The Decision

What can you do with a bachelor of arts in theoretical linguistics? Nothing. Nothing at all. The LSA lists possible careers for linguists, but their beautiful enumeration all boils down to tangentially related jobs, which can be summarized by the same short list that covers all other potential career paths:

– Get a PhD in linguistics
– Get a PhD in something else
– Go to law school
– Go to med school
– Translate / Interpret
– Teach English (or other language)
– Become an editor

Only the last two could be done with minimal schooling after just a BA in linguistics, and you don’t need linguistics specifically do be able to do them in the first place. You need further schooling to do anything meaningful, but what if after your first degree you still don’t know what you want to do with your life and you don’t feel comfortable taking on even more loans for a second degree with uncertain career prospects?

Honestly, I don’t know. For the first three years after graduation I was underemployed and at times unemployed, living with my parents, barely paying my loan minimums, resigned to a life of mediocre work with mediocre pay. But then I got lucky– a unicorn job came out of nowhere. I found it on LINGUIST List and they wanted me. It was for a linguist in speech recognition in a beautiful city at a tech company that paid enough to not only survive, but thrive.

But just like with any job, in time, I began to think of where all of this was headed. I had always wanted to travel long-term, and this job wasn’t getting me much closer to that dream. The first year in this city had been a whirlwind of exploration, but by now, I had paid off my school loans was itching to move again. I saw a few possibilities that I was interested in:

– Finangle it somehow where I could do stints of working remotely
– Learn more of the tech side of things through night classes, and use that to move to a different role/job that allowed me to become a digital nomad (e.g. web dev?)
– Teach English abroad for a pittance
– Move up/ switch jobs to get a pay increase, so I could save enough to FIRE and then live my life on my own terms

In any case, 40 hours a week is a lot of life to be spending living in the same place, doing the same work, sitting in front of the computer staring at little squigglies, even if I was generally content with my job.

I started looking around and discovered Erasmus Mundus master. I had heard about it before but now I really took the time to research it. This is a European scholarship program that pays your tuition and small relocation fees plus a 1000€ a month stipend to study in multiple universities across Europe. You get to travel, you get an education, and you don’t have to sell your soul to Sallie Mae for it either!

They have many different majors both at the undergrad and graduate level in all sorts of fields, but for a linguist with some programming experience, the Language and Communication Technology master looked like the right fit. I don’t know if it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I get subsidized to spend my time abroad learning new things, which sounds like the perfect opportunity.

I will give you more details about how I applied to the program in a future post, namely the timeline involved, in case you are considering doing the same thing.

Note: This post is backdated since I didn’t get the chance to publish this post before leaving the US, although I had already written it a while ago.

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