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No idea if I'm doing the right thing


canker

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Hi,

This is my first time post here although I stalk the boards quite regularly. I'm facing a major decision crisis at the moment and wanted some input from complete strangers :wink: Here's a brief synopsis of my tale so far. I am from Canada and completed my undergraduate there. For my Masters, I was awarded a prestigious international-level award to study at a Uni in the UK with one of the top scholars in my field. I packed up my partner and daughter and we all hopped the pond, ready for a huge adventure. I found out last week that after being on reserve since April, I have now been awarded another 3 years of the International award to do my PhD here with the same supervisor. At first I was thrilled; the prestige of the award alone is pretty great, and it offers a relatively good stipend. Then, a few days later I received a totally unexpected letter from the funding body in Canada (SSHRC) offering me a choice between 20k a year at my school here (which I cannot accept on top of my current award) or 35k a year to do my degree at a Canadian school. As moving to the UK has not turned out to be quite the adventure we'd all hoped - we don't really like the neighbourhood or people where we live, my partner is working at a dead-end job well below his skill level, my daughter desperately misses our friends and family - I called up the head of the department where i did my undergrad and asked what the possibility would be of me doing my PhD there. Before the words even came out of my mouth he said 'you're accepted' and offered me a nice TAship on top of the SSHRC funding.

So here's my question - how much struggling is worth it for a more prestigious degree and possibly better career prospects? Going back to Canada appeals to all of us, and the school is actually - in terms of rankings - more highly regarded than my school here, and I really like everyone in the department. My partner could return to his well-paying, interesting job and we'd have friends and family around again to help out with childcare, meaning we could actually have a proper date every once in awhile. At the same time, I worked really hard to have the opportunity to study in the UK with my current supervisor, and I feel like because we've struggled so much with money and childcare issues, we've barely made a dent in the travel and experience potential of living here. Going back to Canada means 1-2 more years before I actually get a Phd, but in terms of teaching - which I want to do in the end - I would build up a better portfolio. Research seems stronger where I am now and there would definitely be more opportunities for publishing and presenting. Money is also a huge factor. The UK award provides a nice stipend, but not enough to support a family on and unless my partner can find a good job here (unlikely given the current economic situation) we will be just scraping by for another 3 years. In Canada, with our combined incomes, we would finally have a decent standard of living - no more starving student stress.

Anyway, as you might be able to tell, my heart belongs in Canada and I am dying to go back, especially if it means we'd actually be able to afford to enjoy life. But, I am reluctant to give up on my dream of studying abroad, and I'm worried I might be shooting myself in the foot professionally speaking. I suppose pride comes into play as well, as when I was awarded my current scholarship the dept made a big deal about me going off to study in a 'top school' in the UK and I feel like in some ways I'd be going back with my tail between my legs. If it was just me on my own, I would probably stay in the UK, but it's just not working out as a family.

I'd be curious in hearing what people think, and if anyone else has experience in studying abroad with a family in tow.

Thanks!

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Hey Canker,

Relationships are important and it sounds like the "compromise" of going back to Canada would be healthiest for all of you. Obviously your family will affect your performance at school, so if you are constantly worrying a that they are just waiting out the ride and having to be patient in the UK for your sake, don't you think that will affect your studies as well? I really don't see the shame in going back to your department to finish school--maybe one or two people might ask you about the ordeal in the beginning but I doubt that will last long as people tend to be focused mostly on themselves. And hey, you did stick it out for the MA, which is great. You've tried it, and you made a decision based on your experiences on what was best for you and those in your life. That is what life is about right?

You brought up a good point though, if it was just you that you'd stay in the UK. I have fought with this idea a lot myself lately...I just got married this summer, to well really the love of my life. I met him while I was abroad (actually I'm still abroad and about to go back to the states after 5 years of being away. ack.) He's not American, and he's significantly older than me (really significantly), and he's picking up his life to come with me to the states. Anyway, this puts a ton of pressure on me really, to make sure he's getting the help he needs to get in order to get on his feet. I'm worried that I won't be able to work how I need or travel as freely (for summer research, field work, even though that's all far away, who knows what will happen.) because of him. So I've gotten myself all in a tizzy thinking, "what am i going to do, if it were just me, it'd be so easy!!"

I think a lot of people struggle with this, and a lot (not all though) of young college kids about to enter grad school don't get it either. I sure didn't when I was 22. Sure, grad school is easier by yourself, but sometimes life just happens and we all have to deal with it in the way that's best for us and our families. Lots of people do it though, all of my profs are married and those who aren't, I find, are the most miserable of all!

the point of the story. Family is important and sometimes you just have to compromise, without of course totally compromising your own goals.

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Go back to Canada (that sounds more like a request than an advice)!

No, but seriously

and the school is actually - in terms of rankings - more highly regarded than my school here, and I really like everyone in the department.

If that is true, then what's keeping you in the UK?

It's not all about where you have your degree from.

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Thanks to you both. It's funny, as I was writing my last post it became really clear that the only person I was trying to convince was myself. We've discussed it some more and have decided that we are going to do everything in our power to go back to Canada. It's going to be costly, particularly since we sold everything in Canada when we left and have since acquired a dog (we were thinking we were going to be here 4 years min), but we're hoping it'll eventually work out in our favour financially. Now I just need to speed through all the paperwork somehow and try to get formally registered at my Canadian school so I can get my award payments on time. And, I need to tell my current university I am declining my previously accepted offer. I'm worried about pissing people off, but I know my supervisor will understand. Wow. The unexpected can really knock you for a loop. I just hope it all works out.

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