Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Long time no see.

So it’s been a while since I last posted, and that’s because I’ve been out doing things and writing papers and finishing applications and practicing drawing and all good stuff that I just haven’t had time to write about! But now the majority of my graduate applications have been submitted (save for the architecture-specific portion of my Berkeley application), and my scholarships are almost done…so in this little breather time I have, I thought I’d update you guys on what’s going on in Paris.

First, the important bit: today, it snowed! Before I came to Paris, everyone told me it rarely snows (if at all, a few flakes in January), and that I’d have to face a dreary wet winter full of freezing rain.  Well, November wasn’t all sunshine, but I continued to hope for a fluffy white December, and here it is! A couple of inches stuck to the ground, and for proof, here’s a shot of what I’m henceforth calling my backyard:

I'm not sure where exactly the body of water in the center of the gardens begins...and I wasn't planning on testing that out with my extremely un-winter-friendly suede boots...

In other news, I paid a visit to the Musée Rodin the other weekend. Some of the roses were still in bloom, and a couple of yellow leaves were clinging to the trees in the garden; I could see why people recommend this as one of the gardens to visit in Paris. I will definitely return in spring, when all the flora is in its full glory.

As for the museum itself, well, it’s a very small museum. That said, I’m particularly fond of its stairs and the arch-topped colonnade in the entry area. The pieces showed Rodin’s process, both in the technical (an exhibit displayed the step-by-step making-of one of the sculptures), and creative (multiple iterations of the same theme). Seeing The Kiss in person amplifies the eroticism of its tangled limbs and contrasting curved and angular forms. Even if it is cliché, it’s one of my favorite sculptures, and I’m probably going to go back to see it again, get a few more sketches in.

Speaking of: to prove that I have been sketching (though, to be honest, not every day as I hoped – but come January, I’ll have all the time in the world to put my pencil to paper…), as I was saying, to prove that I have been sketching, I will now show you two sketches. I did more than these two, but if I show them all now, who’ll review my sketchbooks with me when I get back?

This one's from one of the sculpture atriums at the Louvre. I unfortunately didn't write down the artist's name...

A drawing from the 'Hanako' bust at the Musee Rodin. I'd just like to note that sculptures are much easier to sketch because they aren't as fidgety as humans.

Next up: the last two weeks of school before winter break…

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , ,

Applications, schmaplications

I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself lately. I haven’t had a chance to really get out and be in Paris as much as I would have liked.  And I’m blaming that on the 2 scholarship applications and 5 graduate applications I’ve been working on since I arrived in this beautiful city. But at last, the end is in sight.

A bit of background: I went into my undergraduate degree knowing I’d want to do a Masters in Architecture. I was one of those annoying kids that knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, and then stuck it out. And I don’t regret it, not one bit. Architecture has never been “work” for me, just a constant source of discovery and pleasure, ok, mixed in with some pain (for example, the frustration when those damn riser heights won’t add up to the FFL).  It’s almost hedonistic, the joy I derive from basking in Foster’s atrium, or reaching out to touch the zenith-esque corners of Pei’s National Gallery addition. There is, of course, the fun in solving a design problem and the associated satisfaction of having all the puzzle pieces fit.  But, to be honest, what keeps me coming back for more is that I am never not dazzled, impressed, intrigued, disgusted – I am never without a reaction, soit positive soit negative, to architecture. Sometimes I have to take a step back, get a breather from the chaos that seems to be inseparable from the designer’s life (thus this stay in Paris), but that break always has me coming back for more.

And here we are.  For the last few months, I have been pulling together applications for graduate programs in architecture.  This involved recreating a portfolio, since I had to include my thesis project and since each school had its own specifications, writing thousands of rough drafts for essay upon essay, and pestering faculty for letters of reference.  The first two are are pretty much out of the way.  The last one, well my deadline is in a few weeks and I have a feeling I’m going to be the one filling their inboxes pretty soon.

One thing I didn’t realize when setting out on this venture is the cost of applying to all these places and scholarships.  Around $30 to print each portfolio, $5 to mail them, $7 for each transcript, $150 for the GRE, $80 for each application…it starts stacking up.  I’d estimate that by the time March comes around, I’ll already have spent more than $700 – and that’s all before knowing which school has accepted me into their program.  Once I am accepted, there’s the first deposit, and paying to take summer courses if I haven’t been able to take care of the prerequisites.  Then, of course, there’s the cost of graduate school itself, about $50,000 per year. So, dear Reader, this post is to inform you that I’ve started a scholarship fund, for myself.  If you’d like to contribute, please send your cheque to…just kidding. Though that is quite tempting.

Actually, the point of this post is to let you know why I’ve decided to make my New Year’s resolution early. I’ve felt like my break from the art world has been long enough, and knowing that I’m living in a city that has inspired many an artist, I owe it to myself to take charge of my aesthetic destiny.  That, and I’ve been Stumbling upon some very inspiring images. I’ve always been decent at drawing, but I’m ready to take my pencil sketches to the next level. So, I’m resolving to sketch an hour every day during the week and two hours on weekends.  Gladwell thinks it takes about 10,000 hours to master a skill.  Well, I suppose that means in about 20 years, I might be nearing proficiency in drawing.  In any case, if I manage to do this for a year, I’m bound to get a little bit better.  I’m going to try and get a head start by squeezing in some sketching time this week, and I’m debating whether not having work on Wednesdays and Fridays makes them weekend days…oh, why not.  When in France…

So here’s to grabbing the pencil, and jumping over the lazy dog that was my dormant art career.

P.S. That means you’ll be seeing sketches in addition to these awesome photos I’ve been posting. Aren’t you excited?

Filed under: Close to home, , , , , ,

GRE-at fun!

PHD Comics takes on the GRE

PHD Comics takes on the GRE

Okay, most people wouldn’t describe studying for or taking the GRE as being fun, and I’m usually one of those people. But my experience with the GRE was surprisingly just that. Yes, the test was difficult, and yes, I even found myself slumped over a set of math problems softly repeating, “Just kill me now.” But I’d have to say, my overall experience was a positive one. I thought I’d share my process and the resources I came upon, as well as what strategies worked and didn’t work for me, in case any of my readers are planning on taking the test soon. Not that I’m the go-to person for GRE review, but I think every bit of advice helps when you’re getting stressed over a big test!

First, I’d like to acknowledge the mistakes I made while studying:

  1. I took the test yesterday. Not that there’s anything special about yesterday, per say, but I really should have taken the test while I was still at school. That is, the summer or winter break during my sophomore or junior year, especially since I knew I wanted to go to graduate school anyway. Taking it this summer made it a bit challenging to review math concepts that I hadn’t seen in years. I’d still recommend doing it over a summer and taking at least a month to study (focused study) if you want your score to be above average, because I know I couldn’t have handled the pressures of school (studio, papers, Honors meetings) and the pressure of studying for a test during the semester.
  2. I focused on vocabulary building. This might seem counter-intuitive. I’m not saying don’t study vocabulary – by all means, improve your word database, especially if you aren’t familiar with the words on the “most commonly seen on the GRE” list (i.e. the “basic” advanced vocab words). But even though I learned some 200+ new words for this test, only 3 of them helped me (only 1 even showed up!). Learning the “tricks” to eliminating answer choices and studying root words might be a better strategy for the verbal section.
  3. I didn’t start reviewing for the essay section until the week before the exam. This didn’t actually wind up hurting me, because I got lucky. One of the essays turned out to be a sample prompt I had seen before, and the other was on a topic I felt comfortable writing about, but for those of you that hate writing essays – get a head start, because the time crunch can be really frustrating.

You might be wondering what I actually did right. Well, I think my good experience was a combination of luck and practice.

  1. I took 7 practice tests. I didn’t do the writing section, but I took 7 verbal and math practice sections and then made sure to go over the problems I missed. This allowed me to see my average score, and if I was making any progress.
  2. I used more than one book – each book gives a different approach to solving problems and tackling the skills needed for the exam. One type of approach might be better for you than another. I, for example, studied both a Kaplan book and a Peterson’s book, and found that the Peterson approach worked better for me, in general, though the Kaplan approach to essay writing was a closer match to my writing style. I also found a website, last minute, that really helped me review specific points; had I found it earlier, I’m sure my marks would have been even higher.
  3. I got lucky. Actually, when I was taking the math portion of the test, I thought I was anything but lucky. I am terrible at the logic problems, you know, the ones that say if x < y < 0, then which of the following is a positive even integer. I hate those. And I got a WHOLE LOT of those during my math section, so of course I walked out feeling terrible and certain that I had bombed the section. I even prayed that they’d give me another math section and that my first would’ve been an un-graded experimental section. Turns out, I did alright – I must have gotten some of those correct, and that I can only chalk up to luck.

Where’s the fun in all of this, you ask? It’s in your approach to the test. I am a terrible test-taker. I do better on essays and interviews than I ever do on multiple choice exams, so I was a bit scared of having to take a 2.5 hour multiple-choice test! But as I started reviewing, the pratice tests became a sort of game. I’m a competitive person, so I treated them as personal challenges – how many problems can I get right without guessing? It didn’t hurt that I love problem-solving: whether it’s putting the pieces of a floorplan together so they make sense, or working out a quantitative comparison, there’s a mini-thrill in getting it just right.

I received my verbal and math scores the moment I finished the test, and now I’m waiting on my essay marks. Having the test out of the way means I can focus on pulling together the rest of my application packages – the portfolios, the essays, the letters of recommendation. In the end, I think that stuff is much more challenging than a multiple-choice test, anyway!

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