my grad school journey, part 2

Yesterday I discussed what led me into grad school and ultimately leave my first degree program halfway through. I'll finish the story today with what happened after I switched to the College of Business.


Because I was going into the MSRE program without a business background, I was required to take many of the same introductory classes as the MBA students. In fact, every single person I worked with during my first semester was an MBA student. I loved listening to what they planned to do after all of the intro classes were completed. I actually started feeling depressed because they had so many options and I didn't. Even though I would have carried over a substantial amount of credits to the MSRE program, I decided to enter the MBA program instead, "officially" starting during the Spring 2012 semester.

While I was switching degree programs (yet again), I was also interviewing for a full-time paid intern position I heard about through the urban planning program. I ended up getting the job, which turned into a full-time, salaried position a couple of months later. I also decided to keep going to school full-time for the next two semesters because I had already taken out the loans for the academic year. This was probably the roughest time I had in grad school. I was working 40+ hours a week PLUS going to classes 3-4 times a week. 

After summer 2012, I decided to slow down to part-time for a couple of reasons. Even though I could do full-time work and school, I wanted to catch my breath once in a while. I also decided that I wasn't going to take out any more loans for school and would pay out-of-pocket for everything. This limited the amount of credits I could take to whatever I had saved up for that semester. I calculated that I would graduate in December 2013 if I took at least two classes a semester.

However, my plans changed again during the Fall 2012 semester. I fell in love with marketing and realized that I was actually good at it. I had been struggling to find something I was passionate about in the MBA program, but something was set off during my marketing strategy class. I did some number crunching and saw that I could graduate with a second masters degree if I stayed one extra year. It didn't seem like a long time back then, so I applied for and started working on that MS Marketing degree as well.

So now I'm working on both an MBA and an MS Marketing degree while going part-time and paying for whatever I can afford that semester. It became routine for me to save half of my paycheck a month just to afford classes. Slowly, but surely, I made it through each semester. It started getting old, but I was already so far in that I couldn't just stop. I needed to see this through to the end. When I got upset or annoyed, I had to remind myself that I'm the only person who got myself in this deep and that I'm the only person who can get me out.

As I write this today, I'm done with this routine. I've paid my final tuition payment. I've purchased my last overpriced textbook. I just have two classes left before I walk across that stage wearing two tassles.

I've (almost) completed two masters degrees while working full-time. How many people can say they've done that?

PS: Elise Blaha Cripe posted a podcast about lifelong learning today. Perfect timing! Check out episode 24 here.

my grad school journey, part 1

I remember back to my senior year of college, where everyone was posting that it was their last first day of school ever. I never posted that. I always knew I would be going to grad school for something. I just didn't expect it to take four years. But now I can finally say it…

This is my last first day of school (at least for now). See what I did there?


I didn't plan on going to grad school right after college. My plan was to work for a couple of years and then go back when I had some money or tuition assistance to use. I didn't realize the full extent of how bad the recession was until winter break that year. I started to realize that 2010 was such a bad year to be graduating from college and that my international relations degree wasn't going to help me in Tampa. I did some research and decided to apply to the urban planning program at the school I was already attending (because why not?). I took the GRE, compiled rec letters, polished off a personal statement, and submitted by application…all in under two weeks. I got in, but decided to keep looking for full-time employment just in case. By August, I was still unemployed and starting what should have been a quick two-year journey.

I loved my first year in grad school. I eventually got a job tutoring three days a week in a local high school. I had just ended a relationship that dragged on for too long. I was having a blast with my friends. I met Johnny. Everything was great, but during summer 2011 I went through a mini-crisis of heart. I loved urban planning, but did I want to be an urban planner? Did I want to have such a specialized skill set that I would be stuck in the same field my whole life? Was this even practical? I was sick of living off of loans, never having enough money to do anything. I started looking for full-time employment again, but no one was interested in someone with a BA in international relations and half an MA in urban planning. I had very few practical "skills." I panicked and dropped out of USF.

Three weeks later I reapplied to USF, this time to start in their MS Real Estate program. That degree shares a lot of common courses with urban planning, so I figured it would be a more practical alternative. The decision to go for this degree never really sat right with me, but I knew I wouldn't find "meaningful employment" otherwise. A few days later, I finally found a job as a project contractor at the company Johnny was working for. This eventually grew into assisting the escrow payments department and my first real work experience. Maybe this would pay off after all…

Look for part two tomorrow.


farewell to summer + a salad

Summer is unofficially coming to an end at our house. Johnny goes back to classes tomorrow, and I'm back on campus on Tuesday. It's been a crazy end to the summer for us. Last weekend we saw the All-American Rejects and went to Diagon Alley. Yesterday we celebrated Johnny's birthday. Today, all is quiet as we spend our last day of peace relaxing with pre-season football and pre-class reading assignments.

This is easily one of my favorite weekends of the year. New classes are starting, college football is almost here, and Premier League is back on (and so is my streak of kicking ass in fantasy Premier League). I'm already buying pumpkin beer and pumpkin lattes here and there. We're all anxiously waiting for these near 100 degree days to disappear suddenly (so, so close). Before you know it, we'll be wearing sweaters and spending nights doing homework at Starbucks again. End of summer, you bring so much hope and change.

farewell to summer salad: kale chicken caesar

Kale chicken caesar salad

makes 2ish servings

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • herbs de provence
  • 1 bunch red kale
  • skinless, boneless chicken (my package was around 3/4 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • fresh grated parmesan
  • caesar dressing of choice (I used Ken's light option)

Start by tearing the bread slices into bite size pieces. Toss in the olive oil and herbs de province and bake at 350 degrees until crunchy. In the meantime, tear up the kale and chop up the onion. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook in whatever manner you want (I grilled on my Foreman grill). Cut up the chicken and toss with kale. Top your salad with the croutons, parmesan, and caesar dressing. 

An easy way to end the summer….

on being a professional student

This has been a week of no exercise and food, and I apologize for that. I've been feeling nostalgic and pensive as I enter my last semester of school, and I want to get it out of me the best way I know how: writing it down.

I think I've been in school long enough to call myself a professional student. I know my work life actually takes up more of my time than school, but school is where my heart is more often. It's difficult to explain to people that I want to be in school more. I love the acquisition of knowledge, researching crazy topics, and spending hours perfecting a statistical study or writing a paper. I've managed to find a job that mirrors a lot of the pleasure I get from learning, but I want to keep learning and pushng the boundaries of knowledge, both for myself and for future learners.

I've been going back and forth about taking some online classes through our community college after I graduate. Johnny will still be in school, and I admit that I get very antsy when I have nothing to do and nothing planned for the future. Right now I'm planning on retaking the calculus series along with some statistics courses and maybe a finance refresher. Why these classes? I'm going to apply for a Ph.D. program for 2016 or 2017. 

I keep saying I'm going to give myself a break, but who am I kidding? I love school. I love learning. I love teaching. I love researching and experimenting. One day, my job will be those things.

Even on my break from being a student, I'm still taking basic refresher courses and studying for the GMAT (apparently my 3.6-something GPA is crap and I need a huge score). I will probably always be a professional student. It's just who I am.

Make it public, make it happen…

august garden update

August has been rough for our little patio garden. The heat has been getting to many of the plants, but we've managed to keep many alive for the good growing season in this part of Florida.

Garden shot Herb table


The bell pepper plant is still a jungle, and our eggplant is growing like crazy again. That's a new mint plant after our last one suddenly died one morning, and it's been growing like crazy too. The purple basil has been struggling in the heat and may have a funeral soon. We also lost of lavendar when it couldn't handle a long stretch of extremely rainy and humid weather.

Zucchini Swiss chard Tomatoes

It took a while, but the zucchini finally started growing. Our summer squash (not pictured) isn't fairing so well and may be another summer heat casualty. The swiss chard is getting stronger. One branch can hold itself up now! This is my third attempt at tomatoes. The previous plants were drowned in a huge storm that came through when I was at work and unable to pull the pot closer to the back of the patio.

Crepe myrtle

Johnny's crepe myrtle plant has been the superstar this month. He got one branch from work in a giveaway that has halfway dead. We've managed to baby it enough to get it this large. I wish we could get it in the ground, but we can only do so much right now. Any suggestions on what to do with a fast-growing crepe myrtle in an apartment?

Bellpepper1 Bellpepper2

The leaves on the bell pepper suffered a little burn with a homemade insecticide soap this month. The chili pepper plant is also having the same problem. Both peppers continue to produce flowers, but no peppers. I wouldn't be surprised if it's just too hot for them to be producing right now. At least they are alive and healthy enough to produce the blossoms.


Our eggplant gave us a scare at the beginning of the month. We moved it to a larger pot and it didn't take to it's new environment too well. We lost about 50% of its leaves and it didn't produce any flowers for a couple of weeks. All of the sudden it started growing and producing again, with no changes on our part. I guess it just needed a couple of weeks to adjust. We haven't had an eggplant form since it started growing again, but I bet this is another thing we can chalk up to the heat.

We're also growing sunflowers and trying to grow garlic (with no luck). I also have green onions growing on the counter inside for a quick garnish.

August is a brutal month in Florida, so our main goal has been keeping everything alive. Between the intense heat and crazy storms, there is no telling what I'll come home to on any given day. Lately I've been running a delicate balancing act between getting the containers close enough to the screen to make the most of the sunlight we have while keeping them far enough away from the screen to avoid getting drowned out by pop-up thunderstorms.

September kicks off the growing season in our area, so hopefully the plants will start producing again. If anything, this month has taught me to have patience with plants. They'll do what they want to do when the weather is ideal again.