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Cambridge Connection: I’m an Ink Blotch

This post will be the first of many, I hope, side bars on more experiential learning that I have had during my time in Cambridge. Learning does not always have to occur in a Utopian context of the classroom or online–it can take place as life happens!

Before I begin this series called “Cambridge Connections,” which will highlight some activities and items of interest in and around Cambridge/Boston, I thought I would share why this series will be particularly meaningful to me. As I mentioned in a previous post, Harvard is my second chance at redemption, in more ways than one.

1. My first go around at higher education was a successful one–on paper. I graduated with my doctorate 8 days shy of my 24th birthday from an esteemed program and received a job offer within two weeks. Unfortunately, I was miserable for much of the seven years I spent pursuing that goal, and upon graduation, realized that I will likely not be utilizing my degree in the manner in which it was intended. This realization was crushing and the level of self-depreciation that I experienced put me at a new low. The shock of it all had made me quite numb, and I genuinely felt lost and without purpose. I was like the center of an ink blotch, hollow and dark. 


Modified from original image courtesy of Mburger64


I soon found solace and that purpose in teaching, applying my degree to chemistry instruction at the higher ed level, and soon the sense of melancholia slowly faded like an ink blotch drawing. And the rest is history. I  salvaged my degree and honed it into a successful teaching career, to which I am dedicated and inspired by everyday. But the aforementioned ink blotch still had some outer-lying bands of gray that I needed to fade away. Why? Read on…

2. I never enjoyed my university experience as a young adult. There were many factors at play. I became ill for much of the time I was at university, had some personal issues with which to wrestle, and felt the burden of a pressure cooker curriculum, to which I was not entirely certain I belonged. This made me relatively introverted. I seldom conversed with anyone, unless necessary. Needless to say, I did not engage with my peers in class and certainly not outside of it. There was barely any cohort bonding in the form of general gatherings, trips, or school-sponsored activities, and of the few that were, I certainly didn’t feel welcome–that’s just my perspective. I take responsibility for much of this, but I also recall the negativity and chilly vibe that I felt from classmates and some (not all)  faculty. This was not a place I wanted to be nor did I belong. So despite my successful competition of the program, which I have parlayed into a fulfilling and somewhat lucrative career (second time I’ve said this, I know, but I didn’t think in my darkest days that it would happen), I have held onto some resentment from the experience. Okay, a lot of resentment which I have buried deep down into my subconscious…until now. 

Harvard is my second chance at enjoying the experience of education. I have been hearing from my colleagues as well as my family, many of whom met their spouses and life-long friends at college, anecdotes about the “good old days” and how much they wish they could relive the yesteryears. I could not relate, and was determined that I would not let that happen at Harvard.

I have made a very concerted effort to befriend classmates at HGSE, take part in school/cohort bonding activities, student organizations, and extra-curricular activities off campus with my peers. I have also made connections to some faculty and staff, which I have enjoyed immensely. I have had more fun and interaction in these first five weeks that in all seven years of my previous degree. Partly this is due to an effort on my part, but I must also give credit to the amazing people with whom I have crossed paths among these ivy walls. I hope to revisit this post in eight months time and write an update, which I hope will be full of  reflection, vindication, and a restoration of my faith in the human spirit.

If any of my peers or professors read this, thank you sincerely for being so generous with your time, ideas, and friendship. It means more to me than you will ever know.



  1. Merisenda Bills

    October 18, 2014 @ 2:15 am


    I hope I don’t seem like a lurker – I was checking your other wordpress site and was bummed it hadn’t been updated. Just came across this, which I assume is the blog you’re most updating! So now I want to catch up on all that I missed! =P

    I can relate to a lot of things you mentioned in this post. I also look at Harvard as my second chance of enjoying my experience in education. I was very miserable during my undergrad, and even my previous masters degree program was really disappointing.

    I’m glad we’re both finding joy in our experiences here at Harvard!

  2. sarahalvanipour

    October 18, 2014 @ 5:47 pm


    So glad you came across this blog, Merisenda. I submitted it for syndication but it has not caught on 🙂 glad we can share in a new and more rewarding experience this time around. Thanks for reading and your comment!

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