I was offered a job in Colorado, and I accepted. This is great! I have a job doing exactly what I want to do, at a great company, and in a great location. I couldn’t ask for more. I even had another great offer, which gave me a tough but good decision to make. It felt good to be in demand.
Then I got some interesting news. I was listed as an alternate for another position. Besides the other two offers, I had also applied for a Fulbright grant. It was a long shot. Last year I applied and was rejected. This year my application was a little better: I spoke more French, was temporarily living in France doing the work that I proposed, and didn’t have a competing scholarship. The US government only allows one scholarship of this type at a time, and I already had one from NASA.
Thinking that “alternate” meant reapply later, I put that out of my head. That, along with my Ph.D. defense, graduation, and moving had me thinking about it less and less. I had totally forgotten about the Fulbright – until about a week ago. Then the good news came. I was chosen! They promoted my application, giving me the coveted spot! What could be better?
Or, what could put me in a more difficult spot? I’ve got the job I wanted, the job that they created for me. It pays well and has lots of long term potential. Now I have a different opportunity. It doesn’t have the benefits of good pay or a career track, but it has its own benefits. First, the Fulbright is very prestigious. There are very few to go around. Furthermore, alumni of the program have bright futures with opportunities open to them that wouldn’t be otherwise. At least that is what I hear. I’ve only known two people to get one before. One is doing it at this moment. The other is a professor at UT later in his career.
Another reason to accept the award is that I get to move back to Paris. I’ll be able to finish the things that I started. I still want to do the work that was proposed, work figuring out how the atmosphere shaped and changed with the ice caps of Mars. In Colorado I won’t be able to do that. I will have lost that cutting edge that I sharpened and honed. Maybe the work will be done by someone else? I’ll get credit for figuring out what the secret was, but someone else will get credit for solving the problem. I don’t want that.
Last, but certainly not least, Paris offers me a great opportunity to reach one of my life goals. I want to speak French. Right now my language skills are poor, too poor for someone who already lived there 3+ months. I will be able to take classes (something I thought I would be done with when I finished the Ph.D.) and have more time with locals. Small as this is when considering the other reasons, it is important to me.
I’m going to take the Fulbright. For every reason I listed above and more that I don’t know about yet it is the best thing for me and my future. I’ve been given a gift, one that isn’t offered to many people. Declining would be a mistake, a bigger mistake than postponing or even losing the job in Colorado. I was really looking forward to that job. It was one I had wanted for years. Hopefully it will be there when I get back.