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Everything posted by mapiau

  1. I was in a similar situation to you, and when you are a few years out of undergrad your GPA starts mattering a whole lot less than when you are in school. I don't remember my exact GPA in my first two years of undergrad, but I failed advanced calculus twice and got Cs in two spanish classes. I also freaked out about how these bad grades were going to stop me from getting into any grad school. I ended up graduating with a 3.5. I only worked full time a year between undergrad and applying to grad school, but with similar GRE scores to you got into AU SIS, SAIS, Syracuse Maxwell, Fletcher, and UCSD GPS. I got significant aid at most of them and a full ride and stipend at GPS, which let me graduate with no debt. So I don't think your grades are as big of a barrier as they look to you today. Sure, there are some elite programs that a low undergrad GPA can be a major problem for. But I personally have a nice life after attending an "average" program, so it's all what you make of it. If you're dedicated to Asian studies I would recommend devoting serious effort to language practice outside of the classroom (I never learned anything in formal language classes) and finding relevant work opportunities after you graduate.
  2. The GPS courses are for the most part very practical. The school seems to pride itself on being professionally oriented, and I do not think it is a good fit for people who want to go on to PhDs. Many courses teach practical skills (the data courses for example, or case studies in the international management courses), many have very valuable presentation requirements, and the capstone classes are explicitly professionally focused and work with external clients. The curriculum is also pretty open, and within the MIA/MPP degrees the individual career tracks don't have very many course requirements and there is a lot of room to take what you are interested in, though this is easier if you test out of the language requirement and have more room in your schedule. Career Services is one of the major strengths of the program. The GPS career services team had four full-time staff members when I was there, which given the program's relatively small size made them very accessible. The career services staff knew most students' names and career goals, and would review cover letters or arrange coaching sessions on a day's notice. The career services trips to major job markets were also very helpful, though students do have to pay for the travel costs. Most students got summer internships, but you have to hustle and be proactive to get them. I've heard that the longtime head of Career Services is retiring though, so unfortunately the department might not be as strong in the future. They're fine social opportunities and I guess can help you network, but don't count on participating in student orgs to help you get a job. The prep program is six weeks, with courses throughout the day. Most students are required to take prep and I thought it was very useful, particularly if you haven't done calculus for a few years. It's also a good opportunity to meet the other students early on, and career services has seminars interspersed throughout. I would realistically say that the student body is one of the weaker aspects of the programs. Students are generally smart and motivated, but the student body tends young, with a significant portion of the cohort either with only a year or two of unrelated work experience or straight out of undergrad. There are many students with impressive work histories or life experiences, but it has to be said that the student body feels younger than I assume you'd find in some other programs. I did not find it to be cutthroat at all, though I suspect that this varies by cohort. Very few students in my cohort wanted to do PhDs and most did not care about grades. Students were very collaborative, and professors encouraged working together on assignments -- this is basically the only way to make it through QM II. There is a big focus on group work in the program, which is another way the courses are professionally-orientated and less academic.
  3. I think energy and environment is one of GPS' strongest fields. The program has been increasing its focus on this area recently, and there are a lot of alumni who get jobs in the field afterwards. This is also one field where the California location is an advantage and not a disadvantage. There are several GPS faculty who specialize in energy and environmental policy, with David Victor, Joshua Graff Zivin, and Kate Ricke being the main ones. I found the energy and environment course offerings to be strong. GPS is also adding new classes and faculty in the energy area especially. Additionally one of four MIA capstone options is a consulting class focused on energy, where students work with external energy companies. I found this course to be very useful in my career and definitely helped me get a job coming out of the program, but like all consulting classes the attention from the clients can vary. It's a very useful learning experience though. MPP students can take this class but I don't think it counts as the MPP capstone. If you take Quantitative Methods 1-4 and the two GIS courses I think the GPS data offerings are also head and shoulders above other programs, which could be a big advantage on the job market. I'd encourage you to look at alumni in the energy/environment space on LinkedIn. I can speak less to environmental policy, but in energy there are a ton of GPS alumni at California utilities, independent power firms, and other roles. I can't speak to the other programs, but I also got a full ride from UCSD and not having debt to pay off is just very, very nice. I think the chance to avoid debt matters a lot more than program fit, since these programs are really what you make of them anyway.
  4. Hey everyone, I graduated from the GPS MIA program last year and am happy to try answering any questions you have about the program. I'm an American and work in the energy industry, so I can't speak to the international student experience, the security/international politics side of things, or continuing on to PhDs, but can probably answer some more general questions.
  5. Which region interests you the most? Selecting which region to focus on based on its desirability to admissions committees is getting it backwards -- you attend grad school for a few years, but your career is decades.
  6. When talking to current students I found it revealing to ask what the worst thing about their school was. I'd also ask how effective the career services department actually is, which seems to be highly variable between school and makes a big difference in the job hunt.
  7. Won't let me edit, but I checked and the GIS series lets students do their projects in groups.
  8. Yes, the core classes are held in an auditorium-style lecture hall and are large. These classes usually have homework assignments and midterms and finals graded by TAs. For example, QM2 has 4 pretty intense homework assignments that are done in the statistical program Stata (students turn in their writeups as well as their code), as well as an individual final project and in-class written final. Policy-Making Processes (PMP) has in-class tests, 2 individual policy memo homework assignments, and cold calling. (Cold calling in such large classes is kinda challenging and some professors manage it more naturally than others.) It depends, but group papers are pretty common. Just the other day I was wondering whether I had a good qualitative research paper to submit for a writing prize and realized that I'd only written one research paper by myself in two years at GPS, and that was supposed to be a paper authored by two students but there was an odd number of students in the class! There are a good number of courses with individual paper requirements, but I would say that in the school overall the emphasis is more on shorter policy memos and group projects. Of the MIA capstones only QM4 has an individual paper requirement (not sure about the MPP or MCEPA capstones), with the international politics capstone is a group research paper and Strategy & Negotiation and the new energy capstone is a group consulting project for an external client. Especially during the second year there are more final projects than final exams: I think during fall and winter quarter this year I've only had three finals but six final projects of varying intensity. (For example, one of these was a capstone group consulting project with a 20 minute presentation, one a group quant research paper, one an individual corporate strategy proposal.) Quant courses tend to have individual projects. QM2 and 3 both have (kinda hectic and rushed, since you do them during week 9 and 10) individual final poster assignments. QM4 and the GIS series all produce single-author papers.
  9. Yeah, most of the first year curriculum is filled with core classes, with electives and the capstone during the second year. For the MIA a typical first year is: Fall GPCO 401. Microeconomics for Policy and Management GPCO 412. Globalization, the World System, and the Pacific GPCO 453. Quantitative Methods I Language Winter GPCO 400. Policy-Making Processes GPCO 415. Accounting and Finance for Policy Makers GPCO 454. Quantitative Methods II Language Spring GPCO 403. International Economics GPCO 410. International Politics and Security Language Elective Of course, if you're in the MIA but don't have to take language classes this opens up a lot of slots for electives. Some people also waive core classes, but this is pretty hard to do. (For example, I was an econ major in undergrad but was only able to waive QM 1.) Last year a lot of people wanted to waive International Security but weren't allowed to. The career tracks usually only require two required classes and three electives (from a broad list), so there's a lot of room to customize them. While there is no waitlist for any GPS course unfortunately classes are only offered once a year and sometimes not every year (this is pretty rare). In a two year program this means that scheduling conflicts may mean you miss classes you want, and I wouldn't recommend choosing to attend GPS based on one specific course you want to take since you might not be able to. I only took one Spanish class at GPS so can only speak to that. I *believe* that Spanish and Chinese are only offered at GPS from the intermediate level up, so if you are just starting you would have to take undergraduate classes. Otherwise you would take the intermediate+ courses at GPS. I've heard complaints about the undergrad classes from people in my cohort (the undergrad language classes are five units and like 6 hours per week, more than GPS language classes), and personally had bad experiences in UCSD Spanish classes years ago as an undergrad. Your experience in other languages may be different, however. If you really care about the language course offerings I would encourage you to ask admissions. One thing to potentially be aware of in the MIA is that international students can only waive the language requirement if they are native speakers of a GPS "Pacific" language—good news if you're from east Asia, not great if you are from Africa. I don't know. The hands-down best instructor at GPS is Craig McIntosh, who teaches QM3 and QM4 and some of the development courses. Jennifer Burney who teaches QM2 is also good, as is Stephan Haggard who does Globalization and Asian security stuff. In environmental and energy policy David G. Victor is very famous and is a good lecturer. I haven't had either of them but I've heard good things about the new economics and marketing professors Uma Karmarkar and Renee Bowen. Bill Bold, who was a former VP at Qualcomm, just started teaching business classes and is a great lecturer and assigns lots of assignments with real-world feels. I've taken mostly energy and business/finance, so only know those professors personally. Aside from these standouts most GPS professors are good-to-average. Unfortunately some professors are boring or bad lecturers, and there are two or three older professors who are disorganized and poor to very poor teachers. Aside from them I have been pretty satisfied with the overall quality of the teaching, though some students disagree.
  10. Yes, while a few GPS students are admitted to PhD programs (and there are more who come in wanting to pursue a PhD in the future) it is a professional program and is not focused on preparing students for PhDs. The various capstone project options also are professionally-focused rather than an original research thesis. If you strongly want to pursue a PhD other programs may be more relevant. I think there are a couple things going on here. First the GPS employment outcome statistics do not include MPP students since the program is so new. Second is that the overall program's high share of students going into the private sector may be due to the MIA degree's International Management career track offers more MBA-like courses than other International Affairs programs (this track was originally established before UCSD had a business school, and remains separate from it today). Third is the West Coast location, which in my mind makes it a bit easier to apply to employers here than in other parts of the country. While the Bay Area has a big tech-funded philanthropy cluster the West Coast has nowhere near the same number of nonprofit or government jobs as the East Coast. As I've said before while many GPS students intern and subsequently get jobs in DC if you know you want to work there GPS may not be the program for you. There are resources to help DC focused students like the annual career services trip to DC (students have to pay for this; not an insignificant expense), a government-focused full-time career services employee, and I *think* a new option to do a quarter in DC through the UC-wide UC DC program, though I don't know the details and you should definitely ask admissions if this is important to you. But job hunting in DC from San Diego is definitely puts you at a disadvantage compared to programs located in DC. Other financial, academic, etc. considerations may outweigh this downside for you, but it is real.
  11. I live in on-campus grad housing. When I moved in in Fall 2016 the grad housing was significantly impacted and students in my class often remained on the wait list through their first year. (I was able to move into grad housing in August by saying I wanted to move in during July—I paid for an extra month, but since most students want to move in during August I jumped to the front of the line.) This fall a large new grad housing complex opened (Mesa Nueva), and while I don't know the details my understanding is that the wait list is much shorter now. Most of the first years in the program now seem to live there. The grad housing is fine. It is very subsidized: doubles are around $600 per month per person, and you'd be hard pressed to find comparable off-campus housing that is reasonably close to the university for under $1,000 per month. The apartments are for the most part comfortable and pretty new (the Mesa apartments are much older), and have full kitchens and shared laundry facilities. They are also close to campus, about a 15 minute bike ride or 40 minute walk. There's a regular shuttle, but it isn't much faster than walking. The downside is that the surrounding area is mostly office parks and malls with few restaurants or bars and not much of a city life feel, and are about a 20 minute drive (without traffic) from the more exciting SD neighborhoods. Some of the One Miramar St apartments face Interstate 5 and have lots of highway noise. Also between the new grad apartments, San Diego trolley expansion, and other projects the East Campus grad housing will be surrounded by noisy (24 hour a day for the trolley) construction sites for the next few years. Most of the apartments aren't furnished either.
  12. When I took the GPS prep program last year we had two weeks of math camp reviewing high school math and derivative calculus, followed by three weeks of introductory Quantitative Methods and microeconomics. The QM and Econ classes are taught by the professors teaching those classes in the fall quarter, so these prep classes are basically extensions of those classes. Prep is roughly four hours of class time a day, and the QM and Econ classes have finals. Grades aren't recorded however, and it's a good opportunity to get back into the groove of school if you've been away for a few years. There are also various orientations scattered through prep. Career services does a mandatory orientation covering things like how to format a resume and business etiquette, which is pretty basic if you've worked in the US before but is useful for international students or people straight out of undergrad. I haven't pursued TA or GSR positions at GPS, so I'm not sure. I regularly get emails recruiting for these positions, though.
  13. Oh, I also agree that the 24.99% GSRships don't offer very many benefits and know they're somewhat controversial. I know some GPS students who have 50% TA positions in undergrad departments, and while they have more benefits the workload is very heavy. I don't have any firsthand knowledge of on-campus work opportunities, so I'll not comment on them any further!
  14. I'll defer to you then. I don't know which portion of GPS students with TAships or GSRs are at 24.99% versus higher.
  15. I disagree that TA and RA (GSR or Graduate Student Researcher is the more common term) positions are rare for GPS students. While GPS students don't TA for undergrad econ or poli sci classes many have TA jobs in the undergrad college writing programs (which don't have their own grad students), and a decent number of second year GPS students TA for first year classes. I don't know the actual numbers, but off the top of my head I'd say roughly a quarter to a third of second years are TAs or GSRs. And yes this is extremely hectic with the quarter system, but people make it work. I don't know the details, but be aware that a decent number of GSR positions are for 24.99% time and have less benefits than 25% time positions. You could probably reach out to admissions or student affairs if you have more questions.
  16. I can't give you an exact breakdown, but the courses are more "real" than theoretical. Most courses focus on real-world problems and use real data for quant assignments. I believe that all of the capstone classes also involve working with outside clients, which is challenging and clients can very a lot in attention/quality but is certainly real-world. (Occasionally clients fall through for these classes, but they remain focused on concrete policy problems.) In addition to the capstone courses the QM and GIS courses have a project component, as do most of the business courses. These are usually pretty rushed due to the quarter system, but that's good training in my opinion. There's also a big focus on concise memo-writing and presenting, which I think is much more "real-world" than 15 page essay writing if you're aiming for a job outside of academia. I'm not a MPP student, and the program's newness is definitely a valid concern. There is no MPP alumni network anywhere because none have graduated with, and this is a downside you will have to weigh against the strengths of the program. One thing I would recommend is poking around on linkedin and identifying MIA students (this was known as the MPIA degree in the past, Masters of Pacific International Affairs) in MPP-type careers to investigate whether the MIA network could partially make up for the lack of an MPP network. Sorry but I can't help here—as am American student I don't know much about and have no personal experience of this.
  17. I think the strengths of the program are its variety, quantitative rigor, and the network (more on this later). GPS has a pretty broad variety of classes and the degree requirements are flexible, meaning that it is easy to take the classes that are relevant to your goals. While students have career tracks (MIA) and areas of specialization (MPP), the actual requirements for these are so broad that the actual track you take is fairly meaningless since they're so flexible. The downside of this is if you don't know what you want to do or which classes are the most useful given your goals the lack of structure can be lead you to taking electives you don't benefit from. I can't speak to other programs but the quantitative methods courses stand out to me. Most students take the QM series through the optional QM3, and many take the QM4 research capstone.* I was an econ major in undergrad and I learned a lot more in even QM2 than my year of undergrad econometrics. While QM3 is optional I would highly recommend that you plan on taking it, since quantitative edge is a core competency of this program and it opens up a lot of second-year classes. Additionally, many other later classes (the GIS series, trade classes, some of the regional classes) rely on concepts from QM2 and 3 and if you avoid these classes you're put at a disadvantage. Be realistic about what these classes get you—they are not an econ PhD—but they seem pretty valued by employers and students regularly get quant-focused development jobs. Overall I think the program is strongest in international development, economics, and energy. GPS offers a lot of international security classes and the professors in this area are quite accomplished, but while I can't speak to this firsthand I think the distance from DC is a real handicap here. The alumni network is a mixed bag: on the one hand it is certainly smaller than the networks from older, larger programs like SAIS, but on the other hand I think GPS' lower profile makes alumni more motivated to lend a hand to current students. The alumni network is also pretty concentrated in California, which can be a plus or a minus depending on if you want to remain here or not. For an international affairs program most alumni aren't working in particularly "international" positions, but I think that is true of many programs and again may be a plus or minus depending on your goals. The final strength of the school is its carer services department. There are four full-time career services folks for around 300-ish students in the program, which I understand is a pretty good ratio. While of course they can't get you a job they are very consistent about send out positions and connecting students with alumni, and can usually review a cover letter or conduct a mock interview with you on a few days notice. Additionally many of the classes have a strong emphasis on memo writing (I personally haven't written many research papers in this program) and presenting, which is very helpful on the job market. The weaknesses of GPS are pretty obvious: the alumni network is more limited and West Coast-focused than other schools, and in some fields being so far from DC can be limiting. The School's name recognition is not amazing, and worse so after the recent name change. (Until a few years ago it was International Relations/Pacific Studies or IR/PS.) The quality of teaching is in my opinion pretty good but also highly variable, and there are a couple not great-to-terrible teachers that students avoid. Professors also regularly launch new classes, which is general a plus but sometimes are very poorly planned. The quarter system is also very fast-paced and makes the capstone classes with major projects or outside consulting work very challenging because it leaves so little time (ten weeks) to complete these classes' work products. Students' work suffers in these classes because of the fast pace, but this is arguably good practice for the private sector. I also think the popular international management track leads to students graduating with an "MBA-lite" degree but without much finance that doesn't seem too useful. You can seek these finance classes out, but it's something to be aware of and you should avoid applying for jobs where you're competing directly with MBAs since the degrees are not equivalent. Despite recently dropping "Pacific" from the school name GPS is still very Pacific focused, and if you want to study Africa, the Middle East, or Europe there is nothing for you here. (There are very few foreign students from these regions as well.) The regional classes in general vary in quality: there are lots of students who aren't too motivated because they're in the MIA but don't care much about their region of focus (mostly in the Latin America track, which has the easiest language requirement), and the smaller regions like Japan and Southeast Asia are neglected in terms of numbers of professors and classes. The language classes are also not amazing and if you're just starting a language you have to take undergrad classes, which by all accounts are terrible. The student body is also a mixed bag. There are a LOT of very motivated, impressive students here, and some stars that go on to very impressive careers. However, GPS is not a particularly competitive program and there are a lot of students who are straight out of undergrad or 22 year olds coming directly from UCSD's undergrad through the BA/MIA program. This doesn't make them unintelligent of course, but the lack of real-world experience or career direction is sometimes obvious. Classroom participation is also sometimes low and there are classes where there are the same half-dozen students talking. I don't know if it's possible to receive financial aid later on. I do know being awarded a Dean's Fellow (which are awarded to like 15–20 first years) only gets you like $500 and is more of a social obligation (as in Dean's Fellows have to organize/attend events) than a scholarship. *QM3 and QM4 have misleading course names. If you're looking at the course catalog QM3 is listed as Applied Data Analysis and Statistical Decision Making and QM4 is titled Evaluating Technological Innovation for some reason.
  18. I'm a graduating second-year Masters of International Affairs at GPS, and happy to answer any questions people might have.
  19. At UCSD GPS the interviews are basically informal language tests to make sure international students didn't cheat on their TOFEL. They just ask basic questions about your experience and so on, or so I hear. I wouldn't worry about it or prepare much for it.
  20. Seconding everything ExponentialDecay said. Building your statistical programming abilities (getting familiar with Stata, or doing online courses in R or Python) wouldn't be a bad idea at some point either. I was familiar with Stata from an undergrad econ degree but still felt very underprepared and stressed re-learning it during the first year of my program. I can't speak to anything related to public health, but I do think it's really important to work (not intern) in a field before making a multiyear and tens of thousands dollar commitment to graduate study in that field. I always worry it comes off as condescending to point this out, but it really is true that looking at a field or industry from afar can be very different than working in it. Often the activities you actually spend your days doing is more important to your job satisfaction, in my mind, than the actual subject matter, and this can be hard to judge from the outside. An internship in public health is great, but internships are often not indicative of the actual experience of working full-time in an industry. Again, I can't speak to the public health field though. Prior work experience in your field of interest of course is also valued by admissions committees, opens doors to talking to people in industry, and helps you 'speak the language' and not come off as naive. Additionally—and this can REALLY come off as condescending—certain aspects of public interest work like low pay and job insecurity look very different from your early twenties than from your late twenties, though it sounds like that with teaching abroad and possibly the peace corps you would be making these decisions a few years removed from undergrad anyway.
  21. Seconding this. The question isn't what schools are likely to accept you straight out of college, but whether you will have a fulfilling experience that successfully positions you for a career in your chosen field. Even if you're confident you know what you want to do, this may change once you've actually worked in the space, and work experience will make it far easier to credibly network and focus your education while in grad school.
  22. I’m a second year at GPS, and disagree with most of this. Yes, the core classes are math heavy, and Managerial Econ covers a lot of material in a single quarter in order to minimize the number of required core classes. The TAs are very hit or miss, and I had a mixed experience in the one quarter of language classes I took. All in all the core classes are too big and often difficult but the curve is generous, and the quant-heavy material is a distinctive part of the program and shouldn’t be a shock. I’m surprised to hear that you don’t like the Globalization course, which I thought was very well taught and was my favorite of the core classes. What you say about some of the students is true—there are a lot of students without experience in international affairs or business or who are straight out of undergrad. (I think the school should admit less young students, and should get rid of the BA/MIA program.) Some of the international students also lack the English skills to really participate in class discussions. But again, this shouldn’t be surprising—GPS is a less selective program than more elite East Coast schools, and that’s just the reality. There are also some very impressive students, both in my year and the year before me. Honestly, this program is what you make of it. I’m realistic about some of its problems (some very poor professors, TAs who shouldn’t be teaching, the lack of some key classes, comparatively limited network, etc.), and understand that it is less selective than some other programs. But I also appreciate that it has a lot of resources available for students who reach for them, and that it’s far easier to stand out in GPS’ smaller program. I had a very tough choice deciding between GPS and a higher-ranked East Coast program, but haven’t regretted it and believe that in my field at least I’m having a better experience at GPS. If your attitude a quarter in is only how disappointed you are, it’ll be harder for you to take advantage of the opportunities and advantages that GPS does offer.
  23. My sense is yes, though significantly more in California than in NYC (this is due to a combination of a stronger network in CA, proximity, and choice, since many people attend UCSD rather than an east coast school because they want to work in CA). Placement is pretty variable though, and while most find a job by the end of the summer after graduating many get jobs in the private sector without the international component that they may have wanted, or program administration jobs at NGOs that you may not need a Masters for. This unsurprisingly seems to be concentrated among younger students without major work experience before starting the program. The DC alumni network is definitely weaker than schools like SAIS, but students do get jobs there in the public sector, multinationals (especially foreign students), or research firms. My not-entirely-trustworthy impression is that the alumni network's comparative advantage relative to other programs is strongest in the development and energy sectors (the latter mostly in CA). There is more information about job placement on the school website, though it's fairly vague and as far as I know they don't report median salaries by sector.
  24. I don't think it's very informative to ask the schools themselves. While you can ask things like how many counselors work in their career services departments each school is going to tell you that their career services offerings are great, and teasing out useful information from these responses will be difficult. Instead I'd ask former students (since current students haven't actually applied for and gotten jobs for the most part), though since most students have nothing to compare their schools' career services to it can still be confusing. Many alumni are happy to chat if you reach out, in my experience. Despite what I just said about current students, I can speak a bit about UCSD GPS' career services. I have found the department to be quite good, and a major draw for the program. GPS has three full-time and one part-time career counselors, which for a program of ~300 students is a good ratio and in my understanding higher than other international affairs programs (I can't speak to MPP programs). I've been able to have career services employees proofread resumes or hold mock interviews on very short notice, and they are usually available for one-on-one meetings within a few days. Each year career services hosts trips to the Bay Area, DC, and NYC (though at the students' expense) to visit employers, and are very involved in finding summer internships. Career services has good relationships with seemingly all Masters of International Affairs alumni (there are not yet MPP alumni at GPS), and will often reach out to alumni on students' behalf. Their advice is usually very good, though I've had employers give different feedback on resumes than career services The quality of career services is only one part of getting a job of course (unfortunately alumni networks probably matter more), but my impression of GPS' has been good.
  25. I'd avoid talking about reading foreign affairs magazines in high school. You want to demonstrate an abiding interest in your field, but my sense is that admissions committees get a lot of similar SOPs that talk about how passionate applicants are while not focusing on what makes them a strong candidate. I'd recommend that you focus more on your actual achievements while living and working abroad. I would strongly recommend trying to get your quant score up to at least 160. I know your situation is challenging, but the GRE is a test that can be learned, and I was able to raise my quant score significantly studying with the online course Magoosh. Given that 150 really is quite low for the schools you are targeting I think it would be worthwhile to do everything you can to raise this score, including even waiting to apply if you aren't able to retake the test before this application season.
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