And the year comes to a close.

Edit 2017: I’ve now graduated and there are new GAs writing new blogs! However, if you would still like to ask me about something, I’d be more than happy to help! I don’t check this blog’s email often though, so please email me at travelingflaneuse@gmail.com ūüôā¬†

Happy reading/studying/living! 


 

The papers are done, my internship has rapped up for the semester, and I have absolutely nothing I¬†have¬†to do until my plane ride next week (although, I should probably go turn in the E-Z Borrow library books that are from other campuses…).

These two semesters have gone by so, so, so quickly. I just spent some time uploading photos to Facebook from the past year (because I had neglected doing so for a surprisingly long time) and realized how many memories I’ve created, how many people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and how many wonderful things I’ve had the immense privilege of learning.

So, today I give you 8 things I learned this year:

  1. Philadelphia is a wonderful place. I really really like this city. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I have just found a really great spirit in the city and its people. I feel like it has a reputation for being kind of rough around the edges but I think that’s what gives Philly its character. I have yet to try water ice or philly cheesesteaks, however.
  2. Gradschool is an interesting animal. Unlike in undergrad, we are told by professors to not read the material (they literally tell you to skim), and in general profs have been pretty nice with extensions (everyone, students and profs, know the realities of the Struggle Bus). Coursework/readings can be intense, but so can discussions. I have had some of the best discussions this year.
  3. Talking in class, asking questions, engaging with professors really helps. This is probably obvious. But in undergrad, though I knew it was “good for me,” I avoided talking in class like the plague. As I’ve written in posts before, if I spoke twice in an entire 10-week quarter, that was considered a good quarter. This year, I’ve spoken almost every class without being asked to, and sometimes perhaps more than anyone else wanted (lol). Through this, I realized how much I lost in undergrad by not talking. Part of it is I have an extreme anxiety about not getting my ideas across verbally. I don’t really have a problem speaking in front of people (since I enjoy performing), but I dislike having my ideas misinterpreted solely because I didn’t deliver the correct words. Anyway, enough about the inner workings of my mind.
  4. Related to #3, social ties matter. As a lifelong introvert, I don’t particularly love socializing. I prefer one-on-one conversations, and I also prefer group interactions to be capped at around 3-5 people. Still, I absolutely loved my cohort. I loved interacting with them in all situations, and there is not one member¬†that I feel meh about. The cohort has been such a great support system, and I think I learned for the first time in my life that having a group of peers around to talk about academic or non-academic (like truly. our groupme sometimes consists of pet pictures, random memes, and so many wonderful wonderful things) can help immensely in the cave of sadness that is (sometimes) the process of grad school. Even if you, like me, do not love the idea of “reaching out” to people or even socializing at all, I highly recommend that you try to be open to the idea of having a group of people (or even just one or two) to support you through the experience.
  5. Theory is beautiful, powerful and inspiring. I think in some ways, I’ve always thought this, but it was not until this semester, taking Randy Collins’ prosem on classical sociology that I really felt the power of theory. Until this semester, or really until last week, I’ve¬†been terrified of theory whether it was in the form of music theory (I really feel bad that some wonderful professors had to read my music analysis papers; I really had no idea what I was doing, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t either) or some kind of philosophical theory. For some reason, I thought theory = difficult, something intensely complicated to understand. This definitely put a mental block in my way. Through reading the classical sociology texts + Prof. Collins’ own books (he’s written many, but for this class we read Four Sociological Traditions and Interaction Ritual Chains) I’ve found that theory is not inherently complex nor dense. Many texts,¬†even those of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, are written (or at least translated) in an accessible way (relatively speaking, anyway).
  6. Related to #5, I really really really really really like sociology. In the class mentioned above, the professor introduced sociology by saying that the beginnings of the field¬†could be considered the novelists of the 19th century (like Zola and Balzac) who observed the society they lived in and wrote about them. Of course, now a well-established field within the greater social sciences, it’s much more methodical and “scientific” than a literary novel. Still, this idea really resonated with me. Through out my almost quarter century of living, I have been fascinated by the world around me and the people that I see. I am fascinated by individual stories, but also the larger patterns that can be observed in human interactions. With sociology, I’ve found some really great tools to further understand the world in which I live.
  7. Following your interests can be extremely rewarding, and having the confidence to go head first into these interests is the first step. It’s difficult¬†for me to write papers, make arguments and contribute to discussions because I don’t feel like there’s anything relevant for me to say. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but I don’t feel like they’re necessarily new or anything. I hesitate with saying things¬†that’s not fully thought out. However, one of the biggest things I’ve learned in grad school so far is¬†that this is normal. Students, professors, we’re all simply human. Any idea that crosses your mind, that you find interesting, is worth something.¬†The trick to doing well in grad school, is finding the simple ideas in your head that have been swirling around for a while, distilling them into concentrated versions and then developing these little nuggets throughout the year in multiple contexts. For example, I’d been interested in how social media performance works in response to tragic events like the Paris attacks in 2015 (in January and November). I’ve been particularly interested in the media and individual Facebook friend responses and how it reflects the greater society we live in. So, last semester I was able to write an informal reflection paper for my advisor’s class Teaching and Learning in the Global Era, and then was able to write a more theoretical paper using the frameworks of Durkheim (collective/emotional effervescence, emotional energy, symbols etc) and Collins (interaction ritual chains and entrainment). While that might sound boring if you haven’t heard of those things (which is totally normal because I hadn’t either before taking these courses), I was super excited to write both papers. Anyway, bottom line: following your deep interests pays off. Just because something is exciting and/or fun doesn’t mean it’s not also academic.
  8. The rules of academia are real. The politics of academia are real. The struggle is also very real. That probably sounded vague. Thanks to the openness of my great professors and the PhD students in my classes, I feel like I’ve gotten a much more in-depth understanding of what graduate school (and living in academia) means. There are (unwritten) rules of the game, and I think you do have to work hard to find 1) the people who can mentor you/guide you/help you, 2) the topic(s) that really interest you and make you really excited to study, and 3) be open to lots and lots of failure.

That was so long and probably not too helpful, but let me know if you readers have any specific questions about what I learned. What I wrote above are some of the more “fluffy” things.

Now that my year of official blogging has come to a close, I want to 1) thank you all for reading! 2) let you know that I’ll still be posting throughout my time at Penn and 3) let you know that I’ve started a new blog hodgepodgeadventures.wordpress.com for my non-academic adventures (and my academic adventures, but I wanted to create a blog with a name that was broader than penn).

The weather is finally getting nicer here (although..that being said it’s about to thunderstorm tonight, so). I hope you all have a wonderful start to the summer!

You can keep sending me questions at ayaspennadventures@gmail.com

 

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The End is Near

Kind of. Today was my last day of class! (Also kind of, I’m still going to film class next week, but my official classes are done!)

Tonight, I had choir concert dress rehearsal for the concert tomorrow. The repertoire is Brahms Zwei Motetten and Mahler’s 2nd Symphony! (Listen to the finale here) It’s a pretty epic program. I’ve played the Mahler symphony once before in undergrad when I was part of the orchestra, so I’m really excited to be on stage as part of the chorus this time around.

I’m still at my internship, doing some qualitative code output analysis from interviews (and also scanning a bunch of surveys since my supervisors just went out for another round of data collection) and that’ll go on until the end of the semester as well (and start up again in June when I’ll be back from california).¬†I also have a bunch load of papers to write (meaning three, but numbering about 50-60 pages that are largely still invisible…) in the next 7-12 days so that will be fun. Or torturous. Or perhaps a bit of both.

I’ll do a more extensive summary of my semester after it ends, but I wanted to make sure to update something so the blog’s not a desert land.

I don’t have time to elaborate now, but here are the various topics/things/thoughts that have been swirling around in my head recently in no particular order: PhD programs, the politics of academia, ethnography and research methodology, how to be ethical with researching and how to expand the definition of research (for example, by incorporating the idea of a research/ethnographic film), racial representation in Hollywood (mainly because this is kind of my master’s paper topic, but also because it’s been in the media recently with that Ghost in the Shell), papers (lol. how can I not think about papers), stress and anxiety and how to put it to productive use (instead of having stressful freakouts in my mind, I’ve tried to consciously make the messages positive, like “I GOT THIS. I CAN DO THIS. YEEEAH GET STUFF DONE” Yes, quite literally I say these things in my mind and out loud in my room to motivate myself. It’s been working for the past few days so I’m going to leave it at that). I’ve also been thinking about the weather, because it was 48 degrees today and raining, when it was a beautiful, sunny, 80 degrees just a week or so ago. I’ve also been thinking about life, it’s beauties, it’s uglies and all it’s in betweens.

I know, so vague and unhelpful. But! basically the semester’s coming to a close, it’s stressful but it’s also an exciting time because an end = a new beginning! Woo hoo!

I’ll update more soon!

As always, send any questions my way at ayaspennadventures@gmail.com

 

April 15th is tomorrow!

For those of you who have been admitted and are still deciding between programs, I wish you the best of luck in your decision making! There’s another web chat (GSE-wide, not just ECS) so I’ll be there if any of you have questions.

Please find my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below (I’ll try to update after tonight’s session as well):

I’m coming into ECS straight form undergrad…..is this a bad thing?

  • Definite not! Although it’s true that most of your cohort mates will likely be a few years older than you, and have “real world experience,” you have the advantage of still being fresh from school (you haven’t forgotten how to read/study/etc which can be hard when you’re out of school for a while). And of course, for those of you who have been out for a while, and are thinking “Oh no! What if I don’t remember how to be a student?!” I’d like to say you’ll be fine too.¬†ūüôā

 

Can we find work? Grad school is fricken expensive.

  • First, true dat.
  • Second, work is plentiful. If you want to find a job on campus, or off-campus (if you have federal work study, there’s a possibility penn will still be the one giving you money if it’s a partner organization) it’s really not hard to come by. Also, you will be able to ask your professors, cohort mates, other students for advice/tips/information.
  • That being said, is everything well paid? No.¬†Since my jobs are not fantastically paid (but still decent, because of federal work study it’s at least above minimum wage!), I am not a good judge on how much of a “dent” working can make on paying for tuition/living expenses. I am taking out a federal loan for the first time in my life, and my parents are kindly helping me out this year(and I’ll pay them back when I’m no longer a student…if I apply to PhD programs who knows when that will be…but that’s another conversation entirely).
  • A related question I get, is: Is it worth the money? Those of you who I’ve met in person know that my answer is this: frankly, I don’t believe any kind of education anywhere should be worth the kind of money that these elite American institutions require. But, unfortunately, this is the reality of the US education system right now. Bottom line: I am incredibly glad that I chose to do grad school, to come to Penn and to come to Philly (even though I do love California and am eagerly awaiting the end of the semester so I can go home for a bit before coming back for internship round 2). I have met incredible people (both students and faculty) here, and I know that I have made some friendships that will last me a really really long time.¬†I have learned a lot¬†this year and am getting what I wanted out of the experience.

 

Can I take different classes?

  • Yes, ECS is not lying when it says you have 6 electives. You truly have 6. More than half of your classes will be really up to you. For example, this semester I’m taking my courses in the Sociology department which has been great since their grad department only has PhD students, so it’s been nice to see what that life is like. ¬†I have gotten to know incredible faculty in the Sociology department that I wouldn’t have gotten to know had I simply remained in the Ed school (although GSE faculty are also fantastic!). I really find the flexibility of ECS to be a strength of the program. I have cohort friends who take classes in public policy, Africana studies, History, etc.

 

I don’t know what exactly I am doing with my life, I don’t know what my paper topic should be, I don’t know many things. Is that okay? Is it okay to do grad school like this?

  • People have different answers to this question. But my answer is this: it’s okay. In an ideal world, you’ll have a concrete idea of what you want to do after graduation, you know what your master’s lit review topic should be, and you know how your life should be planned. I had none of these things in my head when I applied, and even when I arrived on campus.
  • Of course, your passion for education should be real and in firm, concrete, existence. You should hopefully have some¬†shape¬†of a few ideas of the¬†kinds of things you¬†might want to do after grad school (I wanted to keep my options open for PhD programs, non-profit work, or maybe school district work. Super broad, I know). You don’t have to know the specific position title you want, but vague ideas are definitely helpful.
  • You do not need a concrete master’s paper topic before your arrival on campus. That being said, you have an advantage already because here I am telling you that it will be to your benefit to start thinking about potential areas of interest during the summer. Particularly for those of you who want to do doctoral work, it can be incredibly useful (and convenient) if your master’s paper lit review aligns well with your research interests. That being said, I still don’t know what my potential future dissertation topic is, and I have an inkling that it is not super related to my master’s paper.
  • Anyway, that was a little bit (or quite) of a tangent, but I just wanted to say that while ideally you have some concrete ideas, I don’t think uncertainty is necessarily a bad thing coming into grad school. Of course, if you’re not passionate about education (this is not the same as having experience, you can be interested and passionate and not have experience. that’s fine) you might want to take a bit more time to think things through. Ultimately, though, you do you. And you know yourself best. For each person, the reasoning to go to grad school and to pick a specific program will be different. There is no absolute answer to this, and while my answer might be frustrating for any of you who are struggling to find an answer, I hope some part of it was helpful!

 

Let me know if you have any questions! As always, I am happy to help. Email me at ayaspennadventures@gmail.com or post in the comments below!

 

Previewing ECS!

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone! I am quite gullible so this day always makes me a little anxious…

Anyway, tomorrow is the Master’s Preview Weekend! I hope some of you reading this blog will be there so that I can finally meet some blog readers in person ūüôā

I won’t be on the panel tomorrow, but I will be around for most of the day and definitely at the ECS lunch/break out sessions. The other GAs and the wonderful Beverly will be there as well to answer the questions you might have!¬†If there are any FAQs that I notice, I’ll be sure to post them here afterwards.

The weather in Philly is……………….at the moment. I feel like I got a good preview of what it’ll be like this summer. Today it started out cloudy, slightly warmish and then just now I came home sweating (granted, this Californian is still wearing sweaters in April) from the humid/cloudy/windiness with a few drops of rain. Shortly after arriving home though, it was a sudden downpour complete with lightning and thunder. That’s Philly/East Coast for ya, folks.

A (Sansom) Place to Live

Here is my long overdue post about Sansom Place, the grad housing on campus.

What to say about it…

To start with the bad:

  1. It’s not very appealing housing for 999 dollars/month for a shared appartment (yes, I also think that they should just round it to 1000 if it’s going to be nine hundred and ninety nine…). The dorm was built in 1970 and our kitchenette in particular still looks like it (although it’s probably gone through some upgrades).
  2. There are pests like cockroaches and mice. Thankfully, the “cockroaches” (I’m not entirely sure they are actually cockroaches) have been relatively tiny (maybe 2cm max) and were taken down swiftly with some Raid (although the residential services has requested us not to use Raid in case it interferes with the pest control already in place… but if anyone thinks I’m going to have little critters running around my place they are sorely mistaken). However, this is managed if you keep your apartment clean. Thankfully, my roommate and I have been pretty on top of our stuff this semester. Unfortunately, you can’t control your neighbors though, so you might be out of luck if you have particularly messy ones. Also¬†though, it should be noted that many places in Philly (on campus or off) are visited by these kinds of pests so it’s not entirely a deal breaker that Sansom has some as well.¬†Everyone I’ve talked to has had to deal with some kind of bug/rodent.
  3. The windows and the ventilation system (which is largely nonexistent). To be positive, we have windows! To be less positive, they only open about 15cm, so it’s difficult to get any significant gust of air into the apartment. The ventilation/airways (when they work/exist) are dusty so not entirely appealing either.
  4. There is no bathtub, only a small shower.

 

The good:

  1. It is so close to campus. I don’t think I’ve ever been more than maybe a few minutes¬†late to class, and those few times have been thanks to the proximity of Sansom (otherwise I would have been significantly later). I always forget to time myself, but I can look at the time on my desk at 11:55am, put on boots, go out of my apartment, down the hall, out the dorm door, and walk around a few corners and still get to my 12pm class on time. So if you timed me from the outside of Sansom to the outside of GSE, it’s probably like 2-3 minutes (however, I do walk pretty quickly). Really convenient. Also Sansom is located in the same building complex as WaWa (like a 7eleven, although those exist here too. it’s a 24/7 convenience store), Chattime (now called Ochatto, it’s like a Chinese-Japanese fusion with hand drawn noodles and sushi.
  2. The mice are not rats. (I have seen only 1 running through our kitchen, and this was last Friday, and he seemed really confused so I’m hoping he only accidentally ventured into our room and is not making it his house. But, then maintenance came and set up shop with mouse traps and we caught one…soo who knows how many there are. My roommate and I felt too sad about killing mice so we threw out the other trap. We’re going to try peppermint oil instead.) Although this might not make some of you feel any better about it, they are small and really cute.
  3. Maintenance is one less thing you have to worry about. Although I’ve heard mixed things, my personal experience has been positive with things being fixed promptly when asked. Since it’s university employees I’m also not concerned about not being in the room while a repair is being done.
  4. “Free” laundry. Yes, obviously it’s calculated into our rent, but it’s nice that I can do laundry and use the dryer whenever. I dislike going to the coin laundry.
  5. 24 hour security/welcome desk. Everyone’s super friendly (both the student and staff employees).

 

So I think the bottom line is that if you have time to do an extensive search of philly housing and/or can come to the city a little before school starts, then you might be best off going elsewhere. I had never visited Philly, could not visit before school started, and also knew 0 people and didn’t feel comfortable navigating all of that. It should also be noted that I completely plan on continuing to live in my Sansom apartment until December, when I finish my program so it’s really not all that bad. (I also have a ridiculous amount of stuff that I am not willing to move multiple times in the span of 9 months)

Let me know if you have more questions!

Admitted Students: RSVP to the Admitted Student GChat This Saturday!!

Hi all!

If you’ve already been admitted to ECS (congratulations!), please reply to Lauren Scicluna’s email at sclauren@gse.upenn.edu to RSVP to the GChat that’s happening this Saturday (3/26) at 12pm noon (Eastern Time).

I will be in the chat room, as will I think both Anna and ArCasia, and maybe even Beverly! (And your fellow admits of course).

Looking forward to answering your questions on Saturday! If you have any burning questions, comment below or email me at ayaspennadventures@gmail.com

 

Dreaming of Spring

Yesterday I posted some of the stressful things about the semester, so I thought today I would post a happier post full of the fun things I did during the break and some glimpses of flowers and squirrels (spring is on its way!).

Spring Break was great because my boyfriend came to visit me from California and we spent a bunch of¬†time eating through Reading Terminal Market¬†even through my sick state (I caught a cold in the beginning of the break). We were hoping to go to New York City and other places¬†but had to keep it to Philly since my immune system didn’t cooperate. But Philly has a ton of things to do, and we had a wonderful week and got to experience the magic of Beiler’s donuts (Definitely worth the long line. It really doesn’t take that long. And also just delicious donuts. I recommend the blueberry fritter. I wanted to try the apple but they were out), exploring the Philadelphia Museum (Pay-what-you-wish Sundays!), the Barnes Foundation (yay for magical free tickets!) and so many other things.

You’ll notice some of the photos are of the Fisher Fine Arts Library. Funny story. I went to read there on the¬†Saturday before break ended, and when I entered the library (around 4:30pm) I noticed there were only 2 or 3 other people there. I like quiet spaces so that was fine. After an hour and a half though, I looked up and realized there was literally no human being on the floor. First, I was like where were the 2-3 people who were reading? Did I not realize they left? I really don’t think I was too concentrated on my reading. Anyway, I realized that what I thought was a temporary absence of a student-employee at the circulation desk seemed to be a permanent absence so there wasn’t even anyone working at the entrance (there was no security either). While I like silent spaces, I get freaked out if I’m the only one in a building and if it’s dark, so I decided it was time to go. Good thing I did, because once I exited the library I realized the space between the library entrance and the exterior building entrance didn’t even have lights on. Did someone forget to tell me the library was closing? Anyway, after a few seconds of a mini panic attack that I might be locked in the building I safely exited to the outdoor world.

Adventures of a library hermit. (Not really, because I actually didn’t study in the libraries until this semester. I just liked how that sounded)

Tonight, I helped out with another admissions webinar and had a wonderful time chatting with some prospective students! As always, send emails my way at ayaspennadventures@gmail.com