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I am bad at decisioning

September 26, 2010

So I am seriously considering extending my stay here through second semester. Eep!

Here’s the deal: if I continued through the spring semester part of the program, I would get to pursue my internship for 5 months, rather than 6 short weeks. This would mean a real research project, and hopefully a far deeper immersion into the field of public health.

Some preliminary pros and cons:

Pros: Real public health research! Woo! The chance to study important things. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my biochemistry major. Deep down, I am a total science nerd, only slightly eclipsed by Tarini, among others. But since coming to Ecuador, I haven’t missed it at all. While a deep understanding of science is absolutely fundamental to medicine, and Na+/K+ ATPases still rock my world, I just feel like it would be hard to go back to studying molecules with all these huge questions about life, development, and social justice firmly planted in my head.

Oh yeah, other pros. Obviously, the chance to stay in this phenomenally beautiful country for twice as long. With that comes (hopefully) real Spanish fluency, and many more chances to develop real friendships and connections with people here; investing myself in this country so that it would be really worth it to come back someday. Then there’s also the great structure MSID provides; if I didn’t stay for spring, I would likely try to come back to Latin America for some volunteer work next summer, and I doubt I could find the same kind of opportunities for involvement and learning that I’ve got going on right now.

Cons: The biggest one obviously has a lot to do with you: it’s kind of hard to imagine going a whole 9 months without my excellent friends and  family back “home.” This is compounded by the fact that I will be spending all but 3 weeks away from Cimas, meaning that the rest of the time I’ll be pretty much isolated from everyone else that is my age and that speaks my language. While it would obviously be a great opportunity for immersion, I’ve realized that I really draw a lot of support from my friends, and 5 months looks like a really long time to live in that kind of isolation.  Second is the fact that the credits I would get from the spring program would be completely useless to me, academically. I believe I would still be able to graduate on time (though every class would have to schedule out perfectly), but the idea of paying for an academic program that’s not helping me get my degree seems like a bit of a waste to me. Though, that is probably just my inability to think outside the box and “never let school get in the way of [my] education” speaking.

Right now it looks like the pros are winning (my initial gut instinct is also to just do it), but I’m feeling extremely hesitant to go ahead with it, and I’m not 100% sure why.

I mean, help me out, guys? What should I do? I think I have about a month to finalize my decision, but the earlier the better, really, since the length of my internship will determine the scope of the research topic I choose to tackle, and I need to get working on that yesterday.

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Update: The recent political unrest has had exactly zero impact on my decision process.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick permalink
    September 26, 2010 5:46 PM

    My take:

    The friends/family bit is tough, especially if during your extended stay you won’t even be with all the friends you’ve made in Ecuador thus far. However, while certainly a con, it is your job to assign a value to it. I don’t think anyone can tell you how much you will or will not miss your friends. Or how disappointed you’d be to not see some of them again (many CASHites graduating after this year as far as I know).

    Other than that:

    Step 1, make sure you can get done with school on time. Take a trip to the graduation planner on onestop. Factor in summer classes if you won’t already be at an internship. There’s always night classes in that case anyway, but let me tell you I’ve heard night classes plus working during the summer is tough.

    Step 2, if you can’t get get done without taking an extra semester, you’re going to have to put a price on this extension. Aside from the costs of the extension, you have to (obviously) add the cost of another semester. (Oh, and keep in mind summer classes aren’t free either if you factored those in.) Don’t know how you’re paying for college, but if it’s your parents you’re going to have to ask their opinion and be prepared to make your case if you really want this. On the subject of not getting out into the “real world” for a few more months than some other people, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You have your whole life to work. Don’t let that idea stop you. If you can’t get a job right after graduating, go work at the grocery store and live at home while spending all your free time looking for a job. (Another potential extra piece of work to take into consideration.)

    Step 3, look at your resume. Do you have any internship experience yet? If not, this could help you not only get an internship back here for this coming summer, but experience is always a huge plus for finding work after college. If, rather than internships, you’re looking to do research during the summer, it could be an interesting mix. (If you do have internship experience already, that doesn’t mean this is useless. It just means it’s less of a selling point to, say, your parents, maybe.)

    Step 4, think about what you’ll be doing. You seem pretty excited! If this is what you might want to do with your life after college, there is nothing better on a resume than direct work experience.

    A little more on the “time waste” bit. A good experience, whether professional experience or just good life experience in general, is never a waste. You will get better at Spanish. You’ll probably never (ever (ever)) get another chance to spend so much time outside the United States. And again, you have the whole rest of your life to not waste time. Why does every minute of your life have to be put towards something useful? (But don’t get me wrong this would be useful, lol)

    In short, I’d say go for it if possible (though again, money has to be taken into account). But that’s me. I left my friends and family behind after college to chase what looked to be an awesome opportunity. It takes a certain personality and a certain emotional fortitude to do something like what you’re considering. Though your excitement makes me feel as though you have what it takes. 🙂

    Hope that helps, man. Didn’t mean it to become a huge pep talk but I was on a roll! Keep enjoying yourself out there no matter what you decide.

  2. My Name is Shannon. permalink
    September 26, 2010 6:16 PM

    David!

    Do it.

    I totally agree that your Pros list is winning.

    As far as your Cons list… the only legitimate one is your concern about graduating on time. But as for your friendships… David. We will always love and support you. You know that. Don’t be silly.

    Yes, 9 months seems like for-freaking-ever now… but it’s not. At the end of it you’ll look back and say, “Really? That was 3/4 of a year? Really? Where did it all go?!”

    Trust me. I’ve been in Smelly Texas for 9.5 months PLUS a year. And yes. There have been times where all I can think is, “ohmygod when will this tortue be over? WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?!?!!!?” Most of the time, there is no where I’d rather be than right here with this group of amazing new friends I’ve made, learning to do something that I love.

    Also if you don’t do it, you’ll probably regret it every day of those 9 months. Just sayin’. =]

  3. September 26, 2010 7:34 PM

    Nick:

    Yeah, I’d say people graduating is one of the big negatives. I would be back in time for graduation, so there would be a chance to see folks before they scatter. It’s just weird realizing that this is a full quarter of my undergrad career right here, time I’d love to spend with college friends before they’re gone.

    I have fiddled with my grad planner, which is what makes me think I can do it, though I haven’t talked with my advisor yet. Stupid lib ed requirements is all I gotta say.

    It’s probably relevant to mention that I’m currently planning to apply to medical schools next summer. That’s why I do want to graduate on time, since even one extra semester would mean pushing back applying one more year, and I’d rather not do that if possible. It also paints this “experience” thing in a slightly different light. Like all other obnoxious pre-meds, I have to be hyper-sensitive to what’s going to help me most in my applications. I do feel that this program would help me more than whatever else I’d be able to accomplish at the U during that time, though. I do think weighing what’s going to look the best on an application is a kinda messed up approach to life; when I think about what I want to do, this is it.

    Thanks for the pep talk! That was awesome!

    Shannon:

    Thanks, dahling. Hurry up and get yourself out of Smelly Texas soon plz. 😀

  4. September 27, 2010 1:37 AM

    Hmmm ok tough decision,
    I think the first thing we have to confront is how I will miss you an incredible amount if I don’t see you for like three years! But for real it sounds absolutely amazing and I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you I’ll miss you when I’m the one trying to leave for the next two years. Also isn’t real life experience intoxicating, there’s something about spending so many years learning and reading about real life and the thrill of finally getting to be a part of it.
    I also think, make sure you can graduate on time, because yeah the sitting in classrooms kind of sucks (only a little) but its totally worth it when you get to say, “hey, I’m actually qualified and semi prepared to do this”. And I say get through this part and go change the world…
    But really it sounds amazing, I cant even begin to imagine, and not seeing me before I leave for Africa only means you will have to visit Africa, which would be awesome anyway!

  5. September 27, 2010 10:32 AM

    Grace! Seriously, not seeing you for 3 years is a major negative! Why is Peace Corps so long?! And yes, I will absolutely have to visit you in Africa.

    Speaking of which, have you received any more information yet? I bet sitting in class must suck knowing you’ve got such an adventure ahead of you.

  6. September 27, 2010 4:14 PM

    A friend of mine just took 4 classes last summer to graduate early. If you want this bad enough, you can make the graduation thing work.

    To get you to come home, I should be saying, “This is the worst idea you ever had,” but then I’d be lying… You’ve had worse ideas.

  7. Hallie permalink
    October 3, 2010 9:24 PM

    I just read your post now randomly, and I feel like I can definitely speak to the whole graduating late thing. I like what everyone else has said. Except the part about planning your life in accordance to what looks good on a med school application. And the part about graduating late being a negative. I don’t think it matters. Graduating late might change your short-term plans for life by a little bit, but I am honestly convinced that nothing in life goes how we planned anyway. So we have no reason not to follow our hearts and go with our passions.

    Sure, some of your friends might graduate before you, but you’re ultimately in school for you, and some people will still be around the cities anyway. If this opportunity in Ecuador is what you truly want to do, then go for it. You said it all in your post. You aren’t going to get a chance like this, and there are ways to stay in touch. Yeah, it’s a long time, but you’ll be back, and think about what amazing things you’ll learn and be able to share with the people in Ecuador with that extra time. Med school, work, graduation, those things will all be here waiting for you when you get back. And if you’re seriously concerned about what med school admissions are going to think about you staying longer and graduating late, I don’t really know what to say to that, because I used to be in that same place. All I can say is that, for me, I am so much happier and more alive now that I’ve decided to follow my passion and let it take me wherever it’s going.

    Okay, so now I have strayed pretty far from the point of this post, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, only you know what is right for you, but make sure you listen to that, and try not to pay attention to the ridiculous messages we get about the “right path” in life. Your right path is the one you choose.

  8. October 4, 2010 2:49 PM

    Thanks Hallie! That is all excellent advice, I especially like “Your right path is the one you choose.” It’s hard for me, just by my nature, to not care about graduating on time and applications, but it really is liberating to feel like I’m doing this just because I want to.

    David: Yeah, I think keeping that massage table thing we won at church was a worse idea, though I think you have to take at least partial blame for that.

  9. October 18, 2010 5:19 PM

    Haha, massage table. Good times!

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