Will no longer be a PhD student…?

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First of all, I have good news–I passed my methods qualifying exam! Its been a month since I found out but it still feels good to remember.

The second thing that I want to share is that I have had doubts about staying in my sociology department to get the PhD for many reasons:

  1. I want to help people and I don’t need a PhD for that. 
  2. I’m really disillusioned by higher education and want a break from it.
  3. I’m burned out (been in school for 18 continuous years now!)
  4. I’m realizing that I want more applied research on policies that impact people.
  5. Sociology is too theoretically bound for me–I’m more interested in using research as a way to change policy for the better. Sociology, to an extent, does this but it takes years, sometimes decades, for this to actually happen.

My friends are supportive. My friends who are in graduate school completely understand what I mean and they get me. My friends who aren’t don’t understand it as much, but they are still supportive. My parents are driving me crazy because they are forgetting that I have been able to do fine on my own and that I tend to make things work. The honey is also a little worried but he is supportive nonetheless.

I’m talking to as many people as possible about my decision and trying to figure this out. The reason why my parents are driving me crazy is that they want a plan from me, when I simply don’t have one/and its still in progress. My parents have called me 4-5 times (separately) today (so a total of 8-10 calls) about this. My mom particularly pissed me off today because I had told her about my honey and I’s plans to get married and she said that “it was weird that [my honey] told me when he is proposing to me.” I was really hurt by this because this isn’t the first time I have told her about our marriage plans–its not a surprise. She keeps questioning the validity of my honey’s love and devotion to me and always asks whether I think he loves me or treats me well.  I would have thought that she knows I have good judgment when it comes to people, especially when it comes to my romantic relationships.  I feel that even if we get married, she will think that we will get divorced because we are different. Her comments hurt me and I let her know that it hurt me when she said that.. She admitted that she stepped over a line and that she is sorry, but I still don’t feel like talking to her. Yes, she is a parent, but I am also a responsible adult. Of all her 4 kids, I am the only one who is financially independent and have always been the most responsible. Why is she treating me as if I am like my older sister, who is in her 30′s and is still unemployed/doesn’t have a career.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents have always been supportive of any decision I have made, but this is the first time they are stressing me out about it. Its been a source of tension for us these few days and the honey suggested some space between us so I can take the time to think without their nagging.

I will stay in my department until next spring.. I will finish with a masters and then figure things out from there. The safest option is just to stay on until I get my PhD, but I already know I will be miserable. The most ideal situation for me is that I want is to work for a year on OPT (Optional Practical Training) in a job setting and to get a break from school. From there, I can figure out what jobs I can get that can sponsor me for a visa or if honey and I are married by then, find the real jobs that I actually want that deal with my populations of interest.

So here are my potential plans (after getting a Masters): 

  1. Work for 1 year in a non-academic job to gain experience and insight and find a job that will sponsor me for a work visa.
  2. Marry honey and then work for a few years in orgs that deal with my population of interest.
  3. Work for 1 year and then transfer to a social work PhD program.

I’m not sold on the idea that a PhD guarantees secure employment (just look at the unemployment rates of overall PhD’s). I’m also not sold on the idea that I will lose 3-4 years (or more) of income by staying in my PhD program, suffering through 2 more qualifiers, a dissertation, along with the isolation, misery, poverty, and pains of staying.  Maybe I’m the kind of person who is better suited to do a part-time PhD program while I have a real job.

I love sociology. I’m a sociologist at heart. But I don’t think a sociology PhD is for me right now.

Fourth semester of grad school has started

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I’ve been busy studying for my methods qualifier all of winter break. Its been kind of sucky since no one was in town from my program and my apartment was freezing (damn you, winter!). I hung around coffee shops and basically bought a heater for my office so I could work in it and not freeze to death :) I also relented and bought one for the house for the times that I’m home.

I’m studying completely different for this qualifier than before. Now I have studied off 2 books and been taking notes. I just finished reading all the methods chapters that I needed and now testing myself on the material, and making notecards for the terms that I don’t know quite as well. I feel already twice more prepared to take this qualifier than before. I’m taking the test in 2 weeks so hopefully I will be prepared for it this time around.

Updates on personal life.. 

  • Honey and I are definitely planning to move in together this summer. Its just been hard because he is a creature of habit and he wants me to move in with him because its the easier option for him…Money is really not an obstacle for us and I want us to move into “our” place rather than “his” place. Another reason why is because his apt is far from public transportation (there is a bus but it comes every hour or so) and I don’t want to buy a car right now since I can’t afford it. He said he could help me with the cost but I’m thinking about the long-term cost of having a car and that its not worth it for me to get one if I cannot afford it on my own in the long run. I can afford it if I rent a room instead of an apartment but right now I don’t want to. He is also super picky about his living situation since he grew up middle-class so there are so many things he “needs” in his apartment even though we will only be living there for a year. For me, I’m okay with any housing as long as its warm and comfortable, has four walls, and a roof. I also want to save money on our combined housing.. We’ll see where it takes us :) 
  • My older sister got denied her student visa to the US twice and now she is back in our home country to work on details of immigrating to Canada instead. Its not ideal and she will still be a good 12+ hours away from us but at least we would be closer to one another (at least in the same timezone). Perhaps later on she can find work here in the US..
  • I’m almost done paying my vacation debt!! It was a long 6 months and it felt like forever to pay it off, but I’m so proud that I’m so close to being done!! I can finally start saving up money for other things (maybe my future car or maybe even a tablet). I don’t regret the 4 vacations I took this past summer since I knew that was going to be the last summer where I did fun things (i.e. go to Puerto Rico, go to Chicago, go on two vacations with my boyfriend) but damn, was it a bitch to pay it all back off.
  • I emailed this consulting firm about doing a summer internship with them and the director replied to me and asked me when I wanted to do the interview. I told her I could interview around Feb since my qualifer is around that time… She hasn’t emailed me back yet but I will harass her about that during my qualifier is done.. A colleague said they pay for the internship so hopefully that is the case. Being an international student, I don’t get to have as many summer opportunities as my citizen colleagues, but hopefully this one will lead to a full-time position and I can work with them every summer. That way, I can be close to my family during the summer and take a break from university state–university state can be irritating at times..

Here are some pictures to compensate you for your time of reading all these words :)

 

Got to go do more studying and finishing up summer internships!

 

Not feeling peachy..

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The last few weeks have been exhausting for me.

I had to stay an extra week in my family’s house to take care of my brother and certain affairs since my uncle in Canada died the day after Thanksgiving. My family had to rush to Canada to be with the family and ended up staying a week there. I lost a week’s worth of work and I basically had to rush to finish everything at the end of the semester. It was not the way I envisioned to end my semester.

I also found out 2 months ago that I failed a methods qualifier that I took. I was devastated (still am) and now, I have to retake the exam this February. I’m studying again for it and its so painful. I feel like quitting graduate school and doing things on my bucket list instead (like teaching English in a developing country and traveling the world), even though I know my visa won’t allow it. I’m not used to failure in things that I actually tried and this failure makes me want to give up, to be honest. I know how to study for it now and how to approach it better but still..

My older sis has been trying to get a visa in the US for 10 years now.. She got rejected twice last month. It was really depressing and exhausting for my family and I.A lot of crying and suffering..

Even though I’m on break, I have so many things to do. I have to study for this exam, do my own research, and my professor just handed me in some work to do “whenever I can”, which means asap. SIGHHHHH. I feel like I need a confidence boost or to lift myself out of this drudgery somehow. Just feeling overwhelmed and overworked.

On the bright side, this month is my birthmonth so honey is taking me out to sushi with some friends and then we are going for drinks/dinner with my other friends! Honey barely gets to see my friends so it will be nice that he’ll be there. He’s on vacation this month but he’s studying for an exam too.

I also spoke with my professor today who suggested that I focus on a different area than what I was planning. She has a point in that my research project and interest relate more to that area than the current area I’m vouching for. I told her about my fears of marketability and she said that our skills and work are what make us marketable, not our areas. I can see myself continuing this project into a dissertation and I really want to continue..

Sigh, graduate school :(

Oh, also on a random note, Honey and I are looking at two apartments tomorrow that we are potentially going to live in! Whee!

Grad school is hard :(

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Its been awhile since I wrote here.. I’m taking a break from my work. I just finished a 15-page take home midterm and grading for the class I TA for. I still have a bunch of books to read tonight–luckily the midterm is the only thing I have for classes. Next week is a book review for a class so I have to read 2 books this week and write about it.

Some grad school updates: 

  • I submitted an abstract for a conference! Hopefully I get accepted.
  • I decided to write a Master’s thesis. My goal is to finish it by Fall 2013.
  • I decided to take an extra class next fall semester. Its going to be freagin’ expensive. Goodbye, money :(
  • I decided not to take a class next semester that will supposedly help me with my comprehensive exam. I just don’t want to deal with the professor. He is a nice guy but our writing style clashes, he assigns a lot of busy work that will really not prepare me for the comprehensive exam, and I don’t like his teaching style. It drives me crazy. It is annoying because we actually liked each other initially and then somehow, things just didn’t work out between us. And I’m okay with that, actually. Luckily I don’t have to work with just him.
  • I am working on two papers this semester and I feel more confident about them as time goes on.
  • I also did not fail (completely) my statistics exam! I didn’t super great, but I didn’t bomb it like last semester. Luckily the statistics we are learning is not the statistics I will end up using as a sociologist. I am aiming to just pass the class and be done with stats courses!
  • I’m excited for my classes next semester. I have been waiting for this one class for 1.5 years now and I can finally take it next sem :)

I visited my old college this weekend with the honey. My younger sister is going there so we stayed with her. I still have friends there and it was super nice to catch up with them.  Now I have to catch up with a ton of work, but it will work out eventually.

I miss my college because of the type of students that go there. They go there because they care about learning and their education.  The undergrads at my current university break down is 1/3 of them care about school, 1/3 care, but don’t put enough effort and a 1/3 don’t give a rat’s ass. I could see myself working in my old college while I was working on my dissertation. It has the right atmosphere, the kind of students I want to work with, and its in the middle of nowhere, which would force me to work on my dissertation a lot.

I was telling my honey that I may work at my old college when I’m ABD, after I’m done with all my requirements. (One thing you have to know about him is that he is a horrible planner. He cringes every time I talk about our possible moving in together this summer.) When I brought up working there, he said he could plausibly work in a nearby hospital. I was surprised and warmed that he wanted us to be together in the future. We are serious about each other but it always warms my heart when he thinks about our future together.

Speaking of which, the honey and I have been spending more nights together on the weekdays. Before my September breakdown, I wanted to focus on work on the weekdays so I wanted to see him only on the weekends. After the breakdown, I told him I wanted to see him more and so we have been staying at each other’s places 2-3 times a week now. I don’t like the feeling of needing somebody in my life because I feel that I’m an independent person–but there’s also no shame in acknowledging that I need as much support as I can.

I’ve also been going back and forth on moving in together with him. I know, I know, its still 9 months away, but I think in terms of five-year plans.. I really like my apartment right now. Its cheap, great location, and I doubt I will find another apt that is close to it price-wise. The honey is guaranteed to be University State only for 2 more years while I have to be here for another 3 years (and its not negotiable).  So if I moved in with him next year, I might plausibly have to move twice in 2 years. I’ll have months to think about this but I’m just weighing the pros and cons here.  I love spending time with him but I feel like I can’t really focus on my work when he’s around because I just want to do fun things with him all the time!

Its going to be really hectic for the next 8 weeks. I hope I can take a breath to update this!

Writing a proposal as a second year

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Writing a proposal for a seminar paper due this Thursday and I was thinking how different it felt as opposed to writing one as a first year.

  • I actually understand the broad theories better. Its nice to know what everyone means when they are talking about a “Marxian” or “Weberian” perspective. I still need to brush up on my theory 2 readings (Bourdieu, Habermas, Frankfert school) but it feels good to know what everyone generally means when talking about sociological theories.
  • I have a better idea of what literature to include in my proposal. Before it felt like I was just randomly piecing things together and making it sound like it was all interconnected (when I knew fully that some of it was just bullshit). How was I even supposed to know who the “major” players in this field are when I had barely any sociological theory?? Now I know to look up references, what literature seems relevant (but really isnt), and what literature is relevant (and highly so).
  • I’ve found that drawing diagrams of my thought process is super helpful because its a visualization and it makes it easier to critique and improve. I showed a professor my diagram.  She gave me 30 seconds worth of advice and it was super helpful but not too time consuming.
  • I can operationalize my theoretical framework and connect both to each other. I had such trouble with that last year. I knew what data sets or variables I wanted to look at but it was hard for me to conceptualize the framework. My professor (the one I’m turning this proposal to) was really good with forcing me to think conceptually and think in broad, sociological theory. I’m a stubborn graduate student so its good to have someone forceful but positive.

I’m somewhat embarrassed by my papers last year.  Not that I didn’t try my best in them–its just that I had no experience at all in what I was doing. Nothing beats experience. One paper in particular last year was embarrassing for me.. I hope I can show that one professor (who probably thinks I’m an idiot based on the work I gave him last year) that a.) I’m not as stupid as I made myself out to be and b.) I actually know what I’m doing now!

Love being a second-year.

Moving in with the honey update

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I was so frustrated on Friday night about grad school and the troubles I’d been having with it… I cried in my honey’s arms for a long time after we met up for dinner. I hadn’t realized that it was affecting me *that* much and  thank God for him being there. I kept apologizing and he said “If I only loved you at your best, that would be wrong.”

After crying and calming down, I brought up moving in together. It was really scary for me.

He replied, “Okay, lets do it.”

I was in shock. I pointed out that he never brought it up and he said that he always brought it up but more in an abstract sense (“we’ll live together one day”). He smiled and, while hugging me tightly, said, “What part of I’m going to marry you and have kids with you don’t you understand? This implies that we are going to live together first.” He’s always been okay with it (in his defense, he HAS brought it up often but not in specifics like I did); I get the sense that he was just waiting for me to bring it up. He doesn’t want to pressure me into anything that I do. He always says “whatever you want, baby” when I’m trying to make a decision. I’m so lucky to have a partner who highly respects my judgment. Not that he’s a pushover–he’s more than happy to point out if I did something stupid or dangerous..

Over the weekend, we have been slowly talking about the challenges that we will have. I don’t want to move in at his place because its not very bus friendly and its far from my university. We are obviously not moving into my apartment because I can only have one person there in my lease plus it is too small for honey and I. I’m excited to go house/apt-hunting with him because it will be “our” place, not just my or his place. We also have drastically different ideas of what is “clean” and what is “messy.” He is the messy one but he said he will work on it. I tend to cook a lot, he doesnt. We also can’t move in until June/July because of our yearly leases on our respective places…

But thats okay. My honey is not used to change, and so the 9-10 months will be good for him to mentally prepare.

I’m trying to alleviate my semi-depression by sleeping at his place an extra night on Sunday night. It totally worked for last night and I might make a habit of it. The boyfriend is more than ecstatic about it and I am thinking of it as “training” for when we live together.

I can see a lot of battles and frustrations in our potential one-year stint of living together but it will be worth it. I enjoy his company so much that I am willing to go through all that.

Feelings of loneliness

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This week has been emotionally miserable for me. Maybe its because we had a short week of school but I feel like this is the loneliest I’ve ever felt since I started my program.

I come home every night and I just sigh at the empty feeling in me. I wonder if this is the weather blues that are getting to me… It has gotten much colder and is definitely moving more into winter territory.

My days feel monotonous and the only days that I feel real happiness is when I’m with the honey. I haven’t been in contact with my friends so much because the last 3 weeks have resulted in me being out of town on the weekends, going home at around midnight on most nights and working most of the day on my classes, TAing, my research work, grading homeworks, and doing my professor’s work.  With graduate school, it only gets busier.. So its not like this is going to be easier with time. I’ll have less time for things the further I get to in my career.

I like living on my own but financially I just feel like I’m really stretching my dollar. Maybe I feel this way because of the many vacations that I took this summer and having to rely on my credit card in August to cover expenses (I hate doing that but my summer work only covered my expenses until July; parentals helped me out for August rent), but I just feel having my own apartment is so expensive. I’m already spending almost 50% of my yearly income on my apartment (restocking supplies like toilet paper, soap.. When I was living with my landlady, I was spending only 34%, which is way more reasonable. I also want to travel extensively and do fun things like zip lining but the way my money is flowing, its not going to my savings =/ It was so much easier when only 34% of it went into my bills.

All these factors have led me to thinking that maybe I want to move in with my honey.

One main reason is that this seems to be the perfect time to do it –we will both be in the city for at least another 2 yrs.  This is probably the only time in the next 5 years where we will be geographically stable.

HONEY: He is finishing his training next December and then staying in my area for another 6 months. And then he will be applying for a one-year fellowship in his field. So he’ll be in another city for one more year and then he’ll go job hunting. He wants to stay in our region of the US but we don’t really have a say in that since the market dictates where we will live (although he’s in a pretty stable field so he should be fine anywhere he goes).

ME: I will be in University State for at least another 3 years because of grad school. Once I’m ABD, I can live anywhere as long as I can focus on writing my dissertation. But then I might have to do a post-doc or go on the job market. So I might be in another state for a few years while the honey is in another area for his own job.

I’m not worried about us breaking up because of distance. But I’m worried about us not taking advantage of the fact that we are in the same city and that we are 10-15 mins away from each other. I’m busy and he’s busy but I feel like I’ve been needing that extra support lately.

I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want to come home to someone, to something. I’m not sure I want to wait at least 4 more years before we try out living together. I’ve always prided myself to be an independent strong woman. Not much will change really if this happens (which will happen next year by the earliest, if it happens at all): I’ll still do my laundry, still clean and wash the dishes.. But I feel like I’ll feel more fulfilled and happier if I move in with him.

We have talked about having kids, getting married and getting engaged (in that order). We occasionally joke to each other that we are going to be a “daddy” and a “mommy” someday. So moving in is a topic that I’m not too worried to bring up. My guy friend pointed out (somewhat sexist) that my honey should be the one to bring it up with me.. But I pointed out that he’s not even thinking about that because of his focus on his training (he works 50-60 hours on a good month).. Only if I bring it up or after 5 years from now when we’re stable will my honey bring it up himself. Which in that case might be complicated with our jobs and whatnot.

I really see a future with my honey.. I just want to keep him as close as possible while I can :S

I’ll have someone to come home to. 

If you’ve moved in with your partner, what were the factors that influenced your decision?