Posts Tagged ‘School’

Boo on Reality. It’s Finally Setting In…

December is coming to a close which means January is right around the corner! Before January 11th rolls around and Lent Term begins, I have a dissertation proposal to write and a summative essay to conclude. Ideally, both will be done well (let’s all cross our fingers for distinction). On top of that, real life has begun to hit me: although last term was challenging, this term is going to be a real feat. Not only do we have to concern ourselves with normal coursework, but most of our graded coursework is due at the end of this term/beginning of Summer Term, plus we have to get a substantial start on our dissertations, plus there’s the whole job/internship situation if we actually want to put our education to use (I like to think that most of us do).

Knowing that we’ll be 100% done in 9 short months is a little daunting. Most people are leaving before then — off to law school, other professional programs or back to their homelands to send in their dissertations. Theoretically, we can all go back home in July and submit our dissertations via courier. For some of the direly homesick, this is a great option. I, on the other hand, have been wanting to drag out my European excursions for as long as humanly possible! I’m loving London life (aside from the occasional mild bout of homesickness) and have thoroughly enjoyed my ability to travel and meet some amazing people along the way. Thinking of all of this coming to an end is saddening (and an impetus to pursue a PhD). So, this term is going to be a full one: normal coursework, a trip to Cumberland Lodge with my program, a summative ‘project planning’ submission, a dissertation to begin, careers to investigate, jobs for which to apply, summative essays to submit and preparation for exams in May/June. On the bright side, I also get to look forward to some special visitors this term! My cousins are coming at the end of January for a visit, Chris is hitting up Londontown in February, and my dad and sister are coming during my break for a two-week, three to four-country mini tour (England, France, the Netherlands & maybe Scotland)! Hopefully seeing all of their bright, smiling faces will help in getting through the term and alleviating a bit of my homesickness (and hold me over until I return back to the US).

Also, I must wish my friend, Pooja, congratulations on getting her first acceptance to law school! She’s the perfect example of a girl who has her stuff together: finishing her Masters and off to start law school all before the tender age of 22 — talk about motivation! On that note, I’m off to look for jobs/PhD programs to feel like less of a delinquent.

Here’s to Lent Term and to facing reality!

On an amazingly bright note, Lent Term marks the welcoming of one Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid, and I am going to be 1st in line to see her! I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to take advantage of the university’s speakers and public lectures. We get some amazing visitors at our school (Presidents, Prime Ministers, Queens, Scholars, etc.) and now is the time to get to see them in person!

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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,

Registration, Orientations & Classes… Oh My!

LSE

This week has been insanely jam-packed with registration, orientations and mini-assignments. Although I should be more overwhelmed having found out that I have two papers due within the first three weeks of class, I found that the departmental and course orientations actually calmed my nerves. I finally feel like I’m here for a purpose and I’m incredibly excited to actually start class and go to the lectures. My course orientation was particularly exciting since I had a chance to meet my lecturers, all of whom seem incredibly interesting and friendly. On top of that, our course administrator is amazing and has already got me pumped about the coursework and our weekend at Cumberland Lodge during Lent Term. I’ve tried to meet as many people as possible in my course and so far it has been a very international experience! I am one of three US students in my course; there are kids from Uganda, Peru, Moldova, Malawi, Ireland, Greece, Sudan; I can already tell that it’s going to be such a cool experience being able to take classes with such a diverse group! I finally got signed into all of my classes through Moodle and already have some readings to do before our first lecture on Monday.

LSE Campus

We had our Fresher’s Fair on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and I signed up for a load of clubs! Since I worked full-time during my undergraduate career, I wasn’t able to participate in as many clubs as I normally would have, and I am sooo excited to be able to get involved this year! I joined a few academic-ish societies (Development Society, Social Policy Society, Politics Society and a Technology Innovation & African Development Society), but also hit up the RAG (Raising & Giving Society), Hummous Society & the Vegetarian Society, both of which I am super excited for! I’m considering a social chair position in the Development or Social Policy society if one’s available since I have an undying love for all things that involve planning.

Now that I’m all registered and officially feel like I’m part of the school, I was super pumped to hit up the library and check it out! LSE is home to the largest social sciences library in the world and it’s a pretty amazing sight (I realize that amazing is a subjective term, but for any scholar/academic, this place is like Christmas!) I topped up my student card in the library and was able to get printing right away! I am officially ready for class.

Now to finalize some class choices — stay tuned…

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