Harvard Summer School

From mid-June to the beginning of August 2023, I took part in a seven-week summer school at Harvard, where I studied psychology. I graduated from the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Law at UTokyo earlier this year and will be majoring in social psychology at master’s level in the UK from this fall. My first objective for this summer school was to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the fundamentals of psychology, including biological, cognitive, developmental and clinical aspects, before embarking on my postgraduate studies in England. The class which I enrolled in was an introductory level course, therefore most of the participants were undergraduates (both from Harvard and other universities around the world) and high school students. Less than 10% already had a bachelor’s degree like myself. The commonality among the most was that they come from backgrounds other than psychology, so it was refreshing to talk with those from diverse fields, including some who already had established careers. Also, I had a lot of opportunities to work together with high school students in the discussion sections after lectures, and I was genuinely amazed and inspired by extremely intelligent individuals, the likes that I have never seen in Japanese high schools.

The other goal for this summer was to experience the life in the US for the first time. I have previously lived in Europe and Africa but had never been to the US for occasions other than short visits, so it was something I really wanted to do before I consider my options for PhD in the near future. One of the things at Harvard that I didn’t expect was the extraordinarily high proportion of Asian students in the class (and the whole summer school). I was also surprised by how heavily inflated the grades of the exams were, although the amount of the course materials and the speed of the class was challenging for the most part. Other than that, most of the things were as I imagined, and the experience overall was very positive. The dorm I stayed in (Dunster House) was recently renovated, so the rooms were comfortable, and they had several study spaces located near the dining hall equipped with drink machines, which made it ideal to focus on your studies as well as talking with friends during study break. Those moments I spent with my friends everyday are probably the biggest highlight of this summer.

Outside of the studies, the Student Activities Office (SAO) organized many trips and events, which made the whole experience even better. The most memorable ones were watching Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park, day trip to Martha’s Vineyard Island and Tanglewood concert of Boston Symphony Orchestra. Many of these events were highly popular (since the transportation and admission fees are covered by SAO), so it was often challenging to get a spot. During the weekends, I had some time to go to Canada and Minnesota to see my friend, and after the program finished, I visited the NYC and Washington DC. Having studied American politics at undergrad, there were a lot of things for me to discover at every one of these visits to different places in the US. Minnesota was especially very unique in terms of community and environment, and it was truly the world I had never seen before. On the weekdays, my daily routine was to practice piano at the music department, where they had about 10 rooms with grand piano.

Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for the financial support and making this journey possible.