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  1. Situation: My doubts about graduate school have resurfaced and become more potent. While I am in my third year at a top ten university, I no longer think my department is right for me given my change in interests and disposition towards theory. The department is largely tilted towards early modern Europe while I am interested in near contemporary Europe. I accepted admission because it was the best offer and because I identified three faculty who worked on contemporary Europe. When I began coursework, I realized one of them had no interest in graduate students--I had very much wanted to do a field with them. Too bad, I told myself. Another had accepted to co-advise me, but, on the first day, told me he wasn’t my advisor. Ok...The third is my advisor. We get along fairly well and he's a cool person. My advisor is a brilliant historian of the time period I’m interested in studying, but his interests have shifted increasingly towards postmodernism. While I was initially enamored with postmodern thought, I no longer have any interests in postmodernism as a subject or as theory—the realization was gradual, but it’s clear as day now. My interest has shifted towards the history of a libearlism as a political philosophy and a political project in the same time and space. My advisor is not a foremost expert on the subject. Given the abysmal job market, it doesn’t seem rational to remain at a program that doesn’t provide me with the intellectual environment to produce the best research I could even if resources like funding are casually thrown around. I was foolishly ignorant when first applying to graduate school. With a bolstered resume (MA, languages, grants) and knowledge of what I’m actually doing as a historian, I could get into a better program that can better train me, advise me, and prepare me for the type of research and questions that interest me. This might include doing a JD PhD in order to have the legal wherewithal to address my questions. Although it would mean having to restart from scratch, I would know exactly what I would be getting myself into. I would thus be better positioned to finish a new program in five years, meaning I’d have spent nine years total combined in graduate school (since I wouldn't be able to apply until next year). The number seems high but the returns would be greater I think. I'll also have the peace of mind that I did everything within my abilities--no regrets. I am considering emailing a professor with whom I would love to work to get their opinion on my work and avenues of exploration. Perhaps this might lead to a better chance to get into said program. Competition is obviously tight at the top three, but an ardent advocate on the inside would be helpful. I’ve also considered contacting my undergraduate advisor and anonymously emailing department representatives at other universities to ask them their opinions regarding PhDs that transfer. Concerns: 1) I"m concerned about burning bridges with my advisor and maybe other professors even though I feel justified. 2) I would need letters of recommendation. I presume two professors with whom I did fields would grant me those, but I am not sure I should trust a letter from my advisor. 3) I'm not sure how graduate committees weigh a student who has dropped their program after four years, though my department recently took one on. 4) The top dogs know each other and the paranoiac in me wonders if my embittered advisor who spent years teaching me would hurt my chances. 5) Obviously, there's no guarantee I get into a better program. I would say that I received two unofficial phone interviews with Princeton the first time around that did not lead to an official interview. I'm not surprised: I told the professor I was uncertain about my subject and bluntly told them that it might not be in his time period. Again, I had no idea what I was doing the first time around. However, they seemed interested in my potential as an undergraduate. I feel awful that my department spent over 150k dollars funding me so far and that I would most likely need a fourth year (50k) of funding while I semi-secretly begin to apply elsewhere.
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