Looking for some General Advice

<p>Hi, so I'm new to the grad school application process in general. I'm a rising junior at the University of Rochester and was thinking about grad school. I'm looking into grad schools a little early because I'll be abroad next semester, so I thought I might do a little research this summer. I understand the basic procedure gre, letters of rec, etc. but I would like some help in finding programs that match my interest. Currently I'm a double major in Creative Writing and Critical Foundations of Political and Social Thought (a major I created juxtaposing postmodern philosophy with postive theory and a pinch of historical perspective). My interests lie in an interdisciplinary approach to international policies. In particular I'm interested in the effects of global policies (anywhere from U.S. foreign policy to corporate outsourcing) on subaltern communities (in particular Southeast Asia) and how these policies can be modified to be self reflexive in the spirit of collaboration while respecting local culture and practices. So safe to say my alma mater (since its less focused on cultural and interdisciplinary approaches and more so on methodology) is out of the picture for grad school but does anyone know of any good programs. I am trying to find departments that have faculty specializing in SouthEast Asian culture/politics as well a strong offer in political theory. </p>

<p>Also I was thinking about Peace Corps before/after grad school because I hate the distance between academia and harsh realities of subaltern communities (as much as I respect Said and others, isolation and no interaction seems more detrimental than good). Any suggestions on Peace corps as well?</p>

<p>Finally in terms of academic preparation, so far I have a decent gpa (3.8ish) but I'm worried about GREs (I'm terrible at standardized testing) and I think I'll have strong letters of rec. Speaking of which, does all the academic letters have to be from political science as I have strong relationships with professors in various other departments, (Italian, English, etc). Also I have strong experience in programming (aborted CS major), and a good grasp of SPSS. I'll be play around with R this summer. Oh and how intense is the quantitative analysis/math requirement for and in grad school? I'm decent at math in general (have a calc/linear algebra background + Game Theory + and a little bit of stats ) but I'm terrible at pure math classes as I really can't contextualize most of the theories and really don't enjoy math classes too much. </p>

<p>Thanks for your help.</p>

<p>"Also I was thinking about Peace Corps before/after grad school because I hate the distance between academia and harsh realities of subaltern communities (as much as I respect Said and others, isolation and no interaction seems more detrimental than good). Any suggestions on Peace corps as well?"</p>

<p>I have some strong feelings about the Peace Corps, notably that it is comprised of a bunch of kindhearted but naive recent graduates who get to visit poor countries for a few months and then go back to the comforts of home and talk to their friends about how much of a difference they made. In the places I have visited around the world where locals had had contact with Peace Corps volunteers, many of the locals were less than impressed by the efforts of the efforts of the Corps at doing whatever it was they were supposed to be doing to help them. I might just be really cynical, but unless you are an engineer, doctor, nurse, lawyer, or otherwise have some set of palpable asset to bring to developing or underdeveloped countries, you can help them the most by showing up and spending your money liberally as a tourist.
It is important, as you briefly pointed out, to have knowledge of cultures and political systems you study (which is why your criticism of Said is so perplexing, seeing as how he was intimately versed and knowledgeable about the cultures and regions he studied) which is why spending time abroad is not a bad idea. However, I tend to be wary of organizations such as the Peace Coprs not because they are fundamentally bad but because their mission is fundamentally naive and, in many ways, fundamentally Western. Southeast Asian countries, especially the poorer ones, dont need another batch of friendly faces with liberal arts degrees to come and help them build roads. They need trained professionals to come in and help them reorganize their countries and orient them toward sfuture progress.</p>

<p>@jmleadpipe I am quite aware of the criticisms of Peace Corps and in general the effects of representations of impoverished cultures. I've also realize that there is still is space, if at least not to make a difference, to better understand the reality of these areas outside of distorted media projections. In terms of my critique of Said, Said is far too totalizing in his arguments. While I understand Orientalism persists in the West's representations of the Easts, I don't believe every interactions between the west and east results in subjugation (take technological exchange for example). That aside, I still feel I have much to offer. I have strong CS and IT background that I believe can be used in various ways.</p>

<p>Anyone else have suggestions in terms of programs though. I am still finding a hard time with finding programs that fit my interests. Also just remembered another question. How does field work fit into graduate studies, e.g. like going to india to work on research, I guess for the dissertation phase or earlier?</p>


<p>Have you looked at the program called Engineers without Borders? Since you've got a bit of a technical background, you might be able to do something involved with them as a slightly more productive alternative than the Peace Corps.</p>

<p>any suggestions in terms of phd programs that match my interests?</p>