Monday, June 12, 2006

Good Funding, Bad Location

Frustrated and (well, relatively) Well Funded writes in...

I recently finished my first year of a 3-4 year program. My question is this: what are your thoughts on transferring out of a program after two years? There has been some discussion on your blog about transfers in general, but I don't know that this has been addressed. While I am happy with what I am writing, I am not happy about where I am living and I am concerned that my unease regarding my surroundings will begin to adversely affect my writing. I should mention that, because of the amount of funding I've (happily) received from my current program, leaving without having secured a place elsewhere (or just taking a year off) would, I believe, be foolish. I'm sort of at a loss about what to do.

My first thought: A lot of people who don't receive funding would like to kick you right now.

My second thought: I'm not one of the kickers, and I have sympathy for what you're saying. Environment means a lot. If where you live is not helping your writing, then you should seriously consider making a move.

That said, I think you're going to run into some problems. Most programs are two years, and by the time you apply, you'll already have completed two years. I guess my question back to you, Frustrated, is: How's that going to work?

I don't know, so I'll give you my best practical advice: Stay where you are. Good funding is not the easiest thing to come by. And it sounds like you like the program itself too. As far as where you live: make it a priority, time-wise and budget-wise, to get out of town every break that you can. Take this mindset: While you're working, get the work done and don't worry about where you live. When you're playing, get to some place where you can play well, and that can positively influence your writing.

That's my two cents, Frustrated. I hope it's helpful in some way.

17 comments:

ds/t said...

does this question relate to my question a couple down at all? (i don't know of any other 3-4 year programs) i'm still looking for some advice either way. thanks.

ds/t

Anonymous said...

Well, you must be in a Ph.D. program in one of those dreadful places. Get out of there as quickly as possible if you don't like the envirnment. Apply to the other programs you like--it's kind of complex because you kind of have to explain why you want to leave when you apply to new programs, but it can be done. I saw many people switch programs--once or twice is fine, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I was in the same situaiton as you. I suggest you secretly plan to leave--don't tell anybody in the program or even your close friends that you don't like the place--and milk as much money from the program as possible and get some writing done while you're there--try to complete the least numeber of courses and delay any exams like a prelim or degree requirements. You start doing this before it gets unbearable and when you are accepted somewhere else, quietly get out of there. It will make some people in the program angry but hey, your happiness is the most important!

Anonymous said...

This fellow's at Alabama!

What other 3-4 year program is there? None.

So is Tuscaloosa really putting its thumb down on his writing? Or is this just an excuse? Does it really happen to all guys? Will I really write better in ugly L.A. than I would in ugly Alabama.? Why?

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah? Who would be this Frustrated and (well, relatively) Well Funded? It must be one of those few people with a cushy fellowship. Hmmmm....

Anonymous said...

This fellow must be on the hot seat in Tuscaloosa! Hehe.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, thanks for the comments. I am in the South. I am not in Alabama. I am in a PhD program...hence the 3-4 years (I have an MA in Literature). I appreciate not being verbally "kicked" by all of you, there's a gift horse phrase that comes to mind.

About the fact that most programs are two years long, if one were to transfer, is it possible to convince a two year program that they would use that time effectively? That road block has to be possible to overcome, right?

Jason MacLeod said...

Honestly, in my experience, it is possible to spin anything. To quote a character from a near forgotten 90's cinematic gem, "You can major in gameboy if you know how to bullshit." I think it entirely possible for you to make a target creative writing program believe your two years in the south are just what they are looking for in new student. If nothing else, your app would stand out as being different. That said, I would have to LOATHE a location to leave it if I had good funding there. =)

Anonymous said...

To be honest, your options are a little limited. Your application will not be viewed favourably by some programs, especailly the ones in competitive English departments like Indiana, Cornell, Michigan..., but anything is possible like Jason said.

Anonymous said...

3-4 year Ph.D programs in the South? Hmmmm...if it's not Alabama, this guy must be in one of those crappy Ph.D. programs like Southern Miss. These programs have high transfer rates.

Old Scribe said...

What is it that's giving you problems? If you're in the South, I doubt it's traffic, pollution, and a high crime rate (that's NYC).

If I had to guess, I'd say it's the people. The South can be a difficult place for a Ph.D. candidate when s/he is surrounded by people who have more kids than teeth. You know? The type of folks who are challenged by long division and crossword puzzles. Of course it's summer, so you might be running low on loot and may be forced out amongst the masses to look for one of those awesome jobs the South offers (like Wal-Mart). It can be frustrating waiting for the fall semester to start up. Trust me. I know.

My advice? Well, you didn't say anything negative about the program, so I suppose it's just the "Howdy y'all/Hee-Haw" environment that's troubling you. But don't quit your schooling over that--especially if it's well-funded. Just carve a niche. Find a couple people from school who are on your level and spend your free time with them. If you need money, get a job at a bookstore or a library (at least the people there can read). But keep writing. Keep your head in the books. Concentrate on what you're doing and complete your mission.

Best of luck.

BlueVelveeta said...

Hey Old Scribe: I think your heart is in the right place, but your comments about the South are unfair. Yes, I have lived in the South; I know that it can be an incredibly difficult place to live and that the social climate can be, euphemistically put, unsettling for most of us. Still, your generalization of people who live in the South as ignorant, toothless breeders who detract from the academic experience is classist. Not everyone has the money, time, encouragement, background, educational experience, etc., etc., etc. to pursue advanced education, and so it's not difficult to understand that some of the people in a college-town community might resent students who come from other parts of the country with views of the Southern people as contemptuous as those you've described. The South can certainly be a hard place to live---I didn't stay---but not everyone who lives there, no matter their class or educational background, is as you've described.

As for the question at hand, Frustrated, I agree that your best bet would be to finish up the program, taking the advice of those who have wisely suggested travelling, joining/creating groups of people similar to yourself, and throwing yourself into your work. If you can't stand the jobs available to you in your town, you could try freelance editing (craigslist is brimming with telecommuting opportunities). But the main reason I suggest staying is this: if the program can truly be completed in 3 years, and you would have to wait until next year to begin a new program anyway, you'd be leaving with only one year left---and since that year would be the one in which you were finishing up your dissertation, I'd imagine you'd be too busy to pay too much attention to your location. Two years from now, you could be finished with your PhD and on your way to better places armed with a great CV and little to no debt. If you still felt that your writing needed more time and space, you could always apply for a fellowship or a residency. Whatever you choose, good luck!

Old Scribe said...

Blue Velveeta:

Point taken. Regardless of how stern my language might have sounded, I didn't mean to generalize. I've spent decades in the South, so I know the territory. The problem, I think, is that Frustrated might be dealing with some of the locals who fit the mold of the stereotypical redneck, and perhaps he's having problems adjusting. As a writer, I've been trained to avoid stereotyping my characters, but then I meet people in life who seem to have fallen fresh from a preconfigured cast. What's even more strange: some people WANT to be stereotypes. It makes my head swim.

Perhaps Frustrated will post and clarify his predicament. But I understand what you mean, BV.

Anonymous said...

There are four Ph.D. programs in the South: Florida State, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Louisianna-LaFayette (and maybe Georgia). I didn’t include Houston because it’s in a major metropolitan area. From these four or five, the only program that can be completed in three years is Southern Miss as it says on their website: “The Ph.D. is a 54-hour degree almost identical to the literature doctorate and is usually completed in three years.” So if he’s not at Alabama as he insists, he’s definitely at Southern Miss!

Anonymous said...

Hey Y'all,

Thanks again. I think i agree with blue v and the others who have advised to "buckle down" and work. To be honest, just reading the range of opinions on the matter seemed to help. We'll see how it goes. If I do decide to make a move, I'll post later on or write in to say how it went.

Anonymous said...

Old scribe, there are poor people everywhere, not just in Arkansas.

In my tour of southern academia, I haven't run into many "rednecks" or toothless folks. I imagine all graduate programs are filled with pretty much the same type of people. Not that this precludes a supreme ignorance, as your comments attest.

Old Scribe said...

Once again, I don't think it's the people inside the program that are giving him problems. I believe it's the off-campus environment.