Currently viewing the category: "Our Neighborhood"

Launching the Student Stories feature for 2015-16 is second-year MIB student, Alex, who is reporting on his summer internship in the Boston area.

Alex SFletcher is not the type of school where everyone hopes to spend the summer as a consultant or banker in New York.  Ask a dozen people here what they did for their summer internship, and I bet you will get a dozen completely different answers.  With people scattered across the world doing everything under the sun, it would be quite difficult for me to describe the average Fletcher internship.  Instead, I can at least provide you with one data point by telling you about my summer, spent in the most unlikely of places for a Fletcher student: Boston.

My internship was with a rapidly growing solar energy project development company in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, which I secured with the help of one of my professors.  I worked to build out their “Community Solar” offering, which is the hot new thing in the industry: instead of mounting panels on their roofs, anyone can subscribe to centralized solar installations, effectively opening up the market for the 80% of people who could not go solar previously.  As you may remember from earlier blog posts, I am interested in innovative business models and financing mechanisms for clean energy infrastructure, so this was right up my alley.  Furthermore, working on the development side provided a good experiential addition to my internship with the wind energy private equity firm last semester; now I know both the money side and the project side of the deal.

Actually getting to build out a new product offering, with all the requisite business processes, was a great opportunity as well.  In my previous role as a strategy consultant, I was generally looking at the bigger picture instead of tackling all the nitty-gritty pieces of building something new.  It was an eye-opening experience, which brought some concreteness to my thinking.

The size of the company was another aspect I enjoyed: at 45 employees, it was much smaller than Monitor Deloitte and much bigger than some of the start-ups I have worked with in the past.  At this size, a company has the expertise and basic processes in place, but does not yet have the silos that beset many larger organizations.  I felt empowered to reach across the organization, make decisions, and execute as I saw fit, which I greatly enjoyed.  Also, I was excited to be surrounded by experts in all aspects of building our energy sources of the future.

So, while I have to admit I was jealous at first of all my friends jetting off to cool and exotic places for their summers, I ended up being happy that I kept mine local.  One of the great perks was my commute, which included biking along charming Charles Street in Beacon Hill, through the verdant Public Gardens, and then down bustling Newbury Street in Back Bay.  I feel lucky that I was one of the few who got to stay in Boston, and appreciate the opportunities and beauty of the great city in which we live.

Tagged with:

It’s a rainy day today, so I’m going to think back to my weekend.  I never have enough time to write about our great neighborhood once the academic year begins, and I enjoy writing about my own weekend.  Thus…

The weekend was dedicated to showing off the city to visitors and seeing things through their eyes.  As we’ve done for the past few years, our family is hosting students in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program.  The kids are busy all day Monday to Friday, but off we went on Friday evening (after their program activities) to meet another host family and introduce five Iraqi boys to Chinese food.  While at the restaurant, we made plans with the same family and kids for Saturday and Sunday.  (Coincidentally, two of the boys who ended up placed in Boston go to school together in Iraq.)

The WaveFirst stop on Saturday was the Museum of Fine Arts.  This was our choice, in part, because it was the final weekend for an amazing exhibit of the works of the Japanese artist, Hokusai.  But the final days of an exhibit can draw crowds, so we quickly made our way to the Art of the Ancient World (especially the Near East), where one of the boys asked how it was possible that all these artifacts had ended up in Boston.  Good question.  The MFA website gives particularly good explanations of the provenance of the pieces, but there are also signs in the galleries.

Following a fly-through visit to the modern art and impressionist painting galleries, the group was off to the Prudential Center “skywalk” to check out the vistas.  It was a terrifically clear day, and the view extended north into New Hampshire.

After a brief stop at home, we were off again to cheer on our Boston Breakers — the local team in the National Women’s Soccer League.  There are always plenty of families at Breakers games, but there was a striking number of young professionals as well.  And why not?  The price is right, and the location is convenient.  Plus, between the two teams, there were several players who had competed in the summer’s World Cup.  We suggested to our guests that they cheer along as if they had always supported the Breakers.  Thanks to our support (and some great goalkeeping), the Breakers managed a 2-1 win.

On Sunday, more activity.  We caught a ferry downtown to George’s Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park.  The day started cloudy but skies cleared at about noon, leaving us several sunny hours to explore the old Civil War fort and for the boys to play soccer and fly a kite.  The view of the skyline from the ferry was terrific.  All-in-all, a great way to mix fun, relaxation, and exploration of the city.

On Monday, I came to work to rest.

Despite the exhaustion that accompanies running around town with a team of 17-year-old boys, it’s always a pleasure to share the city with out-of-town friends.  I never forget how much I enjoy living here, but I’m happy to have a great weekend remind me to appreciate it.


While the blog shared the favorite destinations of my Admissions pals last week, I was taking a few days off to explore some of those same destinations.

On Wednesday, along with Gov. Charlie Baker (who was in the audience), my husband, Paul, and I went to Shakespeare on the Common, which Liz had recommended.  What King Lear lacks in cheer, the location more than compensated for.  The photos below are of my views at dusk to my left and in front of me.  “Future strife may be prevented now,” indeed.  Shame that the King didn’t have this curtain in front of him before the action began.

Towers and stage

My days off included two trips to Walden Pond.  Once on my own, because it’s my favorite place for open-water swimming, and once with my daughter, Kayla, for a relaxing end of the day on Friday.  We swam a bit, watched a very large turtle that came up on the shore, and resisted the lure of the ice cream truck that awaits visitors on their way back to their cars.

Walden visit
I also went twice to my favorite urban beach, Revere.  In addition to an early morning visit for Paul and me, we went with the whole family on Saturday night for dinner at our favorite Cambodian Restaurant, Thmor Da.  (Check it out — such delicious food!  We even ran into the chef/owner of another restaurant there.)  We followed up dinner with ice cream and a walk to check out the sand sculptures that remained after the annual contest a week or so ago.

Spirit of Boston
In addition to these tried-and-true favorite destinations, on Thursday, Paul and I did a one-day three-state (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine) field trip to visit (or revisit) some coastal locales.  Without a clear destination in mind, we headed up Rt. 95, deciding to go as far as Kittery, Maine, where we stopped briefly to check out the shops.  Then we turned back south to Portsmouth, NH for lunch at the Portsmouth Brewery.  Portsmouth — such a cute town!  I’m sure we’ll be back for another day trip, but this time we had other ports of call on the agenda.

Continuing south, we stopped (as Dan recommended) at Hampton Beach.  It was very hot, so we wandered briefly among the arcades, meandered onto the beach, and enjoyed a cold drink before moving on.  Just enough of a visit to get the feel of the place.

Hampton Beach
Last stop?  The Massachusetts state park at Salisbury Beach.  Cool breezes.  Even colder water.  But a lovely place to end a summer day of exploration.

On the spectrum of mountain people to beach people, I’m squarely among the beach people.  Either way, the local area offers plenty of great places to visit.  I recommend that incoming students should plan a visit or two for the early part of the semester, when the weather is at its best, and the coursework is still manageable.


Many Fletcher students arrive with families in tow, and Kristen provides the perfect summer (or fall) suggestion for them.

My summer might be slightly less adventurous than some of my colleagues, but with good reason: I have two young children, so every day is its own special kind of adventure.  However, we still manage to have a lot of fun as Boston is a wonderful city for families.  Some of our top choices:

We’ll hit our favorite spray parks (parks with sprinklers) frequently — Artesani and Beaver Brook.  A new one on our must-go list is Palmer State Park, which has both great hiking and sprinklers for the kids.

There are quite a few public (free!) pools around, but one of my favorites for easy accessibility (right on the red line of the T) is the McCrehan Memorial Pool in Cambridge.  Also near to campus is Dilboy pool, which offers season passes.

We also like going to nearby beaches.  Sandy Beach (also called Shannon Beach is close and easy for a quick drive.  For a longer day, Wingaersheek Beach is perfect for kiddos, as the water is calm and shallow.  Followed up by a visit to a local clam shack, this is the perfect New England day.

Next, Christine describes a great place that should be on everyone’s weekend list for September/October.

Summer in Boston is my favorite time of year.  Yes, all the seasons are lovely (even winter has its charms), but summer in the city really reminds me why I have made this place my home.  I have a long list of favorite activities, but one that is high on my list is the South End Open Market @SOWA.  SOWA Market is the trifecta of summer fun with an arts market, farmer’s market, and food truck area all rolled into one convenient location.  The best part may be that the market is open until October, so you can stretch out the summer fun into the school year!  (For your local knowledge, SOWA refers to South of Washington Street.)

In the arts market you can find all sorts of handmade treasures by local artists.  I am particularly fond of the artists who make greeting cards and other paper products.  The farmer’s market is home to local produce, fresh pasta, meat and eggs, and plenty of other confections.  I am always finding something new to indulge in!  Make sure you bring some cash and re-useable bags.  While even the smallest farm stands seem to take credit cards now, it is always good to have some cash on hand.

The food truck section alone is worth the trip.  My favorites include: The Dining Car, The Bacon Truck, and Tenoch (which also has a brick and mortar location right by Fletcher and another one on the way!).  The trucks are set up so you can wander through and eat as much or as little as you like.

Hope you find some time to spend at SOWA!  You can always stop by the office to share any new treats you get!

Those are the summer suggestions from my Admissions pals.  Because there’s still plenty of time for me to offer my own picks this summer, I won’t provide a specific suggestion today.  But what I’d like to point out is that Boston, and even the “greater Boston area” is a wonderfully manageable size.  Within an hour are coastal locations as diverse as Hampton Beach (Dan’s pick) and Wingaersheek Beach (Kristen’s rather calmer suggestion).  There’s theater in the round (Laurie’s North Shore Music Theatre) and theater outdoors (Liz’s Shakespeare on the Common).  Even students who regularly get out into the community will barely scratch the surface of all there is to do here. 

Tagged with:

Continuing the theme from yesterday’s post, the Admissions team shares its favorite summer locations.

First up today is Dan, who rarely demonstrates such an alarming familiarity with reality TV, as he describes his favorite local beach location.  Because who doesn’t want to get to the beach in the summer?!

Something I’ve learned from being married to a New Jersey native is that you can get the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t get the Jersey out of the girl (believe me, I’ve tried).  As such, our household gets an occasional hankering for some boardwalk time.  While it’s technically possible to GTL and reach the Jersey Shore from Massachusetts in a weekend, it’s a long trip that would leave barely enough time for a fist pump or two, arrest, booking, arraignment, bail, and release while still making it back by Sunday evening.

Fortunately there’s a closer, and weirder, New England alternative.  Only an hour from Tufts, New Hampshire’s Hampton Beach, is “the busiest beach community in the state” according to Wikipedia.  That may be a dubious honor given the extent of the limited New Hampshire coastline, but not for nothin’, as its Jersey compatriots would say.

Hampton’s stretch of boardwalk isn’t huge; maybe two or three blocks.  What it lacks in size, though, it makes up for in age.  It only takes a few minutes’ stroll to feel like you’re more likely to bump into Nucky Thompson than The Situation.  While you won’t find roller coasters or amusement piers here, you will find an assortment of creaky wood-floored arcades featuring some of the 80s’ most popular video games, shooting galleries that look like they employ live rounds, and basketball shot contests that use actual peach baskets (okay, I made that last one up).  The overarching aesthetic is amusement park hand-me-down chic.

Lest this seem like a backhanded burn of our northern neighbors, I’ll emphasize that Hampton Beach is, in my view, about as pleasant as a boardwalk can get.  It’s close, small, and manageable, has some historical flavor and, best of all, it generally lacks the aggressive crassness of most other boardwalks.  Doable in even a half day, it’s also loaded with great seafood joints, probably worth the trip by themselves.

After the beach, what could be better than the ice cream options that Theresa describes?

ice cream truckLazy summer days lounging out back on the deck always bring back floods of childhood memories involving evening ice cream.  This was especially true the other evening, when somewhere off in the near distance, I could hear calliope music from an ice cream truck drifting through air as the truck made its way toward our street.  Back in the day, on any given summer evening, nearly all the kids in the neighborhood flocked to that white, stickered ice cream truck like little moths to a square flame — waiting for our turn to pick out our favorite ice cream treat.  I always liked the lemon Italian ice.  It was cool and refreshing and took my mind off the mosquitoes biting my legs.  Just as most of us had reached the bottom of our cones or cups of ice cream, our mothers would urge us back inside and away from the mosquitoes.

So many wonderful summers have come and gone since then.  Fast forward 25 years and oddly, things are only slightly different.  The calliope music still plays as kids flock to the ice cream truck.  They smile and laugh while waiting for their turn to pick out their favorite ice cream treat, and not long after that, the other Moms and I, who have been chatting, start urging our kids back inside.

Ice cream trucks can be hard to find, but ice cream is always a local favorite.  If there’s no truck near you, try J.P. Licks, right near campus in Davis Square, or head further down to block to iYO Café.  From a truck or a storefront, you can’t go wrong with ice cream in the summer.

Tagged with:

Summer is when I like to ask my Admissions pals to share a little about themselves on the blog.  Naturally, when we’re writing in the summer, we lean toward writing about the summer.  My assignment for the team, then, was to describe a favorite summer activity — one that incoming students might pursue next summer, or even in the spring and fall.

First up, Liz, who has written about what is likely to be my own activity this evening.

ShakespeareOne of my favorite things to do each summer is attend one of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s free performances of Shakespeare on the Common.  Shakespeare on the Common, taking place in the historic park at the heart of the city, has been a Boston summer tradition since 1996, and has featured many different plays.  It’s a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy some culture with friends.  You can simply pull up a blanket or beach chair, bring your own picnic, and enjoy a fantastic evening of theater!  Moreover, I really like the mission of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, which is “dedicated to performing the works of William Shakespeare in vital and contemporary productions that are presented free of charge to Boston’s diverse communities, and to educating Boston’s youth not only about Shakespeare but also about their own potential for creativity.”  If you have the opportunity, definitely check it out!  This summer’s production is King Lear, which will run from July 22-August 9.

Next, Laurie suggests another option for area theater lovers.

If you love musical theater, here is something to consider in the Boston area.  My family has had season tickets to the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) for many, many years.  There are small regional theaters of very high quality all over New England and the North Shore Music Theatre is one of the best!  NSMT is located in Beverly, Massachusetts — 23 miles north of Tufts and approximately a 30-40 minute drive.  It has been around since 1955 and has a great reputation.  Plus, ticket prices are reasonable (and parking is free!).  Renovated in 2005, the theater is round with a center stage and has 1500 seats — there’s not a bad seat in the house!  In addition, the actors make use of the entire space so you really feel part of the show.  The 2015 season started off with Dream Girls — always a crowd pleaser!  The rest of the 2015-16 season includes Saturday Night Fever the Musical, Billy Elliot, and Sister Act.  Each summer NSMT produces a great family show as well.  This year it was Shrek the Musical.  I took my four-year-old nephew, who was able to sit still through the entire show!  The NSMT season always ends with an amazing production of A Christmas Carol, a great show that coincides with the end of Fletcher’s fall semester.  Check it out!

Tagged with:

What with trying to keep up with all that’s happening at Fletcher, and sharing the interesting paths of students, alumni, and faculty, I don’t pause often enough during the academic year to comment on our neighborhood.  Today, when I should otherwise be reading applications, seems like the perfect moment to share something I love about this region.

On Tuesday, I meandered over to Harvard Square for a reading by Nick Hornby, an author I like and who has a new book.  The organizers of the event reminded the audience to support local independent bookstores.  That made me think about how lucky we are to have these treasures in our midst.

There are actually many independents around, but I’m just going to highlight two that are particularly close to Fletcher.  One is Harvard Book Store, which organized the event on Tuesday — easily reached by bus from campus or subway from Davis Square.  The other is Porter Square Books, an even shorter bus or subway ride from Tufts.  Both stores offer a full calendar of events, and I’ve enjoyed talks by Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and others.  As someone who writes short things with an even shorter life, it’s inspiring to listen to real authors — whose work is to create something complex and lasting — talk about how they do it.

I’m well aware that Fletcher students don’t have abundant time for leisure reading, but I still think it’s great to live in an area that values books and can sustain independent bookstores.


The next member of the Class of 2009 to update us on her first five years after graduating from Fletcher is Sandy Kreis.  In addition to the details she provides below, Sandy told me that she has two new affiliations.  First, she is a visiting lecturer this semester at Tufts, teaching a course on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups for the Ex College.  And she is also the Entrepreneur in Residence at Blade, a startup foundry that invests in consumer product software and hardware startups.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

At the American Embassy in Tokyo after meeting Amb. Caroline Kennedy (December 2013)

After graduating from Georgetown cum laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, I found myself working long hours as a lead litigation legal assistant at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York.  During my time at Shearman, I started wondering why the thousands of pages I printed each day did not use recycled paper and why the lights were on 24/7 in vacant conference rooms.  This rising passion for corporate social responsibility, coupled with my assignment to the Enron litigation and a new-found interest in electricity markets, led me to a job in Los Angeles with Environment America’s VIP outreach campaigns.

While in LA, my main task was to cultivate a network of high net-worth members of the arts and entertainment communities and galvanize interest around climate change advocacy.  My work culminated in a fundraiser at the home of movie director Paul Haggis, where the director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim, addressed the crowd of over 100 celebrity activists.  Over $30,000 was raised to fight for climate change legislation in Sacramento.  Following these two different but extraordinarily useful jobs, I enrolled at Fletcher to better understand how policy impacts the deployment and growth of clean energy markets.  I was drawn to Fletcher because it was one of the only esteemed academic institutions that would allow me to pursue my interest in energy policy in an global context.

At Fletcher

Once I arrived at Blakeley Hall, I hit the ground running.  It was not long before I joined forces with my classmate Jan Havránek, who had a specific interest in energy security, to launch the Fletcher Energy Consortium.  I focused on taking all of the core courses of a traditional MBA program while simultaneously learning anything and everything I could about cleantech policy and technology innovation.  I benefited deeply from the burgeoning cleantech scene in Boston, driven strongly by the policies created in 2008 on Beacon Hill, including the Green Jobs Act and the Green Communities Act.

Between my first and second years at Fletcher, I interned right down the road in Kendall Square at Emerging Energy Research (EER), a startup-advisory firm that tracks renewable energy markets for wind, solar, geothermal, and storage developers.  I joined the North America Renewable Power Team and focused specifically on how state Renewable Portfolio Standards policies impact the demand created for clean energy development.  This was my first toe-dip into the innovation and startup ecosystem in Boston, and I was hooked.


At the end of my two years as a MALD, I said goodbye to some of the best friends and contemporaries a woman could ask for and joined EER as a full-time analyst.  Within a few months, we were acquired by IHS and joined forces with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, where I had the pleasure of working with fellow Fletcher alums and delving deeper into how oil and gas markets affect the potential advancement of renewable energy deployment.  After two years at EER, I left for New York City where I joined the Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (ACRE) to brainstorm ways to diversify the City’s first cleantech-focused incubator into its next phase of development.

While at ACRE, I joined an incubated company, CB Insights, as the Greentech Program Manager.  In the Spring of 2012, I was back in Boston as a judge of the MIT Clean Energy Prize where I met my future boss, mentor, and friend, Jim Bowen, the husband of a Fletcher alum.  Jim poached me from New York and brought me back to Boston to work on the business development and international relations team at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), a quasi-government state agency charged with supporting the 5,500 clean energy companies here in the Commonwealth.  It was at this time that I was designated an Emerging Leader in Energy & Environmental Policy (ELEEP) by the Atlantic Council and the EcoLogic Institute.

With Governor Patrick as he gave the Mayor of Kyoto a Red Sox signed baseball (December 2013)

At MassCEC, I conceptualized, managed, and executed multiple innovative, new-growth initiatives designed to drive business for early stage companies in line with our larger strategic goals.  This includes managing an annual budget of $2.5M and leading teams of over 20+ employees (from marketing, communications, legal, etc.) by acting as the central manager of the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon and the Global Cleantech Meetup.  Perhaps most Fletcher-esque, I had the honor of accompanying Governor Deval Patrick on seven “innovation diplomacy” economic development missions.  I successfully identified, pitched, and sold various international collaborations and events with the core goal of creating tangible relationships for the Commonwealth’s cleantech companies.  On each trip, from Tokyo to Mexico City, I ran into Fletcher alumni who were either working in the target market or staffing the Embassy as a subject-matter expert.  One highlight was meeting Colombian President Juan Santos F81 in Bogota and saying in Spanish, “I too am a proud Fletcher alum.”  The alumni network is strong.

My tenure at MassCEC came to an end in August of 2014.  These days, I am working on various projects in the innovation ecosystem here in the Commonwealth, from Descience — a startup that matches scientists with fashion designers to bring “research to the runway” — to advising a handful of cleantech and digital technology companies.  The global network I have cultivated since I landed at Fletcher in 2007 has been instrumental in advancing my career to where it is today.  Never forget, it is the people that make the journey, so cultivate them, and do so wisely.

With U.S. Amb. Jonathan Farrar and wife Terry at the American Trade Hotel in Panama City (March 2014)



Tagged with:

At the end of the spring semester, Liam, one of our student bloggers, offered an end-of-year post.  I eagerly grabbed it, but I’ve held it until now because it reflects both Liam’s first year at Fletcher and also his suggestions for incoming students.  I’ll just note that Liam wrote his post when the Red Sox season was looking a little brighter than it is now!

Sitting here, finally having some time to reflect on the blur that is the spring semester, I’m at a loss to describe what an incredible experience my first year at Fletcher has been.  A few words come to mind — demanding, challenging, (extremely) busy — but what it really boils down to is one of the most remarkable and rewarding years I’ve had.  From making new friends, to learning an incredible amount about the world in which we live, to taking the time to really comprehend my life’s journey to this point, this year at Fletcher was incredible.  Taking all that into consideration, I thought about the experiences I’m glad I’ve had both in and out of school, and I wanted to share a few “musts” for students at Fletcher.

1.  Go to Fletcher events.  From culture nights, to the Blakeley Halloween party, to The Los Fletcheros concerts, to simple gatherings of friends on a Friday, some of the best times to be had at Fletcher are outside the classroom.  Taking the time to relax and get to know my classmates has been so incredibly rewarding.  Time goes by pretty fast here and it will be over before you know it, so enjoy it while you can.

2.  Go to the Boston Marathon.  I was blessed with the opportunity to run this year through the Tufts Marathon Team, but if running for four(-ish) hours is not your cup of tea, experiencing the event is still an absolute must.  Over a million fans lining the street for over 26 miles, coming together in support of the city and the runners, was just an indescribable thing to see.  The Boston Marathon is, in my eyes, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world and it is not to be missed.

3.  Go watch the Red Sox.  I might be a bit biased as a life-long Sox fan, but anyone who spends time in Boston should experience Fenway Park.  Especially after the Sox won the 2013 World Series, taking in an afternoon or evening at “America’s Favorite Ballpark” is a great distraction from school, and singing “Sweet Caroline” with 36,000 friends is pretty great, too.

4.  Get to know Boston.  Boston is so full of history and culture — it’s critical to get out and see it.  Running along the Esplanade on the Charles River, exploring the Freedom Trail, relaxing at Boston Common, going to concerts — there is so much to do year-round in the city, so putting down the books and getting out is something you just have to do.

5.  Get out of Boston.  New England offers a ton of things to do.  Whale watching off Cape Cod, skiing in Maine, hiking in New Hampshire, seeing the foliage in the fall, these are just a few of the awesome things this area of the country offers.  Taking a backpacking trip out in the Berkshires during spring break was probably the most relaxing thing I’ve done in the past year, and it was vital to helping me reset to finish the semester strong.

In summary, it’s been an incredible year — one I wouldn’t trade for the world — and I’m looking forward to a 2014-15 academic year that is just as incredible and memorable.

Tagged with:

This is a midweek version of one of my “what I did on my weekend” posts.

I was at Fletcher through the early evening last night, attending a farewell event for 11 high school students and one accompanying mentor teacher from Iraq.  They were in the Boston area through the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), and the organization that arranged their Boston home stays also arranged for them to have the World Peace Foundation offices as their home base.  When it came time to celebrate, I helped them arrange space and a meal at Fletcher.

My family connected itself to IYLEP in 2010, when my daughter was one of the U.S. students who, that year, participated alongside the Iraqis.  We’ve continued as a host family, and Sara, Hiba, and Hadeel, the three students we hosted this month, join our four other Iraqi friends as members of the family.  Along the way, I’ve gathered a volume of knowledge on halal butchers and restaurants in the area (as well as the rules for halal) and Iraqi tastes in food (nothing spicy, please).  We’ve figured out where some potential host/IYLEPer challenges might exist, and we search for new ways to prevent misunderstandings.  The men in my family know to announce themselves before going in the part of the house where women might be relaxing without their hijabs.  The exchange of knowledge definitely goes both ways!  And we also have fun — the beach, the Boston Harbor, the Museum of Fine Arts, two barbeques, trips to Indian/Pakistani and Italian restaurants, Chinese take-out (and many fortune cookies), three rounds of pasta, quesadillas, and quiche — all shared with our new friends.

At the farewell event last night, we started off by hearing the reflections of each of the participants.  If I had to capture the overall theme, I’d say that that they were initially VERY nervous about their home stays, but they quickly found that their fears were misplaced, and now they see the Boston area as their U.S. home.  After the speech-making, we shifted to Fletcher’s Mugar Café for a meal.  When all had eaten, the group cleared a small space and started dancing.  First, traditional Iraqi dancing.  And then…a dozen teens dancing to “Gangnam Style” and doing the “Harlem Shake.”  One of the boys pogoed around on one arm in a dazzling bit of break dancing.  Such random bits of popular culture that have been embraced by Iraqi kids!

And then the event was over, and everyone went home to pack (and for some, repack, if bags were too heavy).  We dropped them off this morning for their flight to the final phase of their stay in the U.S., when they will be in Washington, D.C.

It was such a pleasure to welcome the group and their host families to Fletcher.  They searched out the Iraqi flag in the Hall of Flags, and I pointed out to some the profile of Farah Pandith F’95 — whose work I thought might interest them — in our new Hallway of Fame.  All in all, last night and the two weeks that preceded represent one of those nice times when my work life and my home life fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.


Spam prevention powered by Akismet