On location


As always, FSP has a thought provoking post.  Her style occasionally has been:  here is a question, a couple thoughts of my own, and then poses the question to her readers. It is interesting because it allows a forum of sorts, her readers comment and offer opinions and perspectives and you get to see a wide range of view points.  Today her post was about choosing graduate schools based on location. This is something I have a fairly strong view point on. To be fair, this is my own viewpoint, and is nothing more than opinion, so you can take it or leave it.

Location should be the absolute last criteria used to choose a graduate program, unless you are 100% certain you will be miserable in said location.

First, there are so many other things that will affect your life more than location. The adviser you choose, the atmosphere of the department, funding, grad stipend, prestige*, the size of the school, ect… Should all other criteria be evaluated and found equal, then location is something worth considering. The basic concept is that if you are choosing a more desirable location, then you are likely sacrificing something in one of the other areas, which may make you miserable down the road.

Next, most people who pursue an academic life have limited job opportunities. The reality of the matter is that you may only get job opportunities in locations you consider to be undesirable, and you may be forced to move to locations you rather wouldn’t.  Some academic career paths will have more opportunities than others, but almost all are limited in some respects. It is basically a reality that has to be dealt with, and something you should get comfortable with earlier rather than later.

Also, the perception you have of a location is likely not what that location is like. Many times in my life I have had a stereotypical image of a location in my mind, but when I visited the location, it was nothing like the stereotype I had. The graduate school I moved to is in an area that I considered undesirable, but I’ve found it is a beautiful state, with lots of natural  features that I enjoy. The weather is warmer than  I would like, but my undergraduate town was colder than I would have liked.  Also, several other areas I’ve visited have not matched the stereotype in my mind. I am a firm believer that one can not really know what an area has to offer until one has lived in that area.

Finally, every area has something unique to offer. All over the United States, and the world, there are cultures that are unique and interesting. Each area has their own little thing, these little culture niches may not be what you enjoy, but show some flexibility and willingness to explore! Try new things! You may (will likely) be surprised, and even if you are not, you will at least have interesting stories to tell. There is no town, village, hamlet or metropolis on this planet that doesn’t have something to offer. Explore and experience!

As a caveat, I should say there are many people with extenuating circumstances, these could be family obligations, financial, health, work, anything. If there is a logistical reason why location is an issue, then of course that changes things.  This post is mostly about people who have no other obligations and have the ability to move anywhere, which I know isn’t everyone.

*Not something I put a lot of stock in to, but more so than location.

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~ by epiphron13 on March 23, 2011.

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