Saturday, August 23, 2008

Getting Ready for School

Our Half of the Duplex
A picture of where we live (we are in the right half of the duplex).

This past week has been strangely busy. Even though there was not much going on, we had to get a lot of 'stuff' set up for school. Most importantly, I had to get funding! Romy has a "GSR" position, which stands for graduate student researcher. When he was accepted to Berkeley, he was offered the position, which pays for tuition and fees and also for health insurance. On top of that, it pays about a $1600/month stipend while in school. Pretty sweet!
Unfortunately, when I was accepted, I had no such luck. They accepted me with no guaranteed funding source, basically meaning that I would have to pay for grad school on my own. That adds up to about $12,500 each semester! Big bucks! Good thing that there are a few ways to go about finding money at Berkeley.
First, you can find a lab which has funding, and is willing to pay you to start doing research (like Romy). Second, you can be a teaching assistant for a course, meaning you get paid to teach a discussion section, grade papers, tutor, etc. Third, you can look for and apply for fellowships and scholarships. I decided to try for all of these options. For the past two weeks I've been looking around and talking to professors who might have open positions in their labs, or need teaching assistants. I've also been looking for fellowships and I'm starting to apply (a long and grueling process).
I got lucky with the Bioengineering department. I happened to go check to see if they had any teaching positions left (thanks to Romy's suggestion), and they did! I also applied for teaching positions in the Mechanical Engineering department, and although they were a bit slow because of the overwhelming amount of work that they do in those offices, they also offered me a position to teach just yesterday. As a graduate student at Berkeley, you are only allowed to work 50% of the time, and study the other 50% of the time, with a total of about 40 hours per week, like a full time job. So I have two teaching positions that are each 10 hours/week, and 15 credit hours of registered classes. That only adds up to 35 hours/week, but that is the minimum, and I'm pretty happy about that.
This semester I will be taking 'Intro to Continuum Mechanics,' 'Advanced Fluid Mechanics I,' and 'Teaching Mechanical Engineering.' I will be teaching 'Intro to Biomedicine,' and 'Intro to Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers.' They are both freshman level classes and should be pretty simple and fun to teach. The two teaching positions will pay for half of my tuition and fees, plus health insurance, plus a stipend of about $1600/month while I'm in school. So I only have about a $4000 bill for school this semester, instead of $12500. And Romy has absolutely no bill at all.
It turns out that one of our stipends will end up going towards paying rent and utilities. The other stipend will go towards gas, food, and other stuff like traveling or having fun on the weekends. Maybe we will even have a little bit left over to save, but I'm not sure at this point.