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:
DASbook

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!

baylor is getting closer

While several Baylor updates have probably popped up in your newsfeed over the months, this one is perhaps the best.  I hope that once you read it, you will agree with me.

Baylor University
Baylor University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gosh I thought I had posted my Baylor happenings more often, but since I haven’t there will be lots to include in this post.

1st. Housing:
I HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE IN WACO, TX.  Praise!  I will be living with two second-year students and another first-year student (like myself) in a house that we are renting together.  Oh, and it’s fabulous! I absolutely hate carpet (allergies, asthma, and whatnot), and this house has ZERO square feet of carpet.  Hallelujah!  Yes, I get overly excited about floors.  It has stained concrete floors, which are tons nicer than they sound.  I have my own bedroom with a cute little nook by the window for my desk.  Hooray for natural lighting in my workspace.  It’s the little things that we have to get excited about, people.  I’ll be sharing a bathroom with my fellow first-year, and perhaps next year when the second-years move out then we can move into the rooms with their own bathrooms.  The kitchen is HUGE.  Like I could probably put my pet elephant in there and he would have room to do a dance…if I had a pet elephant, that is.

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2nd. Graduate Assistantship (GA):
First of all, the abbreviation GA for graduate assistantship confuses the mess out of me, seeing as my home state is also GA, for Georgia. I’ll use the abbreviation, however, and just pray you don’t get as confused as I do.  Now to the good stuff!  On May 9th (I remember the date because that was also the day my best friend got engaged and I took secret photos.  See engagement photos.), I had a phone interview with the sweetest lady from Baylor’s Office of Academic Support Programs.  Well, I’ll say that I anticipated an interview.  What I received was a 20 minute phone call highlighting the details of the program and welcoming me on board.  Needless to say, I got the GA position, which is, according to Dr. Robinson, a “coveted GA position.”
As an academic mentor I will work with at-risk students to monitor their academic progress and offer support and encouragement as they adjust to college life.  I will work 20 hours a week, meeting with about 35-40 students weekly.  I have my own office and a huge support team.  I cannot even begin to say how encouraging my interview was.  It got me even more excited for everything that is in store at Baylor.

3rd. Finances:
Well if that paragraph about my GA wasn’t enough of a blessing, the following week I received this email:
assistantshipmoney

Tuition remission means I don’t have to pay for 24 hours of tuition this year.  Considering I am only taking 24 hours of class per week this year, I’d say that’s the best financial offer I could have received.

I know that I’ve accomplished nothing on my own.  I am truly in awe of how greatly God has blessed me.  I could not have done this by myself, and I have not presumed to believe that I could.  I know that I would have failed miserably without the Lord directing my paths and blessing me with wonderful family, friends, and instructors to also help me along the way.  That’s why all of this goes back to Him.  He is the true reason for every educational, financial, and emotional provision in my life.  I know that He has given me these things in order that I use them to shine His light on this world.

I will say also that I am honestly amazed.  I have spent too much of the past 2 years underestimating the things I can do with the help of God, my family, my professors, and my friends.  I have been attacked by the enemy and been led to believe that I was once alone in all of this.  I don’t mean to get super spiritual on you, but that’s the truth.  I’m coming to realize that life is too short to waste time worrying about it, especially when you know that the Lord has a plan.  I’m thankful for that.

How I decided on a graduate school

  1. I decided on a program.
    I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but I decided to pursue another passion in college, psychology.  Along the way I realized that I still wanted to be in a school setting and make a difference in the lives of children.  Then I discovered the field of school psychology and I realized that I was made for it.  So I looked for graduate programs in that field and to my excitement found a 3-year Specialist program.  This would give me a year of full instruction, a year of instruction and work in the schools, and finally an internship year.  When I first realized I would have to go to grad school, I honestly was not thrilled about more school.  However, this program seemed to be tailored to my needs in that it would allow me to actually start doing what school psychologists do under the supervision of professors and other school psychologists.  Plus, more education in a field that I am thrilled about is actually appealing to me now.
  2. I decided on a region.
    When I was young, I was a homebody.  I never ventured far from my parents.  As I’ve gotten older, my comfort zone has expanded somewhat, and I knew that I still wanted to be in the south for graduate schools.  I looked at schools in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.
  3. I applied to most of the schools with my program in the region.
    I applied to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, University of Alabama,  and Baylor University.  School psychology is growing but still relatively new, so it’s not a program that everyone has.  I know it looks like I was pretty selective in where I applied, but I honestly had pretty slim pickings.  The good thing though is that these are all incredibly amazing programs.
  4. I interviewed with schools via Skype and in person.
    Georgia Southern accepted me without an interview, but I Skyped with three of the faculty from Baylor, and then I did an all day interview with the five faculty at Appalachian State.
  5. I made a pros and cons list.
    This is somewhat of an inside joke for anyone who saw the pros and cons list.  One school had all the pros.  We will just leave it at that
  6. I picked the program that was the best fit for me…
    …and that program is BAYLOR UNIVERSITY!  I am so pleased to announce that I have been accepted to their school psychology program for this fall, and I have accepted their offer.  (Many of you know this already, but it feels more official now that it is on the blog!)  I will actually be visiting next week, and I am thrilled!

JWalkerBaylorChevron

I was so excited once I finally accepted their offer that I could not sleep.  I stayed up making poster prints like the one above to hang in my apartment in TEXAS.  This feels like an absolute dream come true, but looking back I realize that I worked my whole life (up until this point) for this.  The goal has always been to do well in school, find a job that I am passionate about, and do what it takes to get there.  This is just another stepping stone along that path, and I am so blessed by and thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me along the way.  I recognize that this achievement cannot be credited to my work alone.  I needed the help and support of my parents, family, friends, and teachers.  Who I am and what I have achieved is a combination of my experiences and interactions with others, and I don’t take that for granted for one second.  Finally, I must acknowledge that my Creator and God had his hand over all of this.  I can look back and say that there were definitely times along the way when I wanted to give up, and I would not have made it through without my relationship with Christ as the foundation of my life.  All the glory goes to Him and the way He has placed people and experiences in my life to form me into the woman I am today.

limbo is real…

…I know because I’m stuck here now…in limbo, I mean.

Truthfully, that’s why I haven’t stopped by to write in a little while.  Everything seems to be in limbo right now, and I was trying to wait for some things to fall into place before I wrote about them.  Anyhow, things seem to be moving at a turtle’s pace in most areas, and I’m still playing the waiting game.  So, I decided to just go ahead and post an update of everything that is going on.  After all, this blog is supposed to be reflection of all of the paths in my life, not just the ones where everything is moving just as I would like.  So here we go…

China
I still have not received my official invitation to come and work in China.  I cannot apply for my visa until I have that, so I’m still in limbo until we get the letter.  We did however contact the program to see if I would still be eligible for the monthly stipend now that I will not be there for 5 months.  Good news on that is that I WILL be eligible to receive the same monthly stipend.  Praise for all of that working out.  However, I’m still undecided as to whether I will be going or not.  I guess it really depends on how long I will be able to go.  I know that any amount of time would be a life-changing experience, but I’m really starting to wonder if now is the right time.  Don’t get me wrong, I would still love to go.  The situation has just changed, and I think the wisest thing to do right now is to re-evaluate all of my options to determine if there is a more suitable choice for the time being.

Graduate School
I have been hesitant to post about my graduate school application process (even though I’ve already shared some with you), mostly because I have this fear of public failure.  To post about the schools I applied to and got interviews with would invariably be followed by a post about the schools that I did and did not get into.  BUT! I’ve decided that I’m getting over that fear, and I’m going to be very real about this whole process.
I’ve applied to Baylor, received an invitation to interview, had a Skype interview, and now I am waiting to hear back, hopefully next week.
Appalachian State wants me to come and interview on March 22nd.  Obviously I’ve been in limbo about this interview because I have been in limbo about China.  If I go to China, I’m not sure what happens with the interview, but if I don’t go to China, then I will head up there for the interview and see what’s up.
I also got an email from Georgia Southern saying that I was accepted into their program.  So, no matter what happens I will be going to grad school!  That’s exciting!
I am excited to hear from all of these grad schools.  This process has certainly been an adventure, but I am glad that it will be coming to a close soon.  It feels good to be much closer to completing this process at this point.  I know that actually attending graduate school is going to be another time of growth and learning more about myself, but for right now I am thankful that the growth that comes through the application process is almost done.  It really has been an intense process, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence as well as humility, and I am very thankful for that.
Also, I can’t help but wonder what my professors said in their recommendation letters.  Whatever it was, though, I am very thankful.  I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without their support and encouragement.  It really means a lot to me.

There is one other area that also feels like it’s in limbo right now…but in a good way.  I won’t say much about that, but I will leave you with these photos:

sunflower

cupcake

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:

baylorbears

“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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there’s no place like Mercer

So today is my parents’ anniversary, and I wanted to take a brief moment to say Happy Anniversary!  I am very thankful to have parents who have done everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) it takes to stick together, love one another, and provide a wonderful home and life for me.  Their relationship has taught me that love is about committing yourself to another person and reminding yourself of the responsibilities of that commitment each and every day.  It’s not always about romance, gifts, and flowers, though there’s been a lot of that too.  Love is a beautiful balance between butterflies and commitment.  Any who, happy anniversary to my wonderful parents.  May there be many more.

lucybballThis past weekend I went back to Mercer, which I thoroughly enjoy.  Lately I’ve been hanging around at the house trying and failing to think of productive things to do.  So it’s always nice to head back to Macon and enjoy some productive time with friends.  I got to cheer on my Mercer Bears basketball team for a win.  When I first went to Mercer I was unsure of how this basketball thing was gonna go.  I have cheered for football, both on the sidelines and on the couch practically since I could walk and talk, so not cheering my school on in football was going to be new for me.  However, I soon found that standing court-side at a basketball game with some of your closest friends and cheering on your team is some of the most fun you can have.  I’m thankful for friends like Hailey Cox and Cassie Sanders who took me under their wing freshman year and taught me all I needed to know about basketball.  I’m also glad to have a student section like the Hoffman’s Hooligans, which beats any other A-Sun student section any day.  It has been an honor to be a part of the traditions that have grown at Mercer over just the past four years, and I’m looking forward to seeing them continue.

MollieKDThen the ATOs were having an initiation party Saturday evening, which I went to with my friend, Mollie.  A word of advice to you smarty pants out there who are thinking about graduating early: DON’T!  While you may not miss the classes, the reading, or the homework, you WILL miss the people, almost immediately.  This weekend a friend asked me how my Mercer experience was on a scale of 1 to 10, and I didn’t miss a beat in responding with an enthusiastic, “TEN!”  While college certainly had its ups and downs, it was all well worth it.  What made it worth it was the people, and I wish I had learned that earlier.  I worked hard to keep a good GPA to get into grad school, but if I had trusted myself more to balance work and relationships, I would have discovered sooner that friends are the key to keeping you sane.

MKI was plugged in.  I had 75 sisters I could call at any given time.  I had a community in RUF who had my back.  Yet it wasn’t until my last semester that it all really clicked for me.  Those were the things that mattered.  Looking back, I reflect on the nights I stayed up too late with my sisters or went on retreats with RUF.  The things I learned in the classroom are invaluable, but the things I learned about myself through my friends can’t be taught in the classroom.  I guess that’s why they call it the college experience; you need all of it in order to grow like you want to.  So take advantage of it, and don’t leave a moment sooner than you have to! I know that someday soon I’m going to have to acknowledge that I’ve graduated and learn to move on, but for now I’ll stick to going to as many games and events as I still can before the real world hits.

update on China trip

Everyone keeps asking me LOADS of questions about China.  My pending trip to China has practically become my identity.  It’s like, “Hey Jessica, how are you? When do you leave for China?”  So I’m going to type everyone’s questions along with all of my answers just so they will be on file somewhere.

Q: When do you leave for China?
A: It depends on what the cheapest flight ends up being.  I am due in China on February 21st, so I will have to leave on the 20th at the very latest.  It’s likely that I will leave sometime between the 17th and the 19th and have a layover in Europe somewhere.

Q: How long will you be there?
A: From February 21st to July 31st. OR 5 full months. OR 23 weeks.

Q: What will you be doing?
A: Teaching English at the University of Beijing through this program.

Q: Do you speak Chinese?  Are you going to learn it?
A: No, I don’t speak Chinese; the only requirement for teaching English is speaking English, and the students are only allowed to speak English. (They are mostly adult students with varying levels of knowledge of the English language.)  I’m going to learn whatever I pick up while I’m there, but I’m not going to take classes or anything.  I want to learn whatever I learn by experience.

Q: Where will you stay?
A: I will live at the university with the other teachers and students in the city of Beijing.  The program will cover my housing and provide a monthly stipend.

Q: Do you plan to travel?
A: I doubt I’ll live in China for 5 months and not visit a single tourist spot…Okay that was a little sassy, but yes, I’m going to travel as much as possible.  Plus I believe the program will provide us with some travel experiences as well.  I have a huge travel bucket list, plus the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are in Beijing.  I can’t miss those.

Q: What are you doing after China?
A: I have currently applied to 4 graduate school programs for School Psychology.  They are all 3 year Ed. S. programs, and I hope to enroll in one in August, 2013.

Q: Do you get Facebook/Google/the internet over there?
A: From what I understand, there are ways around the firewalls.  I know people who have been in Beijing since July and they have uploaded photos to Facebook, updated blogs, and Skyped family and friends.  The letters VPN have been floating around, but I haven’t done my research.  Go here if you need to know more.

Q: Take lots of pictures!
A: Is that even a question? I can’t promise that I’ll be in a lot of them, but I will take thousands, probably within the first week.  Fret not, there will be photos.

Those are all the questions I can remember right now, but if you have more, ask them here.  I’ll update if I remember more.  Leaving in a month! Woo!

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.

ADPi_Crest

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.

Education