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:
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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!

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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:

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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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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!

graduation announcement

This graduation announcement is one of the many drafts I went through before I finally created one that I absolutely loved.  (The final draft is going out in the mail this week!)  I have used most of my free time the past couple of days playing around with graduation announcements in Photoshop, and now that I am done I am realizing that creating and mailing graduation announcements means that graduation is SO SOON.  It seems strange that there are only 10 class days left and a week of finals.  I’m not so sure that I really understand what it will mean to be a college graduate, yet.  I don’t think it will feel real until January rolls around and everyone is moving back in without me.  I already have days where I get pretty emotional, so I cannot imagine what move-in day is going to feel like when I’m packing for China instead.  Don’t get me wrong–I am stoked about China.  To actually print, “Jessica plans to teach English in Beijing, China…” is thrilling and terrifying all at once.  It makes this a reality.  I am starting down a new path, and I can barely see the road ahead.

For the longest time, I was afraid that not being able to see down the path in front of me was a bad thing.  I have wrongly assumed that having uncertainties in my future meant that I had chosen the wrong path. I know that I’m going to China, but I have no idea what to expect.  I know that I’m applying to grad school, but I have no clue what will happen after that.  Surely that’s a sign that these are the wrong choices for my life, a lack of confirmation from God.  Well, I don’t believe that one bit.  In the past several months, I have learned a lot about Christian liberty, and that has been, well, liberating.  I have come to realize that I have the liberty to make choices in life that lead me down paths that I believe to be beneficial and enjoyable, as long as I seek to glorify the One who has made these paths for me.  When morality and the law do not prohibit an action, God grants us liberty to make life decisions using the wisdom that He has given us.  Even if I chose the RUF Internship or Teach for America, God would still use me.  Knowing that makes it less tempting to question my decisions and ask, ‘what if?’