…emerging from my protective shell

The last “Oh #@$((&%@” post was prescient. I didn’t get a dressing down for having nothing done by this point. I got a lot of concern and suggestions, and a much, much scarier picture of my future.

I did get a gentle wrist slap for taking on so much teaching – not that I had a choice. Joseph Heller is chortling madly from his afterlife, wishing he could add my tale as a sequel. I pay the GNP of Iceland to study part time as an overseas student. Last semester, I had a full-time job, and that paid all right, but A) drove me insane (reminding me why I had vowed to never work with TV producers EVER again), and B) the contract ended anyway.

So I took on all the teaching they offered me – at 7 classes per semester, spread over 2 universities and 4 departments, my paycheck doesn’t quite match what I pay in fees alone.

But all the teaching – the prep, the assessments, the marking – means I have maybe 4 hours a week for PhD study, and that’s spread out through the week in 30 minute chunks.

I can’t earn enough to pay my fees if they cut back my teaching, but I can’t actually study if I continue to teach at this level.

Monday’s meeting – with my supervisor and the Head of School – went something like:

They said, “You’re teaching too much, 1st year PhDs shouldn’t teach at all, next term we’re cutting it way back. Oh, and by the way, we’re hiring a creative writing lecturer to teach the classes you’re teaching anyway, and so there will be less teaching and a smaller budget for people like you overall.”

I said, “B-b-but I can’t pay my fees without teaching, and funding is next to nothing for we Colonials daring to return to the Motherland to study.”

They said, “_______.”

Head of School actually compared her situation to mine. Um, no. I like you and all, and I think you’ll be good for us, but just no.

No third option offered. I had to hold my breath through the rest of my supervisor meeting – all offering good suggestions on my PhD plans, etc – just to keep from breaking down into tears. I made it over to my husband’s office, where I bawled about my failed dream for about an hour.

Before you start in on me like everyone else, yes, I’m exploring every funding option available:

The US says we made too much money last year for them to give us any aid for education. The UK says “You weren’t born here, and we hate everyone who isn’t us, so suck it.” They just killed off the scheme that allowed overseas students to pay resident fees.

In the UK, you have to be a UK or EU citizen for most. I’ve applied for a couple, but they’re sketchy. I’ve seen forms for mail-in cereal box prizes that were more in-depth.

Part-time work
This was how I landed the job last semester, and it was only mildly successful. I was miserable in the job. I took up teaching for this semester, hoping it would work. It’s not – too much work, no pay. One issue is that I don’t speak Welsh, and I’m not local, two giant strikes against me for a lot of local part-time work, especially in the uni. I’m still slogging the job board, but won’t even be able to start any of them till after this term.

I just can’t do it. I’m $60k in debt from my Master’s. Add at least another $40k for this degree, and I’m a glorified writer with $100k in debt. It’s not like it’s a medical degree, where I can be assured a decent salary as soon as I graduate. I can’t even be sure I’ll have a chance at a JOB when I graduate. Plus, it goes a bit against my moral stance on this issue – I gripe at least once a week how people borrowing money (and institutions lending money) KNOWING they couldn’t pay it back got us into this economic cock-up to begin with. Pretty hypocritical of me to turn around and do the same thing just because I really want something.

Industry funding
I’m working on it. The uni has a couple of schemes working to partner researchers with related industries/businesses. Business forms a relationship with the uni, benefits from the research, and the researcher gets their work paid for. These schemes are really promising…kind of like .coms in the 90s, real estate in the 80s, olive green appliances in the 70s…I know they work, and I’m hoping they work out, but at the moment there are a LOT of variables. It’s too pie-in-the-sky for me to have any confidence in it at the moment.

It’s been a depressing week. Unlike USC, BU doesn’t quite have the funding to provide a lot of teaching assistantships. I don’t think they’ve even thought of it. It was really telling that the head of school didn’t have any sort of alternative option for me.

On a more positive note, however, I did have a brilliant idea later on in the week. I can’t chat about it much, because it too might be insanely pie-in-the-sky, but I don’t want to ruin any chance I may have of it working. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that things work out, keep applying for part-time jobs and cereal-box grants, and write in my half-hour snippets of time while teaching poetry to kids who haven’t yet figured out that I know nothing about poetry.

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