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a_little_wisp in medievalstudies

A Terrified and Floundering Newcomer

Hello, medievalists!

I just spent two hours hitting the "Previous 10"! What an informative and friendly community I've stumbled upon!

I am so, so thankful to have found you all. And I hope that you can help me!

Let be begin by stating that I've been interested in medieval literature since AP English in eleventh grade. Every class I took at university with a focus in medieval studies just confirmed that THIS -- this was what I wanted to immerse myself in for the rest of my days. In particular, my heart throbs over the linguistic aspect. I really, really like grammar (I'm praying that no one finds a billion typos in this now). And I really, really enjoy languages in general! I've taken two semesters of Latin (before the subject was CANCELLED -- unbelievable!) and many long years of French, from high school and into college. I am more interested, however, in Old Norse, and I wish that I had taken German instead of Latin or French. Gosh, I'd die to learn Welsh! ... Maybe not die.

Okay, so this is why I'm terrified and floundering:

I'm low on funds. I've been low since I've started paying back student loans and the rest of life's bills (relatable, I'm sure). So I'm taking my GRE late and applying to grad school late, and will probably be broke by the time January rolls around. But I think it's worth it. Oh lawd, I hope it's worth it.

I'm trying to be very careful about where I apply. I graduated with a 3.66 GPA, and while I didn't do much volunteering, I was a writer for our university's magazine, and my poetry was featured in our annual literary journal. I've had a rough undergraduate career simply due to the fact that I changed majors twice and transferred schools once. Really, when I look at myself, I see a lot of passion but very little to show for it.

And yet still, I want to get into a good school. I also want to be realistic about it. So far I've looked into the Medieval Studies/Literature programs at Purdue, Western Michigan, Oregon, and a few others. I can only apply to a few-- it's honestly all I can afford. I'd love to study abroad but that's moving into the territory of "in your dreams". Can any of you pros offer any input on the situation or suggest any other schools that might be more suited for my interests?

All the best to you wonderful people, and I hope your holidays are off to a grand start! Thanks for reading!


Are you leaning toward linguistics, then, or literatures? And which languages/literatures? If you have Latin and French, it'll be harder to get into a program on Old Norse (though if you want to come to Aberystwyth you can start from scratch with Welsh *g*), though presumably not impossible. I did undergrad at Oregon and have some a good friend who went to Purdue, so might be able to help a bit with those, and look at Toronto if you haven't yet.
FWIW it might be worth it to wait a bit and beef up your resume a little bit. Maybe take a year or two to work and save money if you can, and then in the mean time, try to do something to push your writing towards your area of interest--if you can, try to get out an article or a book review or something to prove your academic writing chops. Publications can really help stand out against test scores and such like. Good luck!!!
Have you checked out Toronto? If you have decent Latin, it's a good place, and probably still relatively good value.

Also, if you want to go into this field and you're not independently wealty, please be prepared to be really poor for a long time. Be prepared to put off having a family and a permanent home until your 40s. That's easy to contemplate when your in your mid-20s, but it gets to be a bit of a grind.

tl;dr: only do this if you are absolutely convinced that it's the only thing you can do.
Publications can really help stand out against test scores and such like. Good luck!!!
Like your dress
The very good advice from northrop_fried about the inherent poverty of the profession not withstanding, you might consider Notre Dame, whose English department has just recently hired an Old Norse specialist.
No input, but HI from someone who dearly wishes to study Old Norse and wants to know if you've made any progress with it or if that's still a bucket-list item.
Hello. I'm a bit older than you are - like 50 - and I think you are being brave to the point of recklessness, but anything I can help with, get in touch with me. I've written this: http://www.facesofarthur.org.uk/fabio/contents.htm - and a few other things. I've also got a half-sister who's doing ON at Cambridge.
If you're interested in Old Norse, consider Cornell, which houses the Fisk Collection, a renowned collection of Icelandic texts. Also Cornell is a beautiful school. :)
Hi! I'm at Western in the medieval program now, and I can tell you the lit people tend to be a bit frustrated by the sparse/unsatisfying lit classes. That said, the prof who does Old Norse is good. :) And it can be a relatively free degree, potentially, if you can live cheaply (which isn't impossible in Kalamazoo).

The Toronto program is amazing, but if you're low on funds, I'm not sure I recommend applying. --That is, to the MA. If you think you have a shot at their PhD program, awesome, go for it. But I applied to their MA program because everyone told me to (and of course, it looked amazing!) and got in, but they don't fund MA students ever, at all, so I'd wasted the $110 fee even with a successful application.

If you have any specific questions about Western or just want to talk about it, I'd be happy to chat. :)