Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Quick 6 Months

Well its amazing how quickly 6 months can go by. I've almost been back in America now for as long as I was in Mongolia. I guess I was avoiding writing anything in the blog as I really wasn't sure what I was doing with my life. It was easy to think that in a few weeks everything would be back on track and I could write an update then. Well, I guess a few weeks turned into half a year. Damn.

So, between Mongolia and now... Let's see. The first few weeks were filled with trying to get back to Mongolia. I applied to just about every organization there to find something to do. Although I received several responses, it became pretty clear that finding something that would pay me to do something I wanted to do was going to be pretty difficult.

I also spent some of this time thinking that I would just sign back up for Peace Corps. I eventually decided that if I do want to do Peace Corps again in the future, it would be there. But no reason to rush back in immediately.

Then I spent a while figuring out what to do with my life next. I think I applied to be an entertainer on a cruise line, a programmer at google, a director of greek life and everything in between. I was also beginning to look at a Master's on another semester at sea-like program (thescholarship.com), which I still haven't ruled out as a possibility for some point in the future.

I took a trip to Israel with the Birthright Program, which I would recommend to anyone who considers himself Jewish or who has a mother who does. I've been fortunate to see a great deal of the world, but being in Israel was a very unique experience that was filled with warmth and hope that I haven't felt many other times in my life. It felt akin to going to a family-member's house that you may have never met before, but you feel more than welcome none the less.

As the job search got more and more frustrating with acceptances from places I decided I really didn't want to work mixed in with a lack of responses from places that I really did, I stumbled upon a job posting that excited me enough to respond to immediately despite my mom having just called me to dinner. The job was with an organization that I had actually known about and had been to their website before but they weren't offering a position that interested me. I was excited enough to actually try calling them the next day to ensure that my application would be read, only to get voicemail. After months of job searching, getting next to no responses, and only weeks later if that, QuestBridge called me the day after I tried calling them to set up an interview. I really knew right then that this is the job for me.

However, before I got the job, I had to go through a pretty entertaining interview process. The job that I hadn't been interested in when I had previously visited the website was for a software engineer. Coincidentally, my resume has enough computer jargon in it to trick someone with no programming skills into thinking that I am a programmer, which is what I ended up being interview for. However, I still thought I was interviewing for the Recruitment Associate position. This lead to a pretty confusing few hours that resulted in an email suggesting that the software engineer position at QuestBridge wasn't the right fit for me, but maybe I should consider the Rec Assoc position. Well, a carefully crafted email letting them know that I, in fact, was applying for said position had everyone laughing at the situation when I came back for another interview about a week later. I proved myself capable and am now a proud employee of QuestBridge.

A little about QuestBridge: Michael McCullough founded a program a program called Quest Scholars 13 years ago, and QuestBridge is a venture of that program. Quest Scholars is a 5 week, intensive summer camp for low-income high schoolers to help prepare them for college. Most of the graduates of the summer camp have gone on to either Stanford or Harvard. QuestBridge
is a different program started 3 years ago that helps high-achieving low-income students get into the countries top-performing colleges. We currently work with 19 partner schools, including Stanford, Amherst, Columbia, Princeton, and Pomona, which is where I learned about the program while serving on the admissions committee my senior year (that list of schools might sound familiar to some of you). The program provides a free application that has more room for the students to highlight their achievements and the obstacles they have overcome. They can then choose from up to 8 colleges to be matched with (like when applying to medical school) during the early admissions phase. If matched in this manner, the commitment is binding, so the student has to attend the school, and the school has to guarantee four years of full scholarship. Those not matched can choose to be considered using our application during the regular admissions process, and students admitted this way generally get very generous financial aid offers. Last year, we matched 103 students for the full 4 year scholarship, and over 500 more during regular decision. In total, over $55 Million was awarded to the students who applied through our program last year.

We have other programs as well, namely the College Prep Scholarship which provides mentoring, summer camp tuition, and college conferences. If you'd like you can read more about it on the website at www.questbridge.org. I am really enjoying my job though; everyone in the organization is really outstanding, and I thoroughly encourage you to check out the about the staff page on the website to see the people I'm working with. Also check out the past recipients of the scholarships - the students who have won are phenomenal. There is a cool new website where you can help raise money for a non-profit by searching the internet, called goodsearch.com. I invite you to goodsearch for Quest Scholars (the larger organization), or select your own organization to donate to. Regardless, its a great site, and you should use it and spread the word to others.

So now that I'm working, I've been looking for apartments in San Francisco to move to. I've been there most weekends staying at friends' apartments (or, rather, one apartment that 2 of my college friends rent). So hopefully that will happen soon. I'm sure that between work and living with new people in SF I will have a whole new chapter in my life to embark on. Hopefully there will be plenty of goings ons to have reason to keep posting to the blog.


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