, I told myself over and over that Cambridge would not be home, that I’d be out of here in a year, that it wouldn’t matter even if things didn’t work out because it would only be a year.

Three months into the semester, I am glad that I could not be more wrong. In the most unexpected ways, Cambridge has started to become home. There are the little victories — figuring out the shortest way to cut across the Yard and get to my Kennedy School class, settling on a grocery store and into a shopping routine, being able to field questions from confused tourists about how the T works, the rich fall colors. And there are much bigger, crazier ones, definitely ones I hadn’t anticipated — finding in those two IPSIE weeks an incredibly kind, unbelievably humble cohort, thoroughly enjoying my 8 am statistics class despite having struggled to understand numbers my whole life, being spoiled for choice each day when having to pick which event I’d like to attend. Perhaps two months might seem like too soon to say this, but I think I know already that in these big and little ways that will accumulate over the course of the year, Cambridge will also become a chunk of home. As the semester progresses past this halfway point and the job hunt starts to gain momentum, I am hoping not only that this time next year, I will be in one of the homes I’ve come to know and love, but also that you will be in Cambridge and will start to see it more and more as home every day. Have a great week ahead!

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools. 

10 Things in the First 10 Weeks

In her last blog post about the fear of missing out, Lisa listed a number of exciting things she’d done in the short span of a week. Much like her, before I came to graduate school, I never thought I’d ever be worrying about missing out on something. I truly (read foolishly) thought it would be quite feasible to try and do it all, until I added all kinds of calendars — the HGSE calendar, our IEP program calendar, events from the Kennedy School and the Law School — to my phone and saw at once that there were at least three events of interest happening at the same time each day! How did I pick which ones to go to, you ask? Largely, this choice was influenced by whether or not I was in class or a study group meeting at the time of the event! When I didn’t have either of the two commitments, and happened to pick one event over another, I sometimes found myself wondering what it would have been like to go to the other event (FOMO again). So I’ve put together a list of ten things my colleagues and I have really enjoyed doing during our first ten weeks, and I hope it is a list that you will find useful when you are at HGSE next year!

1. Take a statistics class: Feel your stomach sink every time you see a collection of numbers in a table? Take the plunge — go ahead and enroll in one of HGSE’s extremely helpful statistics classes. Blink rapidly in confusion when your professor says something like “the standard error of the sampling distribution” and wonder if you’ve made the right choice. Weeks later, just after you’ve received comments on another homework assignment, find yourself talking to a friend about the distribution of scores in the class, and realize how much you’ve learnt since the beginning of the semester (and how you can now understand every single word in those entertaining statistics songs)

2. Participate in the Multicultural Festival:  Against your best intentions to get work done, go anyway. Plan on it being just a fifteen-minute study break, where you will walk in, grab some food and walk back up to the computers in Gutman. Stay for three hours, drawn in by all the talent you never knew your classmates had, food from any part of the world you’ve ever been to or want to visit, and the little dance party at the end.

The beginning of a flash mob at the end of the Festival

The beginning of a flash mob at the end of the Festival

3. Read by the fire in Gutman: Before you’ve had the chance to buy adequate winter clothing, realize that it is getting terribly cold outside, and that you have more work to do with each passing week. Before you succumb to the comfort of your bed, sit by the fire and pick up one of the many articles you will need to read for the week.

4. Organize a potluck with your classmates: Whether it’s only enough people to be able to fit into your room, or everyone from your program, host a dinner. Sit back at the end of the evening, full and happy from all the different kinds of delicious food and the time away from studying that you spent chatting, laughing and catching up.


5. Join a club or an extracurricular activity: Regardless of how narrow or specific your area of interest might be, there really is something here for everyone. Whether you’ve spent years working in a field or are suddenly interested in a new region or topic, you will find a group of incredibly smart, dedicated people who will welcome you in and work with you on interesting new projects. In addition to the many organizations at the Ed School, there is also incredible variety to be found at the Kennedy School and the Law School, or you could even go ahead and start your own!

6. Go for a run by the Charles River: Especially pretty when the leaves start to change color, if you happen to live around the Cambridge area this scenic view is enough motivation to exercise.

7. Eat a cannoli: You must (preferably from Mike’s in the North End). Enough said.

8. Go apple picking: Pile into a car with your classmates and realize that a medium-sized bag of apples fills up faster than you can read this blog post. Nibble on more apples while picking them than you would probably eat in a month. On your way home, stop to buy incredible apple cider donuts and pet the furry animals.

9. Attend a conference: Especially if it is about a topic or area you’re unfamiliar with. Be surprised by how much it will get you to think about your own research and the kind of work you want to do, and by the amazing things doctoral students from different schools are working on.

10. Wander over to a festival: Before it gets too cold to spend copious amounts of time outside, religiously peruse Boston’s list of festivals and outdoor concerts. Take crazy happy pictures, and come back home groaning about how much work you still have to do before your first class on Monday.

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools.