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Everything posted by mdivgirl

  1. I moved across the world with three kids last year and have somehow managed to survive my first year of a Ph.D. program -- thanks, in part, to some pretty sympathetic advisors. The hard part is, accepting grace when offered and not freaking out when I can't do all I think I should be doing but not getting too used to slacking off. Setting up kids in a new environment (pre-K, K and 1st graders, all new to English school), getting a house established, budget shopping furniture, finding friends, job frustration for my husband, culture shock, reverse culture shock, getting back into academia after YEARS out of it, being in a new-ish discipline -- I know I was not as successful as others in my cohort, but hanging on by my fingernails, I survived. I think I am going into my second year only slightly behind where I should be, so I made up a lot of distance. I am glad that American Ph.D.'s are so long, because parenting and family life do take a lot of energy, and distractions are the rule not the exception. However, the more I dig into my dissertation topic, the more I realize that I really do love this stuff, and I am slowly but surely gaining some skill in talking about it in a somewhat intelligent way. The best bit of advise I got when applying to schools is that a good advisor makes or breaks the experience, and that has definitely been the case. In the end, it turns out I did prove myself as having the capacity to contribute something, and at times I think he likes having someone to talk to who is a little closer to his stage of life. Although I am not going to be his star pupil, I am motivated to do well so I don't let him down. The other thing that has helped is we were fortunate enough to have an early inheritance to help us with finding a house and managed to get the kids in a really good school district where I don't feel like I need to be constantly advocating for them, so that takes a lot of pressure off me. I know they are learning and thriving and love our new life here.
  2. Realize this is late to the game, but I think it would somewhat depend on whether the coursework was part of the degree you are currently working on or if it was part of another degree which you have already been rewarded, particularly if it were at the same institution. As far as I understand it, if it's the first scenario, that would be fine, but if it's the second, that would be less allowable. But again, I would talk to your advisor or department head.
  3. I have just started as a research assistant to one of my professors and this is what he uses and recommends. The library at my school also offers several classes to teach how to use it. I haven't figured it out yet, but it looks impressive. Also, can't beat free.
  4. Unfortunately, my interest was medieval France. Fortunately, 17th-18th century English is easier than both.
  5. mdivgirl

    New Brunswick, NJ

    I haven't lived in NJ for years, but you could look at East Brunswick. I grew up there and the school district is known to be good (though I attended private schools so don't know first hand.) I think there are a few parts that offer reasonable housing options. It's a little far (maybe 30 minutes) but I am now in grad school with a family with a similar commute and it's quite doable. My mom has also commuted East Brunswick to hospitals near Rutgers for years and finds it quite doable.
  6. My only advice for the earlier times is make sure you have the languages required for the field(s) you wish to pursue. For example, it's hard to get into a good medieval program if you don't already have Latin. (Which is why I switched from Medieval to early modern English history in the long run.)
  7. I am guessing you have figured this out by now, but for future reference, I am assuming that he would not have said anything to you unless he was sure of it. I know my potential advisor was always very cautious to not make any promises until he knew for certain, and I am guessing this is standard procedure.
  8. Read a lot. See whose work resonates best with you and see what field they are in and what their approach is. Take some courses outside your discipline. If you don't know what you want to do, there's nothing that says you have to go straight into grad school. I ended up teaching ESL in Asia for years before I realized that yes, academics really was where I need to be. Even then, it took a while to narrow down the discipline, but once I did, I know I approached it with considerably more understanding of what I was doing and why than I would have straight out of school, and I know my application reflected this. You can always take extra courses at community colleges or even non-degree-seeking courses at public universities along the way to further explore what might be best for you.
  9. Everyone's road to grad school is different. Some people are set on a course at 10 and never deviate. Then there's the rest of us. My brother and I are in our late 30's and both headed into pretty decent Ph.D. programs in the fall. Both of us ended up in a variety of fields before we settled on what we were really cut out to do, and both of us ended up taking quite a few extra, non-degree courses along the way. These courses are actually a good way of testing the waters without committing. Maybe you'll find out you really hate psych. Better to know so now than halfway through a program. Also, there's a whole new vocab and mindset to learn. I have never taken a psych course. That brother of mine is about to start a Ph.D. in one. He ends up completely talking over my head every conversation I have with him. You would not want to be in a program where you are the only one who doesn't know the lingo and the way of thinking of all your professors and texts. If you write your application right, a meandering path to grad school can show just as much commitment, as fuzzylogician said. Grad school is a much bigger commitment than a few community college courses, so if you have trouble committing to them, maybe it's not really what you want to be doing or you need more time to think about it or your life circumstances aren't right for this anyway. And if you find out this isn't for you and can't get into grad school, it's still a win. Both psych classes and art classes sound pretty fun and useful in and of themselves. You get to learn a few new things and possibly meet a few interesting people. Community college is usually not a huge financial commitment compared to your other options. So enjoy. If you can't enjoy the thought of a few extra courses, grad school may not be for you anyway -- or at least not at this moment. Maybe there are other ways to do some of the things you want to do, like volunteer to teach community art or theater to at-risk kids or in senior citizen homes in addition to your day job. (Although I know nothing of the field, I will hazard a guess that if you do end up applying to grad schools in art therapy, such activities will not hurt your application.)
  10. I am starting a Ph.D. program in church history in the fall with an almost-4, almost-6, and almost-7 year old (pre-school, kindergarten, and 1st grade). We are also moving internationally and my husband and oldest son may or may not make it through immigration by the time the semester starts, so I am not sure if I am actually going to make it, though I think it will work once we get everyone to the country and find a house and routine. Until then, we are staying with a friend of the family so that will help. But yeah. I am a little overwhelmed with all the life details that I am barely thinking about school yet. A lot of those come from living overseas so long that I just don't have a lot of life in place, plus my husband isn't American and isn't too much help on practical life in the US matters. Thank God for the internet! One thing that helped is that my school opened up registration early. Even though we were not expected to sign up for classes until we met with our advisers at orientation, I managed to do it over the phone and get my schedule more-or-less settled. This gives me a decent idea of what my schedule will be like so I can work the family details out around it. I am very jealous of this. I have looked up day care at my school and other than limited emergency care or a full-out, full-priced daycare, they don't have much to offer. I have two evening seminars, but other than that my class schedule is one hour every morning so something like this would be totally perfect for my youngest. As it is, we're looking into a twice-a-week church program and drop-in daycares near campus -- but this makes me so jealous!
  11. As per my husband, a Brit who has a BA in history from Cambridge: "The honest answer is that traditionally, Cambridge in better at sciences and Oxford at arts, but every year the ranking change and both are excellent." I get the impression that they are pretty equally prestigious over all. You may want to ask people in your individual field which is better known/ has the top scholars in your particular area of study. You can also figure out a lot of that with Google, I'm guessing.
  12. I second the Taiwan recommendation. If you are looking to teach in after school programs (which most people do) all you need is a bachelor's to get a job and a visa. I have no idea what the current job market is like here since I am on the end of a decade at the same school and moving back to the US, but Taiwan rates highly from all accounts as a good place to be an ex-pat.
  13. I went to seminary outside of Boston with wonderful on-campus housing, so I have no specific advice to offer, but I did go to church in the city and know my church had an on-line roommate board since students made up a large percentage of the congregants. If you are religiously inclined, you may find other churches/places of worship in the area have similar things with people looking for roommates, etc.
  14. Interesting topic. I live in Asia and plenty of people leave children with grandparents to work in the city, but it is hard on the kids. Right now I am in a somewhat similar situation. I am starting grad school in the summer and though I am American neither my husband or oldest (adopted) child are. I could have timed their immigration paperwork better, but honestly there were so many nit-picking details to worry about that eventually I just put it aside to focus on actually getting into grad school -- which in turn gave me great evidence for my American "domicile" to prove I was really coming back to sponsor them since I have been overseas for more than a decade. Honestly I never saw myself making this decision to break up the family even for a short time, but my husband is very supportive and the kids so far are handling the thought well (though they are only 3 - 6 so I don't know how much they understand.). Unfortunately, immigration is more delayed these days considering the recent international climate. Fortunately we are on the last few steps (I hope) of the process and I think they should be able to come by Thanking or Christmas at the latest, but emotionally and practically this isn't very easy. Still, if I don't do it, we'll never leave so we are doing a lot of planning and contingency planning. I know my oldest will be OK without me because he loves where we are now and gets along great with his dad. My younger two are going to have to come with me because emotionally they would not cope as well even though it would make logistics easier. (Except for the flight. I could not see my husband navigating international travel with three small children unaided!). But all that to say, you know your child the best and not all kids and family dynamics are the same. If it's a long degree, your SO could always start looking for jobs closer especially if your child(ren) aren't handling it well. so just because you say "yes" doesn't necessarily mean you are committing to the entire time apart.
  15. mdivgirl

    Nashville, TN

    Thanks for the info, @revtheory1126 . The screen name is a relic from time a past. It just sort of stuck. I am going to be studying a Ph.D. in church history in the department of religion so will be be jumping between the history department and the div school from the sound of it. I've mostly been looking around Franklin and Bellevue, since those are the areas I've been recommended, but I am wondering where else to look. Since you live to the West, any thoughts on Pegram or Kingston Springs? Is that getting too far away? The schools look pretty good and there are some reasonable houses with room to breathe. Or Nolansville? We have a friend with two spare bedrooms in Thomson Station willing to put us up for a while and we are having the kids start there, and that looks like a great town, but I'll see how fast the commute gets to me. I am from NJ and had plenty of long commutes growing up, but my husband is from the U.K. And we currently live right in the middle of a major Asian city where my job is about 7 minutes away on scooter, so I have no idea how we're going to feel about US distances and commutes. I am just trying to work out as much as I can before the semester starts because I am going to have plenty to get my head around for classes, etc.
  16. I, too, would suggest going with the mentor you clicked with if you think you can be interested in what he's doing. I am in a totally different field (religion/history) but I ended up switching time periods in part due to the fact that the mentor who was interested in me was too good to pass up. In fact, I ended up in a different department to work with him because I know he'll teach me a lot and is invested in my success. The first professor may end up working out great, but just from the way you present them both I can tell you feel like the second is a better fit for you personally. If you end up in academia, you can follow your own research passions later. Learning the ropes well and having a guide you can count on seems pretty invaluable at this stage. But again, I'm in a different field, so I don't know how it might be for your area.
  17. Well done with securing funding. My husband is British and did his undergrad at Cambridge and is always very pessimistic about the funding chances so I didn't even try. (Well, that and the U.K. doesn't acknowledge the adoption of our oldest son so since he came along the plan had to be the US first.) But it's a good gig if you can get it.
  18. mdivgirl

    Nashville, TN

    On the off chance you still check this (or anyone else who knows the area), how is Murfreesboro working out for you? I am also moving to the area with three young children and trying to figure out what child-friendly, reasonably priced communities might have doable commutes. Most of what I have heard has been people living to the South, which makes sense given the location of Vanderbilt, but do you know anyone who lives to the Northeast (around Hendersonville)? It looks like there are some decent communities there with reasonable calculated commutes, but I am coming from overseas and have no idea how Googlemaps estimates relate to real travel times.
  19. This is a completely different field, but I started an M.Div. at a seminary when I was 20. I am now beginning a Ph.D. program in my late 30's. I am amazed that despite my years out of academia, I seem to be so much more able to think about high level things than I was during my master's (and I was a pretty decent student then). There are a lot of advantages brought by maturity, and I am choosing to focus on those. I haven't entered the program yet, and it may be weird knowing that some of the junior faculty is younger than I am, but the professors I will be working with are older and established and I am looking forward to learning from them all.
  20. I have spent a lot of time in Boston and minimal time in Chicago, so I am admittedly biased, but although I think University of Chicago sounds like a great school, if all else is equal I would choose New England over the Midwest. If you have family or friends you would be closer to in Chicago, that might swing it the other way, but other than that, Boston's a pretty great place to be a student -- if you can afford it. Also, it does seem like Harvard is in a much better part of town than the University of Chicago is, from what I've read.
  21. I just received word that I received an additional university-wide fellowship. I know it was something the department must have nominated me for based on previous communication. They didn't give me any indication of why I got it, but I did end up with a pretty high GRE (99% Verbal which is the relevant score for my field, 5.5 writing, and in the 70+% range for math which is high for a humanities student) so I suspect it did have something to do with it. It does seem like something easy to compare across disciples. (This is for what I guess would be considered a second tier school, if that helps.) But these things don't strike me as anything you can do anything about other than, as was mentioned earlier, initially submitting the strongest application possible.
  22. Haha. I got into my Ph.D. Program weeks ago and have been mired with all the practical details, but just late night I randomly ran out to my husband in the living room giddily rejoicing in the acceptance. It's a good feeling. Bask.
  23. My husband is British did his undergrad in history at Cambridge (and his dad got a Ph.D. when my husband was young), and he said that funding in the UK was pretty non-existent, so that would definitely be a concern. Also, the degree as far as I can is pretty much just your thesis, which makes it much shorter than a US degree (which you may see as an advantage or a disadvantage) and much more dependent on the advisor being a good fit than the departure. If you like the advisor and can swing the finances, I wouldn't worry about what department it is in. I am in almost the opposite boat. I have a strong theology background but am mostly interested in history. I got into none of my history programs last year but into a really good department of religion for historical studies. I brought up my concern with my POI who teaches in both departments but takes Ph.D. students in the department of religion, and he said that at the Ph.D. level the topic of your thesis is more important than the department you get it in. Since he is an excellent historian and it's a good fit, I am going there. I figure at the end of the day, the advisor being a good fit and being supportive of me and my research is more important than the department. Also, it might be an advantage to be able to teach both. I am guessing that when it comes to a job search a history degree might be more flexible than a more niche degree, but I don't know much about your subfield.
  24. I ended up having a hard time formulating e-mails but it ended up they were willing to chat on the phone. I found it was much easier to formulate questions when I had some sense of who I was talking to, and it probably took less time for both of us than composing detailed e-mails. The questions just came up as we went along. (Actually, one of them was nice enough to anticipate I wouldn't know what to ask and started with an introduction of himself and his research so that also made it easier.)
  25. I was in a similar position. If you can afford a Th.M., by all means, do it. I would love to have had the chance, but financially, it just would not have worked out for us. (If I hadn't gotten into a Ph.D. program this year, I might have applied to something like Notre Dame's MTS or other funded programs, but there aren't that many out there.) There are a lot of things you can do on your own, though. The POI at the school I eventually got into said that getting a high GRE score was more important for me than most to prove that I could still handle the work (Verbal and writing, mostly.) I live overseas so review classes wouldn't have helped (they would be aimed at ESL learners), but a few GRE vocab app downloads and all the review books in the local English bookstore did the trick. I was applying to history programs mostly (though the one I got into was a religion one) and my writing sample was pretty awful. You should be able to update it on your own even if you don't get to go back to school. I revisited my undergrad thesis paper, and that gave me a lot of insight into the progress in the field which I used in the updated sample. It also showed me just how much more sophisticated my analysis is now than when I was 19. I didn't have it done by the time I needed to contact those writing recommendation letters, but I had enough of it to send them a pretty polished introduction with a good thesis and a well developed outline, so I think that may have helped. (You should not have this problem -- I had some trouble ordering one of the key works I needed from overseas which delayed my work on it.) You can do a lot with a few secondhand books from Amazon and Googlebooks. (I also had access to JSTOR and some journal articles.) If you are around a university, you might be able to get access to the library for a fee. (In college I was able to buy a year's access to Princeton Seminary's library so I could work on a paper from sources in their special collection over spring break one year. I have no idea if this is something most places do or not.) Anyway, I basically ended up doing an independent study and learned a lot, and that came through when I wrote the SOP as well. It also gave me something to show my old professors. You could also do a lot of language work on your own, which is useful in itself and also in showing professors that only vaguely remember you your dedication, etc. I also listened through the whole course on Early Modern England offered by Yale on YouTube and basically fished for every lecture I could from my POI at the schools I wanted to get into and other scholars in the field. I am assuming that if you are considering a Th.M. you did not get into a Ph.D. program. I applied to three history programs last year and didn't get into any, but the University of Chicago did offer me a spot in a Master's program with a half tuition scholarship which I would have loved to accept but it wasn't financially or logistically feasible. I only incidentally mentioned this to one of the professors writing my recommendation letters at the very tail end of a last minute conversation, but she ended up being more impressed with this than I had been and I am guessing that was reflected in her recommendation, so if you have any similar offers, don't forget to mention them the next time around. Also, I ended up using a lot of my Chicago essay for my applications this year because I figured I had to have done something right in that one. And I think my work on the updated writing sample and really getting to thoroughly know the scholarship in one small area was basically me trying to do more Masters' level work even if I couldn't go to a master's program, since the Chicago master's program's big selling point was their acceptance rate into funded Ph.D. programs so I figured they wouldn't let me in if they didn't think I could be ready in a year to be accepted since it would mess with their stats. I don't know if these random thoughts are of any use and I am sure others have other things they have done, but I am basically saying that if you can manage a Th.M., by all means do it. I can't see how you can go wrong, especially if you can do one at a top tier school. But if you can't, you can still do a lot on your own if you are intentional about it. It helped me to think like I was in a Masters program even though I wasn't. A lot of a Th.M. is taking MA/M.Div. courses and just doing more work, and you already know what the masters courses entail.
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