Auschwitz-Birkenau, Part III

How is it that I’m on “part 3,” and yet I hardly feel like I’ve begun? Because this is the part that, unsurprisingly, I have always been and still am hit the hardest.

My interest bordering on obsession with the Holocaust, Jews, and Israel began when I was 7 or 8 years old. I was at the school library at Holy Family, my grade and middle school, and the librarian recommended that I try the book “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry. It’s a story of a Jewish girl escaping Denmark during World War II. If I remember correctly, I had said something to the librarian (Mrs. Hall) like I had “run out of books I want to read” because I was always, always a voracious reader and apparently because I’ve always had a bit of an attitude (haha).

I remember starting it that day and not being able to put it down. I remember that my Dad called me and my sister to dinner, and I went into the bathroom Greta and I shared to wash my hands. I remember literally sitting down on the floor of the bathroom (it was an odd bathroom, with carpet), and having to be called again and again to dinner. (Note: sorry for this next mouthful of a sentence, but I’m not sure how else to put it.):  I remember thinking as an (about) 8-year-old – if I was going to tell someone – namely if I would have told myself a day ago that humans gassed other humans “in bulk” – this is awful, but I thought of Sam’s Club, where you buy bulk products and not “regular size” – if I would have told myself this, I would never have believed it. Except it was true. It was real. If it were a made-up novel, it would be too ridiculous to be real. But it was real.

Even at 8, I remember very “child-like” questions that entered my mind. For example, I wondered that if the Nazis truly believed Jews were “sub-human” like they proclaimed, why would they do experiments on them? Because, I thought, if Jews are not the same, then why would they think experiments on Jews would have the same results on “real” humans? Didn’t the Nazis see the fault in their reasoning if they truly believed this?

So I begin this post with the infamous sign – “stop” both in German and Polish with the skull and crossbones (with a guard tower behind it):

IMG_8666.jpeg

“Crematorium 1” is mostly preserved in its original condition. It started operation in August 1940 in what was originally an ammunition bunker. The largest room was changed into a gas chamber. There were three furnaces or incinerators for burning bodies. After the Nazis completed Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II, which I will cover in the next post) in July 1943, the operation of this building ended.

In the rest of this post, I’m going to post mostly pictures because this part of the “experience” was and is not only indescribable but incomprehensible, unimaginable, unfathomable
Note: The “captions” for the pictures are above their corresponding picture.

Crematorium 1:

IMG_0004.jpeg

 

Sign/plaque when you walk into the building (English and Hebrew on purpose):

img_1126

 

Actual canisters that contained Zyklon B, a pesticide used for killing people in the gas chambers:

IMG_8554.jpeg

IMG_8555.jpeg

 

The gas chamber itself:

IMG_4454.jpeg

 

Hole in the ceiling where the Zyklon B was inserted:

IMG_9659.jpeg

 

Incinerators:

IMG_2022.jpeg

 

 

Enough seen. Enough said. Never enough seen. Never enough said. 

 

 

And I’ll leave you with a  picture of the fencing containing “Auschwitz I”:

IMG_0032.jpeg
Erica

Advertisements

Sciopero… again

Today is another 24-hour mass transit sciopero, or strike, in Roma. It’s at least the third since I’ve been here, and the stated reason is the “health and safety” of workers. As the “24-hour” hour nature of the strike denotes, it seems in Italy they don’t strike “until…” they get what they want, but they strike for a set period of time to show their dissatisfaction.

This all means that I’m walking 6.1 kilometers, or 3.8 miles, to work right now. Given the hour + it will take, I thought I’d write a blog while I’m walking.

Im not very good with directions, so unless I physically go from point A to point B, I can’t imagine the orientation of things and places. I’ve often wondered how to physically walk from where I live near San Giovanni to the Vatican, for example, because I always take the metro. I guess I’m going to find out today because where I work is near the Vatican!

I’m not necessarily complaining, although it is quite inconvenient. But what other city in the world would I rather be “forced” to walk through? None. Zero. I choose this city. After all, I’m walking head-on to the Colosseum 😍 right now. What a commute!

Never enough pictures of this place!

Oh, I just passed a big American tourist group!

I work from 10:30 to 7:30 today. I have a few 1.5-hour breaks, which wouldn’t be enough time to be worth it to go home and back even if the metro was working as normal.

I just passed the Arch of Constantine!

Anyway, my students are in groups of only 2-3 or private lessons, so I don’t teach classrooms of school kids like I did in Reggio Calabria. It’s a change, and obviously there are pluses and minuses to both.

Part of the Roman forum and Altare della Patria/Altar of the Fatherland/Vittorio Emanuele Monument!

Back to the post. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I don’t feel especially passionate or “called” to be an English teacher. It’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it gives me a way to live abroad, which I obviously love, and make money. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, and I’ve had quite a rocky path since law school, but hopefully that path is leveling out now. But that’s for another post (or posts).

Another picture of Vittorio Emanuele from Piazza Venezia!

Okay, I’m going to have to pick up my pace a little bit. Thanks for accompanying me on part of my way to work during sciopero!

Erica

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & the Hagia Sophia

I arrived in Istanbul on December 26, 2018, at about 6:30 p.m. from a flight from Bucharest, Romania. I had flown from Rome to Bucharest and then to Istanbul. (My first time “in” Romania! Yay!)  I got off the plane and waited with a mob of other people to go through passport control. I had my Turkish visa printed and ready…

I stayed in the Fatih area of Istanbul, which is on the European side. I picked the hotel and the area because it’s the neighborhood with famous historical sites such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

I set up a 2-day guided tour with a company I found suggested on TripAdvisor. I thought it was a small-group tour, but when the guide came to meet me at my hotel in the morning at 9 a.m., I found out the tour was just me and my guide. I almost would have preferred a few other people, but it ended up working out fine.

I love taking guided tours when I first get to the city. I will have already done a lot of reading and research on the history and culture of the place, but I like how I get a broad overview of the city and its important places on a tour. It allows me to familiarize myself with the surroundings and figure out what I want to go back to or see later. I’ve found this is my favorite way to enter a new place, and I’ve done it in many countries around the world. Because I’m such a history buff, it gives me an orientation about the historical and cultural aspects of a place as well, which is one of my favorite parts of traveling.

Our first stop was Topkapi Palace. This is where the sultans lived with about 4,000 of their closest family, friends, children, servants, concubines, eunuchs, and courtiers between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire.

Although the palace compound extends around much further, the “museum” opens with the Middle Gate, also known as the Bâbüsselâm or the Gate of Salutation (below). It leads into the palace proper, and with the two towers flanking the gate, it was supposed to serve as a symbol of the pomp and majesty of the Ottoman empire. It has subsequently become an icon for the whole palace.

IMG_8962.jpeg

Middle Gate, also known as the Bâbüsselâm or the Gate of Salutation

On the upper part of the gate, there is a calligraphic inscription of the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God; Mohammed is the prophet of God.” (below)

Only the sultan was allowed to pass through this gate on horseback. Other state officials such as the grand vizier had to dismount their horses before entering.

IMG_8963.jpeg

Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God; Mohammed is the prophet of God.”

Inside the gate lies the Second Courtyard which includes the Imperial Council Chamber (below), where the Dîvân (Council) made laws, citizens presented petitions, and foreign dignitaries were presented to the court. The sultans were said to have eavesdropped on proceedings through the window with the golden grille.

IMG_9050.jpeg

Imperial Council Chamber

One of my favorite things about mosques and Islam art is the decoration. In Islam, depictions of the prophet Mohammed and of God are forbidden, so much of their architecture and decoration is mosaic tiles of geometric or floral patterns and fanciful or elaborate script. Here are some examples from Topkapi Palace:

IMG_9011.jpeg

IMG_9021.jpeg

IMG_9010.jpeg

I explored the rest of the palace grounds, which included palace kitchens, the Imperial Treasury, the harem where the wives and children of the sultan lived, the Marble Terrace, and much more. I could go on with various pictures of buildings, but suffice it to say it was definitely a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the sultans and the Ottoman empire’s ruling class.

My next stop, the Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom), is what originally drew me to Istanbul from having studied it in school. I was attracted to it for its historical, religious, and cultural significances. It was commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, consecrated as a church in 536, converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 (and renamed Aya Sofya), and declared a museum by Atatürk (the founder of modern Turkey) in 1935.

49125040_10106890439141680_7459918208112263168_n.jpg

It’s famous for its mosaics, which the Muslims covered up with plaster when it became a mosque. It was only after being declared a museum that they began to recover some of the mosaics that were hidden after the conversion of the structure. Below are some of my pictures.

IMG_9072.jpegIMG_9101.jpeg

IMG_9078.jpeg

The dome

IMG_9094.jpeg

IMG_9081.jpeg

Ottoman medallions (below, and seen in the pictures above) are inscribed with the gilt Arabic letters with the names of God (Allah), Mohammed, and the early caliphs Ali and Abu Bakr.

IMG_9077.jpeg

More to come!

Erica

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Part II

I feel like a broken record saying I have no idea how and what to say in these posts. I often don’t know how to start my writing (exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, etc.: my graduate school essay that still languishes 75% done but with no beginning or unifying theme), but clearly this is in no way the same. So I’ll again preface this: I cannot hope to come close to what has been written about this place, but I will do my best to share what I saw on that cold Polish November day.

So I obviously left off listing some of the “exhibits” towards the first part of the tour. Sobering and horrifying do the “displays” no justice. They don’t just speak for themselves, they shout in anguish. They scream, as if each pair of shoes, each stolen piece of luggage was determined to tell the story of their owner who never got the chance to. Never in a place of hushed horror have I heard such terrified, yet determined echoes. Really.

In one of the barracks, with its recreated conditions (more about this later), the hallway is lined with photos and “information” about people who never got to leave Auschwitz.

IMG_8602.jpeg

This hit me hard, to say the least. The faces are like mug shots for “crimes” they committed like being Jewish or an “intellectual.” They wear the uniform “striped pajamas” as a novelist once coined the attire. The eyes. Not one of these people left Auschwitz alive. Not one of these people got to ever experience freedom again outside of the barbed wire fences. (Note: There were just as many pictures of females, I just happened to capture the men).

Sorry for the glare (you can see pictures of women in the “background”), but here are two examples: the first I took because (selfishly) like me and my dad, this man’s “crime” was the audacity of being a lawyer (an “intellectual”).

IMG_8606.jpeg

This second person doesn’t even need a profession to be a “criminal” – he is a Jew. The black eye he has goes without saying.

IMG_8625.jpeg

You can’t see it in the picture above, but all Jews had their Star of David stitched into their clothes above their prison number (below).

IMG_8626.jpeg

The audacity of being born a Jew. How dare they.

Because there is too much for me to begin to write about, I will conclude this post with a sign outside this particular barracks. Only at Auschwitz would this be reduced to a mere sign. I took a picture of both the English and the Hebrew on purpose.

IMG_8634.jpeg

Erica

Istanbul (not Constantinople), oh… and my Roma

This is a short post because I am excited to tell everyone that I’m going to Istanbul from December 26-30 as a “gift” to myself. Much to my parents’ dismay (Erdoğan, Khashoggi (RIP), among others), it has been on my “list” for a long time because it’s a literal gateway between Europe and Asia. And winter is the “down” season, so prices are much more reasonable. I go with full knowledge of the risks of a country known as a gateway to Syria, a border country to Iraq, a country in conflict with the aspiring “Kurdistan,” and not the most stable government. But travel and history and culture is the love of my life so far (to be vulnerable: hopefully, someday that love of my life will be a guy – who (must) accept that travel will always be my first love!). All I can do is be grateful, thankful, and in awe of the privileges life has bestowed on me in terms of seeing the world. All I can do is be smart, experienced, and cultured in pursuit of what I love – and that is to see the world through my own eyes, with the privileges of the formal education so valued and gifted to me by my parents as well as the the informal education my life’s journey has sometimes unwillingly dragged me through.

As for Christmas day, I will go to St. Peter’s Square for “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing at 12 noon in St Peter’s Square. Not sure what this is, but I want to experience it.

Also, New Year’s is one of my least favorite days/nights of the year. So even though I usually try to fall asleep as early as possible and miss it completely, I won’t miss a chance to see this at one of my favorite places in the world… A version of this scene was the background on my laptop for years. And here I am. Chills.

xcolosseum-new-years-repubblica1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.kWeZltJwbl.jpg

So grateful.

Erica

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Part I

As I wrote in my pre-visit post, I have visited this place so many times in my head through books and survivor accounts, documentaries and movies, that I both knew what to expect as in what I would see, but no idea what to expect about how I’d feel seeing it.

Of course, this is and was never about me and my feelings except that I was able to proverbially “bear witness.” This post will be about me, though, in that I can only write through my eyes, education, experiences, and biases. And honesty.

When we arrived at Auschwitz, I got off the mini-bus with 6 or 7 other people. We walked a little way before taking a left and beholding… throngs of people in lines guided by those dividers they have at the airport and Disney World. More on this later. I checked my bag into storage because it was too big according to the guidelines, passed through a metal detector, and was directed back and forth among employees who eventually gave me a headset (but no sticker – I went back to inquire why I didn’t get a sticker) and told me to wait outside for the English tour. I saw people with various colored stickers depending on the language of their tour: Polish, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, etc., and after about 10 minutes the English tour guide arrived. I had to find her amid a sea of groups forming in different languages with color-coded stickers.

In many ways, I think this is good. The more people that see and are educated by this place, the better. I recently got an update on my phone from CNN that read, “A CNN poll finds anti-Semitic stereotypes are alive and well in Europe, while 1 in 3 people surveyed know “little or nothing” about the Holocaust.” …Impossible for me to believe… except that … it’s real.

I want to stop and say that this is NOT what the majority of my Auschwitz-Birkenau posts will be about, but the atmosphere was something I felt was – I don’t know the word (s) – inauthentic, inappropriate, too much like an “exhibit.” I knew that this was not the “experience” for me, so at times that became more and more frequent throughout the tour, I separated myself from the group and walked alone with my thoughts. More on this later.

Before I begin, the most startling fact that I learned at Auschwitz-Birkenau was that the camp was largely created for the annihilation of Hungarian Jews. For all my reading, watching, and learning, I never knew that Hungarian Jews were specifically targeted. I have never visited Hungary (I hope to soon!), but for certain reasons, Hungarian Jews are always in my mind.

Our tour started outside the visitor’s center, and I saw it immediately: the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the camp’s entrance, with the stark brick buildings in the background on one side, and the black and white mechanical arm posted in front of the entrance. (Note, The “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “work will set you free” false propaganda/hope originally came from Dachau outside Munich in Germany. My dad and I went there a few years ago and saw the “original.”)

In what would become a familiar “feeling” – I was both buried in the emotions of screeching injustice, horror, and awe at finally standing “here,” and yet I also felt an utter lack of anything except a hollowness, a heaviness, and a hopelessness. There it was. I was here. It wasn’t a movie set or footage from a documentary or pictures from survivors’ accounts.

We walked down the path to the still-surviving barracks. I had “been” there before.

IMG_8501.jpeg

IMG_8511.jpeg

I knew much of what to expect from the “exhibits” from my lifelong interest bordering on obsession, but as much as I knew, I was in no way prepared. We went through room after room of old barracks that now housed tens of thousands of shoes, family pottery, luggage, and everything else that could be stripped from the Jews and other prisoners when the arrived at the camp.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5788.jpg

IMG_8572 2.jpegIMG_8576.jpeg

There was a room where photographs were forbidden that was filled entirely with hair shorn off of Jews when the entered the camp and then used to insulate Nazi uniforms.

There were original documents kept by the ever-meticulous Germans documenting their plans and intentions.

IMG_8530.jpeg

IMG_8531 2.jpeg

There is so much more to say, and I have only begun to scratch the surface. In fact, I’m quite dissatisfied with this post because I feel as if it is a very clinical overview of the first exhibits in the camp, and I don’t want my posts to be like that. In posts to come, I hope I can convey in some way the impact actually seeing this had on me and my reflections. However, I felt I had to in some way “set the stage,” so I guess that’s what I hope this post accomplishes. For now, I will leave you with this:

IMG_8524.jpeg

Erica

Before Auschwitz

So. I’m writing this before on the ride there because I know I won’t have the words after – writing or speaking about this in a way that has not been said more truly or “elegantly” – and by that I mean horrifyingly – by hundreds of others.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the German name for the Polish town Oświęcim, so that’s where I’m headed.

I’m searching for what to say, about how and why I got here, on this bus, at this time. I can reach back to the age of 7 or 8 when I first read the book Number the Stars in one night. I vividly remember going to the bathroom to wash my hands for dinner while reading the book, and laying down on the bathroom floor because I couldn’t put the book down. Or the countless hours spent at the public library in Green Bay searching subject categories for World War II biographies or Holocaust. Or the dog-eared pages of my parents’ World Book Encyclopedia volumes of “H” for “Holocaust” or “I” for Israel or “J” for Jew, and so on. Or how so many of the “choose your own topic” school projects or book reports were about this time, this place. Or when I went to NYC with my mom and my grandparents at age 10 and the Broadway show I chose to see was “The Diary of Anne Frank” (with Natalie Portman as Anne, I later realized).

I don’t know why I’ve been drawn to it for so long – since 7 or 8. It goes without saying that it isn’t a topic most kids younger than 10 are interested in. But I was, and I am.

I have been to two concentration camps before, Sachsenhausen and Dachau, but this, of course, is the “big” one, the one that seems to encompass all others. It seems to be the most horrifying, the most unbelievable.

I have “been” to Auschwitz in my mind hundreds of times through books and documentaries and movies. Even before I get there, I can see it in my mind’s eye, especially the entrance.

I could go on forever about it, and it doesn’t seem real that I’m finally going. Will it be so surreal it feels like a “movie set,” will I feel the 1 million lives that were silenced and ended there, deep in my bones like cement that weighs me down and makes not just my soul but my body feel heavy and stuck in nothing short of blinding horror? I don’t know.

All I can do is hope that by going there, by coming here, that I see it as clearly as is possible in the context of the decades of history I’ve basically studied this place, preparing for a place that no one is ever fully prepared to see. I hope that I can proverbially “bear witness” to this place that must never ever be forgotten, downplayed, minimized or even treated as a tourist attraction. It isn’t. It never will be. And I don’t come as a garrulous tourist to only gape at the horror, to see it without really seeing it. I hope I come here and do what little I can to honor and remember what happened here, not for myself, but for the people who came here and never left, and for the families they never got to meet or never got to have.

To those who are reading this whom I speak directly to, and you know who, I wish I had more eloquent words.

We’re getting close now. The sun is coming out from behind the clouds. How unfair that a place like this should ever see sunshine again.

Erica

The “Getting to Auschwitz” saga

I’m on a bus for the approximately hour and a half ride to Auschwitz.

Before I reflect on that, I don’t think anyone has ever tried harder to get to Auschwitz. I have a ticket for a guided tour that starts at 10:30, and I wrongly assumed that the people at the train station would be familiar with a ticket like mine. I did my own research, of course, and I know there are three different stops at Auschwitz. I asked at the information booth and showed my ticket, which is for a tour once I get to Auschwitz. The lady at information told me to go to the ticket counter. The young woman at the ticket counter has to ask her colleague about my ticket because at first they told me I should leave the station at 10:30, which I knew wasn’t even on option based on the timetables on the website. They then told me I had to leave at 8:45, but then changed it to 8:30. I tried to pay for a ticket, but the woman kept saying 8:30 when I asked if I had to pay on the bus.

Long story short, the older bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus, and it was 8:27 at this point, so I ran back to the ticket counter and excused myself in front of the line and the people being helped, and urgently told her I had 3 minutes, and the driver wouldn’t let me on the bus. She told me to wait, and then told me to go to information. There was no one at information so I ran back to the ticket counter. She ignored me, and I saw the information counter lady sauntering back to her desk. I told her the driver wouldn’t let me get on the bus, and she just said, “I don’t know,” and then continued to repeat the “gate,” G7. I realized I was getting nowhere so I ran back out to the stubborn bus driver, and he continued to shake his head until I took out my Polish money and gestured at it. Finally he said “12,” and I gave him 12 Polish zloty (plural?), and he shoved the change into my hand without looking at me, and let me on the bus.

I wasn’t expecting to get a free bus ride to Auschwitz, but the people I asked wouldn’t “let” me pay them. I tell this story because I’m sure I looked like an obnoxious American running back and forth, trying in desperation to pay someone to let me get on the bus to Auschwitz.

I don’t expect everyone to speak perfect English, but I had wrongly figured that they would be “used to” tourists showing them a ticket like mine.

This is hardly worth mentioning given where I’m going, but I wasn’t going to let anyone cause me to miss my tour.

Here we go.

Sciopero

For the second Friday in three weeks, Roman public transportation (called ATAC, or Azienda per i Trasporti Autoferrotranviari del Comune di Roma) – metro, buses, trams – are going on “sciopero” or, basically, strike. The above flyer provides that it is a 24-hour strike, but that there will be service from the time the transit system usually opens in the morning (maybe 5 or 5:30) until 8:30 and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., presumably so all the people who aren’t on strike can get to work and school.

I’ve asked people if sciopero ever actually works, that is, do the employees ever get concessions from the government such as higher pay or whatever is the goal of their strike? The best answer I’ve gotten is “sometimes.” I’ve yet to hear of anything concrete, but I guess it’s a nice extra day off for them. 😉

But it’s not just public transit that goes on sciopero. I have been physically chased down by one of the employees at a neighborhood grocery store at 7:41 p.m. (they usually close at 9:30). The employees were not letting new customers in, were yelling “sciopero!” and were hastily making sure people were checked out as fast as possible. And let me tell you, the employees at this grocery store, to a person, could not be less concerned with efficiency or getting customers checked out at even a leisurely pace.

So, I was familiar with this female employee who was following my determinedly brisk clip into the store. I had my earphones in, and I could hear her on my heels yelling, “Signora! Signora! Sciopero!” I admit I pretended I could not hear her, or alternatively, that I didn’t understand what “sciopero” meant even though I did. Finally, she was so loud I turned around RIGHT when I was about to pass the check out lines and break free into the store. She kept emphatically yelling the same thing and directing me out. I was so close! And other people were still trying to get in! I have never seen that particular employee move anywhere close to that fast. I frequent the grocery store about every day because I buy smaller amounts of food on a more regular basis than we usually do in the U.S. Because of this, I am familiar with the “usual characters” that make up the grocery employees. Suffice it to say, I have never seen any employee in the entire store move as fast as they all were that night. 😃😉

Anyway, happy sciopero to the Roman transit/ATAC employees on Friday (tomorrow)!

Erica

Graduate school essay purgatory

I promise my love of travel and Rome in all its glory will return – and hopefully more destinations! After all, that’s why I started this blog.

But RIGHT NOW, this graduate school essay. Technically, I need to write more than one essay because I’m going to tailor each to the school and the program to which I’m applying. But the heart of the essay will be the same because I’m applying to International Relations programs.

As I’ve explained in a previous blog, I’ve over-researched what to write and ideas, so as of now I’ve gotten the main points I need to cover in my essay down to this far-from-brief outline (feel free to skip it, much of it may not make sense; also, IR = International Relations, exs. = examples, int’l = international ,etc.):

  • Demonstrate IR knowledge/academic interest
    • multidisciplinary approach – why my unconventional background fits this field perfectly
    • understand appropriate contributions from other disciplines (sociology, poli sci, law, etc.)
    • no “1 view” of IR – diversity of approaches & methods to understanding the world
    • “Big picture” – how state/territory fits with neighboring states & into a global context
  • Why now (back to grad school)? CONCRETE EXs.!!!
    • Steps I’ve taken to be better informed about this new field (IR) & better prepared to make a lasting commitment?
    • Beyond academics – illustrate real-life experiences & hardships that have made me qualified for this particular field of IR (exs.)
    • Why I didn’t do IR right away (& what I gained from law school) & how I’ve changed since then
    • Demonstrate personal progression
  • Why specific school
    • Why THIS school not just grad school
    • School’s unique features
  • Transferrable skills
    •  Journalism
      • Communication
      • Write in clear, consistent, precise & compelling way
      • Tailor messages to different cultures & audiences
      • synthesis
    • Law
      • Independent study
      • textual analysis
      • ADD MUCH MORE
    • Other
  • Anecdote(s)
    • Use elements of narrative prose: scene setting, dialogue, depictions of actions, internal reaction
    • 5 senses
  • Future goals
    • Building on law degree à went out of way to take int’l law classes à human rights & int’l law?
  • How contribute to the school & what bring to program?
    • Full, well-rounded class due to my unique background
  • My uniqueness
    • Unconventional background – allows for thinking, action, reflection, failure & resilience in ever-changing world
    • Self-awareness – understand strengths, weaknesses, biases,
    • Creativity – independent personal contribution to understanding of a subject AND offer insights not dependent on past thinking (outside the box, unorthodox background)
    • Ability to see problems from variety of perspectives
    • Research
  • Gaps & discrepancies that need to be explained
    • Focus on positive – make “blemishes or deficiencies” into positive experiences
    • Description of internal changes often driven by challenges faced
    • Introspection about my internal development in response to external events
  • Other
    • How have I changed intellectually?
    • DEPTH over breadth – 1 or 2 key themes & ideas
    • EVALUATE my experiences rather than simply describe
  • “Living without regrets means owning the choices we make.”

As you can see (and this is just the “add” part to some paragraphs I’ve already written and may or may not keep), that I have WAY too much going on for a cogent, full essay that emphasizes depth and not breadth. I know, I know that my personal statement/essay is only one part of the overall picture the admissions committee will get of me, and that I cannot change the past 6-8 years since law school that I’ve spend largely wandering and not exactly contributing to world peace or even climbing a career ladder. Because of that, I feel a huge amount of pressure to make up for it in my personal essay and to defend why I have such an odd and unconventional recent past that probably doesn’t look too appealing to graduate school admissions committees.

So… I’ve realized that the only way I can really spin my essay is to play up the unorthodox path that has led me to where I am right now. I’m obviously not going straight from undergrad, and I have very little – if any – related work history since I graduated from law school in 2012. Given this, how in the world do I convince these people on the admissions committees that I’m a great candidate whose life path has led me to what now seems to be obvious – a career in international relations?

If there is an admissions application essay muse, now would be a great time to pay me a visit.

Erica