(Beginning with some background) When I finished my BA in Russian Studies, I could have stayed in DC and become a low level functionary at the State Department or a translator with an NGO, but I got married and moved to Michigan instead. No one here in Michigan was looking for translators or low-level functionaries with excellent command of Russian. (Fancy that!) So, I had a baby (which I wanted to do anyway) and went back to school for certification so that I could teach Russian (and history, and English, and ESL (Michigan prefers versatile teachers.)) and had another baby. Along the way, my professors started saying, "You know, you don't really belong in that certificate program, you belong in our MA English Lit program." And I agreed, but then they upped the ante. They started saying, "You really should consider a PhD." What?!?! (I had honestly never considered this as a possible path.)
I said, "Nah." (You have to draw the line somewhere.) I took the amazing knowledge and experience of my two language degrees as well as the teaching certificate and started to make a career for myself as an adjunct professor of English as a Second Language. There are some really nice things about being an adjunct professor. You don't have to attend committee meetings, for one. You are not tied to a single institution (some semesters I taught for the Community College and the University). Did I mention that you don't have to attend committee meetings? The downside of adjuncthood, though, is your position at the bottom of the totem pole with no job security. And since you are happily not attending the committee meetings, you are also not helping to build the kind of institution you want to keep working in. The work environment at the Community College became toxic (don't get me started on the evils of shortsighted management) and all the full time job postings I looked at listed an MA as a requirement, but also said "PhD preferred." Ugh.
So after two years of searching for a specialty and then for schools with that specialty, and applications, and rejection letters, and starting over, and an acceptance letter (finally!), I am starting a PhD in Comparative Literature at Purdue University in the fall of 2010. Which brings us to (drumroll, please)….
The Grand Plan (such as it is)
This PhD program will consist of 2-3 years of classes (it is highly customizable based on my dissertation topic (memo to self: find dissertation topic and plan courses accordingly)), grueling paper and oral exams during the last semester of classes, and the most gigantic term paper I have ever even dreamed of writing (for which they give me 4-5 more years). As long as I "make steady progress toward the completion of my degree," the university has pledged me tuition remission, health insurance, and an adequate housing stipend for four years. The first year will be a fellowship (no teaching required), during the other three, I will teach in return for this generous package.
I know. Your questions at this point are legion: The kids? The house? The husband's job? Stay tuned – here we go:
Purdue is in West Lafayette, IN, which is Three Hours from where we live now. Definitely too far to commute. The children and I (and the cats) will stay in an apartment (this apartment is so cute, it will get its own post) in Lafayette (just over the river, still walking distance). They will go to an elementary school 6 blocks away, and I will not have to drive my car unless I want to. (We do the dance of joy!) We'll come back to Rambling Farmhouse in MI one weekend a month as well as holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. Summer is, as yet, undecided.
The husband will keep his job which is an hour from Rambling Farmhouse, but still two hours from Cute Apartment. Sometimes, he will join us in Lafayette and telecommute from Cute Apartment, sometimes he will go to work and sleep at Rambling Farmhouse. The chickens, which are vehemently not permitted within Lafayette city limits, will stay at Rambling Farmhouse where husband will look after them. My mom and sister are living in the Rambling Lakehouse next door, so there will always be someone to keep an eye on things when we are all at Cute Apartment.
When I have successfully run the gantlet at the heights of higher education, we'll retreat to Rambling Farmhouse, regroup and decide where to go from there depending on where I can find work and what the husband would like to do. He has this dream of taking a year off to tend the grapes he just planted. We'll keep you posted.