Master’s applications advice: The WHY?!?!

I am not nearly as concerned with January 15th this year as I was last year. January 2013 saw an anxious Caity, double and triple checking that all of the right documents and application forms had safely made it to Sweden, a land that seemed very mysterious and far away to me at the time (they spell Canada with a “K”!! How crazy is that?!?!).

And so it was only by “liking” the Karolinska Institutet Prospective Student Facebook page that I was reminded that applications for the global masters programs are due very soon! I’ve answered a few prospective student questions about their applications and was reminded of my own application process. Perhaps some last minute sharing from my own experience will add that ‘je ne sais quoi’ to any other prospective student already fabulous applications? Here’s hoping!


“Sometimes the road feels like it is going off the edge, but maybe it is just a bridge and you’re looking over the side of it, it’s all about perspective”

I applied for the Masters of Global Health Program in 2011, hoping to start courses in September of 2012. I received confirmation that I was first on the waiting list in the spring of 2012 and was pretty excited to be so close to the program of my dreams. I had only applied to one program that year as I was not 100% convinced a Masters program was the next step at that time and was really only interested in the Karolinska Institutet’s infamous program coordinator (Mr. Hans Rosling) and the magic that his program must contain. In Canada, students apply to multiple masters programs and then when all of the acceptance and rejection letters are sent out, they choose the school they would most like to go to, declining the other offers of admission they receive from other universities. This makes it very likely that someone who is on the waiting list will be offered a position in the program once students have made final decisions about what university they would like to attend. With this mentality, I was pretty convinced someone would drop out of the Karolinska program, making it possible for me to attend that year. Every email I got from Sweden made my heart skip a beat and it was months of anxious waiting before I decided to give up (temporarily) on this goal and aim for other things in 2013. I took some money I had saved up and planned a backpacking trip through South America, learning Spanish along the way since it just isn’t like me to do something without a purpose (blame the Type A personality). Learning another language (while avoiding winter and enjoying the Latin culture I always wanted to be a part of) seemed like the perfect solution!


Before I left I made sure to write the application that would definitely get me into Karolinska this time. I had a sense of determination after the long wait and unfruitful ending to the previous year’s application and this time I went at it from another direction. I’ve already mentioned that in between the two applications I realized my statement of intent had been a resume in paragraphs, duplicating the information I was sending to the school and not really describing the reason why I was applying to the Masters of Global Health program: my indescribable passion for inequality in health and my utter fascination with the intricacies and challenges that make solving “simple” health problems so difficult in particular circumstances/parts of the world.

I met a special man when I was 20. He was the jefe (chief) of a small shanty town outside of Sosua, Dominican Republic. He had soft eyes, wasn’t very tall, and definitely an unassuming kind of man; a simple man. I never saw him raise his voice (other than at kids who were being naughty) and I can only imagine his calm demeanour was why he was so well-respected. He and his community were Haitian refugees who traveled across the border (not likely in a legal fashion) to find a better life in neighbouring Dominican Republic. Most did not have the papersrequired to to find good work and they instead worked illegally as hard labour construction workers or as “sorters” at the garbage dump, sifting through mountains of garbage for recyclables, often in flip flops, while needles, flies, rail-thin animals, and contaminants ran rampant in the hot sun. They had a hard life. He had a hard life. And yet he smiled.

This man and his community were the reason I came back to Canada after a two week volunteer stint in the DR raw with emotion. I wanted to scream from mountain tops, throw piggy banks on the floor, and yell at passerby’s about how wrong and unjust this world is. Did they not know that there are kids walking around barefoot in garbage dumps in another part of the world barely scraping by? Did they not realize that the reason they are able to pay less for the consumer products they think they crave is because those companies pay pennies for the workers and their condition? Did they not understand the cost of their wealth? Luckily I did none of these things as I’m quite certain none of my shouting from rooftops and detailed explanations would have resulted in sustainable results. Instead I changed my own path, something I could much more easily control than the whims of other people, and decided this was a topic I would invest my own time into. I would advocate for poverty, I would advocate for improved health, I would advocate for those who couldn’t.

THIS is what I wrote in my second (and successful) application. And so this is what I encourage you all to do! Make sure that you make obvious the passion or the reason WHY you are applying for any program, or anything in life, really. Because knowledge is books, but passion is a sword, and which do you think would win in that battle?


– Caity, Global Health


*the clincher of this story is that this life-changing man I knew passed away last year. He could have died from the infection left after not properly treating his broken leg after a motorcycle accident or from the any number of infections found at the garbage dump. The exact reason hasn’t been made clear. What I do know is he died of poverty.

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