if at first you don’t succeed…

Downtown Oklahoma City–adorable.  Last weekend Cason and I visited some friends from home, who are now stationed in OK City.  They were the perfect hosts.  They took us to dinner downtown at this place called Texadelphia.  Cute little combo of Mexican and Philly cheese steaks.  Delicious.  Then we played Scattergories together and watched a hilarious Jim Carey movie.  I love traveling, and I really like that living in Texas now gives us opportunities to travel to new places without having to drive really far distances.

I had my first statistics exam on Monday, and I did well.  I’m thankful that I have this class my first semester in grad school because it is the one class where I’ve learned everything before.  Intro to School Psychology is good so far because it has mostly been topics about School Psychology that I researched when looking at different school psych programs.  Though my Psychology of Exceptional Children class is pretty new to me, a lot of it seems to be common sense so far.  There are loads of acronyms that I’ve never seen before, but I’ve learned them pretty quickly.  The biggest aspect of that class so far is that I will serve for 10 hours this semester outside of the classroom.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to tutor a 13-year old boy with Aspergers.  I’m really eager to get started, and I’m glad that I will be tutoring him in my favorite subject–math.

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Assessment is a completely new class; I never had the opportunity to learn how to administer cognitive abilities assessments.  Why would I have needed to?  Even though the class is new and sometimes difficult, the subject is interesting and necessary.  In order to do my job as a school psychologist well, I have to learn how to administer these assessments.  Today I will be administering my first assessment to another classmate.  After sitting in class for two weeks “learning” how to administer this assessment, I’m just ready to get the show on the road and actually do it!  It’s one thing to listen to someone tell you how to do it, but I have a feeling we will  learn more today by administering the test than we have learned in the past two weeks.  Experience seems to be the primary teacher in this field thus far.

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The theme for the next several years will likely continue to be, “Let’s throw them to the wolves and see how they do.”  The perfectionist in me doesn’t always like this idea.  I am a planner, and I like to have expectations clearly defined before I embark on a large task.  School psychology doesn’t work that way at all.  The only way to learn is to attempt, fail, and try again.  I like to watch others attempt and fail so that I can learn from that instead of making my own mistakes.  Well, that’s not an option here, so I’m still trying to get used to that.  Luckily, our first attempts and failures with administering this assessment are pretty low-risk.  So we make several mistakes in front of our peers–they’re likely to make similar mistakes.  Plus, I understand that they’d rather have us make the big mistakes with our peers and our professors instead of in the school setting.

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On another note, I get to fly home next weekend for my cousin’s wedding, and I am SO excited!  One, I love flying.  Two, I love weddings.  Three, I love Georgia.  Four, I love my family.  (That was in increasing order, if you didn’t notice.)  Needless to say, this is going to be a pretty awesome weekend.  Now I just have to get through five classes, several homework assignments, two quizzes, and one extra test administration & protocol.  Not too bad, right?  Honestly, it could be much worse.  I’m just thankful for three-day weekends and fun events to look forward to!

 

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how to survive your first week in graduate school

  1. BREATHE.
    Remember that even though you’ve experienced 4 years of college, graduate school is a new experience.  Amidst learning a new schedule, meeting new people, figuring out professors’ expectations, and completing loads of assignments, I have to take a moment to myself each day to pause and just breathe.  Some days just stopping to catch my breath, counting the number of slow inhales and exhales, relaxes me.  Graduate school is stressful, but there’s something about consciously breathing in and out that reminds me that I’m alive!  I’m going to make it!  It’s a great way to pause and refocus before moving on to the next task in a list of many.
  2. SLEEP.
    Gone are the days of staying up until 1 or 2am and sleeping until 10 or 11am.  Gone.  Now, 12am is a late bedtime for me, and sleeping until 8:30 or 9 is a luxury.  Honestly, I’m more okay with that than I thought I would be.  Completing tasks in the morning and early afternoon gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Waiting the night before an assignment was due never gave me that.
    Sleeping on a regular schedule actually reduces stress.  Yes, I know that people have told me this for years, but I’m finally realizing it.  Perhaps I’m a slow learner at times, but now that I’ve got this routine down, I feel indescribably better.  Sleep is now something that I look forward to, as opposed to a burden.  Getting a good night’s rest is crucial in graduate school.  The days will be long and miserable after a poor night’s sleep.coffee
  3. EAT.
    …don’t just eat–eat well.  Okay, okay, so I’m still trying to cut out those sodas at dinner and the fast food junk when I’m in a jam.  BUT eating well boosts energy and overall attitude.  Snacks that are high in protein have become a staple for me.  I keep almonds in my desk drawer at work; I’ll throw some low-sodium jerky in my purse for a snack; greek yogurt with fruit and granola is quickly becoming a favorite; and peanut butter will always be my protein comfort food.  I can definitely tell a difference in my attitude and energy level on days when I forget my snacks.  Nobody wants a tired, grumpy graduate student, so handy snacks are a must.
    Oh, and breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea.  My Keurig is great, but the caffeine from the coffee is not going to last.  Muffins, breakfast bars, fruit–a must.  I never thought I’d become a believer in breakfast, but I’ve been converted.
  4. READ.
    Do the assignments.  Do them ahead of time.  Plan every hour of every day and squeeze in reading time whenever possible.  I print out articles and carry them around in my purse.  I carry my books to the office and read between appointments.  I read over breakfast, lunch, and usually dinner.  I read constantly, it feels like.  Sometimes the professors cover the material and sometimes they talk about something entirely different.  Either way, completing the reading gives me a better idea of what to expect in class and enables me to answer questions and discuss things with the class.

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That’s the best advice I have, and just to be honest, I typed it out mostly for my own benefit.  My lifestyle changed drastically in the past three weeks, and it’s a good change.  This post will serve as a reminder to keep it up when I feel like giving in.

My first couple of weeks of class have been stressful, it’s true, but they have been overwhelmingly good.  Even though the work is never-ending, I am thankful to finally be able to focus on school psychology.  I’d rather read 5 articles and upwards of 10 chapters a week about school psychology than have a smaller load of gen. ed. classes.

my first week in Waco

Pat Neff Hall, Baylor University, Texas, USA
Pat Neff Hall, Baylor University, Texas, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a week.  We have been in Texas for over a week, and it still hardly seems real.
On Thursday afternoon, my parents and I began the 13-hour drive to Waco around 1pm.  We arrived around 1:30am and headed straight to bed.  Friday morning we were up and at ’em.  We got the key to my beautiful house and started moving things in right away.  That afternoon we made our first trip in Texas to the nearest IKEA, and when we returned Dad and I put together my new bed.  We spent the rest of the weekend getting me settled in, buying groceries and the like.

Tuesday night, the ladies from my cohort enjoyed an evening getting to know each other.  We would have invited the guys, but they hadn’t joined our Facebook group at that point.  We met and spent time chatting about ourselves, where we’re from, and what we’re doing here now.  Spending some time together helped us to feel comfortable as we navigated the orientations that followed.

First we experienced the Graduate School orientation together, followed by Baylor’s Educational Psychology department orientation.  There we met several of the faculty and most of the first year students in the Ed. Psych department.  On Thursday, all 7 of us introduced ourselves to one another and to our professors at our School Psychology orientation.  We learned more about the program before heading off to a local eatery for lunch.  There, we shared some good ole Texas barbecue.  After lunch we learned more about Baylor’s Autism Resource Center, known to us now as the BARC.

When we were done navigating orientations as a group, we split up on Friday as my roommate and I headed to our graduate assistantship orientations.  There we learned about Baylor’s Academic Success Center, where I will spend 20 hours a week working with students to provide them with resources for success here at Baylor.  (Meanwhile, I will need your prayers for this part of my endeavor.)

In other news, I can find the following locations without my GPS:
My house
Baylor
Cason’s house
HEB (the grocery store)
Walmart
The mall
& various restaurants
Needless to say, I’ve got the necessities down.

We’ve been in Texas over a week and I’ve already met over 20 new people and visited about 6 local eateries, and this is just the beginning.  Next up: a recap of my first week in grad school!

and the countdown continues

THREE WEEKS…and the excitement is currently overwhelming.  I get excited/overwhelmed and cry at everything.  I don’t sleep.  It’s going to feel like the night before Christmas for the next few weeks, and honestly it may get a little ridiculous.  I feel like a hormonal teenager, but I’m honestly just super excited.

This week everyone in my cohort found out their graduate assistantship positions.  By the grace of God and extreme devotion and hard work from our program director (and potentially others, behind the scenes), everyone in our cohort has 100% tuition remission for the fall and spring!  That means we pay nothing but fees for our first year in grad school!  If you don’t believe me, here’s the email:
TR

In other exciting news, I got my first book for grad school today!  Along with my professor, this book will teach me all about the DAS-II…don’t ask me what that is.  Just kidding…it’s a “psychological assessment instrument” (aka, a test) that measures certain cognitive abilities for children from the ages of about 2-17 years; at least, that’s what I gather from the first page. 😉 Here’s a photo of me with my happy face and my new book:
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I think I’ve really found where I’m supposed to be.  I’m ready to get to Texas.  I’m ready to start learning.  I’m ready for the next chapter.  I don’t doubt that it will be difficult.  I don’t doubt that it will take work.  I do hope, though, that for the most part it ends up being fun work, and I do believe that it will all be worth it.  I forgot how much I love to learn, and I’m just ready to get back in the groove.  I’m ready to have more of a schedule.  I’m ready for everything…except the rest of the packing that I still have to do.  Oh, and the drive.  I’m not ready for the 13-hour drive.  Other than that, let’s get this show on the road!

 

a big “to-do” for baylor

Back when I thought I was going to China, I had a to-do list that I was updating fairly regularly here on athousandnewpaths.  (Sidenote: If you haven’t read about where the title for my blog originated, check it out here.)  Well I thought that I created a Baylor to-do list to replace the list for China, but I can’t seem to find it.  So, here it is:

Finalize my sell, donate, & keep piles for my room at home
Extensive cleaning and organizing of room at home
Sell items
Donate items

Pack winter clothes
Sell/donate clothes & shoes I no longer wear
Organize summer clothes
Pack dishes

Pack books
Pack mementos, crafts, & miscellaneous
Sew a canopy for my new bed/room

Register for classes
Order books
Pay bill online
Email mentor
Add class schedule to new Lilly planner

Add GA schedule to new Lilly planner (after receiving GA schedule)
Create a budget

Take my dog, Georgia, to get her yearly vaccinations
Take Georgia to the groomer
Find/purchase a small dog crate

Visit dentist
Check all refills for prescriptions

Buy more contacts

Change addresses
Bank accounts
Get car oil changed and tires rotated and balanced

Compile a list of freezer and crock pot meals
Purchase another crock pot

This seems like a long list of things left to do in less than four weeks, but I’m pretty confident that I can manage it!  Cason and I are getting very excited about moving to Texas.  It gets more and more real every day!  I will keep you updated!

Updated: 8/5/13–Only a few things left to do and just a few for days left to do it!
Updated: 8/13/13–I can’t believe the big move is almost here! I finally compiled a list of crockpot meals, which will help tremendously when I do my first round of grocery shopping at the end of this week. I’ve also succumb to the fact that some things on this list will need to be completed IN TEXAS. That’s actually rather exciting!

life is a roller coaster

Last Wednesday night I was watching TV with my mom upstairs and surfing the web when I decided to check my email.  Suddenly I jumped up from my favorite recliner, grabbed my mother by the hand, and led her downstairs to where my dad was reading and proceeded to read:

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“Dear Jessica,
The School Psychology Faculty Committee completed its review of candidates for the 2013-2014 academic year and we were very impressed with your application…We would like to complete a 30-40 minute interview via Skype in the next few weeks…”

Then my dad, not missing a beat, replied, “Well, I guess you’ll be moving to Texas then.”  Perhaps he got a little ahead of the situation, but I am very excited about interviewing with BAYLOR, and I’m certainly hoping and praying for the opportunity to attend graduate school there.

This whole graduate school application process has truly been grueling, but there are two moments thus far that have been more rewarding than I anticipated.  Obviously getting an email for an interview is a pretty rewarding moment.  However, I also keep thinking back to the difficult time I was having with writing my personal statement.  I tend to write in a stream of consciousness, often providing more details than necessary or desired, so coming up with a format that would fit my life history and future desires into a brief personal statement was a challenge in itself.  Content was also difficult; I wanted to include everything because everything feels relevant to who I am as a person.  However, I knew everything would not seem relevant to the professors who would review my application.  I had a lot of decisions to make when writing my personal statement, but quite frankly I was over thinking the whole thing.  One evening I sat down with a detailed outline and several very rough drafts, and instead of following those, I decided to write what was on my heart.  I thought to myself, “What do I want to do, and why do I want to do it?”  Then, I started crying.

That was the first rewarding experience that I had with this application process because for the first time in the past four years I felt like I was on the right track.  I know I want to help provide children with the same educational opportunities that I have had, and I know that I want to do that through school psychology.  My experience with tutoring children in Macon and visiting after-school facilities overseas only confirmed that desire in my heart over the years.  Now I’m at the point where I have to take the next step to reach my goals, and that involves graduate school.  So even though this application process has been more difficult than I could possibly imagine, I know that it will all be worth it if I get into a program that allows me to build on my education and enables me to provide children with educational opportunities in the future.  I pray that God will continue to open doors for my education.  He has been faithful, and I believe He has a plan.  Whether it involves teaching in China or going to grad school for school psychology at Baylor or both, I know He is in control.  For that, I am thankful.

A friend reminded me today to think about the desires of my heart in terms of Philippians 4:4-8, which says,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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another new year

The new year always sneaks up on me.  I spend so much time preparing for Christmas and traveling and trying to rest that before I know it I’ve found myself in a new year, utterly unprepared.  I have no concrete resolutions, and having gone to Passion the first week of 2013 already puts me behind in any resolution I do make.  However, I do have some ideas and I am going to try to stick to them, even if it means playing catch-up for a week or two.

Read 35 books this year.
Take photos every week.
Learn two new recipes per month.
Write at least two hand-written letters per week.
Read the Bible through in a year. (I’ve done one like this in the past.)

I have a feeling that this year, more than ever, I will be learning a lot about how to leave certain things behind.  2013 is going to be about  letting go of the things I cannot have or do not need in order to pursue tangible goals as well as dreams.

On a semi-related note, I am officially an alumna member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.  I went through my final ritual ceremony on Sunday afternoon, and it was neat to come full circle as an ADPi member.  ADPi is one of the main reasons I stayed at Mercer when I felt like giving up and transferring home.  I met truly amazing women who were supportive and encouraging, and they helped me through some of the toughest times in my life so far.  I know that even as an alumna, I still have those lasting friendships that I made during my time at Mercer, and I’m truly thankful for that.

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I also finished some graduate school applications this week, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this application process.  Sure, most people complain about editing resumes and writing statements of purpose, but those are the exact things that helped me to realize that graduate school is something that I truly want to do; it’s not just another stepping stone to get to where I want to go.  Furthermore, researching the different schools and programs really confirmed that school psychology is what I want to be doing for the foreseeable future.  Four years ago I was barely aware that one could become a school psychologist, and I certainly had no idea what they did.  (Go here for more information.)  During this process, I teared up while reading about the goals of the different programs.  It really hit me that these were the personal goals that I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember.  It is an emotional moment when you begin to realize that your passions can line up with your career.  I’m more excited than I’ve ever been about school, to say the least.

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