I sent an email to the professor who would become my dissertation advisor, and I received a welcoming and thoughtful reply. His research interests were similar to mine and he expressed genuine interest in working with me. The College of Arts & Sciences offered me a fellowship, and I felt like UB wanted me. I was returning to graduate school after working for a few years, so I wanted to move to a new environment where I could establish a new routine. I believe that uprooting myself and seeking out an unfamiliar place has been a great benefit to my grad school years.
Since starting the PhD program here, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of opportunities grad students can take advantage of. Research and conference funding is available from a number of sources, and the department has given me the opportunity to teach three of my own classes. PhD students often consider the months preparing for comprehensive exams the most intense period of the degree, but I really enjoyed it. It will remain one of the defining moments in my time at UB. Last year, I moved to the U.K. for six months to research and write. With some department funding, this time was incredibly productive for my dissertation. I made sure to take advantage of being in Europe, be it an evening pint at the pub or a weekend getaway.
Ask yourself why you want to earn a graduate history degree. There are lots of good answers. Some of our MA students need the degree to continue teaching in New York State. Others might be considering a PhD down the road, and see the MA program as a testing ground. Still others do the MA program for other end goals, and some folks are part-time students. The MA is a two-year degree, so at some level, you can already see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the PhD is a much longer commitment. I would impart that the PhD is both a sprint and a marathon. Prospective PhD students should recognize that an offer by a university entails part-time work as a teaching assistant, and to some degree, a vow of poverty. All of my non-grad school friends work full-time jobs and get paid accordingly, and this income disparity can be frustrating. However, my non-grad student friends are often envious of my flexible schedule, frequent travels, and that I’m doing something that I love.