As disappointing as it may have been in the moment, not getting research funding just may be the best thing that has happened to me so far. I came to Taiwan while still waiting to hear about my funding applications and began Mandarin classes and interviews. It was a risk, I knew, but I had nothing to do in WI but forget more Chinese.
One of my interviewees was a man I had met a year before during my first trip to Taiwan. Although I got the impression that he did not remember me, he agreed to an interview, and we met at his office.
This interview lasted 6 hours and only ended because I was too tired to go on. I needed a break to process all the information before I would even be able to tell if I had follow-up questions. The information flow during the interview was not one-way, however, and he asked a lot of questions that I was more than happy to answer.
What is this research about? Why Taiwan? What kind of funding did I receive?
Screeching halt. This question always makes me feel awkward. At the time, I still didn’t know if I was getting funding or not. I explained as best I could why I didn’t know yet and why I had decided to come to the field before knowing. His follow-up questions was the usual one.
What will you do if you get rejected?
That answer was easy – though not something I wanted to think about. My plan B was to get a job as an ESL teacher. The interviewee debated the merits of this option with me, but these will all things I had already considered: it would be time consuming, distracting from my research, and disadvantageous toward my Chinese language progress – but what other option did I reasonably have?
Before the end of the week arrangements were made for me work at this company 6 hours a week. Not enough to live on, but some help to deplete my savings slower. A few weeks later I found out for certain that there was no funding coming. Not only was I not going to get any research funding, but (and this is actually unrelated) I had also maxed out my regular student loans and so I would have to pay for my next semester at UWM out of pocket. I was devastated, and I really didn’t want to talk about it, but I had promised I would tell him as soon as I knew.
The next time I was scheduled to work I went to tell him. We discussed my options again, only this time he asked me if I would consider working for him for more hours or even fulltime. This was not, at the time, an official offer. He had to run things by other people (I’m assuming HR and his boss probably) but we discussed my availability, the company’s needs, and all the other information that would normally come into a job negotiation.
Needless to say, I left feeling much better. This was an amazing opportunity for me. A chance to work in a game company, to get real access, while not having to sacrifice my research for my survival. Within about a week we agreed that I would work 16 hours per week until summer school ended and then start fulltime hours in the fall.
Its been a couple of months since this all went down, but I have to say I am really happy with how things turned out. Sure, it would have been nice to get funding (and the affirmation that would accompany it) but I am doing well… perhaps even better than I would be had I received funding. I have to acknowledge with that last statement, however, that I got very lucky. I could just as easily have not gotten such a wonderful job offer and be stuck teaching English while my Chinese regressed.