Thursday, January 23, 2014

Applying to Grad School: Part I

Let's begin with a conditional statement: If you decide to apply to graduate school, then you are a masochist.
Just kidding... kind of... sort of... not really.

Applying to graduate school is not fun. It's actually a very painful, very long, very stressful process. However, if you are applying to graduate school for the right reasons, then you will be able to suck it up and endure the stress and anxiety for a few months.

After four months of prepping for and completing the graduate school application process, I'm having a hard time snapping out of the graduate school application grind. Since the final application deadline, I've had time to reflect on the whole process. When I started looking for advice about applying to graduate school, I didn't find any sites or posts that were particularly enlightening. Hopefully this helps some people who are looking for advice, re-assurance, and just general support.

  • If you are thinking about applying to graduate school while you are in college (even if you plan on taking a few years off in between college and graduate school), make sure that you participate in clubs, do volunteer work, build up relationships with your professors, etc. The graduate school application process will go a lot more smoothly if you have built up accomplishments, relationships, and activities to put on paper.
    • That being said, be sincere about the things that you do. Don't pull a Paris from Gilmore Girls and just do things to put them on paper. People can sense a fake from miles away. Do those activities to better yourself--it'll get you farther than a stone cold soul. 

  • Begin preparing and studying for the GRE.
    • My biggest advice for anyone taking the GRE is learn to play the game. I highly recommend ETS Official Study Guide for the GRE. This is a no-brainer: the book was written by the company that writes the test. It teaches you not only the material you need to succeed but also how to make educated guesses when you're a bit lost. 
    • You can find all of the possible essay topics on the ETS website! I found this out just a day or two before I took the test. While there are many, many topics (too many to really draft and formally prepare for), but you can at least read over them and familiarize yourself with the possibilities.
    • Build your vocabulary. If you are planning to pursue a graduate degree in the humanities, schools will focus primarily on your Verbal and Writing scores. The Verbal section is primarily reading comprehension and vocabulary. VOCABULARY, VOCABULARY, VOCABULARY. If you ace the vocabulary-based questions, then you will have much more time to focus on the reading comprehension, which includes very long, dull, insanely boring, and sometimes overly complicated passages.
    • Save time to review your essays and answers. I tried to beat the clock by two minutes in order to be able to calmly (ish) look over my answers.
  • Take the GRE as early as possible in the year. Most schools require you to take the test before November. For your own sanity, take it earlier.
  • This goes without saying, but begin preparing for the GRE at least a month in advance. You don't want to end up cramming for it. It's not a fun experience (not that I'd know... ahem, ahem...).

  • Begin researching schools.
    • Touch base with some of your undergraduate professors to see where they'd recommend, where they have connections, and if they are familiar with any professors in your field.
    • Look into where your undergraduate professors completed their graduate degree for an initial pool of schools. Perhaps look into where the authors of your textbooks went or currently teach--most of them probably are professors somewhere.
    • Google, Google, Google.
    • Princeton Review is a great source for narrowing down schools once you have an initial list. Be sure to look at the Quality of Life rating, some campus photos, and other general information about the school. 
  • Create a final list of schools. 
    • Check with your undergraduate professors and/or advisor to see how many schools they'd recommend you apply to for your particular field. As an art history major, I'd only planned on applying to 4-5 schools. My undergraduate professors nixed that idea and told me to apply to 9-12 schools. 
      • Note: Depending on your field, the more schools you can apply to, the better. It doesn't always matter how good you look on paper, how smart you are, how rockin' your GRE scores were... bagging one of the few openings in humanities-based fields can sometimes come down to things completely out of your control. Apply to a number of schools so you can up the chances of getting accepted, despite circumstances unrelated to your application.
  • Write an initial draft of your CV and personal statement. 
    • Your letter writers will probably ask you for these. 
  • Contact your potential letter writers as early as possible.
    • If possible, ask them in person. If not possible, send a very polite E-mail reminding them who you are, what class you took with them, and any memorable work you may have done.
    • Contact them in late September through early-to-mid October. They are very busy--telling them way ahead of time will ensure that they have time to write you a letter.
    • Once they agree to write you a letter, send all the applicable information, including schools (with a very clear list of deadlines), your application materials, copies of your transcripts. Offer to provide these materials in hard copy should your letter writers prefer physical copies over digital ones.
  • Find a potential writing sample. 
    • Most schools give you a minimum and maximum page limit for your sample. Many schools have differing minimums and maximums.
    • Contact the appropriate person at each school to see if those page limits include bibliography, images, etc. Some do, others don't. 
    • Be prepared to re-write your writing sample.
    • Ensure that your writing sample is your BEST work. Assume that you are up against the best, so you must be the best in order to compete.
  • Be organized! It makes everything so much easier!

Stay tuned for Part II, when I will discuss the formal application process.

Wee hoo! You can do it!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dublin and That F&#$%#$ Molly Malone

... and for your information, F&#$%#$ translates into fishing. What else did you think it meant?

Although, I must say that if I heard one more thing about f&#$%#$ Molly Malone, I was about to throw a frozen stick of butter at whoever said it. For those of you who don't know who Molly Malone is, join the club. I'll address that later.

Laurie and I arrived in Dublin far too early and without much coffee in our systems. But the fun doesn't wait for you to drink a latte. As soon as we boarded the bus to the hotel, the monuments started coming. First on our list? The Ryan Air global headquarters. If you know anything about me, it's that I love Ryan Air. I love Ryan Air so so so so so much. I love how they try to convince me to buy smokeless cigarettes while I'm trying to nap. I love how they pretend like the in-flight soda services is free but it's totally not. I love how the pilots can't seem to land a plane for the life of them, even though they are the flipping pilot! One thing I do genuinely like about Ryan Air, however, is the fact that they sell lottery scratchcards to benefit children in need. Think of the children!

Okay, RyanAir aside... we got to our hotel (The Anchor House B&B... our room was colossal) about five hours too early for check-in, so we naturally decided to go check out Dublin. Cut to a bus tour of the city, which we had to do again the next day because Laurie and I couldn't stay awake for the first go. That, folks, marks the first mention of Molly Malone, who happens to exist only in an Irish folk song:

In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"

Molly Malone herself... if you ask me, she should be selling melons, not seafood.

Picture courtesy of LittleShamrocks.
The Molly Malone statue is one of the most famous landmarks in Dublin, and the official meeting point for all day tour bus trips. This chick is seriously packing. She needs to put down her wheel barrow and strap those babies back! No wonder she had a song written about her. By the end of our four-day stay in Dublin, I'd had quite enough of old Molly girl, although I highly appreciate how the Dubliners affectionately refer to her as "the tart with the cart." I hope to be thought of so fondly someday (but, let's face it, I don't have Molly's ample assets, and therefore would probably not be folk song worthy).

Other great landmarks in Dublin include the Millennium Spire on O'Connell Street, which is this huge spike thing that's something like 400 feet tall and looks like something Vlad the Impaler would lust after. Then there's a  bunch of statues dedicated to a bunch of people in the Easter Uprising, which all the tour guides mentioned but never really explained. I should probably catch up on my Irish history.

The food in Dublin is also quite good... I tried cabbage and bacon, fish and chips, some kind of stew, several Irish breakfasts. The Irish breakfast is seriously good: toast, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, and baked beans. It's almost as good as a Scottish breakfast, which is virtually the same thing but a bit smaller and more manageable to fit into one's stomach. So yummy. And while I'm sure the beer was equally as fantastic as the beer in London, I spent most of my time in Ireland drinking ginger ale after catching  a bit of a bug somewhere between the two countries.

On the third day, we went on a day trip into the west to the Cliffs of Moher, which are these beautiful cliffs in County Clare that have been named a UNESCO heritage site. There is cliff after cliff after cliff, all plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. On the day we were there, it was cloudy and misty (I have never seen such low clouds), which only upped the majestic character of the cliffs. There was even a crumbling, stone lighthouse. I felt like I was standing in the beginning paragraph of a gothic novel:

The clouds were low that day, ever so low. Along the ragged coastline, the rock edge plunged into the sea, which growled against the nipping wind. Freezing rain battered my skin and coat as I made my way toward the only light source in the night, the stone lighthouse perched so precariously on the cliff's edge. Somewhere in the distance, a thin vein of light illuminated the sky, followed by a violent crack that reverberated in the very ground beneath my feet. My breath caught in my throat, the freezing air paralyzed my lungs, only to force puffs of slivery-blue clouds as the cold seeped into my very bones. It was the sort of place that would never leave me, that would always bring about a cold ache in my bones when i thought of it. I didn't know it then, or maybe I did. Who knows. Who knows anything anymore?

Better yet, I later learned (even though i had a sneaking suspicion during the tour) that the cliffs were where a bit of the Princess Bride was filmed (No more rhymes now, I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?)

We spent our fourth and final day lounging about Dublin, taking a few jaunts, starting with St. Patrick's Cathedral and finishing with the Jameson's Distillery (a natural progression, considering the "organ fund" at St. Patrick's was housed in a beer keg).

The inside of St. Patrick's

This actually isn't St. Patrick's... it's Christ's Church, but it looks pretty damn cool regardless.

And so our last night in Dublin came to a close, but not without seeing Rock of Ages for the second time. Yes, I know. If you are anything like my mother, who I love very dearly, you will be saying, "Well, if you love Ireland so much, why in the world did you see the same movie twice in four days?!"

To which I shall reply, traveling is tiring. It's hard. It's exhausting.

But it is so, so totally worth it.

Most of the time, I take in the sights--I run around town at a furious pace, trying to get my little eyes on everything I can find.

But sometimes--sometimes you just need to take in a movie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My London London Bridge...

... wanna go down like London London London, wanna go down like London London London...

Does anyone even remember that song? Back when Fergie put out hits and didn't look like a tranny (not to mention that super bowl disaster in 2011)? Just kidding, I still think she's beautiful. Any woman who can get Josh Duhamel to put a ring on it is fine by me. 

The point of that totally pointless intro is that, about a month ago, I got to see London Bridge (the real one, not Fergie's, thank goodness) while I was traipsing around the UK on a seven day adventure. 

On June somethingoranother, I flew from Bologna to London Stansted airport, where my London hi-jinxes began. After arriving over an hour late (thanks, Ryan Air) and standing in the passport control line for over 45 minutes, I barely made my EasyBus to downtown London. Like, got onto the bus with less than two minutes until my ticket expired. Talk about skills!

An hour later, I valiantly attempted to navigate the London metro tubey thingy (which is expensive and has about about a million stops) on an empty stomach and caffeine deprived system. Needless to say, I couldn't stop giggling whenever I saw the stop named Cockfosters, which warranted more than a few dodgy side glances from passerbys. After a few wrong turns and misdirection, I finally made it to the Bridge Hotel (which I highly recommend!) on Borough Street, where I met up with the lovely Laurie Shepardson, my aunt and confidant who agreed to meet me in London when I had no one else to go with. She rocks, right?!

By the time we began wandering, it was nearly late afternoon. Naturally, instead of seeing the incredible sights that London has to offer, we opted to get a plate of nachos and two pints at a local pub, which I suppose could be considered a cultural excursion on its own. After catching up for a few hours, we waddled our way down to the Thames and ran into the best street performers I have ever seen. They were doing crazy acrobatics and stunts. It was incredible!

Big Ben!

The London Eye

We spent the remaining hours of sunlight snapping pictures on the Thames, stumbling into St. James park, wandering into painfully touristy tourist shops, and eating fish and chips (because, really, what else are you going to eat for your dinner in London?). Here is a snippet of the conversation Laurie and I shared:

Laurie: I think I'm choking on a bone.
Me: Are you all right?
Laurie: I'm choking on a bone!
Me: So you're not all right?

As you can clearly see, when I am tired, exhausted, and sucking down a pint of Becks, my deduction skills go straight out the window.  Like doves in the sky... oh, there they go... fly fly fly.

The next day we enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at the Bridge Hotel, complete with scrambled eggs made by the nicest Persian man I've ever met. After a quick coffee stop, we made our merry little way to Westminster Abbey, where we enjoyed a 2-hour audio tour voice by Jeremy Irons. It was fantastic! While Westminster strikes me as being slightly cluttered (lots of people wanted to be buried there, apparently), it was incredibly cool, especially considering that it was where Willy and No-More-Waitey-Katie got married last year (which I unabashedly admit to waking up at 4 AM to watch). It also has one of the best gift shops I've ever seen. Important issues, people!

Gothic architecture!

The most fabulous gift shop ever!
After enjoying a fantastic bus tour, Laurie and I disembarked at the Tower of London and enjoyed a guided tour of the complex by a real, live Beefeater. 

Despite the ridiculous entrance fee of nearly 20 pounds, the Tower of London is seriously cool. It's a beautiful complex, absolutely overflowing with macabre history (my favorite kind!) and interactive biographies of the Tower's victims. There was one story in particular about two little princes who were killed there in the late 1400s; their bodies were found in the 1980s, having been buried beneath one of the staircases. Terribly sad stories, but incredibly fascinating. 

I was particularly moved by the chapel, where you can see the burial marker of Anne Boleyn, one of my top five favorite women in history. You might even say I was moved by it, or at least I would have been if I had more than 10 seconds to process the epic-ness of it all.  Instead I was scuttled off by a Beefeater with an unusually thick neck.

The Tower of London is also the location of the Crown Jewels of England, which are incredible. Although I still believe that everything on display is a highly convincing copy (are you really going to put the world's largest cut diamond on display for tourists? Have you seen episode 2x3, "The Reichenbach Fall," of Sherlock?), the displays were very well done. I exited the building feeling like a pauper, with dilated pupils and a racing heartbeat--so many shiny, glittering, sparkly things! Although I do have one admission to make: the entire time I couldn't help but think how much fun it'd be to let a raccoon run rampant all up in there. 

part of the the dreaded Tower of London complex!

We spent the rest of the day eating delicious, chewy candies as we rode a double deck bus around town. Then we walked down the incredibly busy, ridiculously ridiculous Oxford Street. The night finished with another plate of nachos, another couple pints of beer, and many complaints about hurting feet.

Our third and final day in London was spent sort of wandering about aimlessly and hitting up any sights we hadn't gotten to the previous two days. Naturally this included Buckingham Palace (only from the outside, since Queeny was in town for some sort of parade and, quite frankly, I've heard the palace isn't really all that great) and, much more importantly, the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street (which, fun fact, never actually existed back in Conan Doyle's days). Throw in Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and a  few McDonald's stops, and I say we had a pretty awesome day!

The next morning we were up at something like 4 AM, checking out of the lovely Bridge Hotel and heading to Stansted airport to fly to Dublin. Our time in London had come to an end, sad beans! It might just be my favorite city that I've seen so far, or at least it's up there with Paris and Rome. I highly, highly recommend it. Another fantastic adventure!

Stay tuned for UK Adventures, Part II: Dublin!

I've very proud of this picture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Time to Say Goodbye

... not to you people, of course. You can't get rid of me that easily.

Last week Thursday, I packed up 10 months of my life into one suitcase, a backpack, and purse-zilla and hopped on a plane to go home. When I was at the Marconi airport waiting to board, I wrote a goodbye post that I promptly trashed for being too emotional.

I'm not a sentimental type, at least not in public, but when I had to hug Dru goodbye at 5 AM in front of Via Rialto, 23 (AKA my self-adopted home away from home), I got a little teary. After checking my back at Marconi and getting through security, I began having tunnel vision and ohmygodohmygodwhatamidoingwhereamigoinglifeisscary moments. It didn't help that I was still feeling slightly hungover from the celebrations from the night before (Read: Dru and I watching Easy A drinking limoncello and wine like the crazy, girls gone wild that we are aren't) and had guzzled down 3 cups of espresso before leaving. Now, I'm not a math major, but to me that equation reads:

 No sleep + slight hangover + emotional goodbyes + freakouts about future + gross airport air + too much a lot of espresso = Hot Mess Lindsay

Saying goodbye is a strange thing, especially when you don't feel like you're leaving. When you say goodbye to the people, places, and things that you've become so used to, it never feels quite real. But you know it's real. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

All jokes aside, I'm very sad to leave Italy, to finish the final pages of this remarkable chapter in my unwritten, phantom autobiography. This has been the most epic, terrifying, fulfilling, difficult, beautiful year of my life. I have done things I never imagined I'd do, traveled to places I've only dreamed of, grown more than I'd ever thought possible, and--above all--met the most incredible, caring, beautiful people. Over the course of the year, I've realized that it's not the places you go or the souvenirs that you buy that make travel or study abroad so significant--it's the people you meet along the way. Travel isn't as fun if you don't have a partner in crime. Studying is only worth your time in someone is there to distract you (okay, maybe not... but it makes it so much more fun). I suppose this blog post is really a (platonic) love letter to the people that made my year so utterly fantastic. And it was so, so hard to say goodbye to them.

Saying goodbye is hard--but so are all the things that make life worthwhile, which means Goodbye must be a pretty worthwhile thing. Endings are sad--they mean saying goodbye--but you can only start a new chapter once you sign off on the one you're writing living. At the heart of all things, isn't that what life is about? Beginnings and Ends? Really, isn't life just what happens between Birth and Death (the two biggest Beginnings and Ends), which act like bookends on an otherwise extensive library of adventures and misadventures (is there really a difference between the two?). We write the story of our life. We make the decisions that make our story progress. We are the ones who decide whether to be the protagonist, the hero/heroine, the victim, the villain, the best friend,... of our own life story. 

This year was one of the best chapters to date... but I tend to think that every year is the best chapter thus far. And I hope, I pray, I beg that things continue as such. That doesn't mean that things always need to go write, that all events need to be happy, that you can't write in a few tears or scars... You need to have lows in order to have highs. In the end, all that really matters is that your highs make the lows worth it. 

And this year was so, so worth it. 

*Stay tuned for more, much overdue blogs regarding my year abroad. Just because you say goodbye doesn't mean you can't reminisce. :)

Never be afraid to say goodbye,


Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Recreating the Last Supper of Leonardo DaVinci, featuring Bo as Jesus.

New Year's Eve 2011 (2012?)
BCSP Christmas Party 2011
Redneck Party! 
Day in the hills
Tuscany Trip 2012

Feeling Sentimental

The inevitable but unimaginable has happened: people have started going home. I'm feeling overly sentimental about it, so (naturally), I am going to make a picture blog about it!

In Venice with Kyle and Sarah

Erin, Jess, and Me. No wine was involved in the making of this picture... kidding.


The very beautiful Madeline and Dru.


Typical Sam.

St. Patricks with the airplane-sized whiskey somewhat picked up from somewhere.

She'll kill me for putting this up.

Bang. Bang. Featuring Dru and Cotton.

The "Before" picture. There was no "After," as most of us lost our cameras... or thought we lost our cameras.



This picture brings me so much joy... no ifs, ands, or butts.
Rocco and Brando continue to make my life interesting. Beneath the insanity, they are sweethearts.

Ricci got us lost in a garden. How many Italians does it take to decide to jump a fence?

Sam and Michelle in Sirmione by Lake Garda.

Versailles with Madeline and Kyle


Emma! My English friend!

Paradise Found

A few weeks back, a handful of friends and I made the trek into the hills for a fantastic day of drinking wine, eating cookies, and lounging in paradise. Pictures do not do it justice, but I thought I'd show you some anyway. You can see the church of San Luca in the back of the last two!

Front to back: Emma, Mary, Dru, Me

I feel like this picture describes our friendship so well.