Currently viewing the tag: "Aditi"

Given that it’s been almost three months since graduation, I realize that my “farewell” post for the Fletcher Admissions blog is coming a little late.  The past three months seem like a whirlwind, and I haven’t yet had a chance to take a breath and fully process them or reflect on my time at Fletcher as much as I would like.  This is because, in addition to graduation, a lot of other things have changed for me — I got married, started a new job, temporarily moved back home, and am now preparing to move to a new city.

Graduation weekend was a great opportunity to meet everyone’s families and raise a champagne toast (or several!) to the past two years.  The speakers were all incredible, and it was amazing to see some of my classmates stand in front of hundreds of people and deliver inspiring speeches about our time at Fletcher.  As fun as the weekend was, it was also bittersweet: saying goodbye to friends and professors and leaving my home for the past two years wasn’t easy.  At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel very excited for the next phase of my life, and everything I had to look forward to, including a new job, a new city, and a new husband!

After graduation weekend and my wedding, I headed home to Mumbai, where I was fortunate to start my new job at Vera Solutions while I wait for approval of my paperwork to move to Geneva, Switzerland.  Vera Solutions is a consulting company that builds technology solutions for social sector clients.  Given that it has offices in both Mumbai and Geneva, it was a perfect opportunity for me to learn the ropes, with the added bonus of getting to spend time with family and friends at home.  I also had the chance to connect with some Fletcher folk living in Mumbai, as well as to represent Fletcher at a coffee hour for prospective students.

Although I still feel as though the full impact of my time at Fletcher hasn’t sunk in, I’m glad that I was able to find a job using the skill sets — in technology, monitoring and evaluation, public speaking and presentation, and accurate data analysis — that I had wanted to gain from my MALD.  The past two years weren’t easy, and definitely came with their fair share of stress and anxiety, but I feel that my experience at Fletcher was all that I had hoped for in the beginning, giving me solid technical skills, amazing learning opportunities both in the classroom and outside, and a wonderful set of friends all over the world.

Aditi, graduation

Aditi, standing, second from left, and Fletcher classmates.

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Less than a month remains before graduation in May.  Let’s take a look at the two-year Annotated Curriculum of Aditi, one of our graduating bloggers.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Dasra, Mumbai, India
PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India

Fields of Study
Development Economics
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (self-designed)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Technology for development; monitoring and evaluation

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

I came to Fletcher with an interest in technology for development and in design, monitoring, and evaluation.  I was lucky to start my year off with the Design and Monitoring module, where I not only learned a great deal, but also made some of my closest friends at Fletcher.  I also decided to take some basic quantitative classes such as statistics and quantitative methods in order to help me feel more prepared for classes down the road.  Social Network Analysis and Corporate Social Responsibility were courses I took to try and explore new areas — although I came to Fletcher with a very clear sense of what I wanted to do, I also wanted to make sure that I tried out some new subjects.

Semester Two

After spending winter break with friends in the warmer climes of New Orleans and Austin, I returned early to Fletcher to dive into Evaluation, the second module of the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) course series.  My spring semester was focused on specific skills I knew I wanted to gain before the summer and before second year, so that I would have the option to take courses that I found more challenging.  I took my econometrics class at the Friedman School in downtown Boston since the Fletcher course was over-subscribed, which turned out to be a great experience.  In addition to furthering my knowledge of monitoring and evaluation, I also brushed up on basic research methods and had the chance to learn more about financial inclusion, a topic about which I had heard a lot but never had the chance to formally study.  The semester was also made more challenging by the fact that I was working more hours a week at my campus job than I could realistically handle, but in retrospect, I’m glad I took the opportunity to earn a little extra money for my summer internship!

Summer Internship
Manos de Madres, Kigali, Rwanda

Since I already wrote about my summer internship, I’ll just say a few quick words about how my academics at Fletcher fit into it.  My courses in design, monitoring, and evaluation and financial inclusion really gave me the tools to apply to my work with Manos de Madres — from conducting a Theory of Chance exercise with the team in Kigali, to thinking through how the savings group program could be improved, I found myself falling back on my Fletcher classes time and again.  I also spent some time over the summer conducting research for my Capstone Project.

Semester Three

I returned to Fletcher early once again, this time to be the teaching assistant for the DME course series.  I hadn’t had much of a break or a holiday over the summer, but decided to dive right into my year and challenge myself with my courses.  I had taken so many requirements in the previous year in order to build up to taking a certain set of classes, and I was loath to let any of those go — and so I ended up (very happily) over-extending myself and learning more in one semester than I could ever have imagined.  By the end of the year, I couldn’t believe my newfound comfort with numbers, or the confidence with which I could read and interpret statistics.  Although the course load was incredibly hard, I don’t think I have ever worked harder or been prouder of myself.  On the flip side, I didn’t have quite as much fun enjoying all the other wonderful things that Fletcher has to offer, and so I decided that come spring semester, I would focus on a select few things and aim to do them well, while spending time enjoying the full Fletcher experience.

Semester Four

After a rushed and exciting trip back home to India for a friend’s wedding, I came back early as the teaching assistant for the Evaluation module of the DME series.  In true “senioritis” fashion, I realized I had left some of my requirements to the end of my time at Fletcher, and found two of my credits filled by those courses.  Given that I wanted to focus on my Capstone, I enrolled in an Independent Study with my advisor, Professor Jenny Aker, and then took two half-credit courses in topics that seemed very interesting to me but that I had little knowledge of.  So far, the semester has been a good balance, and I have been careful not to overcommit, to make time for enjoying friends, lectures, and all the other events that Fletcher has to offer.

Of course, I also have to make sure that I find time to apply to jobs and figure out what comes next for me after this wonderful journey — so cross your fingers and hope that my next (and last!) post on this blog as a Fletcher student brings good news!

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The average Fletcher student is not here to goof off.  On the contrary, most students are both challenged by their coursework and also inclined to inch right up against the boundaries of the maximum they can handle at any given time.  Last Thursday, Ali shared details of her fall 2015 semester, which pushed her academically and forced her to employ advanced time management skills.  I have two more fall wrap-ups to share, from Aditi and Tatsuo, and they both describe tough semesters.  Today, let’s read about Aditi’s experience in her second year in the MALD program, and the reality of how challenging a semester can be.

As a second year student at Fletcher, a lot of things are easier this year — for example, knowing where to find a microwave when Mugar Café is closed, or how early to get to Social Hour for food, or how to petition anything you don’t really want to do.  But between worrying about careers, life after May, campus jobs, classes, and a Capstone Project, second year is still very challenging.  One of the things my friends and I have struggled with this year is dealing with these stresses without letting them get the better of us.

It’s really easy to lose perspective at Fletcher.  We’re so engrossed in campus life that it’s hard to focus on making sure we’re not over-extending ourselves, especially because we want to challenge ourselves and get involved as much as possible.  It’s also hard to find the time to stay engaged with life outside Fletcher — the friends, family, and other communities that we built long before arriving here.

Last semester, I decided to push myself academically and take classes that I personally found very difficult.  A lot of my friends made similar decisions.  While the classes were very rewarding and I learned a lot, by the middle of the semester I was burned out and struggling to keep on top of everything.  I just couldn’t juggle classes, work, the unavoidable necessities of regular life (you know, laundry, groceries, cleaning…), and friends and family.  At one point, I was concerned that instead of really understanding and learning in my classes, I was just rushing through the motions of finishing one assignment after the next.  Everything came to a head when I had a series of personal commitments, and I found myself unable to keep up with anything, academic or personal.  Several of my second-year friends were in the same situation, and we all realized that rather than making the most of our Fletcher experience, we were selling ourselves short by not investing the time necessary to truly enjoy it.

In retrospect, I think that much of my stress and anxiety could have been avoided had I been more realistic about my plans for the semester.  Yes, I wanted a challenge — but I wasn’t honest with myself about what I need to stay sane and happy, such as finding time to cook, spend time with my friends, stay connected to my family and relationships outside Fletcher, and get enough movement and exercise.  Many of us also delayed taking advantage of some of the great resources available to us here, such as Tufts Mental Health Services and our Fletcher community of friends.

Fletcher is a fantastic experience, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the most of graduate school and cram in as much as possible.  In the middle of all that we have going on here, it’s essential to remember to take care of ourselves and keep this experience in perspective!  I overextended myself last semester, but I don’t regret pouring all my energy into it.  As I start a new semester, I will learn from the experience, and plan my time in a way that fosters both my learning and my overall happiness, a suggestion I would give to anyone planning to come to Fletcher.

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The second of our returning student bloggers to report this semester is Aditi, who spent her summer in Rwanda, where her experience taught her some lessons that she hadn’t anticipated.

Aditi_Patel JPGThanks to the Leir Fellowship that supports Fletcher student internships, I was able to work in Rwanda over the past summer.  It was my first experience traveling to Africa, but having spent time in India, the U.S., and South America, I felt as though I was well-prepared for what the experience might throw my way.  In some ways, I was right: I wasn’t overwhelmed by the crowds, or paralyzed by the sight of poverty, or surprised at the presence of expensive restaurants and a thriving nightlife with international music playing at every club.  In several other ways, however, I found that the experience was new in ways I had not anticipated.

The organization I was working with, Manos de Madres Rwanda, works in partnership with a local clinic that has worked in Kigali for over a decade.  The patients are women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Several grew up orphaned, and most are desperately poor.  The clinic provides its patients with physical and psychological care, and Manos de Madres offered to partner with the clinic to provide the women with livelihoods and skills training.  The organization has a program manager, a marketing manager who I helped hire during my time there, and three young “Cooperative Agents” who are part-time staff and also patients of the clinic.  This team runs a number of different programs with various cooperatives of women: an organic market garden called Baho; a screen-printing business called Dutete; a jewelry-making cooperative called Ejo Hazaza; and a microloan program for young mothers.

My day-to-day work consisted of visiting each of the cooperatives and participating in their meetings, followed by team meetings with the Manos staff. Although I was originally hired to start work on Manos’ monitoring and evaluation of its programs, it quickly became clear that the need of the organization was improved general management. I had to be responsive to the needs of the organization, and although I wanted to test my newly-minted monitoring and evaluation skills, I realized that it would be a far more impactful contribution to help the team with its daily management and putting in place systems and processes. I spent a lot of my time conducting trainings with the team—on business plan creation, so they could work better with the cooperatives; on reporting; and on using Excel. I created a new reporting structure for the Manos team to use and trained them on how to fill out and submit reports.

KigaliLiving and working in Kigali was a mixed experience for me.  It was my first time living in a country where I was absolutely unable to communicate with most people around me, and before this summer, I definitely underestimated the impact this would have on me.  Being unable to communicate with the women we worked with was incredibly frustrating, as I always had to request translation or else be left out of the conversation.  It made me deeply uncomfortable, and it has made me question the effectiveness of working in a country for which I have no local language or context skills.  It will make me think twice about future career decisions, and tread carefully and think through my own assumptions before embarking on a career living or working in an environment where I do not speak the language.

Aside from the personal growth and thoughts about how I would like to shape my career, I had the opportunity to see a lot of the country.  I hiked up a volcano to see a crater lake at the top, and went on my first African safari at Akagera National Park.  The country was phenomenally beautiful, with the bus rides being more than enough of a treat to justify a disappointing destination, had there actually been one!

I was also very interested to see how Rwanda is changing its national image from a country scarred by genocide, to one that is increasingly a tourist and investment destination.  The process of building this new identity while remembering and memorializing the genocide is a tricky balance, and one that I am curious to learn more about.

Professionally and personally, this summer in Rwanda has helped me solidify how I want to build my life and career post Fletcher — it was a perfect way to tie together my first and second year at Fletcher.

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Continuing the internship theme from Tuesday, Aditi reports on her internship and other plans for the coming months.

Summer has finally arrived in Boston!  After a grueling couple of weeks for finals, I’m done and can enjoy the beautiful weather for a little before I leave for my summer internship.

This summer, I will be working with a small NGO in Kigali, Rwanda, on their monitoring and evaluation plans.  Another Fletcher student worked with the same NGO last summer, and was responsible for hiring me and training me; she was an incredibly useful resource for learning more about the organization and its work, her experience working with them, and Kigali generally.  I’m really excited to be in Rwanda — it will be my first time in Africa! — and I’m lucky enough that I will have the company of five other Fletcher students who will also be doing internships there.

I was fortunate to receive funding from Fletcher, through the Office of Career Services, to support my work over the summer.  My research partner and I also received a grant from the Hitachi Center (which I wrote about earlier) to conduct research for our capstones, which we will write next year.  The research will lead me to Nairobi, Kenya for a week after wrapping up my summer internship.  And once that’s done, after heading home to India for a week, I’ll be back on campus in mid-August as the teaching assistant for the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) series taught by Prof. Scharbatke-Church.

What I’m most excited about for the summer (in addition to beautiful Kigali and exploring a new country) is the chance to put my DME coursework to use through my internship.  Looking back to August 2014, I’m so glad I took the pre-session course and went through the series all the way through Advanced Evaluation this semester, because it gave me new tools with which to think critically about development and the underlying logic behind it.  It’s an excellent class for anyone who has worked, or wants to work, in development or peacebuilding.  In addition to giving you a set of in-demand skills (because, jobs), it also helps you understand how much higher the bar should be for good development work that can create change, and what steps we can take to reach that bar.  It’s an incredibly challenging course that makes you question your assumptions, but the hard work and heavy reading load is completely worth it.  If it interests you, definitely consider taking it.

In the meantime — have a wonderful summer, and I’m looking forward to meeting all of you who are new students come August!

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Last week I came to a sudden realization that I had never written anything, or had a student write, about exams.  Neither midterms nor finals.  Seemed like a major oversight, since exams certainly have an impact on students’ graduate school experience.  Aditi has plugged that gap by writing about the most recent round of midterms.

Spring break this semester was a much-needed pause from our busy Fletcher lives.  Between midterms and various internship and job applications, all of us at Fletcher were pretty much at maxed-out levels of exhaustion!

Midterms are usually a combination of exams, presentations, and papers, depending on the classes you take.  For instance, my Econometrics class had an in-class, closed-book traditional exam, while my Financial Inclusion class had a group presentation.  I personally found midterms to be somewhat more stressful this semester than in the fall, since one of my classes is at the Friedman School, which follows a slightly different schedule than Fletcher.  Although the advantage of the mismatched schedules was that my exams and papers were spread out over two weeks, the downside was that my “midterm week” lasted twice as long.

In addition to midterms, if you happen to be taking half-credit courses, then those classes are either beginning or ending (depending on which half of the semester they are scheduled for) while you’re trying to focus on exams.  In my case, I am taking Advanced Evaluation and Learning, which takes place over the second half of the semester, so as we were studying for midterms and preparing for presentations, those of us in this class were also trying to keep our heads above water with all the assigned reading.

But of course, midterms come and go.  The major stress during spring semester midterms is related to the internship and job hunt process, since everyone is trying to balance applications and interviews with their coursework, other activities, and campus jobs.  It definitely began to feel like the universe had conspired to make sure all deadlines fell into the same two-week period.

In the middle of all my stress and exhaustion, a friend said something that both made me laugh and also gave me a lot of perspective, when I complained to her about how hard grad school is.  “Yeah, it’s hard — but it’s hard in a really easy way.  Exams, papers, and presentations…let’s compare that for a second to the issues we’re trying to learn about: Poverty, terrorism, malnutrition….  Give me grad school any day!”

So now you know why I’m complaining about midterms on this blog instead of by talking to my friends.

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I’m a big advocate of using the admissions waiting period (between submitting the application and hearing back from schools) to line up your financial plan.  (That’s assuming you haven’t done so already, which is an even better idea!)  Today, student blogger Aditi helps you out with information about working on campus, with special notes for international students like herself.

Deciding to come to graduate school is a daunting process, not least because it most often means giving up a regular income for two (or more!) years.  For international students in particular, dealing with unfavorable exchanges rates while adjusting to a new environment can be very overwhelming.

Although a few previous blog posts have talked about jobs on campus, they have all referred specifically to teaching or research assistant positions.  However, these positions are limited in supply, and most Fletcher students work in more traditional “office” jobs within the larger Tufts community — for example, one of my jobs is helping with prospect research at the Tufts Advancement (fundraising) office.

Before embarking on the hunt for a job, it’s important to bear in mind that international students face certain restrictions to working here, including not being allowed to work off-campus or more than 20 hours a week (though few students can spare the time for that, anyway!).  Upon arriving at Fletcher, all international students are briefed on the process they need to go through in order to start working on campus, including getting a social security card once you have a job.  Reiko Morris, the international student advisor, is a wonderful resource and always takes the time to answer any questions people have.

Having worked on campus in the U.S. as an undergrad, I came to Fletcher under the assumption that I would find a job soon after arriving, and budgeted for graduate school accordingly.  However, it wasn’t until well into my first semester that I found a job — which led to much panic, re-planning my finances, and feeling stressed instead of enjoying my first few months here.  I did eventually find two different jobs, and here are some tips I learned along the way:

Finding a job:

  • If you’re planning your budget for graduate school with a student job in mind, remind yourself to be patient about finding a job when you get here.  I made the mistake of assuming I would get a job quickly, and was stressed when it didn’t happen as fast as I thought it would.  In retrospect, I should have given myself at least a semester to settle in and look for a job.
  • Fletcher sends around emails to all students when jobs here become available, but remember that there are jobs in the wider Tufts community that are available to Fletcher students as well. There is an online resource (JobX) that you will become familiar with, which is usually the best place to look for student jobs.  Remember that in addition to serving as a teaching assistant (TA) for Fletcher classes, you can also look into TA-ing undergraduate courses at Tufts.
  • It might seem like a lot of jobs are only open to work-study students (and therefore not to international students), but don’t get discouraged!
  • In terms of deciding what kind of job to get, it’s important to be clear on what your goals are: do you want any job that pays, or do you want a job that ties neatly into your academic and career goals?  Obviously, it’s ideal if the job does both, but those jobs are rarer to find.  If you are very determined to find a job that is directly relevant to you, remember that that might mean spending more time looking, and passing up on other jobs in the meantime.

Managing your time:

  • The number of hours per week that Fletcher students work varies considerably.  Last semester, I was able to work a full 20 hours per week (which is more than most students do) but of course, this might change based on my courseload in coming semesters.  Working 20 hours a week was very challenging, and I had to learn how to manage my time well.  It also means that you face a very difficult trade-off in terms of attending all the amazing events, lectures, and parties at Fletcher!  One piece of advice I received was particularly helpful in navigating this trade-off, and that was when a friend told me that I have to decide whether financial stress or time-management stress is harder for me to deal with.  I decided that financial stress worried me more, and that I could find ways to manage my time efficiently.  However, if managing your time well is difficult for you, then it’s probably not a great idea to work more than 10 hours each week.

The process of finding a student job and then working while at Fletcher can be overwhelming, and in retrospect, I wish that I had approached the process more calmly.  If you would like to talk more about working on campus as an international student, leave your questions as a comment on this blog.  I’d be happy to answer!

The second new student who will be blogging throughout her two years at Fletcher has actually already been heard from, when she and Miranda wrote about technology studies at Fletcher.  I met Aditi last spring, and I made a note to contact her in the fall to see if she would blog for us.  My email request to her crossed paths with her offer to write the first post — I’m really happy to have an eager writer.  Today, Aditi introduces herself.

Aditi_Patel JPGI am a first-year MALD student, (still thinking about) concentrating in International Business Relations and Development Economics.  As you have read in a past post, my main interests are in the use of digital technology for development programs, so I also plan to weave that interest into my coursework.

Before Fletcher, I worked back home in Mumbai at a non-profit called Dasra, doing a combination of fundraising and impact assessment work.  Having been in the Boston area for my undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, I’m really excited to experience the fall again, with all its beautiful colours — but nervous about being back in the Boston winter.  (My friends have informed me that I’m not the most pleasant person to be around when it’s cold.)

In the spirit of sharing my Fletcher journey with the readers of this blog, here are some of the things about Fletcher that most surprised me when I arrived here:

  • The MALD program has a very flexible curriculum
  • Fletcher has a wonderful sense of community

Just kidding!  I know that those are facts that are repeated over and over, and that everyone applying to Fletcher has probably heard them before.  So here are a few things that really were surprises:

  • They’re not exaggerating! Everyone is REALLY NICE at Fletcher, and the prevailing culture and environment here is one that takes great pride in kindness.  A not uncommon example: I have the wrong edition of a textbook for a class, and one of my classmates helped me out (without me having to ask) by sending me photos of every single assigned problem in the book so I could make sure I had the correct homework.
  • The sunsets here are breath-taking.  I definitely did not except beautiful sunsets in Medford, Massachusetts — but the sun setting over the Fletcher Field is an incredible sight.
  • The amount of time students get with our professors outside of class, through office hours and meetings.  Even when I have reached out to professors whose classes I’m not currently in, they have been very approachable and willing to chat.
  • A) The number of events and receptions that involve (free) food and drinks, and B) the importance placed on events and receptions that involve (free) food and drinks.  These are values I appreciate deeply.

I haven’t had a day so far at Fletcher that’s been the same as any other, and so I’m constantly finding new things to be surprised by.  I look forward to sharing all these aspects of my two years here with the Admissions Blog!

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