What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The familiar stench.....

....of defeat floats through the air, but I will not wait for it to envelopment me this time.  For I will not be defeated, there is always more than one way to find victory.

I have started hearing form schools.  One by one they trickle in, no, no, waitlisted, no, no, waitlisted.  It is what it all tells me though that is most important.  Year after year I am told the same thing by American academia.  I am not good enough - at least by their arbitrary measures.  Now mind you, it is not over, but I've gotten my rejections from UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, and Boston College, and my waitlistings from Rutgers and UConn.  There still are six schools out there, but it doesn't bode well to be 25th on UConn's wait list.  And last year I was on Rutgers' wait list, only for them to not even go on it.  They had two spots.  UConn has about ten.  To be that far down on their's means I'm still a ways off.  I was offered a spot in the masters program at BC, but with no funding or guarantee of PhD admissions.  I've already been through two MA programs and turned down the same type of spot last year at the New School.  No, I'm close - as always - but there is something about my application that is not quite good enough it seems.  Grades and GRE's I would imagine.  But it tells me more and more each day.  My skill set does not seem to be what American academia wants.  I am an "armchair anthropologist."  I've been all over the world, lived in all sorts of places, and spent all that time tieing together how things function in this globalized world we inhabit.  But perhaps that is not what they want.  Perhaps it is book smarts they want, not the real world.  They want people who's grades and GRE's show an academic rigor from birth, rather than the dyslexic football playing late bloomer that I am.  But so be it.  I have strength, and I will not be defeated.

I went into this process with the ultimate fall back school, the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.  If I apply, all I need is the masters (which I have).  No GRE's, no BS, no recommendations, anal probes, retinal scans, or poncy description of what sociological question I'm going to answer.  I just need a masters degree to get in and then I can just put my head down and work without wasting time worrying about what everyone else thinks!  The kind of place for me!

But hold up, let me get back to the beginning.  I still have six schools to hear from and they are some of my top choices and best chances.  I got an ominous email from Pitt today though talking about decisions not being made yet but that they had over 80 applicants for 4 spots - not holding out too much hope.  That leaves Northeastern, York, Binghamton, UC Santa Cruz, and Hawaii.  Hawaii was always kind of my fall back, NEU and York are my two top choices with Rutgers, then Binghamton as really solid, but without decent funding.  With UC Santa Cruz, I am just assuming my declination is a formality waiting till March.  I mean there's a chance at the other five still.  One of my best friends is at York and working for me, but they have only one spot for an international student which doesn't bode well.  Binghamton is really specialized, I'm in or out - experience in this apps game tells me I'm out.  Hawaii is a political science program and not going to get me very far on the job market afterwards I'm thinking.  Northeastern seems to me to be the best shot I've got here in the states.  Not a highly ranked school, and really ideal for me.  But I've thought that before.

So as it is, I'm wallowing in desperation with every ring of a rich person's door bell and "where would you like your groceries miss/sir?"  But not today, for the last few days I've started turning my attention elsewhere.  I mean, I'm not the biggest fan of America on many levels as many of you know, education being one of them.  The system systematically excludes people like me from its perches.  So why not just go to a far flung school in a part of the world that has always felt more at home to me?  Central and southern Europe.  The former socialist areas of the world resonate so well with me.  I don't belong here in the US, its to restricted, to polarizing and conformist.  Thus, I feel restricted and confined here.  I want to fly freely, and the frame of mind I'm in right now is a good one just thinking about it.  Getting a PhD here in teh US is a sevenish year project.  In Europe - given that they recognize my master degrees - I'm done in four.  If I go to Slovenia I would be in an interdisciplinary doctoral program with foci on Ethnology/Anthropology, Sociology, Political Anthropology, History, American Studies, Geography, etc.  Everything I am interested in studying in one place.  And in four years I'd have a PhD.  Also, and perhaps most importantly, if I do the Occupy project I would be ripe to teach American studies anywhere in Europe and be a solid candidate for job throughout the continent.  The program would put me there for a year and a half and then at a "foreign" institution for a semester -  which could be Rutgers, Northeaster, the New School, wherever.  Then I do my research here in NYC for a year, and write up for another and I'm done.  I teach in Europe and do research for a few years, and then I'm still in the same place I would be here after seven years, except I would have already been employed for a few years, already researching, teaching.  And I get to live in Europe.  I get to learn another Slavic language, maybe two as serbo-croatian isn't to far off.  And I'd be happy there.  I struggle here.  But I could still be here, researching etc.  I could also spend the next six months focusing on publishing my MA thesis and something on Occupy to help get myself ahead of the game. So many possibilities.

Honestly, I feel enlightened, enlivened.  I've been back here in the US for almost four years.  It hasn't been very kind to me, nor do I really like it.  I want a PhD, and I like being in Europe.  Why not?

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