Posts Tagged ‘Masters’

Welcome to Lent Term!

I’m sitting in Cafe 54 on campus, sipping some coffee (only one cup — one of my NY resolutions is to cut back on caffeine consumption) and watching the hordes of people that are back on campus… it was so nice being here just a week ago when the majority of people were sleeping their lives away in their homeland. Now, once again, it’s packed and I have to use physical force to find an outlet. In any case, my first seminar of this term is done and though my brain was only 60% on, it was good to get back into the groove of things! I have a busy week ahead: on campus today from 930A to around 6P, with Tuesday and Thursday shaping up to be very similar. I’m still trying to decide on my last class for this term, so I’m sitting in on three lectures, hoping one will really stand out (Public Management of Development, African Development and Globalization & Social Policy — if you have insight, leave me a comment)!

This term is going to be a rough one, but now that I’m back in an intellectually stimulating environment, I feel much more prepared to take on assessed essays, dissertation proposals, exams, job applications and the like. I’ve also made it my goal to go to at least one LSE public lecture or partake in some cultural experience each and every week. Also, exciting (for you LSEers out there), my lovely flatmate, Lindsay, has her own radio show (‘Brunch Buffet’ on Pulse Radio) this term! If you’re an LSEer and want to show a peer some support, you can join her facebook group here!

In other news, I have a load of guests coming to visit in the next few months: my cousins are coming for a jaunt over from Malta next week; my sister & dad are coming in April (yay!) and my cousin from San Diego is coming over for a couple of months in the summer! My (overly ambitious) goal is to have my dissertation mostly completed by the first week of July so that my cousin and I can do a bit of traveling while I put the final touches on my thesis. Here’s to hoping! Send some positive energy my way <3.

Now back to work!


To PhD or Not to PhD? That is the question.

Deciding to get a Masters was somewhat of a no-brainer for me. I’ve always been a huge proponent of higher education and I find being in a university environment incredibly stimulating (lots of very active brain waves floating around). The fact that I am getting my Masters in the UK, where the program is only a year and the fees are relatively comparable to a US Masters (even including the costs of London living!) is icing on the proverbial cake. Getting a PhD (or DrPH) though… well, that’s not quite as simple. As I look to the end of this year and try to figure out what I where I want to be after graduating, the picture in my head begins to get a bit fuzzy. Although I love development studies and the idea of working in the field, I don’t know that I can temper development work with family life. In fact, I am almost positive that the concept of normal life is the antithesis to that of international development (think: being stationed in Yemen for a two-year stint, followed by a few months in DC, followed by a 6 month consultation in Bolivia, etc.). That being said, I’m signing up to take the Foreign Service exam in the spring to hopefully open up some options (fortunately I don’t have to fly to the US to take the exam — American citizens can take it at the embassy). Plus, I have been looking at other institutions to move towards a PhD.

Now, here’s the thing with a PhD (this is partly me thinking via blog and partially wanting feedback from anyone who’s been in this position or has any brilliant insight): PhD’s are intense. In many ways, actually.

They’re time-intensive. Typically 3- 5 years; 2 years of coursework + 1 – 3 years of field work to put together a 75,000 – 100,000 word dissertation to submit and orally defend.

They’re expensive. I think that might go without saying, but expenses incurred through higher education are not for the faint of heart. Grad school is expensive. Fortunately, in the PhD world there are a number of schools that have really great financial aid packages for research students (full coverage of tuition + stipends, etc.) if you’re qualified. I have a friend working on a PhD who is teaching undergrad courses at the university in exchange for full tuition + a $26,000 stipend. Depending on your research proposal, some organizations will even step in to subsidize or cover educational expenses.

The application process is rigorous. I’m at the point where getting in isn’t the part that scares me (although that is scary, of course); the application alone is frightening. I don’t know if you have seen the process for applying for a doctoral program but it goes something like this: standard application packet (name + stats), CV including work experience, education and publications, three (3) letters of recommendations from professors that are familiar with your ability to be a quality researcher, a research proposal, wherein your dissertation topic is generally outlined including the research question and methodology and identification of an academic at the institution that would act as your tutor/advisor. Honestly, getting everything together to apply would probably take me a year! Plus, the part about publications? Can you say intimidating?!

PhD + Family? Not so likely. Not sure that you can actually work on a PhD and be a normal human being. And by that, I mean, I’m not sure that you can be 100% committed to your research work if you have a family, housework, normal real-life responsibilities looming. Dose of reality: Inevitably, one has to take precedence and if you’re paying loads of money and spending tons of time working on a doctorate, that will likely come first. If it doesn’t, your PhD will probably not get done in 4 -5 years. A book on my reading list? Mama, PhD, a piece about juggling motherhood with academia.

Long-term Relocation. PhD programmes don’t take many students, typically. Some schools take 2-4 for a given program, some take 15, but normally there aren’t a load of kids working on a doctoral degree in any given year since there is such a strong bond between advisor and advisee. This is very different from a taught Masters programme, where MSc candidates run wild. It would be ludicrous to think an advisor could work with 20 PhD students and help them in the way that they needed. That being said, for me to say that I wanted to get my doctorate in California and that I would only apply to California programs would be incredibly limiting. It is more advantageous to look across the nation (and the world, for that matter) and see what institutions have strong programs in the discipline and apply to programs where you feel a connection with the school, the potential advisor and the general campus and city life (since you’d be living there for a while!) If I got into a school in New York, I would probably go there, despite the fact that it’s not close to my family… makes for some interesting decisions when the discussion of being away from your family, relationships and friends involves talking about long-term versus one year.

Despite all the cons, I’ve always loved school (a fact to which my first-grade teachers can attest) and I can’t really see myself being done after this year. I will definitely need to take a break for a couple of years to put my Masters to work (to gain some more relevant/international experience) and to make sure that four more years of school is what I really want, but I definitely see a PhD (or DrPH) in my future.

Sending brainwaves your way,

Hell begins…

After being on campus from 830A to 730P and having been studying since getting home, I’ve decided that it’s time for a much-needed break/status update from abroad.

Update: Life for the next three weeks is going to be insanity. The light at the end of the tunnel? I get to go to Rome on the 12th of November! The thought of Roman architecture and Italian coffee is probably the only thing that’s going to get me through the next few weeks.

Some perspective: I have a presentation on poverty reduction & child mortality to deliver tomorrow in my health & population class; Wednesday is a presentation on women’s rights and the effects of women’s rights on children for a child rights & poverty course, and the rest of the week will be spent working on a third presentation (to be delivered next Monday) which addresses the role of the state in social policy and requires some ridiculous readings by Foucault. On top of that, I have a formative essay due in my health and population class in a couple of weeks, followed by a paper on implementation of social policy theory.

In any case, I have officially gone into hiding and am holing myself up in my room for the next twelve days with the ultimate goal of finishing everything before my trip to Rome.

I’ll keep you updated from my cell room.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon


LSE Beaver

You know when things are just surreal? When everything around you just seems like a dream and you’re waiting to wake up? That sums up my life at this moment quite well. I just finished packing the two suitcases that contain my life for the next twelve-plus months, and am slowly putting the finishing touches on my carry-on. As I put away my Let’s Go Europe book and zipped up a pouch of toiletries, it dawned on me: I am leaving the United States in two short days. I have one real day left in the US, and then I will be sitting on a flight to the United Kingdom, courtesy of United Airlines. Not only am I moving to another country, I’m moving to another country to study at one of the best institutions in the world. If ever there were one single word needed to describe this university, “institution” sums it up pretty effectively: educating the likes of John F. Kennedy, fifteen Nobel prize winners, a load of Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings and Queens speaks volumes. Whomever looked through my application and decided that I should study at the same institution that bred that prominence is my new hero. There is such a mixture of excitement (for the opportunity to study at such a magnificent university) and nervousness (for fear of being overwhelmed by the brilliance of it all). I find that for me, the nerves typically breed greatness; at the times when I fear failure in any capacity, I put in that much more time and effort into being able to compete and succeed.

One of the underlying reasons for deciding to study in Europe was to create an inherent opportunity to travel and see the world. I truly feel that experiencing the way that other people live is an eye-opening, life-altering experience that is necessary for total self-actualization. I don’t fully think that I can be the greatest version of myself without knowing everything that is out in the world. There are people to meet, perspectives to understand and valuable lessons to learn, and without having gained that worldly knowledge, your world stunts you; it is too small for you to fully grow and develop. That essentially sums up my greatest goal for the year. To grow and develop. In every possible capacity; as an academic, as a youth of the world and as a human being. Everyone talks about how experiences like this change your life and your views forever. At this point in my life, I think I’m more than open to that.

So, in conclusion, here’s to an amazing year; a year of change, a year of growth and a year of amazing adventures.

Now I’m off to enjoy my last few moments in the States.

Lots of love,


Here’s an undergrad lesson for those not versed in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (summed up in a super-fun pyramid):



My Not-so-Sad Predicament…


Welllll– I just found out some fantastic news– I just (on Friday) received my acceptance letter from the London School of Economics for the Social Policy & Development program. Now, I realize this doesn’t sound like a predicament, but it is. A little, at least. I had assumed that I wasn’t accepted because it had been so long since I’d heard from LSE. Due to the competitiveness of the school (think 7 applicants per place available), I didn’t have my heart set on it and had disregarded the institution for the most part. That being said, I was perfectly ecstatic sending in my acceptance to Bristol (which I did a couple of weeks ago … oops!) and had already started looking into roommates, accommodation, life in Bristol, etc. Well… now I have an offer to get my Masters at LSE so I’m beyond confused! I have been giving it a great deal of thought and weighing the pros & cons of both schools, but it’s still very much a predicament (although it’s one that I’m okay with!)


Now, for Bristol — it’s a very darling community; much smaller than London and much more quaint. The school is gorgeous and very prestigious. For Americans — it’s probably equivalent to Columbia in the US. Good school & well known for its education. It’s also about an hour to an hour and a half from London. For traveling around Europe, I can fly directly from Bristol’s international airport or take a train to London & fly out from there. The weather’s a little rainier and colder in Bristol than in London as well, but I did love the town when I visited. Plus, the people were amazing!


Now, for LSE. This is tough. Like I said, I hadn’t really considered that I would get in. LSE is considered a top tier university, on the same playing field as Oxford and Cambridge, but with a specific focus on economics & political science. It’s widely considered to be the best institution in the world for political sciences (although it’s better known in Europe, Asia & Africa than it is in the US). The cost of living in London, however, is significantly higher. The tuition fees are about 3000 GBP per year more (not very significant) but it’s the accommodations & daily necessities that incur much of the extra cost. I’m trying to disregard cost though in my considering of universities since it IS only one year and it’s a decision that will affect my entire life. Also, London is obviously a HUGE city, so it’s entirely different than Bristol in that regard. There’s going to be a ton to do there, which is nice, and travelling will be easier since London is a hub, but it will definitely be a totally different lifestyle. Also, I think London probably offers greater chances for jobs & for meeting people that will help influence careers.

Grrr— like I said, tough decision. I loved Bristol when I visited it early this year. The town is great, the people are great & the school’s marvelous. I didn’t visit LSE when I was there (again, didnt’ think I’d be accepted), but London in general does have a lot to offer and the reputation of the institution is spectacular! I’m going to try to make a decision within a few weeks here — lots to think about.

Anyone have input on the matter? I like hearing other people’s thoughts <3.