I Have A New Home

I have a new home!  Well, my blog has a new home. While I do love WordPress.com I decided it was best to actually have my own domain and self-hosted blog (I am still using WordPress).  Thus, starting today, you can find me and my blog at my new home.

Divergent Musings

It is still under construction, but I am really liking it there so far.  I will definitely miss the simplicity of WordPress.com, but I love the customization level of having my own hosted blog.  I will no longer be making any posts here, but do not worry, I am still participating in Post A Week 2011, and I will stop by and comment on others’ posts.

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Writing Wednesday: A Perfect Sunday

I am not feeling so well, and thus struggling for inspiration for what I should write about for today’s Writing Wednesday.  Thus, I am going to cheat a bit and grab some inspiration from the site Plinky (which you should check out if you are ever in need of a topic).

What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?


Beach along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz, CA.

The weather has been absolutely fantastic the last couple of weeks.  While the rest of the country has been under snow and freezing temperatures, we have had high 60s/70s and beautiful blue skies, not a spot of rain in the forecast.  This past weekend, despite being sick with a bit of a nasty cold, my boyfriend and I were itching to get out of the house.  It was just too gorgeous out to be cooped up playing video games.  So we hopped in the car and drove.  Soon we landed in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA.  We drove through beautiful countryside, the UCSC campus, and then jumped onto Highway 1 where we stopped at a few beaches.  Just as the sun was setting we landed at Pigeon Point Lighthouse where we watched the sun set over the gorgeous ocean.

A fantastic day with beautiful weather, beautiful views, and my amazing boyfriend.  That is my perfect Sunday.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse on Highway 1.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Writing Wednesday: Acceptance Speech

I was sitting here wondering what I should write about for Writing Wednesday when I received a message from my dear friend Nick.  He had a prompt for me!  One that he thought up last night.  When he gave it to me I knew right away, this is today’s topic.

If you were ever to become famous, and had a moment in the peak of your spotlight to thank a small number of people whom were instrumental in your development and or success, who would you thank?

Some of it would depend on what I was famous for.  Am I a well-known actress with an Oscar under my belt?  An activist who started a revolution?  A kick-butt game designer who sold 5 million copies?  An author who has now spent 12 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller List?  Regardless, I would definitely be thanking my agent and the folks involved in whatever project I am currently working on.  There are, however, a few key people I would need to thank, no matter what I was famous for.

My Mother – For always being there when I needed to whine, or cry, or had serious boy problems that only she could help me with.  And for being my best friend, even though she drives me crazy sometimes.

My Father – For motivating me to be the absolute best I can be.  For telling me to keep on trying and never give up.  And for telling me, on a regular basis, how proud of me he is.

My Alex – For the first time in a very long time I feel completely and utterly accepted by my partner, and that is a great feeling.  And for that wonderful feeling I am extremely thankful and it encourages me to want to be a better person and do everything I can to show him how thankful I am.

My Friends – Ok, this is a bit broad, but I do have a good number of friends that I would want to thank, nearly all of them met online, and each one of them means a great deal to me, has helped me become who I am today, and each one deserves to be recognized.  However, since there are so many of them, and I certainly wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, I would, unfortunately, lump them all together, and afterward, thank each of them individually.

Professor Stephen Prothero – This professor, who I had my freshman year of college, is the reason I chose to study what I did.  After taking his class, Death & Immortality, I fell in love with the study of religion and knew that this would be what I spent the remaining years of college studying.  And I am so glad I did.  My studies taught me to read, write, and think critically, not just about religion, but at world issues and life in general.  So thank you Professor Prothero.

Wandering Minds Theater Group – I joined this theater group at the beginning of my junior year at Boston University.  After that, my life was never the same.  Growing up I was a shy and anti-social girl.  Until Wandering Minds got a hold of me.  I broke out of my shell, discovered like-minded people, and finally became at ease with who I was.  Though I may not currently keep in touch with all of my fellow members, they know they hold a special place in my heart.

My Family – I have a large extended family (comes from my parents being divorced multiple times), and there is no way I could list them all, but they have all supported me, loved me, and let me become who I am, so for that, they deserve thanks.

Now I just need to become famous.  I will keep working on that.  Check back in a few more years, maybe a decade or two.

Who would you thank?

Writing Wednesday: The Cost of a College Education

Last week I was talking to some of my coworkers about where we went to college and the issue of the rising cost of education, private or public, in the U.S. came up.  Many of us went to relatively prestigious private schools (I myself went to Boston University, a tier two school) and we are now suffering the financial consequences of doing so.

I did not come from a wealthy family.  My parents were in no position to financially contribute to my education, regardless of where I went.  I knew this from the moment I began thinking about going to college.  At times I thought to myself that it would just be easier, and cheaper, to simply not go to college and just jump straight into the work world.  But my parents pushed for college, and honestly, I knew that without a college education I would be limited in what I could do in life.  So regardless of how much it was going to cost me, I was going.  Ultimately, however, I ended up going to one of the most expensive colleges in the United States.  Though it does not make it into the top 10 most expensive colleges to attend, for 2010-2011 undergraduate tuition only, Boston University costs $39,314.  On average room and board costs $12,260.  Add in books and other personal expenses and you are looking at nearly $55,000 for one year of education at Boston University.  Even though the average financial aid award is $35,000 (and give over 66% of students aid), which is great, this still leaves another $20,000 per year that a student needs to come up with, from their parents, or themselves.  For me, this meant that at the end of my undergraduate college eduction I was in debt $80,000.  My monthly loan payments are as low as they can go and they are still $600 per month.  And yes, I already consolidated.  I will be paying this off well into my 40s.  It is important to note that my indebtedness is not average, significantly higher than the average BU graduate at $31,000, and the average college student at $24,000 (in 2009, up 6% from 2008).  Even the average student debt works out to approximately $250 per month for 12 years in payments.

Now look, I don’t regret my time at BU.  I do feel it was worth it, 90% of the time, and my time there helped me grow as a person and get to where I am today.  However, education should never cost this much.  And to be honest, this hefty price tag deters many potential students from even thinking of college as an option, especially if their parents are unable to financially contribute.  I chose to ignore the cost, not everyone does.  So go to a state-funded college* instead, you say?  That was an option.  I could have gone to the University of Vermont, my home state school, for nearly free.  I was considered a “Vermont Scholar” which means nearly all of my tuition would have been covered.  All I would have been responsible for was my room and board, and honestly, I could have lived at home and drove the 50 miles each way with no problem.  But I wanted to get out of Vermont.  Though I love my home state, I knew I needed to go somewhere else.  I knew that UVM would not offer me the quality of education that I wanted.  I knew that if I had stayed in Vermont it would be likely that I would never get out.  And you know what, many kids feel the same way.  College is supposed to be a time when we get to go to new places, meet new people, have new experiences.  It’s hard to do this is the same state you grew up in.

When you compare the amount of debt you will be in after graduating to the amount you will get paid at your first job, you start to wonder if college was truly worth the cost.  Though it varies by region and field, according to a survey done in early 2010 by the National Association of College and Employers, the average starting salary of a 2010 college graduate was $47,673 (mine was significantly lower at $32,000, and in San Francisco, which has one of the highest costs of living).  And this is if you were lucky enough to get a job shortly after graduating, as survey showed that in 2009 the unemployment rate for graduates ages 20-24 was 8.7% (up from 5.8% the previous year). Yes, I know, the starting salary amount is significantly higher than a non-graduate, but non-college graduates do not have to pay between $300 and $1,500 a month in student loans (dependent upon debt amount and repayment plan).  And guess what, this is a bill you can’t avoid.  Even if you declare bankruptcy, student loans are not automatically included.  You have to prove that paying back student loans would put you in undue hardship.  And it is a hard thing to argue.  Additionally, many people do not want to declare bankruptcy, which will then haunt them for the next 7-10 years.

All the numbers I have presented are for those with a BA or BS.  When you start looking at the cost of other types of degrees and educations, Law School, PhD, Masters, Medical School, Veterinary School, the numbers start to sky rocket.  And nearly all of these programs require that you have a BA/BS first.  Even if you are lucky enough to make it through undergraduate school with no debt, it is 95% likely you will not make it through graduate school debt-free.

Some quick numbers to show what I mean about the average indebtedness of a the different types of graduate students (according to a recent survey):

  • PhD – $36,917*
  • Veterinary College – $105,573
  • Medical School – $139,517

Yes, these specialized degrees offer significantly higher paying starting salaries ($75,000 to $400,000), but there are many other expenses that will be encountered.  Rent or mortgage, food, car, utilities, medical.  And if you have a child, well there goes even more of your money.  Should someone who is going to be serving society in some of the most stressful jobs known have to pay this much?

So we know college is expensive here in the United States.  How do other countries compare?  First, let us look at Canada, home to some absolutely fantastic universities, on par with the “Ivy Leagues” here in the US.

World’s Best Universities: Canadian
– Please note that because the current CAD to USD exchange rate is 1 to 1.01, I am not going to convert to USD.

McGill University

  • Quebec Resident: $2,068
  • Canadian Resident: $5,668
  • International: $14,500 – $25,000 (dependent upon type of degree with Arts & Sciences the lowest cost)

University of Toronto

  • Domestic: $5,216
  • International: $23,478

Queen’s University

  • Domestic Resident $5,230
  • International: $18,730

Now let us look at England, home to some of the top (and oldest) universities in the world.  Many of these colleges rival the Ivy Leagues of the US for prestige.  Some even beat them.

World’s Best Universities: British

University of Cambridge*

  • Domestic: $5,265 (£3,375)
  • International: $16,775 (£10,752)

King’s College (London)

  • Domestic: $5,265 (£3,375)
  • International: $19,502 (£12,500)

University of Oxford

  • Domestic: $5,265 (£3,375)
  • International: $19,814 (£12,700)

So what does this tell us?  Simply put, education in America is prohibitively expensive.  Across the board in both Canada and England, tuition for top universities cost less than that of a state university here in the United States.  Furthermore, as an international student, you could get a top quality education at these universities for less than what you would pay for a private college here, and get the experience of living abroad.  Something is clearly being done properly with education, it’s just not here in the United States.  And that needs to change.

So how do we change this?  This is a tough one.  There have been groups campaigning for this for years, even decades.  And what have we seen?  The cost continues to rise.  The amount of debt continues to increase.  My best suggestion, continue to get the word out.  Write articles, contribute to movements, send letters to the government.  Simply keep persisting.  The truth of the matter is, it may never change, but we will never know if we do not keep trying.

*For reference the average tuition of a state university in the US is $7,605 per year for in-state and $11,900 for out-of-state. Source.
*Many PhD programs do offer scholarships, grants and will even pay you if you choose to be a Teacher’s Assistant (TA), keeping the cost of a PhD significantly lower.
*University of Cambridge is actually considered the top university in the world, according to a recent survey.  It is even ranked above both Harvard and Yale.  Source.

Blogging With a Buddy

So I woke up this morning ready to call in sick to work with a giant headache due to sleeping poorly, which I did end up doing.  Instantly I knew my day was going to be rough.  But all that changed when I checked my email and found that my good friend Nick and I had been featured here on WordPress for their Daily Post!  You see, last week, not even a week ago, Nick and I decided to becoming “Blogging Buddies”.  We have both wanted to get back into blogging and after a bit of discussion we decided to just go for it.  Even better, we decided to team up and encourage each other so that we would remain motivated.  Now, five days later, WordPress has caught wind of this and next thing we know, we are featured!  I must say, I am quite excited about this and it has definitely further motivated me to keep up with this blog.

Blogging with a buddy, regardless of if you have met in real life, if you have the same interests, if you are even from the same generation, can be a great way to keep yourself motivated.  Some days you may be lacking motivation and you just don’t know what to write about.  Or maybe you are having a particularly bad day and can’t write while you are in a grumpy mood.  A blogging buddy will be there to cheer you up, cheer you on and get you motivated.  You can bounce ideas off them.  Have them proofread a piece of writing.  Or even just have them be there while you ramble on.  A blogging buddy is a great way of forming a special bond with an old friend, or even meeting a new friend.

So, with that said, I would like to offer myself up to others who are looking for a blogging buddy!  Whatever I can do to encourage others out there to blog, I am game for.  My interests are quite broad, from video games, to movies, food, health, and politics.  Even if we don’t believe in the exact same things, I am always interested to meet new people, learn new things, find new interests, and help motivate people.  So, if you are looking for a blogging buddy, let me know!  Leave a message here, send me a message via my Ask Me, or even email me at kate@kateolmstead.com.

I would love to meet you, inspire you, motivate you, get to know you.  So what are you waiting for?

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