The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Harvard is that there is always some interesting lecture to attend, a visit by a favorite academic/practitioner, or even a student group to get involved in. In addition to trying to keep up with your classes, how are you supposed to make time for the lecture by Malala Yousafzai or the impromptu visit by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Harvard Graduate School of Design? Truth be told, it can all be a little overwhelming. Sure, there’s the constant joke that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is alive and well at Harvard. But there’s another way to look at it: there’s never a lack of opportunities within Harvard to get involved in the things you care about.
While there is so much happening just at HDS alone, it can be easy to forget that we are embedded within the larger Harvard community. Interested in learning about leadership? Participate in a lecture sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School or take a class at Harvard Business School. Want to meet students from across the university? Get involved with the Harvard Graduate Council. Or maybe you’re interested in a start-up that combines religion and social entrepreneurship? Head over to Harvard’s iLab where you’ll have access to technical assistance, meeting spaces, and the opportunities to connect with other folks who might be passionate about your idea. Oh and did I mention you can also feed yourself by sorting for events on the Harvard Gazette Calendar that offer free food? But in addition to the free food (which is especially important when on a grad student’s budget!), you will also have the opportunity to make and build connections with Harvard students outside of HDS.
As someone who’s interested in a lot of different things, getting to know students from other Harvard schools was especially important to me. When I first arrived here last fall, I joined the Harvard Latin@ Student Alliance (HLSA). As a university-wide student group, HLSA brings together students from all 12 graduate schools and the College. Making friends from the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Kennedy School, and others meant that I engaged in interesting conversations across disciplines, built friendships, and also shared the special perspective that HDS offers with these new friends.
Inspired by this cross-Harvard connection, I applied for and was accepted to the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute. HGSLI is a student-led intensive leadership development program for 30 Harvard graduate students from across the university. With HGSLI, I formed deep and authentic connections with students I might not otherwise have met. Many of these friendships nourished my professional interests and my personal ones too. I also had the opportunity to meet with individuals like the former PM of Finland, CEO of Zico Coconut Water, and the founder of the Dear World project, among others.
If you’re discerning whether or not HDS is a fit for you, I would encourage you to factor into your decision-making all of the resources and opportunities available to you not just within HDS, but also the larger Harvard-wide community. You’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else that offers such a diversity of opportunities and activities to get involved in. More so than this, you’ll have the opportunity to build connections and get creative across disciplines to make a bigger impact on the issues and topics you care about.