Monday, April 9, 2012

The Ending of a Graduate Student Jorney; Part II

My experience with "distance" education started in my late 20's. My girlfriend (later my wife) had managed to persuade me to return to college in order to finish my bachelor's degree (I had dropped out at 21 after being denied admission to the School of Music at Arizona State University). I considered re-auditioning with the hopes of finishing a degree in music composition but was advised that should I be rejected a second time, the likelihood of being offered an opportunity to thrice fail was slim. I couldn't say whether or not I would have passed the audition, after all; I had been diligently practicing for the past five years, I had been on tour with two bands and was in fact teaching music for a local after school program. But the memory of the rejection pressed hard on my mind. I was also informed by an academic adviser in the School of Music; that to allow me to study within the college itself, without being a music major, would constitute a "waste of resources." In this time I had also come to the realization that in order to attend school full time (and in person), I would need to quit my job of private music instruction, which was paying me well and had allowed me to engage professionally in music which was something I was not terribly anxious to give up. 

All of these things factored into my decision not to return to Arizona State University, but rather to find some other option for completing my degree. It was then that I came across the three primary correspondence universities in the US; Excelsior, Thomas Edison and Charter Oak State College. My choice was the final. For the next two years I worked very hard at finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Music History (something I am very grateful was a distance offering). In 2010 I graduated with honors. My salery didn't go up, I received no promotions I wouldn't have gotten without the degree, but the time working with the professors to whom I was assigned changed me in a way (and improved my writing) that I couldn't have anticipated. 

Because the initial hurdle of my bachelor's degree was complete, and because I had the full support of my parents (financially), I decided to look for graduate studies options. During this time I had also taken up playing the Dilruba, and had been studying Hindusthani vocals with a saintly teacher who encouraged me faithfully. This naturally led me to weekly web-searches for programs that included non-western musics, which is how I came across the University of Sheffield's Master of Arts in World Music Studies programme (no, I am not misspelling it, that is actually how "program" is written in the UK). Essentially the program was everything for which I was looking, it was distance learning (sort of, it actually required four visits to the physical campus over two years in order to attend seminars and present findings among other activities) and wouldn't interfere with my work schedule (much). 

So, I decided to take the plunge. I renewed my passport (thanks to my wife who had set my expired one aside) and sent in my application materials. I was thrilled to hear that I had received an unconditional invitation to join the programme which I proudly announced to a class voice course I was attending at the local community college. I really had very little idea as to what to expect but was anxious that for the first time in a long time, I felt that my goals were back on track. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Ending of a Graduate Student Jorney; Part I

The University of Sheffield's Master of Arts
in World Music Studies, class of 2012 complete
with students faculty and staff. 

I don't know how public I have made this (especially on this blog), but as of the writing of this entry I am a student through the University of Sheffield's Master of Arts in World Music Studies Programme. Actually, to speak literally, as of writing this I have just completed my final residential on the campus here in Sheffield and am preparing to return to Oregon where I will be completing the writing of my dissertation. Currently, I am seated in a train-station lounge waiting to take a trip to London where I will meet with some dear and helpful people at the Raj Academy school of Sikh and Indian music. 

My journey through an advanced degree followed (in some ways) the typical course for so many students. What I mean to say is; that plans were laid out during undergraduate work to study beyond the bachelor level with the hopes of entering higher education as a career. While I have proceeded to accomplish some of this during the course of adulthood - I can't help but feel as though I am a million miles from where I expected. My life, took so many twists while I was in my 20's that when I look back on the whole ordeal, I find it astounding that I should end up here. 

In the UK, this programme which I am on the verge of completing is officially a distance-learning module. In the US, we would refer to it as "low-residency" as the students are required to attend the physical campus twice a year where they engage in workshops, lectures and presentations. The final residental ended for my class just yesterday on Apr 5, 2012 and while I am quite anxious to get home to my family I must admit that I have grown close to my colleagues involved in the WMS course. 

My purpose for writing this is that it might be of some use to people in similar situations as the one in which  I found myself. Namely, being an adult student in a graduate program when so many young academics are going straight through to terminal degrees, without ever entering the workforce before their PhD. When one is in this situation, it becomes very easy to feel as though the world has passed you by. I am not yet in a position to state whether or not this is the case, I can only reflect on my own current and past predicaments.