confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 2

i started out, thinking that i’d write about schools two at a time, but that hasn’t really happened.  i’m really actually near the end of my trip now, but the insights changed.

as you probably know, i fell in love with UGA and athens. georgia, and did not fall in love with georgia state.  both of those responses were deep and gut-level.

we both spent a little bit of time in durham with j from the internet.  then t and i went and visited with her family out in rural raleigh, where we were well-fed and t and her tummy were well-loved, and then t and her dad and her dad’s girlfriend drove off to carolina beach and i stayed with j from the internet.

the following day, i got together with some of my loveliest friends from college, and they gave me the “pretend i live here and want to walk and bike to as many places as possible, where is the best place for me?” tour of carrboro.  they also brought me to this store in chapel hill with a shrine upstairs that made me feel like i was taking a tour inside francesca lia block’s fabulous glittery head.

that night my mom arrived from her trip along the blue ridge parkway from asheville, where she had been visiting to unsuccessfully escape the florida heat.  she was pleased to be in a house with cats.

she drove me to my appointments at unc-chapel hill and north carolina state.  i hoped she would find a place to park and wander, but the lack of free parking, understandable navigation, and cool breezes made it less of a fun adventure for her than i’d hoped.

my first appointment, at chapel hill, was with a professor who was meeting me with permission from his wife, who makes sure he spends enough time off and with the family.  i wasn’t sure how to read him from our brief emails, but he was very friendly and someone i could definitely work with, and the program sounds like what i want.  unfortunately, funding sounds like it’s very iffy and very year-by-year, which is not how i see my budding family thriving.  more recently, on the bolt bus from dc to new york, i quietly talked on the phone with a recent grad who talked to me about all of the pros and cons of the program, saying she was glad she went, she grew, and that the program is in a better place than it was when she started it– but that she had to spend some serious time educating some of the faculty about african-american and feminist issues, which is of course a red flag for me.

next i met with a faculty member at north carolina state.  t and i are much less excited about raleigh than chapel hill, so that’s the starting point for that.  i entered campus and immediately found a student yelling from the bible under a tree.  i walked for half an hour through north campus before i found the building i needed to be at and then found myself chasing up and down stairs to find the professor who was moving offices and to whom i’d accidentally sent a confirmation email with the wrong time on it.  she was very friendly and excited and convinced this was the perfect program for me.  after i left she connected me with more people and resources, so that’s awesome, too.  funding is slightly less iffy, but i’m just not sure about raleigh.  all of that area seems so spread-out and car-necessary, which is not at all what i want for my life.

then we drove to carolina beach where we spent time with t’s family.  one day, t’s dad took us out for a boat ride down the intracoastal waterway to the boardwalk area, and after we got donuts and walked down to the beach, i took off running, abandoning everyone to just get in the water.  having a pregnant lady in my life makes me think some about swimming and the womb, and the deep connection some of us feel with the ocean.  the next day, my mom kidnapped me for a day at the beach in front of her hotel.  there has been less swimming this summer than i would like, but that day made up for a lot of it.

we went down to florida to see more of t’s family and then we flew up to washington, dc.  as soon as i got off the plane, we hightailed it on the metro to the foggy bottom stop so i could meet with a professor at george washington.  he was wonderfully friendly and answered all of my questions, and the program sounds great.  i’m also really enamored with all the brick oldness of that area.  to me, birds of paradise are a little passe, because i grew up in florida, but old brick buildings are exotic and fascinating.  for t it’s the opposite.  i had another appointment, this time with a student, the following day, still feeling good about the program.

but one of the best things was the childhood support network that t has there, family friends who love her.  i think it would be really hard for us to find affordable housing, but we’d have people who love t around us, which is very important.

i took a train to delaware to visit the university of delaware in newark.  one of the things that struck me about dc, besides the old brick buildings was the comingled diversity.  i saw this on the buses in newark as well, but it had a grittier more industrial, poorer feel than the diplomats and doctors who bustled around me in dc.  the campus looks like what books and movies make you think colleges are supposed to look like, and i ate yummy food.  the professor there was wonderfully friendly and helpful, walking me up and down stairs and showing me all sorts of rooms and people and labs.  i think it could be a really good program, but between arranging the appointment and going to the appointment, t had pretty much vetoed delaware.

the next day, we took the bolt bus to new york.  before i met t, new york to me was the new york of crocodile dundee, dangerous, gritty, and full of angry executives in fancy clothes and angrier punks with leather jackets and enormously tall mohawks.  but the new york we always go to is the brooklyn loft of her bff, where we sit around and chat and eat for ours, and go on mini-excursions that are remarkably unstressful and always delightful.  this trip has been no different.  one day, i got together with a friend who went from student to faculty of cuny recently, and he gave me a tour of the bright hallways and closed darkened offices of the graduate center.  his partner had a bad experience at nyu, so she gave me the jaded tour of those blocks.  but my head is currently full of a fog of daydreams of a quietish new york spot for our family, and trying to make it work without feeling like a broke kid in a candy store.  it is entirely impractical, and reminds me of those crushes on dangerous boys in high school that feel so compelling and necessary to one’s blood at the time.  but like dc, what new york has is people who love us.  and although it’s fast in its way, it has yet to be overtly rude to us.

well, we are coming into philadelphia on our megabus, and then we are going to get our rental car for penn state.  it’s an odd time to visit, but so far this program seems to be one of the most promising for all of the bits of coziness, affordability, nice folks, and close to people we love.

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Published in: on 16 July, 2012 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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