Six: That’s a Wrap
My last few weeks at Harvard were both challenging, fun, and full of lessons I’ll bring back to Saint Martin’s. During my last session I had some of the most unique and talented students I have ever met. With half my students coming from different countries all over the world, I had the opportunity to work on my cultural competency while simultaneously learning about their ways of communication, cultural norms, and so many other things that I do not think I would have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
When I had my program this session, I really challenged my students to think hard about their responses to my questions – really challenging their own beliefs and listening to those of others. They bought into it and continued to carry conversations over the last few weeks they were there. We ended up talking for more than an hour after the allotted time and they still were not ready to leave the discussion. It gave me a glimpse of hope to see that students who are roughly fifteen and sixteen are capable of having unique and challenging conversations while still holding respect and courtesy above all else. It was something I was proud to see as their mentor, and something I hope they continue to practice once they get home.
During this last session, there were students with some big personalities. But if working in campus life at Saint Martin’s has taught me anything, it’s that there is always a common ground, something that connects us with each other. For some of my students it was sports, for some it was music, and even one student and I bonded over our love for classic films and Disney soundtracks. It was amazing to put the work I had done at Saint Martin’s into action in Boston, and an even better experience to see that my students had an amazing time both academically and socially while enrolled in the program.
As I’m finally wrapped up with my time in Boston, I’m able to reflect on the last eight weeks and really dive into what I learned, what I gained, and the new interests that I have. It sounds silly, but I honestly learned so much in such a short span of time. To clue you in, I’ve narrowed it down to five things that were beneficial to me professionally or personally, here we go:
- Professionalism is a spectrum – to connect with students you have to be able to lower your guard and your seriousness while still holding something meaningful and full of substance. With other professionals and supervisors you can move that level higher, but at the end of the day, you truly have to know your audience.
- Students know a lot if you genuinely give them time and space to express their opinions and thoughts. Although they’re young and still learning about the world – these students taught me just as much as I taught them. Students have voice, students have power -they just need to be noticed.
- Feedback is important. In order to improve something, you have to be willing to voice a concern. But on the receiving end, it’s just as important to foster an environment that accepts feedback in any form.
- Student affairs is the profession for me. I’m coming back more than ready to attack applying to graduate school and finishing strong at Saint Martin’s. To all my mentors back home and all the people who pushed me to chase what I wanted, thank you, this would have been impossible without you all.
- Putting yourself first sometimes is okay! Working around the clock 24/7 with students can be challenging, it can be overwhelming, but allowing yourself the time to destress, re-center yourself, and find what you need to bring yourself back is okay. Mine happened to be killing time at the gym. Find what helps you and practice it.
This entire summer was something that I’ll never forget. Having the opportunity to meet hundreds of students from all over the world, visiting new sites, learning so much professionally and individually, and just spending the summer on the East Coast is something that I’ll not only cherish, but something I’ll always think about when moving forward with my career. To everyone back home who read my articles and kept up with me while I was gone, thank you! It was the constant support, encouragement, and push that I needed to keep going on the hardest days. To all those who led me here, emailed me advice, and even sent me care packages, I appreciate every single one of you. I’m excited to dive into my final year at Saint Martin’s and look forward to seeing all of you again in a few weeks, until then, go Saints!