Saturday, March 27, 2010

Background Check

Just so we're all on the same page. I'm an American citizen born abroad, my mother is not an American citizen, so I'm duo-national. I live in a Spanish speaking country and go to a public school here. Now the school system is just a tad different from the US one...

High school ends in 11th grade, after that, it's college... unless you're in a trade school, in which case it's 12 years and then a job. I'm not in a trade school.

The school year starts in February and ends in November, with a brief 2 week respite in July, and Easter week completely off. "Summer vacation" is from December to February.

I'm in a specific branch of the public school system, which I'll refer to as Nerd Academy, because it truly is. Basically we get extra science and math classes and get to skip stuff like philosophy and psychology (which everyone falls asleep in anyway).

My high school is on a university campus, which is nowhere near as cool as it sounds because we get pretty much no free time. The only advantage is a huge and accessible library. On which the college students post open invitations to cool sounding parties. Damn their mocking souls.

My schedule: classes start at 7am, and at least two days a week end at 5:30pm. The shortest day ends at 3. University students have been known to see us leaving campus regularly at 9pm and going "Oh, those poor, poor kids" as we pass.

It's too far to travel, so I live in a residency nearby with some other classmates, and often don't get to go home weekends because I have to finish some project or study.

There are practically no extra-curricular clubs at public schools nationwide (chess club, debate team, cheer-leading, forget it). My school literally has none. Most at least have a soccer or volleyball team. Not mine, nope. We are encouraged to participate in the math and science Olympiads. The chemistry teacher literally shanghaied my whole generation.

"Fill these in", she said, "it's just to familiarize everyone with how to inscribe, you can get the real ones later". Next thing I know, my fingers are turning yellow from nitric acid. A very sympathetic lab assistant actually told one of my friends not to worry, his hand would fall off in a few days.

Also, its pretty hard to run for class president when there are only 46 students in the whole school, but since the other candidate decided he had better things to do (his excuse was he had to study for some test) I guess I won by default, even though no one ever actually voted.

On the bright side, we covered integration in the first semester of 11th grade.

At the end of the year, we have to take a series of standardized tests applied by the Ministry of Education before we get our diploma. these are: Math, a science (physics, chemistry, or biology), Spanish, Socials, Civics, and English. Civics is a problem. The teacher talks about interesting stuff, but pretty much nothing that's on the final test.

So now you know where I stand. The rest of my blog might start to make some sense.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Where the Trouble Begins

Applying to universities is... confusing, annoying, and involves way too many forms. My blog addresses that. Not in a particularly reassuring way, I mean, I'm applying to those schools myself. If you're looking for advice, this won't help you at all, I'm as lost as you are (and recording my mistakes right here for your entertainment!), but it might reassure you to know that other people are fighting the paperwork, the SATs, the essays, and all the rest of it.

In fact, before I started myself, I tried looking for blogs about this and didn't find any. I take that back, I found one that had exactly one entry (and the name I originally wanted to use for my own blog, what a waste). Maybe it's because they don't exist, or aren't successful or interesting, or maybe people that get into colleges know better than to waste their time blogging about it. I don't know, but I am going to try.

So welcome. Follow me through battles with bureaucracy and standardized tests, traversing the fields of forms and interviews into the lands of higher education, beginning a quixotic quest for acceptance letters ans scholarships to universities in the US of marvelous A...

... as an American citizen living abroad, thereby complicating everything about tenfold.

By the way, "lost number in a file", other than describing every applicant's nightmare, is from a Bruce Springsteen song, Radio Nowhere, embedded right here because everyone needs to know who he is (along with the E Street Band, of course):

The video obviously isn't synced with the sound...