“Why me?, Why Harvard?, Why this Summer?”

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Gabby and June at a formal dinner with some of the Harvard professors

Gabby and June, our Grade 12 students had the opportunity to ‘study’ at Harvard University, one of the Ivy League Universities in the US. This was accomplished with the help of our High School Design teacher, Ms. Patricia Vlad who liaised with the Leadership and Management Institute of Singapore (LMI) and advocated for ISS students to have this chance to attend a 7-week session at Harvard University, pursuing a course of their choice!

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Gabby in Boston

Students were asked to submit a one-minute video about themselves with the underlying topic to answer the question: “Why me?, Why Harvard?, Why this Summer?” for review. Upon being shortlisted, candidates sat a 3-hour test to examine their capabilities in Math, Reading, and Writing. After a week of waiting, the good news came and both Gabby and June were selected.  Both were overjoyed with the news and eagerly anticipated the opportunity.

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Enjoying their time in Boston

Upon arriving in Boston, the two faced very different experiences. June was a little anxious as this was her first ever visit to the United States. She liked how the weather remained relatively pleasant throughout her stay in Boston and that the streets were more open and accessible for her to skateboard between places. She was initially intimidated by the people she met as she described the people in Boston to be physically bigger but she soon realised after interacting with them and getting to know some of her peers and professors that they were welcoming and she thoroughly enjoyed having deep conversations with them. One of her fondest memories from this experience was a dinner event with her professors, one of whom, Prof. Bird was working very closely with her and, in their conversations, inspired her to think about her life as a whole and figure out what she wants to achieve. She concluded from these conversations that she wants to work harder and read more books to better herself and widen her perspectives so she can meet more like-minded people in the future.

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Enlightening conversations with professors over dinner

On the other hand, Gabby was greatly taken by the vast and rich culture and history of Harvard and the Boston area. He said that he enjoyed learning about the British influence and its impact on the contemporary culture of the Bostonians, and he admired the affable and outgoing nature of the locals. He got the opportunity to view the “futuristic” MIT campus and discover its appeal to the newer generations. His fondest moment was when he got a chance to converse with a professor that challenged his viewpoints and perspective. He claimed that his experiences in his Theory of Knowledge class aided him in understanding more than one perspective and allowed him to consult more than one area of knowledge and not remain biased to just one ideology. He even applied the PESTLE analysis, a tool he learnt from IB Business Management, in his conversations to analyse perspectives on global issues. This pivotal moment taught him the importance of constructive conversations!

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Excited to be on the Harvard campus!

Both Gabby and June signed up for a quantitative reasoning class as part of their 7-week programme. Through their shared experience, they learnt valuable lessons in understanding concepts that were unique to Harvard and were immensely helpful to their progression through the course. For example, they used a more practical approach by flipping coins and referring to a Dice Table for help with probability. June was inspired by these techniques and said that she intends to use much of what she learnt in the process of completing her Mathematics Internal Assessment to find the relationship between a student’s subject and mean grades.

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“Thank you for all your help Prof. Bird!”

Overall, the two thoroughly enjoyed their once in a lifetime opportunity. Their experience in visiting the prestigious institution and distinguished scholars made them reflect on their prospective plans for university and higher education. They observed that being a Harvard student was no easy task and that a lot of reading and research must be undertaken on a regular basis to persevere in any field. Nonetheless, they noted that Harvard students were no different from the average young adult—listening to music and keeping up with popular culture. This motivated them to set a performance standard for themselves to change their work ethic in reminiscence of this unforgettable experience.