Your First Semester as an Occupational Therapy Student

Madeline Zarro, Occupational Therapy doctoral candidate

Photo credits: Occupational Therapy’s Instagram: @tufts_O

If you’re reading this as a newly accepted or prospective student of the Tufts Entry-Level Doctorate of Occupational Therapy, welcome! We’re excited to get to know you. My name is Madeline Zarro, and I’m currently finishing the final semester of my first year in the Tufts OT program. Having recently experienced the transition into graduate OT studies myself, I wrote this article to give you a sense of what to expect upon arrival.  

Your first semester at Tufts will occur over the course of two summer sessions, and you’ll take a total of three courses: Anatomy, Neuroanatomy, and Occupational Therapy Foundations. Though you won’t have class every day (at maximum, you’ll attend courses three days a week), this first semester is known for being fast-paced and academically rigorous. That isn’t to say that it’s not enjoyable—it is! The summer of your first year offers plentiful opportunities for connection and exploration.  

Here are five suggestions to help you effectively engage with your coursework, all while making the most of what your new community has to offer: 

  1. Use studying as an opportunity to explore.  

Whether you prefer to stay local to Tufts or venture out to Boston, your options for intriguing new study spots are virtually limitless. Medford and Somerville have abundant cafes, restaurants, parks, and libraries. Middlesex Fells Reservation is easily accessible by bus, and can be a relaxing retreat for those who don’t mind studying outdoors—just pack a picnic blanket and your flashcards! With most people off campus for the summer, you’ll find available seats and whiteboards in nearly every academic building; moreover, exploring campus is a great way to start to feel at home at Tufts. Check out past blog posts and Joyraft’s The Boston Calendar to find your first destination. Or, wander out and find it on your own! 

07/14/2022 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – Mossab Al Saedi, doctoral candidate in Chemical Engineering, and Ryan O’Hara, doctoral candidate in Chemical Engineering, pose for stock photos in Tisch Library on July 14, 2022. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
  1. Organize a meal with new friends.  

We all know the feeling: you’ve got a looming deadline, an intimidating amount of material to study, and though there are a million things you’d like to do, you can’t seem to make time to do anything else but study and eat. That’s okay—you’re not in this alone! Cooking a group meal with new friends from your cohort is a great way to relieve stress and make connections while still staying on track with your studying. Many hands make light work when it comes to cooking, and you can help each other study over the meal you share.  

  1. Incorporate your interests.  

You’ll be asked to learn a lot of material over the course of the summer, and to spend a great deal of time outside of class reviewing it. Finding creative ways to interact with the content can make a world of difference when you feel bored or burnt out, as well as boost your retention of information. As someone who loves to make art, I’ve found that I can always motivate myself to study when I use a nice set of pens. I taught myself the blood vessels of the heart by painting them in watercolor. This was a refreshing change of pace from my hundreds of flashcards! I highly encourage trying this for your own interests. Create a dance for learning the bones, practice muscle actions while working out, or write a story about nerve tracts as if they were people. Don’t be afraid to try something silly—you’re more likely to remember the information that way! 

  1. Take advantage of free & discounted experiences offered by the Graduate Student Council & local libraries.  

Study breaks are important for both learning and wellbeing, so make sure you take them! Here at Tufts, we have a wonderful team of people (called the GSC) dedicated to enriching your time at graduate school with new experiences and friends. They organize frequent experiences perfect for new arrivals to the area. I was able to meet other new graduate students on a Duck Boat tour of Boston for only $5. Opening a free library card at the Somerville and/or Boston Public Libraries is also a great way to access new experiences. Your library card allows you to reserve free or discounted tickets at museums, the aquarium, and several other destinations.  

  1. Reach out within the program.  

It can feel daunting to ask for help during your first semester at graduate school. Many of us feel that we need to prove ourselves, or don’t know who to go to when assistance is needed. Luckily, you’re entering a profession of people who have made it their life’s work to help others and to promote accessibility. Tufts OT is a community, and we’re happy to support you as you adjust to graduate school! You’ll be assigned a peer mentor from the second-year cohort (we call this a SOTA buddy, since the partnership is made by the Student Occupational Therapy Association). You’ll also have Graduate Assistants in your summer classes, and an academic advisor from the beginning of the program. Each of these people will be happy to help you—whether that means academically, socially, or otherwise.  

I hope this was helpful. I can’t wait to see you on campus! 

PS– for a peek ahead into the second year in the program, check out this Instagram post from the OT department.

Step Out of the Lab and Into the Tufts Community: Tufts extracurriculars and engagement opportunities for grad students

Ash Sze, Data Science MS candidate

09/14/2021 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – From Left: Kartik Lakhotiya, 1G and Uma Maheshwari Dasari, 1G at the fall BBQ for Graduate Students in Arts and Sciences, and School of Engineering on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. (Jake Belcher for Tufts University)

When I’m home for the break, I reflect on all the experiences I treasure at Tufts. I think about how my friends and professors are doing and the exciting things that await me when I return. As you can imagine, the pressure in academics as a grad student is very real, and I was scared that transitioning from Tufts undergrad to grad would mean losing access to the clubs and events I looked forward to so much. I wanted to continue having dim sum nights with HKSA (Hong Kong Student Association), playing board games with people at the LGBT and Asian American center, eating ‘Dave’s Fresh Pasta’ catered sandwiches with the International Center and dancing with my Burlesque troupe. 

As September rolled around, I was overjoyed to discover that all the clubs I participated in before continued to be available for grad students. There were new clubs founded every year, and of course, I had to join the Cheese Club, because who can say no to free provolone? Speaking of free cheese, the quest for free stuff was endless. Tufts and its community knows its students well, and have a way of tempting people to come together with the promise of exam goody bags, hot chocolate, tarot card readings, Bingo (I was one letter away from winning a TV!) and a performance by Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant Kerri Kolbi (sorry you missed this). 

An exciting part of each semester is waiting for TUSC (Tufts University Social Collective) to announce the next fun event. As a broke undergrad, there was no short of fun, and free things to do. As a graduate student, they really stepped up the game to suit our more tight-knit and age-diverse group. Apple picking, baseball games, and Boston tours are a given, but a trip to King Richard’s Faire is something I didn’t know I needed. Singing silly songs on the bus, dressing up as a DnD party and eating a humongous Turkey leg was the last thing I expected to do with people from my machine learning class. Who knew so many grad students were nerds? 

Fall Fest is the time to eat fried dough drenched in caramel sauce and line up in the cold for the best, fresh lemonade ever. People arrive early, hoping to get the highly coveted, limited edition, Fall Fest t-shirts and to try food from every food truck. I remember being thrown off a mechanical bull for the first time, entering the ‘Fortnite’ truck, and going down a big bouncy slide. Fall fest marks the beginning of the year, when no one is worried about grades yet, new students are making new friends, and returning ones bump into people they least expect. Not to mention, Fall Fest is followed by the Spring Carnival and Spring Fling, which I won’t spoil, but the carnival definitely had a Ferris wheel. 

Original Artwork by Ash Sze

And best of all? Tufts either brings you everywhere or keeps the fun closeby, so no car required. 

Working as a Graduate Resident Assistant

Christine So, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Leadership MA candidate

As a Graduate Resident Assistant (RA), I had the opportunity to live on Beacon Street near the SMFA campus in Fenway. You can hear the bells ringing from the green line train right in front of us with the original Tatte Bakery and Cafe just a few steps away. These brownstones we get to live in have the unique history of seeing various types of first-year undergraduate BFA students in these old, yet very aesthetic buildings. The three buildings 1047, 1025, and 1023, each have such a unique character and all the residents that reside in it each get an unforgettable living experience in their first years as a student in Boston. Fun fact: 1023 used to be a Bed and Breakfast!

Prior to coming to Tufts, I had been a RA for two years. In my role, there are some key goals we have to hit. Those goals being connecting with our residents, building community, and supporting our residents to be academically and personally successful as a student at Tufts. A challenge I had found for our first year BFA students is that we live a bit farther from Medford campus, which I feel may take away from their first year experience. Hence, community building in our Beacon Street community has been very important. In total there are four RA’s who are in charge of roughly 80 residents. Programming is a very important part of this role so we can hold events that benefit our community. So far we’ve done self-care related programming, study sessions, and for the holidays we made hot cocoa and chai. For Halloween, we decorated our buildings and painted mini pumpkins while having too much candy. 

09/19/2022 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – Houston Hall’s glass atrium glows in the evening dusk as students study and move about on September 19, 2022. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Many people around me ask why I continue to be an RA (outside of the benefits of housing being covered). I cannot deny the challenges that come with the role in moments of conflict, crisis, or living in the environment that is your job. However, I just love bridging people and communities together. Beacon poses a lot of challenges in comparison to when I was an RA at my undergraduate institution. Even in comparison to Medford campus, we have to change our thought process to serve our residents in a whole different way. Being a prior music major, I understand the challenges of an unconventional education process in comparison to other majors. The challenges are different, so as an RA staff we do our best to make sure the events we hold are meaningful. Being an RA has taught me countless skills that I have been able to hone in my three years of being in housing. And of course, I value all of the connections I have been able to create in my first semester at Tufts in the Beacon Street community. 

This year I am an Assistant Residential Life Coordinator (ARLC) in the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL). I will help with individual neighborhoods within the Medford/Somerville campus, purchasing, and offering leadership development to our RA staff. Working in housing in an institutional setting for my fourth year is a rewarding experience and one I’ve gained many professional skills through. Working in housing has its challenges, but similar to being an RA, the connections you make are everlasting. 

Myth-busting the Start of Grad School: From the eyes of a student and staff member in the Education Department  

Lida Ehteshami, School Psychology MA/ Ed.S. candidate and Matt Suslovic, administrative coordinator, Education department

06/11/2023 – Medford/Somerville, Mass. – An aerial view of the plants that spell out Tufts on the roof of Tisch Library on the Medford/Somerville Campus of Tufts University on June 11, 2023. (Boston Aerials for Tufts University)

As you know, it takes stumbles to grow into your shoes as a grad student. We’ll dive into a few common anxieties and hopes we see unfold in the first semester of grad school, from Lida’s experiences as a student in Tufts’ M.A./Ed.S. in School Psychology program and Matt’s eyes as a staff member. 

Lida (first-year in School Psychology)

One of the first anxieties I felt was assuming that everyone already had it figured out. I thought I might need to be a superhuman with exceptional intelligence, unwavering focus, and boundless energy to succeed. It was easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone around me had it all together while I was struggling to balance my jobs, classes, and life. As I saw myself getting more and more overwhelmed, I reached out to fellow students who all related with the same feelings and helped me set realistic expectations for myself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and graduate school is a journey of growth and development for everyone. 

Given that I had just moved from another state and knew no one in Massachusetts, one of the biggest anxieties I faced was a sense of isolation. Between the academic workload, going to my practicum site, and working two jobs to support myself, I felt disconnected from the world outside. While I am still working on widening my social connections, I am very happy to have found a warm, welcoming, and fun group of friends in my cohort and have gone to a couple of events run by the Graduate Student Council. I’m sure to schedule time with a friend at least every other weekend, using that time to explore beautiful Boston and make this city feel like home. The support and camaraderie I find in my fellow graduate students is the most invaluable part of this journey so far. 

09/01/2022 – Medford, Mass. – Various campus photos taken on October 22, 2022 during Parents Weekend (Jenna Schad / Tufts University).

Along the same lines, I also feared having to sacrifice everything for graduate school given how busy my schedule was about to become. During my first few weeks of graduate school, I was entangled in the web of this myth. The stress it induced was suffocating, leading to burnout and a decline in my work quality. I am slowly realizing how self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. I am now beginning to prioritize activities that rejuvenate my spirit, such as cooking, spending time outdoors, and finding time to sketch. Engaging in these hobbies offered a welcome break, helping me strike a better balance and reignite my enthusiasm for learning, which, in the end, gave my academic performance a boost. 

Matt (administrative coordinator)

The moments I see the student-teacher dichotomy fall away and transform into a colleague-mentor relationship are the ones I wish I could preserve to show to grad students when they’re having one of those “ohhh, what did I sign myself up for?” reactions to the first semester. It’s a great thing as a staff person to watch the ease and familiarity increase between student and teacher over a semester. I see it happen often in the spill-over moments of teacher-student interactions (i.e. serendipitous conversations in the kitchen waiting in line for the microwave, the post-class meandering exodus of humans through the hallways, etc.). It comes up all the time in my conversations with faculty how they’re still lingering on a learning they took away from what was shared in class or are excited to share a story of something that happened to them in the field and get their students’ takes. I believe we’re all stumbling towards learning and figuring out the questions that need asking – faculty, students, staff, and administrators alike. I know that soothes my anxiety as each new semester unfolds.  

Navigating Graduate Life: Tufts Graduate Student Council

Natasha Keces, Child Study and Human Development PhD candidate and Graduate Student Council President

02/10/2023 – Medford/Somerville, Mass – Scenes from the first day of classes at Tufts on September 5, 2023 (Photo by Jenna Schad).

By now we are nearing the end of the Fall semester, making it halfway through another (hopefully not horribly treacherous) academic year at Tufts. Whether this is your first semester at Tufts, you are deep into your program, or you are thinking about Tufts as a potential school, I think that it is important to celebrate where you are and how you got here and to take some time for yourself. 

When celebrating your hard work and considering your future at Tufts, you may also be looking for a like minded community to lift you up and offer more support. Although you, without a doubt, deserve to be here and have so much to offer not only the university but also your peers, understanding your place within the graduate student body can be a struggle. Departments, specific research teams, or learning environments are often physically or socially siloed within their respective spaces so connection with other people may not be immediate or seem natural. This can be hard (I know it was a transition for me!) but luckily support systems have been created by the university and other students.  

In what probably won’t come as a surprise to you as a reader that I am very passionate about understanding and supporting graduate student life. This year I am the president of the Graduate Student Council, a wonderful team of elected graduate student representatives that have the sole mission of understanding the needs of the current graduate students and creating targeted support. Support can look like truly anything – including but not limited to decreasing the barrier to having a headshot by offering free photoshoots every semester, giving the opportunity for social connection and engagement with fun social events like bar nights, bowling, and pumpkin carving, fostering academic rigor and bolstering your CV with thesis and research competitions within the university, and creating the opportunity to give back to the broader Somerville community through community services events. In all of these spaces, you will meet people from all departments with all types of interests, experiences, and knowledge and get to know people you may have never interacted with otherwise. At the end of the day, we have all been thrown together in a similar environment at Tufts, gaining a unique shared experience as a member of the Tufts graduate student body that we can collectively grow from. 

This photo features our Community Outreach committee, which facilitates community engagement and volunteer opportunities. Events include Charity 5Ks, Local Beach Cleanups, Clothing Drives, and more!

You can learn about all the events run by the Graduate Student Council and what we do on our social media (Instagram @tufts_ase_gsc, Facebook at Tufts ASE Graduate Student Council), monthly newsletter, Slack Channel, and website ( More than focusing only on what we currently do, I consider our role as constantly thinking of ways to consider how we can adapt in the future to support graduate students in new ways. I always encourage emails to to give me and the other GSC members more insight into your lives and how we can support you! 

I also think in order to do your best work, to allow you to continue growing more in your time in your Tufts grad program, and to ease any other concerns that may be hindering your progress in your program, it can be important to know more about other resources that Tufts can offer graduate students. Here are just a few of my favorites: 

The team at Tufts Student Support ( has been created to meet individual student needs and to direct you to other places that can help you flourish at Tufts. You can schedule individual appointments with them to talk about where you are at and how you can continue to succeed! 

You may also be feeling the weight of financial burdens as they impact your ability to purchase food that sustains you to do your work. Various resources have been compiled and are available here ( in order to speak to food insecurity both on Tufts campus and in the larger community.  

The university provides free graduate writing support and academic success coaching ( – you can book up to weekly appointments during your time here. 

If attending a social event held by the graduate student council feels too big and overwhelming, specific identity based centers ( offer opportunities for connection with individuals of similar identity groups through fun events and physical Medford campus spaces. 

At the end of the day, you have made it so far and will only continue to grow in your time at Tufts (maybe even with the support of the Graduate Student Council or other Tufts resources!). 

Student Organizations at Tufts UEP

Tiffany Wu, Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate

Many exciting events happen in our department building at 97 Talbot Avenue, including seasonal celebrations and get-togethers. We also play volleyball outside when the weather is nice!
Photo Credit: Tiffany Wu

I’d like to highlight a couple of the graduate student organizations we have at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

1. Student Planning Association (SPA)

This group plans coffee chats, networking events, alumni panels, and campus activities related to the planning field. Each university accredited by the Planning Association Board (PAB) requires an ongoing planning group run by students, but SPA goes beyond that to create a welcoming community for students who would like the option to get more involved on campus and meet more members of our approximately 60-person cohorts. The organization is focused on professional development but also has ongoing plans for community-wide events, such as a proposed fall retreat. If you’re a student joining the program, chances are you’ll first get to encounter events organized by the Student Planning Association during the early weeks of fall semester onwards. 

2. People of Planning (POP)

This group is intended to be a BIPOC organization for students of color who are in the planning field. Because students of color have historically had access to fewer opportunities in this field and may find it daunting to figure out next steps while pursuing their career path, People of Planning helps guide them through student events, presentations, and group activities. There are also exciting mixers with planning departments at other universities, such as get-togethers last semester with MIT DUSP and Harvard GSD at local breweries.

3. UEParty

This group plans the fun events that help students get to know each other and bond as a cohort. For example, there are holiday-themed events such as Pi / Pie Day and Palentine’s Day that are always a good time. There are also game day watch parties and monthly happy hours with snacks. Most events are held at the UEP department building, Brown House, at 97 Talbot Avenue. As a UEP student pursuing an MA/MS in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning — one of the three “tracks” offered by the department, alongside the MS in Sustainability and the Master’s of Public Policy — these UEParty gatherings are often a good opportunity to catch up with other members of my graduate class I may not get to see as frequently.

A recent movie screening hosted by UEParty at 72 Professors Row, the UEP department building just up the street. Photo Credit: Diya Wheeler, UEP MS Student

All of these student groups work together closely with each other and faculty members to ensure events go smoothly and everyone is on the same page. If you are a potential urban planning, sustainability or public policy student, I would encourage you to learn more about these groups. There are also plenty of opportunities to start new student organizations at UEP, and we are also connected with the Tufts Graduate Student Council (GSC), which has its own slate of activities and monthly meetings.

I am involved with the Student Planning Association and it has been a fantastic experience. We meet twice a month and frequently touch base with POP and UEParty to catch up on ideas for upcoming events. No individual is an island at Tufts and neither are these student organizations!

Stay tuned for my next post about a curriculum feature that is unique to Tufts UEP — Field Projects!

Take a Break: Spring Break

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Spring break is a much needed mid-semester rest that everyone should take advantage of in some fashion. There are many ways to spend your spring break, whether its going somewhere warm, somewhere adventurous, or just staying home and relaxing! Regardless of what you do, it is a perfect time to prioritize rest and to do something that you enjoy.

There are plenty of vacation spots you can travel to (via car, bus, train) in the northeast, including Kennebunk, ME; Portsmouth, NH; Burlington, VT; and New York City, NY! The first two are quaint cities along the coast, with beautiful views and cute streets lined with shops. In Kennebunk check out Rococo Ice cream and the Marginal Way Walk (in adjacent town of Ogunquit, ME). In Portsmouth, make sure to go to Popovers on the Square and get some popovers to go! Burlington, VT is a little further north and you will see a picturesque city with breathtaking views of nature. Make sure to check out some of the thrift stores there for great finds! New York City is a bustling city full of life, especially at night. Go to Times Square, take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, or go up to the Top of the Rock for an amazing view!

If you are looking for a staycation, there are so many things to do in the Boston area. Go to some of the many spas and treat yourself to a massage, facial, or body scrub! Some of these include G20 or the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Spend a day in the North End and eat your way through all the delicious restaurants, my personal favorite being the Bricco store for a sandwich during lunch and Euno for dinner (checkout the basement). Visit some of the museums, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, zoos, such as the Franklin Park Zoo, or the New England Aquarium (students free or discounted) in Boston and surrounding areas! Get out of the indoors and go for a hike at Blue Hills Reservation in Milton.

For my spring break, I am staying in New England and going to do a spa weekend to relax and rejuvenate! In previous years I have gone to NYC to see a show on Broadway and Washington, DC to visit friends!

No matter where you go, take some time to rest, relax, and have fun. Use this time to recharge and finish the semester out strong! Enjoy your spring break, you deserve it!

Escape the Imposter Syndrome

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

Do you ever feel like you’re not supposed to be in a graduate program? Like everyone else is more qualified than you? Like you somehow fooled everyone and you won’t last undetected any longer? This is the imposter syndrome, and you are not alone in that feeling.

The imposter syndrome can be defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” This is something not only graduate students experience, but professors and post-docs feel as well. These feelings may come and go in high stress environments and may be all-encompassing.

I have had my own share of imposter syndrome, normally during times of stress or near an important deadline. I remember one of the most convincing times was during my qualifying exams. This is an exam that lasts about three weeks and includes critiquing a peer-reviewed research paper, writing an essay on it, and then presenting in front of the entire department. And to make it even more stressful, if you fail twice, you are dismissed from the program.

I was feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and frankly like I was in way over my head. I wasn’t able to shake the feeling that I had somehow fooled the entire department into admitting me into the program. However, I talked to someone else in my cohort and she told me she felt the same way now and then and told me “It’s the imposter syndrome,” which was the first time I had heard of this term. I still feel like an imposter sometimes, but every time it’s because I’m doing something more challenging than I’ve done before.

Sometimes it’s easy to sink into this mindset and let it consume you, but you have to change your perspective and have courage in your own abilities. You did not fool admissions into letting you in, or your professors for passing you or giving you good grades. You worked and studied for your accomplishments and put yourself in the position you are in now. You deserve to be here! You are in graduate school to learn, become more independent, and challenge your thinking. You may feel out of place and confused sometimes and that is normal. In uncomfortable situations we grow and adapt.

Sometimes just knowing that your feelings of doubt are a common thing amongst your peers may settle your nerves, so talk to your friends about this and you will be surprised at how many of them tell you they have felt the same way.

Winter in New England

Jennifer Khirallah, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. candidate

If you’re not used to winter in Boston, or even if you are, it can be pretty tough to bear sometimes. Below freezing weather, unexpected snowstorms, and high winds can lead to some negative feelings about the season. However, there are some really fun things to do in the Boston area that only can be done when it’s cold outside!

Whether you’re an avid ice skater or a novice, like me, ice skating at Frog Pond in Boston Common is a wonderful experience! Bring your own skates or rent them there, buy some snacks or hot chocolate to keep warm, and skate for as long as you like! They also offer college nights from 6:00-9:00 pm every Tuesday, which gives half-price admission with your student ID! On February 7, 2023, Tufts University students get free admission! Check out more information! For another fun skating spot, head to the Rink at 401 Park for skating and a beer at Trillium Brewery.

If you’re not into ice skating, there are a ton of nearby options for skiing and snowboarding! Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts, and Mount Sunapee and Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire are some notable local spots. They offer a variety of different slopes for all skill levels, equipment rentals, and lessons.

For warmer experiences, head to some of the many restaurants in Boston that offer igloo dining! Enjoy dinner or drinks from your own private igloo. Check out the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in Cambridge or Envoy’s igloos and Ice Boxes in the Seaport for these fun spots to hang out with friends!

Winter in Boston can be a beautiful experience if you find fun things to do with friends and bundle up when your outside!

Why Tufts?

Elijah Mensah,  Environmental Policy & Planning M.S. Candidate

Hi Everyone, my name is Elijah. I am an international student pursuing an MS in Environmental Policy and Planning here at Tufts! I aspire to acquire knowledge and practice in the field to contribute to the policy and planning of cities. First, I would like to speak briefly about where I am from.

A country located on the west coast of Africa, formerly known as the Gold Coast during British colonial rule, and now Ghana after independence in 1957, is one of the best places to live in Africa! The country was called the Gold Coast because of its vast Gold reserves and other minerals. This played a crucial role in attracting European businessmen to the country until the slave trade became the next lucrative commodity. Fast forward to modern Ghana, we are known for being affable, welcoming, and peace-seeking people. Today some of our most significant trading commodities remain gold, bauxite, diamond, manganese, timber, petroleum, and cocoa.

Life in Accra Central, Ghana    Credit: Muntaka Chasant, Wikimedia commons, 2019

I was born and have lived all my life in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Due to school and other engagements, I have had the opportunity to travel around the country. I completed my elementary education in rural Accra, Senior High education in the Volta region, and my undergraduate degree in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Growing up, I was puzzled by the environmental issues making headlines in the news and radio discussions. I was interested in how I could contribute to addressing the notorious littering, poor waste management, and flooding in my community. I witnessed firsthand human actions that lead to garbage and plastic waste clogging waterways and flooding during the wet season, which caused destruction of properties and sometimes claimed human lives.

Research studies in the country have attributed poor waste management to the outbreak of cholera and malaria diseases, which has dire impacts on public health. All of these influenced my decision to pursue a BS in Natural Resources Management. Later I teamed up with friends and colleagues who found the current waste management and climate change crisis a significant threat to our country. We worked together to cofound a community-based nonprofit called “Keep Ghana Beautiful.” Our mission was to educate community members and school children on the issues of poor waste management and climate change and encourage them to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and plant trees to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Through my nonprofit organization, I was selected as a fellow for the Atlas Corps Program. It provided the opportunity for emerging nonprofit leaders around the world to come to the US to hone professional skills and develop hands-on learning in a national nonprofit for 12-18 months and then return to their home countries to utilize the skills. I was privileged to have been stationed at “Keep America Beautiful,” a US national nonprofit with over 65 years of experience in addressing the issue of littering and promoting recycling through its over 700 affiliates across the US and Canada. Throughout the role, I lived principally in Stamford, Connecticut and traveled briefly to 10 states across the US. My thoughts about going to grad school started sometime during the pandemic when I worked from home. I first started broadly researching via the internet in the field I wanted to develop and focus my skills. I then narrowed the search to MA or MS programs. I was fascinated by Tufts’ academic success stories and its location within the Boston Metropolitan area. I found the prospect of pursuing an excellent graduate program in one of the top-notch schools in the US an accomplishment to begin with living my American dream.

Upon returning to Ghana after my fellowship, I began an application to Tufts. After some months of waiting I was surprised with that sweet congratulatory email of admission to the MS in Environmental Policy and Planning. After the back-and-forth issues of immigration and securing a visa, here I am living the dream! I am currently taking four classes this semester and I feel great about it. I like the immersive learning culture where students engage weekly in small group discussions with instructors. I love the discussion forums on the course Canvas site where students share their weekly journaling to the class. These stimulate conversations among students to learn of other perspectives on a specific topic. I think it is creative and transformational. I can’t stop without talking about my department building- the Brown House. This is home where all of the bonding and fun happen. We use it to connect with colleagues, study, organize events, meet our professors and administrative offices for assistance. One of the best parts for me is always free sncks in the kitchen. I love the community!

I want to use this platform to thank and send a shout out to my mentor and professor Julian Agyeman, at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), Tufts. He has been phenomenal in guiding and supporting me throughout my journey. Also, I would like to motivate someone out there that it is possible when you put in the hard work and seek the support you require. I tried many times to further my education but got rejected. On the occasions I gained admission, something may have changed in my life and stopped me from proceeding. 10 years after completing my undergraduate degree, I accomplished a near forgotten dream. Don’t be surprised to see me completing a PhD in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, stay tuned for more!