Where should I go to grad school?

I am going to start on my MA degree next fall (2003). I have had a few different offers, and I just don’t know which direction to go in. I’m interested in interdisciplinary studies in humanities-related subjects (mostly early modern). and I intend to go on to do a PhD afterwards.

I could go to the University of Durham to study at the Centre for 17th century studies. It’s pricey, but looks beautiful. The Centre has only a few MA students per year, so it’s really invididualized with lots of attention (which is a major plus for me). It’s also in the UK, which would be fun and exciting (I’m in Canada now). The programme sounds perfect for me, but the major drawback for me about Durham is that it is not well-known at all (as far as I can tell) in North America (where I will probably end up again). Durham seems very enthusiastic about having me compared to my other options.

Or…I could go to the Warburg Institute in London. High standards and even more expensive than Durham. I’ve also never lived in a city nearly so big. It probably has a better international reputation, being part of the University of London. It is also a very, very small programme. From the sounds of it, though, it might be harder to find funding there than at Durham.
And the cost of living is outrageous. Also, they don’t sound as friendly as Durham or as eager to recruit me to study there.

Or…the University of Toronto’s Comparative Literature department. This would be the cheapest option for me, but also seems the least exciting. In addition, the prgramme isn’t EXACTLY what I’m looking for, although it would suffice. The department is bigger and the degrees would takes longer to complete than in the UK.

So where should I go? Is it more important to go to the place that really wants you? The place with the best reputation? The place with the most individual attention? The place with the best financial package?

What do you all think?

Tough call. As my first bit of advice, it might be good for you to look at what the people coming out of each program end up doing. If you’re thinking of going on for the PhD., it’ll be nice to know if the people you work with have a history of pushing their grads on. Subsumed in this is the question of where do they go? That’s to say, do the respective schools like to hold on to their own? Personally, I think this can be a nice thing, particularly so if you do a one year program. Presuming you enjoy the folks in your department, it gives you the chance to spend more time with them.

I wouldn’t be overly concerned with the folks back in North America knowing a lot about where you went to school. One, there’s a ton of schools in both NA and UK and what you can do/have done will, at least IMHO, carry more weight than a rep. Having said that, there might be a difference if Warburg has a particularly good rep. for your course of studies. The flip side of this however, is that a school with high standards will challenge you both in and outside of you’re particular course. Two, you say you’ll probably return to NA. Well, you say that now but in year you may be singing a different tune. Point being, forethought is all well and good, but who knows what you’ll want to do when you’re wrapping up.

Regarding money, being broke sucks (and is a hell of a stressor to boot) and having loads of debt sucks (and is also a hell of a stressor). My 2 cents, how many Master’s do you plan on doing? If you’re only doing it once might as well do it right, no cutting corners. If this means taking a loan, so be it. I just don’t think it’s worth it to go to a place that would “suffice” to save a few beans.

And one last comment, it’s really nice to work with people who want to work with you–makes the entire experience more enjoyable and beneficial. Also worth noting, when they like you, they like for you to stay.