Good question. A friend and classmate asked me this on Friday, which reminded me that I should really think about my alternatives.
Let's start with why the GRF will make my life better. My field work is in another country, so I have to be gone for several weeks or months at a time to do my research. I am presently supported as a TA, and being a RA is not an option for me. Therefore, if I want to get a paycheck, I have to teach or get a fellowship. Teaching obviously requires that I be on campus and not at my field site.
If I receive the GRF this year, I can start getting paid by that this summer and I won't have to teach. That means I'll be free to spend up to 3 months at Nyota and still be able to pay rent in Big City (Jon will still be here so I'm not putting my things in storage). For most of my field work beyond my initial trip this summer, I'll need to be at Nyota during our winter. The GRF will give me the flexibility to do that because I won't have to teach.
What if I don't get it? Well, that makes life a lot harder. I'll have to teach this summer, which means I'll have 6 weeks max to be at Nyota. If I didn't teach this summer I would have to make ends meet without getting paid at all in June, July, and August. As for future field seasons, perhaps I'll have to change my system so that I could do most of my field work in our summer instead of our winter. I would definitely apply for the EPA STAR fellowship which would give me greater flexibility for field research starting in my 3rd year (for three years, like the GRF). However, I'd really like to be able to get seriously under way with fieldwork before my third year so let's hope I get the GRF!
I noticed I have been getting lots of hits to my posts about the NSF GRFP recently, which I suspect are in anticipation of the award announcements. Last year I was notified on March 26, so I suspect the announcements will be made next week.