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American in Beijing

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Everything posted by American in Beijing

  1. "If that was my only option" seems to imply to me that it's not exactly your ideal thing to do after getting a PhD either. Once you get your PhD, wouldn't you also become overqualified for a middle school position? Obviously becoming a professor is not the only thing you can do with a PhD in general. A career in industry is definitely an option for people in the hard sciences. Government jobs are also an option for people in the social sciences. But for the humanities, becoming a professor is the only real option that I am aware of. And yes, there is of course the emotional side of getting a PhD. But if you can't provide for yourself and your family afterwards (which is definitely a possibility in a fiercely competitive job market where there are too many PhDs and not enough jobs) More importantly, getting a PhD hardly makes you more qualified to serve your students, because it does not actually teach you very much about pedagogy. If a teacher were valuable purely based on their knowledge, then why bother having teachers at all? Why not just give middle school children books and have them read them on their own! Teaching requires a certain type of skill that has very little to do with the actual amount of knowledge he/she has. @Eigen I do come from a relatively rural area, so that may be the reason my teacher was allowed to teach during the summer. However, my point is that even at the colleges where the faculty "primarily teach", research and sitting on committees still play a significant role. You can't devote 100% of your time to your students. Also, you only see each class twice a week on average, and many of these classes can be quite large. So the amount of time you spend with each students ends up being very small compared to other teaching settings. And yes, I do know that a PhD is typically required for lower-tier 4-year colleges.
  2. I agree that teaching in high school is completely different from teaching in a college/university setting, hence why I suggested it as a viable alternative for this person. From what I could tell when I wrote this post, the OP seemed a lot more interested in teaching and seemed to have little or no concern for research. If you just want to teach, it might be better to save the time and aggravation of getting a PhD and start focusing on a career path where you could do some good. And no, I was certainly not implying that going to teach in rural China is the only way to do some good in the world. But this person seemed to be very into saving the world through teaching and this program in China happened to be one of the THREE programs I am familiar with that are both very highly regarded and have this same goal. Also, you do not need to have a PhD to teach at a community college. One of my high school teachers used to teach courses at the local community college every summer, which he seemed to enjoy very much. I do not doubt that these kinds of people would stick out. But why do you say they stick out? Because of their attitude. If this person truly wanted to teach in this kind of setting, then they wouldn't have that kind of attitude to sabotage them, would they? I was definitely not saying that this person should give up their dream to teach at a smaller state school. I was merely encouraging him/her to consider ALL of the options and, more importantly, the ultimate consequences of his/her decision before it becomes irreversible. It can be incredibly frustrating to work in almost any teaching environment, from preschool to college. However, it can be even more frustrating to work in an environment where the problems and injustices seem enormous and individual progress slow/non-existent. It truly takes a special kind of person to be able to work in that kind of environment all day every day for 40 - 50 years and not become incredibly frustrated. I was just trying to get this person to ask himself/herself if he/she is truly that kind of special person. There are plenty of other ways where you as a professor could work with the underprivileged and at the same time also have a decent amount of research opportunities. Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister, become a faculty advisor to a student charity organization, organize a writing seminar that teaches students from low-income backgrounds/school districts how to write at the college level, or teach a course at a community college. All I'm saying is that you don't have to make helping others a permanent career in order for it to mean something.
  3. Maybe you should change your bed. I had tense shoulders for the longest time, but now that I have a new bed it's a lot better. I don't know how good Tai Chi would actually be for removing shoulder pain. I feel like it might be a good preventative method from getting your shoulders more tense, though, as you'll spend more time in a calm, relaxed state. Maybe you might want to combine Tai Chi with an acupuncture routine?
  4. I've done a bit of Tai Chi in various settings and I always really enjoyed it. I don't know about it helping to maintain joint health, but it's a great way to relax and relieve stress. You don't even have to be anywhere near physically fit to be able to do it either. I always enjoyed it, so I would definitely recommend it.
  5. But the thing is, Jae B. is in a field that (I'm assuming) values work experience, whereas the humanities definitely does not. Since your internship was in a related field, they might not ignore the letter from your internship supervisor. But why take that chance? The whole point of why these letters are valued so highly is so that these professors can see how much they might want to work with you. Academics tend to relate better to academics. Also, academics know what qualities other academics will value in a student, which is very important. It sounds like you're still in undergrad, which is great, because you can use this semester and this year to work on overcoming your shyness. Try to go to office hours a few times. Stay after class to discuss something or ask a question. Because the thing is, if you're too shy to form a good relationship with your professor, how are you going to fare when it comes time to orally defend your thesis in front of several professors (not that that doesn't make me nervous)? How are you going to be able to collaborate with others on research? How are you going to be a TA? I'm not trying to be mean or depress you. I know my share of once shy people who became teachers/professors. I'm just saying that in order to do that, they had to change the way they interacted with people. You need to be able to have the ability to connect with your colleagues and your professors in order to be able to survive grad school, because the grad school application process isn't going to be the last time someone has to write a LoR for you. And if those people in the future don't really connect with you either, then your chances at fellowships and good jobs are a LOT lower.
  6. I didn't do an undergraduate thesis and I was fine in the application process. However, if you're applying this fall, I would suggest doing the independent study in the fall if you can. It's a good way to show you can work independently.
  7. I think you definitely have a shot! Your professors seem very supportive of your application, which is definitely a good sign. They know you and your abilities much better than we ever could. I know the application process can be a bit demoralizing. But have confidence in yourself! You seem to have drive and determination, which in reality is half the battle. Just make sure you keep that determination up by any means possible. Take a break if it gets overwhelming. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself how wonderful you are. You can do it! Believe in yourself!
  8. If you're talking about a PhD in the humanities, I honestly don't feel 650 is a high cut-off. I'm not saying the cut-off should be higher, but it shouldn't be lower either. If you want a PhD in English, then shouldn't your vocabulary be greater than the vast majority of other people in this country?
  9. It's usually best to use academic recommendations, if you have them. I would try to hunt down another professor who can attest to your ability to do well in a classroom setting.
  10. Man, if we were at the same school I would totally join you in that game of tag. Although you know what you could do to get your grad school friends into it would be to start up a game of Paint Monster. We used to play this at an English Camp I worked at and it was the most fun thing ever. It's basically a combination of tag and hide and seek. Three people (maybe more or less, depending on the size of your group) are given a jar of paint (each a different color) and a paintbrush. They are then told to hide in different places while the rest of the group covers there eyes. Once they have hidden themselves, one, two or three (again, depending on the size of your group) "paint monsters" are chosen. These people are each given a damp washcloth. Once the paint monsters have been chose, the remaining people are allowed to run around freely looking for the painters. Once they have found a painter, the painter then uses the paintbrush to paint a stripe on the person's face. The goal of the game is to be the first one to return to the starting point with all the colors on his/her face. However, once you have paint on your face, you are vulnerable to the attacks of the paint monsters. If they see you with paint on your face, they can chase you and try to tag you. Once they have tagged you, they use the damp washcloth to wipe the paint off your face. You must then start over. Yet starting over might not be as easy as you thought, because the painters are allowed to move from their spots at any time, meaning that you have to start the whole process over again. This game is a lot of fun . . . and maybe I'll just start a game on Berkeley's campus for an afternoon of stress-relieving fun and exercise!
  11. By this point in my life, I know myself pretty well. I know if I'm in an environment with lots of stress, free food, and sedentary activities (i.e. studying), I'm going to gain lots of weight. I suppose this isn't surprising, but I'm a bit of a sugar addict so it can be much worse for me than other people. I decided that this time around I'm going be proactive about the issue and get some exercise routines in place before grad school starts. I've already bought a fancy new pair of running shoes for my planned "post-dinner run" (I know I won't do it in the morning). But as I'm a beginning runner and can't/shouldn't do it for very long, I'm still looking for a relatively short and not incredibly challenging activity to do during my breaks from running. I figured that since everyone here is on a similar schedule as mine, this would be a great place to get some ideas. In short, my basic question is: what do you do to stay healthy in grad school?
  12. Do you still live relatively close to your undergrad institution? Another option would be to e-mail other professors whose classes you did well in and ask them to meet with you to talk about grad school and being a professor. It will remind them of who you are and you'll come across as a bit more motivated. You could bring up the subject of letters of recommendation and ask whom they would suggest write you one (with the hopes that THEY will be open to writing you one). It's obviously ideal if you can get more than one letter from your undergrad institution. Recommendations from these people will mean a WHOLE lot more than some professor at a community college or an online course.
  13. If that's the case, I definitely think you have an advantage over the vast majority of international applicants (and, given your background, over many domestic applicants as well). But whether or not a public institution might still choose a domestic student with similar stats over you is another story. I guess it really depends on the department and their source of funding. For instance, I applied to two public schools, UCSD and Berkeley. While talking to one of the grad students, he mentioned that the department was not even considering international applicants this year, because they did not have the money to pay for them. I saw a few other people on this forum mention this for other departments, so I assumed it was institution-wide. However, my department at Berkeley has at least one international student in my cohort (I haven't met most of the students, so I can't really give you an exact number), so it's not exactly impossible for international students to get into the UC system. But it's important to note that my particular department receives a lot of private funding (my fellowship, for instance, is privately funded), so that I'm sure plays a big role into whether the department can accept international applicants. My advice would be to avoid applying to public institutions unless it's a school that you absolutely love, because the chances of you getting in are much lower.
  14. I doubt that you could transfer before the beginning of this school year. You would probably have to completely reapply, because it's usually the departments, not the university, that make the real admissions decisions. Is the change in field that radical? I guess I would need more information before I could offer my advice as to whether you should switch departments.
  15. LOL, hilarious! And soooo true! Learning extra seemingly "useless" languages for a PhD can seem frustrating, but sometimes the relevance of it only becomes apparent after you do it.
  16. I'm in history as well, and none of the schools I applied to required the subject test. I don't even know if there is one. There must be, I guess. To be honest, I think it would be a waste of time unless you have VERY little background in history. Even then I would recommend taking some kind of course in the fall over taking the history subject test. I took the GRE twice (my first AW score was absolutely horrible, so I had to take it again). Both times I gave myself just over a month to prepare. The first time I took it was in early February of my senior year. I spent the entirety of my January break studying for it. The second time I took it was in late July of that same year. I waited to study until a week or two after my graduation ceremony.
  17. I'd like to second the offer to review SOPs, if anyone is looking for a more humanities-oriented approach. However, this is a limited-time offer! I will only look at and comment on them up until August 23rd. I'm not sure I'm 100% comfortable posting my own SOP on this forum. However, if you are applying this year and you ask, I will more than likely let you look at mine.
  18. I agree. It's definitely not always the best decision to go with the biggest name or the most famous lab. If, after visiting and having detailed discussions with both faculty and students at several schools, you decide that the number 31 school is the best fit for your needs, then by all means go for it. However, I think it's a foolish decision to not even bother to apply to a school that in reality you know little about just because it's Ivy League and you don't want to work in a big lab or teach at an Ivy League institution. You should at least give yourself all the options you can so that when March comes around you can know you made an informed decision.
  19. Still, I agree with timuralp. I think it's a lot easier for an over-qualified applicant to convince Eastern Connecticut State University that they would really enjoy the opportunity to teach in an environment where they could teach students who are struggling to put themselves through college than it is for an under-qualified applicant to convince Harvard that they are the person that Harvard's fancy-schmancy research program needs to continue to be fancy-schmancy.
  20. I actually opened with a quote as well (largely inspired by this SOP). Perhaps it was cheesy, but I mostly used it to prove that I could read and understand Chinese, and that I had actually done research on my proposed topic. I originally had a SOP that was very "me" centered with detailed explanations of why and how I got into history. But everyone I asked to review my SOP said they were most impressed with the parts where I discussed my independent research. Sooo . . . I decided to switch it around. I made my SOP 3/4 about how my research is important/will benefit academic circles and 1/4 about my own personal history/qualifications. Maybe if I had made my SOP less specific I might have gotten into 3/4 programs or 4/4 programs. But in the end I got into a good program where I'm fairly certain I'm going to be happy. And, more importantly, it's a program where they're excited about my opinions and proposed area of research (perhaps even a little more than I am, lol). So it worked out. Then again, this is the model SOP from the Berkeley website and the program I am attending is a Berkeley program. If I remember correctly, I think this person also applied to the History department . . . maybe the moral of the story is, if you're applying to Berkeley History, start with a quote! My real honest opinion is that if you have a good quote from a source that is not commonly assigned reading material, then use it. This is particularly true if it's a source in another language and/or part of primary resources you used for your own original research. I think it looks impressive and like you really know your stuff. You don't necessarily need to use it at the beginning of your SOP, but tactfully incorporating it into your essay would not be a bad idea. However, if the quote you're thinking of using is some cheesy Gandhi or Mother Theresa quote from a cross-stitched decorative pillow about following your dreams, I would leave it out. Then again, that's just my opinion. Others may disagree.
  21. I, for one, never felt any bad vibes from you. I think what timuralp meant was that it's just a bit early to lock yourself into one dream or one idea of what it means to be a good professor. Things can change tremendously at this stage in a person's life, even in the very short time frame from the time you submit your applications in December/January until the time you make your decision in March/April. You should keep your mind open to all sorts of possibilities. Many of us go into this process knowing full well that in the end we may end up working at a non-Ivy state school, even if that is not our dream. And I highly doubt that anyone in this economic climate would be arrogant enough to scorn a tenure track position in such a school, even if it is less than ideal for that particular person. And I completely agree with you. Working in that kind of environment can have enormous benefits. I used to be a GED tutor and it was often a very satisfying experience to be able to help people whom our public school system has failed. But at the same time there are definite drawbacks to working in a setting where not everyone has the same amount of dedication to learning. During undergrad I was allowed to take classes at the neighboring public university, where I met one of my all-time favorite professors. She was young, dedicated, brilliant, and her class really opened my mind. I could tell that she very much enjoyed teaching our honors seminar, but she would tell us stories about how frustrating it was to teach her introductory lecture (basically Chinese History 101). She put such a great effort in the class and even brought them Chinese moon cakes as a special treat one day, which she paid for with her own money. However, no one in the entire class of 100+ students thanked her for it. They just didn't care enough, I guess. I felt very bad for her, because I could tell it really hurt her feelings. I don't mean to completely discourage you from teaching at a smaller university. I just want to point out that there are definitely unpleasant aspects about teaching in that kind of environment (not that there aren't in other types of schools). I would strongly urge you to try to get into the best program possible that will allow you to have an enjoyable graduate school experience. This way, when it comes time to find a job (which, like timuralp has correctly pointed out, is still a long way off), you have as many options open to you as possible. That way it's YOU making the decision, rather than your fate/circumstances making the decision for you.
  22. I would try again for a higher verbal score. For humanities programs, your verbal score should ideally be above 650. Then again, I don't know anything about the specific programs you're applying to. Perhaps you should look on their department websites and see if they have some numbers on there. I would like to reiterate though, that GRE scores are in no way, shape, or form the most important part of your application. All good scores do at many schools is get you past the first round of rejections. If your GRE scores are amazing, but your writing sample, SoP, and LoRs are terrible, it's likely you'll be rejected.
  23. To be honest, I have the same dilemma. But I think what I'm going to do is just wear whatever I would wear to a new internship, at least for the first couple of weeks or so. Then I might slowly shift into slightly more casual attire. Then again, I am one of the younger ones in my cohort, so I want to make sure people view me as a serious and professional woman rather than some happy-go-lucky little girl. I think flats are fine for this kind of thing. I can't imagine ever going to school in heels, although that might be just me. The pants sound fine. The T-Shirt seems fine as well as long as there is something over it so it doesn't look too plain, like the sweater or the blazer you mentioned. I would maybe not wear a hoodie on the first day, because that would destroy any professional look you're trying to create.
  24. Agreed. Why not have your cake and eat it too in grad school as well?
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