by Yip Ren Wei
This past summer, as part of UTokyo’s GLP-GEfIL minor program, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a 3-week summer school session at Harvard University, where I was enrolled in the Strategic Management graduate course, living and learning alongside peers from all over the world.
As part of the program, students were offered the chance to have the full residential experience, which in my case meant living in Dunster House, a recently renovated undergraduate house with in-house gyms, smart-technology rooms, dedicated library, and a student-run grill within a newly rebuilt structure which leverages energy-efficient technologies to facilitate sustainable living within a historic space (which counts amongst its alumni individuals as esteemed as Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones) – an experience I’ll likely never forget!
The educational experience proved equally impressive, as my course was rigorous, well-tailored to the needs of a diverse class, and maintained a consistent emphasis on experiential learning through frequent class discussions, virtual simulations, and presentations. My course employed Harvard Business School’s trademark case study approach, modelling, dissecting, and redefining real-life complexities and uncertainties within the classroom environment. Students were expected to put theory into practice, applying foundational strategic concepts in analysing historical HBS case studies and recommending courses of action, with the lecturer providing constant feedback on our performance throughout the duration of the course, thus allowing students to accurately gauge their progress and identify areas of improvement accordingly. Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my experience within the classroom, as I was able to reflect upon and integrate lessons learnt throughout the course into both my professional and personal life.
Beyond campus life, summer session students were also encouraged to sign up for weekend excursions fully sponsored by the university. This meant visits to on- and off-campus attractions such as the Boston MFA, Harvard Art Museums, Freedom Trail, Fenway Park, and Martha’s Vineyard, where I was able to learn more about the rich history and thriving culture of Boston and its surrounding areas. I particularly enjoyed the limited-time Hokusai exhibit displayed at the Boston MFA, which notably featured one of the few surviving original prints of 神奈川沖浪裏, alongside works inspired by this tour-de-force; additionally, I was fortunate enough to secure a spot on the whale-watching experience at Boston Harbour, where I was introduced to the delicate aquatic ecosystems surrounding the harbour, the necessity of preserving similarly biodiverse sites globally, and – to my surprise and delight – I was even able to spot sperm whales right by the ship!
This foundational experience would not have been possible without the generous grant provided by Friends of UTokyo Inc. (FUTI), and I would like to thank them for their support!