Quirky insights to science, art, studying abroad, & other miscellaneous happenings.

Quirky insights to science, art, studying abroad, & other miscellaneous happenings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why I chose Virginia / Why I turned down Cornell


I was nearing the end of a long application process to PA schools (aka an extended online dating quest), and had already been accepted to Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. To throw everything in a tizzy, Cornell (in NYC) then decided to accept me... and thus began the two-week brain torture.

I'm putting this in writing as an affirmation of my decision. To look back on, to remember. And to be honest -- I owe all my friends a thorough explanation after all the stress I put everyone through. I have the best support system ever, and I'm so thankful for friends that are willing to step into the agony with me.

Sometimes you don't see it until you're out in the clear. Now having chosen, I feel as if I chose happiness. The pursuit of happiness isn't just some movie theme, but it's gritty, real, and takes courage. If you know me in real life, you know I'm analytical and can overthink every aspect of a situation. I was doing this to the point where I couldn't really make an accurate prediction anymore, and it becomes a guessing game of chance. I found myself evaluating practically every detail of each program, the costs, the pros, the cons, the electives, the classes, the students. Everything from the weather, down to dress code. But I learned that sometimes, even rationale, logic, and thinking everything through can't give you the answers you need.

The Pull Towards Cornell
I put pressure on myself. I believed that most people (normal people) would choose Cornell - hands down - for a variety of reasons. I didn't want to wonder "what-if" in the future -- "what if" I had taken the plunge, "what if" I had gone to NYC, and what if it was meant to be my next "Italy" adventure. I knew I would never voluntarily choose to move to NYC ever, if I didn't now. I knew they had a great program, and would open up the world of surgery to me, equipping me more that field than most schools. The five elective rotations beckoned -- the opportunity to rotate with some of the best hospitals in the nation, to rotate internationally, or even other states. I would get to see things and do things that I wouldn't be able to anywhere else. Simply put, Cornell opened doors - and they were unashamed of it. I wondered if I was passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

I did some deep soul-digging -- I think deeper than I'd ever done. It's scary, because coming to terms with knowing yourself is something most people tend to avoid, if possible. We have this idea of who we are, or who we think we are, and we like to keep it that way.

Cornell would've pushed me to places I couldn't ever obtain on my own, this I know. It was the only school I bothered doing a supplemental for, wrote two handwritten essays that I'm actually quite proud of, paid a $60 supplemental fee, and mentally worked the hardest for. I know I would end up being a PA who really knew my stuff.

Coming to terms with myself
But most importantly, I realized I didn't have the edge, the ambition, the competitive nature (or even desire for city life) to live in NYC. In the end, I felt that I would have lost a part of myself. I may or may not have ended up being a more qualified PA in surgery (who knows) but I felt like my humanity was at risk. At the expense of running around, keeping up, and making sacrifices, I saw the ever-looming threat -- what if I burned out by the time I graduated, and ended up losing my passion and desire for wanting to be a PA?

So I told them. It didn't feel like I was turning down a once-in-a-lifetime chance, even though by fact, I was. It was a like a break-up note, of sorts, of how Cornell was an impossible dream that I never thought would come true and how honored I was. I shared about the brain, heart, and the gut, and how nobody tells you which is more important. I said that I almost wished I could be that person, with the personality to thrive in the city and the program, but that I wasn't. It was more difficult than anticipated to write with both your emotions and objectivity.

I learned so much from this process. If you asked me a few months ago, told me I got accepted at both these schools, I'm thinking my rational mind would've picked Cornell. But as things would have it, my heart won out in this case.

As I'm writing this out, I look at the end of my last blog post, where I concluded with: I'm sure my heart will tell me where I need to be.

And it did.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When You Think Dreams Come True

Have you ever pushed yourself so hard to reach a dream? PA school has been my dream for the last two years, and yet, as I'm on the cusps of making decisions, things remain blissfully agonizing. 

If I rewinded myself back to last year, I can imagine thinking -- what are you doing? You're in such a blessed situation. You've already interviewed at these many places? Your dream schools? You have multiple offers? 

But now, I find my thoughts going more towards this: I'm not educated enough to make a decision. How can I weigh so many different factors? There's no perfect school out there, even though each is amazing in its own way. How do I know what's best for me?

So, today marks the day. The day I turned down a school's acceptance offer -- even though it offered me $10K less in debt, a scholarship covering a really cool rotation (Native American reservation, Scotland, anywhere?), and a graduate assistantship. I never thought it would be so painful, emotionally and mentally, and yet my heart was at peace. No matter that it took over an hour looking at the beautiful paperwork, turning away, then picking up the pen -- then asking more friends for a confirmed second (or more like fifth) opinion.

Let me tell you -- it's easier to face things down from a distance. But throw yourself in the thick of it, and you'll find yourself. You'll discover who you are, and may be pleasantly surprised. (Or the opposite). Regardless, it's another life experience to tack on.

So although I'm quite disillusioned and am not nearly as brave as I think I am, I'm reminded that it's all worthwhile. These cliches about dreams don't just come from nowhere. So rather than dramatizing about the unknowns of where I'm living, I'm taking it a step at a time. Two more interviews this month, and I'm sure my heart will tell me where I need to be.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. - Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 15, 2014

Artwork on Etsy is launched!

Developing as a Creative

As many of you already know, I'm learning that I'm quite the creative. Bring up anything art-related, and I can go on for hours. Mention anything related to the art that I make, just plan on skipping your next meal. Having a more work-related attitude has really helped keep me in check. I'm acquiring and developing new skills that involve my time, talent, brainpower, and SO much energy. I'm learning how to stay patient (I pretty much suck at this) and most of all, to push through and not give. At first, the struggle was making myself paint constantly. Now, it's how to get it out there and go public with it.

I'd always known that art (with its marketing and promoting necessities) would come close to sucking the life and soul out of me -- it is so not my personality to shove my art in people's faces, but alas, it's part of the job. If only we could just paint all the time! 

So, I'm setting goals -- goals for the number of sales I want to achieve, the next step to develop my art business with each sale (ex. business cards, stamps, packaging improvements, etc.), and also with the number of paintings I have to offer. I currently have 35, and I think 50's a nice number to reach for, with the holidays coming around.. soon. :)

Check it out and save it for your browsing enjoyment!

Facebook page here.

Etsy shop here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

10 Tips for Grad School Interviews

Here's what I've learned so far from interviewing at PA schools this year. Take it with a grain of salt, and interpret as you will. Have fun, and happy reading. :)

1. Don't be nervous. 

If you think that's not possible, because you're the type to stress out over everything and anything, let me tell you. You need to relax. Be normal, and be yourself. I think this is one of the most important factors to help you interview well! Nervousness can make even the most confident person stutter or mess up their words, and it won't be an accurate representation of who you are. It also shows that you are able to interact well under pressure. 

2. Don't think that this is your one and only option, that you're so desperate, that your universe will crash if you don't get in. 

Alright, you can feel that way inwardly, but don't let it show. No one likes super desperate people -- at least, not with grad schools. Rather, be confident in yourself, and let that maturity show. So when everyone else is sitting there tensely with stoic facial expressions -- I'm telling you, it's really obvious when you're nervous and/or desperate -- you can start conversation, break the ice (which is more like a glacier), crack some jokes, and get to meet new people. It's fun!

3. Don't over analyze or replay the interview over and over. And over. 

Someone told me that about 98% of people come out thinking they should've said this instead, or shouldn't have said something, or just honestly being overly critical. Yes, know what you could've done better, but for next time. The past is the past, and your interview is done. Done. 

4. Don't fall into the trap of sizing up the other applicants. 

I get it. It's natural. If someone's brought a parent with them, it's instinctual to have an opinion. Or seeing someone questionably dressed. But seriously? Be above that. Avoid topics (and people) who talk about their application, where they have been accepted, and also seem probing. You've all made it to this point. Use your time well and rather, take in the atmosphere. Constantly be thinking critically if you can see yourself thriving there, what reservations you have about the program, and if this is where you belong. 

5. Think positive. 

Yes, there's always the "what if". But you've come this far, invested time and finances. It's difficult to think all that energy and work wasted when you get a rejection. But when I interviewed at a place hundreds of miles away, I tried to think -- well, at least I can say I've traveled here on my own, saved myself some deposit money to reserve a seat, and got to see a beautiful place and meet others who may be my coworkers someday. It's a privilege and honor to make it as far as you have, and even though you may not have that acceptance just yet, don't lose hope. 

6. Learn. Use every moment there to absorb, so you can process it later if you have to make the decision between that school or another. 

Find out where students study. How well is the program set up? Are the students happy? Would you want to live there for 5, 10 years? What features of the program are different from others -- and is that beneficial or harmful for YOU?

7. Ask questions, but pay attention. 

Really find out about the school, so you're able to ask real, legit questions that will provide the most value to you. Don't be that person who always asks, Why should we attend your program? What makes it different from other schools? Seriously. Do some research, and you should already know this, so you can ask questions about it, rather than being clueless. 

8. No program is without its faults. 

You just need to know what is a priority to you, and what you're okay with. Are cadavers a priority? The length of each rotation? The pass rates for boards? The resources and size of the school? Tuition and living expenses? Although I wish that there was a perfect school for every one of us, there's not. Evaluate what's important to you, and do well to stick by it. 

9. Take the chance to get to know people. It'll make it fun and that much more interesting. 

By get to know, I don't mean asking about their "stats", or their background, or anything that could be interpreted as evaluating the competition. Care about them as a person; treat it like a mystery to unravel. You could be future classmates or coworkers!

10. Last, but not least, enjoy your time. 

Treat it as a new, interesting experience that is (sort-of) once-in-a-lifetime. Take advantage of all the new experiences you are presented with. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Being an Artist: Dealing with Creative Failure

For all you creative beings out there, we've all experienced it: that moment when we don't feel like anything good is happening, and when we try to force it, it turns out terrible and makes you feel even worse -- like a creative failure. 

I call it the "creative rut" -- where I'm stuck and all I do is complain (yesterday was one of those days, and I felt thankful that I had another part-time job to go to). Thanks, friends, for sticking it out with me. 

Here are a few options when you hit one of these creative blocks:

Take a break. 
When artists get in their creative mode, and take charge and work like there's anything else worth living for. . well, it's going to hit a stop point somewhere along the road. About 74.593% of the time, this works for me. Whether it's half an hour, or a week, this effective method can recharge you like nothing else, and you'll be freshly inspired. 

Try a different creative-something. 
Do something that's not your usual style, and don't feel pressured for it to turn out a certain way. I normally paint, and I'll try illustration or calligraphy. Get that sketchbook filled!

Explore other artists and their work. 
Looking at other people's paintings and art always puts my artistic mind into perspective. Remember things that you like and want to incorporate into your work, and learn from the stuff you don't like. Browsing others' art inspires me to keep going -- that so many possibilities exist for exploration. Instagram is a great source! This'll help guide you in your next work when all those ideas start flowing again. 

What is your experience with creative failure? Would love to hear if anyone has other methods for dealing with this nuisance!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Georgian adventure

I experienced a whirlwind of firsts last week -- and loved every second of it. If you know me well, you'll already predict that universe glitches occurred, but it's a good thing that Italy and gap year life have trained me well in the art and science of improvising. 

My first time with the following:

A trip by myself in America. 
Renting a car in America. 
Interviewing for PA school. 
Mailing a package to the United Kingdom. 
Handing out bar soap for a deodorant trial. 
Seeing cheese grits on a menu. 
Wearing a suit. 
Anddddd, wearing heels out in public (don't ask how I managed to hold out this long..)

The universe glitches?

Almost missing my flight due to highway traffic at 4:30am. In Kentucky. 
The first time since the PA program started (11 years) that a plumbing issue occurred and interviews were impromptuly delayed.
Hence, the car rental also acquired a massive extra charge.

I learned that it's all about your opportunities and your attitude. On the way there and back, I ended up talking with the stranger next to me for over an hour. I talked with a military father, who confided I met a through-and-through red-headed Georgian college student, who was about to transfer to Georgia Tech, is studying engineering, took a gap year after high school, is doing cool internships related to aerospace, and wants to backpack Europe with his brother. He's going to go places, I'm sure.

I didn't expect to really get to know any applicants at the interview, because other than the fact that we were all wanting to get into the same program, it's a pretty short time period. I ended up chatting with a Savannah native for a good amount of time, talking about everything from music to..well, PA school. We are now Facebook official friends and also phone friends. :)

How did the interview go?
Eventfully, of course, when you throw my age and art in the mix. We can sum it up in the heading --- prospective applicants: the best of the awkward. 

(I also learned that practically no one outside of Ohio is familiar with our state geography very much.)

Here are some Georgia pictures I captured the morning of (right before) my interview. I'm determined that my photo-taking will not stop with Italy, and hey, if I have to travel for an interview for PA school, I might as well take advantage of my surroundings. :)

While walking around Forsythe Park in the historical district of Savannah. I normally don't paint architecture (not my forte) -- but who's to say that this couldn't be the "it" inspiration for a series?

Now, it's playing the waiting game. I thought I had plenty of practice at this already, but these past few days have been teaching me otherwise. The school was wonderful; Savannah surpassed my expectations with its artsy vibe; and Georgia, oh, beautiful Georgia. I could see myself living there. 

I'll keep y'all updated if there's good news to hear! Otherwise, my Etsy shop is going. I anticipate starting promotion by the end of the month and going public with it -- just a few more paintings to go!

P.S. I packed my suitcase full to the brim with nice clothes and a suit. And pantyhose. The same suitcase I used for Italy here --- conclusion? Get a suitcase this size -- it's quite versatile, apparently. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Globalization: Understanding the World

“The world is being flattened. I didn’t start it and you can’t stop it, except at great cost to human development and your own future.  But we can manage it, for better or worse.” 

Thomas L. Friedman,  author of The World Is Flat

To understand the world a little bit more, this is my current reflection upon globalization, for my global scholars assignment. The first part I wrote while in Italy. The second part is my reflection afterwards.

(See my earlier post here to read about globalization thoughts -- the good, bad, and ugly.)

PART 1: Globalization thoughts while in Italy I'm realizing that globalization is out of the individual's control -- as in, you and me probably can't do much about it. In my experience, on a smaller scale, I do see the toll it takes on local culture and enterprises. In Italy, everything is very regional -- how you speak Italian, the type of bread you eat, the stores you usually go to. But despite all this, I've had times when I'm asking for something in Italian, and I get a response in English. Or when they offer fries with my meal because I'm American.

It's wonderful that they know English and are willing to adapt, but we miss out on authentic opportunities. Our world is working from all of the countries' differences, and now it's becoming flatter. The quote at the beginning of this post is from a book that is quite interesting and practical, and I would recommend it for those interested in seeing the history of how our world has "flattened", so to speak.

PART 2: Thoughts after a month back in America
I realize that when I was in Italy, all I could think was how relevant globalization was. I didn't feel that adjusting culturally was an inconvenience at all, and felt slightly disappointed at how the English language had spread and the immense catering towards tourists and the like. Well, now that I'm back and have almost fully adjusted back to Ohio, all I can think is -- Italy is far from being globalized. So many culture differences still exist, and I see no signs of that changing. Stores being closed from noon till 3. Eating late dinners at 8:30pm and beyond. The constant pasta, pizza, bread, and pastries. The slower pace of life and work. I can't imagine impending changes to all of that yet.

So, to answer the prompt:
My understanding of globalization didn't change when I went abroad, but it changed when I came back to America. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Considering Study Abroad? Facts & Myths

Are you thinking about studying abroad? Wondering if it's a possibility? 

I'm not even going to try to sound unique. 


(Edit: Do everything reasonably possible to make it happen.)

Here are some steps to help guide you in your fabulous possibility of a journey:

1. Do your research. And plan ahead.

I cannot emphasize this one enough -- make an appointment with your school's center of international education. Make a list of which programs are compatible - whether that be an exchange program, a program that your school alone sponsors and supports, or third-party programs. Go early -- a year in advance will be just enough time for planning and budgeting.

2. KNOW what you want.

Ask yourself - WHY do you want to study abroad? Is it because you've always just wanted to travel the world? (If so, consider your reasons carefully. Although study abroad and travel do go hand in hand, you'd have to make it back for school every Monday. You still have to study. Financially, it's more economical to travel after you graduate for even a few months.) 

Do you have something in particular you've always wanted to study? Studying in another country can enrich your education. Music? Vienna. Art? Florence. Spanish? Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, etc. Maybe your great-grandparents were from Ireland, and you'd like to go there. You get the idea.

If you still don't know what you want, go back to number 1 - research. Figure out where you want to go. If you aren't picky, next on the list is…

3. Decide how much you'd want to spend.

There are plenty of tips out there in blogosphere on which countries have a higher cost of living. If you're open to simply going abroad, just about anywhere, do a simple Google search. I'm sure, however, when you look at your programs, the drastically (and I mean drastically) different costs will show themselves. I put this at number 3 for a reason: if you determine your place solely on cost, you won't get the most out of your experience if you're looking at something else that's a better fit for you.

4. Get a head start. Realize that anything's possible. Look for the opportunities you want.

The world's a pretty unlimited place. The biggest limitation that exists is yourself. Fundraise. Find that perfect program for yourself. Don't count anything out. Plan ahead, but learn to improvise when changes come up.

Some common myths that my experience absolutely disproved:

Myth 1 - You have to take classes that go towards your degree.
I took painting, art history, and Italian. Then I graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. (Yes, I still received financial aid.)

Myth 2 - Go during your sophomore or junior year.
I went senior year. Most people do go during their junior year, but I personally feel that the junior year is crucial for academics, internships, and networking at your college campus.

Myth 3 - Studying abroad is like a dream come true, and it will automatically change you.
Well, partial truth here. Simply going abroad is only the beginning of your adventure. I'll be the one to warn you straight up -- you'll cry. Feel that swoop of nostalgia and depression. You'll miss things of your home country that you never thought you'd miss (haha -- free water, anyone?). Learn to change yourself, rather than expect change.

Myth 4 - You'll travel everywhere, all the time.
This one depends on your expectations. Many students run "out" of money early on -- those weekend trips add up! One mistake can cost you hundreds (losing your wallet, getting on the wrong train, missing your flight, etc.) and you still have school every week. You can't have everything. You'll likely travel, but don't set your standards to be impossibly high. You'll want to rest, and stay in the city you chose to study in for a reason!

Myth 5 - You or your family must be well-off.
I have a friend who's about to go abroad. More than 90% is paid for with scholarships and financial aid. Don't underestimate! I paid 28.57% of the cost of my program. (Quite literally. I just put it in my calculator). Although most students do come from more affluent backgrounds, this is NOT a fact. Stop comparing yourself.

I hope this helps give objective perspective to studying abroad. It's everything that people say it is: life-changing, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime (but I truly hope not :) -- but I wanted to provide some solid points to draw back on for structure. Structure is what can help make those dreams become a reality.

So if you're thinking about studying abroad -- go get on that train! You don't know when it will leave.

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
― Wendell Berry

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