Let me just fill you in that things here in the new city are still going super awesomely well. Caught Being Good awards for everyone!
Now, I have an important decision to make. There's a public university here. It has a good linguistics department. According to their website, it's relatively easy for foreigners to apply to the master's program, but I assumed the simplicity of the application process was too good to be true, so I emailed them to see if I could come in to ask a few questions and get some more information.
The person who answered my email (a sort of adviser/receptionist guy) was receptive (har har) and told me to come in during a certain time block and that he'd answer my questions. So I went.
In the office was the email guy and another guy with a similar position. They were both super friendly to me. When I came in, the email guy told the other guy, "this is the girl from Berkeley!"
The other guy was black and had a big picture of Barack Obama next to his desk (no joke).
"Berkeley!" the other guy gushed. "I visited Berkeley and San Francisco last year. Wow, California has the nicest people. I don't know why Brazilians think Americans are cold."
Clearly, this guy and I had quickly won each other over.
Anyway, the two men were very helpful and were able to answer all of my bureaucratic questions about applying for the Master's. It's a 2-year program. I have to get some paperwork from the US, but I already knew that from the site. I also have to take a test to show my proficiency in English and in Portuguese. The language proficiency tests for foreigners depend on where the foreigner is from and what languages the foreigner speaks, and the program coordinator decides exactly what test I'll take. But the adviser guys said that it will most likely be a test in which I read linguistic research articles in English and then write about them in Portuguese. I'll have to practice my Portuguese writing a bit (OK, a lot), but that sounds doable.
Oh, and for those of you who don't already know this about Brazilian public universities: If I'm chosen for the program, this Master's degree is free.
I have to schedule a meeting with the coordinator to talk about my research plans and also my language proficiency test. Unlike in the US, a big part of the application is the quality of your thesis proposal, which you have to prepare before you even start the program. Luckily, the coordinator helps with that, tells you if your idea is something that fits into their research categories, etc.
So far so good, right?
The big thing holding me back is that the adviser guys told me that few grad students work while doing this master's program. It's pretty fast-paced and I must finish within 30 months. He said that some people can get grants and scholarships to help pay the bills, or some get hired on as research assistants, but that for me as a foreigner, it'll be a little harder to get free money from the Brazilian government on top of a free degree. Because I teach English, I might be able to squeeze in a few students during the week, especially if they're already students at the university, but my salary's really going to take a hit.
The other thing I'm not sure about is whether my research interests will fit into their categories, and whether I want to study something they decide on just to get a master's degree. My interests are in applied linguistics and the application of linguistic theory to teaching methods, while this university's program is heavy on really technical linguistic theory, like X-Bar theory and things like that. That kind of stuff is interesting, but it tends to feel kind of useless and self-serving (like it's fun to know about, but it kind of exists just to keep linguistics departments afloat, and it doesn't have much practical application, especially not in second language education).
Assuming I can study something related to teaching English or applied linguistics, there's still the cost-benefit question. Yes, education is important, and in theory, the more education you have, the better. However, a master's degree is also an investment. My goal in Brazil is to open an English school, not necessarily to work at a university. I don't know if having this master's will really help me in opening an English school, especially if I end up studying something really theoretical. I also don't know if the money I'll lose by teaching part time for two years will be "earned back," so to speak, by a better salary as a result of the master's at some point in the future. I also don't know how much weight a Brazilian master's degree will carry if, one day, I apply to a job in the US that requires a master's.
So here are the two sides of the argument:
1. I want to have a Master's because....
a) It might help me with some future job that I don't know exists yet;
b1) It will be free (aside from paying for lots of clerical things plus Portuguese writing classes);
b2) This is a good time to do it; I don't know where we'll be living in 3 years, or if I'll have this opportunity again;
c) There's social value to it, like being able to say "I have a Master's" instead of "I started a Master's program but I didn't finish it";
d) It will make me smarter, even if I don't necessarily use the research in my career;
e) It would be a great way to better integrate myself into Brazilian society and to meet people with similar interests;
f) One day, the kids will say, "Father is a doctor, and Mummy has a master's," in froo froo children's voices. :)
2. I don't want to spend time on this Master's because...
a) I'll lose a lot of money that I would make working, and I'm not guaranteed that I'll reap financial benefits from this Master's degree;
b) I just spent almost a whole year hardly working at all and partly depending on Alexandre financially, and I hated it. At least I won't be bored this time, but the issue of dependence (or at least being broke) will still come up;
c) It seems easy enough so far, but I imagine it'll still have a lot of bureaucratic hurdles, not to mention the plain ol' difficulty in completing a master's program in a foreign language. I'm worried that I would need to depend on Alexandre for a lot of things, and that he would not have the time or patience to be depended on to help me with academia. Basically, I'm worried it'll be too hard!
I don't know. I'm writing this out to see what you guys think. I'm sure some of you have completed a liberal arts master's program in a Brazilian public university. Is it true that I'll be too busy to work? Is it true that I won't be eligible for grants? Are there any other Pros or Cons that I haven't thought of? Do you think I'll like it? Do you think I'll need it?
Any advice helps.
You guys are awesome! Two cents time!!