Thursday, March 29, 2012

Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of...Durham...

After much deliberation we've settled on attending Duke and feel pretty confident in our decision. Surprisingly I'm the one second-guessing it all the time ("Are you sure this is what you want to do?") and Andrew is ready to just keep moving forward, as well he should be. He crafted a very nice letter to IUB and they were very sad to see him go (or, rather, not come). We were sad to not go, too.

Both campuses and faculty and programs had much to offer—our problem was that we could only choose one place.

Now, we've been thinking about this for a long time. I started praying that we'd know what to do after Andrew graduated long before graduation was even in our radar. I think that's why I so readily accepted the idea of going after a PhD (even though I had long ago given up on that in hopes of, you know, a job). When we had turned in all of our applications I started praying even harder that we wouldn't have to face another disappointment and that we'd at least get accepted somewhere.

Weeks after we'd applied, we got a letter from Duke saying we were accepted and they were offering us x-amount of money and other perks.

Weeks after that, we got a letter from IUB saying that we were accepted and that they were offering us x-amount of money and other perks (but 25% less than what Duke offered us while asking Andrew to put more time in to earn that money and asking us to pay out about 10% of our stipend for the privilege of attending school since Indiana state law does not permit universities to waive fees).

Andrew got back from visiting both campuses this week and loved them both.

We made dancing line graphs considering things like money, professors, program, weather, cost of living, and so forth. We drew up lists of pros and cons for each place. We talked to friends and family and professors. We fasted and prayed and attended the temple. We talked into the wee hours of the morning about...every possible variable to take into account.

In the end, while it was difficult to say goodbye to IUB and their top-ranked program (and what an honour it was to be accepted there), Duke was the clear choice.

The cost of living is virtually the same between the two places. If you look it up on a cost-of-living calculator (which we did, multiple times) Bloomington's housing is about 23% cheaper than Durham's. However, we've been looking at both renting and buying and the prices are about the same for the type of housing we're looking at. Most cost-of-living calculators we found used the average housing price to determine the price of housing in the city, but they should have used the mode.

Durham has some pretty swanky neighbourhoods and we don't intend on living in those areas but in a normal-sized house/condo/apartment. Bloomington has a few big houses but most of the city is comprised of regular, ordinary houses. The big, fancy neighbourhoods in Durham bump up the average price of homes in the city but the housing that we've been looking at has been just about the same price in either place.

Duke offered us about 25% more than IUB and asked Andrew to work half as many hours to earn that amount of money, leaving more time for him to work his BYU job (laying out Arabic and Hebrew texts for publication) and to do his own research and to spend time being a husband and father.

That last part is really important to me because this MPA degree has kept him so busy that he's hardly ever available. The boy works nonstop from dawn until dusk (really. On a typical day he'll be up and working from around 6 AM until about 1 AM) and the only reason I've survived this degree is because his wonderful parents have stepped up to be my "husband" by helping out with the girls when I'm at my wit's end, cooking dinner for us occasionally, and just being around to chat to.

Andrew's parents won't be coming with us on our next adventure so I kind of wanted to guarantee that Andrew would be around at least a little bit. Especially when we're settling into a new place with a new baby.

I also suffer from seasonal depression. North Carolina's weather was a big bonus in my mind because, let me explain: no winter = no depression. Living in Cairo was the best two years of my life because there was no winter so I didn't spend half the year feeling crummy. I need sunshine to survive. Need. It. And as the saying goes, "a happy wife is a happy life."

Academically it was difficult for Andrew to give up IUB. There are a lot of professors there that he wanted to work with. But there are also good professors at Duke—and he also went to UNC and found professors there who were willing to work with him as well. Two universities, two faculties, two libraries...double the fun, right? He already has a project in mind that he wants to propose to a faculty member at Duke and begin working on this summer after he graduates but before we move out there. And he did his best to remain in contact with professors at IUB and a few wrote back to him to say that they'd love to stay in touch and help him out however they can.

Duke is known for its international outreach more so than IUB. Andrew wants to be involved in global affairs and promoting good policy, not just in management. We had professors at AUC and BYU tell us that Duke is simply better equipped to prepare us for an international career.

Andrew seemed to enjoy his time better in Durham than in Indiana. He was snapping pictures and emailing them back home, which is not something he felt was necessary in Indiana (he took a few pictures but didn't bother sending them because they "weren't that exciting"). He spent about half of his childhood (from infancy until he was 8) in Durham so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for him. He liked the city, he liked the trees and the people—we have a whole community waiting to welcome us "home." Not that Andrew remembers many of them, but they remember him.

I suppose I don't have to detail every reason for our choosing Duke over IUB and, frankly, I'm not sure there was a "right" answer to the question of where we should go since they were both wonderful options. In the end we feel we made the best choice we could make. So Duke it is.

We're excited to start making some plans!


  1. Congratulations! I think the part about him spending less time for more money is HUGE! And I like how you detailed your decision making process. We took a crazy road getting to the job we're taking, and when I try to explain why we made the decisions we did, it's so hard to be clear and there is so much background info that colored each thing... anyways. So happy for you! Sounds like it will be a great fit for you guys! And it will make your blog a lot more interesting for me (I already know what life is like in Indiana! tho I will miss it). :)

  2. Durham is not all that far from DC. This is excellent news. :)