December 20, 2006

My GRE experience

The big day has arrived, instead of going Christmas shopping, I've been occupied with final preparations for the GRE, which reached its culmination today!

Overall, it wasn't that bad. What helped me a lot was confidence in myself. I kept repeating to myself that I've done all the things I could have possibly done given the circumstances of preparing during one of the most insane semesters ever and time restrictions.

Prior to finally taking the "real" GRE test, I've taken 2.5 practice tests. On the first run, I was both on the 50% mark (on the verbal I got 15/30 and on the math 14/28). On the second test, I've tremendously improved on the verbal, I got 25/30. However, in the math section, I got worse. I received a 10 out of 28. On the last test, I decided to focus on the math (so I skipped the verbal). I didn't really improved, I got 9 out of 28.

So going in to take the test, I had an idea of my chances. If I were constant, I'd get almost higher than 75% in the verbal, and at least 50% on the math. I kept repeating to myself that maybe I'd be lucky, and I'd get similar questions I practiced on. It also helped knowing that a wrong answer doesn't take away from the correct answer and that some questions have a higher point than others (if I were lucky, I'd answer the difficult question more and get a higher grade). And of course, the book I read stressed eliminating as much wrong answers to increase my chances of getting a right answer and also to make educated guesses. I kept all of these in mind.

The night before I read one last time some basic formulas for areas of shapes etc. and I got a full 8 hours of sleep (very well rested), and the next day (today) I woke up before my alarm clock.

I arrived in the city at 10:45 a.m. I had brunch in starbucks (just a little treat). I ate a chicken sandwich, and I drank a tall white chocolate mocha (perfectly made with the right amount of syrup [not too sweet or bland] and the right hotness). I took my time and ate at least for an hour, and around noon I walked towards the Curtis Center at 7th and Walnut.

The test was in the first floor in a gray windowless office. I signed a confidentiality form, and I had to put all my stuff even my digital watch in a locker. The only thing I took with me to my "area" was myself, my id and ticket. They gave me scratch paper and pencils. In the end, I had to give back my scrap paper. Their procedure was tighter than airport security. Before entering to the testing room, they took a picture of me (which looked like stipling/dotted rendition of me). The session was videorecorded. They asked if I had any questions. I asked about the 10 minute break for a confirmation and before starting I went to the bathroom.

I messed up the beginning. I confused the background info with universities who'd receive the score. Instead of putting SHU, I put one of the universities I planned on applying.

I don't know if order of the section was randomly selected or not. I thought that the test began with the verbal and ended with the writing. I started with the writing- I didn't know if this was a blessing or a curse. I was thrown off guard (I didn't know if the lady did this on purpose or not because before I took the test, I asked her a question about the writing section).

My question wasn't difficult; it was just a matter of articulating my perspective. I wrote about being an English major. It took me a while to get started because I wanted a 'bangin' response. This didn't happen, however I fulfilled the requirement and gave my perspective (this was better than nothing). I think my strong points were giving examples. The second writing was about evaluating an argument. I don't think I fleshed out my points enough.

The verbal and math section just came in a flash. It felt like I was dazed, but I persevered and kept repeating to myself: educated guess, educated guess...wrong answer doesn't penalize...the next question can be an easy one- more points.. I finished around 3:30 p.m. but I ended up taking a sample test for an extra 37 minute. I actually left the test center around 4:15 p.m. I went to South Street to meet my friend and to start SHOPPING.

On my way, I started worrying about my scores, which were similar to what I got in the SAT's (around the 1100s). I was close to my estimation. In the verbal I got a little higher than the 75% mark (620/800), and I got a little higher than the 50% mark on the math (470/800). To end my worries, I called the universities I was applying to: Indiana, Oregon, and Utah (thank you different time zones).

All of them said that GRE's are equally weighted with other factors such as transcript, resume, letters of recommendation, application, etc. To lessen my worries, one them said that a person who didn't meet the GRE requirement was still accepted into the program because of his/her strong transcript, letters of recommendation etc.

With my 1090, I think I met the bare minimum. For example, Indiana told me that I needed to score at least one section higher than 600 (either verbal or math), and that I needed at least 4.5 score out of 6 in my writing. For Utah, I checked the website (an hour ago) and it stated that the GRE score needed to be above the 40% mark. I don't if this is combined or not (either combined or separate, my score is above the 40% mark). For Oregon, I still have to email a professor (they're currently on holiday break). Hopefully, their gre requirement is similar to Indiana and Utah.

The test is over and tomorrow more shopping, and after Christmas, resume the application process! :)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:26 PM | Comments (5)

December 15, 2006

Semester in review

This semester beats last semester in terms of difficulty. I was spoiled during the summer with Filipino food and Philippine scenery and adventure. I'm glad I was spoiled because the memories of summer became my inspiration and at the same time- my motivation, encouragement and strength provider. These memories helped me to face this semester's challenges.

I didn't approach this semester like one of those seniors who knew it all. However there was this aura in me becaue I knew that I am a senior: I have experience (3 years in college), I know the environment, I knew how to manage my time, I knew how to study and do a research paper.

I felt like everything was finally coming together. This semseter I started working in the writing center (key word "writing") plus I had my internship at the Office of Public Information, where I did press releases and more writing and photography (two of my other interests: words and images). To add to this, humanism seemed to be the theme this semester. After my internship I had Renaissance Art, this was then followed by Chaucer, and Graphic Design I. On Tuesday, I had Ballet, European Literature and on my "free time" I worked on my honors capstone project. Along with this I had responsibilities with Eye Contact, the Setonian, Student Ambassadors and Student Government (a bit of ISO). In the beginning they were all okay and of course they started to build up. Then I reached the point when every minute I had was dedicated to reading and writing papers. I learned a lot but I felt like my brain was going to explode.

My internship, I have a portfolio of my accomplishment. Here's a link to a reflection I did earlier this semester.

In my Renaissance Art class, I learned more details about Renaissance art compared to Western Art (Survey course). I learned about artists more in depth not like the survey course where it was almost like a preview. Except in a way it wasn't enough. I was reading the textbook and there were artists I haven't heard before except we didn't go over them in class. We talked about major artists, like Michelangelo and Leonardo but the unknown one remained unknown even if they were included in the textbook. I liked my research paper. I did mine on the relationship between biblical text and fresco images, and I felt like I had a good presentation- I didn't say "um" and I didn't have weird awkward silence (I didn't freeze). The timing was still a bit short and under the minimum, nonetheless I think I provided content.

Chaucer was a challenge. 13 weeks of hard work and progress was overshadowed by a 15 page research paper that was worth 50% of my grade. Basically with this system, it seemed that one could get away with not doing the "little" works that were important in understanding Chaucer. One could instead use that time to focus on the mid-semester test that was worth 25% and skip some classes to work on the 50% research paper. I wonder if perfect attendance counted for something. I did think that making participation optional was fair- I wasn't force to participate when I didn't have anything to say, and I didn't get deducted for it. One of the things I did learn in this class was to focus in getting the work done and to not overdo things because if I were to do then I'd missed out on other things. I also learned to be concise, straight to the point and have evidence to back up whatever I'm saying. From proofreading session on 3rd Maura with Valerie and Karissa, I learned about voice, style, flow, technique and more on analysis. It wasn't an easy class. My research paper was interesting; it was about dreams. I was also part of the Boethius group- I was the wheel of fortune dude and Val was Lady Fortune. I also played Boethius and Paul was Mr. Philosophy.

Graphic Design I was cool. Originally I took this class so I could get familiar with Quarks and work on my honors capstone project. I did get familiar with Quarks and the Mac computer in general (someday when I have a job I'll buy a Mac). I also did some art work for my honors capstone project. There's so much you can do in a Mac and it's so fast that it's scary. My deal with computers is that they're so fast and efficient but stll data or whatever you make whether you save it in a portable i-drive every product not completely printed are abstract- they are digits and computation- they are codes. One of my fears- easily made, easily lost- in an instant. I understood the concept of Bezier points,(the Mac computer is not so scary anymore), I learned lay out, a bit of photoshop (digital collage), I made a book cover, a cd cover, an AIGA poster. In the future I'm interested in exploring adobe illustrator more. I learned layers and different brush strokes. From taking this class, I understood more about the printing press- this complimented well with Eye Contact and the Setonian- it united things, in Eye Contact and the Setonian behind the scene, we talked about layouts and fonts and more. This class helped me to connect the technical gaps. In spite of this knowledge, I don't want to be one of the people who put the book together. I want to be the one who writes the book and illustrates the pictures. Sr. Mary Kay said that at least this experience would give me an idea of what publishers could accomplish. If I were to communicate my ideas to publishers and designers, I would at least have an inkling of their jargon and maybe I could communicate with them more clearly and effectively.

Ballet was physical and very humanist especially with the focus on the body. Those little half bend of the knees and large bend of the knees all add up to pain! Just kidding, but they do add up to strengthening leg muscles. It was fun trying to press down your shoulders or holding your head up or balancing on one foot 'releve' (to rise). I learned several French phrases- chasse, pas de chat, pas de bouree, petit jete, tendu, en dedan, en dehour, frappe, coupe, demi plie, grand plie, and more. You know what's ironic, ballet dancers may look "delicate" but their dance is very "violent." TaMara said that in Ballet, there was a lot of "beatings" of the leg, "striking" of the foot and "cutting." I get to visualize bone structure and muscle when I took this class because in some exercises my teacher explained how the body was connected and how to properly utilize it for better flexibility so that one doesn't hurt one's self. This was a funny class too, when I was doing changement and the other one which means "to gather" in French, the comment I got was to land more in demi-plie position, to land with bent knees so the impact was soften. It was important to do this because if I didn't and I put a lot of pressure, my knees would pop out, fly, and poke somebody in the eye. Behind the gauze, tafetta and ethereality is harnesed energy with potential destruction.- I also did a little show called Snow Queen, I was Kai, I did a lot of partnering and miming. I learned about back stage (middle runner), I get to wear a custome. I worked with dancers who've been dancing for a long time. I get to see behind the scene- putting choreography together, practicing, hecticness. While I practiced with Nicole, I was reminded of Degas' Ballet painting- off composition, negative spaces- influence of Japanese prints.

European literature was one of the unique English classes I've had. we did a lot of relevant talking and discussion. we played characters and had dinner. we had presentations- Karissa and I worked together and for our presentation we played a game with the class: The Chutes and Ladders of Society. I wrote two essays, and I took two essay tests. There were plenty of snacks, water and coffee which helped a lot during the evenings and also set the atmosphere, it was a relaxed setting which made discussions more receptive- the friendliness invited people (my class) to talk with each other and have a discussion. We've come up with several interesting discussion discusing religion, terrorism, destiny, translations, and other major issues. We read at least 6 or 7 complete European novels translated in English. they were all deep stuff. My personal favorite was Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. I like the brevity of it and also its subtlety. I liked the translation of my version, it felt lyrical even though it was creepy at times.

I had fun writing my honors capstone reflection because it reminded me of the Philippines, and in my research and reflection about my experience I learned a bit about the nature of folklore. Good thing I did most of this in the first half of the semester because towards the end of the semester I was reading one of my sources for my reaserch paper everyday. It was insane. My last weeks were crazy. I remember coming back from Thanksgiving break putting together a presentation and after that finishing a research paper, and after I handed this reasearch paper on Monday, I resumed working on the other one that was due the following Tuesday- it was crazy, BUT I'm alive!!!! :)

Other accomplishments this semester- In Eye Contact, I beat my personal best for patron donation from $270 to $304 dollars, as a whole also beat record from $270 to $324- this semester was good for collecting I don't know about next semester, I might be too busy trying to train potential Eye Contact business manager to replace me. My stipling also made it in this semester's issue of Eye Contact. This art work is entitled "Metamorphosis of Tarzan"- it's inspired by the Philippines, it took me a while to do it (at least two months, an hour a day). It sort of served as a diversion and art therapy- something different from reading and writing- side note: I just discovered something during the crazy week full of readings and drafts, I reached a point when I couldn't focus anymore in the readings or discussion and at this point I was able to focus on making sketches of people. I also felt that we had a lot of art in this issue, usually it's less than the literature but this time it's almost equal. Eye Contact also won an award "First Place with Special Merit" in the American Scholastic Press Association for fall 2005 issue.

In the Setonian, I got promoted to Photo-editor. I was in charge of the pictures- handing out assignment, lots of organization, and it was my responsbility to get the pictures that weren't assigned or that were left over. I did alot of sport pictures- good thing most of them happened on campus because I didn't have a car, and getting rides to far away fields were a hassle. I started an artsy column on-line called Culture Vulture- I was able to write four articles for this column. Val, the former news editor and current editor in chief made a Michael Diezmos fan club on facebook- it was hilarious and encouraging. There's also a gallery of scribble drawings in the Eye Contact/Setonian office. The arts and entertainment center spread won the center spread contest, we got free Setonian t-shirt. To tie everything to the Renaissance theme, during the party I was given the Photo-editor award with the subtext "Renaissance Man." We said farewell to Amanda, editor in chief of the Setonian. She's graduating this Monday. We wished her luck and, we told her that we'll keep in touch through blogs, facebook, emails, and letter.

In the Writing Center, I learned that my writing habit was rigid and I needed to adjust according to the client. What helped a lot was being "general" because the specific things I say, for example "five paragraph essay" has connotations that are negative implying that a stranger has the same background as me thus limiting the choices of the client. I have to readjust my ways so that I don't alienate the client. So I'll work on this more next semester. The good thing is that I have potential and I can adapt to the situation (proven during write aid).

Student Government- things are winding down. We bought the class banner and because of this our class fund had been reduced greatly. We talked about class gift and raising more money for it, we also discussed graduation speaker- no controversial politicians, and of course we prepared for Christmas on the Hill and the senior tradition. It was a beautiful celebration, the music was great, there were a lot of seniors, and we sang and took lots of pictures, seniors helped plan the mass. It was a memorable night filled with candle procession, wassail, and reminiscing.

While all of these were happening I was preparing to take the GRE's. My first adviser Arnzen, who is currently on Sabbatical, kept motivating me to apply. Karissa shared her experience about grad school. So I studied some vocab- I didn't have to worry about reading various materials because all I did was read, and I wrote several essays so hopefully they were enough practice for writing. I am worried about the Math section so at present I'm reviewing math tactics which I hope I will remember this Wednesday, December 20, when I take the exam. I am excited to go to grad school. This semester might have felt like everything was coming together but in grad school I would focus on and be more specific about my interest. Before leaving SHU, I handed out the letter of recommendation form to my professors. I'm glad that the schools I'm applying to have deadlines either Jan. 15 or Feb 15. If they were due during finals week or the week before finals week (which most schools were), most likely I wouldn't be able to focus on them because I had the present matter to think about. So this winter break, I'm going to focus on my application and several non-academic stuff: to relax, have fun, recharge, and prepare for my last semester before I graduate in May.

Overall, it had been a long and mentally exhaustive semester.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:05 PM | Comments (2)