11 April 2008
Posted by Jessica Ball
And here I was thinking my final choice of grad school was going to be easy. I have to choose between the city I loved with a good program (though I would be working on more petrology and geochem than volcanology), and the city that doesn’t thrill me, but with a great program (I would work on pyroclastic flows and volcanic hazards, which is exactly what I want to do).
Compensation for both is comparable, the people are all nice, but I really don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s only two years, after all… And it just seems incredibly awkward if you turn down a program that you might still want to go to later on.
I feel a headache coming on. I know the final decision has to be mine, but can anyone throw me some sage advice?
I spent 4 1/2 years in Philadelphia for my doctorate. I hated (and still hate) Philadelphia; it’s easily the dirtiest, noisiest, and one of the rudest cities I’ve ever been in, not to mention bloody expensive (especially to take advantage of their much-vaunted “arts,” basically putting them out of reach of the average human). But the program I was in was phenomenal, and I loved the school (Penn), the campus, the department, and the people in it — it was a terrific environment for learning in all sorts of ways. As much as I hated Philly, I wouldn’t trade my time in the department at Penn for anything.Your education is a one-time thing, really, and if your ideal opportunity comes up, pretty much all other considerations (except perhaps familial) are secondary. You can adapt well enough to live almost anywhere, especially if you know that a little suffering on that front is going to bring you longer-term benefits for the rest of your life. (And, it’s only for two years, but even if it stretched out into 6 or 8, it’s still a small (short) price to pay for a lifetime of having more of what you want.) My $0.02, at any rate.
First off, congratulations for being accepted! I’ll agree with the previous comment re: places to live versus program. Great cities are great to live in, but the truth is that solid departments with good projects and excited, motivated students and faculty are much more important. Also, I had so little time or money to enjoy what the great city had to offer.I currently am post-doc’ing in a city that pales in comparison to where I went to graduate school. My time line is similar to yours, I am here for 2 or 3 years, and will then move on. Truth is that makes it not too bad. A good group, great research, that makes up for a great deal. I’d favor the program over the location, barring any serious family/relationship issues that would make distance overly stressful or difficult.Whatever you chose, good luck and I hope you keep blogging!
If it were me, I would go with the program that teaches the specific thing I wanted to study. If you know there’s a specific thing you want to work on, and you have the option to do so right away, why would you choose the circuitous route?Though I haven’t had to spend long periods in time in cities I hate (though a lot of my classmates seem to hate the city I’m currently in), I agree with the above comments about how universities and programs are communities in and of themselves, sometimes distinctly seperate from the city in which they’re located. Not to mention that, in grad school, you’re not going to have enormous amounts of time to spend in the part of the city outside the sphere of the school!Good luck with the decision!
I agree with the others – go to the place where you can do the work you want to do. (I didn’t have time to do fun stuff in the city where I did grad work, either.)Send a nice note to the advisor at the other place, though, in case you apply there for a PhD.
If eruptions/ hazards is what you want to do, then do that program, and be sure to maximize networking opportunities. After all, the purpose of education is to give you the tools for what you want to do- and then you can spend the rest of your life living somewhere nice (e.g. Naples)pursuing the things that nterest you.
Thank you all. I really appreciate your input, and it’s helped me to reassure myself that I’m making a good decision. I’m going with my gut feeling as well as your advice, and have decided that as much as I’d like to live in a cool place, the program I’d be working in is really more important to focus on. And, as you’ve said, it’s only two years; I’m sure they’ll go fast…not to mention that I’ll likely be spending my summers elsewhere.