So we're back from Charleston, and it was one of the nicest weekends we'd had in a long, long time. Usually, we come home from a supposedly "fun" weekend feeling as though we need "a vacation from our vacation"... but this time we were totally relaxed. Christine is a fantastic hostess (not to mention, she has one of the comfiest king-size guest beds on the face of the planet) and her boyfriend Joe is one of the coolest guys I know. L and I were on our own on Friday while Christine worked, so we had fried green tomatoes and seafood at a local restaurant (omg, delicious), visited MUSC's PA program (more on that in a minute), and picked up some breakfast supplies at the grocery store. When Christine got home, the three of us chatted and caught up a little, then met Joe at an out-of-the-way restaurant that just happened to have gnocchi with shrimp (yum!!!), then had after-dinner drinks at an outdoor bar. The next day, L and I made breakfast for Christine (scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, and green onions, plus hash browns and veggie sausage) and then the three of us went to the beach on Isle of Palms... which was absolutely overrun by tiny crabs! I thought they were kind of cool, but L and Christine weren't amused, so we only stayed there for an hour or so before heading over to Joe's (gorgeous!) apartment and his (crab-free) pool. In the early afternoon, the girls started getting hungry, so we went back to Christine's place, showered, ate some pizza, and watched part of Juno... until we all fell asleep. When I woke up, it was late afternoon and thunderstorming (welcome to every coastal town in the Southeast) and L and Christine had gone to get groceries for dinner. When they got back, Joe came over and he and L commandeered the kitchen to make dinner (among other things, roasted red pepper bruschetta... this was a weekend for great food!) while Christine and I retired to her balcony to watch the rain and chat. When we reunited for dinner, it turned out that Christine's and my conversation had covered such mundane topics as work, school, our health, children, future plans, etc.... while L and Joe had leapt from quantum physics to anthropology to sexuality to a dozen places in between. We wrapped up the evening with wine and board games. I love it that L and I aren't the only (relative) homebodies around... most people would have been like, "yeah, dude, let's go out clubbing!" Christine and Joe aren't really into that scene either, which is one of the many reasons they're so much fun to hang around. We had way more fun playing Sorry and laughing our butts off than we would have had yelling at one another over dance-club music. I hope they come visit us up here in NC soon.
Anyway, so, MUSC. I liked it. The entire student body is only about 3200, which is microscopic after UF (50,000!) and which I think I'd enjoy. The health professions building is beautiful; the lobby is reminiscent of a Washington D.C. museum, with soaring ceilings and echoing footsteps, and the technology in the classrooms and labs is state-of-the-art. The library is similarly modern and beautiful (complete with a Wii on the top floor, "for study breaks", the guide explained with a smile), and there's a renowned children's hospital on property -- a perk for me. There aren't many opportunities for international rotations (almost everything is in SC), but there are apparently a lot of sites where exchanges have been worked out so that students can live for free for the duration of their rotations. I was told that they usually accept about 60% of their student body from within SC, and the remaining 40% are out-of-state students. Their class size is also expanding this year, up to 70 or so ("because of the economy", the guide explained... which could have meant "because the demand for PAs is so high", but which probably meant, "because the school needs money".)
As far as drawbacks, I see only two, but they're biggies: (1) living and transportation arrangements, and (2) cost. Their proposed budget, which looks pretty reasonable, totals $140,000 for the full program, and the coordinator I talked to said that almost everyone goes the route of loans; it doesn't sound like they give much aid. As for the living arrangements, well, to avoid a long, multi-stage (car plus bus) commute, one has to live in downtown Charleston, right by the school. The problem with living in downtown Charleston? See above... cost. Sigh. Anyway, we'll see. Their application cycle opens on Wednesday... I'll keep you posted.
(Oh, and I submitted my Duke application and also got confirmatory responses from UF and ECU, so I am officially done with every aspect of CASPA and the 4 schools that utilize it. MUSC is the only one left to work on.)
One last thing: I just signed up for another marathon. I'm finally sufficiently recovered from the Marine Corps Marathon that I can face doing another one. The 26.2 with Donna (the only marathon in the country solely dedicated to fighting breast cancer) takes place in my hometown, out at the beach -- part of the run is even on the beach itself -- and I think it's going to be a great experience. My dad volunteered at one of the water stations last year and brought home a bag of swag for me, and I've been wearing the shirt, rereading the brochure, and thinking it over ever since. So I took the plunge today and signed up. The thing I keep telling myself is, since it's a February race, the bulk of my training will NOT have to take place during sweltering heat (as it did last year)! :)
(I signed up for a half marathon too, in November... but that one's sort of immaterial compared to the other, since it's right here in Raleigh and only (only!) 13.1 miles. I figure I can use it as part of the training toward the full marathon.)