Sunday, July 15, 2018

making up for lost time

It was a tough four weeks for sure, but I can now share the good news that I survived statistics and economics*! I deserve a t-shirt.

Or, alternatively:

It's been five days since I completed the three-hour final exam and words cannot fully describe how drastically my mood has transformed since then. When under tremendous stress, I tend to become withdrawn and prone to crying because I get discouraged and defeated. After we received our final grades on Tuesday, though, I became a much more pleasant person to be around. I was also able to get out of the bubble of home to campus I'd been living in for the past month.

More adventures in Boston

Connor and I took a selfie on the T because my mom expressly requested one via text.

Wednesday I was so excited to try out the commuter rail that goes from Providence to downtown Boston for the first time. Being from Seattle, which is light on transportation infrastructure, I thought it was absolutely luxurious. I had a booth to myself on the second story and caught up on the Sunday paper in the hour it takes to get to Back Bay.

First stop in Boston? Pressed Juicery on Newbury Street. Close friends know I'm obsessed with the franchise which has a location in downtown Seattle (first floor of Westlake). With a coconut freeze and my favorite beet & ginger juice in hand, I was in my happy place. My cousin Connor thought the vegan freeze (they can't call it "soft serve ice cream" since technically it contains no dairy) was okay but spluttered when trying the juice because it was so aggressively ginger forward (I love the burn).

We then went to the Fenway area where Red Sox fans were in full force for the game against the Texas Rangers that night. Connor showed me one of his favorite places, Blackbird Doughnuts, which had a fantastic upscale artisanal feel and delicious cake doughnuts--maybe the best I've ever had (eat your heart out Top Pot). We then tried out Tiger Mama, a pan-Asian restaurant that was giving me serious Belltown vibes (vertical gardens, neon lights, overpriced cocktails and all!). They played a lot of tracks from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill which was a definite plus.

It has been so fun to have family nearby! I saw Connor in April when deciding on graduate schools, then in May when I moved here, and this was my last chance to see him before he heads back to Illinois to await the approval of his visa to work in Japan for the next year. I am sure an exciting adventure awaits him there.

It's great to be a tourist

On Friday I went on a road trip with a couple of classmates to Quincy, Dorchester and Boston for dim sum, chè (I miss Bambu) and art! The Museum of Fine Arts was so incredible; I could have spent hours there. I loved reading all the notes about the artists, their intention, technique and the times in which they lived. Creative people are so interesting!! I'm still not a huge fan of abstract art, though.

Obligatory photo at the Museum of Fine Arts. 

Don't trust these heauxs. I asked David to take a picture of me and look what he does smh
On the way to and from RI to MA, David had the playlist "on lock" with rap and R&B hits from the early 2000s to present (we listened to "In My Feelings" by Drake and "I Like It" by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin multiple times). It feels so foreign to have so much free time and to spend that free time "having fun" but I'm enjoying it for as long as I can!

Classes start up again tomorrow and I will be taking an intro to policy course and a communications course. After such a math-heavy month, I will take memo writing any day!

*Addendum: Coping methods for surviving statistics and economics

  1. Cry: I only cried twice but it helped tremendously.
  2. Write home: Venting to friends and family back home was so comforting and encouraging. They helped me keep everything in perspective.
  3. Find a good study group: I'm so thankful for mine!!
  4. Eat good food: To soothe myself I cooked my favorite foods from growing up (chicken teriyaki, tofu turkey casserole, oyako don, chicken curry) and it was quite effective in temporarily curbing my anxiety.
  5. Try not to compare: My classmates that tended to speak up in class were the ones who had a knack for math or who had taken advanced coursework in statistics and economics. I had to realize they didn't represent the general student body and I had to be okay working on things at my own pace.
  6. Take the "L": When I ran out of time, I sometimes did poorly in quizzes or labs but in the long run those sorts of losses were fine.
  7. Remember that all suffering is temporary.
Until next time!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

the little engine that could

In the past four days I have aged 20 years... -me to my best friend Rachel
One of the curses of taking a semester's worth of graduate-level statistics and economics squeezed into one month is that the sheer volume of material covered is not accompanied by the appropriate amount of time for me to digest and master it. One of the blessings, though, is that I'm already, essentially, halfway through the course. Thank God. Whew.

After the first week of instruction, I was feeling very defeated and discouraged. To add insult to injury, over the weekend we had two problem sets, one for statistics and one for economics, that were driving me up the wall! 

The assignments themselves were pretty interesting and relevant. We were analyzing the change in global public debt following the financial crisis in 2007-2008, the success of universities to provide pathways to economic mobility to low-income students, the accuracy of HIV tests to provide true positives and true negatives, the total cost of hurricanes (damage cost) in the U.S., and the effects of rent control measures and taxes on specific goods. However, multiple times throughout the weekend I became very frustrated as I got "stuck" on parts of certain problems. It was a lot of trial and error trying to get the math right and trying to figure out how to accomplish the things I wanted to through Excel. Excel is still my best frenemy (but thanks for the keyboard shortcuts, Gretchen!). 

But worry not! The purpose of this blog post is not just to complain about my first world problems of "struggling" in my graduate studies at a selective private university. Friday night I had a soul-healing conversation with a friend who is not in the Master of Public Affairs program. Over some delicious Korean fried chicken wings and drumsticks, I told her all about my first week and she was so empathetic. It was nice to sit back, laugh, and talk about feelings rather than numbers!! What a breath of fresh air. Thanks, Ellen!

I'm also incredibly thankful to have found some classmates to work on the problem sets with, even if that meant working with my classmate for an hour on the hurricanes problem, only to find out that we were doing all of the math wrong. What matters is that we arrived at the correct answers eventually. There's something so satisfying about putting in the hours to persevere and finally figuring it out in the end. 

I still had to skip church on Sunday and work non-stop through 1:00am Monday to complete everything, but the sense of accomplishment I feel now that we've gotten our grades back? Priceless.

I would also be remiss to neglect thanking the folks back home who were able to both pray for me and cheer me on from afar. My dad gave me a pep talk on Sunday morning that helped me power through the tears. Shauna Malwae-Tweep, you're my inspiration. 

This week I've spent my free time slowly working through math problems that we work through in class and the problems that are a part of online quizzes we take before class. I get stressed out when I'm in a group of people and everyone seems to be rocketing through questions when I'm still on part (1)(a). I've come to an acceptance that I complete things at slower pace than others, and that's okay. This may come back to haunt me when trying to complete the final exam in the time limit of three hours, but I won't worry about that for now. As Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." He knew what he was talking about!!

In terms of school-life balance, I'm still working on it... I will try and have "fun" this weekend, I guess. Frivolity? Never heard of it!!

Until next time...

Monday, June 11, 2018

a steep learning curve

"God be with us all..." -me to my fellow classmates
This one-month joint economics and statistics course is no joke! Today was the first day of instruction and in the course of 14 hours I have already experienced both joy and despair.

I started bright and early, meeting a classmate at 8:00am to complete the assigned readings. I did poorly on one of the timed assessments meant to see how much we had understood from the reading, which rattled me. We then had two hours of lecture on descriptive statistics (histograms, mean, median, mode, standard deviation), and I found it difficult to keep up. At first I attempted to raise my hand to answer the professor's questions, but after getting as much wrong as I had gotten right, I decided to just sit there and kept my damn mouth shut.

I had one moment of passing self-doubt that maybe I just wasn't cut out of this kind of work because it did not come to me easily. I felt panicked at the possibility that even with my best effort (putting in time and dedication to study and practice), I might still not be able to do well in this course (or other quantitative courses in the fall).

The afternoon was much better than the morning because I was able to understand more about probabilities than I had been able to grasp about descriptive statistics in the morning. It was also helpful to work through some practice problems after class and thankfully, I started arriving at the correct answers.

A student who graduated from the program this year advised me that in this next month I would need to "pick and choose my battles." I interpreted that to mean that it's likely that I won't be able to do all the assigned readings as thoroughly as I'd like, nor get as good of a score on pre-class assessments as I'd want, nor perfectly complete lab exercises as I'd wish. Because statistics and economics are not my strong suit, I will need to be okay with "passing" rather than "exceeding expectations" (though I can't mess up too much--we're not allowed to get lower than a 3.0 in any course in order to graduate!).

So I put this into practice today.

  • From 8:00am-10:00am I studied
  • From 10:00am-12:00pm I was in lecture
  • From 12:00pm-12:30pm I ate lunch
  • From 12:30pm-2:00pm I studied
  • From 2:00pm-4:00pm I was in lecture
  • From 4:00pm-6:30pm I studied.

When I got home to eat dinner, rather than working relentlessly from 7pm-10pm, I decided to walk to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner tomorrow (spaghetti squash primavera with quinoa if you were wondering). That tiny break outside in the sun, listening to some of my favorite music, was so therapeutic. Could I have spent that time studying? Sure! I'm glad that I didn't.

Tomorrow will be four hours of lecture on economic concepts and methods. So far it seems a little bit easier to understand than statistics, but it's too early to tell.

This next month will be so challenging! I already know that I will struggle. Nevertheless I am resolved to try and not give up, even when it gets tough.

Thank you so much for your text messages, emails, letters and postcards! They do wonders for my morale.

Until next time...