From July 2012 to January 2014, I was at Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI) as a Visiting Fellow. I wrote almost all of my doctoral dissertation in the HYI office, right next to the beautiful and historic Andover Theological Seminary in the northern corner of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The resources available at Harvard are extensive. It has the largest academic library system I have ever seen. Not only do they have an incredible amount of books, they have excellent services and they organise an impressive array of events.
During my time there, I took the opportunity to learn African Studies – a field that broadened my horizons beyond Southeast Asian Studies. I was also fortunate enough to be able to consult with some renowned professors at Harvard who were willing to make time to answer my questions. The HYI is extremely supportive of intellectual efforts, and the staff are absolutely superb. With HYI’s support, I was able to invite a scholar from another university in Massachusetts whose expertise was close to my own research topic. HYI also assisted me in contacting and visiting an esteemed professor at Boston University.
Distinguished scholars often came to give talks. I had the chance to meet and converse with some of them whom I had always dreamt of seeing in person. Unfortunately, I was preoccupied with my dissertation and had to give some courses a miss. At times, I will go to events afterwards to unwind after work.
A greatly refreshing thing I love about HYI and Harvard at large is its commitment to the humanities and fine arts. There are not only excellent museums, but also countless events that involve academics as well as novelists, poets, artists, and musicians. There are so many concerts throughout the year! The main concert hall at Harvard is a few minutes’ walk from the HYI office. On many days, I worked on my dissertation during the day in the office, went to an academic talk in the late afternoon, and then went to a concert in the evening. One day I went to a talk about American legal history, and in the audience I saw Yo-Yo Ma!
Harvard is for those who particularly love the cold weather and snow. It is located in the town of Cambridge – a beautiful place with full of historical buildings for those who love to explore as well.