I'm in engineering at ASU and a first year graduate student. Recently my PI informed us that she accepted a tenured position at UCLA. I'm really happy for her but it's thrown the lab into a bit of disarray. However, she laid out the options for us and told me in our one-on-one meeting that I am one of the students she is hoping will come with to begin the lab there. It's not an option that was extended to everyone and I'm pretty honored that she wants me to go. That said, this is not an easy decision to make and I wanted some input on it. I've only spent a year in graduate school and I'm probably in the best position to make the switch academically. However, there are personal and financial matters to consider as well.
I had worked in industry for a few years and was really looking forward to making Phoenix my home after moving a lot since 2011 (Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, and now Arizona). I've enjoyed living here since August and found roommates who I work well with (no easy task I assure you) and an apartment which is a ridiculously good deal. That sounds unimportant but after all of the moving and issues that come with it I've learned to be grateful. I met my girlfriend here and we've been dating 6 months and have been having a blast. Although ASU is only in the 40's for graduate school rankings I know I can handle the program and I've made friends in this cohort. I'm on financially stable ground here and although I'm only making $1500 a month it is a good life. With credit card bills that I'm still catching up on and my car payment it's a stretch but I've made it work while still having money left over.
Our group really got screwed with class selection for next semester. They put one of the essential classes out for registration, and then informed us a week later that they were no longer holding the class in the fall. Many of us gave up the ability to register for other classes that fill up quickly, by selecting this one. This us in a predicament, especially me. I have pre-req classes which should had been done last fall that still won't be done by next spring. I'm taking what are essentially two tech electives. It might be possible to sway people but I'll have a lot less pull without an advisor. Speaking of which, I have no prospects. I was in contact with my PI through the application process, went to work in her lab from the beginning, and haven't really thought of doing research with other profs since. There are two in my concentration but one is swamped with students already and the other is at the downtown campus. I might have to drop to a master's without the ability to take the necessary classes in a timely fashion. Additionally, since my research would be scrapped, there's a very low chance (none) of external fellowship with this scenario if I apply. And future funding aside, I have no idea how I'd be funded in the fall. It is likely most of the TA positions have been handed out already, or close to it. So I'm not even sure if there's funding available here.
Pro Los Angeles:
The only time I was ever there was a month ago for spring break with the girlfriend, ironically enough. I don't have a good feel for the city at all and aren't sure what I'd be getting myself into. However, my PI is amazing. She's one of the reasons I got into ASU and I've never had a better working relationship. She's the best boss I've ever had, and always knows when to push and when to give me a chance to figure things out for myself. I already know I can work with her which is something not to take for granted. I've read horror stories about advisor conflict all the time and consider myself lucky to not have to deal with that. The program has a good amount of prestige and is highly ranked, and well networked. I do know a couple of people from high school and undergrad in the area so I wouldn't be entirely alone. I know the pay at least stays the same and I'd have a small chance at an external fellowship if my research goes well this summer. And also, as a side note, does anyone know of good elementary schools in the UCLA area? My PI has two kids and is trying to figure this out as well.
Con Los Angeles:
The big one which looms in my mind is being in bad financial straits. It's highly likely since I'll have around $1100/month at my disposal after necessary car/insurance. This isn't counting credit card bills from a long time ago, so likely more like $900 a month for food, rent, phone, and other expenses. I might be able to room with the other student who is going but I'm unsure. I'm also unsure about the project which she has me researching. It's very computer science heavy, and while I'm getting a better foothold in programming and such I'd much rather be doing experiments. I've tried to make progress this entire year but I don't have a whole lot to show for it. I'm not sure what my options are, project-wise. I need to talk to her and see what she has in mind. The first year will likely be chaotic and I'm not sure if I could handle the pace of classes. UCLA works off of a quarter system and I've been told it's fast. Although I'm no stranger to rigorous curriculum (see my icon, the badge of survival) that was undergrad. This is a different beast entirely. There are also moving expenses and trying to find somewhere to live and dealing with a long distance relationship.
I could maybe strive to get a job in the Phoenix area. It's unlikely this would work, and I really don't want to. The entire point of going to graduate school was to get away from the highly industrial/manufacturing jobs and it's probably that those are the only options. Unless I miraculously find a sweet tutoring gig, but again, to what end?
Sorry if that was a lot. I'm just trying to get a good read on the situation.