By Anupama Thekkinkat Vadukkoot MC/MPA 2024

Anupama Thekkinkat Vadukkoot with her son and husband visiting Santa Claus
Anupama Thekkinkat Vadukkoot MC/MPA 2024, along with her son and husband, attend a Christmas celebration hosted by Graduate Commons. Read more about Anupama’s journey as a student parent.

Embarking on my journey at Harvard Kennedy School was a dream come true. As a civil servant from India, my heart beats for the social sector—gender equality, child welfare, and social justice. I was thrilled to receive the news of my acceptance to HKS, but it brought with it a bout of concerns, foremost being the question of whether to bring my seven-year-old son to the United States. 

The idea of juggling my academic schedule with his needs, coupled with the thought of uprooting him from familiar surroundings, filled me with anxiety and guilt. After weighing the options along with my husband, and with a lot of reassurance from him, we decided that our son would accompany me, with my husband aligning his visits with our son’s school breaks and my academic commitments.

Preparing myself for this journey required more than just logistical planning. I realized I would be among the minority of international students navigating this path with a child in tow, and thus, I had to meticulously prioritize every aspect of my life—studies, childcare arrangements, travel plans, and social connections. 

From selecting the right accommodation to navigating the intricacies of the local school system, every decision felt weighty. With the help of online resources, guidance from my husband who previously studied in the U.S., and invaluable guidance from alumni, I mapped out the logistics, considering factors such as proximity to school, timing, transportation, school meals, and more. 

Anupama and her son holding a jack-o-lantern
Anupama and her son attended a Halloween event at HKS.

As I delved into my coursework at HKS, I encountered certain challenges, like my son being waitlisted for afterschool program. However, the wide range of course options at HKS, including the option to cross-register, helped me chart out a suitable schedule. The support from faculty and peers eased my burden. 

While I may not have had the same freedom to socialize and network as my peers, soon I found myself connecting with like-minded individuals who understood the intricacies of my situation. Harvard’s inclusive community embraced my son at University events, providing us with opportunities to bond and forge lasting friendships.


Some things I have found particularly helpful include:

  • A carefully crafted course schedule
  • Visits from my husband when we needed him the most
  • Good medical insurance for my son
  • Network of other parents, play dates, and Graduate Commons events
  • Communicating my schedule and emotions to my son
  • Keeping track of public events for kids in and around Cambridge and Boston
  • Public libraries, museums, and local festivals
  • Getting acquainted with the public transportation system in Boston
  • An apartment community and play facilities
  • childcare options for emergency situations

In hindsight, I realize that prioritization and planning were the cornerstones of my smooth transition to being a student parent. Yes, there were challenges, but as I reflect on this journey, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to tread this path alongside my family, overcoming obstacles together and emerging stronger than ever before. 

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