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Gap Year: What to do while waiting for Grad School


arthistorydream
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Sounds a bit silly, but I quit my retail job cold turkey to peruse real goals. After a while of soul-searching I decided I absolutely love Art and would love to be an Art History Professor. Well this epiphany didn't come onto me until a little too late. I am egger to enroll into a program, but most dead lines are passed. I know University of AZ and University of Indiana are accepting applicants in the spring. However, these are not my top choices. In the tedious wait game of getting into grad school, what is the best use of my time? Should I try to get a part time job in an art gallery? I have a 4 yr degree in Graphic Design. Should I try to volunteer over seas in an art program (if there is one) while polishing my language requirement? I have filled my time taking GRE classes, and taking the exam, also visiting potential schools. I don't want to waste my time; I rather build my resume towards grad school or at least something. What are you all currently working on?

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When you say get a job in an art gallery - does this mean your interest is in contemporary art? Most galleries are actually not hiring right now and most jobs in the "art world" are now through internships that are volunteer-based only and most are up to the discretion of the person you wish to work under.

In school did you take any art history classes? Most graduate schools require between 12-20 credits (average is 16) in art history classes before they consider you an worthy candidate who knows what they want. You do have the option to attend more university classes in art history and build a repertoire with your professors who will write you awesome recommendations. Also, if you satisfy this minimum requirements the schools may require you to take even MORE undergraduate art history classes (at a grad level price) before they even enroll you in an upper level course.

The language requirement is kind of a dilemma. Most universities want you reading a full language with dictionary within the first two years of grad classes before taking the SECOND foreign language final. Also, they do not stress speaking as much as reading so unless you really think overseas internships are going to benefit you (also, note, that it has become INCREASINGLY hard to get a visa for international work since the economy is so poor). Also, if you are interested in American art, an overseas job/internship really isn't going to do much (that is, if you live in America). Many of us applying to grad school haven't had a top level internship with places like the Met or the Smithsonian so while that will make you more competitive, it will be really hard to receive it in the first place.

If you want a strong application these are some (easier) suggestions:

1) get an internship that will correspond with your interests

2) make sure you have enough art history classes (and should be relevant)

3) work on a paper to submit as a writing sample

4) figure out what program you want BEFORE you consider the convenience. Even if you wanted to go in the spring at U of Arizona, if you aren't interested in ANY of their professors interests (lets say that they all study precolumbian and you are interested in picasso) you wouldn't be accepted anyways.

Relax, breathe and you will do fine :)

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Thanks for the reply. I have taken several art history classes as a requirement to complete my undergrad. I have to double-check my transcript to make sure I have enough that is required.

I am interested in World art or at least non-Western art. I have an opportunity to work in Peru with an old contact of mine and thought this would be a good opportunity to brush up on my Spanish skills.

I was thinking about what you suggest for art museums and I fell upon the idea of becoming a volunteer Docent. I can

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you are interested in Pre-Columbian art, or of Latin america, or really any other spanish speaking country for that matter, I say ditch the internship and go teach english in Latin or South america. I'm totally serious. internships don't do much for applications unless they give you real research experience. Living abroad and aquiring langauges is a much stronger compoenent of your application, even though it might not have anything to do with art history per se.

The discipline is a whole lot more about studying and researching culture (whatever that means) than dealing with objects in a gallery.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Also, a note about internships - becoming a docent is a lot easier than becoming an intern usually and the training is very laid back (mostly because they know they are training people who have an interest in art but do not have an in-depth education or background in it).

i received my internship without school credit although you may need a recommendation from the faculty. Also, many internships (not just ones that are paid) require a statement of purpose and in it you should emphasize that you want to do research work. This will look much better on an application rather than just being a docent who does no research whatsoever. Just a suggestion. :)

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Hey FullofPink,

Thank you for all your advice and take everything to my heart. I am taking everything into consideration and have turned often to this blog when I am in a rut.

I am from Nepal and we have a large Buddhist community. I would love to find a program that specializes in Himalayan/Buddhist art. However, my options are slim because I can't find too many schools that are accepting applications in the Spring. I would love to contribute back to my country (even though I have been raised here in the states since 5). My father is a professor and he was telling me how he used his PhD thesis to help special-education aid in Nepal. I would be so proud to do this and give back to my country of origin.

However...being realistic and less of a romantic...I am open to any non-western art. I love all cultures. I was even thinking about cultural-anthropology, but I have a stronger Art background.

I submitted a request to be a docent at the downtown art gallery. The city I live in sort of small and might even relocate to Atlanta (and live with my sister) if they have an internship available. Plus Atl has a larger cultural/art community and resources. I am building a network of support group of friends who are also wanting to become professors/PhD. I was also thinking again about teaching abroad....a lot to consider.

I want this so bad...I'm going to the temple tonight to pray for my PhD hahah.

Thank you again. :)

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If you are looking for an internship (beware, the hiring process is rather rigorous for internships as well) in Himalayan art, you might have a good chance of getting something due to your background. Do you speak Nepalese, or any other language from the region? Do you know about Himalayan Religions? These are things that most art history students do not know much about, making you more valuable. An internship at an Asian art collection may not have you working directly with the artwork, but instead doing research or fact checking. There are various internships for Asian art in the northeast, if you are willing to travel. If you have questions about the above, let me know, I have experience interning with Asian art collections.

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Hi! Yes, I know Nepalease. I go back every 5 yrs or so, when ever I can afford to go back. I know plenty about the region, and have the help from my family members for any information. I have a great uncle that owns a book shop located at the start of many summits and trekking to Everest. I was looking at a couple internships through FastWeb and I think Monster(?). What would you suggest as the best way to look for internships? I would love to relocate, however, internships are unpaid. How would I pay for my living expenses? Maybe I could work a night time job just to keep my head above the water. I am willing to make sacrifices.

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arthistorydream,

don't sell yourself short, you might be on to something here.

Personally, i don't like monster.com or craiglist, though I have friends who swear by it. i find that a lot of the internships are companies looking for free labor. Remember google is your friend - google things like "Nepal Museum + American city you want to live in" or "Himalayan Art Museum". Then look on museum websites (often in "about us" sections, or "employment" or "opportunities") - most have some sort of internship listed. Keep trying different search terms. Or, pick a location and then google that and "museum".

For example "Nepal Art Museum NYC" yields The Rubin Museum of Art (which, might I add is an AMAZING place) which has all their internships listed under "The Museum" > "Internships and Volunteer". My helpful hint with picking which to apply for is pick the one where you have the best chance of getting it - everyone wants and picks curatorial, so your chances are significantly lower. Or, call up any museums general number, and say that you want to intern as a translator, even if that job is not listed. You mentioned Atlanta in an earlier post, I've never been there, so I'll be of little help. But, as for the north east and north west, there are collections of Asian Art in NYC, DC, Boston, and California. Look for smaller museums too (wikipedia usually lists museums per state, including tiny ones), the first one that comes to mind is the Newark Museum in NJ which has a rather large Asian section. Helpful hint number 2 - applying to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is statistically more difficult than getting into Harvard, remember that.

I'm lucky enough that I live in a city, and have family that help support my museum aspirations, so as for living expenses there are better resources than I. And yes, most are unpaid.

Let me know what you find, and if you have more questions, don't hesitate to write back. Good Luck!

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If you are interested in Buddhist art (I study East Asian Buddhist art by the way...) I still stand by my original response and ditch the internship. You'll be wanting to enter a program with a strong presence in South Asian art I imagine (Berkeley is pretty good, except that now, CA's economy isn't so, SOAS in London is brilliant and a perfect fit, although they don't offer funding...there are other programs out there for sure.) Find a way to get back to Nepal, or even India--teach English if you have to. Once you get there, you'll find ways to get involved in a temple community or Buddhist community or anything else that you are interested in. That is a much stronger, compelling, and more interesting component of an application that shows your commitment to your interests and field, rather than doing an internship at a museum.

Some people will say that you could get a good rec from a curator if you work hard, although if you want to enter a good program, you'll need all your recs from former profs. as a curator, while they might have a big name, can't speak as well for your academic ability as a former professor could.

As a side note by the way, SOAS's 1-year MA program is a perfect stepping stone to the PhD. Like I said, brilliant program, and they have so much to offer in the ways of South Asian art and culture, which is more than many US institutions. If you have time, check out their website at soas.ac.uk

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Also, before you apply to any grad school I suggest you read about the grad school process and expectations, and what to do once you actually get into a program. Jumping off the boat and into the water without knowing what's in there is a risk that may eventually lead you to disappointment. Many of us have been planning and preparing for grad school for a few years. While we don't know everything, many of us know what to expect.

I sense a lot of trepidation mixed wit a strong desire. Also, I sense that you really aren't sure whats going on and how to achieve what you want. I suggest reading a book on the expectations of grad school will help. A good book with a lot of helpful tips is "Getting What you CAme For." I can't remember the author. It goes cheap on half.com.

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