Friday, August 31, 2012

Final Preparations!

Tomorrow is the first of September!! 

It's hard to believe that London is less than three weeks away. I remember when I got accepted to my first university for graduate school back in December that the time to depart would never arrive. I even said that at the beginning of summer when I graduated. Yet, time flies, and here, I am, approx. 17 days away!

As a recap for the summer, I worked for my parents, interned remotely for Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, and took two road trips. When I had other free time, I spent time reading for pleasure, swimming and kayaking, and actually watching television. The television bit is more of a foreign experience to me as I hardly ever have had time to sit and watch a series that wasn't recorded on a DVD.  These last few weeks have been the most relaxing as I finished yet another successful internship, made some money, and completed my preparations.

Besides packing, my preparations are done. I have my visa stamped in my passport, my loans set, housing paid for up through February, and confirmation of my flight. New suitcases, some new clothes, jewelry repair completed, and iPhone 3 (unlocked) in my possession. My bank account will be open in the first week that I'm in London once I show proof of US residence and citizenship. I'll hopefully set up my phone, order my student oyster card, and order student discount cards during my first day.

One of the things that I am thankful for with my housing is that it comes with new sheets, a new bathroom pack, and kitchen utensils. Because of the price covering those items, I'll only be left with buying a few things here and there and not having to lug housewares across Central London.

I'm glad that I was able to have all my preparations completed by the first of September. I'll be able to take my time packing these last few weeks without a fear of forgetting something, not having something bought, etc.

Stay tuned for my packing list and my plans for my first week in London

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Walpole Hops the Pond..

I haven't updated this in about a year, but I am just starting a new blog for my adventures in graduate school in London! Hope you follow it either via Google, Reader, or by e-mail.

Check out:!

101 in 1001

As a huge list maker, I've seen the concept of 101 in 1001 many times on various blogs and articles. Naturally, I've always been curious about the idea and making my own list. Thus, what better idea than to make a list right before I embark on the next chapter of my life!  The majority of my list includes travel and sightseeing, but a lot also focuses on accomplishing a lot of things that I have always wanted to do. In order to see them finally accomplished, I'm holding myself true to my 101 in 1001 list. 

You can view my entire list here or at the top of the page. I'll keep updating it for the next 1000 days. My 101 items has to be completed by May 22, 2015. 


Preparing for London: In Photos

New Planner 

The Packing Begins

New Notebooks 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Application Process

First, I've received so many thoughtful and kind responses following my blog post from earlier this week.

The purpose of this post is to explain the graduate school admissions process. Specifically, applying to graduate schools abroad was a new experience without too much advice. I remember when I first started the application process, I scoured Barnes and Nobles and Amazon in search of tips for Americans to apply to schools abroad. I was left empty-handed. Instead, I sort of entered the process blindly with the help of a graduate school admissions counselor at Syracuse. She was invaluable as we talked about my personal statement and how to best exemplify my accomplishments in the four years at Syracuse. Nevertheless, I still felt that sometimes I was lost. 

When I realized that I wanted to apply to graduate schools abroad, one of the first things I did was to research programs. Clearly, this is an obvious step, but when changing one's higher education goals, researching is important! I started off with around 15 different universities that I could see myself attending. All of them had political science, public policy, new media communication, and public administration programs. Spending time researching what alumni of the programs are currently doing, the academic rigor, the opportunity for research and internships, and the overall reputation of the university. 

When I had a list, I began the basic application. Similar to the Common Application that high school students use to apply to college.  In high school, I was an overachiever, and that has not changed. Thus, I found myself filling out the basic forms into the wee hours of the night. One of the biggest tips that I found was to put on a movie or a television show (i.e. The West Wing) and work with that in the background. It seems simple enough, but having a distraction when imputing your resume line by line into an application is a good thing. 

For the resume portion, I opted for the two-pager when applying to graduate school. While I had already entered my work experience, activities, and awards, a resume was still required. Spending hours receiving feedback on my resume from a variety of sources is essential. Remember, you are selling yourself, your accomplishments. It's important to spend time even reviewing the consistency of an ampersand to the use of the word "and." Presentation!

One of the most time-consuming parts of the application process was the personal statement. Expressing one's goals (public service) through a two page essay is hard. I had 15 different drafts before I had the essay that I could use to apply. Of course, each program did require a tweak, but a base essay took 15 different drafts. In my essay, I focused on my internship experience, how I had come to love the world of politics and public service, my desire to study abroad, and my honors thesis. I emphasized my desire to study graduate school abroad because I wanted to have an international focus to help better serve the American public. I concentrated on my thesis because it was a two-year research  project, and the final draft of my paper came to over 100 pages. Demonstrating what I've done and what I want to do was how I conveyed who I am. 

There were other parts of the application process: recommendations, writing samples, etc. Those mattered just as much as the three parts that I listed here. The grad school process was just another part of the end of Syracuse. Figuring out what to do after Syracuse had been a long-time coming as I wrote in my last post. The application process thrilled me as I was actively pursuing something that I wanted to do! 

For those considering applying to graduate school abroad, feel free to contact me. I know I've answered a few questions from several already, and I will always be more than happy to do so. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Did I Get Here?

Senior year at Syracuse started last August with me in a sticky situation.

During the summer that I spent in DC, I finally admitted to myself as well as those close around me that law school was not the right decision post-Syracuse. I had thought for many months that my decision to go to law school may not be the best approach to do for my intended career path.

At the beginning of college, I wanted to go to law school and had my heart set on doing either civil or real estate law. From there, I imagined entering the world of politics and government after several years.  And yes, to those reading, I plan on running for president. I have planned on doing so since I was a child.

Joining mock trial in the first week of freshman year, I threw my heart into the organization and still have some close friends because of it. But, after interning for two different attorneys the summer before sophomore year, I knew my goals had changed.  I was going to start taking more public policy courses including being a TA. Mock trial was a criminal case that year, and to be frank, my interest decreased dramatically. Taking a course related to the criminal justice system, I suffered the entire semester. After the first semester, I knew deep down that things were going to change.

During my winter break that year, I began applying for internships. Having the blessing from my parents to pursue internships out-of-state, and specifically in larger cities, I took BIG chances.  DC, Boston, New York were all possibilities.

Also, during break, I made my decision to quit mock trial. I stayed on for the first few weeks after the break for a competition, but for my final years at Syracuse, I never went back. The summer after sophomore year, I interned for the Office of Governor Deval Patrick in Boston. Even working part-time, I loved it. My position was in legislative affairs, and to be honest, I enjoyed knowing and reading specific parts of bills.

Going abroad the first semester of junior year, I kept realizing that perhaps law school might not be the right place. London truly became my favorite city. Traveling was a  new hobby, and my political science courses left me with wanting more and more. I gained a new mentor that semester in Dr. Wolfgang Deckers, and he told me he never saw me pursuing law school. He believed that my heart was set on something entirely different. He was right, and although we discussed different opportunities, I didn't want to admit yet that law school was wrong.

After the semester abroad, I returned and threw myself into LSAT preparation. I hated it. I never enjoyed going to tutoring classes or even prepping. Material that is based on actual reasoning that has to be done in law school did not capture my interest.

What I loved? My internship that semester working at the Syracuse Housing Authority, my history classes on the Cold War, and my desire to apply for political internships once more. Taking the test in June, I walked out knowing that whatever the score would be, I was not entirely sure of myself and my future decisions.

During the semester I returned back from being abroad, I was also given the opportunity to participate in the Dulye Leadership Experience. Mentors were developed instantly, and throughout that weekend, I began my self-realization process even more quickly. I came home that weekend refreshed.

So, that brings us back to DC last summer. Interning for the Department of Homeland Security, I was involved in an area that I had wanted to learn more about as well as still being in a political atmosphere. By that time, I had added my history major and spent the summer learning more and more about past and present politicians. But, then the news came that I would have to retake the LSAT in October. Devastated, I finally broke down following a Josh Groban concert. There was a specific song, "You are Loved, Don't Give Up." It's always been sentimental to me, but that day it put me over the top. I knew that law school wasn't right. I'd be miserable if I went. I came home crying on the phone to my Mom, and she told me what I always knew.

"Your father and I will stick by with you whatever you want to do."

Packing up and returning to Syracuse last fall, I stuck the LSAT out one more time, only improving slightly. When it came to apply to law school, I also had begun my grad school applications. It was something that both my parents and I discussed.  Essentially, I applied to a slew of programs that focused on government and public policy. Yet, there was a twist. I have a keen interest in eventually working for the State Department or in the area of international affairs and relations. Thus, all of the graduate schools that I applied to were in London.

I did actually submit one law school application and received an acceptance. But, right before finals week ended in the fall semester, I was admitted to University College London (UCL). I never applied to another law school, and I never looked back. I knew that while I had other grad school applications to hear back on, I would be moving to London in the following fall. Right before Christmas, I received two more acceptances on the same day.

Many at this point in my journey argued two different points. The first was that it was clearly what I wanted to do, and what many would dream of doing. UCL was ranked as one of the best world universities. The other point was that I was running away from life here. To those who dissented, I'm still standing by my dream and what I want to do in my life. Two years of learning a subject area that I thrive for, the option to do a dual degree program, and to learn more about myself is what I need.

And, that brings us to the day I got accepted to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

My top choice accepted to me on the first day of my last semester at Syracuse. I think it was fitting.

I got accepted to Syracuse late in my application process period. Many in high school had made similar remarks on my application to Syracuse as did those who commented about applying to LSE.  With my acceptance into the Master's in Public Administration (Public and Economic Policy stream), I knew I had a plan. I was still waiting for one more graduate school to notify me about my decision. It came in March with a rejection. By then, though, LSE was all I could think about. My final graduate school total? 7/8.

As the final semester at Syracuse flew by, I kept receiving reminders that my decision not to pursue law school was the best one that I had made. Working on my honors thesis [Social Media & its Potential Effects on Civic Engagement], I would stay up for hours reading new political books and articles. Discovery of new ideas in a field that I had passion for was what I had always wanted in my life. My internship the prior semester with the Office of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and my position with the U.S. Department of State through the Virtual Student Foreign Service Program solidified my goals in my mind.

At Commencement, I knew that I had a plan. THE RIGHT PLAN. I have not looked back and wondered if I should have kept applying to law school. Nor, have I wondered what it would be like starting law school this week as many of my friends have. Instead, I'm looking forward.

As I've stated on this blog numerous times before, leaving Syracuse was very hard. I'm currently jealous of everyone moving back this week. Yet, I know I will always have Syracuse, but my journey to continue to become the person I want to be begins in less than a month at LSE. LSE will be two years, and from there, maybe I'll pursue a job, my PhD, or see whatever else lands on my plate.

So, the point of this whole post? To tell my story. Many don't know how I changed my mind, and maybe, it will help someone else out in the future.

I'll leave you with the song that I listened to for days when I had my breakdown last summer. It's still a favorite, and it now has even more of a special meaning behind it. It reminds me to always be true to myself.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Get to know LSE...

As the final month of my countdown to London begins, I figured it'd be a good idea to share some facts about LSE.

General Facts:

  • LSE was founded in 1895.
  • There are 9,300 full time students from 145 countries.
  • The founders were part of the Fabian Society. Members included Sidney Webb, Graham Wallas, Beatrice Webb, and George Bernard Shaw.
  • LSE is part of the University of London.
  • 18 Nobel Prize Winners
  • Approx. 45 Heads of States as Alumni
  • Has one of most prestigious public events programs in the world. Past speakers include Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, David Cameron, and the Dalai Lama. 
Fun Facts:
  • Chancellor is HRH The Princess Royal. 
  • Mascot: The Beaver
  • Motto in English: "To Understand the Causes of Things"
  • Colors: Purple, Black, and Gold
  • Newspaper: The Beaver
  • My favorite US President is an alum: JFK!

The change of a mascot will be weird. Going from an orange to an actual animal...

I love the idea of still having a woman chancellor for two more years!

LSE has an incredible history as well as a long-standing future. I'm excited to begin my final countdown to London!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Best is Yet to Come...

As I put on the brand new Taylor Swift song (read: HUGE fan), I can't help but think that there are only 33 days left before I leave the country. It's weird, but in a good way. I'm sitting on my bed currently, and I can see the barn lit up. Soon, my image through the window will reflect the city that I fell in love with. A change from a small town life that I lived this summer to the bustling city that I will continue to work on achieving my dreams.

With 33 days left, the majority of my preparations are done. I've paid for my first housing payment,  and I have my visa approved and back. I've gotten a lot of miscellaneous things that I needed, ordered new glasses, said several "see you laters" after a few road trips to visit friends, and have started my master running packing list.

Left to do? Finally get new suitcases, order contacts, and finish my preparations to do math once again.

I've started to get more info on the first few weeks at LSE. The biggest news? 

KOFI ANNAN will be speaking during what is dubbed as Orientation Week. Now, I think that is just pretty awesome. It will be a ticketed event, and I will be working my hardest to get a ticket to see him! Other events have started to be added to the LSE Event Calendar including several lectures that I will hopefully be able to attend!

As for the courses, I've been spending time reviewing the list of options for my final unit during the first year. About five courses at the moment are on my list to take-some are half units which would mean an additional half unit course as well. I have to admit that I would like to take more than one or two as so many of them sound interesting. At the moment, the two half-unit courses that are looking the most interesting to me are the US Legislative course and a course around leadership in organizations.

I've also signed up for the MPA-Student Association (MPASA) buddy system. I'll be paired with a second year student to help with questions and ease the transition.

And, finally, I'm excited to announce that I will be an international contributor for the International Political Forum. I'll be sure to mention when I have an article posted. I'll also be interning virtually for the US Department of State through the Virtual Student Foreign Service program for the second year! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Approaching the Final Month!

It's hard to believe that it's almost the final month before I move to London!!

I've got lists everywhere.  And, I mean, everywhere.  

Random thoughts pop into my head at certain times. These random thoughts include packing ideas, things I still need to buy, and just general excitement and planning for my new adventure.

One of my biggest concerns as the final month approaches is packing! I've actually created a Pinterest board specifically devoted to the art of packing.  Over the years, I've always struggled with packing too much.  Weekends at the lake to a week-long vacation have always resulted in my concern for needing more than I actually need.

Lists don't help. I seem to stick extra things in no matter what. Space bags, don't help me either.

My overpacking disease, if you may, improved slightly when I did study abroad in London before. Both suitcases before heading across the pond were underweight, and most weekends away, I packed very lightly to leave room for souvenirs. However, at the end of my semester abroad, I had way too much to bring home!

Nevertheless, my goal is to pack for what I need in the first few months that I am in London. I'll be home for Christmas in December, so naturally, I could take back anything that I need to London as well as bring home anything I found myself not actually wearing. It will, of course, be a struggle as to pack for weather that could actually be warm at certain points. I take exams at the end of June, so packing for a spring season in December could become a possibility.

Lists will continue as I begin the packing process! Prepare for any tips that I may figure out during my developing crisis!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adventures in CT and NYC!

This past weekend, I took a road trip to visit one of my best friends from Syracuse. Her name is also Katie. We've been friends since sophomore year when she joined Pi Phi, and since then, we've been the best of friends. At times during senior year, we were referred to as the "Katies" by many.

The drive there and back equated to about ten hours of driving, but it was well worth seeing a friend, sharing a few laughs, and catching up in person rather than via text message or by phone. One of the things that I have noticed this summer is that I do enjoy road trips. I had forgotten how much since I've been interning for the past summers, and most travel has been done via a plane. Having the wind in your hair, a Starbucks latte, and music (as cliche as it sounds) was a nice way to start and end a fun weekend.

Katie and I ate dinner with her parents and watched the Olympics Friday night. Well worth it to catch up and to get to know her parents as well.

Saturday, we ventured into NYC for the day. We caught the commuter train which was about an hour journey into Grand Central. From there, our day consisted of window-shopping, drinks with friends from Syracuse, the hunt for macaroons, and watching Mary Poppins, the Musical. We actually ran into a few people I knew from my semester abroad randomly while we were getting pre-musical drinks with another friend. It really is a small world.

Overall, the weekend was well worth it. Lots of fun to catch up with a friends before I hop the pond!


London Fall 2010

New Amsterdam Theatre