Wednesday, January 26, 2005

When News Attacks

I'm not sure what to think about this.

If you are still interested in applying for a place on the American Exchange programme and are worried that you missed the deadline, please feel free to contact me to arrange an alternative hand-in date. Obviously as it is the assessment period at the moment, many of you are not on-campus to hand the form in, so in light of this, we are exceptionally accepting late applications for a short time only.

On one hand, it pisses me off that they're accepting applications from people after the deadline. On the other hand, this means that they haven't had many applicants. Which is good in one way, that I'm more likely to get a place, but it could also mean that they won't run the exchange because of lack of interest.

Whilst I mull this over in my head, I'll leave you with that passport picture I said I was going to post. It looks much worse in the passport itself, believe me.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why Wisconsin?

A lot of people have asked me this question when I tell them I should be going to America later this year. Some of them with interest, others with confusion, others with out-and-out disdain. So, here's my explanation, which I sort of worked out with Jamie, who helped me arrive at this conclusion.

Ever since reading The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson, I've been fascinated by the Midwest. Most Americans find this rather strange, but it's true. It seems to me to be the real America - as Jamie pointed out, states like Ohio have almost always picked the winning President in every election. I'm not suggesting that this is a good thing, but it suggests that the Midwest is typical of 'America' as a whole. The other options for the exchange are Oregon and Maine. Now, I'm sure these are very nice states, but I couldn't really tell you much about them other than their locations. (Over on the left, and up the top on the east, incidentally) Wisconsin, specifically Eau Claire, may not be the first place you'd want to visit in America, but out of the three it's the one that appealed to me.

The proximity of Wisconsin to a number of other states appealed as well. I have a friend in Chicago I'd like to visit, plus I wouldn't mind hitting Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and maybe even Canada, as it's close. Who knows? It gives me a window of opportunities.

In short, Wisconsin hold a perculiar appeal to me. I want to see America, and I can't help but think I'll see it there. My pre-conceptions of it, at least.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Good News, Everyone!

Just got this email:

Apparently there have not been a great many applications for the American Exchange so far - if you are interested, please get your application in pronto. If you hadn't considered it, but think you might be keen now, get an application form from the Registry counter in MB. Incidentally, with fewer applicants you stand a better chance.

This is very good news indeed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Joy of Stats

I get the feeling that until I get confirmation that I have/haven't got an interview for the Exchange, this blog will be filled with a number of marginally diverting but ultimately unrelated posts. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. That's a pretty tall order, mind you.

So, the first of these concerns site statistics. On setting up this blog in its new guise, I noticed that Natali had a neat little counter at the bottom of her blog. So, like the thieving cad I am, I went and got one myself. And I must say, StatCounter do a pretty good job.

Onto the stats. It seems that most of my visitors are coming from my LiveJournal, or from Echoing the Sound, a message board I frequent. What's somewhat more disturbing is that I've had 326 hits, of which 194 are unique visits. Holy crap.

And this is before today, when I went around submitting my site to Google, adding my site to directories, and adding many a meta tag. And why, you ask? So I can type in 'Mark Does America' on Google and have it come up as the first result. That would be awesome.

But the thing that made my day? That fact that someone, somewhere in the world, found my site by searching on MSN for - and I quote - "how america got it's name?"

So, for that lone searcher, the answer is here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Application Handed In

After about five differents drafts of my personal statement, and filling in the paper using my very best handwriting, today I handed in my application for the American Exchange.

It is, quite literally, out of my hands now.

All I can do it wait until February 11, when the confirmation of interviews will be sent out. With so much effort put into my application, I will be exceptionally upset if I don't at least get an interview.

So. The waiting begins.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Horror of Passport Photos

So, I got my passport back. Which was nice, and more than a little unexpected. The last time I got a passport was... 2000, I think, for when I went to Prague. Anyway, it said that it takes about 3 weeks to process - I got it back in under a week. So I tip my cap to the Passport Office up in Newport for getting the job done.

I would post a pic of just how horrific I look in my new passport, but I don't know if that's even legal. Or safe. I might crop it at some point. Anyway, they don't just stick the photo in, as you may know, but do something to transfer it over on special paper or whatever. Result - it looks like I have a broken nose. Marvellous.

In other news, I’m planning to work the first and last weeks of the Easter holidays in order to get about £500 saved away. I think, roughly, this whole shebang is going to cost about £2500. I’m working in the summer, so that’s not a problem, and I’ve got some money tucked away in a savings account. Sorted!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Personal Statement, Version 1.1

So, i've had another crack at it. And managed to get the word count down from about 300 to 260, which is no bad thing, seeing as I have to hand-write this onto the application form itself rather than giving a typed version. I've changed bits, re-ordered etc.

Learning is not a one-way experience. Merely attending lectures and seminars is not enough; it is the personal development and individual learning that gives value to a University degree. Spending a semester in America would be a unique opportunity to expand my horizons, to learn in a new environment, and to experience first-hand the issues discussed in my American Studies course.

Ideally, I would prefer to go to University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, because of my interest in Native American history, as well as the beauty of the countryside. I am aware of the cost of the exchange, and already have £1000 saved in preparation. I have discussed the exchange with my employer and I will be able to take a break from work for the duration of the exchange, as well as working overtime to earn money for the exchange.

Should I be successful in applying for the exchange, I will keep an extensive diary detailing not just college life, but my American experience in general. It will also include photographs and an extensive bibliography, and will serve as a record of my time spent in America.

By living in America for four months, I would become fully immersed in a culture that I have observed and been fascinated by all my life. Having never visited America previously, a semester in America would aid my studies of the country immeasurably. Aside from the unequalled opportunity of studying at an American university, on return to England the experience would stay with me, and would aid me as my degree progresses.
Many thanks to those who gave comments on the first version. I think this one is pretty much definitive - it should be good enough to secure me an interview. As always, all comments appreciated.