Week 4 and 5 Update! President’s Day weekend!

Greetings Everyone! Sorry for the late post, but its been a crazy couple of weeks!

Presidents Day weekend was incredible! I spent a much-needed break at home spending time with family and friends! Its crazy spending time with friends that I haven’t seen for a full month, when you used to see those same friends twice a day! As much as it was a fun filled break, I did complete a good bulk of my school work!

While the large majority of my time at Harvard is spent maintaining a healthy balance between work time and fun time, I must confess that there are weeks where I find that I really just have to buckle down and get things done. Last week was definitely one of those weeks, where I felt like every time I sat down to take a break (or more likely, try to take a nap) I would remember something I needed to do or add to my ever-growing to do list. Another confession though: I kind of think I thrive during weeks like this, and find that it’s when I’m at my most productive – though the days themselves might be stressful, there’s a strange sense of satisfaction to get to the end of it all and realize how much I got done. Admittedly, the upcoming week is pretty crazy soooo that sense of accomplishment won’t be happening for a few days, but I’m looking forward to that feeling nonetheless.

A handful of things that managed to spring up this week:

Thesis: This was probably the most exciting part of my week – I finally figured out who my thesis advisor is going to be!! Since the beginning of the semester of searching and a dozen conversations with different faculty members, I feel like the pieces are finally starting to fall into place. Finally finding an advisor means that I know have to turn to the more involved question of exactly what I’m going to ask as my research question. I settled on Social Movements in Egypt as a general topic, but am in the process of determining my exact focus, which takes a lot of reading… Add to that the problem of having to apply for human subjects approval and the puzzle of figuring out my methodology and it turns out I have a LOT to think about. The deadlines are coming up much sooner than I thought!

School:  This upcoming week is simultaneously my “wow, I have three papers due on Monday and Tuesday” weekend where I write all day, all weekend AND the turning point in my semester when I have to start looking ahead to the big final projects, and papers. I’ll have to start dealing with over the next few weeks. I find that this part of the semester can be the hardest to deal with, because I simultaneously have to keep my head in the “midterm game” while keeping an eye to the finals that I have just on the horizon. It’s seriously crazy to realize how fast the semester has flown by!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been getting to know my professors as well through office hours and coffee meetings. I remember having questions on this myself before coming to Harvard, having heard both sides of the debate then. Thus, I thought I’d provide my perspective on the question, “Do Harvard students and faculty interact?”

The Good:

There are plenty of opportunities for student-faculty interaction, hands down Beyond faculty office hours, dinners, and coffee there are also plenty of opportunities to get to know faculty members. We can take any faculty member to the dining hall at no charge for any meal. Almost all hold office hours just for students to get to know them. There are plenty of small classes after the introductory courses, which give you more opportunities to meet faculty; my research tutorial this semester has just ten students. Of course not all course are small, but there are plenty to choose from for those who are interests including plenty taught by senior faculty. Research and departmental jobs on campus also provide opportunities to interact with faculty in an alternate setting. And finally, every senior is offered the opportunity to write a thesis of original research (or creative work in some departments) under the close supervision of a faculty members.

The Challenge:

Coming from Rutgers University, where a class was about 40-50 students, it was hard to get to know the faculty members just because of the large environment. Harvard, like any university of its size, is certainly different.

Instead of having teachers come to me, at Harvard I had to take the initiative to go seek out professors during their office hours or make a consorted effort to get to know them. As a grad student, this was certainly intimidating; it’s natural to question why someone who won a Nobel Prize or who worked as the President’s top economic adviser would want to take time to speak to an grad who certainly knows information but not too much on their subject of expertise. But once I realized that they’re at here in part because they want to work with students and it’s part of their job, it became easier. I met the professor for lunch a few times, went to his office hours, asked for his advice on my post-graduation plans and on research, and right now, I feel we got to know each other. I would feel comfortable going to his office hours in the future to just chat, and I could say this for all the professors I’ve had for larger lecture courses where I made an effort to meet them outside of class and for all the professors I’ve had for smaller courses and seminars.

Certainly, it’s hard to meet every single one of your professors between course work, extracurricular activities, and other time constraints; not all students necessarily see this as a priority amongst the other on-campus opportunities. However, if you make an effort to get to know at least one or two faculty members a semester, you have the opportunity to see inside some of the brightest minds and gain access to ideas, opportunities, and friendship from a set of people who really care about students.

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