Colorado State, Florida State, or just say "dash it all" and take a chance in Europe?
I am in an interesting position in that I have applied to both International Relations programs and Philosophy programs. I am interested in Global/Political and Environmental Ethics (Applied Ethics), so my interests can fall into either field. I have decided to do a masters instead of jumping into a PhD, because I know that I want to study more, but I am not sure whether I want to be a professor or work in the field and I think doing a masters will help me decide. I just genuinely like learning, so even if a career doesn't come of my work, I wouldn't see my time studying and growing as a person as a waste, however, it would be nice to study something that could help me in my future career path (whatever it might be) and in a good environment (in terms of the actual, physical environment as well as the intellectual environment). I should also mention that I've been working/traveling for the last 3 years of my life and I love it. I don't really want to go back to the US. I've been all over Asia and I really want to study in Europe. It's been my dream for a long time and I had been saving up money to do so, but something happened and now I don't have much left (but I think I could rebuild a little of it). However, as much as I really want to study in Europe, I do miss my family and being back with them in the US would be nice for a year or so if I thought it would help me get a job or into a PhD program abroad.
I can't visit any schools and thus most of what I've learned has been through e-mails, searching the net, and asking friends their opinions.
I will explain my situation to you in the only way that I know how, an unnecessarily long-winded rant about my thought process, followed by a pro and con list. Please tell me your thoughts. I'm having a difficult time deciding and it's especially hard, because I don't have all the information to make an informed decision. Thus, any pieces of the puzzle that you could fill in for me or insights would be very helpful or any advice. If you know about these programs, then all the better!
Aside from the programs below, I was also accepted into the Peace Corps and I am waiting to hear back from the University of Helsinki (Social and Moral philosophy). I feel conflicted, because I learned about some programs on The Grad Cafe that I now wish I had applied to...
London School of Economics:
-The program perfectly suits my interests (it's as if Michelangelo carefully carved this program out of marble to suit my interests) It combines both philosophy AND international relations.
- Easy to get a job/ into almost any PhD program I want (my friend said that her friends at LSE were recruited before they even finished their program). I think if I went to LSE, then I could basically do anything that I want to do after graduate, which is really enticing. They set up their students with internships with parliment members and with NGOs.
-Great intellectual environment
- Kind, attentive professors/staff who have answered my questions honestly and wrote me a personalized acceptance letter, all of which made me think they actually really want me there and will help me to reach my goals
-Lots of international students
- A lot of both male and female graduate students (less sexism, yay!)
-In Europe/ easy to travel to mainland Europe
-Access to the arts/ theatre (my hobby)
- London is an amazing city
- English is the primary language, but I could easily find Japanese/Thai/French speakers to keep up with my languages
- Easy access to public transportation
-A lot of my good friends live there or near there, so I'd have a support network
- Very well-regarded program
- Access to a HUGE vegan community and lots of vegan food
-LOANS, expensive, life-destroying loans and I have to take out American loans (which can NEVER be forgiven), not the kinder less-brutal British loans adding up to about $50,000. I'd basically be gambling that LSE would be worth the risk and I'd be worried about finding a job to pay back my loans. I don't like that kind of pressure.
-I could get a scholarship, but I might not know until July and even then I won't know for how much
- London is extremely expensive and I'm not sure I could enjoy all of the amazing things listed above, even if I took out a lot of money in loans
- I'm not sure how bikeable a big city like London would be
- I'd have to travel pretty far (I think) to get away from people and into nature
-I'd probably have to live with other people, even taking out a loan, and I'm the kind of person who loves being around others, but needs alone time
- It seems like the UK's train system is like Japan's, but much more expensive, and with less access to rural areas
- I've been told that LSE places less interest on teaching and the UK's educational system seems to expect students to be more indepedent and there's less contact with professors. I prefer small group discussions on readings, hands-on learning, and close attention from professors, but it certainly wouldn't be a deal breaker for me if I had close connections with my fellow grad students and/or adjuncts. Colorado State University
- A very, very good fit for my interests. They specialize in Applied Ethics (in fact, I found this program because the philosophical gourmet recommended this school for a terminal Applied Ethics masters) and there are philosophers there who focus on subjects that are of interest to me. They have a very strong environmental philosophy program and program just seems really amazing and geared towards subjects that interest me.
- The professors, grad students, and staff have been SO incredibly welcoming and kind to me.
-They really want me there and I think that's really important to feel welcome and wanted at a school. In fact, they even offered to pay to fly me in to visit their school. They said I was one of their top picks. The only reason I couldn't fly there is because the offer was to fly me in from my home state, but I live in Japan. The staff and professors have been e-mailing me with advice and have given me their opinions on various topics. I think working with them would be a real joy.
- I was offered a fully-funded TA-ship
-I would get the opportunity to teach classes with an adjunct or professor! I love teaching and I think it'd be a great opportunity to learn from some great teachers.
- I am outdoorsy person and Fort Collins (and Colorado in general) is a haven for people who like outdoor activities. I could easily go hiking in the forest, mountain climbing, spelunking, and other things that I enjoy doing. It would be easy to "get away from it all" if I needed to.
- It's a very bikeable city. The head of the philosophy department even bikes or walks to work!
- A lot of female professors, which is rare in philosophy. They all seem really badass too.
- There are only 20 graduate students, which means small classes and close connections with my cohort and professors
- There's a pretty even split between female and male grad students, which is really attractive, because it's a well-known fact that sexism is rampant in philosophy departments in the US.
- The school is well-known for their focus on environmental issues and environmental protection in general
-The program is only 2 years
-The professor who does animal rights (the only one, I think) and I really disagree in our approach. It's great for lively discussions to have diverse opinions, but it's really draining (and kind of... scary?) to disagree with someone who has a distinct amount of power over you if there's not another professor to balance that out. I could easily work with other professors, but I am worried that this professor and I might butt heads and I worry that that could hurt me in my future career and might make my time there unpleasant. I could choose just to work with the aforementioned badass female professors, but I think I'd maybe be restricting myself in that way and I don't want to live my life afraid of upsetting/ fighting with a professor. But I don't actually know this professor... maybe he's great? It's unknown.
- CSU and Fort Collins seem to have a huge meat culture and meat industry, which as someone who believes in animal rights, would be less than ideal to be around.
- Although I was offered a fully funded TA-ship, the stipend is barely enough to live on. It's about $13,000 per year (possibly more, but not less), and I have to pay "fees" each semester that amount to about $2000 per year, which means my stipend would actually be about $11,000 per year. I grew up fairly poor, so I could make this work (I've lived on less than $800 per month for 3 people), but I would not enjoy that kind of financial constraint. I don't know why my tuition is waived but that $2000 in "fees" isn't waved.
- I would have to live with a roommate (if I can even find one...) I've looked at housing all over Fort Collins, but there's nothing within biking distance (I consider "biking distance" to be within an hour of biking, but preferably within 30 minutes of biking. Now I bike to work and it takes 30 minutes there and back) that's under $700 a month for a studio apartment. After having lived by myself for 3 years, I don't think I'd like roommates. Especially loud roommates who throw wild parties or invade my privacy, which is hard to know if I have to choose a place without actually meeting the people in person. CSU did find one house for me which owned by two roommates who seem like they value the same kind of living arrangement that I do, but they have a very strict moving-in deadline of June, and my contract here in Japan ends in August. There is no way I could leave earlier than late July. I love my job and I wouldn't want to make things difficult for them by leaving early and I wouldn't want to feel rushed saying goodbye to everyone I care about here. Something I've discovered about living on my own is that I am very private person and so this is a pretty big factor for me. I have no way of truly knowing who my roommates would be before moving there. I would rather live in a tiny, fairly run-down place by myself than a big, luxurious place with strangers, but I am not sure that would be option if I went to CSU.
- This school and this area are places that I know the least about and I do not have any friends who live there, so if I end up not getting along with the professors or other graduate students, then I would be stuck in a place without a support network.
- I've heard this is a party school. I am not a party person (concerts are another story).
- From searching the website, I couldn't find much about doing theatre in CSU or Fort Collins. Theatre is my hobby, and I've been acting since I was 5. I even found a theatre group here in rural Japan. I'm sure there's something, but if it's not on campus or otherwise hard to get to or get involved with, then I would be very disappointed.
-It seems a car might be necessary to explore around the state (or expensive and slow buses).
- The diversity at the university seems to be lacking. There aren't many international students at all and most of the people seem to be white.
- I'm not sure if CSU is really that well regarded and it might be harder for me to get a job or into a PhD program. (This is not terribly important to me, because I think a program is what you make of it, but it is a factor)
- I have to take "remedial" classes because my minor was philosophy and not my major (this isn't a big deal, but it is a little annoying)
-If I'm not living near my family, then what's even the point of being in the US? It's not where I want to be. I wish the program were in Europe! But is that a silly reason to not do a program? I consider the place one is to be very important.
- What if Trump becomes president? I'd have to leave mid-program.
Florida State University
- If my brother gets into his PhD program, then we could study at the same university together and live together! I miss my brother and my mom very much after having been away for almost 3 years (I did visit, but only briefly). It would be amazing to have his support and to be able to hang out and study together. Also, with our combined stipends, we could find an apartment and live together. We get along very well and he's one of the few people whom I wouldn't mind living with, because we respect each other's space, know about and tolerate each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies, and we're family. My good friend's little brother died recently and I've been thinking a lot about how terrible it would be to not have taken the time to study near him and my family if anything should happen to them. This is a very big consideration for me. I could always go to Europe after I get my masters to work or to do a PhD. I don't really want to be in the US (I spent 20 years there and I want to live in other parts of the world), but if I am going to be in the US, then at least I would be near my family. It would be a good break from traveling to be home for a bit.
-My stipend would be fairly large ($16,000) and enough for me to live on. Even if my brother and I don't share an apartment, then I could get a studio apartment fairly close to campus (within biking distance) for under $500 a month, which would leave me room for other living expenses and even a few splurges on travel now and again (the only thing I really splurge on).
-The grad student whom I spoke to seems really nice and she said that there's a strong (but small) network of female philosophers who support each other there.
- Some of the professors seem like they'd be fascinating to work with! My friend said that many of them are warm and friendly and always asking about her life and trying to help her in many ways. That's a big plus for me.
- The philosophy program is well regarded and I think I wouldn't have a problem getting into a PhD program. I'd get a strong foundation in analytic philosophy. I could get a lot of great references to help me get a job or into a PhD program.
-The program is considered one of (if not THE) strongest program in the country for philosophy of action, which is an interest of mine (not as strong as applied ethics or political/social philosophy though). They seem to have some strong social/political philosophers whom I think I would enjoy working with.
-They recently started a graduate certificate in Bioethics program, so I could possibly do my masters and get a certificate in bioethics too. And because they have a bioethics certificate program, it leads me to believe that their bioethics program must be getting stronger.
- I would start right away with the masters without having to do "foundation" or "remedial" courses just because my minor was in philosophy and not my major.
- Tallahassee is very liberal. It's this little progressive oasis in a sea of conservativism and bible-belt.
- Tallahassee and Florida in general are warm and have great weather all year for exploring forests and biking. I grew up in Florida and am very much a swamp person. I like the swamps and the wetlands and feel very at peace there.
- Florida State has one of the most renowned theatre programs in the country and I would love to get involved with theatre there. Doing just a small bit of research, I could find a lot of plays to audition for.
- Tallahassee is a very pretty city and easy to bike around from what my friends tell me. It's small, but not too small.
- I know Florida very well. I know how things work there and how to get to various places, so there wouldn't be a big adjustment period for me.
-I'd have my own office and have office hours.
- I know some really cool people in this area, including some of my favorite Rotarians (one of whom is a big hippie, a bit like myself) with whom I could volunteer and I'd always have a support network. I could volunteer with exchange students and refugees, which is something that makes me deeply happy.
-My brother's department still hasn't gotten back to him and they said that they will get back to him "by 15th April," which means that he might not know until the 15th of April, which is the day I need to tell CSU and FSU where I want to go. I would thus have to decide on that day (sorry to the people on the wait list for FSU and CSU! I'm not trying to make things hard for you). This puts me in a really weird position where I have to wait to hear where he decides to go (well, I don't HAVE to, but I want to). He is also waiting to hear back from NYU and a few other top schools. I'm fairly sure he'll get in, but nothing is ever 100% and even if he gets in, he might not decide to go there. But he wants to go to the same school as me too, and he also has a lot of friends who go to FSU, so it's certainly a possibility that he'd choose it. Would I really like it if my brother weren't there? I don't know.
- My friend who did her philosophy undergrad there said "It's very male," and "sexism and racism are definitely problems, but they're aware of this and trying to change this." She also said the male students by-and-large weren't very inclusive of the female students, and extremely condescending. My friend is brilliant and a hard worker and generally doesn't take shit from people, but even she was made to feel small and like her contributions didn't matter because she's female and not white. This is the major factor making me question FSU. The female philosophers are close to each other, which is great and I love that they're so supportive, but most of the program and professors are guys and that feels very unwelcoming to me. I don't want to not be able to talk to or interact with 70% of my cohort for fear that they'll treat me like I'm less than an equal.
-FSU hasn't been trying to "court" me the way that CSU has, which doesn't make me feel as welcome. I sent an e-mail to a professor and while he was polite, he wasn't particularly warm or friendly and he didn't answer one of my big questions. I got the feeling I was annoying him.
-FSU offers both a terminal MA and a PhD, I'd be afraid I would be ignored by the professors in favor of the PhD students.
-I lived in Florida for so long and I want something new. I don't really want to go back... it feels like a regression.
-It will likely take 3 years, which is longer than I would like for a Masters to take. I could deal with 2 years in Florida. Another 3 years and I'd start to feel antsy, I think.
-There are about 50 gradute students, which means more people to interact with than CSU, but also maybe larger classes and less personalized attention.
-The university has tried to cover up rapes. That is despicable to me... and scary.
-Full of frats (There's a strong correlation between frats on campus and an increase in rape on campus)
- Huge football culture, which often means a culture in which violence, and noteably violence against women, is seen as more acceptable (there's a reason that human trafficking shoots through the roof during Super bowl season...)
-The university covered up the fact that some of the football players didn't actually earn their grades. As a TA and a grader, I would refuse to give someone a grade they didn't deserve and I'd be worried I might be pressured, harassed, or kicked out of school if I didn't help football players get grades they don't deserve so they can earn the university money.
-Open carry policy on campus. After living in a country without guns where I could comfortably walk around at night even in the darkest places and still feel safe, it would be really hard to go back to a place where I or one of my friends could be shot because someone thinks their 2nd amendment right is more important than my/my friend's right to life. As liberal as Tallahassee is, I can't believe they're so gun happy.
-I think the mascot is pretty racist. I've done research on this and while the Seminole people as a whole have said they do not find it racist, a lot of other first nations groups do find it racist. Also (and this isn't FSU's fault, per se), UF often makes signs like "The gators will massacre the Seminoles," which is very disturbing. http://www.thenation.com/article/florida-state-seminoles-champions-racist-mascots/
-My friend is a GA at UF and they do their collective bargaining with FSU, apparently they've been mistreating GAs, because my friend and the other GAs at UF have been protesting conditions and raises in tuition and drops in stipends for a years. I think the stipend is actually pretty fair, but I haven't worked there yet...
- I wouldn't be able to teach (or would have little opportunity to teach), and would mostly be grading papers. I HATE grading papers. I do it now and I don't like it. On the plus side, I would have more personal time for my own studies.
Eramus Mundus Global Studies Program (I haven't been officially accepted into this program this year, but I was accepted last year without the scholarship and thus I'm fairly sure I'll be accepted this year, because I have a stronger application with a more targeted statement of purpose and more work and volunteer experience. What I am not sure of is if I will recieve the full Erasmus Mundus Scholarship)
- If I get the full Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, I will be paid to live and study in Europe. That would be a dream come true.
-Even if I don't receive the Erasmus Mundus scholarship, I won't be paying much (they offered me a half-tuition waver last year, so I'd be paying very little), I'd be eligible for other scholarships, and living costs in the cities of the consortium are relatively low (except London, but I probably wouldn't be placed there because I didn't request it and it's popular)
- The program is flexible enough for me to make it suit my interests.
- It's a program that would help me choose any future path that I choose and would give me a lot of contacts in the field
-I'd be able to add to my arsenal of languages which would help me get a lot of international jobs (I could learn German, Polish, and/or Danish) and possibly add to my collection of languages that only one country speaks!
- If I do get the scholarship, then I'd be free to travel all over Europe without any worry of debt and I might even be able to save money if I'm frugal.
-It's only 2 years.
-Beautiful natural surroundings
- Art and theatre at my fingertips!
- The whole program is composed of people from all different backgrounds and countries!
-In Leipzig and Vienna they have theatre groups in English that I could join
- I won't know if I'll get the scholarship until May or June and I have to tell Colorado State and Florida State my plans by 15th August. This really puts a wrench in my plans and has made making a decision difficult.
- If I get into this school and get the scholarship and decide to go, then I'd have to break my contract with FSU or CSU and I'd probably burn some bridges and that is not fun,
- If I am given the scholarship, I'd have only 2-3 months to get together all the visa paperwork while already going through paperwork hell here in Japan to prepare for leaving (Japan LOVES annoying, pointless paperwork that can only be completed during work hours at the most pain-in-the-ass to get to places in the prefecture... I love Japan, but the paperwork and mindless bureaucracy seem like they were made as a torture mechanism sometimes.)
- I won't know anybody there and getting set up could be difficult, but I think the program would help.
-If I wanted to go to into teaching philosophy, then I'm not sure having this degree would help me (but it certainly wouldn't hurt)
Erasmus Mundus Euroculture program
- I was accepted and I am one of their top candidates. I am in the top 5 in line for a full erasmus mundus scholarship, meaning if someone decides not to go, I could get full funding!
- I would get to study in France, specifically Strasbourg, which is beautiful!
-I would become fluent in French, finally, after having studied it for 4 years.
- The program is really flexible, so I could make it whatever I want. Students can choose the research track or the internship track, this would be great for me as I decide is I want to study more or go into the working world.
-I'd have a large network of people throughout Europe
- Theatre and art in France are amazing!
- I would be in the heart of Europe and travel would be easy.
-After living in France, I could choose another country to study in in Europe!
-Very international and full of students from all over the world.
- I have to wait for someone to decide they don't want to do the program. And even if I'm very high on the waiting list for funding... I'm still on the waiting list. And, because other Erasmus Mundus programs won't release their acceptances until later, I bet a lot of the scholarship holders might be waiting to see if they get the scholarship at another school before rejecting this school, which I understand, but which still puts me in a bad position. I wish all erasmus mundus programs announced their decisions at the same time! Actually, all schools should... it would make all of our lives so much easier!
-This program is very flexible, but it's also very vague.
-There wouldn't be a lot of English theatre groups in France
- I don't know many people in France.
- Like Global Studies and LSE, Visas and such will be a pain in the neck to do from my non-native country.