Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God is only a catapult waiting for the right time to let you go

I am listening to this song over and over and over and over again.

Arms Like Boulders - The War On Drugs

Since coming home from school last Saturday, I've been trying to do things as "American" as possible. It's some half-brained scheme to absorb as much USA before I leave for four months and become a visitor. Stupid, I know, especially considering the fact that I'm going to the one country in the world (except Canada) that's the least different from the one I know. At least that's my xenophobic pre-departure impression.

Stupid, also, because me trying to be hypo-American is just some skewed justification for buying Baconator combos.

My primary goals for this year were to study in London and to land an internship for next summer that met the following criteria:

1.) A major city that's not Philadelphia
2.) A prominent newspaper, magazine, or other publication
3.) Paid

The process was (foolishly) unknowingly stressful. I've had three previous internships (88.5 WXPN, Philadelphia Weekly and MAGNET), all of which were unpaid, all of which were in Philadelphia. I applied to five places that had deadlines in the fall: The Washington Post, Time Inc., The Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post and The Austin American-Statesman. If selected, I would hear from each publication (except Time) before Christmas break. My expectations were low, and I put together a list of 10-15 alternate newspapers, weekly papers, magazines and websites for which to also apply after these presupposed rejections. Almost all of these in the second round were unpaid and barely any even accepted applications before March. This was not something I wanted hanging over my head while in the midst of the rare chance to immerse myself in another country.

With over 500 applications for some 20 or fewer spots, The Washington Post was a crapshoot, and I wasn't the least bit surprised when I did not get an offer.

Likewise, as I learned via mass email, The (Austin) Statesman received over 400 apps for 4 spots. Not surprised, but bummed that I wouldn't have the opportunity to spend the summer in one of the musical capitals of the United States.

Then the Tribune filed for Bankruptcy.

Which left Denver, a paper and a city that I knew nothing about. I applied merely out of interest in the region and the paper's prominence.

While studying for finals in the Pattee Library at PSU (above), I got the call, which ended up being a spur-of-the-moment interview with the A&E editor. I hung up the phone with a much-needed finals week boost, though pessimistic about my chances after the editor made it a point to say I was among several others being considered for the position in his section.

Then came two weeks of emails, of sending additional clips, of non-stop inbox checking and of broken sleep. I left my apartment, drove home with my Penn State life packed in to my Jeep, listening to Cardinology on repeat, specifically "Let Us Down Easy," mulling over uncertainty.

I arrived home to an empty house, checked my email with my coat still on, and was formally offered a 10-week internship as a full-time staff writer. After traveling Europe for four months, I will come home for barely a week...and prepare to drive across the country to an unfamiliar city, where I will keep my invisible 'visitor' tag for another few months before my last year of college.

But, for now, I'm putting off packing and watching The Wire.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ticket to Ride

Given To Fly - live - Pearl Jam

Depart: 6:55 P.M. - Philadelphia Int'l, Tuesday, January 6th

Arrive: 6:50 A.M. - London-Heathrow, Wednesday, January 7th

As the London experts, British Airways’ distinctly British service will make you feel like you are already in London. High tea at 30,000 feet? Certainly! You will also be treated to an exceptional, complementary 3-course meal and drinks; a complementary comfort kit providing you the utmost in relaxation; ergonomically designed seats with footrest and adjustable headrests; and, up to 18 channels of TV and film entertainment and 12 channels of audio. British Airways also offers a range of kid's products which help make traveling with children a little easier for the whole the family. No matter the reason for your trip, you can be reassured that British Airways will do everything to make your journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Traveling in the comfort of World Traveller* offers you exceptional value and an enjoyable journey from start to finish.

Biggity Bam!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Signed, sealed, delivered

I can still vividly remember 2 years ago, when I first walked into Alumni Hall to browse the Study Abroad Fair as a freshman. Lots of free pens, lots of thick program guides.

I returned to the same fair one year later as a sophomore. More books, more pens, but a closer look at certain countries and programs. I narrowed it down to London and Sydney -- the inevitably safe choices.

I initially planned on applying to UCL (University College London) until I discovered that they have no direct exchange deal with Penn State. "I can still do it," I thought. "I don't need Penn State or some middle-man brokerage to hold my hand through this process."

Then I saw the price.

After meetings with my academic advisor, a study abroad advisor, and one useless information session save free pizza, I ultimately settled on the University of Westminster around April. I put off the application until mid-summer, which was a mistake, remembering the agony of of applying to colleges during my senior year of high school.

Then there was a long wait. Absolutely nothing from July through early October.

Then came the "home" orientation for a program nobody had yet been accepted to. Slideshows of London, stories from past participants, explanation of what "culture shock" really is. All of this for a room full of people who's next 5 months was still undetermined. Nevertheless, my excitement was re-kindled.

I received an email shortly after midnight on October 22nd during my trip to New York for the CMJ Music Marathon. CIEE told me I had been "Conditionally Accepted." Penn State said "WAITLIST." I flipped.

The tangled bureaucracy of three institutions (Penn State, CIEE, and Westminster) neglected to inform its applicants that this was standard procedure. I later found out that I was not alone in my instantaneous outrage.

So I began to send emails, then waited some more.

Today - November 12th - less than two months before I'm supposed to arrive on the other side of the ocean, I, and almost everyone else, received a formal acceptance.

Other students studying in other countries have known for months. What makes Westminster so complicated? Why do they cut it down to the wire ?

It's a relief, yes, but now I begin a sprint to turn in all of the necessary paperwork, medical forms, a second "home orientation," make travel plans, and find someone to take a parking space off my hands.

I feel like a douche lamenting over the struggles of trying to study abroad, seeing as only a small percentage of American college students are academically and financially able to do so. But c'mon, fix this bureaucratic bullshit.

Nevertheless, the real stress, for the time being, is over.

Now everything can start moving forward. Step 1: Plane ticket.

I'm going to London.

Waiting in Vain

I don't want to wait in vain

...for my acceptance letter from the University of Westminster.

It's been 5 months.

Just get here already.

Waiting In Vain - Bob Marley