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)

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