Thursday 30 September 2010
Circumstances and my own reserve about uncertain plans conspired for some very last-minute news: I’ve been accepted for a Masters degree in comparative literature at the Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, starting this October.
Although the process began in April this year, I only received confirmation yesterday evening. For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to go back to school in order to find a career better suited to my character. While I enjoy translations, as time passed, I realized that what I most looked forward to during the day was the time I spent reading and participating in discussions on meaning, and related cross-cultural and sociological issues that any discussion of “meaning” brings up once you start going into depth. At first, given my background in IT, I thought that librarianship might be a good path — I could use my literary, technological and analytical skills to help people in their own research at a library. I looked into other possibilities as well: certifications via France’s CNED (National Distance Education Centre) and at the University of Nice, in case anything caught my eye. Which is exactly what happened!
At my US university (the U. of Oregon) and the one I attended in Lyon (Univ. Lyon II), I had taken a few comparative literature courses, which I adored for their combination of foreign languages, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, art, and, of course, literature. So when I saw that the UNice offered a Masters in comp lit that could lead to secondary school teaching certification or to a doctoral program, I read everything I could about it. Increasingly motivated by what I discovered about the UNice’s research groups and courses available, I decided to apply. Preparing my application was a test in itself!
To shorten what would be another long story, the process was complex, being 1. a non-EU-citizen foreigner 2. in France (not a foreign country) who had 3. studied at a French university 4. but never been registered in one (as an exchange student, I’d been registered at my US university while at Lyon), 5. was over the age of 28 (a cutoff age for French students who have been previously registered at a French university), and to top it all off, 6. needed to continue working full-time in order to support myself. The fact that I’d be working full time during the day wasn’t a problem, according to the program director — it’s possible to do the Masters as a “distance” program. As they say in French, je sais plutôt bien me débrouiller (I’m pretty good at sorting out chaotic situations), so I got through the maze and reached the final hurdle: I needed to prepare and submit a thesis proposal and statement of purpose along with my officially-translated transcripts.
At that point, I still didn’t know which comp lit Masters to apply for specifically. See, in France, Masters degrees can be just one year (called Master 1) or two years (Master 1 followed by Master 2). This is quite recent; the Master 1 used to be a maîtrise and the Master 2 used to be a DEA/DESS (roughly equivalent to M.A./M.S.). I thought a Master 1 would be good to start out with, to get back into the swing of university and help clarify whether I wanted to continue with an education-oriented Master 2 or a doctorate-oriented one. I was very interested in doctorate possibilities, but honestly didn’t know whether it would be for me. I decided to be honest about my uncertainty in my motivation letter, specifying nonetheless that I was excited at the possibilities available through the UNice’s research groups for doctoral candidates. I also tailored my thesis proposal for such an eventuality — for the research (doctorate-oriented) Master 2, a thesis proposal needs to have a statement for the Masters thesis, and the potential for directly-related doctoral studies; ideally even a subject area appropriate for a professoral career in comparative literature.
I sent in my letter and proposal at the end of August, knowing the evaluation committee would meet in September. They met last Friday, and I received notice in the mail yesterday: I was accepted into the Master 2 research program! The full French name, for those curious: Master 2 Recherche Lettres mention Littérature comparée. It’s really ideal: I live just a 15-minute bus ride from the campus, and it’s a public university, so will cost me only 271.36 euros for the entire year (there are no TA scholarships for Masters degrees in France, only for doctorates). Readers might be wondering if the decimal point is in the wrong spot or if I made any typos — nope, that’s two-hundred-seventy-one euros and thirty-six cents. I’m very excited to be able to do something I love!