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

Friday, June 13, 2014

What You Learn: Choosing that Gap Year Life

"Red Barn in Ohio". Original acrylic on canvas. 11x14.

5 Thing Learned From the Gap Year (so far):

1. Learn about yourself more. 

All that self-discovery, thankfully, didn't stop with Italy. Right from the beginning, I realized that the gap year life is hugely based on self-motivation. What time you wake up, how you spend your day -- it's never been this flexible since high school summers, I think. You learn about your real work ethic (in a way outside academics, less tangible than an exam grade), how you work best, and end up doing a lot of self-refection.

2. Learn how to improvise. Repeat up to multiple times per day. I do this a lot. 

Improvise doesn't necessarily mean settling, or giving in. It means to work with what you've got -- now.  First example -- a job recruiter briefly interrogated me: If you just graduated, why are you looking to work only part-time? (Hint: The answer is not that you need time to develop your creative being, practice photography, paint, keep up with your Italian roots, that you have diverse interests, or that you don't want to work full-time yet because you'll be doing that the rest of your life anyway.) I improvised, and mentioned that I wanted time to develop my Etsy business. Nevermind that it may have come out as a stammer of, Well. . I paint. On the side.

3. Learn about your interests, and pursue with a commitment. 

Before, I always had the excuse of being a full-time student and working as well, so you could easily say things like, I don't have time to read or other similar phrases. I'm happy to say that I'm getting back into avid reading again. Creative business books, health care books, deep-thoughts-about-life books. Whenever I feel like I'm struggling with my unemployed lifestyle and uncertain future, books have a way of being a supportive companion, constantly cheering you on.

4. Learn that the universe can seem to work against you, which leads you back to number two on this list: Improvise. 

Example: I applied for a pharmacy tech position at Walgreen's. 'Twas a cloudy, rainy day. You had to finish the application in person at a local Walgreen's to be considered. After a non-existent security question, lost passwords, and ten minutes later, their skills assessment wouldn't load on the computer. They accounted to the thunderstorm outside and told me to come back another day. Not one to be easily deterred, I tried to improvise and went to the next Walgreen's, where a teenage boy in khaki shorts was being interviewed at the time. Long story short, it didn't work there, either. Sometimes, improvising a certain way only takes you so far.

5. Learn to take advantage of every opportunity. Embrace your strange, non-traditional lifestyle that is full of unknowns. And that it will be okay. 

3 weeks of living this up-in-the-air life has taught me that each day is truly a unique adventure. One day, I'll whip out 2 paintings to keep Italy real to me. Another day I chose to "take off" -- not getting anything done, like job applications or painting -- and that's the day I scheduled 2 job interviews and got my first PA school interview invite!

I wish I could say my life is a certain predictable way, but the most common phrase I find myself uttering is, "I don't know." Just taking it a day at a time, with unanticipated struggles and joys, all mixed with some frustration and hope at the same time.

I am tapping into a place in you that is unexplored, and very dangerous, but I think essential to the creative life of an artist.
Brandon Boyd

Monday, June 2, 2014

What's Your Art Attitude?

What are the beginning days like for a gap year student? (after the initial rush of sending out job applications)

Well, for this one, it consists of having breakfast and coffee, painting, looking through photos for inspiration, stalking Indeed and Careerbuilders for new job postings, and having my phone glued to my personal space in case of any important phone calls. I paint some more, take breaks, read a little, then keep working. Usually it's one or two job applications a day -- I've vowed not to commit to just any job.

Meanwhile, though, I've been wanting to do some great work. My art has turned into a greater priority for me, so I've been working on staying committed to revive my little art studio. It's going to take a lot, so I've only been applying for part-time jobs. Once I realized I needed to make this commitment work, I  toughened my attitude to make it more serious.

Here's what I realized:

A "professional" artist, versus an amateur. . . 

1. An amateur waits for inspiration, for the right mood to strike, whereas a professional will paint every day, despite lack of inspiration. 

I'm actually often guilty of this -- Italy became my inspiration, but I'm realizing that this is about work ethic. It's about being okay with every painting not turning out to be a musem-worthy miracle, and going after your art like it's worth it. Practice makes perfect.

2. An amateur doesn't have a work schedule, whereas a professional stays organized. 

Although we have a stereotypical, reckless artist who has a hippie viewpoint for just about everything in life, it's important to set a general schedule and goals. When starting out, I set a goal for how many paintings I wanted to have by the end of the week. I exceeded the goal, and although it was difficult at first -- to where I would have migraines in the afternoon, and my eyes felt like they would burn off from soreness -- I think I've been rewarded with a routine.

3. An amateur struggles with finishing artwork, whereas a professional is productive and continues to create new pieces. 

I can relate. Before Italy, I could stop painting whenever. If the struggle became too great, if it just didn't look right, I had the freedom to stop. It wasn't for a class, it wasn't going into a gallery, and if it wasn't a gift or commission for somebody, nobody cared -- including me. When I would finish a piece, it felt like I could constantly work on it to make it better. The truth is, art is a process, and nothing will be perfect. Usually, the goal is not to have one particular masterpiece, but to develop skills to use for the next piece -- since the aim is to simply keep creating.

The results? All these paintings you see on this post were painted within the last week.

By "professional", I don't necessarily mean making a living as an artist, doing this for a career, or living on ramen. In my purposes, I'm referring to a change in attitude -- which is essential for me to accomplish this artistic growth in my gap year, and to be taken more seriously.

I'm inadvertently learning (from these job recruiters and interviews) that people will only take your art as seriously as you do -- or less, but never more. It's been instinct for years to say, "Oh, I just paint. On the side. I sell them online." But now, I'm trying to get into the habit of responding with, "I have an art studio, and I sell my work." The facts are the same, but I think it makes a difference.

Hope you enjoy browsing and getting a glimpse of Italy. I should have my Etsy shop up and running soon, so if I owe you a painting, please bear with me. When I hit a certain number of paintings, you can choose from them or have your piece customized as you'll have a better idea of my painting style.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Start of My Gap Year

It's almost been a week since I've been back from Italy, but it's felt like both a millennium and a mere day.

I hit the ground running when I landed back onto North American ground, and within 48 hours, I had gotten a haircut, checked out a book from the library, bought some art supplies, picked up my mom from the airport, sent in 6 job applications, and started cleaning out my belongings. The next day, I surprised myself (but nobody else) by falling asleep at 2 in the afternoon and sleeping like the dead for 3 hours. 

It's been slightly less hectic since then -- but not by much.

It's a wonder how many things you suddenly want to toss out and reorganize once you've comfortably survived with a mere fraction of your belongings. It's as if my life is split: before Italy and after Italy. I've turned into one of those minimalistic creatures who have all these grand plans. At first, it seemed like I'd reached too far and nothing would get done.

But then I got these two books that launched my gap year off perfectly: Do More Great Work (by a plethora of authors) and Love Does (Bob Goff). I finished Love Does yesterday -- and wow. You don't have to agree with every line he says, but this man and his attitude towards life is pretty incredible and insightful. I haven't read through a book this fast since high school - so I highly, highly recommend taking a look. It's a fast read, full of short stories that will cause you not to just nod and agree, but want to do something about it. 

I've been making a list of dreams, goals, and whimsies for this year, and I already know firsthand -- it's going to take an almost infinite amount of self-motivation to live this year with no regrets. But I'm acquiring a buddy system, a support group, that even though it sometimes seems like I'm alone in this process, I need to remember that I'm not.

I'm also not one to care much about what the rest of the world thinks of me and my life, but for some reason, I always land the privilege of hearing its opinion anyway. Yesterday morning, I went to the dentist's, and predictably, the first get-to-know-you question was: "So what are you up to these days -- school? Or are you working?"

The hygienist gave me a sympathetic look at the mention of my job search. The dentist congratulated me with his typical silly demeanor, but yet with serious undertones, told me to goof off and enjoy it while it lasts. But with the wisdom of a old grandfather, he gave his stamp of approval at the mention of PA school. Later that day, during a pseudo-phone interview for a job, I'm asked about where my paintings can be found, and the recruiter came to his own conclusion: that I was a scientist who was trying to start up her art business but needed some extra cash.

I'm tempted to shake my head and smile, but I have a feeling I'll be doing that a lot this year. We'll let the world think what it thinks. Meanwhile, we'll see where life takes me with my paintings, jobs, and PA school.

Cheers to unknown adventures and the unlimited possibilities in life.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Short Update: in the midst of transition

First off, sincere apologies to my faithful friends and readers for neglecting this blog. I've gone off the grid for a while, as my study abroad program officially ended a little while back. (I think this also means I've graduated?) I've inadvertently taken a short break from blogging, and have been doing plenty of reminiscing and transitioning, throwing in some traveling in between.  

I'm beyond happy to announce that I've finished submitting my PA school applications. The GRE scores have also been sent in, and although I'm quite a bit poorer, there's a massive relief off my shoulders. Next step: waiting. Although it can be second nature at times to compartmentalize this application process as something merely on a to-do list, I am reminded that I have chosen this path with much deliberation, and I'm excited for what the future will bring. 

Airports are great places to reflect, and my flight back to the United States will depart in a few hours. I think I can say that I've officially started my gap year, and I plan on making a list of goals for this year (however short or long it ends up being) to remind myself of why I'm taking this year "off" (but not really...) and how I'm going to get things done. 

Right now, I'm a mix of thankful, exhausted, nostalgic, frustrated while walking on uncertain ground. I have no set plans yet on what I'm doing upon coming back - aside from moving back in  with the parentals - but I think I simply need to accept this unknown as part of the adventure. Although, I just submitted a job application while waiting for a flight, so... cheers to being productive. 

I wasn't sure what to expect for my final day in Italy, but it went so horribly wrong that it I became superstitious and believed it was my time to leave. I ate probably the equivalent of one piece of bread that day, from lack of appetite because I threw up three times (am I getting too personal with this blog now?), ran around insanely with my mother to catch five different trains and two flights (don't ask how this is possible in a day), got frustrated with the lack of available and free bathrooms, ate the worst Italian food I'd ever had, almost lost it when the nonexistent concept of lines proved more evident than ever and prevented me from obtaining ice cream, and then at the airport in Rome (only you, Italy) does the gate number not show up until half an hour before your plane takes off. I encountered some of the rudest Italians I'd ever met so far, and in the south of Italy, the only thing I could understand and say was, Ciao, due to the extreme differences in the Italian language. This is a concise way of describing that unreal day. If I am was a weaker person, I would have wondered if my whole time spent in Italy helped me understand any of the Italian culture (or language for that matter) that day. 

I don't know, but I think I'm ready to come back to my home in Ohio, where I don't have to think twice about where I'm using the bathroom next, or how to catch the next train, or finding cheap good food. I'll be able to cook, set my own transportation schedule, and be back in the familiar. 

I've definitely changed, and learned some valuable life lessons along the way. But I'm ready to be home. 

I hope to be in touch and see you all soon.
Cheers from London, tutti! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Taking a Deliberate Leap: my graduation road trip

Last week, I can honestly say that I made one of the most courageous, scary, deliberate, crazy, and spontaneous decisions of my life. I realized I had six days off before my first final exam here, and I debated taking a short trip to celebrate my impeding graduation. I followed through with this idea, managed to persuade a fellow student to join me, and turned this trip into a graduation present for myself. 

Looking back now, it doesn't really sound like a huge deal, but renting a car, driving in Italy through parts relatively unknown to non-Italians (and even some Italians), while not yet 21, was really nerve-racking. Everything was booked the day before, and reading up on how driving works in Italy would give most of us a panic attack. We stayed in agriturismos, which are places in the country, similar to B&Bs, and I learned how to trust, rely on, forgive, and travel with another person. We visited cities, coasts, beaches, medieval towns, the countryside, and off-the-grid areas of hot springs with sulfur water -- all in three and a half days!

Traveling within Tuscany opened my eyes so much and added another dimension to my perspective of Italy. To visit places where Italians go on vacation (versus tourists) made me appreciate the beauty and variety of Italy's landscapes even more. I've already started painting pictures from this trip and can't wait to start so many new series. 

Here's some photos from the trip. Have a glimpse of Tuscany, which does have stunning hills when the light falls across, but is so much more... 

{the regional park of Maremma} 

{the agriturismo I stayed at for 2 nights -- beautiful. You could pick strawberries and eat them right there}

{from our car window: the beauty in being able to stop at anytime, anywhere when you have a car} 

{this was a ghost town since it rained earlier in the day. Looks like the Caribbean?}

{the last town we stayed in: Paganico. No one spoke a word of English here :)} 

{Porto Santo Stefano -parking struggles, Porto Ercole, and Talamone}

{impromptu visit to a festival in Magliano in Toscana, a medieval city built on a hill}

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Intro: Reverse Culture Shock

Heading Home: 

Return. Rediscover. Readjust. 

My journey back seemed uninteresting to me until now. I'll be documenting it with these steps of return, rediscover, and readjust. Not every student will experience this to the same degree, and it doesn't affect everyone. I'm curious to see as to where I'll stand!

1. Return: the re-entry process back to home

The initial shock at this time can refer to the disorientation and perhaps frustration when you realize that 'home' isn't everything you remembered it to be. The basic stages are shock (I don't recognize this place anymore, everyone moves so fast), honeymoon (it's great -- my dog recognizes me, I can have Chipotle again), homelessness (for Italy: missing the interestingness, the independence), making peace (beginning to fall back to routine), and acceptance (being able to compartmentalize the experience in its proper niche). 

2. Rediscover: your own culture

I'll probably view American culture from a new perspective, and the different understanding can cause some minor hiccups. 

So, to you all at home, here's some thoughts you might have (or already have had) about me:
"I can't relate to her perspective. I'm tired of being reminded to 'think globally'."
"She's had the time to travel -- now it's time for her to come back to reality."
"If she mentions how they do things in Italy one more time. . . "
"All she talks about is Italy! I feel like my life is so boring when I hear about her adventures."

How I might be feeling:

"My friends have not matured and changed as much as I have."
"I feel like I am in the middle of nowhere -- really cut off."
"I thought I would be able to pick up where I left off with my friends, but I've had to start over again."
"No one listens to me, or cares about my experience, or how I lived."

Although all of the dialogues above are examples provided by the school, a few are freakishly accurate. I know I've already heard a few similar things from friends, and I've experienced feeling selfish on Skype dates when I'm constantly talking about me, myself, and I in Italy. It helps when I'm receiving updates in return, but I also think the last examples are the most accurate -- about others not wanting to hear and for me, no one wanting to listen. I'm in a constant stage of adjustment.  

3. Readjust: with a plan 

If you're reading my blog, you're already part of my support system for this journey back. To reconnect with you all, I plan on being proactive with setting up coffee/gelato dates with everyone. ;)
For myself, I'll create new opportunities and adventures by reading more (I have a list of books already), getting more involved with my community, painting constantly (while reviving my Etsy shop), exploring local events, somehow maintaining the Italian I've learned, improving my photography, job searching, and cooking Italian food. I'm excited to get back in the field of healthcare and see how my experience here will change the way I interact with patients and view medicine as a whole. 

Although I'm positive I'll pine for Italy like never before, I'm more ready to jump on the next boat, and see where that takes me. 

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson 

{a sweet friend acquired on the road}
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