Monday, August 31, 2009

Change of Direction

As many of you have no doubt seen on Facebook, I'm considering moving back to the States come December. In response to the various "huh?"s and "what?!"s, I'm going to use my poor neglected blog as a vehicle to explain.

Due to recent events in my life, settling down here isn't really an option anymore. At least, settling down here permanently isn't. I've fallen madly in love with someone, and while I can work anywhere, he can't work here. If we're ever going to be able to be together, I'm the one who has to move. Please don't think this was his idea. It was entirely mine-he'd move here if I asked him to, but I never would. And to be honest, I don't know that I want to spend my life here anyway. I love it here, and the people are great, but culturally, I don't fit in. Also, as much as people in the UK preach tolerance and understanding of other cultures, there's not only a universal judgement but almost hatred for American culture here. I'm more than willing to adapt to other cultures, but constantly being judged for where I come from is exhausting. The US may have it's problems, but it's still my home, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life being treated as if I'm "less than" just because of my nationality. For both those reasons, a move back to the States is imminent.

Knowing that, I have 3 options:

A) Stay here for a year, then spend another three getting my PhD here, and then move back to the States.

B) Stay here for a year, apply for PhDs at home, and get a Tier 1 visa in the meantime so that I can work until August when I would leave for school.

C) Stay here through January when my visa expires, and go home to live with my mom and save up money until August when I move to wherever I get into school.

Originally, I was going with choice A, with choice B as a fallback. But honestly, the option of going to school here is pretty much gone now. I failed my Latin exam, and though my advisor has worked out a way for me to make it up without re-sitting it next June, I have to accept what that means. The reason I was looking at Kings (originally my first choice) was because I wanted to go into their History of Religion program. But that program requires Latin, and I have to accept that regardless of how hard I work, I'm not going to get in with a failed Latin exam, and I'm certainly not going to get funding. As Kings was the only school in the UK I was looking at for a doctorate, that eliminates choice A.

Choice B then became the plan; I got a job and was going to work on doctoral applications all year for programs in the States (I changed my PhD focus to something more modern that doesn't require the 5 languages my first choice did). But then I started running the numbers, and I just don't know if it's financially feasible. Right now, I'm making enough to support myself just fine. But the extra costs of living here are really adding up. First of all, a visa application is £450, and would need to be paid by October at the latest if I want to have my passport back by December to go home for Christmas. Then, there's the council tax that is due in January. I'm the only non-student in my house, which means I am entirely responsible for paying it. Yes, you do pay less if it's one non-student, but they only knock off 25%, which means I'd still be paying a least £1000. That's in addition to the fee for my visa and a round-trip flight home for Christmas. (Going home for Christmas is something I won't sacrifice...I only get to see Matt twice a year as it is, and I'm not going to give that up.) So altogether, that's around £2000, all shelled out by January. Then take into account the fact that my student loan payments start up in February at $500 a month, and you see the problem. I just can't afford to live here. I've made a lot of decisions in my life that financially weren't the best but provided me with great experiences, and staying here was going to be another of them. But I need to grow up. I need to be responsible and get out of debt sooner rather than later, and going home will certainly facilitate that. I would live with my mom (no rent, visa fees, or council tax), and could just put all the money I earn waiting tables or something towards paying off student loan fees and credit card bills. Then, if I get into a good PhD program and get funding, great, I'll move to wherever it is next August. If I don't, then I can start hunting for a more serious job and an apartment.

I won't pretend like Matt isn't a big part of this decision; he is. If he's willing to commit to a serious relationship knowing that we probably won't live in the same city for the next 6 years (US doctorates are 5 years long), then the least I can do is spend the 8 months I was going to spend putzing around here with him so we can actually spend some time together. We've known each other for 7 years, and the longest stretch of time we've had together is 3 days. E-mail is no way to start a long-term relationship. I've never been one to let a relationship affect my professional decisions, and I won't. I'll still go wherever I have to for school. But that doesn't mean I can't make any decisions with him in mind, especially if they're financially beneficial.

Lastly, most of my closest friends have officially moved to other countries as of today; Betsy, Jeff and Christine back to the States, and Fiona back to Ireland. I still have friends here, very good friends who I adore. But once the people you're closest to are gone, a place kind of loses its hold on you.