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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Compare and contrast contd. 

For the avoidance of doubt, let me say that these posts are very much a thinking out loud as I consider my options. I don't take the view that they are the only or the most important factors, but they are things I'm weighing up and am therefore burbling about here. They are also things that I can rationalise at a distance, whereas the bigger issues like people and fit really need to wait until after admit wekends.

So, next in line of the things I've been pondering is geography. B-skewl said in a comment on a previous post: "Please don't fail to assess what it means to be living in the middle of the USA vs. on one of the coasts. As an outsider, this is probably one area that you're least familiar with and therefore potentially most likely to be surprised by." Well, the whole coast vs centre issue is one that I've thought about, although I probably don't fully 'get' what the differences are. I heard an interview with a British comedian around New Year who, when asked about the experience of performing to American audiences replied something along the lines of "The ones who've seen the sea are OK, it's the ones in the middle you have to worry about." I think this probably sums up the perception of the difference on this side of the Atlantic. Anyone with observations, comments, refutions of stereotypes etc., please feel free to share them.

Geography also encompasses proximity to other cities (better in the case of Philadelphia, I think), and weather. In weather terms, Philadelphia winters cold, Chicago winters colder is the immediate thing that springs to mind - remember, I speak from the persepctive of living in a country where the word 'bitter' gets used to describe any temperature below freezing. (As a slight aside, friends and family have tended to translate the location of places I applied to into TV programmes in order to better understand them. So Kellogg equalled ER, which meant cold, wet and horrible, whereas Stanford equalled Buffy, which meant sun and blue skies. Wharton/Philadelphia equalled "where?".) Then there's time-zones, which makes Kellogg an hour further out with home and, from what I can tell, having less intuitively sensible TV show times (note the possibly misplaced optimism that I might actually have time to watch TV). And there's travel to home, which seems to be slightly cheaper from Philly, although Chicago maybe offers more choice of direct flight to Northern England, which is where my family is.

Also under the banner of geography, is the relative locations of the schools themselves. While Evanston may be near Chicago, it's not the city itself, whereas at Wharton I'd be right in the city. I lived in central London (literally two minutes from Oxford Circus) for my undergraduate years, and really loved it, so I quite like the idea of being back in the heart of a city.

Finally, there's the question of how much any of this matters. If I were looking at upping sticks and settling somewhere for the forseeable future, then it would. But I'm actually talking about living somewhere for less than two years. So, in that context, I think the city centre vs more of a suburb distinction will have an impact, but the other things less so.

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