Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Seminal (Seminole?) Post

As the six of you who read this blog know, I’ve been accepted into the Ph.D. program in philosophy at Florida State University. For those of you who were a little confused by the last post, if you had clicked the words “It’s official” that ended the post, it would have taken you to the FSU philosophy department webpage. Anyway, it’s an exciting offer, it comes with a tuition waiver, a better stipend than I’m receiving now, and paid health insurance. I’m pleased, though I still have to ask Melanie if it’s for real. I’ve spent the last several years of my life wondering what school I’d end up at for my Ph.D., avidly researching my options, and it’s just a bit unreal to think all of that wondering and planning is over and done. (See, for example, my very first post on this blog, written in September 2004.) But now I know it’s FSU. That’s it. That’s what it will always be. Another significant chunk of my life history just got unveiled, and it’s weird that it’s no longer a mystery.

Tallahassee, Florida

There are, of course, pros and cons associated with going to Florida State. I seem to be in the habit of telling people the cons, which probably makes me seem unexcited or unappreciative. That is not the case at all. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about some schools quite heavily for over a year, and even more so within the last few months since I’ve officially applied out. Most of my friends and family knew I had my fingers crossed for University of California-Riverside, so most of the downsides of FSU are only downsides relative to UCR. I’ll start with the cons and finish with the pros, thereby hoping to end on a positive note. Here goes.

Westcott Building, courtesy of Florida State University

The Cons
  1. Climate. I’ll still be living in the South, which is not something I’m in love with. I admit, I don’t miss the harsh winters of my hometown Salt Lake City, but I’m not overly keen on the humidity that comes with living in the South. I can only imagine that living in Florida will be worse, even if it is only 4.5 hours from where I am now. The average summer temperatures in Tallahassee aren’t very different than in Atlanta, but I suspect the increased humidity will make it feel a ton worse. The winters are slightly warmer than Atlanta, so they should be very nice. (Oops, I guess that should go in the pros section.). Of course, with the climate also comes the gigantic bugs—bumblebees that look like flying eggplants, cockroaches that could tackle a small child, etc. I’m still not thrilled about them.
  2. Geographical Location (climate issues aside). It would have been nice to live somewhere closer to home. I really liked the idea of being able to drive home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other special occasions, which would have been possible had I gotten into UC-Riverside. Now the chance of seeing family is greatly reduced. Melanie and I were kind of spoiled during our first year in Atlanta, when we happened to have a lot of family and friends visiting us. I think that time has passed, so if we’re still on the opposite side of the country from our family, the visits will be very few and far between. Sad.
  3. Cost of living. Rumor has it that Florida is pretty expensive. When Melanie and I first moved to Atlanta, we were shocked at the difference in prices out here compared to Salt Lake City. And not just in obvious things, like rent. Milk, vegetables, and just about everything else costs lots more here than in SLC. When we complained about this to some of our newfound Atlanta friends, they told us that they moved here from Florida, and so from their perspective, Atlanta had good prices. Now, it’s possible that Tallahassee itself won’t be as horrible as other places in Florida, but chances are it will be at least as expensive as Atlanta, and thus still a lot more expensive than Salt Lake City. I’m coming up on two years in Atlanta, but I still get mad when I go to the grocery store. I expect this will continue in Tallahassee.
  4. The limited strengths of the FSU philosophy program. FSU has a great program for what I’ve been focusing on in philosophy so far (see the pros section below), but their strengths aren’t quite as diversified as other schools to which I applied. Part of me fears being limited in the areas of philosophy that I can study in depth, and I think other schools would offer me a greater opportunity to branch out. Not that I won’t get a well-rounded education at FSU. It’s just that my interest in, say, philosophy of religion will remain largely unexplored, simply because FSU is unlikely to offer anything other than a survey course in this area.
The Pros
  1. The strengths of the FSU philosophy program. The main reason I applied to FSU is because they are considered the second best program in the world when it comes to the main area of philosophy that I’ve been studying so far—action theory, which includes the topic of free will. They also rank among the top 25 or so philosophy programs when it comes to certain areas of ethics, which is a secondary interest of mine. Beyond philosophy, FSU’s overall reputation is a noteworthy one. U.S. News and World Report apparently gave FSU “Tier One” status, and FSU appears on a handful of “top 100 American universities” lists and on at least one “top 200 universities in the world” list. Many of their academic programs are ranked among the top 25 for public universities nationwide.
  2. Living in a “small” town. Tallahassee is much smaller than Atlanta, a fact I’m very excited about. With a total population just shy of 160,000, Tallahassee is even smaller than Salt Lake City! It will be the smallest city I’ve ever lived in! And that appeals to me, because I’ve found Atlanta to be rather daunting. I look forward to living somewhere where I can feel comfortable getting to know the whole city, feeling like I can take ownership of it in its entirety rather than just the few streets I happen to drive down everyday. I want to feel like I live in Tallahassee, not just like I live in an apartment that happens to be in Tallahassee. In Atlanta, it sometimes feels more like the latter. (Well, not like I live in an apartment in Tallahassee, but you get my point.)
  3. Being on a traditional campus. Actually, I have mixed feelings about this. I think it will be neat to finish out my college student experience at a more traditional university, to have that kind of community and ambience. But I admit, it’s been kind of fun to go to a school at Georgia State, where the philosophy department is located on the 11th floor of a skyscraper, which gives it a very modern, businesslike atmosphere. Nevertheless, it will feel more college-y to spend my days on a traditional campus. I’ll enjoy walking around a more peaceful setting, feeling like I’m at an institution of higher learning and not just walking around downtown. Landscaping is going to be an exciting addition to my graduate school experience! (In fact, from photos I’ve seen, there may even be palm trees! How funny!)
  4. Proximity to Atlanta. Not that I plan on coming back to Atlanta in particular, but it will certainly help when it comes to moving. Granted, loading up (and unloading) the moving truck is the hardest part of a move, but given that Melanie and I will once again be moving with a newborn (thankfully a slightly older newborn this time around), it will be nice not to move all the way across the country. 4.5 hours in a U-Haul is manageable. Spending a week in a U-Haul … not so pleasant. So, that’s yet another perk.
Dodd Hall, home of FSU's philosophy department

When all said and done, I’m very excited. It’s taken a few days for it to really sink in that this is real and not just something that might happen, but the further in it sinks, the more excited I get. As a final note to any family and friends who are reading this, we should be living in Tallahassee for at least four years. This means you all have plenty of time to save up some dough and come see us at least once. I’m talking to all of you! Start saving now!

Note: A decent amount of information in this post was taken from various Wikipedia articles, including but not limited to those on Tallahassee and Florida State University.


  1. I figured I missed something (Like the link at the end of your post) and I could blame the cold I had all last week, but we both know that probably didn't make much difference. So, thanks for clearing things up.

    The buildings are beautiful and I think it would be neat to be at a more "traditional" school. I love that kind of atmosphere myself. And I'm glad the commute/move will be a bit easier on you. My question is, who's going to LOAD the Uhaul?

  2. Congratulations! FSU's campus looks beautiful.

    Too bad about UC Riverside; it would have been nice to drag you up to the Bay area (where Sarah and I are now) for a weekend sometime.

  3. Hey - I just stumbled across your blog. I was born in the Tally, lived a few years in Atlanta (among other cities), and moved back to Tally to be near family. Just wanted to add a few notes for you:
    a) On the price issue - some things are high, some things are low. Tally is in North Florida, which is much more like South Georgia than South Florida. This isn't one of those beach tourist spots where everything costs an arm and a leg. Groceries probably won't anger you (well, except that everything's going up due to the current economy, but that's national). Gas is higher than in Georgia, but produce is lower. Especially if you get to know the local flea market and so on. Housing can go both ways, depending on if you buy or rent, and where you decide to do so.
    b) It does get hot as blue blazes in the summer, and the humidity is intense, but you're a short drive from all sorts of cold, clear water to soak in. Rivers, springs (Wakulla Springs, in particular), Gulf beaches. And the air coming over all that water actually serves to cool the whole state somewhat.
    c) Tally is tony compared to Atlanta. You're in for major culture shock. But if you take the time to explore the parks, museums, coffee shops, art spaces, nearby forests - whatever floats your boat - it's nice to not have to hop on the interstate to get across town.

    Good luck!

  4. I'm excited for you Ben. Congratulations on being the best of the best. Florida looks very the architecture.
    But I worry about how you're going to get moved...