My little survey from a few weeks back yielded some very specific questions from incoming students. While I work on the answers, Roxanne is here to give you a big-picture view of what you should be doing and thinking about in the summer before you start your graduate studies.
I am writing these words at 1369 Coffee House, which was one of my favorite spaces when I was a college student in Boston. One of the indulgences of the early days of summer lies in exactly this moment: savoring a drink at a coffee shop, reading for pleasure, and watching the to-do lists temporarily shrink to include only leisurely items.
Therein lies my first piece of advice for the summer before you enroll at Fletcher: Embrace leisure. Allow your mind to rest for a while, and engage in the activities that make you happy. If it is possible, build in a few weeks of relaxation between the time your work commitments end and the time Fletcher obligations kick in. Arriving at Fletcher with a rested mind can make all the difference. While I am soon leaving for my summer work and research, the past two weeks have been full of picnics, tandem bike rides, a trip to Walden Pond, and other favorite Boston-area activities.
Use the summer to reflect on the experience you want to have at Fletcher: What do you wish to learn that you had not previously explored? Which types of skills do you want to build? Are there particular professors whom you would like to get to know? What other opportunities in the Boston area appeal to you? The answers to these questions shift constantly for most of us at Fletcher, and we welcome the evolution of our interests, but arriving here with a sense of goals and learning objectives — however vague and ever-changing — can be helpful in making the most of the experience. The summer is also a good time to talk to past mentors, whether professional or academic ones, and to solicit their advice about how to make the most of your upcoming graduate school experience.
If you are planning on taking the language exams early in the semester, or the economics and quantitative reasoning placement tests, it may be helpful to brush up on some of those skills — but do not let the process stress you. When I look back on my own summer before Fletcher, I wish I had worried less. Yes, it is important to fill out the paperwork Fletcher requires in a timely manner, to set up your email accounts, and to prepare logistically for the semester. Completing these steps will make your arrival here far less stressful, and it will enable you to delve into the community smoothly in August. At the same time, the Fletcher staff is incredibly supportive, these processes are fairly easy, and they need not intimidate or worry you.
Some of you will go through the new course catalog as soon as it becomes available to make a list of courses you would like to take; yet others will arrive in Medford without ever having looked at the course catalog. Let me reassure you that most of us change our minds about our preferred course choices multiple times before the semester begins, so do not feel pressure to make rigid choices. If you are inspired by browsing the offerings, by all means, go ahead! If, on the other hand, you’d rather wait until you get here and can solicit the opinions of your classmates or attend the so-called “Shopping Day” to watch the professors in action, know that many Fletcher students will be joining you.
Finally, I’d like to make some room for the pieces of pre-Fletcher advice that do not fit in the above categories, but reflect how I wish I had spent the summer before Fletcher:
- Read for pleasure. This is what a now-graduated member of the Class of 2013 had advised me, and it was the best piece of advice I received. It was a treat to spend the summer steeped in the literature of my choice without the pressure to highlight or take notes.
- Make some time to say goodbye to the place you have called home. Some of you will be leaving a place far away from your birthplace, while others will be leaving your homeland. Transitions are easier once you have carved out room for goodbyes and nostalgia.
- Relatedly, carve out some time to make Boston a home when you arrive. If you arrive a couple of days before Orientation, take the time to explore your new neighborhood or take the subway to Boston. Give yourself some time to discover what may soon be your new favorite restaurant or café, develop a new running or cycling route, a new morning routine. You will be part of this community before you know it, and there are many of us eagerly waiting to welcome you to the Fletcher family! Until then, have a wonderful summer!