In the thick of it…

I’m in the middle of all my PhD applications, and they are kicking my butt!

Crossed Eyed CatI thought I was SO organized, but today I feel like my head is spinning and my eyes are crossing! Two things that are holding me up:

  1. I can’t find my folder with all my transcripts. I keep a copy of all my transcripts so I can answer all the questions, and simply order official transcripts. But my folder has disappeared. So I’m going back to school websites, trying to log in, and find all the info. Its a PAIN!
  2. New online recommendation procedures. At first I was SO happy to see that 3 out of the 4 school I’m applying for now allow for letters of recommendation to be submitted online. In fact, all I have to do is put my references’ contact information into the application, and they will receive an email with instructions on sending their letters. Brilliant! Except that in a couple of cases, the entire application has to be complete and submitted *before* the reference will receive the instructions! I was planning on working on my essays a little longer, but now I’ve got to get them finished so that there is enough time for the letters of recommendation to get in! Argh!

I’ve spent all morning requesting transcripts, trying to request GRE scores (still no luck), and trying to fill out applications. Looks like I’ll be up late tonight….

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Best laid plans…

Well, I didn’t make it to the Grad School Fair. My son got sick that day and stayed home.

If anyone went, I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve started the process of getting my application processes organized. Yes, I’m a dork- I’ve created a spreadsheet. Two actually. One I’m using to compare PhD programs, and the other to keep track of my application packets. There are so many components to each application – GRE scores, resumes, references, transcripts,…. oh, and don’t forget the moolah! At $50+ a pop, its expensive to apply to very many schools!

That’s why I created the spreadsheet to compare programs – I can’t afford to apply to every program that catches my eye (if that were the case I’d need an “Apply To All” button on Petersons.com!)

Things I’m looking at when comparing programs: faculty research interest, financial incentive (tuition remission, stipend, etc), teaching opportunities, relationship with other departments (my interests lie at an intersection of communication, sociology, anthropology, and international development – I want to make sure I can move between these departments as needed).

There’s also the logistical stuff- like how far away is it? Would I have to drive, or could I take public transportation? Those kinds of things…

So I’m hoping to narrow it down to 3, although I’d love to apply to more. We’ll see. Maybe I can ask for application money for Christmas!

I know, I’m a dork!

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Thesis, check! What’s Next?

Thesis: check!

Thesis: check!

So I finally turned in my MA thesis…and after a few weeks of waiting and pestering my adviser, I got a grade and credit! I am now officially DONE!

I’m not sure how it turned out – my adviser gave NO feedback, and truth be told, I’m not even sure he read it. I’m relieved to get it done, but I’d really like to get some feedback on it. I had hoped to submit it to a conferenc or a journal, but would like to know if that would be a good thing, or whether I’d just embarass myself!

One thing I realized as I finished it up – I really love doing this! I love research, I love writing….once I get past the rut that blocked me for the first few weeks of summer. In hindsight I wish I had been more proactive about either getting more from my adviser or finding a new one.  We didn’t have a bad working relationship….we just had no relationship whatsoever. In the end I learned a lot on my own, but I think I’d feel more confident about my work if I’d had more direction.

But, all of that is in the past- now to look towards the future. For the moment I’m looking for work, but I am definitely going to continue on to pursue my PhD. I knew it was something I wanted to do while I was in school, and I confirm it ever day that I’m not in school!

I have a few schools in mind and will start assembling the applications this week. Last year I applied to one school, and filled everything out at the last minute. It was stressful and I didn’t get in. So this year I’m NOT going to procrastinate!

The first thing I’m going to do is go to the Idealist Grad School Fair tomorrow! These fairs go on throughout the country, and tomorrow, Sept 21 it will be in Washington DC!

If you are the least bit interested in grad school, especially for studying topics related to public service, you HAVE to go! Check this out-

If you’re going, let me know! See you there!!!

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The hardest semester…

Hello! I’m back!

Last time I wrote I was trying to narrow down a thesis topic. Now, six months and four classes later, I’m finally posting again!

This has been by far the hardest semester I’ve had. In order to finish in time, I had to take four classes. In hindsight, I think that was a mistake….I should have just taken a class in the summer and graduated late. Instead I nearly killed myself trying to squeeze it all in!

One thing that made this semester so difficult was that all three kids got involved in spring sports! That’s right- baseball, soccer and track! We had practices almost every day of the week, and games on the weekends! By the time time the kids went to bed, I was exhausted! I would stay up to study, but I wasn’t very productive.

If I had it to do over again, I would have taken my normal load (3 classes) and gone to bed earlier.

That being said, I did LOVE my classes – especially Cross Cultural Communications. I did finally figure out a thesis topic, but I ended up getting an extension, so I’m still working on it!!

I technically have until the end of the summer to get it finished, but the kids get out of school next week, so I’m really trying to get it all wrapped up then.

Speaking of which, I should really get back to work!

More soon!

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Could the family handle it?

I’m currently taking a Cross Cultural Communications class – and I’m loving it! I’ve been looking forward to this course for a long time – ever since I attended (and live blogged from) the Intercultural Managment Institute‘s annual conference.  Dr. Gary Weaver, the Executive Director of IMI, teaches the course.

I’ll probably post quite a bit of what I’m learning and studying on my other blog, but something in lecture the other day really struck me.

I’ve always thought about living and working overseas, or at the very least spending considerable time abroad doing field work.  I’ve felt pretty confident that I could adapt and handle living in a different culture, but I’ve often wondered how the family would handle it – after all, they haven’t been pining for this all their lives like I have!

So when Professor Weaver said that the most common reason for early return (of American employees working overseas) is an unhappy spouse, I had to pause. So how can you know if the fam could handle it?

It turns out there is a cluster of personality traits that correlate to failure to adapt to another culture. These are in no way predictive, but are generally reliable. (Also, it should be noted that we don’t know which personality traits correlate with success.)

  1. High uncertainty avoidance – this person is generally well organized, comfortable with people who give direct answers, and sees the life as something that can be scheduled.
  2. Overly task oriented – this person has a high need for individual achievement
  3. Overly close minded – everyone is closed minded to a certain extent. But there is a difference between being parochial (not realizing there are alternative ways of doing things) and being ethnocentric (thinking your way is the best and only way!)

Now, this isn’t rocket science, but I found it very interesting to have it spelled out like this.

Another characteristic? Being a teenager. Pre-adolescents are MUCH better at adapting to another culture than teenagers.

Guess I’d better get busy – just 3 more years until my oldest hits the teens!!!

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No such thing as a typical week

Today I realized something that has probably been glaring me in the face for a long time.

Display of iCal screenshot

Display of iCal screenshot

I always plan for the typical week. My schedule, beautifully laid out in multicolored iCal goodness, never includes things like getting sick, emergency room visits, or neighbors stopping by. So we have to leave a little margin in our life to accommodate. That I get.

But I am able to plan ahead for some things  that have equally destructive powers- going out of town, the kids having days off from school when I don’t, out of town guests, etc. I can arrange childcare, make meals ahead, or other logistical considerations. It seems like I’m in control.

But, no.

Our routines can’t handle it. They get thrown out of whack. And routines, I’ve discovered are the difference between a household that hums, or one that screeches to a stop!

Any parent of an infant knows routines are key. And I’ve certainly heard many arguments in agreement (from classroom management experts to the FlyLady herself!).

The battle of a family routine

The battle of a family routine

But I’ve always thought of them as part of the typical week. But now, despite several attempts to ‘reset,’  I realize there might be one or two weeks one our calendar that look “typical” – every other week has a visitor, a concert, a trip, or something that could throw things off.

So this semester, I’m going to try to really focus on routines. Especially for the children. Its not rocket science, I know, but I think we’ve been approaching it all wrong.

Some considerations:

– make sure hubby and I are on the same page

– make sure the kids understand what is expected (even on non-school days)

– make sure I know what I expect out of myself, and what hubby expects from himself

– others?

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Thesis envy

This semester I have my thesis, or capstone project.

I’ve been looking forward to this since I enrolled in grad school almost 2 years ago. But now, I’m drawing a blank! I have no idea what I want to write about.

Well, I should clarify – I have no idea which, among many ideas, I want to choose. I’m a big research dork- I LOVE research. And I’m looking forward to working on a big project such as this, but I’m having commitment issues. How do I know if this topic is what I want to spend the entire semester on? As opposed to that one?

Which would be the best use of my time? Should I focus on something out of pure interest, or something that is a little more marketable for future employers?

It seems like everyone else in my cohort not only already knows what they want to do, they’ve got half of their lit reviews done!

Decisions, decisions….

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