Life as an Extreme Sport


So what I alluded to in this post is very simple: when I checked email Monday upon waking up (I can’t really say Monday morning, because it was more like Monday early afternoon), I had a letter marked “urgent” from the graduate school coordinator at the University of Texas Medical Branch. It seems that the director wanted to have a phone interview with me the following day (Tuesday, for those keeping track at home)…!

So my Monday afternoon was spent talking with my adviser about what to expect, and trying to stay excited and not slip into nervous. Tuesday afternoon, I called UTMB and spoke with the director…and found out that several professors also wanted to talk with me…!

On the whole, it was a very positive experience. I got a sense for the program and professors, enjoyed speaking with them, and felt comfortable in conversation. They largely wanted to know simple things, like what I did between high school and now, my background in medicine (biology, chemistry, hospitals), what I thought the medical humanities was and how I thought I had experience in it (I will admit to answering this question a bit roughly by the third time I was asked, as I tried to not repeat myself too badly/robotically), and so on. I felt like I really hit it off with the theology professor I spoke to, and we had a really great conversation that careened all over the place. He paid me several nice compliments, telling me that I had a very elegant way with words and that I was a quick pick-up on conversations. I think what I liked most was that he backed down and admitted he was wrong over something – he brought up my writing sample and one of the assertions I made in it, and began talking about how I was basically wrong. I was scrambling on that, and explained I had went with what the text read said, and that although I was familiar with the author’s work, I felt as though the professor had a lot more experience and was much more familiar. He denied this, saying it had been a while since he’d read the author, but that he tended to teach a class on death and dying and used the author in that class…and then basically went “oh, yeah, I guess that does mean I’m more familiar with it than you” and apologized for ambushing me on something that I had no time to prepare for, and on a subject where he did have a lot more immediate experience. I thought that was pretty cool.

The downsides? They prefer to accept undergraduates to their MA program, not directly into the PhD program. They do this because they feel the typical undergraduate doesn’t know what they’re getting into for PhD work, especially since they haven’t really lived life, and the chances of a 22 year old knowing what they really want to do is difficult to believe. This tends to be a going trend, and it irritates me – I’m not 22, I have lived life, and I know what I want to do. They acknowledged this, asked if I’d be willing to consider the MA program, and said they would try to arrange the PhD anyhow. (Oh yes, they emphasized several times wanting me as a student.) The other downside is equally pausing – there’s almost no funding. There will be a stipend available next year, but several of us would have to fight over it.

So that’s where things stand. They were going to try to get back to me ASAP with an answer, which I appreciate, although I won’t be making any decisions until I hear from other schools. So far, I’ve received two rejections (Duke and Columbia), an interested from UTMB, and silence from seven other schools. I should be collecting more rejections any day now…

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