Reflections and Expectations: “Keep an Open Mind”

I had a few people tell me those four words in the run-up to my trip to South Korea this month.

Those words were meant to help me deal with a trip in which I still maintained reservations over. It also opened up other avenues of thought that were worth exploring as far as my short-term and long-term plans in life were concerned. As you read on, you may see instances where keeping an open mind led me to such decisions.

That being said, let’s look back on how this month went and what I can expect for September.


From the John Hancock Observatory in Chicago

From the John Hancock Observatory in Chicago

Chicago – I spent the first few days of this month in the Windy City. It began on Aug. 2 with an Amtrak train ride on the Pennsylvanian between Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and Pittsburgh Union Station, followed by the Capitol Limited that brought me to Chicago Union Station on the morning of Aug. 3.

I very much enjoyed this trip. I visited many of the major landmarks I wanted to visit such as the Skydeck at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), John Hancock Observatory, Adler Planetarium among others. I also tried out some of Chicago’s well-known delicacies in some of the most well-known establishments such as Al’s Beef for the Italian beef, Portillo’s for the Chicago-style hot dog and Lou Malnati’s for deep-dish pizza. Last but not least, I had the opportunity to meet up with several friends of mine that live in the city, making for an even more delightful experience.

After Washington, D.C. and New York City, Chicago was one of the few major cities on the top of my list I had yet to visit. Boston is the last remaining city on my list and I will be going there for the first time next month.

Los Angeles and San Diego – Nothing much to report, other than to say I spent a few days in Southern California as a lead-in to my South Korea trip as well as the lead-out before going back to Philadelphia next month. I sure did miss my Tommy’s and my Mexican food fix. I also miss this part of the country more than ever before.

Seoul skyline, facing in the ESE direction, from Namsan Tower

Seoul skyline, facing in the ESE direction, from Namsan Tower

South Korea – I just came back yesterday after a nearly two-week stay there.

I went into this trip largely emotionless and unsure regarding how it would affect me personally after I return. After two weeks there, I still feel the same way now as I did going into it.

I can say for certain that I did not regret the decision to go there — it was bound to happen eventually — nor was I unhappy about how my time there went. I felt I could have enjoyed the trip more if the personal aspect — visiting my biological mother and my largely-unknown maternal side of the family — did not weigh heavily on me as it did. For a future return trip, if there is one to be had, I hope things will be different.

There is lots more I can share but it would be long-winded and somewhat depressing in this space. There is also a long backstory to this trip that it would not be ideal to share in this space either. In private conversations, in-person and online, I am more than willing to go further in-depth about my experience.

Courtesy: Mineta Transportation Institute on Pinterest

Courtesy: Mineta Transportation Institute on Pinterest

Grad school – With AmeriCorps in the rearview mirror, the decision came down to whether I should seek out a job in public relations, pursue grad school or both.

While the former is still ongoing, I decided that this is also the time to set my sights on grad school.

On Aug. 16, I learned that I have been accepted to be a student for the Certificate in Transportation Management (CTM) program with the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.

The certificate program will serve as a precursor to my eventual plans to pursue the full Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) program, upon formal admission to the university and passing the GMAT. I begin the certificate program in January while the MSTM program, provided that I am admitted, will begin sometime later in the near future.

This program is one that I have set my sights on for about three years now. I know two people I worked with at OCTA — where I served as an intern from 2010 to 2012 — that were in the MSTM program and have inspired me to follow their lead. Both of my former colleagues have since graduated from the program with Master’s Degrees and have seen continued successes in their respective careers.


  • Boston – As something I decided on a whim about a week ago, I made plans to take a weekend trip to Boston during the weekend of Sept. 7. As mentioned earlier at the end of the Chicago recap, this will be my first trip to the city. This will likely be my last trip while I’m still living in Philadelphia for I plan to move back to Los Angeles in November in preparation for the start of the certificate program in January. This trip should be exciting and logistically sensible as it is obviously cheaper for me to travel there from Philly as opposed to L.A.
  • Global Philadelphia Association – The main reason why I will be back in Philadelphia for the next two months is to work with Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) on a series of events going on as part of GlobalPhilly 2013. I have been working with GPA on a freelance basis for the last year as a contributor for the news section of its website.
  • Temporary living arrangement in Philly – Anyone know of any great resources or individuals in Philly that can direct me to decent but affordable living arrangements? I only need a place until the middle or end of November. Even though I am already looking on my own, if you know of anyone looking for roommates for just the next two months or resources more reputable than craigslist, feel free to comment below or email me as soon as you can.

I’ll leave you with this — something I’m also looking forward to next month.