After returning from a wonderfully relaxing winter vacation, I came back to campus last week and got hit hard with something I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding: “real life.” As a second semester junior, there are some big questions that I have on my plate that I have to start sifting through – what will I write my senior thesis on? What do I want to do with my summer? What kinds of jobs am I considering for after college? …the list, unfortunately, goes on and on. Unsurprisingly, I’ve spent my first couple of weeks back on campus dealing with logistics and doing a bit of thinking about what the next couple of semesters (and years!) will look like.
The first major item on my “list” is the summer question. As a junior, there are two major options: “the internship” or thesis research. Many of my Social Studies classmates are spending the summer doing field work for their senior thesis, and therefore have been focused on applying for funding and finding an advisor to help them refine their project. I envy these individuals for a couple of reasons: 1) they have already picked their thesis topic and 2) they have a concrete plan for what they want to do this summer. In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I: 1) haven’t yet finalized my topic and 2) really have no clue whether I should be applying for funding. Egad!
As I mentioned, the other major option (aside from thesis research) to consider is taking a summer internship, although even the goal of “finding an internship” is an extremely abstract vision. Especially for someone interested in public policy, as I am, there are a whole range of options to consider, ranging from Harvard-sponsored programs to policy internships in DC to private sector options. Two Harvard resources that have been really great in this search have been the Center for Public Interest Careers, which runs an awesome internship program for undergrads, and the Office of Career Services, which is primarily responsible for running the On Campus Interview program for big private firms interested in hiring undergraduates. I’ve found it really helpful to have so many Harvard-specific resources and programs at my disposal. Still trying to figure out exactly what my vision is for this summer, though!
Luckily, I’ve managed to make a bit of headway in refining my thesis topic! I’m still very early in the “game,” but at this point Social Studies juniors are expected to start thinking about their specific question in addition to finding an advisor to work with over the coming year. We have to fill out a thesis journal over the coming months, as a way of reflecting on the process and keeping track of the decisions we’re making. My early idea is to write on health care in prisons, primarily looking at the role of preventive care in this setting. I’ve set up meetings with a couple of Harvard professors and graduate students who study incarceration, so hopefully they’ll be able to help me formulate my question. It’s sort of exciting to finally make a bit of progress!
This weekend’s definitely going to be filled with a good amount of work, both for the classes I’m taking and for non-class related tasks (applications, outside research, etc). Since the weather’s been a little lousy, I’m almost looking forward to the opportunity to camp out at a local café with something warm to drink! Excited to have a productive weekend!
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