Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Well this past Saturday we submitted the application for our new apartment and it was approved on Monday! We will be moving into a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment at the end of May. It isn't the floorplan we originally wanted, but the other one was unfortunately taken right before I submitted our desire to hold it. While this new one is on the third floor, we will have a lot more square footage than the current place and our view is even better! Instead of looking over a parking lot or into another building, we will have a wooded area/creek view. Plus, the second bedroom is a lot larger than the study was in the original floorplan so our office will be awesome. I'm so happy to have the separate study space!

We are definitely excited about getting a new place, especially when our management seems to be going downhill. Yesterday we got a notice on our door that our water bill was late. During our entire 3 years at this complex, the water bill was always due at the first of the month as part of the rent check. However, the water bill notice had its own due date about a week or so prior to the first of the month. It was never enforced and we were always told just to make it part of the rent check. So imagine our surprise when we we got the notice yesterday saying we were late! We don't mind paying it separately; we're just confused why they just now started enforcing that. Oh well...

Now that our move-in date is settled, we are now in the process of finding movers. We spotted a few on Yelp with positive reviews and they have provided estimates but we don't mind shopping around more. Any one have recommendations on finding good movers? Any other moving tips?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So what are comps?

I have mentioned these things called comps a few times in my past posts and as I didn't even know what they were until I entered my Ph.D. program, I figured I would write a post detailing just what they are.

Comps: Comprehensive exams. I believe most Ph.D. programs have them, and even some masters programs, but each program does it differently and holds them at different times. For instance, some criminology programs hold them between the first and second year of classes, others hold them after classes but before dissertation, and then some others don't even have them! As you can see, there is a lot of variation so my experience with my comps are unique to my institution :) 
My program has students take comps once all their doctoral classes are done but prior to starting the dissertation and for me that means I will sit for my comps this fall (eek!). The exact date isn't known until it gets closer but will probably be the end of October or thereabouts. 

Our comps has 3 parts: policy, theory, and research methods. The exam is held over 2 days and each part is 4 hours long. The first day you take two exams and the second day you just take one. Thankfully it is typed but it is closed book so it is a huge exercise in understanding, synthesizing, and memorizing a large body of knowledge. 

In order to prep, we are told to 'know everything' in the field. That is why I have started prep work now, more than 6 months out. I am planning on doing a large amount of reading articles and books then consolidating all of that information into outlines and flashcards as that is what works best for me. 
You get 2 attempts at comps. If you fail 1 section but pass the other 2, then you do not have to re-take the other 2; you just have to sit for the one you failed. But if you fail any of them twice, you are out of the program so the stakes are pretty high. 

Students take the semester 'off' that they're sitting in order to study full time and that is my plan. I will still be working as a teaching/research assistant but instead of taking classes this fall, I will be studying. From what I've gathered, this is very much a mental game and is a marathon of sorts. The stress and other emotions you experience can run the gamut but that's what we signed up for to get our doctorate I guess! 

So that is a not-so-brief overview of my comprehensive exams. As it is about to be one of the few things going on in my life, I would imagine you may will be hearing more about it in the coming months. I will try to keep things relatively sane on this blog and as we have upcoming trips, I will have non-comps things to share, promise! :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Apartment Search Update

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! It has been a little rough in our household this morning as it is the first day after spring break. That hasn't changed our routine necessarily, but just knowing classes start back this week is a bummer. Last week we were able to look at several apartments and I figured I would write an update on that process!

After looking at 7 apartment complexes, we have it narrowed down to 2 options:
-Move to another complex that has a unit with 1 bed/1 bath + a study.
-Stay in our current place. 

We have been wavering on this decision since Wednesday and keep on going back and forth. Right now, we're leaning towards moving but here is a list of the benefits of each choice.

Moving Benefits

  • Separate study. Now our desks are in the same room as our living room/dining area (yay open concept floor plan) as you can see here. As I will be studying for my comprehensive exams full time starting in May, it would be nice to have a separate area that I can escape from when I'm not studying. After comps are over, then dissertation starts which is a whole new beast to conquer. 
  • Double sinks & walk-in closet. We really don't mind sharing a sink but I'm not going to say no to a double sink. Then a walk-in closet would be nice so I don't have to store my out-of-season clothes under the bed anymore. Fringe benefits but benefits nonetheless :)
  • Possibly better insulation. Our current place has really bad insulation which makes the electric bill real fun during the winter/summer months. This other complex is newer and might have more insulation. At the very least it is a non-western-facing unit so we wouldn't get the brunt of the summer sun!
  • New management. The management at our current unit isn't always the most positive or helpful. While we have no idea what the management will be like when we move in, the reviews are a lot better than the current place we're in!
Staying Benefits
  • Saving money. We wouldn't be spending as much which is always nice.
  • Moving is a pain. From physically moving to changing addresses, these aspects are something we are not looking forward to and will take time away from studying.
  • Our current floorplan works for us and I could probably make studying for comps and dissertation-writing work. This place feels like home and I've been successful in grad school thus far so I could probably be fine for studying here. 
  • Both cars are covered. At the new place only one of our cars would be covered which is unfortunate for random north Texas hail storms.
As I said before, we're currently leaning towards moving. Though I could probably make studying work in our current place, I don't know for sure. I've never done anything that will involve this much stress over the long-term so having a separate room where I can leave studying behind sounds beneficial for many reasons. 

One of the hard things though is we haven't seen the actual unit recently. We saw it last year when we toured apartments but they didn't have one available to see last week. They should have one available within the next week or so, so we're hoping we'll be able to see it before we have to make the final decision. There are a few measurements we want to do to make sure our furniture and washer/dryer fit. We have to give notice to our current complex by the end of the month so I will be sure to keep you up-to-date!

Have you  faced a hard moving decision before? Any tips to make moving and changing addresses faster and easier? 
We need to make some friends with strong guys I think... source

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Break!

It is our spring break and I am so glad! No, I'm not going anywhere but I'm looking forward to not having to go to campus and getting to catch up on work. It is mid-semester and so I have projects and readings to work on this week! It will be nice though to have more time with Matt and we're going to spend it apartment-hunting and getting some much needed shopping done. 

Here are some more random happenings in our life.

  1. I'm making risotto for dinner tonight. I've never made it before so I'm pretty excited to try something new. I'm using this recipe if you're interested. I figured Matthew would be game because it has bacon in it. 
  2. As I mentioned, we will be apartment hunting soon. We are pretty happy with the place we're in right now, well minus the occasional management/other tenants issues, but we are needing a separate room for a study so I can go in full retreat-mode to study for comps. Here's hoping we can find a place that fits our criteria!
  3. We enjoyed a new-to-us BBQ place on Saturday night and I'm still thinking about those ribs. If you're ever near Arlington, I highly recommend Bodacious BBQ!
  4. I found out my comprehensive exams will most likely be the end of next October or early November. We were expecting them to be at the beginning of December so I will be kicking it into gear ASAP.
  5. I miss our families! This semester hasn't allowed us to visit any of them and it looks like we won't be able to until the summer. Hopefully the next few months should fly by so we look forward to seeing them soon! Except possibly my New Orleans relatives... not sure next time we'll be in Louisiana!
  6. We will be going to Washington, D.C. this summer for a very quick (i.e. 2.5 day) trip. I am taking any and all recommendations for places to visit and places to eat. If you have any suggestions, comment away!
I hope your week gets off to a good start and I look forward to seeing any DC recommendations you may have! In honor of that trip, here are some things I know I want to see:
I'm married to an aerospace engineer. Of course we're
going to the Air and Space Museum; source
Already emailed our congress person to get a tour; source
The National Mall and all its monuments; source