March 8, 2011

Grad School..

This post is all about Grad School. I'd meant to write about it, at various points, for some time. And now that I'm 99% sure I won't be going, I make a massive post all about it. Mainly bringing putting everything together all in one place--I have notes and files and thoughts everywhere. But now I get to share them all in one spot. Hurrah?

Why I wanted to go to grad school in for outdoor education: I will now just refer you to a slightly adapted version of my application essay.

Growing up I was rarely privy to the outdoors beyond our yard. My parents had little money to take trips, and when we did get the chance to travel outside of the Midwest, my parents would drive days to the mountains. Unfortunately, we would not really stop, learn, relax, or fully experience them, we would drive from outlook to outlook, spending just enough time to hop out of the minivan and stretch, look around, and pile back in the van. I dreamed of going hiking for days, learning about animals, and having my own farm, admittedly strange dreams for most ten year olds. Despite the shortcoming of our trips out of the city, I cannot help but be thankful for the experiences, however limited, my parents gave me of the outdoors. They gave all they could.

Even as an adult, I have found anything beyond the most basic of outdoor activities to be limited by ones economic status. As I have a passion for working with children who come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, I want to bring the outdoors to them, and give them opportunities that they might otherwise never have.

When I first worked at a Girl Scout Camp, I felt completely out of my element. Here I was teaching young girls how to make fires, tie knots, and climb rock walls, when two months prior I had never even camped. My time at camp was just as much about my own development as it was for the girls I lived with all summer. For once in my life I was in a completely new situation, and people believed in my skills, believed in my leadership ability, and believed that I could do it. That changed everything for me.

I was given the chance to become a leader, and I was given the opportunity to work in and fully experience the outdoors. When I was an Resident Assistant in college, it was the same situation, just indoors. Really, those two jobs were my favorites; the most challenging, sure, but truely the best jobs I've ever had. 

I want to provide the same opportunity for youth that have even less opportunities than myself. I've spent the last six months beginning to work with at-risk kids, and learning about small and urban farming techniques. I also plan on increasing my outdoor skills in hiking, canoeing, and rock climbing, as they are moderately accessible in Iowa. I want to increase my leadership knowledge and teaching ability with The University of Edinburgh. Using those skills, I want to either work with, or if one doesn’t exist, create a program that works with inner city kids, not only to teach them to be leaders and help break the cyclical nature of poverty, but to empower them to succeed in their own environments (familial, educational and urban.) I want to use Outdoor Education to introduce them to places foreign, and give them the opportunity to be challenged and to grow. Drawing upon leadership learned in the outdoors, I want to teach tangible skills they can use in their own communities, like urban gardening, mentoring, and sustainability in urban environments. The aim would not just be to take a two-week trip to the mountains, it would be a partnership with a community for the long term.

The PgDip. in Outdoor Education at The University of Edinburgh is the perfect blend of what I’m looking to develop: A significant portion of skills based from experiential learning, coupled with theoretical classroom learning, all with a strong emphasis on a diversity of environments, people, and creating professional, competent teachers.

What's a Program Diploma?
What I liked about Edinburgh's program was that it is one of the oldest graduate programs in the world in Outdoor Education. It's a lot more established than a lot of the other schools I looked at. But the biggest seller for me (yes, even more than being in a great city) was that there also the Program Diploma, which is basically the exact same as the Master's, but without the thesis. It works out to a 10 month program. Plus, if for some reason I wanted to finish my master's, if I do really well in the diploma program, I can apply to finish the thesis. Sounded good to me.

How much does everything cost?
It technically costs less than a year at say, a private school like Drake. Though when living exspenses get thrown in, and with the exchange rate not being in my favor, it's equivalant to one year at a private school.

Which isn't that bad either, but here's the thing: I refuse to take out anymore student loans. I loved my undergrad education, don't get me wrong, but I really wish I had used less loan money--And I don't actually have that much student debt. But I don't like being a slave to my debt, and until it get's paid off, that's what I am. So unless it's a very small amount, I don't intend to take out any more loans.

That's just the "ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE COSTS" there's others, mapped out below, of varying actual needs.

So, what sort of money do you have?

I'm so glad you asked.

Some of the money I could save is fairly cut a dry (ie, stop buying internet, save $324) but other money is not such a set form of income, such as when I work the Farmers Market this summer. I know I am working the market, but I have no guarantee on shifts, or if I will work a full shift, or do the shifts where I come in later in the morning. This is a sort of realistically, but still best case scenario outlook.

Are there scholarships?

Yes. But their deadlines aren't until after I have to reply to the admissions offer, so they are only semi-helpful. And I don't know how likely it is for me to get any. And as I'm working this out, I'm realizing I'd need to win every single one to come up with my $26,000 needed funds, based on me coming up with $12,000.

Why don't you try fund raising?
I don't think I'd make a very good fund raiser. I'm too self-deprecating, plus, when you have friends who are trying to adopt a baby or friends trying to go build a well & a church in Haiti, it's really hard to feel like funding yourself a trip to grad school is all that important in the larger scheme of things.

See, I'm a bad fund raiser.

Is this the end?
Of this post? NO! I just keep on going and going tonight!

Of the plan? No. I had a backup plan, which has been edited, and I won't go into here. I like Des Moines. I'd miss it here. So in a way, not getting to leave isn't all that bad. And while the program doesn't defer enrollments, I was told I can apply next year with the exact same materials, and since I was accepted once, would probably be accepted again. So there's always next year, if I still have that desire.


Anonymous said...

A visa costs 5400 pounds? That's crazy! I don't think anyone goes to grad school without loans or big scholarships/ga placement. I guess you'll never know if you could the scholarship unless you accept the offer. But it's not like a contract, right?

Liz said...

Well, the visa doesn't cost 5400, that's how much I have to have in the bank, as a condition for getting this visa--basically proving I have money to fund myself.