Road to Grad School: Final Call

It’s been a hectic, busy start to term, and now my graduate applications are well under way. I’ve spent dozens of hours researching them, and making sure that they are the right fit for me, but I still haven’t been able to narrow the list down much, if at all. We’ll put that down to the quality of the university, and not my indecisiveness!

Berkeley. I loved my brief visit, it’s a great place.

I had to take a trip to Birmingham in order to sit the GRE, which is pretty much an Americanised, more advanced version of the similarly-hated 11+ in the UK. It tests your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and essay writing skills, all within tight timing limits. As a dyslexic/dyspraxic, it’s not the ideal scenario for me at all, but I was still very pleased with 2/3 of my results, coming in far higher than I anticipated. Birmingham was beautiful on a crisp winter morning, the Bull Ring looking appropriately space-age in the sun. It was much colder up there than in Cornwall though! I spent some time in the shopping centre browsing expensive outdoor gear that I definitely couldn’t afford, before settling for my first taste of Five Guys- great food but incredibly overpriced.

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I heard a rumour that they like football a little bit at Penn State. Just a little.


The silver lining to the trip was that it let me visit my family back home, and take part in some of my brother’s birthday celebrations, something I regrettably haven’t been able to do for a long time. Studying in Cornwall is wonderful, believe me, but it’s a bloody long way from Warwickshire!

UC Santa Barbara. It might even look a bit better than Falmouth!

Catherine continues to do great at Michigan, having started teaching this term. Whilst her academic work speaks for itself, the attention to detail she puts into her lesson plans, and the amount of care she has for her students is incredible. If I can be half the conscientious teacher that she is, then I’ll be a happy person. The unexpected election of Trump has placed obvious pressures on her as a Women’s Studies scholar, and on her students (and JESUS CHRIST AMERICA WHY!!!). That the dean of Michigan gave a speech on the diag at night in front of hundreds of shocked, protesting students says it all. America has not come out of the election well at all, exposing and exacerbating deep running fractures within society at a time when the world is observing it very, very closely. This is similar in effect to Brexit over here, exposing a nasty undercurrent of xenophobia and prejudice that has bubbled to the surface through the cracks of society. I thought I had a reasonable understanding of American culture and society, but I evidently have much to learn.

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Good trees, University of Washington. Not quite Methuselah, but 9/10 would look at again.

Meanwhile, my objective is to get into the States onto a grad school program, with Trump’s Presidency presenting just another obstacle that I need to hurdle. Let’s just hope he decides to like Britain, otherwise immigration might be an interesting challenge.

My list of schools is diverse, but all have excellent departments, offer great opportunities and are nice places. I think I’d be a pretty good fit for all of them, but that is, of course, for them to determine.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beautiful with a capital B. Bet it’s cold in winter though!

In California we have UC Berkeley which speaks for itself, and then UC Santa Barbara that has an excellent remote sensing lab (VIPER), and appears to be California’s answer to Falmouth. In the beautiful Pacific Northwest we have the University of Washington, based in Seattle (Catherine’s home area). In the Midwest we have the obvious University of Michigan and Michigan State University, both places that I’ve visited and love. (Nb. I’ve even started to learn some of the Wolverine player names- You go, Jabrill Peppers!- Do I nearly sound like a functional American?). The University of Wisconsin-Madison is in a loosely similar area, has a beautiful location and a good department. Further east we have Penn State, a big school, and then the University of Maryland on the east coast, close to DC,  and with great links to organisations including NASA.

Jabrill Peppers doing whatever Jabrill Peppers does. He’s been mooted as a Heisman candidate this year, which whilst sounding like an unpleasant medical episode, is actually a pretty big deal.

Now that is 8 schools, which is probably too many, and I’m still trying to cut them down. Regardless, it’s a very strong list and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how things turn out. I’ll be applying to schemes in the UK in case it doesn’t work this time around, but I’m reasonably positive. I’m very fortunate to be in this position, and I’ve worked my backside off to get here.

Let’s just hope I get some offers!

PS. Obviously lots of people voted for Trump, and we have to respect that. That’s democracy. You never know, he might end up being a good President. But still… damn!


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