a word about college apps

As it is now the end of January, I have finally finished all of my college apps (though the same can not be said about all the extra documents one must send after the initial application has been sent). With this said, I wanted to write a bit about what the process was like for me, and how I think it has helped my overall study habits.

I started the college process quite late; by the time late October rolled around last year I still had no definite college list. This confusion lasted well into December, and I only became aware of where I really aspired to go once I started writing all my essays.

With my essays, I found them quite relaxing; when I would get stressed about studying the process of DNA translation, I would turn to some obscure essay prompt I was in the process of outlining to give me an escape from my school studies. If you have gone through the college process or are in the process now, you know that the essays are the most time-consuming part. It is an odd feeling knowing that whatever you write in about 600 words or less will be sent to a college in order for them to understand who you are.

For my main common application essay, it took a solid ten drafts to get to the point where I was pleased with it, and by the time I sent it to my first college, I knew I was sending something that I was proud of. For the smaller, supplemental essays, they allowed my mind to drift to thoughts I haven’t been able to think about for a long time, as I have been so absorbed in my writings for school.

I was able to reflect on who I am, and I why I am this way. I wrote about how my draw to nature has kept me steady as I travel the world, and how the past year has changed my entire life for the better. The prompts prompted (no pun intended) me to look at my past experiences with wonder and intrigue and to see the beauty in seemingly small moments.

I wrote an entire supplemental essay about how I got lost my first week in Lithuania without a phone in the dead of winter; allowing me to learn that I should have faith in myself and my capabilities.

Writing all these essay’s improved how I write and think in many of my classes, but mostly English. It gave me much-needed practice in critical thinking and how to express my thoughts fluidly.

The rest of the application process was quite mundane, but after surviving my holiday break which consisted of sending in six applications in the course of three days, I created a list of things I wish I had known before entering the college application world.

  1. If you can apply early action, do. Early action is non-binding, meaning that if you get accepted to the college, you don’t have to go. You simply send your application earlier (usually in November) and get a decision faster. This is beneficial for a number of reasons, one being that you will be thankful to get decision letters in January or February as opposed to April. It also allows you to have a sort of divider date between all your college applications. In other words, if you apply early action to five schools (like me), that allows you to spend more time on the regular decision applications.
  2. Don’t overanalyze your essays. This is one thing I wish I would’ve done myself. Yes, it is important to have people read your essays for grammar, fluency and for some comments on what to change. However, at a certain point, you must decide when your essay has gone under enough scrutiny. If you are proud of it, then it is done. Letting numerous people read it is all good and well, but you run the risk of losing your voice, which is the key part of the essay.
  3. The topic doesn’t matter, you do. Similar to my previous point, the most important part of your essay is you. It doesn’t matter if you write about your journey to India or your morning walk with your dog, what matters is your perspective on what you write about, and how it defines who you are. Choose something you are passionate about, not something you feel you have to write about.

I am no expert in the college application area, but I do think these tips are helpful in organizing and in staying true to who you are. I tried to look at the entire process as a way for me to explore schools as well as myself in order to find a school that matched my identity. As the IB courses come to an end, I hope to spend more time on the blog, as I have seen from this entire process how much I enjoy creative writing.

As Always,

xoxo Em.

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A Tidbit

A small post for the memories.

 

One of the numerous benefits to living in a European country is that visiting other countries is essentially like crossing the border to other states (given the countries are in the European Union). With this in mind, I am fortunate enough to be able to travel quite frequently, with my most recent endeavor taking me to Paris for my 18th birthday. Here are some snippets of my time;

Paris was my first trip without an adult, and taking this into account, I am proud that I only had one minor breakdown during the trip (8 hours at Disneyland can make someone monumentally exhausted).

I was able to somewhat navigate through the metro system, and mangle some conversations so that I could converse with some locals. Although most of my conversations consisted of me ordering food, my last conversation was with a taxi driver who spoke no english. My friend and I gave the wrong address, and I ended up explaining to him where were supposed to be. We ended up having a conversation about my lack of preparation, and although it was a conversation at my own expense, I was happy about the fact that I spoke to a local in fluent French.

 

As Always,

xoxo Em

A Summary

 

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If my life was a movie, it would be safe to say that 2017 has been the most graphic of my years on this earth.

In January I moved to Vilnius, Lithuania for six months. From there, I spent a week in India, one in France and one in Portugal.

I was blessed enough to have my two best friends book flights from Denver, Colorado to visit me in the frigid weather of Vilnius.

I learned to become confident with myself and with my abilities for the first time in years.

I came to the realization that after six months, I have created homes in both Denver and Vilnius.

In eight months, my life has been flipped upside down, and I couldn’t be more happy about it. 
Drawing

As Always,

xoxo Em

Getting to Know my New Home

A month and a half ago I woke up at 4:00 am with a mild stomach ache and headed to the airport to start a journey that had been in the works for about six months. Everything I needed for the next six months had been packed the night before, in true Emma fashion. It was finally time to head to Lithuania and study for six months while living with my aunt, as well as travel all around Europe and beyond. As I drank my mint tea in a heavy daze on the drive to the plane I had no idea that it was possible to miss something as much as I missed the sun, or ranch dressing for that matter. All I could think about was how I had gotten myself into this, leaving everyone I knew behind to go to an entirely new city in a country that few have ever heard about.

Flash forward to Valentine’s Day and I am still not used to weather that only gets sunny when it is in the negative digits. I have however, grown accustomed to taking the hour long walk home from school through old town Vilnius, passing by the cathedral and stopping at one of the numerous “pop up” stores to grab a croissant for the equivalent of about $1.50 (which is a lot better of deal than the $6.00 slices of stale pound cake they sell at school). I learned that the first time I walked home was the “road less traveled”, as I really had no idea what I was doing apart from the directions my phone was giving me. My phone took me the less desirable way home, through the industrial part of town, and then my phone really through me for a loop when it decided to turn off at 23%. I guess my phone also needed time to acclimate to this cold weather. Long story short, after walking home with friends several times, I learned a better way home that took me home through the main street, and a way that didn’t require the use of all my phone battery to navigate. 

I have slowly found my away around the traffic signals here, learning that just because the crosswalk says you have the right of way really doesn’t mean anything. I have also slowly gotten used to the small streets, and how it is quite normal to be in a car with a trolley bus seemingly inches away from the side window mirrors of the car.

I have yet to tackle the beast of navigating my way around town by bus, but I have gotten the hang of using a taxi app, and by “getting the hang of it” I mean that I have discovered how useful coins are, so that I don’t end up giving 50% tips to every taxi every time with my 5 euro bills. With taxi’s readily available at all times of the day, I was able to grab one and go to one of the numerous malls in Vilnius, and it was there, while meeting up with a friend, I discovered the single most glorious item to date…bubble tea! Back home I drink this stuff religiously, and so I was quite disappointed upon arrival learning that there was no bubble tea in Vilnius. My disappointment dissipated as soon as learned that hot chocolate here literally means you get a cup full of melted chocolate, but never the less when I found the bubble tea stand in the mall I was quite happy. Drinking the bubble tea felt more like home to me than the numerous burgers I tried here, I guess stereotypical American food doesn’t remind me of my America.

With all this being said I leave you with several photos of the town of Vilnius, a town I am slowly being able to call home, as well as a local castle about 30 minutes outside Vilnius.

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As Always,

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A girl in a ger

For ten days this summer I spent my time in a ger. In the middle of nowhere. In Mongolia. Without my newly formed American family of teenagers. Often times I find myself sitting at my desk attempting to get some journaling done amongst my piles (literally) of homework and I think about what my homestay family is doing. Is my host mother making milk tea, with milk that was inside a living thing five minutes prior? Is my host father off herding his sheep with his horse, or maybe motorcycle if he is in a rush?

I regret not getting my host sister’s Facebook, because the one thing that all Mongolians had, wether they were in the city or in the middle of the Gobi desert, was a Facebook. Earlier I was looking through my Mongolia journal, which overtime essentially became a group journal for the trip, with people from my group grabbing it and adding to it whatever they deemed fit (this ended up including stickers from various black markets, odd quotes from members of the group, and numerous inside jokes). Among my homestay journal entries I have an entire page devoted to trying to figure out how to pronounce my host siblings names. I swear there were at least three versions of my sister’s name, and even more for my brother’s. Eventually I decided that I heard the name’s Monko and Dorthjo the most, so that is what I circled in my journal for their names. My homestay was when I wrote the most, from observations to the making of milk tea (which, side note, is not the same as pouring milk into black tea. It involves steamed milk, and sometimes salt and butter. At home when I made this it tasted like water with a hint of tea, I was quite disappointed).

As per usual I have not written in a long time, but I blame it on school, and the fall weather. What can I say, when fall comes around the mountains start calling and my computer doesn’t look that appealing to me. That being said, I will make a consolidated effort to write a post once a week, to help me say that I am an organized individual. With that, I leave you with some photos from Mongolian homestay (more to come).

 

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Tents

Every year it is a tradition to go on a camping trip over Labor Day weekend. This year it turned into an all boys trip, + me, so we ended up eating Lucky Charm’s for lunch and Cheetos for dinner. In the morning we spent most it fishing beaver ponds, until it started to rain, and my brothers friend took a nose dive into the pond. A tip for any future beaver pond goers, it is a good idea to look where you are stepping, unless you want a nice swim with some brooke trout.

This was the first year we went without a wall tent, so it was also the first year we noticed all the rain. Instead of checking my tent for any rain I decided to avoid the situation and hang out in the truck listening the Walk the Moon and Atlas Genius. Once the rain stopped it was time for a trip to an old mine that processed rhubarb, our dog had plenty of fun traveling around sniffing the old nails and wood.  Apparently my brother’s friend was not deterred from the previous fishing outing, so they continued their hunt for the king fish in other ponds.

We ended the trip with a McDonald’s meal, a solid end to trip full of fish, rain, and many many cheetos.

 

As Always,
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Mongolia Part 1

The past four weeks have gone by in a blur, and now that I am home again, with bathrooms that have toilets, not holes, I finally have time to think back and reminisce on the summer I spent exploring Mongolia.

The trip started on June 27, when I headed out to LA to meet my group for the fist time. Meeting everyone was awkward at first, luckily we had a twelve hour plane ride to sleep and prepare for the next several weeks. After traveling through a time warp we landed in Ulaanbaatar, the main city in Mongolia. I was expecting major culture shock, but for me there really was none. Mongolia did not feel like an asian country, most likely because it is the most sparsely populated country on earth (horses outnumber people 13:1). Half of its inhabitants live in UB, which has a population of 1.5 million. It was crowded, but not like what you’d expect for a country in Asia. Upon arrival we traveled to the school where we would be taking language lessons, and we were able to experience first hand how Mongolian traffic works. I found it quite miraculous how all the cars were driving so chaotically, yet there were no accidents. Plenty of honking, mind you, but everything seemed to be well orchestrated. People used traffic lights as more of a suggestion and honks were used as means of communication, not anger (usually). Mongolians danced across crosswalks, evading cars by what seemed like sheer inches. At the school we had our first Mongolian meal, buuz, which are soup dumplings.

In Mongolia, the traditional cuisine consists of few ingredients, prepared in different ways. The foods are potato, meat (beef or mutton, there was so so so much mutton), cabbage, carrots, and dough made from flour and water. There was also plenty of milk tea, made from steamed milk and tea boiled and then reboiled. Mongolians have very strong stomachs, and us Americans could not drink tap water or stomach the straight chunks of fat that were in all the meat dishes (and all dishes in Mongolia are meat dishes).

During our stay in UB we also attended the black market to buy some deels for naadam, a large summer festival in Mongolia. Deels are traditional clothing items worn by both men and women all over Mongolia. Naadam is the Mongolian equivalent of the Olympics, celebrating the strengths of the Mongolian people. At the black market we were on the lookout for pick pocketers, due to a two hour briefing we had on them right before our arrival at the market. Anytime someone brushed by I would get jumpy, because the black market is a very popular spot. I bought a pink deel from a lady and tried to barter down the price by saying “dosh oh” and making hand gestures. I had no luck, and paid the full price, around $40 American dollars.

I have only been home for two days and the time change has given me the ability to stay up all through the night, and I am testing my luck with using caffeine to get me through the day. I have an emotion that I can not describe when I think back to Mongolia. I think back to the time I spent with my home stay family in the Mongolian plains helping to herd sheep. I think back to the time spent in the ger with a group of people who I made lifelong bonds with, knowing that we will most likely never be together as a whole group again. I have only pure love and gratitude towards my experience, and I look forward to attempting to communicate through words the profound effect Mongolia has had on me.

As Always,

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