Sunday, April 17, 2011

School: The End of the Beginning

     I feel like an entry is overdue but I don't feel like doing a bunch of research for part 3 of the vaccine entries so instead I'll do a little rambling about things that have been on my mind.  As an aside, one reason I haven't written is that I learned a very expensive lesson about computers and computer compartments of backpacks.  
     When putting your backpack on, be sure you have zipped up the computer compartment zipper.  If you don't, your precious laptop will fly out and crash onto the concrete, causing the motherboard to fail.  Then you will need to buy a new computer.  I had been planning to buy an ipad2 for school (cuz all the other kids are doing it).  It seems those plans have been bumped up.  I went ahead and made a small gamble and decided to buy the best ipad2 with all the bells and whistles and forgo buying an actual compooter.  Hopefully it works out.  
     I ordered my ipad2 the last day of March so it should be here in a week.  If it doesn't, I'm fine with that cuz I know that god/the conscious universe is making me wait even longer for a reason and that reason will eventually be revealed to me.   And if it isn't, then I can take comfort in knowing that god works in mysterious ways, and just because things don't make sense to me doesn't mean everything isn't going perfectly according to plan (AND in my favour!).  I warned you this was going to be random!


School: The End of the Beginning (and further proof there is a god/conscious universe)


     In about March 2009 I made the decision to go back to school to pursue my dream of being a community college philosophy instructor.  I spoke to the head of the MA program at UNLV and based on my transcripts, he informally accepted me to the program (so long as I didn't totally mess up my GRE).  In Sept. 2009 I wrote my GRE exam with the intention of starting the program the following year.  Just under a year went by and I was accepted into the program and was about to register for classes.  As you may remember from a previous post, that didn't exactly happen.  
     Budget cuts happened and 5 weeks from the beginning of the program starting, it was shut down.  Instead of waiting a full academic year to reapply to new schools I decided to go to ASU as a general grad student, despite having to pay the exorbitant out of state tuition costs.  It figured it might be a good idea to have some academic records more current than a decade, and if I did ok I could get the all important letters of recommendation so critical to grad school applications.  Despite a rough start, the semester at ASU went ok-- I got respectable grades and the coveted letters of recommendation.
     After my semester at ASU I decided that in order to ensure acceptance into a decent program I'd have to rewrite the GRE, especially now that my brain had been re-awoken from it's ten year slumber.  There is only one thing less fun that studying for an exam: studying for the same exam a second time.  To say studying for the GRE was emotionally and mentally taxing would be like saying eyeball acupuncture tickles (but it's soooo worth it! It will cure blindness!).  
     When I wrote the exam, I learned something interesting about computer based tests.  For those who don't know, the way it works is that the computer program is trying to determine your level.  To do this it adjusts the difficulty of the questions based on previous answers.  If you are consistently answering correctly the computer will adjust the difficulty level upwards, and vice versa.  The upshot of this is that no matter how well you are doing, the questions will always seem difficult.  
     So, paradoxically, the better you do, the more difficult the test will appear and the worse you do, the easier the test will appear.  Because the way our brains works, we will not typically interpret "damn! this question's difficult" as "I'm gonna ace this test!".  So not far into the test I started to panic because the questions seemed way more difficult that the ones in the study guide.  
     At the end of the exam, before you see the score you can opt to have the results erased.  You will not be able to see how you did and the score will not be recorded.  I felt like some of the questions had been so difficult that when this screen was presented to me I was seriously going to choose this option.  I actually had my finger on the button.  The only reason I didn't press it was because I knew I could rewrite in a month and I thought it would be good to know how much more I needed to improve.  
     When my score appeared on the screen, anyone watching me must of thought I was a crazy person.  I think I fist pumped, laughed, and sobbed all at the same time.  I ended up scoring way above my  most conservative best case scenario.  As I walked out of the test centre I just started screaming and howling in the parking lot.  I couldn't stop myself.  And all the way home I blared music and alternated between screaming out my window and crying tears of joy/relief.  For this exam over the winter holiday I had given up spending time with friends and family whom I get to see once a year at best, usually less--and the sacrifice had payed off.  I couldn't stop the emotions coming out of me.  The last time I felt that happy was 2003 in Japan, when after only 6 months of teaching, my dance team was selected to represent Japan in the World Salsa Congress and we hadn't even auditioned.
     So, now I had a "pimpin" GRE score, letters of recommendation, and good current grades to bolster my letters of recommendation.  After all I'd been through I wasn't about to take chances.  So, I applied to 12 grad programs (very expensive...I don't recommend it!).  Anyway, I got accepted at most of them but got offered funding at 3.  When declaring which school you will attend, the deadline is Apr. 15.  The week prior to the deadline only Texas Tech and University of North Florida had offered me funding.  Texas Tech offered slightly better funding and a TAship but the Grad Coordinator a UNF was working very had to get me to commit;  calling me, asking what else they could do to get me to go to them.  
     It was tough.  On the one hand Texas Tech has a slightly stronger program but is in a small, ultra-conservative, right-wing, bible- thumping one-horse (actually one mall) town and I didn't know if I'd be happy living there.  I also felt swayed by UNF's willingness to reach out to me and call me several times personally on my schedule, not his (very rare).  It spoke well for the individual support I'd get as a student.  After agonizing (actutally, it kind of made me crazy)  over the decision for at least a week and changing my mind more times than I'd like to admit I finally settled on Texas Tech.  My reasoning was that the effects of the education will last forever, and I can live just about anywhere short-term if it means better long term pay off.  Special thanks to my friends at ASU for the valuable advice.
     Well, on the 14th, the day before I was supposed to commit to TT I was driving home from my doing my taxes and the phone rang.  It was U of Houston and they wanted to offer me full funding and a TA position.  My response to this poor guy who had called me?  Maniacal laughter.  No joke.  Poor guy.  He calls me up to offer me a position and I don't say a word in response.  Just start laughing.  It's all I could do.  All the agonizing I'd gone through to finally make my decision to go to TT and now I had to consider a 3rd option!
       U of H had been one of my top picks before I'd heard back from anyone.  They are a top 10 MA program and are located in a livable city.  When I regained my senses I told him I was in my car but would go online and look at their program and call him back.  After refreshing my memory of the program's strengths I called him back and explained my situation.  He asked if there was anything they could offer that would make me pick them.  I said if they'd accept all my ASU credits I'd say yes.  The next day he made it happen and I made my choice.  The truth is that I liked the TT program a bit better (more flexibility for course choices) but the difference isn't so great as to be a deal breaker.
    So, here I am about 2 years after my decision to go back to grad school.  Yes.  2 years.  It took 2 years just to get to the point where I can start.  But that's ok because I know god/the conscious universe initiated the budget cuts at UNLV just so I could one day go to U of H where I really belong.  Obviously at U of H I will discover the solution to the world's most perplexing philosophical dilemmas (which I will dutifully post on this blog first), that's why I am being sent there.  One day ye of little faith will understand that everything happens for a reason.  Nothing is random.


A big thank you to all my friends and family who have been so supportive and encouraging while I have struggled along this path.  I could not have made it this far without you all.   Despite what Ayn Rand thinks, no man is an island.  Our successes and failures are tightly causally bound to those around us....and more often than not, the randomness of the world around us.
       

2 comments:

  1. Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GRE here: masteryourgre.com . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you, i like your writing way too...

    ReplyDelete