I love Baltimore; let me know if you want to visit so I can give you an insider’s guide! I was born and raised around the westside of Baltimore, and believe the city has great potential and opportunity to demonstrate how to gentrify with minimal displacement of current residents.
I survived my first few weeks at SIPA! People go back to school for a variety of reasons, and my starting in January is a bit “off cycle”, but regardless of the reasons, it’s always a transition. I’ve gone from working 8 hours a day (8 hours and 45 minutes to be exact) and being DONE with work, to always feeling like I should be studying. I’ve gone from waking up at 5 am to commute 1.5 hours to work, to waking up at 8 am, walking to school in 10 minutes, and realizing that my first class isn’t until 2:10PM. I’ve gone from having some leisure income, to having loans…again.
Regardless of the transition, the one thing I can say is that SIPA provides you with SO much support. During orientation, you have peer advisors who give you all the secrets from how best to register for classes, to where to find good pizza and cheap (but good) beer. Your deans and academic advisors are SUPER responsive, even about the most trivial matters. They really want to see you succeed, and ease your (over-achieving) anxieties and concerns. *smile* Oh, and your financial aid and career services people are also very helpful. Whatever your doubts about funding SIPA are, once you actually get here, there are TONS of scholarships, and opportunities internally and externally (everyone wants to hire SIPA students) to fund your education. I fully expect to have my tuition covered next year. The BEST resources, however, once you come to SIPA–and I mean THE BEST–will be your fellow classmates. I know it may sound trite, but SIPA isn’t kidding when they tell you to get to know your classmates because they will be future leaders. People at SIPA have already been leaders! Your classmates are coming from such diverse backgrounds, sectors, life experiences, countries…I mean, you name it. My first class was in Economic Development in Latin America, and the professor was bombarded by questions from engaged students who were actually from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, etc…there was also a Frenchman, who wanted to clarify a point about the French Revolution vis-a-vis post-colonial civil wars…needless to say, it was a fascinating discussion.
In my Brazil Seminar class, all I had to do was express interest in urban planning in Brazil, and another classmate spoke up, gave me her card, and told me she used to work for the city of Rio de Janeiro. Another student gave me books and articles to research, and yet other students said they were from the Columbia Architecture, Planning School and were going to Rio this summer to work with leaders in the favelas on inclusive development. I mean…REALLY? SERIOUSLY? Your classmates and faculty members are your assets, and they are the most down-to-earth, unassuming people you’d ever want to meet. They really make the SIPA community a collaborative, welcoming, and socially and intellectually stimulating community, and make it well-worth the transition!
Honestly, whatever your doubts about moving to New York, the cost of SIPA, the demanding coursework, etc., I promise you it’s worth it. SIPA is a very strong network, both in the U.S. and overseas, especially if you want to be a leader in international and public affairs. Take it from someone who is taking out loans: It’s worth it.
I can’t wait to welcome you to the SIPA family in the fall!