Posts Tagged ‘applications’

the moleskine podcast #3: interview with dr. ecks

June 26, 2009

This is the third episode of The Moleskine Podcast, which  features interviews with students and staff about graduate school in the United Kingdom. In this podcast, I will interview my former anthropology professor Stefan Ecks about the MSc. in Anthropology of Health and Illness, admissions, applications, and life after graduation.

secksStefan Ecks is the Director of the MSc. Programme in Anthropology of Health and Illness and a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 2003. During his doctorate, Dr. Ecks conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Calcutta, India on notions of body, health, and healing.

From 2001 to 2004, he taught at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg where he established a medical anthropology programme.

At present, Dr. Ecks’ research interests encompass the theory and history of anthropology, medical anthropology, mental health in South Asia, the anthropology of pharmaceuticals, science studies, and popular Hinduism.


This podcast was recorded using a Zoom H2 and edited in Reaper. Thanks to Andrew Spitz at { sound + design } for the editing assistance and warg at Soundsnap for the beginning and ending loop “warg elizabethtown.”

And of course, big thank you to Stefan Ecks for letting me pick his brain.


Listen on your ipod, subscribe to The Moleskine Podcast!


get the job you want: some tips and tricks

March 8, 2009


After five months of job hunting in Edinburgh, I finally I have a job I like! I was recently hired to serve as the Promotions Coordinator for the Edinburgh University Student Association Course Reviewer, an online facility that allows student to assess and share their course experiences with other students (make sure to submit a review if you’re a student at Edinburgh!). Unfortunately, the position only lasts for about five weeks. However, considering the state of the economy, especially in Edinburgh, I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences while promoting an important resource.

I have learned a lot about job hunting the past few months. I am by no means an expert, but I’d like to share share a few of things I’ve learned and actually done to help me get jobs. You may have already heard of them, but it doesn’t hurt to receive a refresher:

Google yourself. Search for your name on google before you start applying for jobs and make sure that everything associated with your name is something your prospective employer wouldn’t mind seeing. In other words, make sure to take off anything that might be embarrassing or offensive. Even if your facebook or myspace profile is set to private, just assume your potential employer will see it.

Practice makes perfect. A great way to prepare for an interview is by doing a mock interview. If you are a student or a recent alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, you can schedule a mock interview at the Careers Service. Also, try your friends and family. Or, if you’re short on mock interviewers, you can always do it in front of a mirror or a few stuffed animals. : ) Just prepare a list of potential questions, then think of the best examples and ways to answer them.

Go the extra mile. Constantly search for ways to make your application or interview stand out. For the Course Reviewer promotions interview, I created a promotions plan even though the Student Association didn’t require applicants to present one. I created a quick powerpoint of my promotion ideas, printed the slides, and made enough copies for all the interview panelists. The powerpoint only took about 20 minutes to make and helped me get the job.

Ask questions. Always ask questions at the end of the interview; this demonstrates you have done your homework and are truly interested in working for the company. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions before the interview. For example, if you want to know what format your interview will take, send the main contact person an email.

All the little things count. Always check grammar and spelling, and make sure your application is easy to find and read. For example, when you email your resume and cover letter to your potential employer, include your name in the titles (e.g. Melissa Andrada Cover Letter). That way your potential employer can easily find your documents when they download them onto their computers.

Say thank you. After your interview, send a thank you email or card to the person or people who interviewed you. If you have time, try to do both. Email will immediately let them you’re still interested, but a hand-written card will show that you really want the job.

Photo by Flickr user Falling Sky

the moleskine podcast #2: the cultural studies perspective

March 1, 2009

This is the second installment of the moleskine podcast series. Just to remind you, for this series, I’ll be interviewing students, professors, and advisers to give you an insider’s perspective on admissions, research, accommodations, and much more!


Bethany, me, and Muriel recording in my kitchen.

For this podcast, I interviewed two of my friends Bethany Johnson and Muriel Lovo who are also in the Cultural Studies MSc. Programme at the University of Edinburgh. Bethany graduated with a bachelor of arts in English and Humanities from the University of Louisville in Kentucky, USA and. Muriel received a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Filmmaking at the University of Arts and Social Sciences in Santiago, Chile.

In this podcast, Bethany and Muriel will be talking about applications, Cultural Studies, scholarships, and life after graduation.

Resources mentioned in this podcast: The Mary Churchill Humphrey Centenary Memorial Scholarship

You can also check out my first podcast with my American friends Ben and Julie who are also studying at the UK.

the process

Making this podcast was a bit easier than making the first one, but it still had its challenges. Recording can be especially difficult if you have never been on a podcast before or are with a couple of girlfriends. Muriel, Bethany, and I spent several times re-recording the introduction because we couldn’t stop laughing. It was a great fun, but next time, I’ll start the recorder before the interview starts and just transition naturally from casual conversation to interview.

I recorded the moleskine podcast #2 on my boyfriend Andrew’s macbook pro and used Audacity to edit the majority of this podcast. However, I think I might try a different editing program, like Reaper or SPEAR, because Audacity isn’t the most intuitive or user-friendly program. I actually ended up doing the final stage of editing through Nuendo, a digital audio workstation. Most professional sound design is made through Nuendo or Pro Tools.


This is a screen shot of Audacity


This is a screen shot of Nuendo

Through Nuendo, I was easily able to cross-fade, compress, and equalize (EQ) the sound. These processes are essential to producing high quality sound. Because of the nature of a live interview, I had to cut and paste certain sections  in order to tighten the podcast. Since sound is a time-based medium, you always have to be aware of how you’re moving sections around. This is why you have to cross-fade in order smoothly transition from one section to another. Finally, in order to improve the volume and quality of the podcast, you have to compress and EQ the sound.

An important lesson I learned while editing this podcast is saving incrementally as different files. I had saved incrementally, but under the same file. In other words, I selected “save” instead of “save as”. This simple error cost me about 45 minutes of editing time. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things, but still annoying.

thank you

Big thank yous to Bethany and Muriel for letting me pick their brains.

Special thanks to Andrew, check out his blog { sound + design } for tons of geektacular sound stuff!

Thanks to warg from Soundsnap, a user-driven sound effects library, for the cheesy, but fun loop warg elizabethtown.


the personal statement

December 14, 2008

This entry was written by fellow Idealist grad school blogger Devi Noor. She is currently working in the non-profit arts sector in Los Angeles and is applying to MA/PhD programs in Art History. Her blog Lunardevi is filled with great information and advice, such as this post on “the personal statement.”

“The personal statement. It’s the one component of the graduate application where school admissions can get an idea of your personality. So when you’re writing your statement of purpose, every word needs to count!

I’m lucky that I have friends with eagle-eyes and editor-spirits. Blogging has made my writing style extremely colloquial- the complete opposite of what your statement should be. Some key things to remember when writing the personal statement:

1. Use the active voice; avoid passive writing.

I make this mistake all the time. If you’re writing phrases such as “I am planning”, I am seeking”, “Will have had ——ing”, cut it out! Passive=weak. Not a desirable quality to have. Graduate programs are a competitive, massive undertaking, so make sure the tone of your statement is confident.

2. Clearly state your objectives and keep them focused.

Vague is not vogue to grad school admissions. If you plan on spending at least 2-5 years for your program, what you intend to get out of your educational studies should be clearly outlined. If you know you want to teach upon completion of the program, be specific as to what you’ll teach, what audience you will instruct, and so forth.

3. Why [insert school name here]?

Be sure to explain why you are applying to the school. Listing the programs of interest, faculty, and resources is fine and dandy, but also making sure to specify how this school will help attain your personal objectives is much better.

The word limits for my personal statements range from 500-1000 words, some 2-4 pages, or 1000 characters. Yikes! My fellow blogger Lindsey also had issues with this. Be prepared to pare down your work for certain schools with short word limits. Keep these words in mind and say them to yourself when you have to crop another 100 words out of your statement: “succinct, brevity, concise, and pithy.” That’s what I do.

And since I now have to tweak my statement yet again, I leave you with some useful resources to get you started.

Good luck!


Personal statements in general: – has several articles on writing the statement of purpose

Berkeley – step-by-step procedure on how to write the statement

Art History/Humanities:

UPenn – great advice on the graduate art history application in general

Duke – tips on the statement of purpose in Humanities”

I’d also like to add, make sure you start your essay far ahead of the deadline and get a professor, TA, and/or friend to read and edit it a few times before you submit your application.

why edinburgh?

December 5, 2008


Old College, University of Edinburgh

Photo by flickr user Simon Bradshaw

One of the reasons why I decided to apply to graduate school in the UK is because my field Cultural Studies started here. Another reason is that I wanted to work in Europe and figured the easiest way to do that would be to study here. If you graduate from a British university, you may work in the UK without a work permit for up to two years under the Post Study Work Programme.

After numerous conversations with professors and hours of online research, I decided to apply to four master programmes: Cultural Studies MA at the University of London — Goldsmiths, Media and Cultural Studies MA at Lancaster University, Critical and Cultural Theory MA at Cardiff University, and Cultural Studies MSc at the University of Edinburgh.

I was accepted to all four, but chose to study at the University of Edinburgh due to a number of factors:

1) I was interested in working with the Cultural Studies Programme Director Dr. Ella Chmielewska to explore graffiti, visual culture, memory, and the city (my interests have somewhat evolved since then)…

2) Edinburgh was the only university that offered me a research master’s. I applied for the taught MSc, but was offered the MSc by Research due to the focus and specificity of my research interests. The MSc by Research is more independent and research-driven than the taught MSc. I accepted my offer of admission at Edinburgh with the intent of pursuing the MSc by Research, but I ultimately decided to do the taught MSc because my research interests changed considerably after my accident.

3) Edinburgh offered the most international student scholarships, I was fortunate to receive the International Master’s Scholarship.

4) I emailed current students at all four universities. All of the students seemed happy and satisfied with their programmes, but the students at  Edinburgh gave the most honest and convincing answers.

5) While the University of Edinburgh may not be the best university to pursue Cultural Studies, it seemed like the best overall fit. The university has an excellent academic reputation and is located in one of the most beautiful, livable cities in the world. While Edinburgh may not be as bustling and cosmopolitan as London, it is still culturally rich and international. It is also significantly more affordable and seemed like a city I could live in for a long time.

6) My boyfriend Andrew was the final push. The University of Edinburgh was the only school he applied to in the UK. We wanted to stay together and live in the same city, so we both chose to study at Edinburgh.

Overall, I am happy with my choice. There are things about the university I dislike, but no school is perfect. Do as much as research as you can before you apply and commit to a school, but remember any grad programme is what you make of it.

grad school to-do list and timeline

November 15, 2008

Another fabulous grad school worksheet from Christina. Some of the info, such as the tips on the GREs, will not apply to UK applicants.

By creating a to-do list and a time line, you don’t have to carry all of the weight of the application process; you are only responsible for doing one thing at a time.  Once you have completed one task in the time frame you have created, you can move on to the next item on your list.  This makes applying to graduate school “do-able.”  As my brother often told me when I was applying to graduate school, “This is part of the process.  The graduate programs want to know that you can handle pressure and jump through the various hoops.”  In other words, if it were easy to get into graduate school, everybody would be doing it.  But, you aren’t everybody—so let’s get started.

Graduate School Applications To-Do List:

* Look into various programs by researching universities on-line, at the bookstore, or with a professor/ other graduate students
* Keep a record of application requirements for each university
* Narrow your list down to 6-10 of your top choices
* Look into your exam books or courses such as Princeton Review/Kaplan in preparation for the LSAT, GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc.
* Take the exam
* Request GRE scores to graduate schools
* Order applications
* Begin writing your statement of purpose—be creative, specific and concise.  Say what you did, what you are doing, and what you will be doing in graduate school and further into the future
* Find 1-2 people who are willing to help you in the writing process (or, if there are other people who are also applying to graduate school, set up a peer review group)
* Ask for final comments from 2-3 people
* Request Letters of Recommendation
* Complete packets for professors (including stamped envelopes, a timeline, your SOP—even if it is not the final version—and a very detailed letter explaining how you feel you are a good “fit” for the various programs)
* Request transcripts from all schools you attended (community college, 2-year and 4-year programs)
* Find 3 works you feel best demonstrate your writing for the required writing samples
* Begin editing your work (this is important, though if you are crunched for time, your SOP is more important)
* Complete applications (or do on-line)
* Contact PhD programs—specific professors who you feel might be interested in working with you—and send them your statement of purpose
* If you are serious about a specific university or you have the financial funds to do so, visit the department and set up meetings with various professors
* Mail in applications with checks (please note that applying to graduate schools is expensive—plan ahead)
* Pat yourself on the back—you did it!

why the uk?

October 9, 2008

Reasons to Apply to Graduate School in the UK

Whether you’re applying for a degree in Cultural Studies, Physics, or something entirely different, these are reasons why you should apply to grad school in the UK. Here they are, in no particular order:

You have the opportunity to obtain a degree abroad. This is a great way to experience a new educational system and always looks good on a cv.

There are no application fees. This means you can apply to as many schools as you want without having to put in hundreds of pounds.

There are no set deadlines. Most programmes advise their applicants to apply before the end of March, but continue accepting applications until June or July. Since most schools have rolling admission and a limited number of spots, the earlier you apply the better.

The application response time is much faster. I applied to programmes mid-January and received responses in about a month’s time. In North America, it takes about 2-3 months to hear back from schools.

Graduate programmes are much shorter.
Most masters programmes are only about a year long and PhD. programmes are an additional 3-4 years. Even though the pound is worth more than the dollar, you might save money by studying in the UK because you finish your degree much faster.

There are no GREs or standardized tests. Evaluation is based on your application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae, statement of purposes and/or research proposal. Yes!

You get national health care. Being a student automatically qualifies you for the National Health Service (NHS).

You have the opportunity to live in the UK. If you want to move to London, Glasgow, or another cool city in Great Britain, grad school is one way to get there

You have the opportunity to work in the UK after graduation. Receiving a degree from a British institution enables you to work in the UK without a work permit for up to two years under the Post Study Work Programme.

Of course, there are many other reasons to study in the UK, but these are just ones to start off. You should obviously think about the faculty, research and teaching opportunities, job placement, and other areas specific to your interests and goals.

narrowing down the search

October 6, 2008

How do you choose schools? Figuring out which programs to apply to can be an arduous process, but doing the proper research will go a long way.

Talk to your professors and advisers. They will be your best resources for narrowing down your search. Before I graduated from the University of Washington, I made appointments with my favorite professors to talk about grad school. They recommended graduate programs based on my academic and career interests. I also asked them if there were any other professors that they I should talk to. One of the professors, Crispin Thurlow, originally from Great Britain, inspired me to apply to his alma mater Cardiff University.

Talk to your classmates. Ask them which universities they are applying to. Chances are you are looking at similar programs. I first heard about the University of London – Goldsmiths, one of my top choice graduate schools through a couple of classmates in Museology.

Read the About the Author section. Research where the writers and thinkers who have had the greatest influence on your ideas and thinking completed their graduate studies and/or where they are currently teaching.

Consult websites, blogs and books. These sources are great for learning about rankings and obtaining general descriptions about the different graduate programs. One of the resources I found to be the most helpful for searching for graduate programs in the UK was the British Council’s website.

Remember the more research you do, the better your chances are of getting into the program you are interested in.