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dazedandbemused

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dazedandbemused last won the day on December 13 2014

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About dazedandbemused

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    Austin, TX
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    English PhD

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  1. Agree with the above, but want to add that the guidelines for what "knowing a foreign language" means vary across programs. My program requires two languages, but the university offers summer graduate language courses to help you check these off easily. I also wasn't aware that the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) can be taught separately. For example, I can do a decent translation of something written in french, but if you asked me to speak or listen to people speaking French I'd have no idea what's going on. I've never needed more than that throughout research. It would be a good idea to find out which skills you need to be proficient in for your desired programs, especially if you don't think languages will be important to your work.
  2. That really is quite lucky. I'm relatively certain I could create a band called Catastrophically Jaded from the ashes of my cohort!?
  3. As a fellow old ABD (I think @jrockford27 and I started around the same time?) I want to second all of this advice, but I also want to reassure you that you really don't need to be an expert in your potential field when you apply. That's what the whole experience is for! That said, your need to interrogate and expand your own knowledge base is something that will absolutely serve you well through the process. I don't think it's possible to be truly engaged in the process without constantly looking for ways to refine your goals and writing, and I think a good SOP shows that more than anything. You don't need to know exactly where you're headed or what you will write about, but you do need to show that you can visualize a way to enter scholarly debate in a rigorous and well-read manner--like you said, instincts for research. When it comes to being aware of the current conversation in your field, I usually start by looking at bibliographies from the books that really inspire me. If there are one or more monographs that you consider faves, and it takes numerous paths of inquiry around your area, bibliography sleuthing is the way to go. Use the hard work of others to make your life easier! I cannot stress enough how much that feeling of ignorance will only increase as you realize that there is literally more to read in your subfield than you could ever possibly touch. I'm graduating May 2019, and I still feel that way. I have friends who graduated and got jobs and still feel like they don't really know what they're doing. Most defenses I've attended focus more on the questions generated with very few real answers to show, because the dissertating process primarily exists to teach you how to construct and interrogate your questions more clearly. You mostly have to force yourself to tunnel in on the things that really matter to you and let that guide your research/progress, rather than hoping for a moment when you finally feel that you've got a hang on it. I'm pretty sure that moment is when they finally promote you to full professor lol. TL;DR you're already asking the right questions, try not to get bogged down in the existential horror
  4. Great questions, honestly. I didn't think to ask them and am, five years later, super grateful that I chose well on these counts anyway (other than campus carry which I'll get back to). Health insurance is actually really good. It has reasonable copays and since it's such a big system, is taken pretty much everywhere in TX. While they do throw you right into TAing, it's very much a supported experience. The department has cubicles in a separate building for you to hold office hours, as well as tiny but workable office cubes that are only shared by two people (I wouldn't recommend trying to work in there at the same time though, lol). You also get access to much larger cubes with windows once you enter candidacy. There's a graduate lounge (which you'll be visiting the first day I believe) that has computers and a copier for teaching materials, as well as a sink area with all you'd need to warm up or store meals you bring from home. As far as bureaucracy, the grad admin people are excellent. I recommend getting on Patricia and Cassandra's good side! They can help you fix just about any problem. As to the multi-campus system, I haven't found it to make any particular difference in how things are run. In many ways all of the campuses here operate independently, and I also think that UT Austin being the main campus means that what happens here is the rule. Now, there are definitely some things that you'll encounter that will be bureaucratic nightmares, like submitting your MA report or Dissertation to the Main Building. But for the most part, the in-house team makes it super easy. Although you do have to walk to the other side of campus to pick up your keys...but I only had to do that once! Now to campus carry. It's kind of amusing you should ask now, because yesterday we were actually notified of two instances where people had brought their concealed carry weapons to campus and then left them lying around. Twice. In one day. The English dept is extremely anti-campus carry however, which helps to off-set the existential horror.
  5. It's not impossible to get a pass, but most people in the department don't. That's primarily because the pass isn't a guarantee of parking, it just gives you access to certain kinds of campus parking. I had a friend who bought a pass our first year and ended up never using it because the traffic near campus is so congested that parking fills up quickly. There are a few garages and many people use metered parking in West Campus so if that would work for you, I'd recommend those options before paying for the pass.
  6. I can't add much to silenus' great advice, other than to reinforce how expensive rent can be. I'm a 5th year and when I first moved here my apartment was 575; that same apartment is now renting for 925. There are still some great gems left, but it's definitely an extra stressor. It's also totally true that collegiality is important in the department. My cohort and the cohort ahead of us (affectionately-ish called the brohort) have spent tons of time together over the years and I think most people have ease finding a good group of friends to bitch and moan with. There have also been a number of programmatic changes in the last two years that IMO will only improve the grad experience. Good luck choosing! I came here specifically for my diss advisor and she has been everything I hoped and more.
  7. Seconding every word of this. I also want to add to OP, you really shouldn't feel bad about not being good at research. Quality research takes practice! I'm finishing my first dissertation chapter, and have had the luck of being in a collaborative department and seeing many dissertators before me. It's very easy to compare yourself to the books and articles you've read, and despair. But I've learned over the last few years that you don't already have to be researching and writing at that level to do a PhD. I'd argue that you don't even have to be writing at a monograph level to complete a PhD. Graduate school is entirely about the process of becoming better at these things, and you don't have to show up killing the game. There is not a single graduating senior English major in this country who is prepared to make an original contribution to the field, and I will put money on that. You can be writing the best papers your professor has ever seen, but you just won't have the breadth of knowledge and understanding of the conversation that you need until you get to your comprehensive exams. Take a deep breath, you'll be okay!
  8. Congrats Lyoness*! It's been so weird seeing people who started only a year or two before me finally finish. It feels so close and yet so far! *(I've always remembered you be cause Tamora Pierce is bae)
  9. Yup, positive. It was in an email from the DGS this morning about getting involved during recruitment weekend, but it may take awhile for them to actually get every single decision out, since I think they do individual emails?
  10. If this helps anyone's anxiety, I just heard that UT just sent out all their admission decisions!
  11. Yes, exactly! I'm sure if I actually get a job, I'd be much more like my current casual self, but I want to have a great interview bag so I don't give off grad student vibes. Thanks for the suggestions! These bags are gorgeous! Thanks for the idea! I'm seriously just bookmarking my favorite bag from all the sites y'all suggested.
  12. Okay, so that title was clickbait. But basically, I'm in the market for a new bag and I'm looking for an investment. If all of the writing lines up as hoped, I'm about a year and a half out from the job market, so I'll need at least a year to decide on the best bag because I'm extremely indecisive when it comes to spending good money. So my question is, what kind of bags do you all recommend? I'm traditionally a jansport kinda girl, but I'm hoping to get a messenger bag with good capacity and quality materials. I'd like it to be my bag for a good few years, so durability and clean construction are a must, but style is absolutely my biggest factor here. Anybody have a bag or know of a bag like this? Gotta shed that grad student skin sometime! (though not for awhile)
  13. Maybe I can provide some more context? I mentioned in your thread about NYU that I'm at UT Austin, and it's one of those programs with no terminal MA, but each cohort is composed of about 60/40 BA holders to MA holders. The only major difference is that MA holders have one less year guaranteed funding and BA holders are required to write a short MA thesis at the end of the second year. This also means you can't really transfer any outside credit. I was a BA only entrance in 2013, and I'd agree with everything @kayrabbit and @Warelin said (hey y'all!). In particular, I want to focus on the idea that BA holders are substantively better applicants because that's sooooo not the case. It is becoming more common for programs to want to solely train their students, as there is a wide variation in departmental styles and concerns. Some departments are theory heavy, while others are more historicist or ecocritical in focus. Some require a wide ranging knowledge of the field through coursework, while others allow students complete control to study what piques their interest. It can be hard for someone to receive an MA from one type of program and then move to another institution for the PhD, and it's almost impossible to understand a program's true culture without actually being immersed in it. That's just part of the many reasons why programs could prefer BA holders. On the other hand, I've just thought back on my cohort (which we consider whoever you entered with), and having started with 13 other BA holders, 4 of those people have left the program; two wrote their MA report and left, another left after a year, and one stayed for three years but left before comps. On the other hand, all of the people from my cohort with MAs are still here, and that's because they, for the most part, were aware of what they were getting into, having done it (to a lesser extent) for two years. That didn't mean they had a better grasp on their actual research or that they were leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of us, but the BA holders were also fumbling idiots. As someone who is actually writing about what I said I would in my SOP, trust me. I was still an actual idiot who rambled on about my half-baked ideas that I was excited about, but I've been able to take any class I wanted and that strange mix of influences has helped me articulate an actual dissertation topic where before I just had interests. My roommate otoh came in with an MA, and very much felt like she was starting from scratch, but she also came in with an approach to doing the work that can only be gained from experience. Our progress through the program has been right on schedule, but our actual day to day experience of working with professors in our fields is so radically different that we can only laugh/cry sometimes. All this to say, if you get in with a BA, thank whoever you swear at and don't worry about feeling inadequate. If you have to do an MA and apply again, you'll gain some useful knowledge that will cut down the ridiculously steep learning curve that is coursework. I went to a small university that no one's ever heard of for my BA, and one of my friends from there is also pursuing her English PhD. She chose to take an MA acceptance the year we applied, whereas I took a break year in Pittsburgh and got into a straight to PhD on my second try. Five years later, we talk regularly about how our experiences have differed now that she's in her second year at her PhD institution, whereas I'm a fourth year at Austin. The differences in experiences are huge, but we're both happy with our choices. Neither way is the only right way, and you'll get where you need to go.
  14. Ha, sorry to keep you all in suspense! I've been doing my winter travel and don't check this site nearly enough as it is. So, I applied to PhD programs in the 2012 and 2013 cycles, and in Spring 2012 (I had my math slightly off in the first post!) I applied to NYUs PhD and was instead accepted to their MA. Being the bright-eyed and ignorant college senior I was, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity, but the price made me want to check it out first. I visited on a day when the MA students would meet up in the department for chat and coffee, and some of the things that I found unsettling only make sense in serious hindsight. To be clear, I don't blame anyone who does go to the program. It can be really hard to get honest information about whether paying for an English MA from a top program is worth the money, but I think the answer is unequivocally no. I met students that day who were excited to be studying in a wonderful program, but were also deeply stressed by the two or three jobs they were working to live in Manhattan, or the long commute they were making to keep costs down. Most of them had dreams of going on to a PhD, and the woman who showed me around most of the day was hopeful about her waitlist position at Harvard. I also noticed that there wasn't really any effort on the department's part to have me interact with any faculty, which I think speaks a lot to the value that they place on their MA students. Most of the students I spoke to would talk about their advisor and somehow intimate that the advisor was "just so busy". FYI, a busy advisor is good, but they should never be too busy for you if they care about your career. And nobody seemed willing to admit that $100,000 total in tuition over two years was an absurd amount of money. I didn't really understand the job market and the very real devaluation of the humanities, but I did know that that wasn't a deal I was willing to take. I ended up getting an offer of a one year post-bac fellowship from UPitt, and it was, IMO, the perfect example of what academia should be doing. They paid me for the pleasure of taking graduate seminars for the first time, and I had a wonderful advisor who was also part of the WGS program that vetted all of my PhD app materials, and gave me excellent advice about how to tell if something is a good offer. If they don't want to invest their time or their money in you, then it's just not worth it. I'm now an ABD 4th year at UT Austin, and I can promise you that I never would have had anywhere near this success if people hadn't invested time and money into getting me here. A PhD is an uphill battle, and your program shouldn't make it worse.
  15. Hey! Old school part-time lurker here. I'm not and never have been enrolled in the NYU MA program, but I was accepted there in 2013 and did visit with their grad students on one occasion. I have many thoughts about the program (none particularly great) so would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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