Joanne - Harvard Summer School

Bachelor of Commerce/Economics
July 2018

My experience

I chose Harvard University because it is such a rare experience to come across, so I seized the opportunity! I studied Sustainable Finance and Investments. It was very worthwhile and relevant to my degree and to my personal interest. My favourite aspect of studying overseas was the challenge and experiencing the different curriculum, people and environment. Though it was an intensive course, I much enjoyed it and happily spent my time studying something that I am passionate about and found the time to explore Boston. I was surrounded by graduates and undergraduates from everywhere in the world. There were so many with diverse experiences and expertise but all were curious and interested in sustainability. There were also three guest lecturers who have had rich experiencing in pushing sustainability and it was a very inspirational and uplifting experience. It was a really rewarding experience to come across such people at Harvard and having a small taste of the quality of Harvard education.

How has the experience changed you?

Personally, this experience has made me gain confidence in my capabilities and I am proud that I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. I also feel very content and positive about the fact that there are so so SO many people that are pushing for a sustainable future. Even with some political fallbacks on climate change, action happens everyday to counteract and knowing this feels some what empowering and uplifting. In fact, sustainability and profit are not mutually exclusive!

Academically, the experience, well I guess you could simply state, it's Harvard. In more details, the learning experience really does focus fostering the curious mind and research capabilities. I feel as though I have more direction as to where I want to specialise in for the future and I will plan my academics accordingly to this. 

Professionally, the three skills that I think this experience really helped me developed were problem-solving, self-management and resilience. With problem-solving, not just in terms of analysing the many cases I was given to investigate, but I was living in a different environment with people with different perspectives and behavioural patterns. Knowing how to interact with these people and finding my situation around many inconveniences all really came to me easily because I told myself not to worry and just ask. In fact, one day my SIM card that I bought (another tip, do NOT buy a small company's SIM card, better go for the big names like AT&T for example), did not work when I wanted to go explore Boston. I was lost for the day, and had to ask around to find my way back to campus. Self-management was not a choice, it really was the basic skill you need in order to survive essentially and keep in good health. You really understand this from day one. So I woke up early in the morning to exercise, have my breakfast and then go to the library and had breaks, lunch, dinner and class. In fact, the education team at Harvard do not encourage long hours and taking breaks. Sometimes they even gently force you to take breaks if you insist on keep working on things. Oh also, you don't want to miss out on your meals because you will go hungry from using so much brain power (and walking around a lot). I guess you could say it was sort-of an army life routine but much less extreme. Upon just returning to Brisbane not too long ago, following a routine and completing tasks isn't really that much effort even despite the jet-lag. As for resilience, I have always had it because I have gone through many personal troubles. In terms of resilience at Harvard, it came to me naturally because I really learned to be objective and remain calm. Also, I think it resilience also originated from my determination to complete the course to the best of my abilities.

Favourite memory

My favourite memory from the experience was reaping what I sowed. I didn't leave any time to go to waste, and surprisingly, time management didn't require much effort anymore. I yielded good results from my efforts and came across many others whom all inspired me to be a better person and supported me and my aspirations.

Top tips

The stress from applying for a visa for the United States is the hard part but after that, the whole process isn't intimidating at all. Even upon returning back to Brisbane, I was delayed for one day due to weather conditions, but I didn't panic at all. Actually, going on exchange is extremely fun and even exhilarating! Top tips for Boston include: to really mind the traffic, some drivers do not understand the meaning behind a pedestrian crossing; not to bring your whole house with you, there are shops everywhere to meet your necessities and wants; not to be afraid to ask and ask again, in general, the people are really friendly and like to joke around; summer in Boston is hot (!) so bring thinner clothes; have money (both cash and card); bring a shower caddy and slippers (you share bathrooms); and most importantly, stay calm and enjoy the experience! 

What I wish I had known before completing the short term experience was to really not be scared for what is to come. Yes, all the course content and assessment are very condensed but they are all interesting and rewarding challenges. Also, don't worry, you will value your time so much at Harvard that you will make time for tourist and social activities, and make the most of every opportunity, and still fulfil your responsibilities to the best that you can.


I received the OS-HELP Loan and the UQ Short Term Study Travel Grant. These amounted to AUD6665 and AUD1000 respectively. These funds contributed to about 70% of the travel expenses. The USD is considerably strong and also since I booked the flight tickets after making sure that I received my visa, that the experience become a lot more expensive than I expected. However, I do strongly suggest any student to try their best into going to Harvard because it really is worth it! Of course, without the funding from UQ and the OS-HELP Loan, this would have been 100% impossible for me.