Monday, May 13, 2013


My paperwork from BYU arrived at SOAS and they issued me an Unconditional Offer on Thursday. It's pretty. I mean, it's essentially the same letter, but pretty just because of the word "unconditional."

I've been working my way through my many to-dos. I filed a FAFSA this morning, but it's not going to do all that much good, to be honest. Because in truth, I can not afford to go.

Federal loans allow me to borrow $20,500/year. Tuition is $19,900 for overseas students such as myself. Rent on a dorm will be $900/month, and that's sharing a flat with 5-6 other people. Then there's food. Books. Transportation. Utilities. Fees, fees, fees. Flight there. Flights to India.

I think I already said that I missed the deadline for International students seeking funding (it was back in January, before SOAS was even on my radar). I've also missed all external grant and scholarship deadlines. I've found a few I could apply for, but they won't be any good for this year, and unfortunately (though it is logical), my visa application will absolutely NOT be approved unless I can prove that I can support myself financially for the first year.

I can't apply for the visa until 3 months prior to my start date at SOAS, so I have about 6 weeks to figure this out. I've been combing the internets looking for options, and I'm honestly not finding anything. I'm considering applying for a deferment of my offer until Fall 2014. There'd be no guarantees that it would be approved, but if it were, that would give me time to scrape together funding.


Monday, May 6, 2013


I applied on a whim. While I allowed myself to (briefly) fantasize about being accepted, I never (ever) really thought that I would be. I considered it more of a practice run this time around. I had every intention of applying to the University of Sydney this summer and seeing how that turned out.

Anyway, SOAS (formerly the School of Oriental and African Studies - recently changed in part due to issues surrounding the use of the word "Oriental") is part of the University of London. It's pretty small (5000+ students), so 5x as large as my undergrad (Macon had 1000), but much smaller than my grad school (BYU had 32000-ish). I'm glad. I like the smaller places better. About 40% of the students are international and their are departments for the varying regions (south Asia, southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Linguistics, etc). I am, of course, entering the Linguistics department, though I considered also applying to the South Asia department, as they have some Punjabi research going on. I'll just try to get an advisor from there. I have already been assigned an advisor based on my research proposal. He does not do Punjabi, or any of the Indian languages. He studies Burmese and Wu. Oh well. :)

As a part of my application, I had to submit a research proposal. Luckily, I've been formulating what I want to do at the dissertation-level since I finished my MA thesis, so I just had to put it in writing. I had two people look it over for me (not because I'm a poor writer (I'm not. I'm very good), but because sometimes I get a bit caught up in my own head and I need some outside perspective to ensure that I'm being clear. So I threw one together (7 pages + title page + 4 pages of bibliography + 2 pages of appendix). I had a smart and remembered to transfer all of my documents (proposal, resume, CV) to A4 sized paper. That might be why I got in. They were like, "Oh look! A non-idiot American!"

Anyway, SOAS is divided into 2 "campuses" which are 20 minutes walk from each other. I use scare-quotes because really, it's a collection of disparate buildings in the middle of a city, not distinct from the surrounding area, like most campuses in the states are. It's divided between Russell Square and Vernon Square. It's apparently a very cool, bohemian part of the city with pubs and farmer's markets and a Harikrishna temple. Now this is cool: the temple takes food that's been overproduced or is at it's sell-by date, cooks it up, and feeds the neighborhood. For real.

I gather that the student body is highly eclectic and very hippie-ish. Lots of vegetarians and vegans and possibly hipsters.

My program looks incredible. As I mentioned, it's a 3-year MPhil/PhD. For the first year, I'll be near campus: meeting with my advisor "fortnightly,*" researching in their amazing, world-reknowned library, hammering out the details and design of my research, and attending lectures that my advisor thinks would be beneficial. There are 3 10-week long terms (ish) with 3-4 week breaks between. So that'll be Year 1.

Year 2 is dedicated to research, and in my case, that means field research. I'll probably spend 2 of the 3 terms in India (I'll probably go twice so as to focus on different aspects of my work and also to not get burned out). And, of course, I will spend lots of time on data analysis. Then Year 3 is dedicated to writing the dissertation. And then that's it! If all goes to plan, I'll be finishing up in July 2016.

As a Macon Woman note, I love that all of my graduation years have been/will be evens. (2004, 2012, 2016)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

First Steps

It's been 4 busy days since my offer of a place and SOAS, University of London. A busy 4 days. Technically, my offer f a place in their program was a Conditional Offer, meaning I have to take care of a few things before I get an awesome Unconditional Offer.

As a condition of my admission, I have to send SOAS some documents. As part of my application, I had to send them pdfs of my transcripts and diplomas (seriously). And now I've been admitted, they want certified copies of my transcript and diploma from BYU, and a certified statement from the registrar confirming my degree and GPA. It all seems rather redundant to me, but whatever. I went to the records department on Friday and ordered all of that junk to be sent to SOAS so that they can issue me an Unconditional Offer.

Once I have that, I can apply for a CAS number (whatever that is), and then after I have that, I can apply for a student visa. Which will be quite expensive. Oh well. Anyway, I can't apply for that until it's 3 months before my arrival date, and currently it's 4, so I have some time to sort out the rest.

Four months. Geez. Given everything else aligning, in four months, I'll be moving (MOVING!) to London for 3 years. I am in shock. It has absolutely not sunk in yet. I'm scared and excited and overwhelmed. And even though I'm halfway certain that the school uploaded the wrong letter to my account by mistake, I'm taking steps.

I have so much to do. I've started organizing my things. Today, I packed a suitcase with all of my family heirlooms and sent it off with a friend who is going to get it to the east coast for me, so those things can be safe with a family member while I'm gone. I'm going to store a few suitcases of things I don't want to part with - I'm getting them to one of my sisters.

Everything else? I'm selling. My kitties? Also going to family. My bestie/pseudo-sister Noel is going to take care of Harold, my poor neurotic nutcase. She's the only other person that he tolerates, and she is kindly willing to adopt him while I'm gone. Kallista, I don't have a solid plan for yet. I'll figure it out. One of the many things I need to figure out.

But in about 4 months, I'll be moving on, finally getting out of Utah, and going to London, to my dream program, and I'll spend 3 glorious (an no doubt hard) years engrossed in my awesome research. Next time, I'll write about the program and why it's so amazingly perfect. :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013


For the past year, I have been working towards PhD applications. I took the GRE. I researched programs. I ordered transcripts. I wrote statements and research proposals. I paid exorbitant application fees.

And I was rejected. From 2 programs. The only two I applied for.

And then a friend mentioned SOAS. And so I looked it up. I liked the program. I liked the focus and the structure, so I decided that I would try for it next year.

For your reference, SOAS is The School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

But. But then I saw that their application deadline hadn't passed yet. It was still 10 days away. I could do it. I could still try for this fall.

So I did. But I fully expected another rejection. They said that it would take 5-8 weeks for a response.
 I got mine this morning. It's been a little over 4 weeks.

It was so fast, I was convinced it would be a no. It was too fast for a yes. I was certainly one of the riffraff they were purging early.

But it wasn't a no. It was a yes. :D