rutgerstouncIn January 2015, my Ph.D. adviser invited me into her office at Rutgers University, where I was enrolled, for what I thought was a typical meeting.  After the requisite small talk, she began alluding to possible research opportunities for me at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  I was intrigued and curious to know why the subject of studying at UNC was being suddenly brought up.  But then she dropped the ball on me: she would most likely be taking a job there and wanted to know if I would consider following her.  Whoa! I was shocked!  I didn’t know what to think at first, but I was excited about new opportunities.  Ultimately, I decided to follow her to UNC halfway through my Ph.D. while remaining a student at Rutgers.

I’ve been living in Chapel Hill for a year now.  It’s been a whirlwind of ups and downs, but has mostly been a positive experience.  In case you find yourself faced with a similar decision or are curious to know what it’s like in this position, here are some of the pros and cons that I’ve encountered from this big change:

Con: “#NotAStudentHere” seemed to become my personal hashtag.  Since I am not a student at UNC, there’s certain benefits that I haven’t been able to take advantage of such as not being able to use the gym, not being able to register for classes, or not being able to hold leadership positions in student groups.

Pro: Doubling my professional network!  I now have amazing connections at both Rutgers and UNC that I am able to foster and build. I’ve also got to expand the science that I can do such as collaborating on additional projects and taking advantage of state of the art instrumentation available at UNC. A new university means new opportunities!

Con: As an environmental science graduate student, I work in a wet lab with lots of equipment and analytical instruments, so I spent quite a bit of time helping to pack up the old lab, moving everything, and then unpacking and setting everything all up again

Pro: Although it was a lot of work, setting up a new lab, which involves deliberate organization and choosing of lab supplies was an incredibly useful experience that I will be thankful for if I ever build my own lab

Con: After being in New Jersey for three years, leaving the friends that I’ve made while I was there and then feeling like the “new kid at school” was a quite overwhelming

Pro: Making new friends and living in a new state! Southern hospitality is a real thing. It didn’t take long to find people and communities that I easily connected with. NC is pretty cool, not gonna lie. 

Given the pros and cons, for me it was the right decision. Things like this do happen and each situation is unique. For now, I’m taking the good with the bad and keeping my eye on the prize: that Ph.D.!

Edited by Tamara Vital.

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