Category: Student Life (page 1 of 16)

A Sample Semester Schedule

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

As the new semester begins, there is always a adjustment period to the new courses and seeing all your classmates again. As a perspective student, one of my biggest questions was about how the courses were structured and what my schedule would look like. Now, as a current student, I am able to enjoy all the flexibility and course availability to design my schedule to address my degree requirements and personal interests.  With that, as a dual degree student, I am able to take some of my sustainable international development courses, while technically being in my global health policy & management year. I made sure to account for my interests when planning my schedule, and now that classes have started, I’m glad I did.

This semester I am taking 18 credits, with a few half semester courses and two full semester courses. My course topics range from econometrics, to demography, to monitoring and evaluation. Generally, each of my classes meets for just under three hours, and this semester, all courses are in person. This has been great for collaboration and group discussions. My schedule has either a full day, with both a morning and afternoon class, or just a half day. Having half days allows me to work on projects, other assignments and readings for class. Most morning classes start around 9, and the afternoon classes begin around 2. Even with the longer time block, there is a break midday to hang out with your classmates, eat lunch and relax before your next course starts.

The coursework for each of course is rather variable and depends on the style, length and professor of the class. It is great that the courses often have a mix of individual and group projects, as well as assignments you create your own path for. For example, students are often allowed to chose a subject area of interest within a set of criteria. This helps keep the assignments interesting and see how all students bring in something unique to your learning experience.

Thus far in my time at Heller, I have learned that your experience is up to you and to take time to explore your interests, both in and out of the classroom. I make sure to have time for my extracurricular activities like volunteering and reading, so while each semester brings new opportunities to explore, remember to continue to growing outside the classroom too.

Ronunique’s Final Semester Schedule

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Welcome back! How long has it been? Seems like it was forever ago when I wrote my first blog post for the Heller Admissions Blog. I blinked, and now we are in the final semester of my Master of Public Policy program.  “Oh yeah, you made it, you made it”, just like Teyana Taylor said.  So with graduation being about 100 days away, let’s chat about the classes I will be taking this semester to wrap up the Master of Public Policy Program:

Capstone Seminar with Mary Brolin

This is the most important class I will be registered for in my entire academic career here at Heller. The capstone seminar course is designed for students to highlight the policy analysis skills that we have developed throughout our time here.  We generally choose a topic that is relevant to our concentration; having a topic in close proximity with your concentration makes it easier to obtain background knowledge to the policy area and any relevant literature. After determining our topic, we develop action plans to help us conduct our research, literature reviews to diagnose our policy problem, and weigh out the pros and cons for potential policy solutions. By the end of the course, we should have a 25-30 page policy brief, and in the final week of classes, we have a oral presentation on our policy brief.  What makes me excited for this course is the opportunity to showcase the policies I am passionate about and what I  believe to be potential policy solutions.  Bet you want to know what I choose for my topic, huh? Seems like you will have to come to capstone presentations to find it out 😉

Public Finance with Sakshi Jain

This course focuses on the facts and analytical tools to help us determine and understand the theory behind public spending. Some of the focus questions for this course are: what is public spending? When can public spending be too little or too much? Is public spending properly allocated among competing uses and levels of government? As we navigate these questions we will be responsible for producing two blog posts (will I ever be able to escape writing blogs?), a group presentation with a policy brief on a tax policy of interest, and a final funding proposal which will be an extension of our group presentation and policy brief.  I am hoping to leave this class with more knowledge on how we decide on public finance, like: what measures do we use? How do we develop these measures? Who has the final say? I plan to be a sponge in this class and soak up all the knowledge that I can, because a public finance class for a policy student can either make or break you.

Social Experimentation in Children, Youth, and Family Policymaking with Dolores Acevedo Garcia

This course provides a graduate level introduction to the use of social experimentation methods in policy research. When I first saw that this course was up for registration, I actually said, “Ooooh!”.  Honestly, who doesn’t love a course where you can learn how to critically assess policy content, design, results and recommendations, especially when it is social policy focused? We will cover the five basic elements of social experiments (research questions, experimental design, measurement methods, implementation, and interpretation of results) through case studies. We will be responsible for producing an in class policy review, which will serve as our midterm for the course, a non-comprehensive systematic review, and a non-comprehensive review of reviews. I feel this course will really challenge my critical thinking and writing skills in order to help me understand how to design experimental studies to assess the effects of social policies.

Child and Family Policy with Marji Warfield

We have only been back in school for two weeks but I would say this course is starting to become my favorite. The course is organized in three sections: (1) a focus on discussing the definition of family, family functions, and family challenges, in addition to examining the emergence of family policies and how families with diverse identities intersect with different human service systems; (2) family policies designed to support family functions assessing this through policy models on problem definition and policy solutions in conjunction with theoretical frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and (3) implementation challenges and dilemmas will be investigated through the use of a policy implementation framework and family policy themes. In the class we will be responsible for producing three written papers (a fact sheet, a problem definition and policy solutions, and policy implementation), a individual presentation, and participate in share sessions which are connected to our in class book clubs. What I enjoy the most so far in this class is how we are able to engage with the materials assigned and be able to have open and honest conversations about what families look like. We are able to connect to the material on our personal experiences but not for it to be overpowering of our end goal of effective policy making and solutions.

I am looking forward to wrapping up my final semester here at Heller this year with these final core and concentration required courses I hope to have developed a sustainably and transferable work portfolio. Will we make it to the finish line? Stay tuned!

Tips for Adjusting to the Winter Season

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

When I woke up early Monday morning to head to campus, I looked out my window and saw the coolest thing – fluffy white snow blanketing the cars, the streets, and the roofs of houses. I think it’s safe to say that winter has arrived in Waltham!

For students who are local to the northeast, the ritual of donning layers or shoveling snow probably feels pretty commonplace. For others, this might be their very first time ever experiencing a cold, snowy winter season. Growing up in Florida, I only ever saw snow on TV. I did not own an article of clothing thicker than a raincoat. But now, after having spent the last 5 years in cold places – including the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Chicago, Illinois, and most recently Massachusetts – I’m ready to share my tips and tricks on how to survive (and thrive!) in winter time. 

Step 1 – Find good quality gear

While there is a variety of winter clothing available, don’t feel like you need to buy every single thing. A few of the non-negotiables include a snow jacket. This jacket should have a hood, and pockets, and be waterproof. Many jackets will have a tag that lists the temperature range they can be worn in. Make sure you get something that will keep you warm on days that are below freezing. Snow boots and long socks are also a must to keep your feet warm. Your boots should also be waterproof, have insulation, and have good traction to keep you from slipping. Be mindful that snow boots tend to be heavier than regular boots, so make sure you don’t get something so heavy that it’s hard or awkward to walk in. Even with your hands in your pocket, your fingers will likely still be cold. Many gloves now have padded fingertips that allow you to use touchscreen devices, that way you don’t have to remove your gloves to reply to a text message. Other accessories you might consider are hats, scarves, and earmuffs to keep your head, neck, and ears warm. 

Step 2 – Make time for cold weather activities 

A lot of people will say there is nothing to do in winter but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! There are so many activities that you can ONLY do when it’s snowing outside. Just last year, Brandeis University converted the Levin Ballroom into an ice skating rink. I’ve had classmates who have gone sledding and some who travel to nearby states to ski and hike. With the holidays so close, many outdoor street markets will be opening. These are places where you can find handcrafted goods from local artists, winter desserts like gingerbread cookies, and warm beverages including hot chocolate and peppermint coffee. 

Step 3 – Get cozy 

Since classes are ending and the days are getting shorter, you can expect to spend more time indoors. There are so many ways to make your space more cozy and comfortable during the cold season. I definitely suggest finding good quality blankets that can keep you warm whether you are in bed, at your desk, or on the coach. Cardigans, sweaters, and robes that have pockets and a hood are great  for lounging around the house. With the decrease in sunlight over the winter months, lamps and candles can help brighten your space. 

Winter doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating . The coming of winter is a wonderful opportunity to slow down, spend time with loved ones, reflect on the past year, and start goal setting for the new year. I hope these tips help you make the most of the season!

Facing Your Capstone Presentation

Neh Meh, MA SID/COEX'24 headshot

Neh Meh, MA SID/COEX’24

Most graduate students are busy finishing their classes, dealing with projects, and preparing for graduation. Most importantly, many of our graduate students are preparing the requirement that essentially allows them to walk in the graduation ceremony and obtain their degree: their a capstone project. Many of the graduate programs at Heller also require students to do an internship, practicum, field research, or thesis paper. The good thing is that the Executive Director of the Global Programs at Heller is very flexible with whatever you choose, making our graduate life much easier. After completing the capstone project, students must present it in person or virtually.

However, before we jump to talking about presenting the capstone project, you should know that students must take many different steps before they’re ready to present their capstone project, and that those steps could vary for each student. As a dual degree student majoring in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence and Sustainable International Development, I will share my experiences and journey in how and why I chose to do what I did and what I learned from it. It was during my second semester in graduate school, around February 2022 that I started thinking about different internships for my practicum. An ideal timeline is like this: completing an internship or any project during the summer and writing a report about my internship experiences in the fall semester. So, I started thinking about different organizations, researching their missions and visions to see if they aligned with my interest, and began sorting through the opportunities. Then, I thought of the Jesuit Refugee Service, a non-profit organization in Thailand that serves refugees. I remember the organization’s involvement in refugee education, especially for the Karenni (if you have not heard about Karenni, it is an ethnic group from Myanmar). I contacted the organization’s director and shared my background and interest. He then asked for my resume, and after that, he agreed to let me work with the organization over the summer on Peace and Reconciliation’s peacebuilding project. The Jesuit Refugee Service’s peacebuilding essentially focuses on rebuilding relationships and building the capacity to face difficulties.

I spent three months in Thailand researching the peacebuilding project and organized a training centered on peacebuilding through education. I utilized education to build peace by educating the Karenni and Karenni refugees about ways to tackle conflicts and skills that enable them to create the right relationships between themselves. While interning with JRS, I completed my peacebuilding project called “Peacebuilding through Education”. After completing my three-month project, I returned to Heller to continue my Sustainable International Development degree. As a SIDCO, I had the option to present in May; however, since my project was funded by the peace award from Marice Kapf Hahn, I had to present my completed project before the year ended.

I’ll admit that this timeline was less than ideal and at times I felt rushed, or felt like did not have enough time to put everything together, since I was also working on writing the report/thesis paper. However, one very helpful thing for me was to have a daily schedule planned out every week. For example, I set aside 30 minutes on Sunday to plan for the week, including what I wanted to accomplish each day. As a result, I managed to finish both the thesis paper and presentation in two months! Looking back, it was a wild ride. I could not believe I had managed to complete a 40-page of report/thesis paper and 15 slides of the presentation within two months, but the experience was worth it. I also learned to manage my stress and time and prioritize what’s important and not important.

If you thought that was a lot, remember that I still had to present the presentation I had prepared. For the actual presentation, you only need to put together seven Powerpoint slides, present for ten minutes, and give ten minutes for a question and answer session. I was very nervous about my presentation, but a little practice before the actual presentation was very helpful, so my advice is to practice presenting the day before the actual presentation.

Now that I finished my capstone project, I feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am excited to finish up my last semester and graduate!

Embracing Winter in Boston!

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

Now that the semester is over, we all get to enjoy a break from academics, and for me, that means taking some time to explore more of the Boston area and check out the places I’ve saved over the semester. The only problem is now the days are short, and cold. Luckily, as Brandeis students, there are a number of museums and other places we can visit with a discount.

One of my personal favorites is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, while Brandeis does not offer a discount, if you present your student ID, you will receive a discounted admission. This museum is easy to get to as it is centrally located by a few public transit stops. There is also a great Netflix documentary about the largest heist that happened at the museum. This museum is not your typical museum and I highly recommend you check it out yourself.

Up next is the Museum of Fine Arts: the museum is large, but beautiful and I recommend you visit, maybe even twice.  Not only is the MFA conveniently located as well, but it is just a short walk from the Gardner Museum.  As Brandeis students, admission is free with your student ID. The MFA has great rotational exhibits and is a great place to spend a rainy day, or any day.

A couple other options to check out are the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum as well as the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. I have not been able to go to these museums yet, but they have great reviews and offer discounted admission with your student ID.

I also recommend checking out some of the seasonal activities, like ice skating, winter markets, winter outdoor dining or walking around to view the festive decorations and lights. While these activities do not necessarily have a student discount, some of these options are free, a great way to embrace the season and try something new.

Lastly, winter is the season to be cozy, and feel productive while watching your favorite movies, baking, and enjoying time with family. I definitely recommend checking out your local library and finding a good book to enjoy while the weather is less than favorable, this is one of my favorite winter activities, especially if it includes freshly baked cookies. This time is a way to spend our days doing new things and being away from our classes is a great time to recharge and rest before the next semester begins.

Brief Reflections on my First Semester at Heller

Calah McQuarters, MBA'23 headshot

Calah McQuarters, MBA’23

This past Wednesday I submitted my last paper to complete my first semester of graduate school around 11:30 pm (yes, I procrastinated). After pressing “submit”, an overwhelming feeling of nausea came over me. Partially because I was second guessing if I listed all of my sources in the bibliography, but partially because while I had been clawing my way to the finish line of the semester since Thanksgiving, I didn’t expect it to come so soon. I hear more and more these days how it feels like time is always flying. Hours are turning into minutes and minutes to seconds. As I sit 4 months removed from when I first arrived in Waltham, I can certainly say it feels like I just got here yesterday. But now that readings and assignments are on pause until the new year, I want to take time to reflect on my learning experience during my first semester at Heller.

When I first began thinking about going to school for an MBA, my excitement was matched by my fear. Not having come from a business background, I didn’t know if I had the expertise needed to know the material I was going to school to study for. Turns out, I was right. Of course I didn’t! In my first class of the semester, Financial Reporting and Analysis, I arrived early, sat in the front, and listened earnestly to the professor, understanding 99% of what she was explaining. I left feeling on top of the world, ready to breeze through my time at Heller. Fast forward to my second class, Economic Analysis for Managers, I repeated the same process. I arrived early, sat in the front, and listened earnestly to the professor. Except this time, I promise she was speaking an entirely different language. By no fault of her own, no matter how many times she explained the material, the neuro pathways in my brain refused to allow the new information in front of me to sink in. I left that class, called my mother, and said plainly, “I think I’m dumb”, laughing but really wanting to cry. Over the next hour, my mother and I broke down that statement and I came to the realization that I in fact wasn’t dumb, I just didn’t know this new thing I never studied before. Now, you might be reading this thinking, “duh Calah! Of course you’re not going to know what you’ve never learned before”. But honestly, somewhere in the time between being accepted into graduate school and actually starting graduate school, I created this unrealistic expectation of knowing all I needed to know before I learned it. This semester reminded me that it is okay not to know everything (it’s actually unrealistic). Instead of obsessing over what I didn’t know in the beginning, I chose to be intentional and diligent about learning over time so I could be a little wiser in the end. I read, studied, worked with classmates, and talked to professors to ensure I was gaining all I could. It’s funny to remember that call, especially now that I understand the time value of money (look at me using econ terms 😉 ). But I am grateful for the patience and grace I offered myself then and in many more moments along this semester. To anyone thinking about applying to something you’ve never done or learned before, do it! The process may be scary and there will likely be moments you feel a little dumb, but what you learn and gain in the end is always so worth it! It has been for me. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a couple of lines to acknowledge a source of so much laughter and happiness during my first semester: my cohort. I am grateful for the experiences shared, heartfelt moments had, friendships formed, and events planned (shoutout to the Boston Commons crew) thus far. And I am so excited to continue to grow together and make more memories over the next year. 

One semester down, three more to go. 

Holidays at Heller 

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Holidays in graduate school are a bittersweet time. On the one hand, it’s a welcome reprieve from the intensity of the schoolwork grind and a chance to reconnect with loved ones back home. On the other hand, for many international and out-of-state students, going home for the holidays is not always feasible financially or due to the distance. Personally, my hometown is a 16 hour drive from the university or a $400+ roundtrip airplane ticket so, both this year and last year, I have had to choose between going home for the November break or going home for New Year’s instead. 

With this in mind, the Heller Student Association started a Friendsgiving tradition to bring students together for a time of community, gratitude, and fun. The Heller Student Association is a student working group dedicated to amplifying the diverse voices of the student body and meaningfully contributing to decisions that affect students’ time at the Heller School. 

This year, about 30 students gathered on the afternoon of Friday, November 25th in the Zinner Forum for our 2022 Friendsgiving Celebration. We spent the first half hour of the event playing board games, teaching each other new card games, filling out coloring sheets, and writing positive messages on a big poster board to the tune of a Charlie Brown holiday playlist on Spotify. Connect4 and Exploding Kittens stood out as the crowd favorites. At 12:30pm sharp, we gathered around three long tables for a feast from Boston Market resplendent with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, rotisserie chicken, cornbread, and apple pie. Before digging in, we went around the table sharing things that we were grateful for. Unsurprisingly, student after student cited the friendships they’d made at Heller and the welcoming campus community as top of their gratitude list. Since the event was open to students from all of Heller’s programs, many new friendships were formed as people from different programs interacted for the first or maybe second time. 

After lunch, we had a very spontaneous and impromptu karaoke session, which was dominated by 90s boy band singles, Taylor Swift classics, and a few Latin tunes. Students were able to take home tons of food to feed themselves and their roommates over the holiday weekend. While the organizers were perfectly happy to handle the take-down and clean-up process themselves, every single attendee pitched in to fold tables, remove chairs, and take out trash. It was such a perfect picture of the spirit that is so indicative of the Heller community. I left the event feeling refreshed and grateful for all the people who contribute to making the Heller School the place that it is.

The Summer Internship, Part Two

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

In my last post, I started talking about how I was starting my summer internship search, and now I will update on how the process is going and what other steps I have taken. I previously mentioned the importance of the Heller School’s resources, specifically career services.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have met with career services to talk about how to strategize my internship search, resources available and had my resume and cover letter reviewed.

Having a reviewed and ready to go template resume and cover letter is extremely useful for when I find an internship that I would like to apply to. I can easily customize my materials to fit the job description and confidently submit my application. I have been using Handshake and LinkedIn most frequently to find positions applying to ones that I am most interested in.  I have learned that using filters on Handshake can be really useful for searching for specific position types, durations and paid vs unpaid opportunities. LinkedIn is useful for looking at specific organizations you are interested in that are hiring and even tells you how many other applicants there are. Additionally, remember to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, this is not only a great way to keep track of your accomplishments but also LinkedIn is great for networking. One of the biggest takeaways that I have had so far is that every organization tends to have a different hiring timeline, so some agencies and organizations might be hiring spring intern and some might be looking for summer interns. Make sure to take your time and realize that some of the positions you might be looking for aren’t being hired for yet.

Another great resource that I have explored is information session and events that Heller is hosting. Information sessions, specifically about the practicum search is a great place to get your questions answered. I attended a session last week hosted by Mary Poor and learned so much about what previous students have done for their practicum, and what is required for the Heller school, such as forms, and visa information, if applicable. Additionally, there were a number of resources shared at this event that I am definitely going to be using going forward in my search. This event was also super helpful as there were current and previous students present to talk about their practicum experience, and share what finding and completing the practicum was like.  If there are any other events that are like this in the future I will be sure to attend.

In my next post, I will be sharing some interview tips and reflections on some of my interview experiences, so stay tuned!

Meet My Co-hort: Robert Hitt

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

We took a brief intermission and now we are back with another blog in my mini blog series of Meet My Cohort. Did you miss it? I hope so! This week I had the great pleasure to sit down with Robert Hitt, who is 31 years old and from Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a bachelors of science in Biology. He is now a 2nd year Master of Public Policy Student concentrating in Economic and Racial Equity.

Robert Hitt, MPP’23

What did you do before coming to Heller? 

I came back to the United States a year prior to coming to Heller, but before that I was teaching English in Rabat, Morocco for four years. When I came back, I started  working at Mass General Hospital as  a Clinical Laboratory Assistant, which is where I worked before leaving to go to Morocco.  I continued working this position during my 1st year at Heller but only part-time, 3 days a week. I wouldn’t recommend this during your first year, at least.

Why did you choose Heller? 

 

When I was in Morocco, the pandemic had just hit, and we were in lock down. We couldn’t really leave our apartment besides going to the grocery store, and the school I was working at was shut down. This was also in the midst of the 2020 Presidential Election, and I began thinking hard about what I wanted to do with my career. I enjoyed teaching, but knew I did not want to continue with that, and I knew I wanted to come back to the United States, but at the time we were waiting for my wife’s visa to get approved. Thinking about what I wanted to do, I knew I was interested in politics and law, which left me debating between policy or law school. I spoke with a lot of my family members that were lawyers, who all told me not to go to law school. I still might, who knows, but someone had mentioned public policy, and I thought this idea was neat. If I did public policy, I wouldn’t have to try to use the law in a way that I thought was just, but to shape laws or influence how they’re made.  This was appealing to me, so I applied to a couple different programs, but I appreciated Heller’s social justice bent. In addition to this, I saw that Bob Kuttner was a professor here, and I been reading his work. I reached out to him and observed one of his classes “Capitalism and Social Policy”  and I enjoyed it. Bob Kuttner was really kind to me and he offered me a internship at the Prospect when I joined his  class in Spring 2022. Knowing he was there, I realized the school really aligned with my values.

 What is or was your favorite class at Heller?

Because I am interested in workers rights and labor power, I will say my favorite classes are Economic Theory and Economic Labor, both taught by Professor Lisa Lynch. I find the classes to be really engaging. We don’t only talk about how the labor market affects worker power but also how workers can exert their power in the workplace and gain better wages/benefits for themselves. This is what I really want to do after Heller: improve the wellbeing of workers and facilitate them in using their power.

What is or was your most challenging class at Heller?

Maybe Law and Social Justice: Constructions of Race and Ethnicity and Their Consequences, taught by Professor Anita Hill. There were a lot of concepts I was not familiar with and at times the subject matter was difficult and uncomfortable. Yet I think for myself as a white man, it was really important for me to be exposed to these subjects . I still feel like I am not fully conversant on all of the topics in terms of transformational justice and restorative justice, but at least it gave me a baseline which is really good and helpful.

What are some activities you are currently doing at Heller?

No disrespect to the faculty or administration, but the best part of Heller is my classmates. With a group of classmates we started our own independent student magazine, The Open Air Journal. We are able to publish student work which in other cases would go to waste in someone’s computer file and constructively criticize the way things are done at Heller. In general, Heller has been open to hearing about this criticism which is a tribute to them. Through this organization, we were able to meet a bunch of students throughout the programs, COEX, SID, and I got to know a lot of my own classmates in the MPP program a little better through their writing. For me, personally, I feel like that is where I come alive and I can express myself. I really value that we are able to provide our classmates with a space to experience this in addition to improving their writing skills. We are publishing our Fall 2022 edition online this month, November 21st, and we have submissions from all different co-horts: creative, academic, and even a podcast! This is a long term project so even when I am gone there will be first years taking over, so if anyone reading is interested, let me know and I can facilitate that.

What are your plans after Heller?

I am going to win the lottery and not worry about anything. Nah, I am just kidding! I either want to work in organized labor directly or work in policy, whether that is in a think tank or government agency. I want to be helping workers rights and/or facilitating worker power whether that is in the Department of Labor, Office of Budget and Management, or a progressive think tank. I am looking all around I have a couple of target organizations in mind but I am keeping my options open as well.

Any advice you would like to give prospective students? 

Believe that you are worthy of being here and that the institution has to live up to you and not the other way around.

Wow, what a strong way to end this blog post! Thank you Bob for stepping into the Admissions Blog Room. If you are interested or know someone who maybe interested in joining the Open Air Journal  when arriving to Heller contact openair@brandeis.edu. See everyone soon for another blog in Meet My Co-hort!

Calah’s Experience Shipping Off to Boston

Calah McQuarters, MBA'23 headshot

Calah McQuarters, MBA’23

At the time I was accepted to Heller, I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was born and raised in Tulsa but moved in 2017 to attend my undergraduate university in Washington DC. In March 2020, like many people around the world, the coronavirus pandemic brought me back home from college to finish my junior and senior year on zoom. While I enjoyed living with my parents again and taking advantage of free groceries, post-graduation I was eager to figure out what the next season of life looked like away from home. First, I made a plan: work for one year, then start grad school. The end. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, where I wanted to live, or how I was going to get there, but I knew my plan and I was determined to see it through. So, when I received my acceptance letter from Heller on April 1st, two questions were answered. I knew I would be studying for a Social Impact MBA, and I knew I would be moving my life to Boston, Massachusetts. However, those two answered questions raised so many more. Where was I going to live? How do I even find an apartment? What do I need? Why are utilities not included and so expensive?!

And thus began the tumultuous, emotional, exciting, and draining journey towards August 12th, the day I arrived in Massachusetts to sign my first ever lease on an apartment. I will sprinkle words of advice as I detail this journey, but please remember this experience is different for everyone. I have heard the transition for some was seamless, while for others it was less than pleasant to say the least. 

I began looking for an apartment in the greater Boston area in February. Now, if you’re following along, you will remember I didn’t get accepted to Heller until April 1st, but I knew if I was to be accepted, I would need to be ahead of the curve. Having said that, I was definitely a little too far ahead. Any place I called, emailed, or messaged on Apartments.com said the same thing: “We’re looking for tenants to move in around June 1.” I wasn’t planning on moving until late July at the earliest, so this quickly dashed my dreams of finding an apartment fast and checking that off my to do list. (1) Start looking for an apartment a couple months in advance, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t find something immediately. Good things come in time! 

As I said before, I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a nice 2 bed 1 bath apartment (my exact criteria) cost no more than $1100 max (utilities included!). Armed with this knowledge, I began my search for an apartment with the same general expectations. My bubble was quickly busted. Not only did I need to adjust expectations for rent and utilities, but also for other necessities I had been taking for granted in the warmth of my parents’ home, such as groceries, gas, or fun activities (those are important!). (2) When looking into a graduate program, also look at expenses related to living in surrounding areas and take note of what adjustments you need to plan for in advance (eg. will you need to travel by car or is public transportation available). 

Fortunately for me, I convinced my sister to come along for the ride of graduate school with me, so I had already found my roommate. Check! However, in our excitement, dreaming of our new life together not far off in the distance, we may have dreamed a little too big and not quite practically enough. We spent entirely too much time at Target, Walmart, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Burlington in the month before moving to Massachusetts. Our list of “needs” very clearly and quickly expanded to a list of wants and that is how we ended up with a key bowl that now holds potatoes. (3) When thinking about what you will need after moving, stick to your needs! There are lots of opportunities to purchase your wants when you get to where you’re going. Targets are everywhere. This will also make the process of packing and unpacking so much less stressful. Also, take advantage of second hand if that’s your thing. I can definitely thank Facebook Marketplace for my couch and coffee table. 

August 10th, my sister and I began our three-day journey across 1,500 miles in a 10-foot U-Haul towing a car headed towards a new experience. This journey, much like our overall journey, was full of fun memories, hangry moments, exhaustion, and lots of coffee. And it was worth every second. Living, working, and studying in the Boston area has been a dream come true. The people are nice (mostly). The food is good (mostly). There is always something to explore (after getting through traffic). And life overall is good (and sometimes stressful). (4) Whatever your experience, make sure you take moments to pause and reflect on all that you have learned to make it to now. Don’t be discouraged. The moment is coming when life overall will be good (and still probably a little stressful).

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