Posts tagged harvard

Boston Autumn: A Photo Album


welcome to today’s photo post that is going to be a mix of things I’ve seen and done over the last couple weeks. Enjoy and have a great day!

Time For The Arts

Cambridge and Harvard aka our old neighborhood (still missing it)

Beacon Hill aka our new neighborhood (still getting used to it)

The Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event

When Science Meets Cooking

Hi friends,

if this post can do anything, I hope that it’ll make you curious to learn about new things or to at least consider your next cooking session a real science project. Because you know what? Cooking is science (not only of course but you’ll know better what I mean in a second)!

Harvard Science and Cooking Lecture – What it is

What made me think about food and cooking that way? It most definitely was attending the Harvard Science and Cooking Public Lecture. It’s a public and free lecture series organized by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard and it pairs Harvard professors with celebrated food experts and renowned chefs to showcase the science behind different culinary techniques. Cool, right?

It’s already in its seventh year and you’re able to find some old and new footage of recorded lectures online over at the Harvard YouTube channel. If a rainy day comes around again and you are somewhat interested in food and/or science, this is be a fantastic way to spend your time. Let me know what you thought! So if you aren’t a local (full schedule of upcoming lectures and guest to be found here), check out some of the videos below and on YouTube.

The last lecture I attended was by the great local superstar and Harvard graduate Joanne Chang and it was all about the science of sugar. While I wasn’t able to find the video about the talk I attended I managed to find the video of the lecture she did back in 2015. It’s just really cool to learn about sugar in such a new and unexpected way. Have a watch!

Take a course on EDX or just watch them online

Another great way to stay in the know if you’re even more curious is to enroll for a free and self-paced course over at EDX, check here for more information.

Some other interesting talks so far were about the art of fermentation and the science of risotto. Here come the videos, have a great week everyone!


Saying Goodbye To Cambridge

Hello everyone,

how are you today? In case you missed my post “Why I’m going to buy a Harvard Sweater (even though I said I never would)” elaborating (not really) on why I have to have a sweater of said university because I need a physical souvenir as we are leaving Cambridge by the end of the month.

I went through my photo archive and thought it be nice to put my favorite ones together in a post for you, hope you’ll enjoy this virtual walk around the neighborhood throughout winter and summer time with me. Also, let’s appreciate those beautiful flowers and plants, they grow like crazy here in summer as it is so hot and humid and almost tropical feeling.

Why not have a little wander around your neighborhood today, I’m sure you’ll explore and find new little things around every corner.

Have a great day!


Winter (soft version, see that clear blue sky?)

Winter (not so soft version)



Meet Ares (Part 1)

Hi everyone,

one of the things I am most grateful here in the US is that I get to know interesting people with lots of different backgrounds from all over the world. One of those people is Ares, a 27 year old Catalan girl that happens to be a music therapist. I overheard her talking about it a few times at our weekly get togethers with the Harvard group and wanted to know more. What it is, how it works (if it works) and why it is so important. So I thought why not create a new segment on the blog where we (as in you AND me) meet interesting people and talk about interesting stuff.

So there you go. Without further ado, I’m happy to introduce you to Ares and her work as a music therapist (because let’s be real, you probably don’t know much about it, do you?). 

Sandra: What is your favorite song?

Ares: Wow, that is a difficult one. I can’t give you an answer from the top of my head for one particular song. I for sure have songs I love when I hear them, it also depends greatly on what mood I’m in.

Sandra: Do you think that you consume music differently compared to a person that doesn’t have a professional background as a music therapist?

Ares: Music is really powerful. It affects us all, in our way of being, feeling or behaving. I am no different in that sense. When preparing for a therapy session I will have to obviously put my personal emotions behind and think about what choices will benefit the patients condition and his wishes best. And sometimes it’s difficult, because your background in music might be really different than the one from the patient. To sum up, yes, I think that I listen to music differently. But mainly due to the fact that I grew up with taking piano lessons and being very involved with music from an early age on.

Sandra: We’ve already jumped into the discussion but let’s maybe quickly explain to everyone who has never heard of music therapy before, what is it,in a sentence or two?

Ares: Put very simply, I’d say it’s a form of therapy using the means of music in every possible form to make the patient feel better. The therapy part implies an engagement with the patient, a therapeutic agreement, the patient recognizing his needs and what he needs to improve on. Without those elements it’s making music in a group or alone, enjoying music but without the therapeutic aspect.

Sandra: You used to be a nurse before becoming a music therapist. Why did you want to change careers?

Ares: I actually always had this thought in the back of my head that I wanted to study music. But I also always liked helping people. So life happens and I chose to train as a nurse. After finishing my undergraduate studies I had to choose which specialization I wanted to pursue in a Masters. I somehow didn’t feel like pursuing a Masters in nursing so I ended up with music therapy as it is the perfect combination of all the things I love. It wasn’t easy for me as people kept telling me it’s a hard field to find work in. What also was nice was that I knew if things wouldn’t work out as a music therapist I could still apply a lot of my knowledge in my day to day work as a nurse in a hospital.

Sandra: How?

Ares: When I lived in Oxford, I used to work with rehabilitation patients that had suffered from strokes, cerebral palsies or car accidents. During the week it was impossible as they were busy with their physiotherapy and other occupational therapy sessions. But on the weekends they were free and I would occasionally do some exercises with them after my nursing work was done. At the school of music I used to work in Barcelona I started doing music therapy with little kids. I remember one boy that suffered from cerebral palsy, all of his right body side was paralyzed. He loved to play the drums. I encouraged him to use his right side to play even though at the beginning he really didn’t want to. He obviously wanted to play with the side he was able to play with. And you know what? After a year I saw real progress.

Sandra: That is fascinating. What does a normal day in the life of a music therapist look like?

Ares: It all really depends on the target group you’re talking about as music therapy is practically applicable to everyone, be it pregnant women, babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, seniors etc. What is also very important is the type of therapy that you’ll apply in your sessions, there is a variety of schools. Norton-Robbins for example is an approach where there are two therapists, one playing the piano and one minding the patient. There are other models where you do everything in groups, some where you never talk during your sessions, others that only do improvising, some that only listen to music and don’t do anything else…the list goes on.

Sandra: So from what I understand there’s no typical day in the life as the whole set up and context varies greatly according to your patient and the type of therapy model that you’ll apply, right?

Ares: Correct. Generally, however, I will plan a session of 45 minutes. My main focus will usually lie on improvising and on the fact that patients should enjoy themselves and the music. What I love to do at the end of every class, if the patient’s condition allows it, is a feedback round. They are asked to reflect on what they’ve done and created during the session, if they had been improvising for example and created a song only using their body as instruments. Of course it’s not compulsory. But it is a beautiful way for the patients to reflect on what has happened and what they’ve experienced and created.

Sandra: What have been patient stories that you like to remember?

Ares: I used to work with a group of teenagers that mostly suffered from conduct disorders. There was a girl in the group that was a bully a school and another kid, they didn’t know each other, that was a victim. Two personalities that in a normal school setting would never have talked to each other, respected each other and heard each other, which is really important. Feelings of mutual understanding were able to be formed, which in my opinion never would have been possible to be formed in a psychologist’s office in a more conventional therapy set up.

Sandra: Does the music help as a connection maker?

Ares: Yes, it definitely does! And the interesting thing is that while they are in the session they really aren’t aware of what’s happening. It just happens. It’s actually at the end of the session, when I do the feedback round where they’ll understand what happened to them.

Sandra: What were things those teenagers said in the feedback round?

Ares: The girl that used to be a bully would say things like “I heard the sound that the other kid was making”, or “When you sang that part, I really liked it”. Those were sides of her personality as a bully that she never had shown or expressed before, actually listening to others, sharing something with others. That was fascinating. Also, a psychologist was always present during those sessions and she really was surprised to see certain aspects of that girl’s personality that she hadn’t seen before in sessions with her.

Sandra: How long does such a transition take time to happen?

Ares: It really varies a lot. In this case we did the sessions for about a year. Generally I’d say it takes about 10-12 sessions in minimum to see a change. The first sessions are needed to build trust, the fact of making music is difficult, the matter of reflecting on it is challenging as well.

Sandra: Have you also seen cases where the therapy just wouldn’t work or wouldn’t be the right choice?

Ares: Yes, that can happen. Especially when a person is very closed-off. If you offer them exercises and they will block any attempt. Or if parents for example don’t see the value in the therapy sessions and will transmit that feeling to the kid coming to class. That will also be difficult.

Sandra: Will you leave those cases be?

Ares: There will always be an attempt to try and upkeep the therapy. But it doesn’t always work. Which is ok. There are also cases where you just can’t do music therapy due to the conditions of the patient. As listening and engaging with music will activate all of your brain parts and will animate the visual and imaginative part you’ll have to be very careful with patients that have bipolar or schizophrenic problems for example. You’ll have to be very mindful and know what the limits are.

Sandra: So that also requires you to have a lot of knowledge of physical and medical conditions?

Ares: Yes! You definitely need to know what conditions there are and how they’ll most likely react to music. During your training you’ll have to have medical backgrounds.

Stay tuned for tomorrows continuation of part 2, where we’ll talk about Spice girls, babies, instruments and lots of other things. And listen to some music today, ok?

Happy Monday!

Why Boston/Cambridge Is a Great Place for Curious People

Hello everyone

I want to talk about curiosity today.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, especially since having moved to Boston/Cambridge. I think that it is a great place to live if you are a curious person and appreciate being surrounded by an innovative and intellectually inspiring environment. Why that is you ask? Find out more below:

The “Athens of America”

Boston got this nickname due to its over 100 educational facilities and its big teaching and student population. Also, many of the universities and colleges (e.g. Harvard University or MIT) are considered amongst the best in the world.

Students EVERYWHERE (making me feel old, thanks)

With over 250,000 college students living within Boston/Cambridge, they account for 1/3rd of the total population. In other words, lots of young people around (making me feel old, not cool. Happy for them of course. But still.)

A City of Book Lovers and Book Stores

Although the Library of Congress contains the most volumes in the whole country (more than 29,550,000), Harvard University’s Library is second with more than 15,000,000 and the Boston Public Library is third with more than 14,000,000. So many books, right? Also, there are SO MANY book stores especially in Cambridge with lots of events going on all the time. Take the Harvard Book Store for example, alone in the month of April it will be holding 27 events, amongst them with world-known authors, professors or personalities such as Sheryl Sandberg, Noam Chomsky to name a few.

The startup scene is going strong

With nearly 2,000 startups in all possible fields ((bio)technology, medical, etc.) the city is considered a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship and rightly so. I’ve already met quite a few people (when I did small talk. Because that’s a way to learn things. Also a great way to “use” your curiosity as it is considered acceptable to ask lots of questions when doing small talk. Ok, long excursus over) telling me about amazing start ups they were working for. One girl (I sadly don’t remember the name of the organization) was working in a startup that was developing a tool that prevents people from dying from internal bleeding that could be used in war but also first aid situations, which I thought was really interesting (I’m sure I’ve done a terrible job at explaining as it was quite medical but the essence is, people do interesting stuff here).

Talks and Presentations to choose from everyday

One of the things that I enjoy the most here is the vast array and choice of presentations, talks and conferences you can attend literally EVERY day. If you wanted you could spend days only visiting MIT and Harvard public lectures (just to name two that I’ve gotten to know a bit better, there are tons of other colleges/institutes with their own stuff too).

It’s seriously a privilege being able to listen to so many intelligent and inspiring people that come to those institutions. So far, I’ve seen the mayor of the City of Boston talk about urban planning and the city’s future development, the mayor of Mexico City (a lot of mayors I know realize) giving a lecture on urban challenges and climate change or attended a conference on everyday feminism at Harvard Law School. I’ve seen Noam Chomsky and former Foreign Secretary of the UK, Mr. Straw talking about Brexit and Trump at MIT. It’s been super interesting and rewarding having the time to actually go to those lectures.

Today’s take away for you

If today’s post has a take away it should be that I’d encourage you to check out if the universities or other institutions in your city offer public talks and presentations that you could attend (if you’re interested in the topic that is).

For all of my Boston located friends who aren’t already familiar with those links, you’ll find the events calendars of Harvard University and MIT below.

Have a lovely day and remember:

A life without curiosity is quite simply a boring life.

The Harvard Series Chapter #2

Welcome back to the second chapter of our Harvard Series, which will be all about how to get into Harvard. It’s an interesting one, so read on!

(Disclaimer: Of course I am no specialist on this topic Americans, don’t hesitate to correct me if anything isn’t right. Thankssss)

Let’s touch on some aspects of a Harvard application. (If you want to get more details about each of the topics covered, head on over to Harvard’s application site).

Getting your application started

You’ll have to submit a number of documents and materials via an online platform first:

  • Application and supplements
  • $75 application fee or a fee waiver request (if your family can’t afford the fee) 
  • ACT with writing or old SAT or new SAT with writing
  • Normally, two SAT Subject Tests
  • Secondary School Report (including transcripts) and Mid-Year School Report
  • Two teacher evaluations (you’ll have to ask two teachers to complete forms about you).

Heyyy, who makes a reappearance on the blog? Matt Damon. Of course.

He actually attended Harvard University and tells you about this application experience, which eventually led to creating Good Will Hunting! True story.

What Harvard is looking for aka when things start to get complicated

So far, so good. You’ve got all the required documents, tests etc., now comes the part, where things get a bit more intangible. 

Harvard says on its website that they “seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond”. Wow, those are quite high expectations. You’ll find a few questions below that stood out to me. The admissions committee will discuss those over your application (btw this is not a comprehensive overview, read on more over here):

  • Where will you be in one, five, or 25 years? Will you contribute something to those around you?
  • What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?
  • What is the quality of your activities? Do you appear to have a genuine commitment or leadership role?
  • Will you contribute something to Harvard and to your classmates? Will you benefit from your Harvard experience?
  • Would other students want to room with you, share a meal, be in a seminar together, be teammates, or collaborate in a closely knit extracurricular group?

Bottom line: You have to be an exceptional human, academically and personally.

This student will tell you from her own experience what she thinks will make you get into Harvard:

Will you get in? I’m sorry to break this to you but the odds are definitely against you.

39,041 have applied for the term 2016-2020. How many have been admitted? 2,106. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in and do the math. A mere 5.4% gets admitted. 
However, from those 2,106 admitted future students, 20% do not accept and don’t get matriculated (crazy people).

Hold on, did one of your parents attend Harvard? Then things might be a little different.

For one specific group of applicants the chances of admission are way higher than for the rest. If you had at least one parent attend Harvard College, you have the best chances to get accepted. You’ll be a so-called legacy-admission. There is quite a controversy about this practice. Opponents argue that Harvard’s main aim by having lecacy-admissions is lead by economic interests to get donations. Why? Alumni are more likely to donate if they believe that their donations will help get their children into Harvard one day.

See you tomorrow for the last chapter and where the fun starts: We’ll explore together what it’s like to be a Harvard student. Byeee!