Unfortunately, pretty much what I got from talking to Dimetrodon this morning is that 1) a foreign masters wouldn't really help me much beyond getting me research experience (i.e., it would help me get into a PhD program in the US, but wouldn't advance me much in terms of my education), and 2) pretty much the only way to do paleontology is to either start a PhD program, work as a lab tech, or sort of work in a museum.

All of this leads me to conclude: the best path for me is probably not to do a foreign masters. In an ideal world, the best path sounds like:
  1. Volunteer at the Smithsonian, probably in the ETE program, but maybe with someone else doing paleontology.
  2. Work on the side to make enough to survive, possibly with AmeriCorps tutoring in Washington.
  3. Apply for (and get, duh) a Fulbright to go to Australia or New Zealand for the following year.
  4. Start a PhD program.
  5. Live happily ever after.
If only it were that easy. :P

I'm feeling a little better today, which is good; I was a little worried I would waste away the whole weekend, moping. But no! I did some reading this afternoon, and spent some more time looking up grad schools. It looks like pretty much my only options in the UK are Oxford and Cambridge, which is even more elitist than my current school. So ... basically, not entirely sure I really want to do that, but they have some awesome natural history museums.

I'm also not 100% sure on my field of study—paleontology/paleobiology is an obvious choice, but a GIS masters would be extremely useful, if I ever wanted to work not in academia. The other issue with paleontology is that it often involves dating fossils—and I definitely don't want to spend my life running isotopes. Running isotopes would be marginally better than dissecting things, though. At any rate, there's a project at Oxford that looks really interesting, I just have to find out if it's still accepting students.

The grad school websites are a little weird, because they expect you to come in with a project—but it can be either a project that the professor has already outlined, or you can propose your own. I'm not really sure if one is better than the other when it comes to admissions, but at least at Oxford there's something that definition sounds interesting, and will let me learn a lot about fish.

The biggest problem I'm having at the moment is navigating their websites, and finding scholarships that aren't ridiculously competitive. Not that it doesn't make sense for them to be really competitive, since I'm kind of hoping to get a full ride here; but still, it would be nice to feel like I won't have a 0.2% chance of being able to afford grad school. There are a few scholarships that provide full funding, but a lot that provide something like 1,000-5,000 pounds—which is great, but I'd need five of those to be able to go, and that's starting to sound like a lot of applications.

Hopefully I will get to talk to my advisor soon, so she can give me some better advice on whether I am totally crazy, who I could work with in the UK or Australia/New Zealand, and what to do in general with my life. Theoretically, that's what she's there for.

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lailoken

July 2012

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