Skip to main content

The Citizen

What should I do this summer?

Advice for the modern HKS student

Thank you for sending us your questions! Gagan Vaseer, The Citizen’s advice columnist, answers your questions with some lighthearted advice.

Question 1:

We all have one: that one student in each class who continually asks dumb questions. What can be done?

Dear Student – What classes are you taking in which there is ONLY one student asking dumb questions? You should count yourself lucky as there is no shortage of this breed of people at Harvard (or elsewhere). To be honest, the issue at hand is not the questioner, but how classes at HKS are oriented. Because classes over emphasize participation as part of the grade, this compels those who have nothing to say to share their unnecessary commentary. More often than not, these people have not done the readings and add little of value to the discussion, but need to make the Course Assistant aware of their existence. While there is a special place in the depths of Hell saved for these people and those who speak just to hear their voice, the system needs to be overhauled. Participation should not be part of grades, as we should not force people to talk in class.. We’re all adults, and if someone wants to pay $60,0000 to take a vow of silence, more power to them.

Question 2:

With so many Democrats running for president in 2020, I don’t know who to pick! Help?

Dear Excited but Confused Dem – It’s very logical that you’re confused. Everyone and his/her mother seems to be running for President in 2020, and it’s just a matter of time until I announce my exploratory committee (my slogan, obviously, is: I’m Gaga for America). Until you can cast a ballot for me, you (and the rest of America) has to, unfortunately, settle for what is available. Thus, when thinking of who to vote for, do something that most people forgot in 2016 and look at a candidate’s relevant experience. Corporate tycoons, film stars, and small-town mayors may seem like fun and quirky picks, but America doesn’t need fun and quirky – she needs knowledgeable and level-headed. This will mean the most viable candidate may not align with you on all the issues. If that’s the case, get over it. Voting isn’t just about you, it’s about what is best for your community and country. So do yourself, America, and, most importantly, me a favor and vote for the candidate who has the most relevant experience in governing.

Question 3:

The Fall semester didn’t go too well for me academically. How can I best tackle the Spring semester?

Dear Student – If my parents knew I was attending school with students who weren’t doing academically well, they would be shook. Thus, your academic shame will have to be kept on the DL ?. Now, when students perform poorly in school, they have many options: drop out and sulk, stay on the path to mediocrity, or build a new path to success. Although dropping out is probably the most exciting path (just picture yourself as a hobo), it’s also the least appetizing. Thus, while I can’t dictate what you should do, I’d nudge you to the third option. HKS, and the broader Harvard community has many resources to help you get on track. Consider creating a study group with peers, getting a tutor through the Bureau of Study Counsel, and attending the numerous office hours that are offered. If you’re an MPP1, the Friday review sessions, which no one seems to go to, are a wonderful means to get help in small group settings. The HKS community is very inviting so don’t hesitate to ask for help!

Question 4: 

What should I do this summer?

Dear Summer Seeker – This is America, and in America you can do whatever you want (as long as you’re wealthy and  well-networked, and preferably male). For those of us don’t fit the trifecta, there are tempting employment opportunities at McDonald’s, Sears, and Best Buy. But you’re, of course, super special since you’re at good ole Harvard, and have an unnecessarily long student email address that can open all the doors. Thus, when thinking of the summer, think about what is something you really want to try and haven’t so far, or what is something you might never have time to do again. There is no one way to do the summer so while internships are the most common (and lamest way) to spend the summer, you could take the time to learn a new skill/language, spend time with family, binge watch all the shows, or write a book (that no one likely read). Anything is possible when you #believe.

Question 5:

For someone that is a dual citizen, how do you think about where to land your career? It’s hard to make the choice based on location because family and loved ones are in both places 🙂

Dear Dualie – The easiest and surest way to avoid this problem is not have loved ones ? Forget your family and friends, move to a new city, change your name, and build a new life in which you make no concerted efforts to befriend others. I highly recommend this. However, if you’re not willing to commit to this simple ask, I’d recommend you weigh career options absent of location, and focus on what next step will allow you to stretch the most. Life is about give-and-take, and where you end up next is by no means where you’ll spend the rest of your life (unless, of course, you end up in prison). You’ll likely engage in an array of roles across numerous locales during your life so don’t worry about “landing your career”. Focus, instead, on launching it.


Have a life question you want help on? The Citizen’s advice columnist Gagan Vaseer, offers you (and all our readers) lighthearted advice. Please send your questions through