A lot of friends and family and coworkers and professors and strangers (ok, not strangers) have been waiting on the edge of their seats (maybe a slight exaggeration) for the Grand Graduate School Reveal.
Bath Spa University vs. Chatham University!
Bath Spa: Located in Bath Spa, England, quite possibly my favorite city in the world. Offers a MA in Writing for Young People. One year program.
Chatham University: Located in Pittsburgh, PA. Offers a MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Writing for Young People, plus the possibility to get a dual emphasis in Creative Non-Fiction and a concentration in Travel Writing. Also has the Writing Without Walls program, where graduate students teach creative writing to prisoners and other needy people.
And the winner is…
This was not in any way a remotely easy decision. For several weeks, I sought guidance from professors, mentors, friends and family. For several weeks, I made myself not talk to anyone at all. I was leaning toward Chatham University, because it was such a practical choice. Slowly I started feeling the same peace I’d felt when I was trying to decide between Berry College and the University of Mary Washington. In the following week or so, my heart stopped breaking whenever I thought of Bath Spa. I felt like I was saying goodbye to that dream and finding another.
There are several academic and professional reasons:
- As a U.S. student taking only evening classes, I’ll be able to work a lot at Chatham University. At Bath Spa, on my visa I’d only be able to work or volunteer for 20 hours a week.
- With a concentration in Travel Writing, I’ll get the certification I need to make money off travel essays. Which means I can become the next Rick Steve, except more awesome. (This might be an exaggeration.)
- Chatham allows you to explore across genres, which means I can dip my toe in Creative Non-Fiction. I never thought about that being a genre for me before last semester, but after encouragement from professors and some pretty exciting opportunities it’s a genre I really want to explore.
- Having an MFA means that I could potentially teach at a college level. I don’t think I want to do that. But it is a teaching certification, and if nothing else is a higher qualification than an MA would be.
- Chatham is in the U.S. which means I’ll be exposed to U.S. agents and publishers (while Bath Spa would have connected me more with the U.K. publishing field (not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s a good thing for me to network in my own country)).
There are several personal reasons:
- I feel a calling to teach writing as a form of therapy. Chatham doesn’t just have programs that could foster that, they have a platform where I could potentially start a program of my own right in Pittsburgh.
- Chatham requires students to do a seminar abroad as part of their program, so I will get out of the U.S. With the travel concentration, I can travel wherever I’d like and write about it. And as several professors said to me, “Alyssa, you’re not the type of person who needs school as an excuse to go abroad. You’ll probably end up there anyway.”
- For almost my whole undergraduate career, I have felt like a financial burden for my parents. Though I am a Gate scholar, which certainly is the only reason I could come to Berry at all, the amount I made from my 40 hour week paychecks barely went above $75 before Georgia started heaping on more taxes. I long to be more financially independent, and that wouldn’t happen at Bath Spa.
So… That is my decision. I’ve already registered for my first classes and am in the process of working on housing. I do still feel a tinge of sadness when I think about Bath Spa… but I also feel really excited about the opportunities I’ll have at Chatham. That is, I would feel excited if I wasn’t struggling to survive the last few weeks of undergrad!