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Kaitlyn is a local — or almost local, given that her home area of Cape Cod is a region unto itself.  For her final post of this academic year, she has suggestions for summer fun to share with incoming students or anyone else in the region.

The warm weather is here!  And the sun’s returned with it.  It’s surreal to think about, but as of Wednesday, May 9th, I’m a Fletcher second year.  The last month of the semester was quite hectic, but we’re past it, and with half of us having graduated, it’s high time for celebrations — and taking advantage of the wonderful summer weather.  There are plenty of exciting things to do in Boston in the summer time.  Here’s my top five ways to take advantage of the sun.

1. Hiking in the Middlesex Fells

The Boston skyline from the Middlesex Fells.

Just a 15-minute drive from Fletcher, the Middlesex Fells consists of beautiful hills and forests that surround reservoirs and ponds.  This state reservation has bike and walking trails of varying difficulty, so you could do what I did in March and take an easy stroll around the lakefront, or you could try what we’ll be doing this week and hike up the hills for beautiful views of Boston.  The area is quiet and tranquil, with a visitor center, a zoo just to the north, and a boathouse that opens at the end of May for anyone interested in renting a kayak or canoe.  All the trails are loops, and the Fells website has estimated hiking times for each one.  Pack some snacks, some water, and a camera, and enjoy the great outdoors.

2. See Shakespeare on the Common

Every summer in July and August, the Boston Common (easily accessible by Park Street Station on the Red and Green line) hosts Shakespeare on the Common, where open-air Shakespeare performances go on in the early evenings.  It’s the perfect outing for anyone staying in the area for the summer or returning early from an internship.  This year, they’re performing Richard III.  Go early, bring a blanket or folding chair, and grab a good seat.  You can buy snacks from one of the vendors on the Common or cross the street and pick up something from one of the surrounding restaurants.

3. Kayak the Charles

The activity I most looked forward to during the week before graduation was joining other students for kayaking the Charles River.  It’s a fun daytime activity.  You can rent a kayak by the hour and see Boston from the river.  The closest starting place is in Kendall Square, just a few T (subway) stops from Tufts.  Go on a warm sunny day and be prepared for your Fletcher friends to splash you.

4. Take a tour on the Duck Boats

If you’d like to spend a day being a proper tourist in Boston, a duck boat tour is one of the best ways to do it.  The signature boats that carry our sports teams in parade processions will bring you all around the city to view historic sites.  Then, most exciting, they’ll drive right off the road and into the Boston Harbor (it never gets old).  So you’ll see Boston from the water, too, and maybe hear a story or two about the Boston Tea Party.

5. Walk the Freedom Trail

If you’re interested in being a tourist, or learning more local history, or if you liked my hiking suggestion earlier but would rather hike in the city, check out the Freedom Trail!  Just follow the red-brick road!  The Freedom trail is a 2.5-mile red-brick line that leads you down Boston’s sidewalks and to many of its historical sites and museums.  Go with friends or with a tour guide.  Who knows — you might even see a pilgrim or a revolutionary soldier.

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Students returned yesterday from their Spring Break week and I think we all share a common shock that we can see the end of the semester ahead of us.  On the other hand, January seems so long ago.  Today, Student Stories writer Kaitlyn reports on her second semester in the MALD program, one in which she has tested her organizational abilities.

It is spring semester at Fletcher, and I am the equivalent of a “sophomore” in my MALD degree, with a quarter of the program behind me.  Naturally, I did the exact same thing with my class schedule that I did as an actual sophomore in undergraduate.

I thought too many classes were interesting and decided: Heck, I’ll just take them all.

Fletcher allows you to do two cool things: take an extra half-credit class once in your MALD program, and audit language classes next door at Tufts’ Olin Center.  I wanted to do an extra half credit now, so I could have an easier schedule next year when I do my capstone project.  And I wanted to audit a French class so I could have a bit more practice before my internship this summer.

When I scheduled my classes, I ended up finding three half-credit courses that looked interesting.  Those, plus French, left me with a schedule of seven classes for the semester: three full-semester classes at Fletcher, French, and three half-semester modules.  (Most people take only four or five classes each semester.)  All of my friends who saw my schedule looked at me like I had three heads.  I admit: it did become somewhat of a juggling act during midterms, but it was not half as bad as people assumed.  And a major reason I was able to manage that course load was organization.  I made two big decisions that made my semester go much smoother: I optimized my study space, and I planned each week so I could balance studying and free time.

My Study Space

During my first semester, I had my desk in my room, which wasn’t the best place to study.  I felt too comfortable to do work.  And then in my free time I was constantly looking at my desk, thinking about work.  So I was less productive and more stressed.  This semester, I decided I needed to change it up a bit.

Bless my roommate.  She was very accommodating and let me move my desk into the corner of our common room.  And she let me put up two calendars up on the bigger wall out there.  I had a dry-erase calendar for the month, and a huge weekly schedule of sticky-notes over the desk.  This helped me develop a really organized study routine.  Every Sunday I wrote down the new weekly schedule, and each morning I could check both calendars as I walked out the door.  It was much more efficient for me than leafing through a weekly planner that often got lost in my backpack.  Having a clear separation of my work and my study space also meant I was more productive when I studied.  And it meant I got to leave my school work — even my laptop — in a different room at the end of the day.  That helped me feel more relaxed in my free time.

A Balanced Week

Every week, I had an average of three classes a day, Monday to Thursday.  And starting in March I had one class on Fridays, too.  It meant that generally, I had readings to do every night.  That was a long week by anyone’s standards and I knew I needed to make sure I didn’t get burned out.  So I had one goal: plan one night off in the middle of the week.  I found that it made me more productive when I had something to look forward to, and it was a great way to make sure I could go to extracurricular events: Social Hour on Thursdays; 101 discussions on historical issues that the Student Council organized; and parties hosted by other Fletcher folks.  The best one was the celebration of China’s Spring Festival that my roommate helped organize in February.  I planned my week around that party, and had time to bake a cake for it, too.

I also had to get creative about my study time.  Mondays, when I had four classes, even working at my reorganized desk was a struggle.  So I got off campus.  Davis Square is a lovely 20-minute walk from Fletcher and it has great coffee shops, perfect for getting my class readings done after my long Monday schedule.  There is also Mugar Café in the Fletcher building, which became my go-to place to study between classes.  It’s also close to everything, which was excellent for taking study breaks to head to on-campus events.  My favorite event was the Puppy Kissing booth that Ginn Library hosted for Valentine’s day.  (Nothing is better for productivity than spending time with a puppy.  Fact.)

All in all, managing my seven classes is just as much about my study time as it is about my non-study time.  I love all my classes, and though I’ll happily not take so many in future semesters, I don’t regret the packed schedule in the slightest.

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The second student blogger end-of-semester wrap-up comes from Kaitlyn, who like many of her fellow students, appreciates a busy schedule.

This first semester, especially the second half, was a whirlwind of activity.  It had never felt so bizarre as when I passed in my last final exam and stepped outside the doors of Fletcher to realize there was nothing else on the day’s — or the week’s — itinerary.  After four months of non-stop activity it was nice to stroll across campus in the crisp winter air and soak in the relief that everything, for now, was done.  At the same time I felt restless.  Having an open itinerary might be refreshing to some, but my natural mode is to be busy.  Hence, as soon as exams were done: I baked chocolate cake for my classmates so we could all celebrate, finished the puzzle we’ve all been working on in the Ginn Library, and then sat down to write this blog post.  The principle topic on my mind was reflection: how did I feel after one semester?  What were my resolutions going into the next one?

Reflections:

1. It is okay to explore a lot of Fields of Study – and it’s easier than I thought.

At the beginning of the semester, surrounded by many peers who were already firmly established in their careers, it was tempting to think that I should have a very clear idea of the Fields of Study I wanted to focus on, and the specific classes I wanted to take.

And then I talked to more second years.

The advice I got from them ranged from: “don’t worry about Fields of Study — just take whatever looks interesting,” to “take one that will get you a job and one that is for fun.”

I’m too much of a planner to like the first option, but the middle ground between the two is one that suits me well: plan one, and give myself the freedom to build the second one based on what’s most interesting.  There are plenty of opportunities to explore different subjects, even with only 16 credits in the MALD program.  Auditing courses, attending special events, and talking to peers and professors are all ways my fellow first years and I have found to explore Fields of Study that didn’t fit in our schedules.  There’s also always that one class that takes you completely by surprise – as was the case for me and Art & Science of Statecraft.  I took it because it fulfilled a breadth requirement and looked the most interesting.  Turns out, it was my favorite class from my first semester!  I’ll be taking the follow up course in the spring.  I am not sure it will be part of a Field of Study, but if my experience in education has taught me anything, it is that following my interests is the most rewarding way to go.

2. Fletcher’s community really is the best.

I cannot emphasize enough how much everyone supports each other.  It is much different than undergrad; here everyone is equally passionate about their courses and equally invested in the quality of their work.  My study groups worked well together for the first time in my life, and I had my first good (actually amazing) experience with a group project in “Gender, Culture, and Conflict.”

And outside classes, our community in Fletcher’s dorm has become very close knit: we organized movie nights during exams, celebrated birthdays, and organized “Blakeley chats,” where our peers could give mini-presentations about their work and their experiences.  By far the high point of my semester was one of these community moments: Medford had its first snow just before finals started.  And my excitement and celebration over that was exponentially more memorable and special because I could share it with my friends and fellow bloggers (shout out Akshobh and Prianka) for whom it was a “first snow.”

 

Resolutions

1. Garder plus du temps pour pratiquer le Français

I worked hard this semester on reading and writing French.  I reached the point where I could do both without translating back to English, a proficiency goal I never thought I’d reach.  Next year I’ll take the oral half of my French proficiency exam and (security clearance pending) have an internship in Paris this summer.  Thus, my second resolution is to invest more time into practicing my conversation skills — by taking advantage of the language courses offered at Tufts’ Olin Center and carefully planning my spring classes around a French audit.

2. Get More Involved!

There’s never time to do everything that’s going on at Fletcher.  I didn’t try too hard to do so while adjusting to the rigors of grad school.  With my first semester over, my most important resolution for 2018 is to add more activities to my schedule: get more involved with clubs, attend more events, and buy a giant paper calendar to better plan my job and classwork around events.

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As promised yesterday, four new students are joining the Admissions Blog to share their Fletcher stories.  First up is Kaitlyn, who traveled a path from Massachusetts to New York to three other countries, only to find her international affairs home back in Massachusetts.

Hi all!  My name’s Kaitlyn, I’m a MALD student and I’m really excited to share the next two years of my Fletcher journey with you.

I’m a local: I was born and raised in Sandwich on Cape Cod, and have been all over Massachusetts and New England.  This might shock you, but winter here is my favorite season.  (I’ve even gone winter camping!)  All that home-town savvy has come in handy when my peers want advice about where to visit, and how to survive the winter.  (Pro Tip: cotton is rotten.  Fleece and polyester are your best friends.)

Prior to Fletcher, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Writing from Ithaca College in New York, where it is is even snowier than Massachusetts.  At Ithaca, I came to the conclusion that while I loved writing, I wanted to find something important to do with it.  My search for that purpose led me to a minor in International Communications and an internship with a London politician.  As a result, I fell completely in love with international affairs as a junior in college – too late to change my major.

Fletcher was an easy choice.  My earlier pivot towards international affairs was more difficult.  After graduating from Ithaca, I felt unsatisfied with my job options, but with a bachelor’s degree in a subject that was decidedly not related to international affairs, I wasn’t sure  if I should commit to the career change.  I needed time and space to think it over.  So I spent a year teaching English in the Czech Republic and France, and then completed a year of service with AmeriCorps right here in “Beantown.”  Both were instrumental in my decision to study at Fletcher.

In Europe, I was immersed in cultures and languages with which I was wholly unfamiliar.  It was my first time arranging my own travel and visas.  More importantly though, it was 2015.  I planned my trip to the Czech Republic while listening to the BBC, day-by-day, documenting the Greek economic crisis, and I began teaching there at the height of the migrant crisis (about which my Czech students had a very different opinion than me).  Witnessing Europe’s migrant crisis through that lens affected me greatly and left me considering what I could study that would allow me to help people caught in migrant situations, which I could see the existing system was not equipped to deal with.  It meant that, by the end of that winter, the question I was asking myself was not: “Is international affairs right for me?”  Instead it was: “What program?” And: “What do I need?”

As I was researching master’s programs, I began a year of service with AmeriCorps, which exposed me to the stark realities faced by minorities and migrants in my own country.  The demographics of the Boston charter school where AmeriCorps placed me were half students who hadn’t succeeded in the public school system, and half who didn’t have the English level to matriculate into an American high school.  I once again had students who didn’t share my cultural or, often, language background.  And I had students who were refugees, or ought to have been.  It was a crash-course in cross-cultural relationship building and a sobering learning experience on the hardships faced by people driven out of their homes by poverty, violence, or disaster.  I hadn’t needed to travel to a different continent to learn about the realities of human migration, or how the current international system lets people fall through the cracks.  There was a whole microcosm of people with first-hand experience sitting in my Intro to English class, right at home in Massachusetts.

Human migration wasn’t the only thing closer to home than I thought.  When I found Fletcher, it didn’t take long for it to stand out as my first choice.  I was excited by the flexible curriculum and the Human Security field, and (contrary to most of my peers) even more excited by the prospect of another New England winter.  Fletcher seemed perfect.  And there it was – a 20 minute drive away.

I’ve been a student for a little over two months now, and it more than exceeds my expectations.  I’m in my favorite kind of place — a community of people with a wealth of diverse experiences.  I feel very fortunate that I get to learn with and from them everyday.

At Fletcher, I live in Blakeley Hall, an on-campus housing option specifically for Fletcher students.  It was a blessing coming out of AmeriCorps (a volunteer job) to skip the stress of searching for an affordable apartment.  And everyone here appreciates that Blakeley is a two-minute walk from class.  I love living with this vibrant slice of the whole Fletcher community — even if sharing a kitchen is a daily exercise in negotiation and patience.  Yes, the bedrooms are small, but I’m not in my room enough to notice.  I’m at events, or workshops, or splitting a table in the library’s “Harry Potter room” with my friends, while we study and appreciate our mutual obsession – coffee from the red machine outside the library door.

So here I am: done with mid-terms, and midway through the first course in the Human Security field.  I’m familiarizing myself with Turabian style citations and working a few hours a week with the Tufts Literacy Corps.  I also spent two weekends last month in a mediation certification program.  There are some challenges: I am still trying to improve my time management so I can fit in more clubs and events, and winter is coming a lot slower than I want.  One thing’s clear though – with my B.A. in writing, I feel right at home here.

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