Category Archives: Graduate Students

Talking About Money- And Why You Need To Do It

People, I’m about to get brutally honest here. Well, not brutally—maybe viciously, if viciously means I’m going to couch my serious point in sarcastic humor because I never learned to talk about money until my only mental defense was to be witty about it.

But regardless of personal feelings, we need to talk finances. I know, just the thought of talking about money makes everyone’s academic souls begin to cringe in sympathetic embarrassment. And that’s my point. It’s 2016. The economy is not great. We can’t all sit around not talking about the one thing that is on everyone’s mind ALL THE TIME.

When I was grad student I spent 50% of my time thinking about my studies, 40% worrying about how I was going to pay for those studies, and the last 10% obsessing over Doctor Who. (Was Matt Smith really going to be able to follow David Tennett? Tennett was the best!! In hindsight I think we can all agree Smith brought it, but this was a very anxious times for Whovians.)

You need to do research on finance options the same way you research your dissertation. You need to know your options and talk about them—with your family, your cohort, and your department leadership. I always felt weird bringing up money with my adviser, as if they would think less of me if they knew I was anxious about how school would affect my financial future. As if they hadn’t also been a grad student at some point worrying about the same thing.

And while I think that students today feel the pressure in a way that many of our advisers didn’t, that just means we have to talk to them so they know how you’re feeling.  It seems like a bad thing, talking about money, as if by doing so you’re betraying the “casual, intellectual, only care about the work” persona of the academic.

But professionals talk about money, academic or not. You don’t take a job without asking about the salary, you don’t gamble your future without some sort of guidance. Guess what? Those little freshman babies over in Gabelli business school walk into class the first day and ask how much they could make with an MBA. We don’t do that.

And cool your jets— I’m not saying we need to be like business majors. But we do need to take some of the good things they’re doing and modify them for our own needs. Do you flat out ask your adviser how much you can make with a MA in English? Maybe not. But you could ask how much debt the typical student has after graduating. They may not be able to give you numbers but they might be able to give you an estimate to tell you whether you need to private loans on top of the federal.

We need to be more upfront about money so we don’t feel blindsided when we graduate. Graduating should be amazing but you’re not going to be feeling great if you’re panicking about the future.

And after we graduate we need to know how to discuss salary, and that means knowing what we should be making. You might have a little less negotiation room if you’re taking a T-T position, but what does having a MA or an MS mean when you move outside academia? For many who are more professionally oriented, having an MA is supposed to be the difference between entry-level salary and a more livable wage. You can’t get that if you don’t know 1) industry norms and 2) how to talk about salary without becoming a sweaty mess and/or an over-agreeable pushover.

I, and most other academic-orientated people I know, tend to fall into the second category. We’re told so much that our degrees are useless, or that the economy is so bad that we’re so grateful for a job when it is offered, that we jump at it, thus loosing most negotiating power. But if our degrees were useless we wouldn’t be being offered the job, so we have to rein that desperation in. You deserve it, and you deserve to have a reasonable wage. Worst comes to worst, they say no. No one’s going to fire you (or not hire you) for asking for more money—and if they do you really shouldn’t work someplace so miserly.  That’s a warning sign.

You have a lot more power in the hiring process than you think you do, and you need to know how to handle that situation, and how to talk about it, when the time comes.

  • Dewis Shallcross, Director of Student Development, GSAS ‘14

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Filed under Finances, Graduate Students, GSAS Students, Professional Development

A Quick Guide to Avoiding the “Job Talk”- Holidays Edition

Break will soon be upon us (or is upon you, if you get spring recess as well as Easter) so I thought I’d take a minute to address that topic that is the most annoying for those of us getting advanced liberal arts degrees—dealing with relatives during holidays.

And I’m not talking finding ways to distract your younger cousins from your (admittedly AMAZING) Doctor Who Sonic collection or ducking out of an infuriating conversation about politics with your parents.

Oh no. That’s small potatoes. I’m talking about The Big One. The “what exactly are you studying?… (Puzzled silence) And what are you going to do with that?” conversation.

Even as someone who’s been gainfully employed for two years I still shudder at the thought. It’s the question that never goes away, either, because even if you do get a job it just becomes, “and how are you using that degree again?” So don’t get your hopes up History MA. No amount of law school will ever let them forget that you spent two years researching the implications of medieval chastity on the evolution of the church.

Oh and you PhDs who think that “tenure track professor” is an acceptable answer? Yeah right. Your grandparents don’t even understand what tenure is. Is that a real thing? What do you mean you’ll have a job for life? And your uncle? Well he’s been reading the newspaper and it looks like universities are in the “you know what.” How likely are you to get this thing anyway? Is this really how you want to be contributing to the economy?

And don’t even try to explain. Because if you do… oh boy. You’ll just set yourself off in a panic cycle of self-doubt that will cause you to question every decision you’ve ever made since you first watched Indiana Jones in middle school and you will eventually run into the nearest bathroom and frantically look up advertisements for entry-level copy editor positions… Okay, sorry about that. I might be working through some stuff.

But I digress.

People are going to want to talk about the five-year plan you put off by going to grad school, so here are some strategies to evade the inquisition:

  1. Always be eating. Food in your mouth means they can’t engage—this is where all that insisting you have “manners” turns on them. Getting the food shouldn’t be hard since your family home is likely an embarrassment of food riches. Mom splurged for the brand name cold cuts? Well aren’t we the 1%.
  2. Hide important containers and utensils. Aunt Suzie circling and about to swoop in to ask you about when you’ll finally be done? Oh wait, you just remembered Dad needs the special casserole dish. [Insert holiday of your denomination here] won’t be same without it! And what’s that Grammy? No salad tongs?! Not on your watch!
  3. Bring home a significant other. They’ll be so distracted interrogating you about that development they’ll forget all about your schooling. (This is when social norms and the pressure to be “fulfilled” through marriage is actually helpful. Note: This technique tends to work better for women. Sorry guys, but you do make an extra 22 cents on the dollar so… not that sorry.)
  4. Attach yourself to a needy family member. It can be a kid—hello coloring books, why are you still so fun?—or perhaps a maiden great aunt, but the most important thing to remember is to pick someone who’s going to need your constant supervision and attention. If you’re talking about someone’s rheumatoid arthritis you’re not talking about your dissertation. Bonus, you can go on drink runs if someone tries to corner you—Aunt Bobbi could be dead any minute, so she needs her wine ASAP. Personally, I like to hang with the kids. There tends to be holiday-themed crafts and they always splurge for the good juice during the holiday.

Well there you go—just a few helpful hints to get you through the break. And who knows, maybe you have a unicorn family full of super supportive family members who, like you, see the value in understanding the universe/past/language that influences us all. And if you do, I can only say one thing.

Any more seats for dinner?

  • Dewis Shallcross, Director of Student Development, GSAS ‘14

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Filed under Family, Graduate Students, GSAS Students

Why Learning Customer Service Is Important and Relevant- Even for Academia

I don’t know how many of you are using LinkedIn (although you should be—see our great post by Emily Schwarz for tips to get started) but I’m a big fan. Particularly of the articles they occasionally promote via email. It’s what I would describe as “procrastination light”—you’re on social media, but its work related so… that’s fine right? I think that still counts as work? Right?…

Anyway… the most recent series was “think back to your first job,” and basically asked those far more successful than most what they wish they had known before their first, first day. Not exactly a groundbreaking topic, but what interested me was that almost everyone on the list mentioned some sort of customer service related story. Whether scooping ice-cream or waiting tables, customer service—and the importance of understanding that dynamic—tended to be what people took from those experiences.

Customer service is about having the person you’re helping leave the encounter a) feeling happy and b) with what they came for. The mix of those two factors will vary (sometime considerably) depending on what you’re doing. For example, no one likes going to the DMV, but if you walk out with a driver’s license you generally consider it a win. Whether that encounter was a “success” (for you and whoever helped you) probably depended on customer service.

Balancing how much you go out of your way to help someone depends on lots of things, but ultimately comes down to how much you can accommodate before you stop doing your job. Where you’re going to draw your service line. My old co-workers used to call it “the sample cup line.”

(We worked in frozen yogurt. In a college town. And when you work in frozen yogurt in a college town what you get is a bunch of undergraduates in sororities and fraternities hanging out and trying to eat a quart full of yogurt in tiny sample cup portions. I understand that this is a very specific analogy but you get what I’m saying.)

As graduate students, I’m not sure how many of you have had non-academic jobs (although I hope most of you have) and if so, whether or not front-line customer service was an important aspect of your position. But if you haven’t… well you might want to get something part-time this summer because I’m pretty sure that understanding customer service is what separates the successful from the misanthropic.

And yes, I am implying (heck, outright saying) that misanthropic people are unsuccessful.

The cranky, absent-minded professor might be a stereotype, but it’s not one you should be looking to fill. Because while it might seem that of “all the professions, in all the world”, being a professor might give you the most leeway on behavior and interacting with other humans, I assure you that it’s not true. Ask a department chair—no one wants the person who doesn’t know how to play nice to be a permanent part of their community.

And customer service (and sports- but that’s another post…) teaches you how to be a part of a community and interact with others while meeting a set of stated goals. The trick is how to then translate that skill to other professional agendas.

Work is about accommodating people, assisting them, while still prioritizing and accomplishing your own goals. And truly successful people understand and manage that balance in ways that serve the missions of their employers and themselves.

I’m still working on this. It’s hard. And it’s going to be even harder for those of you who are going to have to balance classes of students, tenure reviews, and colleagues, so make sure you start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

Any of you have any “first job” advice that’s helped you succeed?

  • Dewis Shallcross, Director of Student Development, GSAS ‘14

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Filed under Graduate Students, Networking, Professional Development

Conference Etiquette- Is There Such a Thing as an Inappropriate Question During Q&A?

The Background

I recently attended a conference in Seattle on graduate education, and it was a great experience full of panels and ideas that I’m excited to try and replicate here at Fordham. But while I was in one of the sessions, an interesting situation arose—an audience member asked a question about sexual assault that clearly made the panel uncomfortable. So my question is: are their questions that simply should not be asked in a public Q&A?

It’s complicated. I think that there are productive conversations and argumentative ones. Anyone who has ever sat in on an academic conversation (Q&A, open forum, etc.) knows the difference between a comment meant to generate discussion and one made to disrupt it. There are panels where easy discussion and questions are the norm and ones where hard questions come up that may cause disagreement or even some outrage. In general, I think the beauty of the conference panel is that it does provide a place for people to create thoughtful segues and connect research but in general they’re more informative than anything.

Here is what we, the authorities, think. You, the audience of lesser knowledge, now respond to my ideas.

There are exceptions of course but let’s be honest—that’s fairly typical of the experience, especially when attending as a graduate student. Odds are you’ll be one of the least experienced voices in the room, so when is it time to speak up if you have something atypical to add?

The Situation

Let me set this particular scene. It was a panel on international travel, more specifically, the educational and professional benefits associated with graduate student travel. Considering the topic, I’ll also share the gender make-up of the presenters—two women and a man, all high level administrators. It was the very end of the session, the last question in fact, when the topic arose. Very respectfully, a man and asked if advocates for international travel were taking into consideration the numbers and reality of studies, like this 2013 preliminary, on overseas study-abroad sexual assault. “How are we preparing students to deal with this?” he asked. And should that reality affect an administrative push for international travel?

It was a topical and meaningful question that left the panel in obvious mental anxiety. I could see both panel and audience physically clench up. Sexual assault cases, and their handling, on domestic campuses are touchy subjects in higher education and it seemed this academic (and I would ethical) question did not limit the discomfort. It’s a reality and a problem, the panel admitted, but then quickly added that the benefits outweighed the risk and moved on, even going so far as to ask another question to end the panel on another note.

The Fallout

Who was in the right? The person who asked the question? The panelists who seemed to ignore it, despite its importance? I think in this case I can see both sides.

It was a rough question, one that I think would have derailed panelists with less experience and considering the time limitation (less than 5 minutes till lunch), I personally wouldn’t have asked it in that moment. But I don’t think it was inappropriate. It was on topic and timely, as proved by the recent Chronicle article dealing with this very issue.

Should audience members take panelists potential discomfort into account before asking a question? I don’t think so. Certainly, when you defend your dissertation your committee members are not going to go easy on you, nor are classmates in discussion. Dealing with difficult questions is part of being an academic, no matter the forum.

I think the panel’s importance and my overall take-away was lessened by the panelists brushing away the discussion of sexual assault. It seemed disingenuous and dangerous to pretend that our current, unorganized preventative education is going to make a difference with this issue. There needs to be a culture change. And maybe that panel was not the place to discuss that change, but the problem should have been better acknowledged—more importantly they should not have ignored the topics presence simply because it made them uncomfortable.

The Last Word

Overall, I think that the conference Q&A is the place to ask hard questions. As long as it somewhat relates to the session topic and is not outright insulting, I say go for it. In the end, it’s rarely the question asker who feels pressure from a poor question. A good panelist will know when and how to brush it aside (whether they should or not). But you may want to check the program so you’re not too rough on a new colleague.

As a graduate student I’d be careful who you may put on the spot—do you want to collaborate with them? Will you be interviewing at their school in the future? Most people appreciate questions that make them think or question their results, but some might be annoyed at what they feel is a disruption of a smooth panel.

  • Dewis Shallcross, Director of Student Development, GSAS ‘14

Fordham works hard to create a respectful environment fee from sexual harassment. Remember if you’re a graduate student teacher you’re a mandatory reporter!

Fordham policies, resources, and reporting information can be found here

 

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Filed under Conference, Graduate Students, GSAS Futures, Professional Development

DIGITAL DAY on August 27!

DIGITAL DAY

August 27, 2015  |  10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Rose Hill  |  Keating Hall, Rooms 317 & 318

digital day

Attend FREE workshops to introduce WordPress and Adobe Photoshop, two important digital tools that benefit graduate students from all disciplines.

As a participant, you should bring your own laptop, materials to create your own professionally-oriented website with WordPress, and ideas for visual materials you would like to generate with Photoshop (ex: images for a website, teaching, or research presentation).

To allow for effective hands-on learning, advance registration is required!

Please contact Dr. Susanne Hafner by Tuesday, August 25 to register.
Digital Day is sponsored by Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ professional development initiative, GSAS Futures.

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Call for Digital Humanities Nominations HASTAC Scholars Program 2015/16

Are you a graduate student engaged with innovative projects and research at the intersection of digital media and learning, 21st-century education, and technology in the arts, humanities and sciences? Would you like join an international conversation about the digital humanities?

If so, you are invited to apply for the opportunity to become a 2015-2016 HASTAC scholar. As a Scholar, you will represent Fordham University at HASTAC’s prestigious, online community. Two successful candidates will each receive a $300 honorarium from the office of the Dean of GSAS.

Applications will be evaluated based on the scholar’s activities in the areas of digital humanities research, pedagogy and technology, and service to the community. Highly motivated students with limited exposure to the digital humanities are encouraged to apply. This opportunity is an excellent way to learn more about digital media and practices.

Deadline for applicationsAugust 25, 2015

Announcement of AwardSeptember 4, 2015

 

To make the application, please answer the following the questions:

  • Why do you want to become a HASTAC Scholar?
  • How will being a HASTAC Scholar support your current work at work Fordham? Please speak to this question in terms of both your teaching and research, noting your experience with digital humanities research and pedagogy.
  • What strengths and experience can you contribute to the HASTAC community?
  • Briefly summarize two blog postings that you might contribute to the HASTAC Scholars blog.

Your application must include a brief recommendation from a faculty member who can speak to your scholarship and ability to collaborate with others, both in person and online.

 

Applications and recommendations must be sent as Word Documents to Dr. Elizabeth Cornell at cornellgoldw@fordham.edu, with “YOURLASTNAME-HASTAC APP” as the subject line.

Applications are due no later than 5:00 PMAugust 25, 2015.

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“A Tale of Three Boroughs, or Where to Live while in Course Work”

In honor of our inaugural Google Hangout today (join us at 5:30 pm EST), we thought we’d bring you a more personal take on housing from GSA President, Peter Murray. Peter’s post below takes you from his first year and first city housing experience to his move all the way out to Brooklyn. Tips about commutes, rent prices, and neighborhoods abound!

Hello, my name is Peter Murray, a doctoral candidate in the English department and the Graduate Student Association President for the upcoming academic year. First, let me congratulate you once again on your academic achievements that have earned you a spot in Fordham’s incoming cohort. On behalf of the graduate community, welcome! I look forward to meeting you at Orientation on Tuesday, August 25th. We have an exciting day in store.

The summer before I began my studies at Fordham, I was equal parts excited and overwhelmed, and the cause of many a sleepless night concerned finding housing in New York City. Rest assured, it will all work out! In what follows, I want to share my experiences of living in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan while I was enrolled in coursework as well as teaching. Each location had benefits and drawbacks, and the moral of this story will be to keep in mind what living (and commuting) situation will best enable you to succeed at Fordham.

 

Year One: Grand Concourse Ave. (The Bronx)

Having attended a small liberal arts university in Massachusetts, I assumed that everyone at Fordham lived near the campus. Since we have three campuses, however, it turns out that not everyone lives near the Rose Hill campus. Nevertheless, I was assigned to work at the Rose Hill campus and all of my classes were being taught in the Bronx so I opted to live in the Bronx. Instead of University housing on Arthur Avenue, I lived in a Boarding house on the corner of Grand Concourse and Bedford Avenue.

The rent was cheap and the room was furnished, which made my move to New York City much easier. An added bonus was that I was a two-minute walk from the Bedford Park stop on the D and a block from the 4 train. Living near a subway stop is incredibly important should you decide to live in the city. The walk from my building to campus totaled 10 minutes straight down Bedford avenue, which ensured that I could attend lectures and events regularly, and this was a great benefit during my first semester as it allowed me to meet fellow graduate students and faculty.

This specific boarding house, however, did have drawbacks. There were strict rules about having visitors, and my room was quite small. In addition, commuting from the Bronx to other boroughs in New York City can be tedious, especially on the weekend when the MBTA runs on a much slower (and often sporadic) schedule.

The University’s motto is “Fordham is my school, and New York is my campus,” and while the two are not mutually exclusive, do consider how to balance the two in order to guarantee your success.

 

Year Two: Bushwick (Brooklyn)

Having spent a year in the Bronx, I decided to move to Brooklyn. I had many non-Fordham friends living in this borough, and its active social scene attracted me. While still in coursework, my class schedule and graduate assistantship required me to be on campus only twice a week. As such, I found a room on craigslist in Bushwick.

Craigslist, as I am sure you know, is very hit or miss. My Boarding house provided me with a lease and that ensured more stability, but I subleased a room in Bushwick, which meant I had no lease, and could be forced to move on a whim. In retrospect, I would not advise subleasing because having to move during the semester will severely impact your studies. Luckily, I did not have to move, but the living situation left much to be desired.

Commuting from Bushwick to Rose Hill required three transfers (from the L train, to the 4 train, to the Bx12 bus) and took anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. Sometimes I was able to get a lot of reading done during my commute, but other days there was barely enough room to stand let alone pull out a book!

I lived in Bushwick before it became the new hipster paradise (even before it was featured in “Girls”), but I did like the neighborhood. There was easy access to Williamsburg, Lower Manhattan, and I spent many days that year working at the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Bryant Park.

While the commute and the room were major drawbacks, living in Bushwick was fun and it introduced me to different opportunities throughout the New York City.

 

Year Three: Hamilton Heights (Manhattan)

In my third year, I finally found a roommate and the two of us rented an apartment together in Hamilton Heights (at the 145th Street Subway stop that serviced the A, B, C, and D trains). Sharing the cost of an apartment versus renting a single room did mean my rent increased, but this neighborhood was quite reasonable in terms of Manhattan real estate (my half of the rent cost $825). In signing a lease, however, know that you will be required to present a lot of paperwork (copies of photo IDs; social security card; proof of income; paystubs for the past six months; 1-2 years worth of tax returns) and the upfront costs add up quickly (first, last, and security as well as a Broker’s fee if you used a broker).

The location is perfect for commuting to either Lincoln Center or Rose Hill (12 minutes express train to 59th Street for Lincoln Center and 20 minutes local up to Rose Hill). The neighborhood has lots of family owned restaurants and businesses, and more restaurants and bars have been opened in the last two years. In addition, you will find lots of Columbia Students and CUNY Students in this neighborhood, which is great for meeting new people.

My roommate and I stayed in this area for two years, and many Fordham graduates gravitate toward this location because of its accessibility and lower rent costs. It was by far the best place I had lived in New York City at the time.

 

I hope you find these summaries helpful in making your decision about where to live in the upcoming academic year. My overall piece of advice would be to think about what living situation best suits your needs. If you hate commuting, then live near campus. If commuting doesn’t bother you that much, then consider Manhattan and Brooklyn.

See you all soon!

Peter

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Filed under Graduate Housing, Graduate Student Association, Graduate Students, GSAS Students, New York/Fordham Area, Off-Campus Housing

Housing Feature: Westchester—Woodlawn

GSAS Higher Education Administrative Fellow, Joe Vukov, provides an overview of his home base, Woodlawn, below. A quieter and more affordable option than the Bronx or Brooklyn, this Westchester neighborhood has an active social scene and a more suburban feel.

The neighborhood of Woodlawn is located just a few miles north of Fordham’s Rose Hill campus (5 minute train ride). There are rental units available in stand-alone houses and also in apartment buildings. One bedrooms run around $1250 – typically, there are no broker fees, but you should expect to pay for three months when signing your lease. Much of the housing is rented by word-of-mouth (or by advertisements in local shops), but sometimes, apartments are also advertised on Craigslist.

 

Why Live Here?

The neighborhood is quiet, and might not be for those seeking an urban NYC experience. But it’s a good option for those with families, or for those who prefer a quieter neighborhood. Residents tend to be younger than those of surrounding Westchester neighborhoods, which means a social atmosphere that might be lacking in other areas of Westchester.

A traditionally Irish community, Woodlawn has diversified over the past decades but history is clearly laid out in the many pubs and restaurants within walking distance. And if you want to venture of the area, it’s a quick Metro North ride or easy drive to major parkways.

 

Transportation Concerns:

The East side of Manhattan is readily accessible from Woodlawn – a commuter train takes just 25 minutes to get to Grand Central. The neighborhood also has several NYC buses, and the 4, B, and D trains are accessible by bus.

Westchester County is also easily accessible by commuter train or car (you can drive a half hour and be at a hiking trail!). There is also plenty of street parking, and no street sweeping (so you don’t have to move your car throughout the week).

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Housing Feature: Manhattan—Washington Heights / Hudson Heights / Inwood

Whats a poor grad student to do when they want a Manhattan zip code and to eat? Live in the Inwood area. This area is gaining popularity with graduate students, especially those who work on the west side or value quick access to a subway line. A lot of students make the move to Inwood in their second or third year, making a change from the Bronx or even stepping out on their own for the first time. GSA Vice President, Malkah Bressler, discusses her experiences living in the neighborhood.

The two northernmost neighborhoods of Manhattan are Washington Heights and Inwood. Washington Heights extends from 168th up to 190th and Inwood starts at 190th and goes all the way up to the tip of Manhattan (220th). Both neighborhoods are easily accessible via the A and #1 train. Although busses (namely the M5) connect Upper Manhattan to the rest of the city, the train is the most efficient method of transportation. Washington Heights and Inwood feature a healthy mix of ethnicities and the restaurants and takeout eateries reflect the area’s diversity. Many students and musicians live in the area as well as families that want to stay in Manhattan but cannot afford the more expensive Upper West and Upper East Sides.

 

Why Live Here?

Both neighborhoods are within a 30-40 minute commute to campus; an average commute generally involves a brief train ride and a slightly longer bus ride. Washington Heights and Inwood offer the most affordable Manhattan rents. In 2011-2013, I paid $760 per month to live in a spacious three-bedroom apartment with two other roommates. We each had a decent sized room, more than enough closet space, a big kitchen, and a huge living room. The neighborhoods share a large park, Ft. Tyron Park, which offers spectacular views of the New Jersey Palisades, lawns for lounging, flower gardens, and the Cloisters Museum. The neighborhood also has a host of restaurants, bars, bakeries, and cafes. Thanks to the large population of Latino and Jewish residents as well as the many artists and graduate students, the area boasts a diverse cultural blend. Washington Heights and Inwood are also very safe. My old roommate said it the best when she stated “if you want to live in Manhattan, but if you can’t afford the busy city, then Washington Heights and Inwood are the place to go. You’ll have that city feel, but without the city price!”

 

Transportation Concerns:

Although Washington Heights and Inwood are barely five miles away from campus, it can take anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour to get there via public transportation. The route isn’t bike friendly either; although biking in Washington Heights and Inwood is safe enough (I would watch out though), the minute you enter the Bronx and start biking on Fordham Road, you will wish you hadn’t. Walking to campus is safe enough during the daytime, but I would watch out in the evening; also, the walk is not that pleasant either (especially on Fordham Road). Also, grocery shopping isn’t always easy in the Heights. That being said, since I moved out, I have learned that there was a Target close by! I left the Heights after a year because although I enjoyed living there, it was a pain to travel anywhere but the upper west side. The A train is not always reliable and the #1 train runs local all the time.

Note for drivers: It’s much easier to scoot around from Inwood if you have a car. It’s a straight shoot up the A-9 to Westchester and Rockland or down to Manhattan and on the weekends there’s plenty of parking in both places (but be careful of meters Mon.-Sat.). Be aware that it’s constantly a parking lot from Inwood to Fordham road however—the bridge crosses over a major highway (the Deegan)—which means a weird traffic flow. You’ll get there; it’ll just take a while.

Overall, Inwood’s a popular location for car owners who want to live Manhattan, because you do have non-metered parking and there plenty of cheaper priced garages if you want to splurge on keeping your vehicle out of the sun. Parking can be difficult to find but it’s doable even on weekdays, especially if you’re willing to walk.

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Housing Feature: General NY House Hunting Tips + Living in the Bronx: Pelham Parkway, Morris Park, Williamsbridge, etc.

General Housing Search Tips

When I first moved here I had the glamorous Manhattan apartment in my mind—forget that! First of all, those tend to be crazy expensive, so unless you’re willing to live in a walk-in closet expand your search to non-traditional spaces. Look for private rooms or floors in family houses, basement spaces, and apartments above business. I’d suggest making a list of what living requirements are deal-breakers and what you’re willing to be flexible on.

For example, if you’ll be teaching or at a job all day, and direct sunlight isn’t that important to you, a basement apartment might be a good fit. These tend to be cheaper than other one bedrooms and are often larger than above ground spaces. If you look in the neighborhoods off of Pelham Parkway (a main road which turns into Fordham Rd. as you travel west), you can find fully furnished spaces beneath family homes. They usually have separate entrances and often come with some utilities, like internet or heat, included.

The transition to living in New York (if you’re not from an equally big city) can be rough and you should keep it in mind when apartment searching. When I’m apartment hunting I always try to keep track of two things—one, how intense is traffic in the area and two, how much green is on the streets or in the area. If you’re from a place that has lots of trees, plants, and plenty of lawn space, going right to a city apartment might be tough. You may want to make sure the apartment has a window box so you can brighten the space or make sure you live close to a park or green space to decompress from the concrete jungle.

A great benefit of going to Fordham and being a GSAS student is the Rose Hill campus, which is a gorgeous oasis from the streets outside. Campus is always bright with flowers in the summer and provides plenty of great picturesque spaces in the winter. Plus across the street (and free for Fordham students with ID) is the New York Botanical Gardens, one of the best botanical spaces in the US. And if you want to live off Pelham Parkway, there are more green spaces the farther from Fordham Road you venture.

Traffic is something you should think about whether you have a car or not.  High traffic patterns usually mean noise 24/7 and while honking is technically illegal except in emergency, it’s not a rule that’s enforced regularly in the Bronx. If you live off a main drag be ready to hear horns and general traffic noise all night; because apartments and houses are closer to each other and the roads here, the noise won’t be muffled the way it is in more suburban areas.

 

Why Live Here?

Living in the Bronx but away from the immediate Fordham area can be tough. There’s less media chatter about Bronx neighborhoods, and what information there is tends to be more of a scare tactic than actual fact. However, don’t let NBC dramas influence you! There are a lot of great Bronx neighborhoods out there, you just need to find them and have an open mind about what kind of housing situation you’re interested in exploring.

The Morris Park/off-Pelham Parkway neighborhoods are great for young couples (cheaper than Manhattan, house-y feel, not restrictive), families (lots of parks and schools), or someone who just wants a quiet place to study off the (usually) beaten path.

My first apartment was a non-traditional apartment scenario, in a family home in the Morris Park/Williamsbridge area. I rented the first floor of a house, with the owners above me and another renter in the basement. The benefits were enormous—I got free cable, huge rooms all to myself, and a neighborhood feel that helped me transition from small resort town to city.

The area is quiet, mostly families consisting of owners and long time renters, which means cleaner, safer streets, and a sense of community ownership that’s comforting and pleasant. These streets/neighbors tend to have a lot of neighborhood or block parties, so if you’re not a joiner, or aren’t into that sort of ‘everyone knows your name’ scenario, you might want to look into a more traditional housing situation, like the larger apartment buildings that scatter the area.

 

Transportation Concerns:

For you car owners, living in the Morris Park or Williamsbridge area is great, because parking is more plentiful, but you still may have to circle your block a few times if you’d like to get a spot close to your apartment. It’s also a great solution for students who are married or have families and want a more suburban or neighborhood feel while still being close to campus.

There’s no obviously convenient subway but buses run through these neighborhoods and can deposit you on the parkway so you can catch the BX12 express to campus, and there are plenty of Bronx-Manhattan buses that will deposit you downtown if there’s no subway nearby. In a pickle it’s not a terrible walk or bike ride to the Rose Hill campus.

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Filed under Graduate Housing, Graduate Students, GSAS Students, New York/Fordham Area, Off-Campus Housing