Question of the Day: Can I live like a student for 3-5 more years?

13 12 2008

Like many recent and upcoming graduates, I’m starting to panic just a little at the economy.  I assumed that when I finished law school in summer ’09, I would be able to just slip quietly into an entry-level position at an NGO and work my way through the ranks, but with the economy like it is, there are no entry-level NGO jobs.  No entry-level anything, really.  I’ve been considering diving back into academia and hiding for a little while, but there’s a bit of a Catch 22.  The fellowships I’m looking at have January-March due dates on the applications, and they start July-September.  I wouldn’t really be able to start looking for jobs till April or so, I’d assume.  I mean, I think if you’re listing a job, you’re looking for someone to start within the next few months at least.  So I kind of have to make a decision.  Honestly, I love academia but I have no money.  I’d rather be able to work a few years and make some, but if I end up having to waitress, I’m not going to make much of that.  Here are the academic possibilities:

Columbia Law/Center for Reproductive Rights Fellowship:  Money-wise, this one is ideal.  It’s a two year research fellowship with a $55K/year stipend, which is actually enough to live in New York.  It’s geared towards reproductive rights/human rights, and it’s designed for those planning to go into legal academia, which I’ve been considering.  The problem is that I can’t necessarily commit to it, because if later something opened up in an activist direction, I might want to take it.  I do plan to research all my life, but that may not be as a professor.  Also, it starts in July, which is a problem with a lot of these – I’ll be prepared to start when they say, but I don’t know if they’ll accept me because I won’t have the J.D. in hand until August.

Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences:  This is a PhD fellowship in Bremen, Germany.  The program looks interesting, but not necessarily practically useful if I don’t go into academics.  However, if I wanted to teach in European universities, I might be able to do so with a European PhD.  The theme of the PhD is “The Future of Social and Political Integration,” and they have five topic areas you can pursue, all very interdisciplinary.  Fellows all get a 1200 euro/month stipend for three years and no tuition.  I would probably have to get a part-time job if I did this, depending on cost of living in Bremen.  The good news is I have until March 15, so time to think about a dissertation topic.

New York University:  I could get a JSD, which is basically a PhD in law.  The deadline is January 1, so I’ve decided that I’m not applying for this one this year.  It’s just not enough time to come up with a dissertation topic or commit to something as major as a doctoral degree.  However, this is a definitely possibility (for that matter, as is a Fullbright) if I can’t find a job and end up waitressing or temping this time next year.  It is a funded program, but $20,000 stipend for three years isn’t close to enough to live on in New York, so I’d need to find a job where I could make that again in salary.  

European University Institute: This is one of the most interesting programs to me.  The program is English/French, and I could do history or law.  Both are doctoral level, and it’s in Florence, where I’ve always wanted to go.  The catch is that funding is only available to European citizens, so this isn’t an immediate option.  Still, it’s in the back of my mind as something I might do in 5-10 years after saving up some money if my career isn’t really blossoming.

Book club reminder: Poll closes Sunday.  If no one votes, then I may just start selecting books myself from the suggestions given, so please vote if you’re interested in doing so.  If not, then I don’t mind picking and we’ll all read along!




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