Study Abroad

The DinnerApril 13th, 2015

On Wednesday, April 8th I attended the Bailey Family Memorial Scholarship Dinner at the Polo Grill in Tulsa to finalize my award. At this dinner, I met 13 other outstanding students who also received this award this year. We were placed in a private room with all the recipients, Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Bailey’s daughter, the Trust Coordinator of Mrs. Bailey, the Investor for the Bailey Family, 2 professors of OSU, the coordinator of the scholarship, and two women of the Academic Student Success Center. All of us candidates were officially granted the scholarship by Mrs. Bailey herself at this formal dinner.

We feasted on a beautiful, endless meal. We started out with bread and calamari as appetizers, then proceeded to the warm tomato soup, strawberry and pecan salad, steak and gulf shrimp, and warm chocolate brownie ball with ice cream drizzled with syrup to seal our appetites. I met so many incredible students who had incredible intentions for going abroad, and made friends with a past-recipient of the Bailey who had previously traveled to Puebla Mexico and China. The Bailey Recipients will be headed to locations such as Spain, Mexico, China, England, Germany, and Japan.

Glory be to GodApril 1st, 2015

So yesterday was the day we were supposed to find out the status of the scholarship. To be completely honest, I was not the least bit excited to receive my call.

After a long weekend of preparation, I was fairly ready to handle the rejection. Of course it is never fun to swallow this type of call, so I even considered not answering it at all.

It was 4:30 and my ringtone awakened me from a very substantial nap. I glanced at the screen, and recognized the Stillwater area code that was reaching me. Well, that was it. My heart quivered for a fat second. I opted to clear my throat, and test out a couple “hello’s” before answering, to assure that my voice would not be groggy over the phone. Finally on the last ring, I picked up the phone. Sure enough it was my academic advisor, the man in charge of the communications of the scholarship.

I had my acceptance-of-rejection/ gratitude of opportunity speech ready to pounce. Until, that is, David threw me a curveball.

“I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a recipient of the 2015 Bailey Family Memorial Trust Scholarship. Your award will be valued at over $9,000 to cover the costs of your entire semester in Madrid, Spain”

My heart, voice and thoughts escaped my body quicker than greased-lightning. My advisor proceeded to give me more details regarding the scholarship, such as a formal dinner with Mrs. Bailey in Tulsa, group meetings, and a photo session and interview of the recipients to be released to several newspapers.

I hung up the phone, and stood for a solid 5 minutes in my dark room emotionless.

Ironically, within that 5 minutes, my mom called to discuss a different topic. When I revealed the news to her, all the adrenaline that had built up exploded into a waterfall of tears.

I think the greatest moment of this whole ordeal was my arrival at Kappa Alpha Theta just after receiving my phone call. I had a scheduled meeting at 5:00, and as I approached Theta’s lawn I just-so happened to see all of my best friends together at the same time, enjoying the weather on a blanket. I first made eye contact with Britton, and her eyebrows raised to the expression on my face. I whispered, I got it! Before I knew it, Britton launched her body towards mine and the rest of the girls followed. I ended up at the bottom of a 7-girl dog pile. What an incredible, God-filled moment that was to have my sisters share that excitement with me. Never before have I experienced a type of love where my successes became my friends’ successes. How humbling is it that a group of girls I have known since August, have become my “team”, the largest supporters and motivators in my life? It is absolutely indescribable.

They weren’t kidding when they said college would be the best years of your life. All days, even the ones less significant than others have overwhelmed me with immense satisfaction. This year, God has revealed himself to me in so many ways that could not possibly go unseen. He has expressed himself through the love in my friendships, the passion in my sorority and the unfolding of my dreams into reality.

I look forward to see what plans He has in store for me in Spain, Oklahoma State, Theta and beyond. Let the games begin, and all Glory be to God.

Finding PeaceMarch 27th, 2015

Well, I might have lost 6 pounds through the anxiety of this interview for the Bailey Scholarship. I have barely eaten or slept. My body has been cramping in ways I have never experienced before. I have been waking up several times each night with the feeling that someone was using my heart as a stress-relief ball, and my head felt as if it was being kicked into a very tight hole. I am in complete shock how this stress had consumed my body.

The anxiousness had completely taken me over like it never has before. This morning, I woke up at 5:30 without the use of alarm. I immediately reached out to the word of my daily Jesus Calling Book that my dear friend Britton gave to me. I was in awe of how it impacted me.

“Be still in my Presence, even though countless tasks clamor for your attention. Nothing is as important as spending time with me.”

Wow. What a truth. How silly is it that I had let this scholarship overcome my confidence and faith? I should have been excited to see what was in store, grateful for the opportunity, and optimistic of the Lord’s plan. Not waste my energy on nervousness.

I felt the professors were very skeptical of my age. They made a comment about how I was one of the only freshman to tackle this scholarship. They did not seem amused by my presence. I did not witness a single grin or an ounce of enthusiam. Were they even human? That is a valid question I would like to know. Unfortunately I could not articulate my words as eloquently as I had hoped. I was a big ol’ ball of nervous mess.

Today was one of those days that when it was all said and done, I was immediately confident that I had not received the scholarship. It reminds me of my 8th grade year trying out for the high school cheerleading team. Everything that could have possibly went wrong, went wrong. I failed to display myself at my highest potential, and for that I am discouraged. That is to say I still don’t know the outcome, I could be entirely wrong. However at this level of competitiveness, a stellar performance is vital–and for me, I was unable to execute that type of precision.

The matter is out of my hands now. Finally, after months of researching, applying and interviewing I am finally done. I am finding peace that if it was meant to be, then it will be. I confident that the Lord has some great plan for me and it will only take time before it reveals itself.

Hoy es un buen día para sonreírMarch 21st, 2015

Today is a good day to Smile.

Today is a good day to smile because I am home on spring break.

Today is a good day to smile because it is 82 degrees and I am on the patio drinking lemonade.

Today is a good day to smile because I have been selected as a candidate to study abroad at the UNIVERSIDAD COMPLUTENSE DE MADRID!!!!!!!!

Not only am I excited about having the opportunity to go to my first choice institution, I am ecstatic that my Big, Emily, also received notice that she has been selected to study in Valencia, Spain the SAME SEMESTER. Talk about a power (sorority) family.

I am starting to see all my hard work on all these applications really pay off. Fingers are still crossed about the scholarship, but I am optimistic and trusting that God has the ultimate plan for me, no matter the outcome.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.35.36 PM

Where do I run?!March 9th, 2015

After submitting my application to study abroad, I submitted yet anotherapplication two days later for the Bailey Family Memorial Trust Scholarship.  This application might have been just as intense as the first..or maybe more.

This scholarship at OSU is to cover all the costs of study abroad for students taking classes in the Liberal Arts.    It is incredibly competitive, but incredibly worth the effort it if you receive it.  The application requires you to submit an essay, get three recommendations from professors in your major, a resume, a price breakdown of all the expenses expected for the semester abroad, and a list of all the liberal arts courses you plan on taking abroad.

This application was quite difficult for me. Before I had even started, my academic professor warned me that the selection committee prefers to grant the money to Juniors and Seniors.  Being only a freshman, I was immediately at a disadvantage.  Also, since I am a freshman, I have only taken one course towards my major of strategic communications.  I felt like I really had to scrounge and beg for recommendations from professors I had already asked so much from.  I ended up getting one from my Media in a Diverse Society professor, my Comp I professor, and Spanish professor.  3 of the 5 professors I have ever had at OSU.

My spanish professor also stirred some fear when I asked her for a recommendation.  She was more than happy to do it, but slid in the comment that this will be the 27th recommendation she has written for this Bailey Scholarship.  Holy smokes.  This was one language professor out of dozens.  Some students would probably not even get a recommendation from a foreign language professor.  I suddenly became aware of how small my chances actually were.

Last Friday afternoon as I was getting a kick-start on an essay in my sketchy dorm room, I saw my phone light up with a call from an unknown number.  I recognized the area code, Stillwater.  My heart immediately popped out of my chest.  Could this be it?

I answered, and sure enough it was my academic advisor calling me on behalf of the Bailey Scholarship Selection Committee.  He called me to inform me that I, Hayley, have been  selected to go through the interview process for the scholarship! I scheduled my interview, hung up the phone, and sprinted out of my room without looking back.  I had no idea where I was running, but I was running!! What a huge opportunity! I was exploding with adrenaline, flew down to my friend Emily’s room on the 5th floor, who wasn’t there.  I then ran down the hall to Abbey and Alexa’s room, who shared in my excitement.  I finally pulled myself somewhat together, went back up to my room where my heart continued to flutter.

My interview is scheduled for the Friday after spring break with 3 professors.  If all goes well, I will be selected to have lunch with Mrs. Bailey, who has the final say in whether or not she will grant me this incredible award.

Fingers crossed!

The ApplicationFebruary 3rd, 2015

I can honestly say that I don’t think I have worked as hard on something in my entire life. After spending two entire months on the Reciprocal Exchange Application, I finally submitted it. As relieved as I felt, I was still uncomfortable with the idea that the power is no longer in my hands.

I ended up ranking my top three universities in the way that follows.

1. Universidad Complutense de Madrid – (Capital, and largest city in Spain. This University has an incredible reputation for their Public Relations program. It is considered to be one of the greatest schools for Public Relations in the World)

2. Universidad Politécnica de Valencia– (3rd largest city in Spain, college town ON THE BEACH! Unfortunately, their studies have more of a focus on the math and sciences )

3. Universidad de Zaragoza– (a small school located in a small city in between Madrid and Barcelona. Would be incredible to learn the language in a smaller town, but offered a limited variety of classes)

The University in Madrid would be the prime location because of my major, and the opportunities it can offer me. However, the selection process is very competitive and I quite honestly would be more than happy to spend a semester in any one of these cities. Each school does provide classes that could fulfill my requirements.

Also for the application, I submitted things to fulfill the optional 5 bonus points to enhance my application score. I interviewed an Australian friend Damon, who invited me to a cultural-event at the beginning of the Semester that welcomed all the new international students to our university at a dinner at Hideaway Pizza in Stillwater. I killed two birds in one day, and wrote a reflection on each experience that gained me 2 points. I got the final three by completing the Reciprocal Exchange Workbook. This beast asked important questions regarding insurance, The US Embassy, emergencies, a breakdown of price, and so on that really made me aware of all the possibilities of traveling abroad. The workbook alone took me over a week to complete. Exhausting yet completely beneficial.

The best news is that is is completely DONE! I am supposed to hear the decision around Spring Break.

The Process– January 11th, 2015

Ever since I watched the Cheetah Girls 2 Movie that took place in Barcelona when I was eight, I have been hooked on the Spanish Language and culture.  I made great strides to become heavily involved in the Spanish National Honor Society and Spanish Community Service in my high school. These opportunities intensified my interest even more, and Spanish has become my tiny obsession.  I have converted my phone’s default language and Pinterest boards to Spanish.  I watch movies and other shows such as Finding Nemoand Big Bang Theory in Spanish.  I practice my language skills with spanish-speaking customers at my job almost daily. I have even had dreams in Spanish!  Even though my geeky over-the-top infatuation with the language is ridiculous in some respects, I take pride that I have found something I am truly passionate about.

In my first semester at Oklahoma State, I quickly decided that a summer of study-abroad would not suffice.  I am deeply passionate about learning the language and building new relationships among cultures, and I knew that a semester would be more beneficial in providing these aspects I am seeking. I am looking for a little more rugged adventure where I can endure the good, the bad and the ugly.  An adventure that is the ultimate experience in discovering not only the language and culture, but the confidence and maturity in myself.

I became aware of OSU’s Reciprocal Exchange program through a couple older members of my sorority.  All my sisters raved about their experiences abroad, claiming it was the “best decision of their life”.   After a few meetings at the Study Abroad office with homeboy Lucas,  I decided that I would go ahead and give the wicked application process for Reciprocal Exchange a shot.

Reciprocal Exchange at Oklahoma State is an exchange of students at the same time.  OSU has tons of sister universities around the world.  In the exchange, OSU will send “X” amount of students to study abroad at a specific place, and that specific place will send “X” amount of their students to study here at OSU.  The deal is that OSU students are able to pay their home tuition, and study abroad for that price.  Sweet deal, right?! The only catch is that you’re on your own after that.  Of course they will assist you in selecting classes and give you recommendations before you go, but your tuition you pay up front only covers your tuition.  It is a lot less inclusive than study abroad programs such as AIFS, SAI, CEA, Sol Education, etc. It is up to the student to find housing near the host university, figure out insurance requirements, pick a flight and arrange transportation to and from an airport, a phone that will work overseas, and so on.  So even though it is essentially the cheaper option, I would be lying if I didn’t say it sounds scary as hell.

The application required the prospective participant to select their top 3 universities that interest them, and rank them in order of preference.  The student must conduct research on all three options, discovering what classes would be applicable to his/her major at that specific institution, what airport would be appropriate to fly into, semester dates, and a ballpark of the price it would cost for it all.  After that, the student must compose a personal essay on his/her reasoning for wanting to participate in reciprocal exchange.  If the student is interested in studying in a foreign language, he/she must submit a copy of the essay in that language as well.  And of course, the application would be complete after a Language-Proficiency Exam conducted by a language professor, and a recommendation letter from any professor.

Don’t let me forget to mention that there were up to 5 Bonus Points one could earn to boost his application.  There were opportunities such as interviewing a current exchange student at OSU, attending an on-campus cultural event and writing a reflection, completing the Study Abroad Workbook, being a Cowboy Cousin, living in the International dorm all qualified to provide some extra points to your application…(excuse me while I try to catch my breath.)

Based on the “score” of an application, the highest scores get their top preference first.  How many students a university can accept depends on how many they have available to exchange.  Unfortunately with this process, not every student will be able to study at their first preference due to limited spots.  In fact, some students will not be placed at all.  Did I mention that the application fee is $300?  300 precious dollars for 3am Whataburger runs, X-Large sorority Tshirts, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Dinners, date-party costumes, and sonic drinks GONE just to APPLY.

Now that I have shit my pants a little bit, let the games begin.

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