It's been a few days now since I received the email but I have to admit my head is still swimming. Graduate school was an idea I had toyed with off and on over the last ten years and I finally found myself giving it some serious thought last spring. Having been out of academia now for almost 15 years (where has the time gone?) the idea of going back for a masters degree was, I admit, rather daunting at times. Ten years of living throughout the North also added a host of other historical interests on top of the 50 other things I find interesting within the discipline. Thankfully, however, I don't have to decide on a research area tomorrow or the next day and I've managed to narrow things down (a little bit).
I began the whole process over a year ago and spent much of my free time in March and April figuring out research ideas and possible schools. I didn't realize at the time just how long a process this would be but by last September I had the actual application underway. I spent a couple weeks on this though the actual section where you have to detail your specific areas of interest for research took perhaps a month. I had never written a research proposal before so of course I wanted to take my time and craft a good one. I'm pretty sure I sweated less when I wrote 30-page papers during my undergrad. Never has a measly 250-word blurb caused so much angst. The most time-consuming part was locating references, which, after a 15-year hiatus, was interesting to say the least. Not without its challenges but obviously possible. I managed to get in touch with a former professor of mine, now teaching in the US but currently on sabbatical in Germany as well as an acquaintance (and former MLA) in Nunavut. I'm pretty sure there aren't too many applications that have had references from such far-flung and radically different parts of the world. I was hopeful that that in itself would spark some interest among the selection committee.
I should mention too that I was initially planning to apply to 3 schools and Windsor actually wasn't very high on the list. But since I had done my undergraduate degrees there and lived there more or less continuously for 7 years, I decided to include it on my short list based on the familiarity factor alone. As an added bonus, some of my favourite wineries are only a short drive away. Gradually my list of 3 became 2 as I decided the one school would involve too far of a move and it would be nice to be a bit closer to family. Then, as I was having issues with the one school over writing samples I needed for my application, I took the decisive step back in March of going for broke and focusing all my energies on Windsor.
In the end it all paid off as I've been accepted into the Master of Arts program for History at the University of Windsor. I will have to take a couple of senior undergraduate courses prior to starting the program just to bring my writing and research skills up to speed but I'll take it as it will make the transition back to academia a little less jarring. At the risk of getting too far ahead of myself, pursuing a Ph.D has been flitting around my head the last 6 months. Time will tell. In the meantime its nice to finally get the ball rolling.