April 24, 2013

We have a winner!

We went down to NYC for a couple of nights to hang out a little bit, go on a tour of the Brookdale Dorm, and attend the Macaulay at Hunter Accepted Students Day. It was, eee, okay. The dorm was in worse shape than we had anticipated, and since it's scheduled to be demolished in two years, I'm assuming they're not going to be worrying about it too much - so the way it is now is likely as good as it'll get. We loved *everything* Macaulay, but we didn't quite love much about Hunter. The general facilities are just a bit sad looking, and we were disappointed (and surprised) that they didn't show us ANY of the academic facilities. We didn't get to see a single classroom, they brought us to and talked to us outside of the library door but wouldn't let us even look in, and when asked even about the Macaulay Lounge on campus we were told it was "under construction" and that we couldn't see it. We were concerned. Hmmm. . . They also didn't have department rep areas at the event, so we didn't get to talk with any of the professors he would theoretically be taking classes with. We did like all of the students we heard from and met. They were very nice, and I kept thinking what good role models they would be for Julian. Unfortunately, though, he didn't feel any real connection to them and I concur that he seemed very "different" than the rest of the group. Not that I don't think of Julian as a good kid, but they just all seemed like REALLY good kids in a different sort of way (if that makes any sense). We happened to spend some time talking to the Macaulay advisor who interviewed Julian, and she was very sweet, so that was nice. 

So the next week, we had two visits scheduled - one up in Saratoga Springs at Skidmore (Thursday) and one down in Annandale-on-Hudson at Bard (Saturday). 

On Wednesday night, completely out of the blue, Julian and I each got an e-mail from University of Vermont (where he had back in December been accepted and invited to join the Honors College) saying the president and senior staff had committed more merit money to a select group of first year students and that Julian had been selected for one of the additional awards. Oh my goodness - what a surprise! I knew I was supposed to be delighted, but I actually felt like crying because the process was already overwhelming enough without this twist thrown in at the 11th hour. We loved UVM but it was just too expensive, the most expensive of the entire bunch, so we had put it in the "definite no" bucket. With the extra merit money, though, the cost was brought down right in between Skidmore and Bard. They only had one more Accepted Students Day planned - for FRIDAY! - so we signed up last-minute for it! 

On Thursday, we went up to Skidmore, and Julian didn't like it at all - thought it felt "too refined". I thought it seemed like a pretty pleasant place, but he put it at the bottom of the list (not of just the finalists but of ALL the colleges). Yikes! 

We went home, quickly packed, and headed up to Burlington - didn't get in until after 10 PM and were at UVM's registration at 8 AM the next morning. (Starting to feel pretty tired by this point!) Spent the day there and we loved it as much as the first time we visited. The faculty were terrific - very bright but seemingly laid back at the same time. We got to spend almost an hour in the Philosophy Department with two of the professors, and Julian really liked them a lot. We also spent some time learning about the Honors College and what that all entailed, and we liked that too. We ate in the little cafe nearest where the honors kids live, and he was thrilled to be able to order a fresh made-to-order fruit smoothie and to pick up a few locally-made baked goods to bring home for his siblings. We also walked into the downtown area, which is a real delight. (And of course, being sandwiched in between the Adirondack Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east right next to Lake Champlain doesn't hurt!) 

We drove home after the UVM events and were ready to hit the road again at 8 AM the next morning to visit Bard. (I was seriously starting to wonder if this madness really did have an end!) It was so sad. We had absolutely LOVED Bard when we visited in the fall, but we weren't feeling so much love on this second visit. They had a faculty panel, and we also got to meet personally with a couple philosophy and music professors. They all seemed nice enough and were clearly very bright, but there was just an air of intellectual arrogance that we neither appreciated nor enjoyed. Julian is totally laid back and extremely modest, and that is something he doesn't identify with at all. Halfway through the day, he said that we may as well go home because he had decided he wanted to attend UVM!! 

Can you believe that story?! It's like we went full circle. He'll be attending a college we loved but had definitely ruled out due to cost. UVM was the first campus we visited, the first he applied to, and the first one to accept him! I cannot believe it, but it feels very right. I definitely think he's making the best decision, but it's just so bizarre how we ended up at it!

April 14, 2013

Macaulay at Hunter -


So on Wednesday, DS(17) Julian and I took the Megabus down to New York City.  It was an inexpensive and pleasant ride, and we'll definitely keep it in mind for future trips we might take down to the city.  The bus drops all of its passengers off in mid-Manhattan at 7th Ave and 28th Street.  It was dark and raining when we arrived, and we were slightly discombobulated at first, especially since the area was very crowded, but we quickly got our bearings about us and started heading in the right direction.  If it had been earlier in the day and not raining, we likely would have just walked the nearly two miles to our hotel.  But since we still needed to eat dinner and since our luggage and J's guitar case (yes, of course he brought his guitar with him) were getting wet, we opted to take a taxi.  There are approximately a zillion taxis in NYC, right?  So hard can it be to hail one?  Harder than you might think if you're not used to doing it!  We tried peering in all of the tinted back windows as the taxis drove by to see whether or not they might be available, and not surprisingly, that didn't work very well.  In the meantime, we kept walking briskly in the direction of the hotel (which was over on Lexington between 50th and 51st Streets), trying to avoid rolling our suitcases through big puddles, and *finally* I remembered how to tell whether or not a taxi is available.  The light - pun intended! - went on.  If the taxi's number is lit up (on the vehicle's rooftop), it's available.  When passengers are picked up, the driver turns the light off so you know it's not available.  Well. . . that knowledge certainly made getting a taxi a lot easier!  Yeah, yeah, we could have just stood out in the street with an arm raised high, but if you know me and J, you know that's not in our introverted nature!  :)

Settling into the hotel and dinner and all of that went fine.  The next morning after breakfast, we headed down and over 25 and 3 blocks, respectively, to the Brookdale Residence Hall he would live in if he were to accept the Macaulay at Hunter offer of admission.  I don't know.  I really don't know.  Some things about it are great, but overall it just isn't in very good condition.  One of the biggest highlights is that he'd have a single room, which is amazing - and the rooms looked to actually be in good shape.

Student Dorm Room

It's a cute little room, and the furniture can be moved around so the space can be individualized.  The bed can also be lifted up so there is more storage space underneath it.  Personally, I would find it comfy and cozy and pleasant.  J found it a little on the small side, but I assured him we could help him to make it a fantastic space.

One of the other particularly great things about the dorm is that it has a really neat courtyard out front that is blocked off from the road.  So in a fairly large area between the street and the building itself are sitting benches, picnic tables, tennis courts, and just open space.  It would be neat to be in Manhattan but still have a protected outdoor area right outside your building's door to hang out in.

The biggest downside is that the building itself feels pretty run-down, and I don't think that's a misconception.  They only plan to keep it open for two more years, and then they're going to demolish it.  That leads me to assume they're only going to be doing minimal upkeep to simply ensure it's operational.  Each floor has a lounge and a kitchen, but they're truly not nice at all.  I'm not worried about where he would live afterward because his acceptance into the program comes with guaranteed housing, and I'm trusting they'll work it out. 

While we were on the dorm tour, DH was driving down to meet up with us.  He ended up totally missing the dorm tour, and so we met up with him at the hotel.  By that point, it was pretty much time to head straight up Lexington to 68th for the formal Macaulay at Hunter accepted students event.  Hunter is located in a fabulous part of the city.  It's in a relatively quiet area and only a few blocks away from Central Park.  The college president talked to all of us first, and I think she did a great job making us all feel terrific.  She talked about how Hunter has quite a few gems but that Macaulay is its very top gem and that it is a special program that is VERY well taken care of.  She also shared that they only accepted 15% of the applicants this year.

At some point, they separated parents from prospective students and we had our own agendas.  We parents got to hear from a faculty and administrative panel and from a student panel.  The current students on the panel as well as those we met informally during other times that evening were delightful.  They were all bright and inquisitive and seemingly hard-working.  I came away thinking that the kids in the Macaulay program clearly serve as good role models for each other.

Every single aspect of the "Macaulay" portion of the program sounds fabulous.  It's the "at Hunter" part of the program that gives us a little concern.  A few of the students talked about having classes with a couple hundred students.  Yikes!  We were not expecting that because all of the literature stresses the intimate nature of the program.  I think I'm going to call this week and try talking to one of the advisers to get a sense of just how many classes we could expect to be that large.  Also, most of the Hunter buildings in general felt almost shabby.  Some aspects of them felt downright depressing.  And. . . on the parents' tour, they didn't show us ANY of the actual academic facilities.  We didn't get shown one single classroom.  Why?  And they took us to outside of the library and told us what was in it, but they wouldn't open the door and let us actually see it.  Why?  They're supposed to have a special Macaulay Lounge on the campus, and again they told us about it but didn't show it to us.  Why?  Do they not think it would make a difference or do they purposely not want us to see these things for some reason??? 

After the Macaulay at Hunter event ended, we on our own walked across Central Park to the lone Macaulay building, which is right on the other side of the park.  That building is simply lovely.  Inviting, comfortable, and clearly well taken care of.  As a Macaulay student, he would be able to spend as much time there as he wanted, and as a Macaulay at Hunter student, it would be very convenient for him to go there every day if he wanted.  He could easily head over there to study in between his classes, and it would be a thousand times more pleasant of an environment to be in than what we saw in the Hunter buildings.  Of course, maybe there are equally pleasant environments at Hunter.  We don't know.  But if there are, why wouldn't they have shown them to us?!

(Macaulay stock photos)
hallway 02  Macaulay Honors College students  working on a project last year at the  Manhattan campus.

So it was a good trip.  It was an important trip.  But I don't know that we're any closer to having a final decision made.  Skidmore's acceptance was the last that came in, and they gave him a pretty generous financial aid package.  I really, really, really like the feel so far of Skidmore for him, and we're planning to spend a day up there this week.  We'll see how that goes, and then we're scheduled to visit Bard again on Saturday.

As is J's style, he's thinking he won't make a final decision until the very last day possible.  I love this kid, but sometimes he drives he a little nutty.

April 13, 2013

My first real travels with this new ailment of mine

Have been super busy lately.  Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. for a work conference.  I went down by myself (i.e. with no husband or children - woo hoo, right?!) and envisioned that it would be a nice, relaxing week, but the conference was mentally very tiring!  I did get to spend some time the first two evenings with a very close friend of mine, so that was a very nice bonus.  And on my lunch breaks as well as in the evenings, I would scoot down to the mall (walking kind, not shopping kind!), museum, and memorial areas to check things out.  It's a nice city but definitely very hectic!  

I brought a huge suitcase with me for four nights, and my friend asked why I would need such a large one.  To cart all of my special food, of course!!  Yes, I brought my chicken feet broth with me!  A colleague and I spent some time brainstorming how I was going to pack everything up, and we did a great job coming up with a solution that worked beautifully.  I put the broth into plastic containers (an empty seltzer bottle and a Tupperware freezer container) and then put them in the freezer here at home before the trip.  When it came time to pack, I put them in plastic bags wrapped tightly around them and tied shut.  I used those containers as well as those little freezer packs to keep my other perishable food cold during the trip down.  I ended up packing the food and freezer packs into lunch packs and then those in a small soft-sided travel bag and then that in another large plastic bag.  (Okay, so maybe I was slightly paranoid about leakage, but seriously, can you imagine the mess of broth leaking all over your clothes during a flight?!)  Worked like a charm.  So I had my broth, goat's milk probiotic drinks, raw milk cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, coconut water, green tea bags, honeycomb, crackers, granola bars, bananas, clementines, super probiotics, and digestive enzymes.  (This was the first time I've tried the digestive enzymes, but I've read a few places that if you have GI issues and need to travel, it's a good idea to take them along.)  The only staple missing was the super-incubated homemade yogurt.  Since homemade yogurt doesn't like to be fussed with, though, I hoped that with the goat's milk probiotic beverages and the mega probiotics, I'd be fine for one week.  I had contacted the hotel in advance about my medical/dietary issues, and they very nicely provided me with a microwave in my room for the week.  (The rooms already came standard with a refrigerator.)

I even brought epsom salts with me and one night took a long hot bath with them before bed.

Can you believe that I still actually ended up having some problems?!  I don't know if it was due to anything in particular or if it was just a bunch of little things that added up.  I do get motion sickness from flying, I did add Bonine to my system, I did eat out one meal every day, I did sit on a relatively uncomfortable banquet chair hour after hour after hour, I did rush around at a very non-leisurely rate when I had free time, etc.  Anyway, most of the week wasn't that bad, but on the last day I went downhill rather quickly.  When I got home, I slept for a sound 10 1/2 hours, and then I spent the entire next day on the couch - without changing my clothes, combing my hair, or brushing my teeth - just lying as still as possible.  All.  Day.  Long.  Altogether, it took me about three days to get feeling back to my new normal.

So was that a successful trip or not?  I think it was, just not one with flying colors.  In any event, it was important because I really do need to figure out how various things are going to affect me now.  My dream would have been for me to not have any problems whatsoever, but alas, it confirmed that I really do have a problem that may well be with me for longer than I'd like.

And just a couple days after arriving home from that trip, I started packing up for the next one.  This time to New York City, but I'll write about that tomorrow because right now, I need to go to sleep!