Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reservations for Hawaii

Warning: This post is not well composed or carefully edited. It's a bit stream-of-consciousness, and by that I mean it has a lot of tangents and long paragraphs I didn't bother to break up because that's just how they came out. Living on the wild side today. No guarantees.

I realize that I haven't done a post since Monday. Things are getting pretty crazy at this point. I am frantically trying to bring my projects at work to a close so I can leave next month and move to Hawaii for grad school. Seeing as two of my current projects are papers that are both to varying degrees unwritten, I have a lot of work to do. I have an enormous stack of forms that I have to fill out for grad school and my research assistantship. I am making doctor appointments for various tests that are required for enrollment. I am combing Craigslist for an apartment or house, something affordable and preferably within walking or at least biking distance from the campus. I am figuring out what to do with my car--sell it and buy another one there, or ship it. I am coordinating with my mom who is going to visit her parents in Honolulu at the same time that I will be moving there about how much "family time" I'll have and how much time I'll be trying to set myself up at work and at a new apartment. And I'm appeasing my grandparents who don't understand why I didn't have this all sorted out two months ago.

Do I hear violins playing? I know, I'm whining about moving to Hawaii. But as much as I put on my I'm-deliriously-happy-and-why-wouldn't-I-be-it's-Hawaii front whenever I talk to anyone about moving to Hawaii for grad school, I am not without some reservations.

Make no mistake, I am thrilled to be getting out of here. I spent one summer here as an undergrad, and honestly, I was not sad at the thought of never coming back. But when I graduated and had no idea what I wanted to do other than to get out of my parents' house, the easiest thing was to come back--housing and paycheck and no interview required. It was supposed to be for two months; that's how long the funding would last and it was enough time for me to figure out what I wanted to do instead (hah!). More funding came, and my life wasn't figuring itself out, and before I knew it, two months turned into two years. So I am very excited to be leaving here to move to Hawaii. But I'm not sure I'm any happier than I would be moving to Seattle or Santa Cruz.

I name Seattle and Santa Cruz because they are the homes to the University of Washington and UC Santa Cruz respectively, two schools with great oceanography programs that I did not apply to. I applied to only three schools: 1) here, because it's familiar and I knew I could get in, 2) the University of Hawaii, because Hawaii is nice, and 3) the most competitive oceanography program in the country. In retrospect, that was probably not the wisest selection of schools. My two years working here in oceanography research gave me a great advantage in applying to grad schools. Not only did it plump up my resume, adding experience to my not unimpressive college transcript, but it also gave me an "in" in the field. I know people. I know people who know people. I got to see firsthand how the whole grad school admissions thing works in this field, and I had professors willing to give me all the wise advice and juicy details I could want. But--and I think this was ultimately nobody's fault but my own--I think in the end the way I handled that "inside" knowledge did not benefit me. The two professors I work for were both sure I would get into school #3; I quote, "I really don't see any reason you wouldn't get in there." I maintained some skepticism, but I think there was definitely a part of me that could already see the acceptance letter at the point that I was doing the applications. Also, I knew from my professors that the best applicants always contact professors beforehand, networking and establishing potential advisors to list on the application. I believed this to the extent that I did not apply anywhere that I had not made contact with a potential advisor. Since I am not the most confident and active networker, this added up to three schools. I tried contacting a guy from UW, but he never responded. I looked over the research interests of faculty at UCSC and UC San Diego (Scripps), but no one popped out at me as having research interests exactly like my own. So I didn't contact anyone, and I didn't apply. But on my visit to UHawaii in March, I observed two things. One, that the two professors who offered to be my advisor were not the professor I had talked to when applying. The department liked my application, thought that I would be a good person to have at their school, then passed my application around to all the professors asking, "Who wants her?" Two, there was a girl there who had never done anything oceanography-related before, and had no idea what she wanted to study other than the broad topic of "physical oceanography". As such, she hadn't contacted any professors, she had just sent her application to six or seven schools. She got into five of them, and then she went about visiting each and meeting people and choosing between them. The point is, it may help to have contacted a professor and have him or her on your side when applying, but it is not a requirement, and if you're like me and are shy and very hesitant to contact anyone, it doesn't hurt just to send out more applications to places you might want to be and then let the faculty help match you up with an advisor. UH is a great school with a very strong oceanography program. But I'm not sure that with the way it turned out it actually makes more sense for me to be at UH than UW or one of the UCs. After all, when I realized that my application to UH would arrive a day late, I remember thinking, "Oh well." At the time, I must not have been taking the option of going to UH too seriously. It's sort of a troubling memory.

Lastly, there's the weather. Hawaii is gorgeous. Most people would probably consider its climate a paradise. But the thing is, I like seasons. I have this little thing on Facebook where under "interests", the first item listed is always the current season--with an exclamation point, even (tomorrow, I'll have to change it to "Summer!"). Dorky and quaint, I know, but I've been doing it since the beginning of Facebook. The fact is, I'm always excited for the new season. I love the beach, but eventually I get sick of the hot summers and excited to put on long pants again and see the leaves turn colors. Then I get excited at the prospect of snow. Then I get sick of the cold and want to see all the flowering trees. Then I'm ready to go swimming again. Actually, I tend to get a little cranky in prolonged hot weather. Hawaii doesn't get too bad because of the trade winds, but if it's in the 80s all the time... I love my warm weather clothes. I have some great sweaters. I love my corduroys. My favorite item of clothing is a purple velvet scarf (actually an accessory I guess). The story behind it: There was this store in our local mall in my home town called Monsoon which I always loved to look through. They had flowy shirts and long skirts all in the most vibrant hues. But the prices were way above what my $20/month allowance could support, so it was always just looking. But one day I was passing through (and I do mean passing through--it was this odd layout where the little store had two entrances, connecting from the main hall, reaching behind two other stores to open back out at one of the side halls) and saw this purple velvet scarf that was on sale and marked down and 75% off on top of it all... In short, it was $4. I felt I had hit the jackpot. I finally had my item from Monsoon. And it's not a solid color but transitions from deep purple to a sort of fuchsia. It's one of my items of clothing that gets a lot of compliments (along with my ring and a couple of my skirts). Anyway, it sounds shallow to say "I don't want to live in Hawaii because I can't wear my purple scarf!," but it's kind of representative of... I don't know... how the Hawaii climate will limit the variety of my wardrobe. OK, still shallow. But it's something I've thought about that makes me a little sad. I will need to find more exciting summer clothes.

I don't expect a lot of sympathy. I mean, I'm moving to Hawaii. It's rough. Cry me a river. Scuba diving for my job. Eating mango for breakfast (and lychee and papaya and pineapple and lilikoi aka passion fruit and guava). Having dim sum with my cousins. Going to the beach year round. Getting a nice tan. Learning to surf (?). Not to worry. Despite some reservations, I am still really excited about moving to Hawaii.


Sebastian said...

The stream of consciousness works OK, but try to break down the bigger paragraphs next time.

Monsoon rocks. I think most of my girlfriends have at one stage or another worn a dress from there, and they always look dazzlingly delectable.

Is it a satellite link for the Internet there, or did they sink some cables? Pretty sure they have a cable by now...

Wondering about your MMORPG ping latency...

Hezabelle said...

I like this post because when I start thinking about my grad school my mind goes like that too.... I think it's really important to acknowledge the possible bad things so you don't put it on a pedestal that the next year can never live up to.

I'm super jealous of the Hawaii part though! Mmm sun.

Eleni said...

Seb - Yeah, I was kind of aware that my paragraphs were getting long, but I didn't feel like going back and editing. Felt more like writing a disclaimer. Too much effort at the moment. Ugh.

I hadn't thought about the satellite/cable issue. Have to look into that. It has occurred to me that the two play tests for Champions Online will end in Hawaii time at 6pm on Wednesdays and 9pm on Fridays, which is not a very good schedule for those who work. I guess beta will end September 1 when they release it, anyway.

Hez - Hey, the UK isn't too shabby a place either, Ms. Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I think it would be really exciting and a great experience to live in a different country. I'm jealous of that! You're right though... Grad school will hopefully be great, but it's not going to be perfect. Leave yourself room to be pleasantly surprised.