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TK2

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  1. TK2

    What are your guilty pleasures?

    Urban planning in science fiction. Or science fiction in urban planning. And geography of romance novels (why the Greek Billionaires Virgin Kidnapped Bride? Why never French?) Stuff like that, some intersection of literature and geography. I do pretty pragmatic transport planning and development stuff, so learning the theory and methods from literature would just make this a huge and ridiculous digression that I would probably never be good at, but I think there's an interesting vein here. Basically, I want someone to write about why no French billionaires and how Star Trek left an imprint on our cities, but there doesn't seem to be much going on there from the geographer's side, so I'm left with that impulse to 'write what you want to read.'
  2. TK2

    Moving Abroad - What To Take With You

    I can't imagine anyone is going to think you're 'weird' for having three suitcases of clothes when moving for years to foreign country!!! To the contrary, I'm worried people will think I'm a freak when I make a trans-continental, long term move and show up with a single carryon, which is the one mid-sized backpack of stuff that I have. I've been travelling a fair amount for work for the past few years and kind of de-accumulated. I tend to buy a very small set of very cheap basics (I don't really need anything more formal than jeans and a t-shirt on a daily basis), wear them until they're floor rags (about four-six months, usually) and then start over. And I have serious dearth of winter stuff, being from a hot climate and mostly working in same. I actually started a list of all stuff to take as some weird procrastination - this is specific items. The black shoes. The blue dress with the pattern - and have managed to get to 21 items. Including, like, that pair of expensive warm hiking socks and my nice grownup pantyhose that I wear for conference presentations. Er. Adulting. And that's the expanded, 'optional' list. A couple clothes tips I got, was thrift shops (salvation army, etc) and ordering expensive items off-season (like, apparently now is the best time for serious winter gear, so order it and have it shipped to friends to sit around until needed.) I'm actually more stressed about building up a semi-usable kitchen - I've never had to get everything from scratch. Pots, pans, forks, glasses, dish towels, can openers...there are so many things you don't realize you need until you don't have them... Furniture I can take or leave, to be honest - most of my apartments have essentially consisted of a mattress and pile of clothes in a box - though I think I'm having some weird nesting instinct at the thought of being in one place for four+ years. A friend got me coasters (coasters!) for Christmas and I was actually delighted (I mean, they're cute and have a pattern that matches my studies, which is why she got them, I was just surprised to be excited by them as coasters, rather than as design per se, you know?) and suddenly imagining the mugs to go with them and the table they'd stand on and having friends over and making them hot drinks in the mugs on the coasters on the table, which might be on a rug...etc. Ok just this train of thought freaks me out. What the hell. (I used to live in an anarcho-marxist commune. I have issues with stuff.) I think its something about the solidity and attention to comfortableness of American life and built environment though - I mean, take driers. They're ridiculous by any measure. No one should even need a drier. And then you get your clothes dried and my goodness, it's delightful. So maybe i'm having this sense of...If I want to do the full experience of this moving thing- get coasters and rugs and dry your clothes and own more than 21 items of clothes. Dunno. Minor existential crisis over here. Ok, that was a weird digression. Tl;dr - take your clothes. Suitcases are fine. Just check if its cheaper to ship a mass of items over or take them on the flight.
  3. TK2

    2017-2018 Application Cycle

    Not a peep for 4 out of 7 for me. One place sent me an informal note to say they were still working on finalizing their admissions and would be done soon (...two weeks ago) and a few rejections have trickled out on the results page for another (but no admissions), and its total silence elsewhere. And it's MARCH.
  4. TK2

    My IR Grad school horror story

    Oh good grief. I know goofballs with free degrees from tiny universities in Europe with successful careers in international development. I also know whiny, entitled, self-pitying jackasses without a shred of professionalism, who polish and polish the exotic story of their rebellious exile like they were Ernest Hemingway with TESOL certificate while dialing in every job they've ever had. Who spend most of their time, as far as I can tell, blaming their school/internship/other school for never being quite elite enough, as a fixture of the corner of whatever bar the World Bank people hang out in. OP has one thing right - there are a lot like him.
  5. TK2

    How far are you willing to commute?

    There's probably no point - not to mention, it's useless and inappropriate - to start giving you career, much less relationship, advice, but trying to make a significant career that makes you happy work and also be in a relationship doesn't require that you make some compromises - it requires that both you and your partner make some compromises. One person making all the compromises and the other making no compromises adds up to one miserable person, and that's you. There's no balance you will ever find if your partner is so utterly inflexible and unconcerned towards you. Frankly, elements of the way you write - the distinctly gendered, highly demanding and typically low-paying jobs you list, the quickness with which you can apparently be pursuaded out a PhD you've apparently been accepted to in favour of your partners frankly childish-sounding refusal to live apart or move, even temporarily, your complete self-abnegation to his goals and dreams - that makes this sound either borderline abusive, or fabulistically melodramatic. The career dilemmas of having master's degree and a grad-student partner are not between housecleaning and a PhD. The field of employment options and career trajectories here are just a bit wider than that. Either you're in a deeply disturbing and unequal relationship that will never allow you to do anything you actually want, or you're talking yourself into some sort of oddly, and I think unnecessarily, self-sacrificial martyrdom-ish position. If you really want to do a PhD, and are genuinely not happy with any of the options you have this year - improve your application and try again, including outside your city. If you are happy with one of the options you have, demand your partner make some compromises. If they won't, you'll never have a PhD. If a PhD is not really what you want, examine - seriously - the career options available in New York City with a Master's degree. Do this, if possible, drawing on what your interests and inclinations are, not on what paints a picture of total selfless supportiveness for your partner's 'dreams'. If you can't imagine any of the above, leave him and get therapy. Do not take on an 8-hour daily commute. It's not a thing. You won't get a PhD and you'll ruin your health and your career and probably your relationship. No ifs.
  6. TK2

    How far are you willing to commute?

    Bluntly, I think your answer to Question 7 seems to raise some red flags and render the whole topic moot. A three-hour each way commute is not doable more than once a week or so. That's six hours, lets count it up. And I want to double check you're looking at door-to-door time, not general travel time between the two cities. And you're in NY, right? We're not talking a predictable commute between some cornfields here. There will be days - many days - when it will be worse, when the subway isn't running, when a car is stuck, when a road is blocked. Anyway, that's all pointless - even an exactly six hour commute is not healthy, physically or mentally, not safe if you're driving, and generally not doable with any kind of job - much less a PhD. The prospects of you finishing exactly on time, exactly as your partner is ready for the postdoc - considerations of which apparently you don't figure into in the slightest - seem pretty slim, much less finishing well, with your six hour commute. And even if you do, what next? Follow your partner to Europe, where you'll need to find yet another position that revolves around them, probably another six hour commute away? (And what about if you don't? Will you leave it with a year or a semester to go?) Are you willing to keep doing this for the foreseeable future? I know a number of dual-academic couples with crazy commutes and complicated international decisions making issues, and it works - barely - because both partners are willing to do what's necessary to make it work for eachother, not expect to be revolved around like a soul-sucking black hole. Frankly, if you're putting his career so far ahead of yours anyway, a PhD seems like a terrible choice - finish your masters, get a great job, make loads of money and significant career progress and dump their broke, immature grad student ass and build yourself up as someone with a more flexible and transferrable skillset and professional experience that doesn't reduce your to cleaning houses (a fine job. My mother did it) or cashiering (another, I did. But neither are a smart long-term career choice with a master's degree) as you follow your partner around. If you're really passionate about research and your field, and a PhD is just what you want to be doing, then balancing it with a six hour commute seems to leave you with nothing either way.
  7. This was basically the case for me as well, where the expectation is that the thesis scope is roughly equal to one decent paper, in terms of actual research conducted. I mean, for an MA, pretty much everyone comes at it from scratch, right? The challenge, and advantage, of doing it in paper form rather than lengthy thesis form is - in my opinion, and I like to write lengthily (obviously), and possibly in the social sciences/humanities, ie, wordy fields - is that writing an academic paper is a more punctilious, frustrating, highly scrutinized and all around difficult format. As someone put it to me - I was going to work harder for a good final grade, because there's something to the heft of 100 pages that automatically gives you a bit of credit. The purpose of a thesis, as I understood it, was basically to show your work - here's everything I did, here's everything I found out, here's everything I theorize about it, here's all the literature to back that up. For the paper, all that everything turned out to go straight in the trash. All my reading! My brilliant insight into the connection between this and that! That super interesting thing I found out that had also been found out somewhere else! All the fancy mid-century French philosophy! Anything well established, or not directly relevant to the research question and argument, or not novel has no room in a paper, and figuring that out and figuring out the distinction was the really tricky bit, but also the one I learned something from. (A kind of academic serenity prayer.) So, I mean, I obviously support writing a paper and am grateful to have had the experience at this stage (not to mention, you know, a paper). At the same time, it's not necessarily the quicker path just because its shorter, and if there's time pressure, and you've never done it before, and you just want to move the hell on - I might well go for churning out the old 100 pages. In some ways its more straightforward. You can always come back and rework to a paper later.
  8. I turned down a funded offer last year, but it was a pretty steep stack of issues with both the university and the applications. This is a bit lengthy, but there was a lot of thinking and justifying involved, so here it all is: On my side, it had been a somewhat premature and, in retrospect, slightly half-assed cycle of applications. I'd gotten waitlisted at two top programs and accepted to third without funding (UK school) and rejected from 2 where I hadn't even contacted anyone (one of which was Harvard, so why even count that?) so not exactly a thorough application season. I still had a full year of my MA to go, including all the thesis work (my supervisor had kindly written me a letter after knowing me all of two weeks. It wasn't the greatest, obviously) and it was actually pretty dodgy whether I'd even manage to finish the MA in time to be in the US in September, as our school year (international student here, to add to it all) runs much later - the deadline for my thesis wasn't until January 1st (as in, six weeks ago), and that was the early one that no one ever actually met (I did!!!). Even my first year grades were only half in at that point, and I had all sorts of dodgy looking notes explaining what happened with this course or that one, as I'd also spent most of a semester of that one year abroad for work, hanging on to student status by a single course and a lot of slack from professors (and my BA was pretty bad and really needed the much better MA transcripts to balance it. MA GPA was 3.9 to 3.1 in the BA, but I needed, well, more of it.) I also found out the two people from my MA program who I knew in good US programs for PhD had both taken two rounds, so it somehow normalized taking another year. On the university's side, the funding was a bit unclear and tied to a project that the POI had which was about as far from what I wanted to be doing as was possible while still being in the same general subfield, and with little seeming opportunity to transition to my interests (in a big way - everything from part of the world to basic methodology) They just weren't in the particular program's ballpark (I'd applied because of the POI, but as it turned out, he'd moved on and didn't have any immediate prospects of getting back to that work.) The university is also known for a good MA program, not so much for PhD - basically, I would have just about put myself out of the running for a realistic shot at an academic research career down the line then and there, which was something that dawned on me throughout the application process, but that I didn't have a good sense of going in. To add to it all, I wasn't thrilled about the city. So, I talked to the POI after I was admitted, tentatively brought some of this up, and he basically told me right away to give it another year and took the decision as made then and there. From his perspective, there was just no way I'd be done in time anyway, and I guess we both sensed I wanted to give this another go (his own PhD was from one of those top programs I was waitlisted at, as he candidly admitted). So a decision I expected to agonize over for weeks and weeks was done in a twenty minute skype call (I still had the two waitlists trickle in with negatives though, just to really stretch it out), which I was ridiculously grateful for. I also had really solid prospects on an improved application a year later. The thesis turned into a paper, and so did that long work trip; a half-dozen international conferences; completed MA (I lie. I still have one credit left on the damn thing. But my transcripts don't have a note anymore); a job lined up as a research assistant. There was also a lot more opportunities for 'soft' stuff this year, which I was much more proactive about taking - networking and building mentoring relationships with my professors, participating in organizing conferences and research groups with somewhat-more-senior peers (PhD students, post-docs) who provided a lot of insight and support into giving me feedback on my research, improving the application and pushing me to do more reaching out to schools I was interested in, including following up with the waitlisted schools and getting candid feedback on the application. (I did, via the POIs. They were nice and encouraging and it helped.) In fact, the process of applying the first time brought me into networks - both locally and internationally - that have opened a few professional and academic doors that have in turn made for a better PhD application. This year round, I have two funded admissions to top 10 programs (including a top 3, I think - small field, not sure if there's an official ranking) and possibly still waiting on a few more. So absolutely not regretting the decision - It's been a great, really productive, really confidence- and resilience-building year, and I feel way, way more ready to tackle a PhD than I did last year. I'm also not nearly as resentful of having a 'gap' as I did at first. I've gotten so much work done - working on a book chapter and a 3rd paper I'm hoping to have in decent form by the time I move, and I'm an assistant on 3 (!) separate research projects (all paid) that are each very cool and much more in my field than what I would have been doing for that PhD - that it just feels like making good progress. Socially speaking its been a bit of a limbo - bouncing between sublets and my parents and feeling like I have a foot out of the door - but also kind of fun and almost relaxing. So...to summarize, it was definitely the right call for me, but only because I knew I had a good way of using that time to genuinely make for a stronger application and that it had been a close-but-not-quite (+ a smidge of bad luck) application last year. If I didn't have that knowledge, or if I got a pile of waitlists as well this year, I would have gone with the lower ranked program because I know there's nothing more I could do between now and a third round that would be as big of a leap. Good luck, it's a tough call.
  9. I just got through doing my MA thesis as an article. The rules were that my supervisors had to approve submission to a journal (and it had to be actually submitted) but that's it, it didn't have to be accepted yet. It was definitely the right way to go, primarily because I'd have gone on to re-work it to a paper anyway and just got to lose the intermediate step, but it was also harder. I wasn't expecting it to be harder - write 15 pages instead of 150? Easy! - but as it turned out the level of nitpicking and struggles over every little thing with one of my supervisors were through the roof once it was a paper her name was on rather than a thesis no one else would ever read (she had other issues as well, so hopefully its not representative, but a point), and secondly the writing was just a more intellectually intense process. I realized in retrospect it really would have been easier to put together a lengthy thesis that touched on every single thing I found interesting as I was working through the literature and built up my way through the obvious connections and so on. Boiling that down to essentials, throwing out the obvious, the easy, the ste-by-step and figuring out what was actually novel and worth getting published (as opposed to the job of the thesis, which is to prove what I know) was more challenging and probably more interesting. I'm not sure which would have taken more time, or if having a longer version first and then paring it down would have made it easier.
  10. TK2

    What's your commute time/routine?

    Yeah, its definitely an average, and it evolves as people's lives evolve as well - the time constraints of being a parent to a young child, long work hours, etc, compared to extra value for a larger home just as a family is growing and kids getting older and needing more space and so on. Its a useful concept in big-picture planning, because it counters that assumption that all else being equal, people will always choose to minimize travel time (for example, your innocent transport planner of yore thought that if we make the train faster or highways bigger, people will spend less time commuting. People turned out to be sneaky buggers. They kept their commute time and moved further away and built bigger houses. The former has positive externalities, the latter negative. Pity city planners.) It does also become relevant on the micro level (a bit) precisely at institutions like universities, where people might actually be living in the same building as work, entertainment, and everything else - this way of looking at commuting emerged as a critique of hyper-rationalistic, modernist assumptions about behaviour, back when they were actually into building massive complexes that would somehow house all of everyone's needs under a single roof (especially popular in communist countries, but the west saw its share of experiments of this kind as well), but which for some reason never seemed to work out. Those have fallen seriously out of fashion, for the most part - except, for example, at universities. Anyway, it turns out that all else being equal, that 5-10 minute walk is something of a preference (on average), and the 30 minute commute largely an indifference. This is probably not terribly useful for someone trying to decide how close to campus to live. (You can imagine how tortured my analysis of potential commutes has increasingly become...)
  11. TK2

    What's your commute time/routine?

    I moved around different apartments for undergrad/MA in the same city: 25 minutes, one bus direct to campus, the stop right in front of my apartment 30-40 minutes, stop five minute walk away 60-80 minutes, bus-LRT-bus connection 90-120 minutes, walk-bus-train-walk, two-three times a week to a different city (great commute though - always empty train.) A couple things to keep in mind with commute-satisfaction (this is actually kinda what I study) is the number of transfers - waiting time feels subjectively longer than time moving, and transfers add a layer of mental and physical effort. The effects of traffic and crowding at peak times, and your ability to travel off-peak (flexible academic schedules?) - even for road-separated transit (ie, metro or BRT line) crowded hours mean everything moves more slowly just due to masses of people getting on/off at each stop. The availability (and your own tendency) to take advantage of, say, free wifi on a bus or a table on a train (if it's crazy crowded, you're not going to get much done and get where you're going tired and miserable. On the other hand, I had a 90+ minute commute for a while that included an old and inefficient train route which had wifi, power, tables, great views, cheap coffee at the station and was so little used I had entire carriages to myself a few times. It was by far the pleasantest and most professionally productive hour of my day.) There's also something called Travel Time Tolerance, which suggests that there's a lower boundary on people's ideal commute as well, or a point below which it becomes all the same. Ie, living in the same building as your job, for example, might be a negative - people need and indeed, enjoy, having a commute to break up their day and physical environment and mentally and emotionally separate home from work (maybe not an issue for grad students...) Many of the commutes mentioned above I actually find a touch alarming . It's generally estimated - I think, I'd need to check properly to see where the research stands - that 30 minutes or so is the sweet spot, where reduction doesn't gain much in terms of quality of life...start going towards an hour though, and it's an active contributor to misery. Personally, the jump between the 60 minutes to the 25 minutes was a huge improvement for me and radiated out to pretty much every element of my life - social life, stress and energy levels, physical health, productivity, quality of sleep - even though I managed pretty well for about five years on the longer commutes. Trying to get my door-to-door time to under 30 minutes and minimizing transfers is a big point for me now a move is coming up.
  12. TK2

    Type of work done at home

    I'm also a coffeeshop person, and tend to get too comfy at home for solid concentration. That said, piecework stuff works well at home: searching for papers, organizing them, etc; emails; tweaking powerpoints for a presentation; tweaking an abstract; minor copyediting; various bureaucracies, like filling out a time-sheet or filing for reimbursements. So smallish things that take time, but don't necessarily require particularly deep engagement or focus. That all works for me while listening to TV or something and (theoretically) clears out somewhat the blocks of time when I should be reading in depth or writing.
  13. I think if I'm trying to assess the long-term value of a PhD, a lot of what you list intertwine into a single difficult-to-unravel and interdependent bundle. I want to get through the grad school in a way that positions me well for finding a decent job (academic or professional, in my case) on the other side. So, be done with a good record (publications, presentations, grants) and hopefully in decent time. That requires a fair balance between academic/research/publishing opportunities, and financial/time-stress/social-emotional stability to take advantage of them. The more 'quality-of-life' issues (location, funding, social and emotional life) then become less secondary, because the relationship between misery and productivity is not exactly mysterious, and I'm keenly aware that it's not enough to just get through with a bare minimum here. So the best academic environment is useless if I'm too stressed from lack of funding/time (because I'm working a lot due to lack of funding), etc to partake in it, and a department having a great track record for students is no good if I'm clashing with my advisor and don't have their full support (this is obviously impossible to know in advance, but having had a bad experience with my main supervisor for my MA, and the situation being rescued by having a secondary one who stepped in, I have definite preference for programs that spread out the risk of that very important relationship in some way - having multiple advisors from the start or picking an advisor only a few years in, for example.) Some people might be very strongly affected by location issues (distance from family, big city/small town, climate) that would impact them to the point of damaging health and well-being (and thus their work). And so on. Tl;dr, its hard to create a list of priorities - it's more of an individually subjectively weighted algorithm to see what choice adds up to the most points.
  14. I love my topic and I think spending a few years - and then, hopefully and more broadly, a career - digging into it obsessively is the most worthwhile thing my particular interests and aptitudes are good for, both for my own life-satisfaction and in terms of doing something useful and substantial within my profession.
  15. Depends on your program and supervisor and field, I suppose, but mine at least is downright aggressive about having her MA students present at international conferences, including scrounging up at least some funding if possible. Once you're accepted to a conference and have that invitation in hand, its surprising what you can sometimes turn up in university funding. In general my department at least seems to have an expectation that if you're doing a thesis - which only a fairly small minority do - it needs to be at a level where you've got at the very minimum enough there to present at one international conference (and preferably a paper.) (And then, some conferences will cover hotel fees or drop registration for students, sometimes. And of course some rare few will actually fund flights - I've been on the organizing end of that and I don't think anyones status as an MA/Phd/Emeritus Professor weighed particulalry heavily in choosing who got funding - it was all about fit with the conference and interest of the research.)
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