Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Grad School Decision

As many of you may know, I've spent the last few months contemplating which grad school I will attend in August.  Until last month, I was left sitting at the edge of my seat, waiting for emails from 6 different schools.  I just missed being accepted into the top Geography program in the country, UCSB, so in the end, it became a three-horse race between U of Utah, South Carolina, and San Diego State. In the last 2 weeks, it has been between Utah and South Carolina, both powerhouses in hazards-based GIS, which will most likely be my focus.  I have wanted to live in South Carolina since I vacationed there with my parents when I was 12 (had my one and only hitchhiking experience there, too, but that's a whole other story), spending a few days in both Columbia and Charleston.  I fell in love with Charleston's deep history, beautifully colorful and elegant row houses and its relation to the ocean, of course.  As I've grown older, the prospect of moving "out west" has become very attractive.  Why?  I'm not exactly sure, honestly, but I think the quality of life has something to do with it.  The mindset of people is laid back and the lifestyle is very active, both of which describe the person I have become.  If U of South Carolina was in Charleston, this would have been a no-brainer.  Columbia just isn't as attractive of a city, although being within 2 hours of both mountains and the ocean would, no doubt, be awesome.  Within the last two weeks, I feel like my heart had already chosen Utah.  My visit in March and email conversations with faculty at Utah have already built a good rapport with the department and I absolutely love that the campus literally sits on the edge of the Wasatch Mountains.

Excuse the parking lot and dreary weather

As I neared my self-inflicted decision deadline, my mother reminded me of something I said a few years ago on a drive home together. She recalled me peering across the flat terrain of central Indiana at the clouds. It was dusk, and I was pretending the contrast the clouds created with the sky were, instead, mountains.  (Sometimes I wonder where my imagination has gone; I used to do this on my frequent drives from Muncie to Elkhart)  I took this recollection as a sign.  A foreshadow in the plot of my life.  I'm thrilled to say, in August, I will be calling Salt Lake City my home!

I'm excited to be living in a large city, as I've always enjoyed being in New York City and Chicago.  The true beauty of Salt Lake City, to me at least, is that there are endless possibilities for recreational activities surrounding the city.  Any day I choose, I can go hiking in the mountains or kayaking on the Great Salt Lake.  The amount of national parks and vast scenery within 4 hours of SLC is incredible.  Seriously, take a look at a map.  I will no doubt be investing in a mountain bike and a set of skis.  Hell, I dare to say I may even look forward to winter for the first time in my life. 

My next step is, of course, looking for housing.  I know I've been spoiled with my massive apartment here in Muncie for the last year, but I'm going into this search fully willing to sacrifice square footage for location.  The most important criteria in my housing search is walkability.  I want to be able to easily walk to a grocery store and a form of public transportation that will take me to campus.  Ultimately, I would like to live somewhere near Trolley Square, which has a Whole Foods and is very close to the trolley that runs straight to campus.

Thankfully, I've still got a few months to decide.  I'll keep you posted.

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