Inner compass.

It seems like every day I get another recruiting email from this graduate school or that graduate school. Some of them are on-point (“Come to our online open house and learn about what a career in public health can do for you!”). Some of them…not so much (“Live and work in New York while pursuing an MA in art and design!”).  I read through all of them (except for the art and design ones) and then just leave them in my inbox, presumably to revisit on another day. Schools get added to and from my list of schools I want to apply to/am actively applying to all the time. I am doing this in a semi-orderly fashion, filing schools under online/on-campus/hybrid, making note of application fees, letting my references know where and when to send a letter praising my various quirks and qualities.

There’s just one problem. I honestly can’t tell if my heart is really in this or not.

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MPH.

Around 10:30 last night, I found myself staring at a submit button. This submit button was small, humble even, yet clicking it was kind of the equivalent of jumping out of a plane. That submit button would send 3 messy, painful applications to 3 different MPH programs–all of them programs I would love to get into. There’s something funny yet nerve-clawing that my top 3 were all due on the same day, that I had to submit those before I was really ready, before I’d even sorted out some last details of graduation from NMU. The feeling as I submitted them was not unlike the feeling I had at commencement: a sense of vague, dull panic twining sinuously around a cloud of this can’t actually be happening. 

But it did happen. I submitted. The world moved on and I moved with it.

I don’t know what my chances are of getting into any of those programs. I am skeptical, yet optimistic, as I am with many things in my life. I would be thrilled to attend any of the three schools; I looked through their programs carefully, painstakingly even, consulted my research advisor and my life/academic advisor alike. I had my professors look over the rough draft and the less rough draft and the final draft of my statement of purpose; people on Twitter who I love and respect offered input as well. I looked at the cities in which the schools are located (I’ve only visited one of the cities in question, and even then, it was a brief flurry of activity at the airport and then a long drive out of the city). I have friends in all three states, though that doesn’t necessarily matter–when I moved to Marquette, I knew no one, and was profoundly lucky that I had friends from Michigan who had friends who lived in Marquette who were willing to pick me up at the airport and help me carry my stuff into my new apartment. Every camp I’ve ever worked at, aside from the summer I spent in Virginia, I went into the job not knowing anyone. I’m not afraid to be a stranger in a strange land.

…which is good, because in so many ways, my decision to apply for MPH programs, rather than continuing on with microbiology, is the very definition of being a stranger in a strange land.

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