Friday, June 12, 2015

( 06-12-15 ) Harvard Colleagues and Friends

It has been such a blessing to be in my shoes!

Let me explain why that is an understatement.

 Two weeks ago, I said my "Farewell"s and "Goodbye"s to my Astronomer colleagues at Chicago's Adler Planetarium where I am technically a Volunteer.  I truly left a positive mark on that place and now two Astronomers there (of which one is actually the President of the planetarium) were excited to write me a Letter of Recommendation for graduate school.  Considering how successful these two women are as Astronomers, I feel privileged to have their support in my endeavors.

Subsequently, I took a 20 hour lonely road trip from Chicago to Florida.  There, I began packing up for my summer stay at Harvard as well as moving all of my belongings into a Public Storage unit.  I prepared to move out of an apartment so that I could move into a better one in the fall of this year.  After all of these major transitions, my flight from Florida finally landed in Boston.  I must say that it was a privilege to step on Harvard's campus and not feel like it was new or overwhelming.  I have been here before and quite frankly, I feel more at home here every day I stay here.  This home-like feeling is primarily because of the people at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 

Last year here, I was flabbergasted at the amount of PhD astrophysicists that did not mind talking to me as opposed to talking DOWN to me. I am alluding to the subtle disrespect directed towards me frequently at my own university.  (But, that's another story for another time.)  Furthermore, I was ecstatic to experience the mentorship of the one-and-only Hans Moritz Guenther and Katie Auchettl.  I had no clue that my internship colleagues/advisors were going to be my friends as well. They truly set the tone, in the very beginning, for how informal the relationship was going to be.  By the end of that summer, I knew for sure that Harvard was more than just a revered name.  This was a place that a person like myself could feel comfortable being diligent and successful.

I describe the comfort of Harvard like that because I have learned from personal experience that I. Will. Not. Fail. at anything I am determined to pursue.  Thus, my most important question for graduate school (in contrast to worrying about if I will fail the curriculum) is and always has been: Will anyone here be comfortable with my success and moreover is anyone willing to teach me how to reach my goals?  This may seem like a strange question to seriously contemplate for a school; but for my case, it is a solemn issue.  My university and most of my professors within it have clearly and consistently insinuated that I am different, not as smart, and do not have as much potential as the other students in my class.  It is obvious to me that they expected me to be "weeded out" by their rigorous physics courses early in my college career.  This is why I guess you can say that I have trust issues towards teachers who naturally assume that they perform their job without partiality, prejudice, or disrespect.  After my many negative experiences with teachers, it takes a while for professors to convince me that they actually want me to succeed in academics.

In spite of the unfortunate student-teacher experiences, I excel academically and continue to do so.  Furthermore, Harvard has thoroughly convinced me that I can be happy for ~5 years of graduate school there as well as with finding a supportive group of astrophysicists/professors/advisors who will be pleased to see my success.  During this first week of the Banneker Institute, I have had a lovely reunion at Cambridge Commons with Moritz and Katie.  I have also met back up with my previous graduate student advisors, Luke and Maria.  Because of these four and certainly many more CfA people, I have felt welcomed at Harvard and the CfA.  I am convinced that they expect and want me to succeed.  I feel like I have already been accepted to the social life and research collaborations at the CfA, and now all I have to do is submit a bunch of paperwork to their Graduate School Admissions so that I can get the acceptance letter and have this warm feeling of acceptance and welcome on their official records.

My CfA colleagues have become my friends.  It was their choice to do so.  Occasionally, they remind me of how genuinely proud of my success they are, and quite frankly that was confirmation for me of their desire for my success.  I couldn't be happier to find a group of people like this to work with.  This first week of the Banneker Institute has been so rewarding on a personal level as much as it has been academically and professionally.
I am excited to discuss my Banneker Institute/CfA research in the subsequent posts.

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