Saturday, June 30, 2012

Game plan pre-December 1st

We’re still a far way out but I want to discuss an important date in dental admissions: December 1st. 12/1 is the date in world of dental admissions: It is the earliest possible date dental schools can notify students of acceptance. 

Before this date arrived I often thought about my life “after”- after this major milestone. I had this little motivational gem stuck on December 1st of my calendar since the summer when the application cycle first began.


Often times, applicants will distinguish between pre-December 1st and post-December 1st interviews. You should attend all interviews prior to December 1st. First because you have no acceptances yet. And second because a pre-December 1st interview means the school really wants you.

Notify other schools
If you get that fateful call December 1st, call the other dental schools that ranked lower on your list. Notify schools whose interviews you won't be attending. Take yourself off their applicant pool so that other applicants can be considered for your spot.

No acceptances?
Don't panic! Even if you have attended interviews but haven't heard back, do not feel frantic. A lot of times once you attend an interview, the school keeps you in a pool of students who've interviewed but are not accepted yet. You will be continually compared to other interviewees and re-considered for acceptances with each round.

Remember it's not over until it's over. And "over" is when the school mails you a letter of rejection with a "We regret to tell you...." (or the next AADSAS cycle opens on June 4th).

We are five months away for all you stressed applicants out there.For now, think happy thoughts. Envision yourself getting that happy phone call on December 1st (which actually falls on a Saturday in 2012- so how will that work?).

How did you prepare/are preparing for December 1st?
Did your social life dwindle as December 1st approached too?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Come visit Haslla Art World (I'm here)

View from the front of Haslla Museum/Hotel (from fb)

Here's what I've been working on the last couple of days.

I'm doing some work for a family friend and working on some projects for Haslla Art World, by tweeting and blogging and facebooking! Having fun is part of my job, like this:

The restaurant in this museum/hotel was featured in the movie 내 아내의 모든것 which premiered a few weeks ago. In the most important scene of the movie, the playboy falls for the wife he's been hired to seduce (of course) and confesses his love in his penthouse. All the tall glass windows facing the ocean had to be covered up for this scene.

If you ever visit Korea, you can take the bus here from Seoul (3 hours) or if you are visiting in a few years, KTX in 66 minutes (made in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics). I'll be writing more about this place, but here's a preview:

Inside the hotel, a different kind of bathtub

더운 여름, 강원도 강릉에서 꼭 들리실 곳, 하슬라아트월드입니다. 정동진에 놀러왔다가 들리게 되었는데 미술관, 산책공원, 장 레스토랑, 까페까지 할 것들이 너무 많아요. 체험학습도 할 수 있다던데 천천히 해보고 싶네요.  데이트 오신 분들이 많은데 부러워요~ 너무 멋진 곳. 사진찍기 배경이 너무 아름다운 곳이에요.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dreaming about first day of dental school

Actually, make that nightmare.

I’m two months away from starting dental school and I already had my first nightmare about d-school! Alex assures me that my dream is a highly improbably scenario. For example, we only had wooden chopsticks while eating lunch and I properly freaked out (I’m almost afraid of wooden chopsticks). Great first impression, right?

Perhaps my biggest worry is that I somehow “lost” it. Working is a totally different task from studying and I wonder if I will have a difficult time getting back into it after an entire year off. I know I will appreciate being a student so much more but can I stay up past midnight? Like physically?

Trying to remember what a wise fish once said:


If you’ve ever had one of these, you know the lyrics are accurate. We used to think this was the greatest thing ever. When our first one broke, I think we went out and bought a new one the same day.

I am really excited about learning all about the subject I only superficially skimmed this year. It’s this unique mixture of excitement, anticipation, and anxiety that’s making me have these weird dreams. New city! New friends! New apartment! New lifestyle! Trying to remember what I told Baby M when he was starting his freshman year.

Am I the only 23-year-old with first day butterflies?

Monday, June 25, 2012

You only think you're full...

But you really aren't. Keep eating.
First day of vacation, we caught the Dano Festival. Our cab driver told us that this was going on so we changed our destination ASAP. I love street food and street performances.


I've been eating so much food. I keep thinking, I won't get to get these for another year (or maybe only a few months???). Need to add this sensation to my taste encyclopedia. We drove up to the beach at DaechunHwajinpo(thanks dd)  and left the window open to listen to the waves crashing in, and to stalk the brave swimmers from the balcony (water is still icy cold):

Staying at Haslla Art World for the next few undetermined days. I'm writing this with my mom's old laptop. I had to edit these pictures with Paint.

This art museum/hotel/restaurant is located on top of a hill beachside and there is a huge walking path with sculptures and such. It's a little bit cold here today- the breeze feels a little chilly. Currently 64F at 11AM. I definitely didn't pack sweaters for a beach vacation. I see tourists walking up the hill from my window!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How many applications is too many?

Short answer: Anything greater than the total number of dental schools in the U.S.

I don’t think you can ever apply to too many dental schools because you don’t know how the application cycle will be. I honestly did not think I would be coming to Penn. My top choices were the three Boston schools (BU, Harvard, Tufts) because I loved Boston and I have a cousin who works as a dentist there. I might have loved the location more than the schools themselves.

Since I am international, I chose to play it safe. After spending a few days deciding where to apply, I ended up with seventeen schools on my list. Four were state schools, which were extreme reaches since these rank in-state residents first and internationals last after other U.S. citizens.

AADSAS makes it extremely easy to send out your applications. Even if there are supplements, I think it is worth it to apply especially since the main application goes out on this convenient centralized system. Once the schools decide they like you enough to invite you for an interview, you can look over your options.


Iced coffee (dd), episodes of Smash (picture), dental applications (picture)

If you have the money, apply. You can make the difficult choices after you’ve gotten in. In the end, the schools I interviewed at were not the schools I was expecting. Out of the three Boston schools, I got rejected from one, decided not to attend the interview of another, and the last- still haven’t heard back from- no interview or rejection letter (maybe I’m still in the application cycle).

Fortunately my parents share the same “go ahead and apply” mindset. I’d call them to discuss a certain school and come out surer of what I already knew- apply of course. You don’t even want to know how many schools I applied to for undergrad… ;)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts after reading on Henrietta Lacks

I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The story of Lackses trying to comprehend science stood out to me the most- it made me dizzy. Many of them did not have the necessary biology education to distinguish facts from fiction. Ms. Skloot recalls explaining the grains of truth in stories like Jurassic Park, half-human half-plant beings, and Henrietta clones to her remaining kin.

I studied genetics as an undergrad and still don’t fully comprehend existence of “immortal” cancer cells. More than anything, I feel a little spooked out by their existence. The part in the end about the HeLa cells being angels had my fizzed out brain nodding along.

As science becomes more technical and difficult to understand, whose responsibility is it to make the right policy decisions? The public may not fully grasp the issue. Or may be emotionally swayed by the creative science fiction out there. But to leave the power of decision in hands of few elite scientists does not seem like a democracy. Then what is the “best course” of action? One that promotes progress for humanity or one that protects the rights of individuals?

Can there be a guideline that everyone agrees on, of general principles, so that people can influence policy decisions even when they do not fully understand the issue? Maybe this is something everyone can vote on and apply to whatever issue is at hand.

These are the kinds of questions societies battle over, so I’m going to end my ponderings and pack for our family vacation. I can’t wait to meet this lazy kitten:


Look at this fur ball of allergens!!! So cute.


Okay, must go dig out my middle school closet to see if I have anything vacation-ey. I’ve been living in T-shirts and running shorts.

Have you read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”?
What part stood out to you the most?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

River through the heart of Seoul

This Sunday afternoon Appa and I headed out to 청계천 (Chung-gye-chun) a newly renovated creek running through the middle of Seoul.

This creek was completely covered until 2003. Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak- who is currently the president of Korea- took this on as his personal project when he was in office. The river is an oasis of nature in the middle of downtown. It feels strange to walk along the river while skyscrapers extend infinitely on both sides.


This river runs east-west and is reachable by different subway lines. The river borders many trendy towns including Myung-dong (aka tourist central) and Insa-dong (인사동) with the famous strip of Korean traditional stores (blue pottery, carved wooden pieces, paintings/writings on paper).


Appa and I walked around for a bit and went in for a traditional Korean meal with multiple rounds. After the first round I thought we were done (and was happily full) but the plates kept on coming. Too delicious.



I loved being in rural Gang-neung last year but being in Seoul does have its perks. With the great public transportation system (plus affordable cabs) it is so easy to get around everywhere. So different from Houston or Tampa. Plus with my nook it’s so easy to squeeze in a few pages of reading every time.

Dental surgery for a new accent?

Ms. Karen Butler of Oregon underwent dental surgery which left her with a new accent. This was first reported weeks after her surgery last May. It has now been more than a year and her European accent is still going strong.


british-accents-to-americanPicture source

A new reason to visit your dentist? Read about her strange case of foreign accent syndrome on

Monday, June 18, 2012

Setting up a budget for dental school

Summer is a great time to set up a budget for dental school. Make the process a little less painful by sitting down with a really good cup of coffee. You’re going to need it when the headaches begin.

I wrote about cost of dental school and the debt many graduates face upon graduation a while back. Our 2012-2013 budget is now updated and looks like this.


I was not kidding when I said every month will be No Spend Month for me.

Our first year budget is a teasing $800 short of $100,000. I can’t fathom the fact that we are investing this much money into my education. That’s like buying two really nice cars with cash. And this is only the first year. I am not sure if I would have had the courage to take on this financial burden myself if I wasn’t getting help from my family…

Much of this cost is fixed to be paid out to the school: Tuition, General Fee, Instrument Mgt. Service, Technology Fee, and Clinical Apparel. The rest- Room and Board, Books and Supplies and Miscellaneous- sum up to a hefty $24367. Miscellaneous includes some semi-fixed costs such as annual student insurance (~$3500), background fees (~$200) and loupes (~$500).

Also something to think about: check how many months is included in the estimate for R&B. For us, Room and Board only accounts for 10 months while school is in session. But I have a feeling I will probably need to eat and live somewhere during my two months off.

I like this monthly budget worksheet from AAMC- it is pretty comprehensive. I hear rave reviews about Mint so I am slowly making the transition from my spreadsheets. I like that you can set remaining amounts on your budget to roll over to the next month: great motivation to save up for weekend trips.

I luckily have my last year’s budget to go off of, although:

- Restaurant budget will increase
- Coffee budget will definitely increase
- No more auto insurance and gas but public transportation costs added

I will have to tweak my budget after I live out my first full month of September. August will probably be expense-heavy since I have to move up to Philly, invest in furniture, set up my apartment and finish the rest of my paperwork.

How do you set up your budget and track your expenses?
Is the cost of your higher education making you a little nervous?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fifty shades of lazy

(It sort of rhymes, right? I am awful with rhymes, probably because I’m not American.)

I am in a fitness competition with some friends. I thought this would be the perfect fitness motivation, especially since I read that losing ten pounds takes a minute off your 5k. But I recorded a grand total of one hour of exercise last week. Everyone else is kicking ass.

I am also a little scared about my 8k in November. Here’s the thing about signing up way early for races: although it is cheaper, the race is so far away that it’s hard to get motivated. I haven’t ran since mid-May! Or done any form of sweating exercise since coming here.

But I have been actively cleaning our apartment and organizing my old things. This is a real ordeal because I was bit of a hoarder in my younger days. I actually bought two of things so I’d use one and save the other... Ohmygodwhy.

My morning routine is to blast The Beach Boys’ Best of Summer album (love this) on our living room Bose system at 6:30AM. (This has been driving little brother crazy.) While going through our CD’s I found this:


We still don’t know who the owner is! I know he/she is among us but no one is coming forth claiming ownership…

Enstin just put this up on fb and I love this- from our picnic:

Hope everyone else’s summer is a bit more productive than mine. I’m getting mini-tasks completed in preparation for the fall but it is weird not having a daily routine (school or work).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Get in the zone. Productivity zone.

(Super effective marketing on their part!)

I sort of enjoy finals period- maybe not the studying part. You can wear sweatshirts, throw your hair up in a bun, have dessert for dinner, wear mismatching socks… all is forgiven.

In Korea there are study rooms called 독서실, or dok-seo-sil, which literally means “reading room”. For those needing intense studying time, these are spaces with cubbies and desks you can rent. Think libraries minus the books. You can pay per day or buy longer memberships to these places.

The one in this picture is open-spaced but some have smaller separate rooms. They are usually dimly lit except for the individual stands on the desks and some have curtains for more privacy. I used to think these are like studying hotels... maybe because I used to fall asleep here.

There is a 독서실 right outside our apartment complex. It is open until 2AM! I am considering buying a cubby membership since my room is a mess, probably because it’s been used as a closet. Some people can work in crazy clutter like Al Gore here. But that kind of mess would drive me crazy (Bill Gates’ desk is a dream in that post).

I set up my minimalist work space yesterday. I'm using my piano as a makeshift desk to do my writing. When I want to play the piano I have to sit cross-legged on the bed. The piano chair is a bit uncomfortable but I’m pretty happy with this arrangement. Whoever suggested it must be genius- thanks Mom-bom! ;)

Where is your best work environment?
What would your ideal workspace look like? (Here’s mine)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Understanding fear of dentists

Penn has several elective courses that we can take in addition to the core lectures, and one of them is “Understanding Dental Phobia”. When there is an entire movie about a crazy dentist who uses his tools to “dentally torture” people… I doubt that helps.

I stumbled upon a website entirely devoted to dental fears called Dental Fear Central.


I especially like the “Common Fears” section. You can think about why you are afraid of going to the dentist. Is it embarrassment about judgment? Fear of gagging? For me, it is the loss of control. Since you can’t see what is going on (and all this is happening to your face) you can’t even escape if you wanted to. The website suggests tips on talking with your dentist to overcome these fears. For example, if lying completely on your back makes you feel uncomfortably vulnerable, you can ask your dentist to have you partially sitting up.

When I went to a family friend who is a dentist, he stopped every five minutes to hold up a mirror. Since he knew I was heading to dental school, he spent the entire treatment explaining what he was doing and showing me what was going on inside my mouth. At one point my molar looked like a taco shell. But the visit was almost… enjoyable.

What part of going to the dentist are you afraid of?
What do you do to relieve these fears?

Friday, June 8, 2012

First week in Korea- in pictures

Good morning! I’m sipping on yerba mate (which tastes wonderfully similar to Korean teas) and being a poser in my sorority shirt. It is fascinating to hear about Greek life from Little Brother- can you imagine me being in a sorority?

The evening I flew in we went to 63 Building to eat at the Pavilion Buffet. I am still in my flight clothes. We took reunion pictures in front of the most random places, like this one:1338585798225

Me loving all the adorable-ness of Korean beauty products.Snapshot_20120602

We attended the wedding of a family friend Saturday. Korean weddings are more like rituals than celebrations. The photographer was part of the ceremony- there were attendants who constantly smoothed out the bride’s veil and gown to make her picture-perfect. The groom’s family was from Taiwan which made the wedding a lot more interesting.1338732110898

We KTX-ed to visit our grandma earlier this week. This is a mini-persimmon from the tree in her garden. It’s going to grow into a delicious orange fruit in a few months. DSC_0218

2012-06-07 09.56.07DSC_0216Grandma’s house from the outside- traditional Korean roof with the individual tiles and brick walls. I love everything about this house, including the anticipatory walk leading to her house where I can see this red roof in the distance.

This is the chandelier in the living room from the ground up- I think it looks like an upside down temple with the delicate wooden tiles.DSC_0253

This is a traditional treat called Pop-gi (I hope I’m spelling that out right). It is traditionally sold in front of schools and made by melting caramelized sugar and baking soda. If you successfully cut out the stamped shape, you get another one of these free (You can also make your own at home!).IMG_0371

It is Saturday here! Actually this doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I’m going to finish reading The Idiot (what is wrong with everyone???) and clean out the boxes in my room. I probably still have my school uniform somewhere. Also planning on raiding my parents’ closet- I found the most darling (ugly) 90’s maroon cardigan in Appa’s drawer yesterday…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

인생역전: Turn your life around

There is a common saying in Korea: 인생역전 pronounced In-sang-yuk-jun. It literally means to turn your life around. The context I saw this was on the door of a newly opened restaurant. The owner had been featured on a television series for turning his life around from whatever he was to this awesome restaurant owner. (Like this one) Therefore you need to come in and try his food.

A lot of Korean advertisements appeal to emotions. Even anti-smoking ads draw on parents love for their kids: “your kids are watching”. Also, celebrities advertise everything here including vacuum cleaners.

Here’s what I think about turning your life around: Unless you are a major drughead or a compulsive liar or something, you probably don’t feel the need to “turn your life around”. Your life only probably needs minor adjustments that will make you happy. Like calling your friends more. Or squeezing in volunteering onto your weekends. Or eating more with your family.

Korean meals are typically eaten with rice, a hot soup/stew and a ton of side dishes, or banchan. We spent this week at our grandma’s house & she stuffs us alive with all our favorite dishes. I think we’re rearranging the dishes so everything fits on the table!

DSC_0277 (650x431)

And sometimes even minor changes need a trigger, like you turning 20 or quitting your job or something. It’s easier if you say, “this new me does not do X” or “always does Y”. Isn’t that why people love to make new year’s resolutions?

(This picture is from a hike my parents went on. I think it is near Gangneung- we used to go swimming in creeks like these and hide watermelons in the water so they’d get cold.)


Gretchen Rubin writes in her Happiness Project blog: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. I am brainstorming ways to tweak my life some two or three degrees by incorporating minor changes into my everyday routine. I think now is the best time- it always is.

What minor life changes will make you happy?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life in Korea- first impressions

We haven’t lived in Seoul-Seoul since first grade. We’re on the #1 Line on the subway (this means we are in Seoul proper!) near 여의도. Seoul is crazy. It is a megacity of over 10 million. And it also spills out into the suburbs which are connected by trains and buses. Imagine if you stitched together ten downtowns with tall high rise buildings speckled in between. Welcome to Seoul.

1. It is never quiet.
Last year I would be getting ready for bed and be almost freaked out by how eerily quiet it was in the neighborhood. So different here in Seoul. Maybe because we’re in a high-rise apartment, but you can hear the cars swishing by in a constant background noise. And birds chirping.

2. If you love night life, you’ll love it here.
Even on Sunday nights, there are so many restaurants, coffee shops and stores that stay open and crowded. Everything is so adorable and creative- even your simplest birthday cake is picture perfect. It’s really all about presentation (look at these cheek tints from The Face Shop):


3. Cab it.
My dad doesn’t have a car here so we’ve been constantly catching cabs. It is really convenient when you don’t have to drive or park your car. Although the public transportation system in Seoul is fantastic, sometimes when you have to transfer multiple subways and buses, it makes more sense to take the cab.

4. Fashion sense is out of control.
Obviously the women here are super skinny, in dresses and heels with perfect hair. It’s almost overwhelming- here I am a “Sasquatch” (I watched Jeff Who Lives at Home on the airplane). And the men! There are some super-hip preps (think neon instead of your typical Nantucket red) and the most daring (all black with blonde hair). We went to 명동 (Myung-dong) which is a shopping central with tons of foreign tourists.


That’s it for now, heading out to the train station soon to visit relatives in Daegu!

Here’s an important fact: in Korean, “Seoul” actually has two syllables. It doesn’t really sound like “soul”. Koreans pronounce it Suh-ool.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boomerang generation: moving back home

Adulthood typically begins with these five steps: completing school, leaving home, starting a career, marrying, having children.

These are usually done sequentially. But maybe we need a different transition to define adulthood. Given the current state of the economy it is not uncommon for college graduates to move back home to live with their parents- with or without a job. The number is not 85% but it is still high at 29% according to the Pew Research Center. In addition, about 60% of parents continue to help their kids financially post-graduation. (Maybe this is why I love HBO's Girls, its portrayal of that awkward transition to adulthood.)

Before I flew home, I chatted with my parents about shipping everything to Philly. Over lunch friends were talking about someone who dropped more than $800 at the FedEx store- I was worried about my own dozen boxes. Umma noted that I should look at it like I’m paying my rent money to ship everything to Philly- since I’m obviously not paying rent for the summer.

Here’s the view from my parents’ apartment in Seoul. It’s early morning so still a little foggy. But you can always see mountains in the distance in Korea.

This plus the last few days make me think that maybe if Little Brother went to Penn or Temple or any other Philly school and our family lived in a little house in the suburbs, it might be worth giving up all the freedom of living alone.


I love this. Poem by Frank O’Hara.

Meals just taste better when you’re with family. And waking up early to work in the kitchen and someone comes out to say hello, mornings are a little less lonelier.

Friday, June 1, 2012

One thing I know I'll miss about my gap year

This year was not just about work and dental applications. For one, my evenings were spent in chaos.


This post is about the boys. I lived with the most lovable kiddos I've ever met. Many of you have heard my "let me tell you the latest cute thing So-and-so did" shpeal.

One time after the movies I forgot where I’d parked my car. We ran around the three floors of the parking structure dodging moving cars and yelling “Moose!”. We were hoping Bruce the Moose sitting on my dashboard would magically get up and holler. Thinking about this will always make me smile.

Also: “ouch why you do that” and “who put wara in ma tata"

A year ago I did not know what I was getting myself into. I think my suitemates remember the first night - when I came home in poopy pants (don't let a baby escape after a bath without a diaper). But I've watched more "Ta-yo" (Star Wars) than I ever wanted and was introduced to Beyblades and Moshlings. Kids can be so creative- every time I hang out with them I'm attending an improv workshop.

It will be nice living in a grown-up apartment. Once my date came to pick me up at the house and the parents shut the door in his face because they thought he was a solicitor. But as someone mentioned I loved "living with a family dynamic"- I've learned a lot from this experience. I think I'll miss living with the family- actually I know I will.