What made my experience at Harvard amazing?

by Maria Matsumoto

“Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?”
– Judith Hanson Lasater

With great support from Friends of UTokyo, I spent this summer studying business management in Harvard Summer School.
People at Harvard love learning. Since people have strong desire to learn new things in common, the academic atmosphere there is inspiring. People always respect others, listen to others’ opinion actively, and try to improve themselves. It was wonderful to have classes with such amazing people. Regarding my classes, one was about systems thinking and another was about decision making. The former was the class about the way of understanding our world. Instead of focusing on parts of a system to discover how it works, we learned how to look at the whole system taking into account its unique interconnections. The latter was about how to improve our decisions using insights from multiple disciplines, including psychology, economics, negotiation theory, and organizational behavior. Both classes were open to undergraduate and graduate, the students range in age from 20 to 35. At first, I felt stupid and uncomfortable in the classes. Others had working experiences, and I didn’t. Others spoke and wrote English professionally, and I didn’t. I could neither speak out nor understand what others were saying. I never experienced such a feeling and I was upset. After I survived the first week there, however, I was able to feel confident by thinking that I would be the best learner in the classes because others had a lot of knowledge and experiences which I didn’t have and would be able to learn. For the rest of the stay in Harvard, I really enjoyed learning and being a part of the classes, respecting others, listening to others’ opinion actively, and trying to improve myself.

“Time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart.”
― Michael Ende, Momo

Time flows differently in Harvard. It reminds me “Momo” by Michael Ende. In Tokyo, “time is flying every day, stolen by the men in gray”. I shall quote from Ende: “A fatal illness, though you scarcely notice it at first. You feel more and more bad-tempered, more and more empty inside, more and more dissatisfied with yourself and the world in general. Then even that feeling wears off, and you don’t feel anything any more. You become completely indifferent to what goes on around you. You’re cold inside and incapable of loving anything or anyone. Once you reach that stage, the disease is incurable. You bustle around with a blank, gray face, just like the men in gray themselves.” Indeed, I didn’t even realize that I was visited with a “fatal illness”. I took a step back, slow myself down and ask myself: Do I love what I am doing, whom I am interacting with, and where I am? Trough answering these questions, I rediscovered myself not previously recognized. I have started to design my future consciously, focusing attention on my current mental model and time management: what I feel, learn, eat or take in, how I spend the day, and why I do so. I’m happy that I’m becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is the first step to become a global leader who can change themselves and the world around them.
Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Friends of UTokyo. Any of my experiences I wrote above would not have been possible without the support Friends of UTokyo kindly provided for me. Thank you very much for giving me such an amazing opportunity at Harvard. I’ll return the favour one day.